Summitt to Step Down as Lady Vols Basketball Coach

Alzheimer’s sucks.

Eight months after dis­clos­ing her diag­no­sis of early-onset Alzheimer’s dis­ease, Pat Sum­mitt was poised Wednes­day to announce that she will step aside as the Ten­nessee women’s bas­ket­ball coach, mak­ing way for long­time assis­tant Holly War­lick take over the Lady Vols.

The uni­ver­sity will make the news offi­cial via a press release Wednes­day after­noon after Sum­mitt meets with her play­ers in Knoxville, Tenn., to inform them in pri­vate. A news con­fer­ence is expected to fol­low Thursday.

Sum­mitt, who has won more col­lege bas­ket­ball game than any man or woman in the sport (1,098), is not retir­ing but will remain part of Tennessee’s staff, assum­ing the title “head coach emer­i­tus,” which will give her lat­i­tude and flex­i­bil­ity to do as much men­tor­ing with play­ers as her health allows.

But her role will be cir­cum­scribed by NCAA rules, which will per­mit her to watch prac­tice, col­lab­o­rate on game plans and con­tinue as a moti­va­tor, dis­ci­pli­nar­ian and men­tor but will pre­clude her from actively coach­ing. Rather than sit on the bench dur­ing games, she’ll sit directly behind the Vol­un­teers’ staff, able to con­sult with War­lick and, no doubt, tele­graph her impres­sions of what’s unfold­ing on court through her famously pierc­ing glare.

The devel­op­ment brings a mea­sure of sta­bil­ity to an inher­ently fluid and unknow­able sit­u­a­tion, with nei­ther Sum­mitt nor her doc­tors able to pre­dict the course of the disease.

War­lick has been with the Uni­ver­sity of Tennessee’s women’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram for 27 years, all of them with Sum­mitt.  She has also been a part of every national cham­pi­onship win­ning team Sum­mitt has had.

It’s expected news, but it def­i­nitely marks the end of an era; one which may never be matched by another woman…or man.

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