Pat Summitt is stepping down as coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, eight months after disclosing that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Summitt, who won eight national championships and a college basketball-record 1,098 games in 38 seasons at Tennessee, retains the title of head coach emeritus and will assist the coaching staff, help with on-campus recruiting and serve as a mentor to players.
Holly Warlick, the associate head coach and an assistant on the Tennessee staff for 27 seasons, was named Summitt’s successor, the Knoxville, Tennessee-based school said in a statement.
“I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,” Summitt, 60, said. “I support Holly Warlick being named the next head coach, and I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward.”
Summitt coached Tennessee last season with Warlick and other assistants taking enlarged roles at practice and in games. The Volunteers had a 27-9 record, advancing to the final eight of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament before losing to the eventual champion, Baylor University.
Summitt had a .841 winning percentage with the Volunteers and captured championships in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008. The 1997-98 team went 39-0.
Her teams made 18 trips to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, tied with the UCLA and North Carolina men’s teams for the most by a college basketball program. Her eight championships trail only the 10 won by former UCLA men’s coach John Wooden.
“It is extremely difficult to adequately express what Pat Summitt has meant to the University of Tennessee, the sport of basketball, and the growth of women’s athletics nationally,” Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart said. “She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting. Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt.”
Summitt said in August that she had been diagnosed last year by doctors with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
She said she’ll continue her role as a spokeswoman in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, while remaining close to the Tennessee women’s basketball program in her new role.
“If anyone asks, you can find me observing practice or in my office,” Summitt said. “Coaching is the great passion of my life, and the job to me has always been an opportunity to work with our student-athletes and help them discover what they want. I will continue to make them my passion.”