When Pat Summitt was forced to step away from the Lady Vols program prior to the 2012-13 season due to illness, she did so having won 1,098 games, making 18 final four appearances, winning 8 national titles, and had been a Hall of Fame coach for twelve years.
She was at the time and is still arguably the greatest women’s basketball coach of all time. She left the Lady Vols in just about the most stable position possible — great players, a great program reputation and a culture built around hard work producing success. Not only was she leaving them as a prominent, stable program that had been in the Elite Eight her final two years, but she was also turning the team over to her assistant of 27 years, Holly Warlick.
At the time of the transition, Coach Summitt even admitted that Warlick had been doing the bulk of the work after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. One would have thought this was the perfect situation to continue the success and the stability of the Lady Vols. Unfortunately, the last several seasons have many fans questioning the direction of the program and ready for a fresh start.
Warlick is in her 7th year as the head coach of the Lady Vols and has posted numbers that would be considered rock solid for most other programs. She has continued Summitt’s streak of 31 NCAA tournament berths with six straight of her own and made the Elite Eight during three of her first four years. She also won the 2013 Maggie Dixon award that goes to the the coach with the most success in their first season as a head coach at the Division I level.
Despite doing fairly well by other program standards, there have been grumblings for a year or two now from Lady Vol fans to consider going in a different route. Things have never been as big of a mess for Tennessee women’s hoops as they are right now.
The Lady Vols had three of the programs most impressive streaks all come to an end over the past week. The most eye-popping of those snapped streaks was the 33 year run of not losing more than two consecutive games. With the loss to Georgia on Saturday, a game which they led by 17 in the first half, the Lady Vols took not only their third straight loss but also for the first time in program history, lost three conference games as well. The first two losses of this current three game losing streak were both two point losses at home against Missouri and Kentucky, which is the first time the Lady Vols lost back to back games at home since December of 1996.
Sophomore guard Evina Westbrook, who leads Tennessee in points and assist per game, attributed the loss to the Lady Vols inability to execute throughout the entire game.
“I am very disappointed,” Westbrook explained. “We didn’t get it done. We’ve got to execute for 40 minutes. We have to come back and be strong mentally. We have to go back and correct it.”
This has been a frequently used explanation by Lady Vols players the last couple weeks, causing many Tennessee fans to feel as if Warlick has lost control of the program. If she has not, it certainly appears she is on the brink of doing so. As the coaches, players, and fans alike search for answers of what is going on within the Lady Vols program, the biggest question of all comes to surface; Is it time for the Lady Vols to move on from Holly Warlick?