Orange was the color of the day at the Breakfast for Champions Friday morning at Orange Grove.
Holly Warlick, who just completed her second season as the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, was the guest of honor at the facility on Derby Street that works with hundreds of physically and mentally challenged individuals from Chattanooga and surrounding counties.
Warlick played for legendary coach Pat Summit from 1976-80 and earned All-America honors three times and was the first Tennessee basketball player male or female to have her jersey retired.
She played in the WNBA for the Nebraska Wranglers before completing her BS degree in Marketing and starting her college coaching career.
She earned her Masters degree in Athletic Administration from Virginia Tech in 1983 and it was there that she served as an assistant coach for two years before moving to Nebraska for two more seasons.
She returned to Knoxville as an assistant to Summit in 1985 and has been on the staff ever since, being named as the successor to the most successful college basketball coach in America on April 18, 2012.
She's won 56 games as the head coach while losing 14 and her Lady Vols advanced to the Region semifinals this year before being eliminated by Maryland.
"We're pleased with the season we had, but we are far from satisfied," Warlick said outside the Bucky Williams Auditorium before her speaking engagement began where hundreds of interested folks gathered to enjoy a nice breakfast and offer their financial support.
"There's only one happy team at this time of year," she continued.
"It's really an honor to be part of a gathering like this. All I've seen since I've been here have been smiling faces. This is a special place," Warlick said after a brief introduction by Jerry Summers, an Orange Grove Board Member who served as the Master of Ceremonies.
"Who is their right mind would want to follow Pat Summit as the coach of the Lady Vols? We talk a lot about setting goals at the University of Tennessee and I understand the challenges these people here face on a daily basis. We need to get behind these people and support them," she added.
"We had a great season in Knoxville, but we aren't satisfied. It's a grind and can be tough at times, but we picked a bad day to play a bad game," she said in reference to the season-ending loss to the Lady Terrapins.
"I don't try to be coach Summit, but I learned a lot from her in the years I spent as her assistant and I continue to learn from her as we talk on a regular basis. We need a little more toughness on our team, but it's about getting players who fit into your program. You have to have talent to put on the floor.
"Women's college basketball has gotten a lot quicker and a whole lot more physical and there are a lot of great coaches out there, many of whom have never been to the Final Four or won a national championship. We have a wonderful team with a lot of talent and we're looking forward to being better next year," Warlick concluded.
While the veteran coach spends much of her time around the Lady Vols basketball program and related events, she also devotes a lot of time in fundraising for the fight against breast cancer. Through her charitable foundation called Champions for a Cause, she and Nikki Caldwell -- a co-founder and former Lady Vol -- have raised more than $150,000 for cancer awareness.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE to get involved with Orange Grove and make a contribution to support a great cause, give them a call at 629-1451 or stop by and see them. They will be thrilled to hear from you.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)