The Tennessee Lady Vols' 66-59 loss yesterday to Oregon State in round two of the NCAA Women's Tournament could very well be Coach Holly Warlick's last stand. After starting the 2017-18 season with fifteen straight wins, the Lady Vols slipped to just 10-8 the rest of the way. Tennessee finished with a 25-8 record; not bad at all for any other team in the country, not named Tennessee or UConn. To put things into perspective for you, the Tennessee men's team finished 26-9 and head coach Rick Barnes .is being touted as a candidate for National Coach of the Year honors.
The tearful frustration showed on Coach Warlicks face and in her voice in a past game press conference following the loss to Oregon State.
"This isn't about winning and losing," she said. It's about young ladies getting better on and off the court and I don't think they deserve half the crap thrown at them."
Holly was referring to posts on social media about her team; posts that are actually more critical of her rather than her players. This has gone on for a couple of seasons now and unfortunately has not reached a peak. It will get worse.
There is an old saying in sports. You never want to be the one to replace a legend. You want to be the one,who replaces the one, who replaced a legend. I'm obviously talking about the great Pat Summitt. Summitt who was replaced at the top pf college basketball's coaching wins list this weekend by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, set the standard for success in any sport. 1,091 wins, and eight national titles in her career at Tennessee, was proof of her total dominance in the sport that she pioneered and brought out of the dark ages in the late 1970s. Literally, before Pat Summitt, there was no NCAA Women's basketball. Even though her records may soon all be broken, her legacy as one of the greatest if not the greatest coach of all time will stand forever.
The Lady Vols had already begun to slip a bit the last few years of Coach Summitt;s career. Tennessee had been knocked from the top of the women's college basketball world by Geno Auriemma and his UConn Lady Huskies. Even before Coach Summitt was diagnosed with early dementia, alzheimer's type Holly Warlick was the "heir apparent" at Tennessee. Coach Summitt's long-time assistant coach would be given an opportunity to coach the Lady Vols when the time came. That time came sooner than expected and I'm sure that Holly knew what she was getting into, even though no one could have predicted exactly how things have played out.
I know for a fact that the best thing in her favor for staying on for at least one more year as Tennessee's head coach is the fact that the man making that decision is Phillip Fulmer. Fulmer has long been a Holly Warlick fan and if John Currie or Dave Hart were sitting in the athletic director's office in Knoxville, Coach Warlick would likely already be gone. Replacing a legend is tough. Just look at Ray Perkins, Gene Bartow and many others.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com