It’s never easy to follow a legend, and Holly Warlick learned that the hard way at Tennessee.
Warlick was tasked with leading the Lady Vols basketball program after Tennessee icon Pat Summitt stepped down due to her diagnosis of early onset dementia. In her first three years, Warlick kept the program rolling and won 86 of her 106 games and took the Lady Vols to two Elite Eights.
Unfortunately for her and the program, though, things would begin to go downhill after that.
Warlick made only one Elite Eight after her first three seasons, and she failed to get to the Sweet Sixteen in her final three seasons as head coach of the Lady Vols. This past season was the worst of the bunch, with the Lady Vols finishing 19-13 overall and 7-9 in SEC play. Tennessee snuck into the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed and got bounced in the first round, marking only the second time ever the Lady Vols failed to win a game in the tournament.
On Wednesday, Tennessee officially parted ways with Warlick as head coach, marking the end of her seven-year tenure as head coach. But Warlick was with the Lady Vol program for more than just seven years.
Warlick grew up in Knoxville and played high school basketball at Bearden. She came to Tennessee for college and had a historic playing career while playing under Pat Summitt. Warlick was a three-time All-American point guard for the Lady Vols in the 1980s, and she still holds the school record for most steals. Upon finishing her playing career, she was the first player in school history in men’s or women’s basketball to have her jersey retired, and that jersey still hangs in the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters to this day. Warlick also played on the 1980 US Olympic basketball team and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
After her playing career ended, she coached as an assistant for Virginia Tech and Nebraska. But she returned back to her home university in 1985 and served as an assistant under Summitt. She was an assistant to Summitt through 2012 and took over the Lady Vols program after Summitt had to step down due to her diagnosis of early onset dementia.
That’s nearly four decades of service to the Lady Vols, whether as a player, assistant, or head coach.
While the time seemed appropriate to move on, it still wasn’t an easy process. Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer said in a statement that it “stings” to part ways with Warlick, someone he’s formed a personal relationship with, but it was the right move in his mind.
The Lady Vols’ official Twitter account put together a two-minute tribute to Warlick, thanking her for her service to the program over the last three-plus decades. You can watch the full tribute here:
Three decades of service to the University of Tennessee. A Lady Vol for life.
Thank you, Holly. pic.twitter.com/qt3bRBhqeW
— Lady Vol Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) March 28, 2019