When Holly Warlick got back to the Tennessee locker room following her team's Sweet 16 victory against Oklahoma, her first congratulatory phone call came from Pat Summitt.
“She's proud of this team,” Warlick said. “She can't help but be proud.”
That's the relationship between the legendary coach and her successor. Summitt hasn't cast a shadow over Warlick in her first season as head coach of the Lady Vols, one that continues Tuesday night against Louisville in an Elite Eight matchup inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Summitt has been an asset.
“I love Pat around me,” Warlick said. “I love her at practice. I love her being there. I talk to her daily. Pat was a mentor as my coach, but she's a great friend. That's how I feel about Pat …
“I don't feel any pressure from her.”
After a standout playing career at Tennessee from 1976-80 and 27 seasons as a Lady Vols assistant while Summitt built a national power, Warlick earned the opportunity she had been working for all her life last April when Summitt ceremoniously handed her whistle over after stepping down from the program because of early onset dementia.
Lady Vols guard Meighan Simmons said in some ways, Warlick's familiarity with it all has made it feel like Summitt never left. In other ways, Warlick has started putting her own mark on the program.
She's animated and intense on the sideline, constantly standing, waving her arms and barking out commands to her players. But off the floor, Warlick is the type to make corny jokes on the bus or spend free time playing with her three Labradors.
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