Tennessee’s Holly Warlick spoke of her first season as the Lady Vols coach last week as if she were in construction.
“I think we’ve laid a foundation,” she said.
The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association honored Warlick’s work Monday night with the Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award.
The award was announced at the WBCA convention, which is being held in New Orleans in conjunction with the Women’s Final Four.
In her first season in charge, Warlick led a relatively inexperienced Tennessee team to an SEC regular-season championship and was named the conference coach of the year. UT finished with 27 victories and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament before losing to Louisville in the Oklahoma City regional final, 86-78.
Monday’s award was given in honor of the late Maggie Dixon, the former Army coach who died in 2006 of heart problems at age 28.
Warlick, a longtime Lady Vols assistant, replaced Pat Summitt last April. The Tennessee coaching legend stepped down after 38 seasons. Warlick has paid tribute to Summitt throughout the season for her mentoring and influence. Summitt has maintained a presence by serving as the Lady Vols head coach emeritus.
Still, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said last week in Oklahoma City that she already detects Warlick’s influence on the program.
“I think she’s done an amazing job,” Coale said. “In many ways, it is vintage Tennessee ... All this is Tennessee and has been Tennessee for decades.
“Yet there’s a little something about ’em that’s different, and it’s hard to put a title on. I don’t really know how to even describe it. But there’s a little something different. That’s Holly Warlick. That’s the stamp she’s putting on the program.”
When the coaching change took place last April, Warlick agreed to a four-year deal with a base salary of $485,000. Summitt received a one-year deal in her new role with a salary of $354,375.
When asked last week for comment about whether Warlick’s season warrants a raise and Summitt’s future with the team, UT spokesperson Jimmy Stanton said that both topics would be addressed, “at the appropriate time.”