It was the distinct pleasure of the Noon Rotary Club to have University of Tennessee Lady Vols head basketball coach Holly Warlick accept the invitation to speak Thursday afternoon to almost 100 members and guests.
Coach Warlick is a Knoxville native and a graduate of Bearden High School, who attended the University of Tennessee from 1976-1980 under head coach Pat Summit. She was a three-time All-American point guard and set several school records, one of which still stands today. Warlick also holds the distinction of being the first player in Tennessee sports history, male or female, to have her jersey retired.
Warlick was named to the team representing the USA at the 1979 William Jones Cup competition in Taipei, Taiwan. The team won all six games en route to the gold medal.
She then traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to take part in the 1979 Pan-American Games. The USA team won its first five games to advance to the gold-medal game, but faced Cuba in the finals and lost 91-86 to take the silver medal.
In 1979, the World Championships were held in Seoul, South Korea. Warlick was one of 12 players on the team and in the opening game against the host team, the USA team was upset.
The team then faced Italy and had a close call winning by only two points, 66-64. In the final game, USA faced Canada which had not lost. The USA team needed to win by more than 13 points to secure the gold medal. Warlick and her USA teammates won by 16 points securing the gold medal.
Warlick was selected to be a member of the USA team at the 1980 Olympics, but the team did not go due to the boycott. The team went 6-1 in qualifying games.
Before joining the staff at the University of Tennessee, Warlick was hired as an assistant at Virginia Tech from 1981-1983. After a brief stay with the Hokies, Warlick was hired by the University of Nebraska from 1983-1985. She was reunited with Summit when she was hired as an assistant at the University of Tennessee. When Summit came forward and announced her retirement due to health reasons, the University of Tennessee seized the opportunity to name Warlick the new head coach in 2012.
In speaking to the Noon Rotary Club on Thursday, Warlick addressed coach Summit’s health. She said Summit has a blonde lab that is constantly by her side. She visits with Summit often and the two take walks and share stories together. Summit plays golf and takes walks in her pool to stay active and she remains very positive.
Speaking on behalf of her recent season, coach Warlick was very happy with the way her team performed this year and is already looking forward to next season. Warlick has looked at those players in the recruiting room and has asked herself, “Who will be our leaders for next year?” She spoke about the three seniors who were leaders this past year.
Ariel Massengale, Cierra Burdick, and Isabelle Harrison all took on different roles for the Lady Vols. Warlick stated Burdick was very vocal on and off the court and she felt obligated to lead. She also made it known that Massengale did not exactly want to be known as a leader but stepped up and responded by example in ways only a leader can. Warlick appreciated what the seniors have been through, particularly since they started their careers with coach Summit.
Warlick was proud of the three Lady Vols headed to the WNBA, Isabella Harrison to the Phoenix Mercury, Ciera Burdick to the Los Angeles Sparks, and Ariel Massengale to the Atlanta Dream.
Warlick mentioned several things that end seasons early, bad practices, conflicts with teammates and arguments over playing time. With playing time comes the question, do I trust you? Can you make the plays I need you to make or can you make the decisions that need to be made.
One of the words Warlick stated that is thrown around now is entitlement. The new kids will come to practice and maybe not like what they are doing or having to sit and watch and they will say they were the best player at their school and Warlick responds with, you’re not the best player here, right now.
There are three “P’s” that hurt a program, says Warlick -- your parents, your peers, and the press. Parents no matter what almost always cannot be objective and when it comes to their kid’s playing time, they want to know why their child is not playing, causing the player to ask questions.
Their peers or friends will ask them why they are not on the floor getting time on the court, and that makes the player question the coach’s decisions. The third “P” stands for press, Warlick does not read the newspaper, good or bad, and she encourages her players not to look.
The Lady Vols program has a 100 percent graduation rate and that’s something they take very seriously. They have three rules for school and the first is, if a player is caught skipping out on class the player sits out the very next game after being caught. Number two, you must sit on the first three rows of your class. Number three, you must introduce yourself to the professor. It tells them that you are here and that you are putting forth effort. It could quite possibly make the difference in receiving an A or B.
When taking questions from those in attendance one of the first things mentioned was, who are the new recruits? Warlick responded, Diamond DeShields was transferring in from the University of North Carolina. Te’a Cooper is from Powder Springs, Ga., and Meme Jackson is from Murfressboro. There will possibly be a post player from a junior college but as of now there has been no commitment.
Another question came about the future about the Lady Vols versus the Huskies rivalry, Warlick stated they currently are not under contract to play them this season. She added that ESPN jumped the gun and had announced the two teams were playing before the contracts were signed and now those talks have currently stalled. She did mention that when you play a team of that caliber you must play your best defense and keep your best shooters on the floor. UConn coach Geno Auriemma knows how to get his girls to play together and it does not hurt when you have the number one player in the country the past couple of years in your lineup.
When asked about the NCAA investigations into men’s basketball and why does it seem like the NCAA does not look into women’s basketball as much, Warlick’s response was simple. She explained there is so much more money involved in the men’s program and the expectations are so much higher. There is a lot of pressure to succeed and people expect you to win. Women’s basketball is about 8-10 years behind men’s basketball but Warlick can see it progressing and seeing things happening now that you just did not see a few years ago.
Coach Warlick was very gracious in spending part of her afternoon with the Noon Rotary Club and its honored guest. She thanked those who prepared the meal and made her feel more than welcome. She stayed briefly and chatted with several people and posed for photos. You can hear more with coach Warlick on Tuesday during her recorded conversation with WCPI, 91.3 FM.