KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —Holly Warlick could feel the emotion at the Pat Summitt Celebration of Life memorial from the 7,500 or so on hand that braved a thunderstorm to attend.
Summitt, an eight-time national championship coach who graduated 100 percent of her four-year players, died on June 28 at the age of 64 as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
“You see the love and respect people had for Pat Summitt,” said Warlick, who has coached the Lady Vols since Summitt concluded her 38-year head coaching career following the 2011-12 season. “It didn’t matter if they were competitors or good friends. You had officials here, people from all over the country, and it’s just amazing the show of support and the impact Pat made.
“The impact on women’s college basketball coaches, men’s basketball coaches, Peyton Manning; she touched so many lives. I think the fans felt like they knew her personally.”
Warlick said many people have asked her about the task of replacing an icon like Summitt.
“You do what you’ve been taught, and I was taught to do this,” said Warlick, who starred in at Knoxville’s Bearden High School before playing for Summitt and the Lady Vols from “People ask me, ‘Why would you follow Pat?’ This is all I know.”
Thursday night, Warlick fought back the tears and delivered a rousing tribute to Summitt, sharing heart-warming stories.
“Everybody spoke from their heart,” Warlick said. “She’s so special to all of us, and the messages were clear. She was so much more than a basketball coach.”
In addition to such dignitaries as Manning, Robin Roberts and Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, several top women’s basketball coaches were in attendance, among them:
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer
Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer
Former Georgia coach Andy Landers