My, how the mighty have fallen.
A once proud program, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, have hit quite the skid the past few weeks. On Thursday night, they lost their sixth consecutive game of the season, falling 77-62 to No. 1 Notre Dame. Fortunately, their next three conference games are against LSU, Florida, and Vanderbilt. who are ranked 9th, 12th, and 14th in the conference, respectively. This stretch should serve as an opportunity to right the ship, even if just temporarily.
Unfortunately, this six-game skid could be a reflection of a bigger problem for the team.
As is wont to happen in these situations, most people are pointing the finger towards the head coach, Holly Warlick. That’s probably warranted. A six-game skid this early in the season is tough to justify. In-game adjustments have been lacking, and post-loss moral victories have started to come. She also has some of the biggest shoes in college sports to fill. Pat Summitt is up there with names like John Wooden, Coach K, and Geno Auriemma as program-defining basketball coaches. Regardless of where this program is at any given time, any scrutiny will always track back to the late, great Summitt and her spectacular tenure with the program.
Warlick even being in charge is a testament to that. Almost everything about Warlick and her basketball career can be, in some way, traced back to Summitt. Unfortunately for Warlick, that is a very, very bad thing. It’s rapidly becoming apparent she isn’t the caliber of coach that Summitt was. There aren’t many coaches that are, after all.
But what’s important to understand about all this, though, is that it’s nowhere near as simple as “just fire Holly.” Warlick was hand picked by Summitt to lead the program, and it’s obvious to everyone that she lives and dies with the team. She also signed an extension and two top-100 players this past off-season. So there is some momentum going forward for Holly and the team. It could just be a lull in the season, and everything might correct itself, soon enough.
At the end of the day, though, this is a results-driven business. If Warlick fails to find some modicum of success this season, she might not have the chance to figure it out next season.
If the current trend continues, will athletic director Phillip Fulmer pull the trigger? Or would Warlick step down by her own accord? And if a coaching change does end up happening, who would be next? Any guesses at this point would just be conjecture and hope.
No matter what happens, something will have to change. The House that Pat Built finally has a men’s basketball team that is worth a damn. If the women’s basketball team can start to find similar amounts of success at the same time, Thompson-Boling Arena might just collapse in on itself during any given home game.