The No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols are back in town.After an 83-75 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday night, the team is back in Thompson-Boling Arena Monday night to face No. 2 Notre Dame.
Lady Vols head coach emeritus Pat Summitt will be honored with a banner bearing her name hung above The Summitt court in the arena. UT Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Dave Hart announced that the ceremony would be held prior to Monday's game.
"We are thrilled to honor Pat and her outstanding career," Hart said. "She is a legend who transcends women's basketball. This banner will serve as yet another reminder of the impact Coach Summitt has at our university and throughout the country. Her integrity, class and competitiveness continue to inspire the world of sports and, now, the fight to beat Alzheimer's."
Summitt ended her career with 1,098-208 (.840) wins, making her the NCAA's all-time winningest basketball coach in the men's or women's game. Her banner will be hung alongside five players she coached (like current head coach Holly Warlick, No. 22, Feb. 18, 1980) as well as UT men's coach Ray Mears, Vol Network broadcasting legend John Ward and three former Vols.
"It will be quite an honor to join those with a banner already hanging in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena," Summitt said. "I appreciate the honor and feel very blessed to have been able to spend my entire career at (UT). I will be forever grateful for the opportunities afforded me by such a great institution."
Summitt coached her Lady Vols to an NCAA-record eight NCAA National Championships. She competed in all 31 NCAA Tournaments, led her team to 18 NCAA Final Fours and five runner-up finishes to accompany the eight title game victories.Summitt won 16 SEC regular-season crowns and 16 postseason tournament titles. Thirty-three seasons of SEC play led Summitt's Lady Vols to a 317-44 record (.878) during the regular season and 69-17 (.802) during the postseason.
Her list of achievements is beyond count. Summitt announced a diagnosis of early-onset dementia, a type of Alzheimer's, on Aug. 23, 2011, and stepped down from her head coaching position on April 18, 2012. After the announcement, Summitt was announced head coach emeritus and Holly Warlick stepped into Summitt's enormous shoes. As Warlick calculates the challenges facing her team, she looks forward to Summitt's banner ceremony.
"You're talking about someone who built this program and whose name is still a part of this program," Warlick said. "I think it's gonna be emotional for all of us, especially Pat. It's well deserved and I'm excited that they're taking the time to do it and honoring a great basketball coach and a great friend."
But the night doesn't stop there. There's still a game to be played.
"We're excited to play the number two team in the country," Warlick said.
With a top ten ranking, the Lady Vols still feel they have something to prove. The primarily freshman team will have a challenge that Warlick looks at as an opportunity to accomplish something great.
"It's a great opportunity for us to possibly make a statement and just show where we are," Warlick said. "Notre Dame is playing really well, they've played a pretty tough schedule like us so I think it's gonna be a great basketball game."
Coming into the year, Warlick wasn't sure what to expect. She had never coached a Lady Vols game and she was working with a team made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores.
"I knew what we had, I just didn't understand or know what we could do as a whole and I'm proud of it," Warlick said. "We are only going to get better and better. We haven't reached our full potential."
"I never wanted to use us being young as an excuse this year. We have players. We hand picked these young ladies and we knew what we were getting."
Warlick hopes to see the team playing to their full potential for the 7 p.m. tipoff. The game will air on ESPN2.