Knoxville, TN – Pat Summitt reflected on her storied career as women's basketball coach at Tennessee on Thursday, one day after it was announced that she would step aside and take a new role as head coach emeritus, and called it a "privilege" to spend nearly four decades guiding the Lady Vols' program.
The all-time wins leader in college basketball, men's or women's, with 1,098 victories, Summitt decided to call it a career nearly a year after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
"I felt like it was time for me to step down," she said Thursday at a news conference with her son, Tyler, and new coach Holly Warlick at her side.
Summitt, after disclosing the diagnosis last August, spent one more season on the Lady Vols' bench and guided the team to a record of 27-9, although more of the responsibilities were delegated to assistants. Her 38th and final campaign ended with a loss to eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
"It's never a good time, but you have to find the time that you think is the right time and that time is now," Summitt stated when asked when she made the decision to call it quits.
Summitt took the reins in 1974, saying how she was offered the position for $250 per month with an opportunity to also teach and earn her master's degree.
"It was really a great ride for me," Summitt remarked. "I can tell you I have loved my work at the University of Tennessee. It's been awesome. I can say for almost four decades, it's been a privilege to make an impact on the lives of 161 women who have worn the Orange."
In addition to a record of 1,098-208, the Lady Vols won eight national championships under Summitt, played in five other title games and reached the Final Four 18 times.
"We have managed to win some ball games and hang championship banners in Thompson-Boling Arena," Summitt continued. "I made a choice early in my career to challenge myself, and my game, each and every day. I will take this same attitude to my new role as head coach emeritus and continue to teach our players the same commitment. The success of the Lady Vols will always, always continue."
She then turned her whistle over to Warlick, placing it around the neck of the 27-year assistant who also played under Summitt.
"Holly has earned this opportunity and I'm still going to be there for her in every way," Summitt added.
In her new role, the 59-year-old Summitt will serve as a liaison to the athletic director, will remain involved in on-campus recruiting and serve as a personal mentor to players.
Summitt was the head coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team that captured a gold medal at the Los Angeles Games. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 in her first year of eligibility.