Lady Vols: Tennessee made wrong decision on Holly Warlick contract
Correction: Holly Warlick's contract extension was incorrect in a previous version of this story. It is for three years.
Tennessee didn’t go far enough when it extended coach Holly Warlick’s contract for three years. It should have given her a five-year deal.
Why? Because it has become obvious what the UT administration now expects from its women’s basketball program.
It doesn’t expect a national title. It doesn’t expect a Final Four.
Otherwise, it already would have made a coaching change.
Instead, it has chosen to stick with Warlick. Having made that decision, Tennessee should have given Warlick its full support. A three-year extension doesn’t constitute full support.
This was a halfhearted vote of confidence and doesn’t serve the program’s best interests. It’s UT’s way of saying, “We sort of think things might work out with Warlick, but we don’t want to get carried away.”
Warlick told the News Sentinel on Wednesday she had signed the contract. UT has yet to make an official announcement.
Many Lady Vols fans won’t be happy about Warlick getting a contract extension. They want Tennessee to be a national championship program, just as it was under former coach Pat Summitt, who won her eighth and last national championship in 2008. And they don't see that happening with her as coach.
Warlick has never reached a Final Four, much less won a national title. However, the former UT assistant coach has averaged 25 victories per season for six years.
That’s fine at most places. But Tennessee isn’t most places when it comes to women’s basketball. At least, it didn’t used to be.
UT isn’t paying national championship money, though. It’s not even paying SEC championship money.
Before Warlick’s contract was extended, she was making $665,000 a year. Tennessee would need to at least double that to attract a coach with Final Four experience.
And since the UT administration apparently has no interest in that, it should have committed fully to Warlick.
UT has recruited better under Warlick the past two seasons than it did in her first few seasons. No doubt, Warlick’s staff changes contributed to that.
Tennessee still has one recruiting advantage that no other school has. It can recruit to Summitt’s name. She wasn’t just a great basketball coach. She was a powerful role model for all women, even the ones who never picked up a basketball.
Her name still resonates with high school basketball players. As a longtime Summitt assistant, Warlick provides a connection to Summitt, and UT’s past.
Warlick is a better recruiter than she is a coach. But maybe her recruiting will get even better.
Tennessee fans can hope for that.
Those fans also should remember how Summitt won her last five national championships. She won them because she had the best player in the country.
Three of those championships came with Chamique Holdsclaw. The last two came with Candace Parker.
Perhaps Warlick can sign that kind of player. But she would have had a better chance of that with a longer contract.
Either UT couldn’t figure that out or didn’t care.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.