Pat Summitt steps down as Tennessee coach

Tennessee Volunteers women's head coach Pat Summitt waves

Tennessee Volunteers women's head coach Pat Summitt waves to the fans as she is honored along with former USA Women's basketball coaches at halftime of the game between the Baylor Bears and the Stanford Cardinal. (April 1, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

The iconic Pat Summitt is stepping aside, a moment fans of the Tennessee Lady Vols and women's basketball have been dreading since August.

Since the 59-year-old Summitt -- the sports all-time winningest coach -- revealed on Aug. 23 she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, the move has been anticipated. The Lady Vols played through an emotional season with Summitt's every move studied closely for glimpses of the disease that caused her problems with memory loss.

Summitt said Wednesday the time has come.

"I've loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role," Summitt said.

Tennessee said that Summitt will become "head coach emeritus" with longtime assistant Holly Warlick being promoted to replace her.

Tennessee has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon in Knoxville with Summitt and Warlick.

When the Lady Vols lost in a regional final to eventual national champion Baylor, Warlick's tears during the postgame news conference gave a glimpse of how draining the season had been and the possible reality that it was Summitt's last game.

Athletic director Dave Hart said summing up Summitt's career is impossible.

"She is an icon who does not view herself in that light, and her legacy is well-defined and everlasting," Hart said. "Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role. She is an inspiration to everyone."

Summitt will report to Hart and help the women's program she guided to eight national titles.

"I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward," Summitt said. "I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer's through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund."

Summitt supports Warlick as her replacement, the two have a long history together. Warlick was Summitt's assistant for 27 years and a three-time All-American playing for the Hall of Fame coach.

It's unlikely anyone will ever come close to matching Summitt's accomplishments in women's basketball, which has seen more parity in the past decade.

During her time, Tennessee never failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, never received a seed lower than No. 5 and reached 18 Final Fours.

Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses. Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has graduated.

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