After taking over for Pat Summitt, Holly Warlick was handed the keys to the storied Tennessee women’s basketball program. But on Wednesday, Warlick was fired after seven years as the head coach.
Louisville’s head coach Jeff Walz has been mentioned as a prime candidate for the vacant position. Walz reiterated his commitment to Louisville, while recommending one legendary coach for the job opening.
“First off, I just want to start off by saying I’m the head coach at the University of Louisville,” Walz said. “I think Geno (Auriemma) would be a wonderful candidate for that position that is open. So before the questions start coming, I’m the head coach at the University of Louisville. I’ve loved it, enjoy it, it’s been great.”
Auriemma began his press conference by (jokingly) reaffirming his desire to coach at UConn.
“Just want to let everybody know that I’m still the coach at UConn, and I intend to be the coach at UConn next year in case anybody had any questions about that,” Auriemma said.
Auriemma said the lofty expectations that come with a job at Tennessee make it extremely difficult to be successful.
“If you look at any great program that had kind of an iconic leader you know, and that leader kind of defined the program,” Auriemma said. “Then all of a sudden you’re trying to replace that and you’re replacing it (them) with someone who’s been part of that staff for the longest time, that’s already not an easy transition because the specter of the former coach, you know, Pat, left a big shadow.”
After Tennessee was ousted in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA tournament by UCLA, Warlick officially on the hot seat. The Volunteers then finished the year with a 19-13 record – their worst season in the NCAA Tournament era.
“(Tennessee’s) fan base is a lot like ours,” Auriemma said. “They’re impatient. They want everything right now. There’s not going to be a lot of patience for whoever the next person is, so they’re going to have to be great right away.”
However, Auriemma did voice his sympathy and support for Warlick.
“I feel terrible for (Warlick),” Auriemma said. “Every school is entitled to have their own coach, obviously, and Tennessee is entitled to have whoever they want as their coach. I don’t know the details of all that, but I just — any time a coach is in that situation, I feel it because we’re all part of the same community. Holly will land on her feet for sure.”
When the time comes for UConn to find a replacement for Auriemma, the Hall of Famer said he wants nothing to do with the process.
“It’s just really, really hard and I get asked all the time who the next coach of Connecticut will be and I said I would really have no opinion on that,” Auriemma said. “Because maybe a bunch of my assistants would want that job or former assistants. I think it’s hard for a person in our situation to say ‘well I’m going to hand-pick the next coach.’ I think anybody who has tried to do that has not really done a good job of it.”
UConn and Tennessee announced over the summer that they would play each other once a year for the next two seasons. Auriemma said that whoever the Volunteers name as their next head coach will influence how many times they play them.
“I think depending on who the coach is, we may play them ten more times, or we may not play them at all,” Auriemma said with a wide smile. “I’m anxious to see who the coach is because it may only be two years, maybe one. I may try to get out of it next year.”
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.