Summitt says she wasn't forced out as Lady Vols coach

5:45 PM, Oct 5, 2012   |    comments
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Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt waves the net after a 98-62 win over Ole Miss during the Dayton Regional final of the NCAA women's basketball tournament at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday, March 27, 2007.

Pat Summitt is clearing up some confusion.  She says she was not forced out as head coach of the Lady Vols.

On Wednesday, Summitt released an affidavit backing claims her long-time media director, Debby Jennings, made in a lawsuit against UT.

Jennings said she was forced out of her job by athletic director, Dave Hart.  In the suit, she said that Hart also forced Summitt to step down as head coach after her diagnosis with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. 

In her affidavit, Summitt confirmed she had a meeting with Hart in March.  She said at the time, she understood that he was telling her that she would not be coaching the Lady Vols next year, and that Holly Warlick would be taking over as head coach.  She said she was hurt and told Jennings and other people about the conversation.  But later, Summitt said that Hart told her that she misunderstood his comments in the March meeting.

On Friday, Summitt released a statement (pdf) to clear up what she calls a misunderstanding regarding her departure as head coach.

I am aware from media attention over the past few days that my affidavit attached to recent court filings in a dispute between Deborah Jennings and the University of Tennessee has resulted in some misunderstandings regarding my departure as Head Coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols.  As a result, I feel it is important on my own initiative to provide this clarification.

It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as Head Coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee.  As I stated at my press conference in April when I announced my decision, I loved being the Head Coach for 38 years, but, after consultation with my son, my doctors, my lawyer, and several close friends, I concluded that the time had come to move into the future and step into a new role.  I have welcomed and enjoyed my new role as head Coach Emeritus, and I am excited for the opportunities that now await my dear friend and colleague Holly Warlick as Head Coach.

I did not then, and I do not now, feel that I was "forced out" by the University.  Anyone who knows me knows that any such effort would have met with resistance.  If my affidavit has caused confusion on that point, it needs to be dispelled. In connection with my move from Head Coach to Head Coach Emeritus, the University has treated me with the utmost respect and graciousness, as it always has throughout my tenure as Head Coach. 

The University of Tennessee also released a statement about the confusion over this issue.

Pat Summitt is a legend at the University of Tennessee. Our goal through this transition has always been to respect her legacy as the best coach in America.

We're saddened that Coach Summitt has been drawn into this. We stand by Pat and her statements, both today and at her press conference in April, that it was her decision to step aside as head coach and become head coach emeritus of the Lady Vol basketball team.

We are eager to respond to the other allegations in the lawsuit and will do so through the judicial process.

We don't want this to be a distraction for the basketball team. We agree with Pat: we're excited about the future of the team under the leadership of Coach Holly Warlick.

---From Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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