KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has parted ways with Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick.
Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer made the announcement Wednesday afternoon. The news was first reported by Jeff Goodman of Stadium.
"Holly and I met this afternoon, and I informed her of the decision to change leadership within the program," Fulmer said. "Holly has dedicated most of her adult life to the University of Tennessee and the Lady Vols program. She loves Tennessee, and Tennessee needs to always love her back. She was front and center as this program developed into the model for women's intercollegiate excellence."
"While it certainly stings to make this decision, I am charged with doing what I believe is best for this storied program. It's important to all of us that Lady Vols basketball maintains its status among the elite," Fulmer said.
According to the athletics department, a national search for the next Lady Vols head coach is underway. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood will maintain operational oversight of the program until a coaching hire is made.
The Lady Vols lost to UCLA on Saturday, bowing out of the tournament in the first round for only the second time in 38 trips to the big dance. Tennessee snuck into the NCAA field as an 11-seed, narrowly avoiding missing the NCAA tourney for the first time ever with a 19-12 record on Selection Monday.
Warlick spent 38 seasons as part of the Lady Vol program as a player, assistant coach and head coach. She served on Pat Summitt’s staff for 27 seasons, helping the legendary coach lead the program to eight national championships and 18 Final Four appearances.
Warlick took over as head coach beginning with the 2012-13 season when Summitt retired after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
She signed a contract extension through 2022 last year, at a salary of $690,000 per year.
According to her contract, if she was terminated without cause, Warlick could be owed a buyout of "One third of the aggregate base pay and supplemental pay that she would have earned between today's date and April 2022."
If that's the case, Warlick could collect another year's salary of $690,000 as part of her separation.
This month, Warlick got $20,000 because the Lady Vols made it to the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee advanced to the Elite Eight three times and won three SEC championships in Warlick’s first four seasons as head coach. She joined former Louisiana Tech head coach Leon Barmore as the only people to lead their programs to three Elite Eights in their first four seasons as a head coach.
In the past three seasons, Warlick and the Lady Vols haven’t finished higher than fourth in the conference and have failed to make it out of the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament while posting the program’s two lowest win totals in the NCAA era (since the 1981-82 season). Tennessee had only missed the Sweet 16 once in its history before that run.
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Despite a decline in the level of on-court success, Warlick still recruited at a very high level, bringing in some of the top ranked players in the nation and continued the Lady Vols 100-percent graduation rate for players that finish their collegiate careers at Tennessee.
Tennessee is the only women’s basketball program to make it to every NCAA Tournament and ranks second behind UConn in national championships and Final Four appearances.
Warlick played for the Lady Vols from 1976-80, earning All-America honors three times and reaching the AIAW Final Four three times. She was the first Tennessee athlete in any sport (men’s or women’s) to have her jersey retired. Her number 22 hangs in the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena.
Warlick is a Knoxville native and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.