Pat Summitt Retires: Tennessee Basketball Smart to Keep Legendary Coach Close

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterApril 18, 2012

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Basketball coach Pat Summitt speaks onstage during the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 13, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the Women�s Sports Foundation)
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Pat Summitt is the Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball program. Vols basketball is Pat Summitt.

They're one in the same, as they should be after 38 years, 1,098 wins (the most at any level of college basketball) and eight NCAA Tournament titles.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Summitt won't actually be retiring from her post on account of a looming case of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, but rather stepping into the background as a head coach emeritus in Knoxville.

A legend of Summitt's stature will never be forgotten, especially now that she won't be gone. According to The Washington Post, Summitt will remain on the UT staff, serving as a consultant of sorts under long-time assistant-turned-head-coach Holly Warlick. Per NCAA rules, Summitt won't be allowed to sit on the bench and actively coach, though she'll still be able to communicate with Warlick and shoot steely glares from behind the bench.

Think of it as a similar arrangement to the one Phil Jackson enjoyed with Triangle innovator Tex Winter while with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, except if the roles were somewhat reversed.

In theory, the Lady Vols don't need Summitt to stick around in this capacity. After all, Warlick has been Summitt's right-hand woman for the last 27 years and took over gameday coaching duties from her boss after Summitt went public with her diagnosis eight months ago.

Then again, there's no need for the program to slough off Summitt if she's still well enough to lend a helping hand. Summitt may be battling Alzheimer's, but, at 59, her body can certainly withstand the rigors of coaching.

Even if her mind can't or rather, might not.

The transition into a post-Pat era on Rocky Top was never going to be easy or anything but awkward, though having Summitt along for the ride should help to smooth things out, so long as she knows when to let go and doesn't interfere once it's clear that her time has passed.

Though, surely, the hope is that her time never does.

And that even if Summitt's memory goes, the program she built will never forget her.