<
>

Pat Summitt, who would have turned 65 on Wednesday, is never far from Holly Warlick's thoughts

Holly Warlick, left, played for and then coached alongside Pat Summitt for decades. Summitt was "one of my closest friends," Warlick says. "That's what I miss the most: her friendship." Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee women's basketball coach Holly Warlick never forgot the date of Pat Summitt's birthday, in part because June 14 has another significance.

"It's flag day," Warlick said, smiling, this past weekend as she attended the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction. "So I always knew when it was."

Summitt, coach of the Lady Vols from 1974 to 2012, died last June 28 from the effects of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Wednesday would have been her 65th birthday, and there was a time when everyone figured she would hit "standard" retirement age and just laugh at it. All expected Summitt, who won 1,098 games and eight NCAA titles, to coach as long as she wanted. But that wasn't to be.

With Summitt's birth date, the anniversary of her death, and the Hall of Fame ceremonies all in June, Warlick acknowledged that this month has a certain emotional resonance.

"It brings reflection," said Warlick, who played for Summitt from 1976 to '80 and was her assistant for nearly three decades. "But for me, it's moments in every day that remind me. You don't realize it's on your mind until you do realize it, and you go, 'Wow.'

"I miss Pat in so many different segments of my life -- with what I'm doing, where I am, all the things that remind me of her."

Summitt was mentioned multiple times during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night. And Warlick noted the many ways that Summitt's impact is still at work. Including at the University of Tennessee's medical center, which in January opened the Pat Summitt Clinic for treatment of Alzheimer's patients and research about the disease.

"That's a big part of her legacy," Warlick said. "I'm proud of the impact she's still making on coaches, on kids, on so many people. She's one of the big reasons that we have this Hall of Fame. And I know she'd be very proud of the clinic."

"I was blessed to have the opportunity to be around her so long. And she was really a great friend, outside of being a mentor and everything else she was to me."

Holly Warlick on Pat Summitt

Summitt's effect on people was so immense and broad-based, that even those who knew her only briefly carry it with them. For those closest to her, there is a mixture of gratitude and sorrow, but they know which one Summitt would want them to focus on.

"I was blessed to have the opportunity to be around her so long," Warlick said. "And she was really a great friend, outside of being a mentor and everything else she was to me. I had an opportunity to know Pat on a different level than a lot of people, as one of my closest friends. And that's what I miss the most: her friendship."