Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ODU's Wendy Larry on Pat Summitt stepping down: "It's the end of an era"

Pat was on hand to commemorate Wendy's 500th coaching victory.

Former Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry spent Wednesday evening exchanging text messages -- with Pat Summitt.

Tennessee announced earlier in the day that Summitt would step down as coach after 38 seasons and 1,098 wins. Summitt will be "head coach emeritus" for the women's program she guided to eight national titles. Her assistant for 27 years and all eight of those titles, Holly Warlick, is the Lady Vols' new coach. The move comes less than a year after Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

"I'm so happy for Holly, but it's a mixed bag -- heart wrenching and exciting," Larry said. "Heart wrenching because you know Pat didn't want to step down on these terms. But it's also exciting for Holly."

Summitt and Larry have been professional peers for decades, but Larry said they really became friends after the 1997 Final Four.

"The respect factor changed after that Final Four," she said.

Larry's Lady Monarchs fell to the Lady Vols in the NCAA title game that year; during the regular season ODU beat Tennessee -- the first and only win for the Lady Monarchs over the Lady Vols under Larry.

Larry said she and Summitt would regularly dine after the teams played in the annual series. Still Larry made no secret over the years that orange wasn't exactly a favorite color of hers. Nonetheless, that didn't stop Larry from wearing orange and only orange to a ceremony in Knoxville honoring Summitt after she reached 1,000 coaching victories.

"I left all the tags on," Larry said.

Larry spent the 2011-12 season traveling, with one of the trips taking her Knoxville. Larry was there for Tennessee's date with LSU on Jan. 19 and also attended the baby shower for Nikki Caldwell.

"Spending time with Pat and her staff was one of the highlights of the last year," Larry said.

Larry said the special bond between Warlick and Summitt will make the new coaching arrangement work. While Summitt will not be allowed to sit on the bench, she will be able to sit behind it and still plans to be a mentor and advisor to the program.

"Pat's going to do what she's been doing -- she's just got a fancier title," Larry said. "She'll coach, mentor, have an opinion. Holly is a very lucky lady to have her in the wings."

No doubt, though, said Larry, "This is the end of an era."

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