KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- After a season that saw her lead a young and injury-battered Lady Vol basketball team to an unexpected SEC regular-season title and to a berth in the NCAA Elite Eight, Tennessee’s Holly Warlick was named the Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year in New Orleans on Monday night.
Warlick, a former Lady Vol point guard (1976-80) and an assistant for 27 seasons under Pat Summitt at UT, was recognized at the site of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four. The honor was announced during the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Awards Show at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s New Orleans Theatre.
After her first squad was predicted to finish as low as fifth in the SEC standings and was picked 20th in the Associated Press preseason national poll, Warlick guided the Lady Vols to a 27-8 overall record and 14-2 conference mark in her first year as head coach. She became the seventh person to receive the Maggie Dixon Award. Previous winners include Jennifer Hoover (High Point) in 2012, former Lady Vol assistant Stephanie Glance (Illinois State) in 2011, Teresa Weatherspoon (La. Tech) in 2010, Kelly Packard (Ball State) in 2009, Jeff Walz (Louisville) in 2008 and Krista Kilburn-Steveskey (Hofstra) in 2007.
The Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award is given in honor of the late Maggie Dixon, former Army head coach, whose success during her inaugural year at the Army helm was remarkable. The Black Knights won the Patriot League title in 2006 and Dixon was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading Army to the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the NCAA Division I level. Coach Dixon passed away on April 6, 2006, just a few weeks following her team’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Dixon’s death especially touched the Lady Vol program, as Tennessee had opened NCAA play in 2006 by facing Army in a first-round game in Norfolk, Va., on March 19. The 102-54 defeat at the hands of UT turned out to be the final game Dixon coached.
The wish of the WBCA is that the spirit of Maggie Dixon will live through this award and its recipients who, by their selection, have demonstrated both the on-court successes as well as the enrichment to the lives of those around them.
Any WBCA member NCAA Division I head coach who is in their rookie season is eligible for this award. A rookie coach is defined as a first year head coach in NCAA Division I women's basketball.
Warlick previously was announced as the SEC Coach of the Year by both the league’s coaches and Associated Press. She returned no starters from last year’s SEC runner-up and NCAA Elite 8 squad and had three starters this season who missed a combined total of 46 games.
The first-year UT skipper also had to walk in the daunting footprints left by her friend, colleague and college coach, Summitt, who is the NCAA’s all-time winningest basketball coach at 1,098-208 with eight NCAA championships and 32 SEC titles to her credit. In facing the challenge of replacing her ailing mentor, as well as dealing with the breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment of her sister, Marion, last fall, Warlick displayed uncommon grace and poise throughout her first campaign at the helm of the Big Orange.
Those traits, when exhibited and passed on to her team, no doubt enabled Tennessee to buckle down and bounce back from a shocking season-opening loss on the road at Chattanooga and to overcome a mid-season upset on the road at Missouri. Lessons learned enabled the Lady Vols to record the program’s 17th SEC regular-season crown, 32nd NCAA Tournament appearance and 26th trip to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Warlick and her staff also weathered times of uncertainty following Summitt’s exit from the head coaching position, nailing down a consensus top-two or -three signing class featuring the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 6-foot-6 Mercedes Russell. That accomplishment, coupled with the on-court performance by the Lady Vols, served as confirmation to fans, opponents, former players and recruits that UT’s #StillTenn Twitter hash tag was something more than words.
Though the baton has been passed, Warlick is committed to ensuring this is still the same Tennessee that everyone has come to know. With this honor from the WBCA, it appears her peer organization believes she is doing just that.