By Jimmy Hyams
The Tennessee Lady Vols recently snapped a six-game losing streak that had reached historic proportions for the program.
Sunday’s win over LSU ended a skid that last occurred in 1970, when UT played just six games.
Less than a decade later, Holly Warlick, a star at Bearden High School, became an All-American at Tennessee and an Olympian.
The game has changed since the days of women playing six-on-six basketball.
The players have changed since Warlick became a head coach seven years ago.
Speaking at the Big Orange Tipoff Club on Wednesday, Warlick was asked the difference in players today versus six or seven years ago.
“We’re getting a lot of kids that play a lot of basketball but don’t work on their game,’’ Warlick said. “I see less fundamentals than six years ago.’’
Warlick also said she sees more parental and personal trainer involvement.
Warlick said UT has signed quite a few 5-star kids and high school All-Americans, but some of their fundamentals are “non-existent.’’
She said you can’t assume a 5-star “knows everything,’’ so UT has to teach fundamentals every day in practice, often doing one-on-one drills against male practice players.
“We try to get kids that fit in our program, (want to) graduate and have great character and love the game,’’ Warlick said. “The majority of the time, we hit it spot on. We don’t get it right all the time, but we get it right most of the time.’’
Warlick said her team (13-7, 2-5 SEC) is “not at the point where we want to be,’’ but she didn’t say it was due to lack of personnel.
“We’ve got talent, no question,’’ Warlick said. “We’re young. That doesn’t give us an excuse, but it gives us an opportunity to teach and we’re going to build that toughness. I’ve been told you can’t teach effort and toughness. Well, I’m going to prove that wrong because that’s what we need.’’
Warlick also said coaching styles have changed, implying that you can’t be as tough and demanding on today’s players as you once could.
“I think if Pat Summit was coaching right now, she’d be turned in for verbal and physical abuse,’’ Warlick said.
Warlick said she agrees “100% that our players have a tough time taking a charge. I think the four we’ve taken are a major ordeal for me.’’
Asked if the players are afraid to take a charge, Warlick said there’s “probably a little fear factor because you’ve got to take a hit.’’
Warlick added: `I’ll say this: We’re good at charging into people.’’
Warlick also said the majority of star players weren’t taught to take a charge in high school.
Warlick also said she thinks center Kasi Kushkituah and Zaay Green will be great players. She said freshman Rae Burrell has a “beautiful jump shot.’’
She said if she got into a fight, she’d want Green and Burrell beside her: “They’ve got a little meanness to them.’’
Lady Vols fans and social media haven’t been kind to Warlick, who won three SEC titles of some sort her first three seasons as Summitt’s replacement, but has seen the program slip in recent years.
“I’ve had more of my peers and assistant coaches reach out to me,’’ Warlick said. “So the only time I know that I’m really getting killed on social media is because everybody tells me to hang in there.’’
Warlick said she keeps her blinders on during a season.
“If you do listen to outside noise,’’ she said, “you’re going to question your ability and your confidence and your thoughts.’’
Warlick said her team needs more focus and toughness. She pointed to the UT men’s team as going through “growing pains’’ and working hard to become ranked No. 1.
She said Lady Vols showed toughness and effort in the win over LSU by forcing 25 turnovers and getting 15 points off 19 offensive rebounds.
She also said she is confident here team has turned the corner.
Tennessee hosts Florida (5-15, 1-6 SEC) tonight at 7.