By Jimmy Hyams
As the Tennessee Lady Vols struggled this season, speculation grew about the future of coach Holly Warlick.
Tennessee lost six games in a row for the first time since 1970 and failed to win 20 games in the regular season for the first time since 1975-76.
For the first time, the Lady Vols were on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, but got an 11th seed – making them the only program to gain a berth in all 38 women’s tournaments.
But making the NCAA Tournament isn’t the goal of this proud program. It’s winning the SEC. It’s the Final Four. It’s a national championship.
The Lady Vols haven’t made the Final Four since winning the national title in 2008. It hasn’t won an SEC regular-season or tournament title in the past four years.
And that has some in the Lady Vol Nation restless about Warlick’s performance.
Asked today at a press gathering if she’s had conversation with athletic director Phillip Fulmer about her job security, Warlick said other than Fulmer wishing her good luck: “I have not had any conversation with him.’’
Asked how she would balance her job and doing right by her team, Warlick said: “ I’m not worried about it. I can’t worry about something I can’t control. All I can control is getting this basketball team ready for the next game and that’s UCLA. Kind of like I can’t control whether we’re going to get in the(NCAA) tournament or not.’’
Asked if her job situation is a distraction to her or her players, Warlick said: “It’s not for me. I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about my 90-year old mother not falling.’’
Warlick said she is focused on doing her job which “is to get these young ladies ready for the next game.’’
If Warlick is fired after this season, she would be paid close to her one-year salary of $690,000.
Warlick’s salary ranks in the bottom half of the SEC.
Some doubt Fulmer would be willing to pay $1 million for a women’s basketball coach, which would narrow his pool of qualified candidates.