Tennessee women's basketball: Holly Warlick celebrates her 100th career win
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Holly Warlick's players carried her off the court Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, a journey the head coach was simultaneously grateful for and leery of.
"That was Andraya [Carter] and Jordan [Reynolds]," Warlick said with a wry smile. "Two that do not have a lot of sense."
If Carter had her way, there would have been an accompanying Gatorade shower on the court to celebrate Warlick's 100th victory as the head coach of the Lady Volunteers with a 75-57 triumph over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Fortunately for Warlick's wardrobe and the wood surface of the court, cooler heads prevailed on the celebration. Carter instead got her head coach with a piece of the celebratory cake in the locker room.
"Andraya proceeded to put the cake on my face and neck so if I have icing it isn't because I ate the cake," Warlick said. "I promise you."
Warlick became just the 17th coach all-time to win 100 games in her first four years as a head coach, only the second from a Power Five conference in the last 24 years. Warlick is only the third head coach in Southeastern Conference history to win 100 games in her first four NCAA seasons, joining Andy Landers of Georgia and Van Chancellor of Ole Miss.
To achieve the mark, Tennessee needed to exact revenge on a Razorback team that upset the Lady Vols earlier this season in Fayetteville. A balanced attack with four players in double figures, led by Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell with 15 points each led UT to victory.
"I understand how you get your wins, it is from your coaches down to everybody and the players," said Warlick. "They were excited and some of those kids have been here for the four years that I have been here. It is a great honor and I appreciate it, but it boils down to surrounding yourself with great people. If I learned anything from Coach Summit I did learn that."
Then, it was time for a celebration. The team carried its head coach to center court for the traditional postgame circle, then retreated to the locker room where Tennessee men's basketball coach Rick Barnes wheeled in the celebration cake, complete with trick candles.
Vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart presented Warlick with a game ball to commemorate the milestone.
"I want to first thank Dave Hart for taking a chance on me," Warlick said to open her postgame comments. "He hired an assistant coach in a big time women's basketball program and he has done nothing but support me. I want to really say thank you to him."
Though the last two games have represented a dramatic step forward for the Lady Vols, pushing Warlick's win total higher will be a challenge with a stretch that incudes trips to Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, before hosting South Carolina on Feb. 15.
"Our schedule has been unbelievable really," Warlick said. "Every time I look up it is a tough stretch. We just have to be ready, we may not like it, but its what we have and what we have to deal with. We have to take it one game at a time."
But headed into that stretch, they have a little extra lift, thanks to carrying their head coach for one night.
"We were all just so happy for her," Russell said. "100 wins in four years, that's a great accomplishment for her. We were just proud that we were a part of that. I think it was just a lot of emotions for everyone."