Pat Summitt steps down as Tennessee women's basketball coach

NASHVILLE, Tennessee Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:29pm EDT

Tennessee guard Candace Parker (R) hugs Tennessee coach Pat Summitt after Tennessee defeated Stanford to win the NCAA Women's championship basketball game in Tampa, Florida, April 8, 2008. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Tennessee guard Candace Parker (R) hugs Tennessee coach Pat Summitt after Tennessee defeated Stanford to win the NCAA Women's championship basketball game in Tampa, Florida, April 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Pat Summitt, the most successful college basketball coach in U.S. history, stepped down on Wednesday as head coach of the University of Tennessee women's team following the disclosure last year that she suffers from early-onset dementia.

The university said on its website that Summitt, who has more wins than any other coach of men's or women's college basketball, would retain the title of "Head Coach Emeritus," but assistant Holly Warlick would assume the head coach position.

Summitt, 59, had coached the Tennessee women's team since 1974 and compiled a record of 1,098 wins and 208 losses. Her Tennessee Lady Vols teams won eight national championships.

"I've loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role," Summitt said.

Summitt announced last August that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, but said she would continue coaching.

Known for her fiery presence, Summitt gradually retreated from day-to-day coaching duties this season and was often seen at games sitting quietly and allowing Warlick to take the lead in coaching players from the bench.

She coached the U.S. women's Olympic team to a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

"Just like there will never be another John Wooden, there will never be another Pat Summitt," Tennessee Director of Athletics Dave Hart said in a statement, referring to Summitt as an icon on a par with Wooden, the legendary men's college coach at UCLA who died in 2010.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)

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