Two meaty stories

Though this story about Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick seems to have been written before Mercedes Russell’s announcement of her commitment yesterday, it’s got lots of good stuff:

HOLLY WARLICK stands behind a large mahogany desk, her gray-blue eyes scanning the office in front of her. Autographed photos and lifetime achievement awards dot the walls around her; every imaginable kind of orange Tennessee memorabilia, from Lady Vols Russian nesting dolls to a Pat Summitt bobblehead, fill the massive bookcase at her back. “What am I supposed to do with all this?” Warlick asks to no one in particular. “It’s too big; it’s too empty. It’s just — it’s Pat’s.”

After 27 years as an assistant coach for the Lady Vols, Warlick always envisioned herself as the heir apparent to the legendary Summitt. Only it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. “I’d often joke I would be pushing her out of here to games in her wheelchair,” recalls the 54-year-old, her voice perma-hoarse from years of coaching. “Pat and I discussed it in this very room, and I was really, genuinely happy with that.” Instead, Summitt’s diagnosis of early-onset dementia in 2011 and subsequent retirement at the end of last season destroyed any dreams of a celebratory passing of the torch. Now, premature or not, the future of Tennessee women’s basketball rests squarely on Warlick’s shoulders.

Warlick, for one, seems to be ready to tackle her tasks head-on. During her first team meeting, Warlick gave out track-style relay batons to each player. White with orange letters, the tubes read: “New team, new staff, new goals … Same heart, same pride, same fight.” And while the gesture suggests that Warlick intends to share this historic passing of the baton with her team, the responsibility of the program’s legacy is largely hers to bear alone. Make no mistake: Boosters, other D1 coaches and a media hungry to render a verdict will scrutinize every loss. If the Lady Vols struggle early, all that scrutiny will be directed at Warlick. But if the pressure is rattling her, she isn’t letting it show. “I’m not panicked,” she says with a laugh while fidgeting on the couch in her office. “If I’m not ready after 30 years, I’m not going to be ready.”

And swishappeal is thinking waaaay ahead about what will make a good prospect in the WNBA’s 2013 draft. They use Pac-12 examples, so I give them props.