It was a day everyone knew would come eventually. It just happened earlier than anyone wanted.
    
But even after the announcement on Wednesday that Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was stepping down after 38 seasons, the mood in Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday afternoon was somber when Summitt officially turned over her whistle to 27-year assistant and new Lady Volunteers head coach Holly Warlick.
    
“This is something you don’t prepare for,” Joan Cronan, UT’s women’s athletic director since 1983, told The Daily Beacon. “This is a moment in time, in history. But what a lady. What grace she handled it, what courage she handled this. We’re excited about her being head coach emeritus and we’re also excited about Holly Warlick leading us.”
   
 Summitt, who UT athletic director Dave Hart said is basketball’s “greatest coach,” will still have an active role with the team, something she insisted on letting the team know when she told the Lady Vols she wouldn’t return as head coach next season.
   
 “I wanted the team to know I’m still going to be here,” Summitt said. “I’m going to be in practice, I’m going to be yelling at them still. They may not like that but it makes me feel good.”
    
Since taking over in 1974, Summitt has not only been the face of women’s basketball, but of all women’s sports.
    
“We have grown the game of women’s basketball each and every day along the way supported by the best fans in the country, no doubt,” Summitt said. “We have managed to win some ball games and hang championship banners in Thompson-Boling Arena. I made a choice early in my career to challenge myself to step up my game each and every day. You can be sure that I will take this same attitude into my new role as head coach emeritus and continue to teach our players the same commitment.”
   
 Warlick, who was a three-time All-American as a player under Summitt, and UT’s other assistant coaches took on added responsibilities during the 2011-12 season, where the Lady Vols finished 27-9 after losing to eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight.
    
“I see Pat in the role as what she did this year,” Warlick said. “She’s going to be a great mentor for these young women. She’s going to be there, she’s going to watch practice and be involved in on-campus recruiting, which is huge for us. She built this program, is the tradition of the Lady Vols, and we’re going to use her in every way possible to help us continue that tradition.”
    
Mickie DeMoss left for a coaching position with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Dean Lockwood, who has been an assistant coach with the Lady Vols for eight seasons, is returning next season. Warlick said on Thursday that it’s an “active ongoing search” to complete her coaching staff.
    
The questions that surrounded Summitt’s future until Wednesday were a small hurdle for UT coaches in recruiting, but with a plan now in place, they have no worries.
   
 “Yesterday, Dean and I got on the phone (with recruits), and we’ve had nothing but positive reaction for myself and Dean staying and especially Pat staying on as well,” Warlick said. “It’s been really a positive response for us on the recruiting side.”
    
Warlick is anxious to start moving forward, but doesn’t feel the pressure of following a icon.
    
“It’s exciting,” Warlick said. “It’s exciting to follow a legend. I’ve coached under a legend for 27 years. I love it. It’s a great challenge for me, and I can’t wait to get started.”