Mickie DeMoss heads to the WNBA

Mickie DeMoss, Pat Summitt

Mickie DeMoss, a Lady Vols assistant basketball coach, is headed to the Indiana Fever of the WNBA. What does this mean, considering the speculation about Pat Summitt's future? Go inside for Inside Tennessee's Take.

First rule of journalism is don't bury the lead. So what does the departure of Mickie DeMoss mean in terms of Pat Summitt's future? To be honest, not a lot right now.

Summitt remains undecided about her future. The 38-year head coach at Tennessee knows that the disease of dementia has a diminishing effect, but to what extent? What can she still offer the Lady Vols basketball program? Does she have enough left for another season? Can she still coach and motivate players?

Shekinna Stricklen would say yes. Summitt had one-on-one chats with the senior this past season that would get Stricklen back on track. Glory Johnson and Vicki Baugh would be unequivocal in their support for Summitt to continue.

But Summitt has a lot of factors to consider, beginning with her health. What is the best thing for her? What is best for the program? What is best for her staff? What is best for the players?

All indications are that Summitt is still sorting it out. The answer is not clear-cut. Yes, she has dementia, but despite a media narrative that was, at times, incredibly skewed, she still has the capacity to coach.

Summitt spoke to the local media every week and was engaged and witty. She could have handled more actually. Her symptoms are moderate at this time. She is not affected enough by the disease to make this an easy decision at all. But, at the same time, Summitt realizes that she had to lean on her staff in a way that they used to lean on her.

The fact that DeMoss would depart is, oddly enough, a good sign in terms of Summitt's health. The fact that DeMoss feels comfortable enough to leave is another indicator that Summitt is better than was portrayed at times this season. (On a somewhat related note, the fact Tyler Summitt is looking for graduate assistant jobs outside the state of Tennessee also indicates that his mother has reached a manageable point with her disease.)

Mickie DeMoss is following a career goal by taking her coaching skills to the WNBA.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
It was a sea change for Summitt last August when she made the announcement. She has had time to adjust, too. Now, she has to decide what to do next.

And, in typical Summitt fashion, she would not make an announcement during the Lady Vols season or before the Final Four ended. She would not put the spotlight on her during the season or the game's biggest event.

Summitt also knows that April marks the beginning of the showcase period for high school recruits. Summitt is aware that what she does next affects the decisions of the class of 2013, and the Lady Vols are in the mix with several top players.

DeMoss returned to Tennessee from Texas when Summitt had an opening in 2010, and the longtime Lady Vols assistant said later that things happen for a reason. One year after DeMoss arrived, Summitt was diagnosed with dementia after a season in which Summitt – and DeMoss – noticed some confusion and forgetfulness.

Summitt needed an experienced and loyal staff this past season and she got it in DeMoss, Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick and Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood.

They are fiercely loyal to Summitt and willingly took over additional duties, none more so than Warlick, who handled a lot of in-game coaching and daily media interviews.

DeMoss has been a college coach for 35 years. Summitt said in a press release Monday that DeMoss had expressed a desire to coach in the WNBA.

"From my perspective, I am so excited for Mickie," Summitt said. "Coaching at the next level has always been one of her professional aspirations, and the Fever is one of the best teams in the league.

"Obviously, Mickie is not only a great coach but she is a lifelong friend. We will certainly miss her at Tennessee and the contributions she has made during the 20 years she has been a part of our championship program."

The Fever is coached by Lin Dunn, who is from Tennessee and was a sorority sister of Summitt's at Tennessee-Martin. The Indiana team has three former Lady Vols on the roster in Tamika Catchings, Shyra Ely and Shannon Bobbitt. DeMoss recruited Catchings and Ely while at Tennessee.

"Yeaaaaaaa Mickie!!" was Catchings' reaction on Twitter to the news.

Ely tweeted: "Mickie DeMoss is coming to Indy!!!!! Go Lady Vols!!! Yaaaaaaayeah!!"

"A few months ago, Indiana Fever head coach Lin Dunn contacted me about an opening on her staff," DeMoss said. "I was very interested, but I told her my immediate concern was helping Pat and the Lady Vol basketball team.

"When Pat and I talked about the opportunity to coach at the next level, she told me she would support me in whatever decision I chose to make. I've been in the game for 35 years and this (the WNBA) is always something I've wanted to do.

"The Indiana Fever was a perfect fit, and the opportunity to coach with Lin will present a brand new learning experience for me."

Former Lady Vol and current Middle Tennessee assistant Alex Fuller is a candidate to join Tennessee's staff.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
DeMoss has twice been a head coach – at Florida from 1979 to 1983 and at Kentucky from 2003 to 2007. She has not expressed any interest in taking on that role again in college. A pro stint seems like a logical move.

DeMoss did her part for Summitt and Tennessee.

Warlick, who would be on a short list to replace Summitt – former Lady Vols Nikki Caldwell and Kellie Jolly Harper also deserve serious consideration – continues to serve Summitt, as she has loyally on the sideline since 1985.

If Summitt were to return, Warlick would do as she did this season – give her all for Summitt and Tennessee.

DeMoss' spot is likely to be filled from the extensive Lady Vol tree. Three names that come immediately to mind are Daedra Charles-Furlow, now the director of character development at UT; Kyra Elzy, a successful recruiter at Kentucky; and Alex Fuller, a dynamic up-and-comer at Middle Tennessee.

Summitt had the benefit of a staff that stuck by her side all season, despite a diagnosis that rocked all of them. Now, she has to decide what to do next.

Whatever Summitt decides, one thing seems clear: Tennessee will be in good hands.

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