KNOXVILLE — Tennessee women's basketball coach Holly Warlick admitted Wednesday she doesn't pay much attention to social media.
In light of her team's recent stretch of games, that's probably a good thing.
The 20th-ranked Lady Volunteers (12-4, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) will look to stop the program's first three-game losing streak in 33 seasons tonight when they travel to face Alabama (9-8, 1-3) at 9 Eastern at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.
The negative stretch of games has caused some turmoil within the wildly passionate fanbase, with some calling for Warlick's job as she has struggled to maintain the standard of 1,098 wins and eight national championships set by her predecessor, the late Pat Summitt.
Warlick could easily point out that her roster is full of freshmen and sophomores, but after having two consecutive seasons end on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament — including last season's 66-59 second-round loss to Oregon State in Knoxville — she has lost the benefit of the doubt in the minds of a lot of the Lady Vols faithful.
"I'm not on social media. I don't read the paper," Warlick said Wednesday. "No one is ever going to be Pat. Her record's record, it stands, but I'm going to keep pushing this team the best that I know. I can't get caught up in the criticism; it is what it is, social media is social media. All I'm going to look at is the positive of this team, continue to move forward and get this team to the right place. I know our kids read stuff, and I hate it because it fills their heads full of stuff, but I choose not to read it.
"My mom still tells me I'm a great coach."
Warlick had a policy against social media for players as recently as last year, but she chose not to do that this season.
"It is so much a part of their lives now," Warlick said. "When you do that, you have to open yourself up to the criticism. The part of it that's great is that it's for them to reflect, collect and understand each other, but there's that other side that they have to handle if they're going to do that."
The challenge tonight would be halting not just one, but two negative streaks affecting the Lady Vols.
Aside from being losers of three straight games, they've also lost four straight in the series with Alabama, although Tennessee still holds a commanding 49-6 lead in the series. For Warlick, figuring out a way to prevent her young team from "riding the wave" in the wrong direction could prove beneficial not just tonight, but going forward, and finding ways to keep the team more even-keeled throughout the process could prove paramount in the difference between a team that would peak by making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament and a team that fails to make it entirely.
"We will continue to practice on the things that we need to work on," she said. "We have to stay in the moment and stay focused. We are going to continue to talk about that. It is a 40-minute game, and there are going to be runs. We need to answer those runs, and there is going to be a time when we go down and we need a comeback.
"I keep saying defense and rebounding can solve a lot of problems."