Tennessee’s search for a new head coach for the Lady Vols’ basketball program has started to pick up steam.
According to Wyatt D. Wheeler of the Springfield News-Leader, Tennessee has contacted Missouri State about the head coach of their women’s basketball program, Kellie Harper. The news was confirmed to the News-Leader via Missouri State’s AD.
“The University of Tennessee has contacted me to inform me they have interest in speaking with Coach Harper about their women’s head coaching position,” Missouri State AD Kyle Moats said in a statement.
Harper, a former Lady Vol player, just finished up her sixth season as the head coach of Missouri State, and she led them to their best season in almost two decades. The Lady Bears went 25-9 this season and not only made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, but advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001. The team’s 25 wins were the most in a single season since the 2004-05 team went 25-8 and won the WNIT championship.
The 41-year-old head coach is set to make just under $250,000 annually and is due a $100,000 retention bonus at MSU if she is their head coach on April 14th. She signed a contract extension prior to this past season and is signed through the 2021-22 season.
As a player at Tennessee, Harper — then Kelly Jolly — was the point guard for the Lady Vols from 1995-99 and helped them win three national titles. She set an NCAA Tournament Championship Game record with 11 assists in 1997 and was named to the Final Four All-Tournament team that year.
Harper joined Auburn’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2000 after her playing career ended, and she coached at Chattanooga as an assistant from 2001-04. She was then named the head coach at Western Carolina, earning a 97-65 overall record and taking the Catamounts to two NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons. She left that position to become the head coach at NC State.
But Harper couldn’t continue her success with the Wolfpack, only earning one NCAA Tournament bid in four seasons at NC State. She was fired after the 2012-13 season and was hired at Missouri State prior to the 2013-14 campaign.
Harper took the Lady Bears to the NCAA Tournament in her third season and got them back there again in her sixth season this year, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Overall, Harper has a record of 285-207 in 15 years as a head coach.