Tennessee continues to search for a replacement for Holly Warlick as the Lady Vols’ head coach, and one fan favorite candidate is reportedly not a likely option.
According to long-time Knoxville reporter Jimmy Hyams, Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz is “not a likely candidate” for the Lady Vols’ vacancy. Hyams adds that two former Lady Vols are much more likely, however.
Sources: Louisville coach Jeff Walz not likely candidate for Lady Vols job. Kelli Harper and Kara Lawson are, though some sources said lawson is not interested.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) April 3, 2019
The likely hangup with Walz is his contract and buyout at Louisville. He makes nearly $1.5 million annually with the Cardinals, and he just recently signed an extension. It would likely cost Tennessee upwards of $2.5 million to $3 million to bring him in. For comparison, Holly Warlick was making under $800,000 annually as the Lady Vols’ head coach prior to her termination.
Walz has gone 332-99 in his 12 seasons at Louisville. He took the Cardinals to the Elite Eight this season, a year after he got them to the Final Four. In 2013, Walz helped lead Louisville to the national championship game before losing 93-60 to UConn. They also made it to the title game in 2009, losing to UConn 76-54
In his 12 seasons, Walz has taken Louisville to the NCAA Tournament 11 times and has gotten to two national championship games, three Final Fours, and five Elite Eights.
The two names Hyams mentions who are more likely candidates are two former Lady Vol players.
Kellie Harper is currently the head coach for the women’s basketball program at Missouri State. It was reported earlier this week that Tennessee had reached out to Missouri State’s AD to contact Harper about the position.
Harper 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 Kellie 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.
The other name Hyams mentioned is former Lady Vol Kara Lawson.
Just like Harper, Lawson was a point guard for the Lady Vols. She played from 1999-2003 and was a first-round draft pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft. But unlike Harper, Lawson hasn’t spent the last few years coaching.
Lawson ended her playing career in 2015, and she’s been in broadcasting ever since. Lawson actually began doing broadcasting work while she played in the WNBA, and she’s been a fixture of ESPN’s coverage of women’s basketball for years. She was named the primary television game analyst for the Washington Wizards in 2017, becoming one of the first primary female TV analysts for an NBA team, joining Sarah Kustok of the Brooklyn Nets.
Not only that, but Lawson is member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Tennessee. Bill Haslam named her to the board in 2018.
Hyams added that some sources have indicated to him that Lawson, however, is not interested in the position at Tennessee.