Not long after Tennessee finally ended the Rick Barnes and UCLA saga, it looks like an official announcement about UT’s other major coaching situation is expected at any time.
According to ESPN’s Chris Low, Tennessee is expected to announce that former player and current Missouri State head coach Kellie Harper will take over as the next head coach of the Lady Vols’ basketball program. The news was first reported by Fox Sports Knoxville.
Low’s sources confirmed to him late Monday night that Harper is expected to be the next head coach of the Lady Vols, replacing Holly Warlick after she ran the program for seven seasons.
Kellie Harper — then Kellie Jolly — played guard for the Lady Vols in the 90s. She helped Tennessee win three-straight national titles from 1996-98 as a point guard, and she was a head coach at Western Carolina and NC State before taking over at Missouri State. She took the Lady Bears to the Sweet Sixteen this season and has been a head coach for 15 years. The soon to be 42-year-old coach has compiled a 258-208 record as a head coach.
After Harper graduated from Tennessee, she took a job the following season as an assistant at Auburn in 2000. After one season there, she became an assistant under Wes Moore at Chattanooga from 2001-04. She accepted the Western Carolina head coaching position after that.
Harper went 97-65 in four seasons with Western Carolina, taking them to two NCAA Tournaments. She parlayed her success there to a job at NC State and left to coach the Wolfpack in 2009. But she couldn’t find similar success there.
NC State made the NCAA Tournament in Harper’s first season, but they went 14-17 in Harper’s second year at the reigns. Harper’s third team went 19-16, then her fourth finished 17-17. She was let go at the end of that season. Harper’s NC State squads never finished better than .500 in conference play.
After being let go by NC State, Harper accepted a position as Missouri State’s head coach. She helped the Lady Bears reach the NCAA Tournament in her third year as head coach, then took them to the tournament again in her sixth season this past season. The Lady Bears made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen as an 11-seed, losing to No. 2 seed Stanford 55-46 in the Round of 16. It marked the first time since 2001 that Missouri State had made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and the Lady Bears’ 25 wins this season were the most since the 2004-05 team went 25-8 and won the WNIT championship.
Interestingly, Harper was a player while Holly Warlick, the coach she’ll be replacing at Tennessee, was an assistant for the Lady Vols.
Warlick took over as head coach of the Lady Vols in 2012 after legendary head coach Pat Summitt resigned after being diagnosed with early onset dementia. Warlick made three Elite Eight appearances in her first four years, but things slid drastically downhill after that.
The veteran coach was let go as the Lady Vols’ head coach on March 27th after a disappointing 19-13 season and 7-9 record in SEC play. This past season marked the first time in over 40 years the Lady Vols failed to win at least 20 games in a season and was the first time ever the Lady Vols finished with a record below .500 in conference play. Warlick had served nearly 40 years as a Lady Vol as a player, assistant coach, and head coach.
We will update as word becomes official or any other information becomes available.