After leading Missouri State to the NCAA Tournament this season, Kellie Harper will be named the new head coach of the University of Tennessee. While coaching the Lady Bears, Harper went 118-79 and was able to lead the program to two NCAA Tournament appearances (including this season). Missouri State also has three Women’s NIT appearances.
Harper showcasing a capability to turn the Missouri State Lady Bears into a successful program is obviously part of the reason for her hire. She had similar successes with NC State and Western Carolina, bringing both to postseason appearances.
Like nearly every other coach, it’s worth noting she also had her downs while coaching these programs. Right now, though, her stock was high because of the job she did with Missouri State this past season.
As the second seed in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Lady Bears defeated Drake in the MVC tournament championship game. Then the team made the most of the appearance in the NCAA Tournament, making it to the Sweet Sixteen.
With Kellie Harper going to Tennessee, she will have a chance to turn around her alma mater. Harper was a three-time national champion while playing for Pat Summitt at Tennessee. She was an All-American guard in her senior year and was an All-SEC honoree that season.
The question now is this: can Kellie Harper fuel some life and excitement back into Tennessee? This was a down year for the Lady Vols. Tennessee finished 19-13 overall and 7-9 in the SEC. After a first round exit in the NCAA Tournament, Holly Warlick was dismissed as the head coach of the program.
Unfortunately, Harper’s resumé is not as good as Holly Warlick’s resumé. Let’s take a look at their summaries as head coaches.
|Kellie Harper||Holly Warlick|
|NCAA Tournament Appearances||5||7|
Hopefully, Kellie Harper will learn from her experience coming in after a legend. As head coach of NC State, she was tasked with replacing legendary coach Kay Yow. The Hall of Fame head coach was 680-325 as leader of the Wolfpack. Harper became the head coach following Yow passing away in 2009.
Kellie Harper knows the expectations that comes with becoming the head coach of Tennessee. One of those expectations includes winning the SEC.
Can she actually win in the SEC?
The SEC includes programs that are ascending right now. Mississippi State, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Auburn are beginning to make it difficult to win the league. South Carolina and Mississippi State have been dominating the conference. It’s not an easy docket to navigate.
Tennessee has not won the SEC since the 2013-14 season. One thing to note is that Tennessee has a talented roster for Harper to work with and compete in the SEC. Tennessee has All-SEC honorees Rennia Davis and Zaay Green returning along with Evina Westbrook. Along with those three players, Tennessee has a recruiting class coming in that includes the No. 2 recruit Jordan Horston (barring any unforeseen changes).
Regardless, Harper will taking over a program that is looking to revitalize the glory days. Can Kellie Harper get the job done? Time will tell, but there’s reason for the fanbase to start getting excited.
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