Kellie Harper is out at Tennessee: What’s next for Lady Vols?

Kellie Harper is out at Tennessee: What’s next for Lady Vols? post thumbnail image

On April 8, 2019, Tennessee introduced Kellie Harper as its new girls’s basketball coach. It was her dream job: She was going again to her alma mater, the varsity the place she gained three nationwide championships as a participant. The mutual pleasure of Harper and followers of the Girl Vols was by means of the roof.

However 5 years later, Tennessee has fired Harper after she wasn’t in a position to get previous the Candy 16 of the NCAA match. Tennessee has gained eight NCAA titles however hasn’t been to the Remaining 4 since 2008. Within the SEC, Tennessee has fallen behind each South Carolina and LSU, winners of the previous two nationwide championships.

Harper skilled the identical factor that her predecessor, Holly Warlick, did: The conclusion that as tough as you assume will probably be to observe the legendary coach Pat Summitt, it is even tougher.

The final three groups that Harper misplaced to within the NCAA match –Louisville in 2022, Virginia Tech in 2023 and NC State this 12 months — superior to the Remaining 4. With most different applications, ending no decrease than fourth in your convention over 5 years and making two Candy 16 appearances and two NCAA second-round appearances (there was no NCAA match in 2020 resulting from COVID-19) in all probability will get a contract extension for a coach.

Harper, who has coached 4 completely different applications to the NCAA match, owns a profession report of 393-260 in 20 years as a head coach.

Whoever takes over the Girl Vols has to know the clock is ticking on getting again to the Remaining 4 as quickly as they step into the pinnacle coach’s workplace.

Even so, with an enormous fan base and profitable custom, Tennessee remains to be a serious vacation spot job. What went flawed for Harper, and who will the Girl Vol program flip to subsequent?

Recruiting is the secret

Tennessee has had some expertise throughout Harper’s tenure, however not sufficient. Particularly compared to South Carolina and LSU. This damage Harper as a lot as something.

Harper took over months after Jordan Horston, the No. 2 recruit within the Class of 2019 in response to ESPN HoopGurlz, already had dedicated to the Girl Vols underneath Warlick. Horston completed her profession final season and was drafted ninth by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

Since then, in response to HoopGurlz rankings, Tennessee has struggled to land essentially the most coveted recruits. The best-ranked recruit was 57th in 2020, forty third in 2021, none within the high 100 in 2023, and thirty fifth in 2024.

The Girl Vols signed No. 11 Justine Pissott in 2022, however she transferred after one season to Vanderbilt. As of now, Tennessee has No. 16 Nyla Brooks as a 2025 dedication.

Recruiting is more difficult than ever in at present’s NIL world. However Tennessee, a program that was once a contender for top-five recruits yearly, hasn’t been in a position to compete in that race underneath Harper.

The Girl Vols did nab a star from the switch portal in Rickea Jackson, who has been their high scorer the previous two seasons. It nonetheless wasn’t sufficient. Recruiting appears like it’s 24/7 now with the portal, and Harper’s substitute will want some huge wins there.

Contrasts to SEC’s ‘Massive Two’ put Tennessee in a harsh highlight

Tennessee was the chief of the pack within the SEC for many years underneath Summitt. Different applications periodically challenged the Girl Vols for temporary intervals, however nobody may sustain with them.

Summitt introduced in 2011 she had early onset-dementia, Alzheimer’s kind, after which retired in 2012. Her longtime assistant Warlick, who had been the de-facto head coach in 2011-12, formally took over.

Warlick had a really completely different persona than Summitt, her good friend and former coach (Warlick performed at Tennessee from 1976-80). Warlick needed to navigate in-house turmoil at Tennessee as the boys’s and ladies’s athletic departments merged, the grief over Summitt’s sickness and subsequent loss of life in 2016, and a altering panorama nationally and within the SEC as coach Daybreak Staley made South Carolina the league’s high program.

LSU has had success up to now, together with 5 consecutive Remaining 4 appearances from 2004-2008. However this system had fallen away from that peak. Then Kim Mulkey, who coached Baylor to 3 nationwide championships, took over at LSU within the spring of 2021.

In her second season, Mulkey led LSU to the 2023 NCAA title.

Harper needed to cope with comparisons to South Carolina, LSU, each different good program within the nation and Tennessee’s legendary previous. It was an excessive amount of.

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Gamecocks’ Cardoso drills game-winning triple vs. Girl Vols

Kamilla Cardoso hits her first-ever collegiate 3-pointer within the last second of South Carolina’s 74-73 semifinal win to beat UT’s vicious comeback.

Tennessee’s 74-73 loss to South Carolina on March 9 in all probability did not change something about Harper’s destiny. The Girl Vols had been nearer than any group this season to giving the Gamecocks their first loss. However they allowed the game-winning shot to heart Kamilla Cardoso, who made the primary 3-pointer of her faculty profession.

It did not assist Harper that the shot of Cardoso’s banked-in 3 was replayed again and again on tv and the Web, with Tennessee wanting confused defensively by not guarding the inbound passer or Cardoso … adopted by Harper’s look of sheer anguish on the sideline.

Is it time for Tennessee to maneuver past the ‘orange line’?

From Summitt to Warlick to Harper, Tennessee’s teaching has had 50 years of connection. All Tennessee natives. Warlick and Harper performed for Summitt. Girl Vols by means of and thru.

The query now: Ought to Tennessee go one other route for its subsequent head coach?

Kara Lawson, a Girl Vols alum who led the Duke Blue Devils to the Candy 16 this season, seemingly got here to thoughts instantly for a lot of as a possible substitute. However does she wish to tackle the Summitt legacy and expectations, particularly since she is constructing her personal factor now at Duke?

Would she be the best match? Or would Tennessee be greatest — as painful because it is likely to be to longtime followers — to usher in somebody with no connection to the Girl Vols’ previous?

Tennessee’s administration should resolve. However by firing Harper, they’ve despatched a transparent message about what the expectations are.


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