Tennessee fires Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper after 5 seasons

Tennessee fired Kellie Harper as the Lady Vols coach on Monday after five seasons.

Athletic director Danny White announced that Harper would not return, saying he told Harper that her alma mater was making a change after a “thorough review” of the women’s basketball program.


“Decisions like these are never easy to make, especially with someone who has done so much for the Lady Vols as a three-time national champion student-athlete,” White said in a statement. “Her love and passion for Tennessee and the Lady Vols is second to none. She has invested so much heart and soul into our program and truly has given her all for Tennessee.”

Harper finishes her Lady Vols coaching tenure with a 108-52 record, including 53-24 in Southeastern Conference play. She had become one of only two coaches to take four different programs to the NCAA Tournament.

But that’s not the standard at Tennessee, which she helped win three straight national titles as a player under the late Pat Summitt. The Lady Vols remain the only program to make every NCAA Tournament.

White said he talked with the Lady Vols and plans an aggressive search for the next leader of a program with eight national championships. Tennessee hasn’t won a national title since 2008 with Summitt. The Lady Vols have not reached a Final Four since then.

Harper coached the Lady Vols to consecutive Sweet 16s each of the past two seasons. But they lost to her former boss Wes Moore and North Carolina State in the second round 79-72 to end her fifth season. She called it an honor to work at her alma mater and coach a program she loves dearly.

“I am grateful for the opportunity my staff and I have had to lead an amazing group of young women and to mentor them on the court as well as provide them with life skills that will benefit them far beyond the game of basketball,” Harper said in a statement.

Harper, who also had stints at Western Carolina and Missouri State, is 393-260 in 20 years as a coach, with 16 postseason berths, nine in the NCAA Tournament. She led the Lady Vols to consecutive Sweet 16s the previous two seasons, the second after losing starting center Tamari Key in December 2022 to a blood-clot issue.

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