UT basketball standout Kellie Harper returns to Tenn. to lead the Lady Vols as head coach

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Photo: UT Athletics

UT graduate and basketball standout Kellie Harper will return to Tennessee to lead the Lady Vols as head coach, UT Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced Tuesday.

Harper becomes the third Lady Vol head coach in the NCAA era of women's basketbal. She will serve Tennessee after six years of coaching the Missouri State Lady Bears.

"I'm excited to have Kellie as our new women's basketball coach," Fulmer said. "She is a Lady Vol through and through. Her love of the game, her care and love for her players, and her loyalty to UT all came through during the interview process. Kellie has proven to be a winner at every stop in her career, taking three programs to the NCAA Tournament. She certainly knows the expectations that come with this job, as she has lived it herself."

The university and Harper have reached an agreement to a five-year contract with annual compensation of $750,000 per year.

"I am incredibly humbled and honored to be named the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols," Harper said. "Tennessee holds a special place in my heart, and I am excited to embrace the legacy of this proud program. I can't wait to help each player and this team be champions, on the court and off."

The Sparta native played point guard under the legendary Pat Summitt at UT from 1995-99. Harper started 132 games and helped the Lady Vols win NCAA National Championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. University officials say she was part of the senior class that helped the Big Orange achieve a 131-17 overall record and win two SEC regular season titles and three SEC Tournament crowns.

Harper has led three different schools to the NCAA Tournament, directing her teams to 12 postseason berths in her 15-year head coaching career. She comes from a 15-year coaching record of 285-208, including five NCAA Tournament appearances and seven WNIT berths.

Most recently, under Harper's direction, the Lady Bears finished No. 24 in the final USA Today Sports Coaches Poll - their first national ranking in 15 years. She was named the Missouri Valley Coach of the Year and also was chosen as the 2019 Kay Yow Coach of the Year.

During Harper's time at Tennessee, she scored 894 points and had 452 assists, leaving UT on the school's career top 10 lists for assists, assist average, 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage. She still ranks seventh in career assists and is 10th in 3-point percentage.

She played for her father, the late Kenneth Jolly, at White County High School in Sparta. She was a five-time All-American during her AAU playing career. Harper was inducted into the UT Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 and White County High School Hall of Fame in 2012.

The new Lady Vols coach is married to Jon Harper, who served on her coaching staff at Western Carolina, NC State and Missouri State. They have two children, son Jackson, and daughter, Kiley.

Learn more about Harper's experience here.