April 1, 2024 

Kellie Harper out as head coach for the Tennessee Lady Vols after five seasons

Harper is out after the Lady Vols' second-round exit in this year's NCAA Tournament

On Monday, the Tennessee Lady Vols announced that they had parted ways with head coach Kellie Harper after five seasons.

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“After a thorough review of our women’s basketball program, I have informed Kellie we are making a change in leadership,” Tennessee Director of Athletics Danny White said in a press release. “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. 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. I thank Kellie for her stewardship of our women’s basketball program and wish her and Jon well in the next chapter of their lives.” 

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Harper led the Lady Vols to a 108-52 (53-24 SEC) record through her five years at the helm. She also steered the Lady Vols to back-to-back appearances in the Sweet 16 in 2022 and 2023. Tennessee finished the 2023-24 season with a 20-13 (10-6 SEC) record. They came into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 seed but fell to No. 3 NC State in the second round.

Harper began her coaching career in 2004. She was the head coach for Western Carolina (2004-09), NC State (2009-12), and Missouri State (2013-19). She carries a total record of 393-260.

Additionally, Harper played for the Tennessee Lady Vols as a point guard under Pat Summitt from 1995-99. She was an integral part of a team that reached three consecutive national championships. Additionally, she was named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team in 1997.

“It has been an honor to serve at my alma mater and to coach a Lady Vol program I love so dearly,” Harper said in the press release. “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.”

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The program’s announcement impacted some of the commits who planned to play for the Tennessee Lady Vols in the future. According to Cora Hall of Knoxville News Sentinel, point guard Finley Chastain, a commit from the 2027 class, reopened recruitment just hours after the team let Harper go. Nyla Brooks, a five-star guard for the 2025 class, had also reopened recruitment plans as well.

Chastain committed to play for the Lady Vols in Jan. 2023, forming a “strong relationship” with coach Harper and the staff. She is presumed to become a five-star prospect and the top-ranked player in the 2027 class.

“Over the past 2 years, I have fallen in love with the Knoxville community and everything Tennessee,” Chastain said on her post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The staff, players, and fans have been amazing! While I’m not closing the door on being a Lady Vol, due to the recent change in staff, I will be reopening my recruitment.”

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Written by Aya Abdeen

Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next Hoops since December 2022. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.

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