Tennessee Lady Vols Coaching Candidates: Who Will Replace Kellie Harper?

Tennessee Lady Vols Coaching Candidates: Who Will Replace Kellie Harper?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Kellie Harper has a resume that would be the envy of most coaches in women’s college basketball. She’s won 393 games over her 20-year career and taken each of the four schools she’s coached to the NCAA Tournament. That includes Tennessee, where she’s taken the Lady Vols to the Big Dance in each of the past four seasons.

Unfortunately, a 108-52 record over five seasons is not good enough at her alma mater, which at one time was the gold standard in women’s hoops. Harper, a part of three national championship teams when she played under the late Pat Summitt from 1995 to 1999, was fired Monday, one week after Tennessee’s season ended in a loss at North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee finished with a 20-13 record in an up-and-down season. The Lady Vols were close to beating still-undefeated South Carolina in the SEC Tournament but lost at the buzzer when Kamilla Cardoso hit the first 3-point shot she’d taken in her four-year college career.

In a statement announcing the coaching move, Tennessee Athletics Director Danny White pledged to lead “an aggressive search process to find the next leader for our iconic women’s basketball program.”

South Carolina, Iowa, Connecticut and North Carolina State all advanced to this year’s women's Final Four, with Tennessee sportsbooks listing South Carolina as the title favorite at -200 odds.

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Can Tennessee Reclaim Its Past Glory?

The women’s game has changed drastically over the years. Tennessee has eight national titles and 18 Final Fours, but the last time it reached the national semis was in 2008, which is also when Tennessee won its last championship.

The Lady Vols find themselves looking up not only nationally but also within the SEC. South Carolina and LSU are elite programs. Schools like Alabama and Vanderbilt appear poised to contend in the conference next season, and Kentucky just hired Kenny Brooks as its next coach, one season after Brooks led Virginia Tech to its first Final Four.

So, White has his work cut out for him, and Lady Vols fans are expecting the next coach to return the team back to elite status. Who might be the next to work the sideline at Thompson-Boling Arena? BetTennessee.com has established odds for who White hires next.

NameCurrent PositionOddsImplied Probability
Kara LawsonDuke coach+30025%
Lindsay GottliebUSC coach+60014.29%
Wes MooreNC State coach+80011.11%
Teri MorenIndiana coach+90010%
Carla BerubePrinceton coach+12507.41%
Scott RuekOregon State coach+15006.25%
Lisa FortierGonzaga coach+15006.25%
JR PayneColorado coach+19005%
Lindy La RocqueUNLV coach+20004.76%
Jeff WalzLouisville coach+29003.33%
Odds provided by BetTennessee.com and not available at Tennessee betting apps.

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Another Former Lady Vol the Favorite

Tennessee has looked to keep it in the Vols family since Summitt stepped down after the 2011-12 season. Like Harper, Holly Warlick played for the legendary coach. If the school wants to keep that tradition going, there’s an obvious choice.

Kara Lawson played for Summitt from 1999 to 2003 and was a two-time All-American. The former WNBA star served as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics before taking over at Duke in 2020. She’s led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, including a run to the Sweet 16 this year.

There are plenty of other options should Tennessee choose to look elsewhere. Lindsay Gottlieb took Southern Cal to the Elite Eight this season and previously led California to seven tournament bids and a Final Four in her eight years there. Wes Moore has built N.C. State into one of the top programs nationally, and the Wolfpack are headed to their first Final Four since the 1997-98 season — BetMGM Tennessee lists N.C. State as the longest shot on the board for this year’s women’s national championship at +1400 odds. Ironically, Moore also replaced Harper at N.C. State back in 2013.

Teri Moren has put Indiana on the women’s college basketball map, leading the Hoosiers to four straight tournaments. They’ve also been ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 at some point in each of those seasons. Former UConn star Carla Berube has shined at Princeton in her four years there, making the Tigers one of the top mid-major programs in Division I.

Other Names Potentially in the Mix

Among the longshots that might merit consideration is UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque, who has made a name for herself in the coaching ranks, leading her hometown team to the tournament in each of the past three seasons. Louisville’s Jeff Walz has an impeccable resume and reportedly was considered for the Tennessee job the last time it was available. However, he quickly shot down rumors last month he was a candidate for the Kentucky job.

The Lady Vols may not be playing in the Final Four this season, but women’s basketball has become one of the fastest-growing markets for sports betting over the last couple of years. Fanatics Sportsbook Tennessee has South Carolina as an 11.5-point favorite in Friday’s Final Four game against N.C. State. In the other matchup, Iowa is a 2.5-point favorite against UConn.

USA Today photo by Adam Cairns.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.