Harper returns to Lady Vols, replaces Warlick

Former Vols player Kellie Harper has been named the next women's basketball coach at Tennessee, replacing Holly Warlick, the school announced Tuesday.

Harper agreed to a five-year deal worth $750,000 annually.

"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."

Harper had been coaching Missouri State, leading the Lady Bears to the NCAA Sweet 16 this past season.

Harper, a native of Sparta, Tennessee, was Kellie Jolly when she helped lead the Lady Vols to NCAA titles in 1996, '97 and '98 as a point guard. She finished her Tennessee playing career in 1999, and she began her coaching career in 2000 as an assistant at Auburn and then Chattanooga. She became head coach at Western Carolina in 2004, then moved to NC State in 2009 to replace the late Kay Yow.

Harper was let go by NC State in 2013, and then went to Missouri State. She has taken the Lady Bears to the NCAA tournament twice, including this season's run to the regional semifinals as a No. 11 seed. Missouri State beat No. 6 DePaul and No. 3 Iowa State, the latter on the Cyclones' home floor.

Harper's career record as a head coach is 285-208; she was 118-79 in six seasons at Missouri State.

"I'm excited to have Kellie as our new women's basketball coach," Tennessee athletic director Phillip 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."

Warlick was fired last month by Tennessee after seven seasons.

Harper was on the Lady Vols' roster as a player when Warlick was an assistant to Pat Summitt. Warlick took over as head coach for the 2012-13 season after Summitt stepped down in the spring of 2012 because of the effects of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Summitt died in 2016.

Warlick was 172-67 in seven seasons as head coach at Tennessee. This season, the Lady Vols were 19-13 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to UCLA.