Harper: ‘Women’s basketball needs Tennessee back in there’

Kellie Harper speaks during a press conference announcing her as the new head coach of the Lady Vols, in the Ray and Lucy Hand Studio on University of Tennessee's campus Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Kellie Harper speaks throughout a press convention saying her as the brand new head coach of the Woman Vols, within the Ray and Lucy Hand Studio on University of Tennessee’s campus Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Caitie McMekin

New Tennessee coach Kellie Harper believes it will be good for ladies’s basketball to have the Woman Vols competing for titles once more.

How long which may take will depend on how soon Tennessee can enhance underneath Harper, some extent guard for three straight Woman Vols national championship teams from 1996-98.

“Our followers obviously need it so dangerous, but I feel ladies’s basketball wants it,” Harper stated Monday in an interview with The Related Press. “I feel ladies’s basketball needs Tennessee back in there. Obviously that is what we’re striving for.”

Harper, who led Missouri State to the Candy 16 this season, begins her first full week as Tennessee’s coach making an attempt to get the Woman Vols again among the many nation’s elite ladies’s basketball packages. Tennessee employed Harper to exchange Holly Warlick, who was fired after going 172-67 in seven seasons.

Tennessee has gained eight nationwide titles and is the one faculty that has reached every NCAA Event within the event’s 38-yr history. However the Woman Vols haven’t reached a Last 4 since 2008, their final nationwide championship season.

“I feel we’re proper on the cusp, I really do,” Harper stated. “I feel this staff might be right back there. As quickly as we get to that Ultimate Four, the dam’s going to interrupt, I actually do consider.”

Tennessee reached regional finals in three of Warlick’s first 4 seasons however hasn’t superior past the second round of the final three NCAA Tournaments. Tennessee misplaced in the first spherical to UCLA this yr to cap a 19-thirteen season, marking the primary time since 1975-76 that the Woman Vols did not win a minimum of 20 video games.

Warlick acknowledged after the UCLA recreation that this system needed a culture change. Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer stated at Harper’s introductory news convention last week that he was looking for a coach who might “develop our younger women into a real group — not only a group of athletes.”

“Constructing the arrogance is going to be really essential,” Harper stated. “I feel that is going to be an enormous a part of our job. As a lot as the basketball piece, I feel it’s the psychological piece that is going to be as (essential) if not more necessary for this group.”

Harper says her employees will embrace her husband, Jon Harper, and Jennifer Sullivan. After working 5 years with Harper at Missouri State, Sullivan spent this season as an Ohio State assistant coach. All through Harper’s 15-yr head coaching profession, her husband has labored as an assistant on her employees. Harper hasn’t decided on her third assistant.

Although Tennessee nepotism legal guidelines forestall state staff from supervising their spouses, Jon Harper can nonetheless be a part of the Woman Vols’ employees as a result of he will probably be reporting on to affiliate athletic director Angie Boyd-Keck.

The brand new employees will probably be working with a roster that might function seven McDonald’s All-People if guard Evina Westbrook returns for her junior season. Westbrook, who had 14.9 points per recreation this season to match Rennia Davis for the staff lead, has entered the NCAA switch portal but might remain at Tennessee.

Tennessee’s incoming freshman class options Jordan Horston, the MVP of this yr’s McDonald’s All-American Recreation. So this isn’t the standard rebuilding process that happens after a coach gets fired.

“You will not hear me use that term,” Harper stated. The word “rebuilding won’t be used. That’s one thing that can be seen as a damaging, and I don’t need these players to feel any destructive proper now.”

Harper stated she inherits an extended and athletic group that’s notably deep on the wing spots.

She acknowledged that “lots of our gamers are comparable” and that she’d like so as to add gamers with totally different talent sets as she signs her personal recruits over the subsequent few years. Bringing in additional capable three-level shooters is a priority.

But Harper believes there already is enough talent in place for Tennessee to win instantly.

“I don’t assume we talked to them about, ‘Let’s construct for this,'” she stated. “We talked about, ‘Let’s do that now.’ They came right here due to the good tradition, however additionally they came here to win. I feel it’s essential that we do not sell ourselves brief and we give ourselves a chance to win shortly.”


Comply with Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

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