Harper in the Hall has a nice ring to it!

Coach Kellie Harper speaking this week at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

It was a beautiful day in Tampa and Kellie Jolly Harper, there for a meeting, was playing phone tag with University of Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer. She knew he was calling to tell her the results of the search for the next Lady Vols head basketball coach — and she really wanted the job.

Finally, they connected and she held her breath. “Are you ready to be the next Lady Vols basketball coach?” he asked. She paused. “When you know you are having a moment, you have to appreciate it,” she told an attentive audience this week. A few seconds later, she answered him. “Oh, yeah!”

Harper took time out of her recruiting schedule to speak Tuesday to about 50 members of the Executive Women’s Association at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

“To have the opportunity to coach at your alma mater is a big deal,” she said. Harper, who was part of three consecutive NCAA women’s national championships from 1996 to 1998 for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, was the starting point guard in 1997 and 1998.

I loved how Women’s Athletics Director Emeritus Joan Cronan looked to the sky when she referred to Coach Pat Summitt. Cronan was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.

Of course, she was asked about her playing time under legendary Coach Pat Summitt. “Playing for her was exactly what you think it was — it was hard,” she said. “She was a perfectionist. In the moment she’s yelling at you, you must remember she’s doing it for you.”

Harper, 42, is excited about the upcoming season — she can tell you the number of days until tip-off. “We want to be a team you love to watch,” she said. “And we want to be out in the community.”

She said the players have been very receptive to her and her staff. “We are looking forward — not looking back,” she said. “We are not going to be negative.”

In  other remarks, Coach Harper said:

  • She only saw Pat Summitt cry once in all the time she knew her. It was in the locker room in Greensboro, North Carolina, after the Lady Vols lost to Duke in the Elite Eight in 1999, denying Tennessee a fourth consecutive Final Four and ending the college careers of seniors Harper and Chamique Holdsclaw, who remains the all-time leading scorer, men or women, at Tennessee with 3,025 points. “I knew she wasn’t crying for herself,” Harper said. “She was crying for me. And she was crying for Chamique.” A few weeks later, Holdsclaw was a bridesmaid in Harper’s wedding in Sparta, Tennessee — and the groom, Jon Harper, is an assistant coach for the Lady Vols.
  • She has hired a nanny to help care for her two children, Jackson, who is almost 6, and Kylie, 1. “Pat was an unbelievable mother — and she had a nanny,” Harper said. “You can do both — be a great mom and have a nanny.”
  • Summitt said to always surround yourself with good people, Harper said. And she has done that. She said her staff members all are “elite” in their areas of expertise and she expects the same from her players. “High achievers are high achievers,” she said. “You can be good on the court and good in the classroom. It goes together.”
  • For fun she loves riding her two horses. “They are nothing special,” she laughed. “They don’t jump over anything. They don’t prance around. They mostly mosey along the trail.”

Ann Hansen is chair of the board of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mingling before the program. From left, Tasha Blakney; Judge Deborah Stevens; her daughter, Katie Stevens and Katie Kline.

Look how uniforms have changed! Those bloomers on the left are a hoot!

From left, Dr. Susan Dodd, Pat Bright, Becky Hancock and Phyllis Nichols.

This car belonged to the All American Red Heads, one of the first professional women’s basketball teams.

Pat Ball, left, and Carolyn Jensen.

An exhibit about Senda Berenson, called “the Mother of Women’s Basketball.”

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee, left, with Monique Anderson.

The latest class of inductees, which includes Joan Cronan. “I wasn’t a great player,” Cronan said. “I wasn’t a great coach. I always knew I wanted to be an athletic director.”

From left, Carol Evans, Kim Bumpas, Maribel Koella and Pat Taylor.

Pat Ball steps into the huddle! This exhibit lets you hear what it sounds like to be in the huddle.

Laura Barnes, left, and Rosa Mar.

Part of the Pat Summitt exhibit.

Marigail Mullin, left, and Celeste Herbert.

Love the slogan of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Thanks for a great program, ladies. From left, Joan Cronan, Kellie Harper and Dana Hart, president of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Dana Hart, president of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, said the museum originally was supposed to have been located in Jackson, Tennessee, but that city could not raise the funds to pay for it. Why Jackson? That’s where the NAIA tournaments were played. “But we had Pat Summitt,” Hart noted with pride.

The Hall covers the years 1892 to the present. Sixty percent of the exhibits change every year, Hart said.

Note: A special thanks to Moxley Carmichael’s Maria Cornelius for helping with the details about Kellie Harper’s time as a Lady Vol player.

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6 Responses to Harper in the Hall has a nice ring to it!

  1. Altheiah Jones, on September 20th, 2019 at 9:37 am said:

    I wish Kellie and the Lady Vols a winning season. We are very lucky to have Kellie as coach. She seems to be very focused and is definitely a lady.
    My only hope besides winning, of course, is that coach will have the players wear their uniform with pride and not have their shorts rolled up in their cracks and their hair combed or put up with care. No offense, but last year they looked so unkempt on the court, definetly not like Lady Vols.

  2. Monique Anderson., on September 20th, 2019 at 1:08 pm said:

    I really like Kellie.

  3. Angie Rapp, on September 20th, 2019 at 2:01 pm said:

    I agree with Altheiah Jones. I doubt that Pat would have allowed that look of dress code on the court.

  4. Maria Cornelius, on September 20th, 2019 at 2:28 pm said:

    I hope Kellie is not focused on hair and shorts. I also think the ladies looked fine last season.

  5. Dorothy Bowles, on September 20th, 2019 at 4:36 pm said:

    I also hope Kellie isn’t thinking fashion, but rather good old-fashion Lady Vols basketball. I can understand why a couple of players last year tried to make those long, baggy shorts more comfortable for rough and tumble play. Nothing wrong with that.

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on September 21st, 2019 at 12:00 am said:

    Maria and Dorothy: Agree. I personally don’t care what their hair looks like if they win.

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