North Carolina State has fired women's basketball coach Kellie Harper
after four seasons.
The school said Tuesday that the 35-year-old coach wouldn't return
after missing the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. Harper,
a former player under Tennessee's Pat Summitt, was the successor to
late Hall of Famer Kay Yow, who died in 2009 after a long fight with
Harper's first team went 20-14, made a surprise run to the Atlantic
Coast Conference tournament final and reached the NCAAs in 2010. But
that season ended up being the high point.
The Wolfpack never reached 20 wins again, going just 50-50 with a
16-32 mark in ACC play and two trips to the WNIT in the past three
Harper also struggled to lure difference-making recruits who could
help one of the league's most traditionally successful programs
re-establish itself in a conference now controlled by Duke, Maryland
and North Carolina.
Harper's Wolfpack beat the rival Tar Heels in each of her first two
seasons and upset No. 5 Duke in last season's ACC tournament. But
preseason optimism drained quickly this year when Harper's team
started 0-7 in ACC play. The Wolfpack (17-17) ended the season with a
loss at James Madison in the second round of the WNIT on Sunday, which
wasn't enough for a school that with goals of being a consistent
presence in the top half of the league standings as well as being a
perennial NCAA tournament team.
Michael Lipitz, senior associate athletics director and women's
basketball supervisor, said he and athletic director Debbie Yow met
with Harper on Monday and Tuesday before notifying her she wouldn't
return for the final year of her contract. The school will owe Harper
her base salary - $247,209 - for that final season.
They notified the players of the coaching change Tuesday afternoon.
''It just came down to I think we agree on where we want to go as a
program and what our goals are, but we probably have different visions
on how to achieve those goals,'' Lipitz said.
Harper didn't immediately return a call to her cellphone for comment
Lipitz said the school has no specific timeline for conducting a
national search to find Harper's replacement. Assistant coach Ken
Griffin will lead the program as the interim coach.
Harper came to Raleigh in 2009 after five seasons at Western Carolina,
where she compiled a 97-65 record while leading the Catamounts to two
NCAA tournament bids and a pair of Southern Conference championships.
Harper also played under Summitt as part of Tennessee's three straight
national championship teams from 1996-98.
The decision to hire Harper signaled the school was ready for a fresh
start for a program defined by Kay Yow's success on the court for
three decades and her courage fighting cancer away from it before her
death in January 2009. That decision by then-athletic director Lee
Fowler was a sensitive one for many surrounding the program
considering Yow had hoped that the school would designate longtime
assistant Stephanie Glance as her successor.
Glance - who served as the interim coach after Yow's death - spent a
year as an assistant at Tennessee before becoming head coach at
Illinois State in 2010.
Debbie Yow, Kay's sister, replaced Fowler as N.C. State's athletic
director that same year.
Harper was just the third coach in team history.