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Kellie Harper is leaving MSU for her alma mater.
Photo provided by Missouri State University
Kellie Harper is leaving MSU for her alma mater.

MSU starts search for Lady Bears coach

Posted online

On the heels of a Sweet 16 finish, Missouri State University is on the lookout for a new Lady Bears basketball head coach.

Kellie Harper, who led the women’s team at MSU to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2019, accepted the head coach position at the University of Tennessee, her alma mater, according to a news release. Harper became the seventh head coach of the Lady Bears in 2013.

"I am thankful to Kellie for restoring the pride back to Lady Bears basketball," MSU Director of Athletics Kyle Moats said in the release. "She not only was successful on the court, but recruited high-quality players and high-character student-athletes. Her teams loved her and I know our fans did, as well.”

During her tenure, Harper led the Lady Bears to three Women's National Invitation Tournament appearances and an overall 118-79 record, making her the the third-winningest coach in MSU history and fifth in Missouri Valley Conference history.

At the University of Tennessee, Harper signed a five-year deal with annual compensation of $750,000 to lead the Lady Volunteers, according to a separate news release. Harper’s base salary at MSU is $246,640, with incentives for entering tournaments, according to her latest contract posted to the university’s website.

MSU officials have formed an advisory committee to find Harper’s successor. Members include Rachael Dockery, MSU’s chief compliance officer and general counsel; A'dja Jones, director of student-athlete development and community engagement; Jim Hutter, an associate professor who’s the faculty athletics representative; Casey Hunt, senior associate athletics director; and Carly Stubblefield, a former Lady Bears player. They will submit finalists to Moats and MSU President Clif Smart, with ultimate approval reserved for the school’s board of governors, according to the release.

“The search will be national and open to all,” Moats said in the release. “We will look for the right person who fits well with our team, university and community, values academics and has a proven track record of success."

Moats added details of the search would not be revealed until the process is complete.

Assistant Lady Bears coaches are former star player Jackie Stiles and Jessica Jackson, who previously handled recruitment at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Director of Basketball Operations Ashley Houts previously played professionally with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, according to MissouriStateBears.com.

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