As women's basketball coach at WCU, Harper has guided the Catamounts to their first two NCAA tournament appearances and three Southern Conference championships (two tournament, one regular season) in five seasons.
So, when Smith's counterpart at N.C. State called recently to inquire about Harper, Smith wasn't surprised.
"We expect this every year," Smith said in a telephone interview Monday. "She is a candidate at N.C. State."
Smith said Harper told him she traveled to Raleigh and interviewed for the position, but he is unaware of State's timetable for naming a replacement.
NC State is looking to hire a coach as a replacement for legendary Wolfpack coach Kay Yow. Coach Yow was the head coach of the women's basketball team from 1975 to 2009, the only full-time coach to hold the position.
A member of the Naismith Hall of Fame, she had a career record of 737-344. Yow coached the U.S. Olympic women's team to a gold medal in 1988, and won four Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships at NC State. She also earned 20 NCAA tournament bids and reached the Final Four in 1998.
Coach Yow died in January at the the age of 66 after a long battle with cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987.
Kellie Jolly Harper has spent five seasons at Western Carolina, posting a 97-65 record. She may have done her best coaching job this year. After losing four seniors from a team that won 25 games last year, Coach Harper led WCU to a Southern Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
She also led the Lady Catamounts to a Southern Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2004-05, her first season as head coach.
She served as an assistant at UT-Chattanooga and at Auburn before taking over at Western Carolina.
Harper was also a standout on the hardwood. Before her marriage to Jon Harper, one of her assistants, Kelly Jolly started three years at point guard for Tennessee, where she helped lead the team to an unprecedented three consecutive national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
With NC State AD Lee Fowler receiving official permission to speak with Harper, it appears the Wolfpack coaching search could be coming to an end. The Board of Trustees meet this week, and sources have stated an announcement could come shortly after the meeting.