"This marks the beginning of an exciting new era for Wolfpack women's basketball," said Fowler. "Our beloved Kay Yow built a program with rich tradition and I believe that Kellie Harper is the person to build on that legacy and move our program into the future. She has been a champion at every level - as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach - and we know that she will bring that championship mentality to NC State."
"I appreciate the hard work of the advisory committee and Athletics Director Lee Fowler in this process," said Chancellor James L. Oblinger. "In searching for a new women's basketball coach, we knew we wanted a coach who would build on the program Coach Yow worked so hard to establish and nurture. We also wanted a coach who would be successful on the court and one who appreciated the academic expectations of NC State. Coach Harper understands the history and tradition associated with women's basketball here at NC State. I know she will build on this solid program."
Under Harper's direction, Western Carolina has competed in three consecutive Southern Conference Tournament finals and this year won its second tourney title. The Catamounts had never won the league tourney before Harper's tenure. The team eclipsed 20 wins for the third straight season and has been in postseason play four times in her five years as head coach: twice in the NCAA and twice in the WNIT. She coached seven players to 11 all-conference selections and two SoCon Tournament Most Outstanding Players at WCU.
The 2007 Southern Conference Coach of the Year has led her student-athletes to success in the classroom as well, as her 2007-08 squad ranked fifth in the WBCA Academic top-25 and the 2006-07 squad was 15th.
Prior to her tenure at Western Carolina, Harper spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Chattanooga, where she helped lead the Mocs to three consecutive SoCon championships. She worked primarily with the perimeter players, including the 2004 league player of the year and three other all-conference players. Prior to her stint in Chattanooga, Harper spent two seasons on the Auburn staff, moving from administrative assistant in 1999-2000 to assistant coach the next season.
Harper, whose maiden name is Kellie Jolly, played on three national championship squads at Tennessee under Hall-of-Fame coach Pat Summit, earning 1999 honorable mention All-America honors. As a junior, she averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 assists while guiding the Lady Vols to a 39-0 record and a national championship. In the title game against Louisiana Tech, she scored a career-high 20 points and hit four of her five three-point attempts. She did not miss a free throw in that year's NCAA Tournament, nailing 14 in a row. She was named to the 1998 All-Final Four team.
After missing the first 16 games of the 1997 season due to an injury, Harper returned to help lead the Lady Vols to the second of the three national titles they won during her playing career. In the final game versus Old Dominion, she dished out a championship-game record 11 assists and was named to the All-Final Four squad with a record 20 assists in two games. That year, the National Strength and Conditioning Association named her its "Strength and Conditioning Female Athlete of the Year."
For her career, Harper tallied 894 points and 450 assists, ranking among Tennessee's top-10 career leaders in assists, assists-per-game, three-point field goals, three-point attempts and three-point field goal percentage at the time of her graduation. She was drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 WNBA draft by the Cleveland Rockers and also earned her degree in mathematics that year. She was a three-time Academic All-SEC honoree as well.
Harper prepped at White County High School in Sparta, Tenn., earning preseason prep All-America honors and being named the MVP of various tournaments. In her eight years playing AAU ball, she played on three gold medal teams and three silver medal teams. She was a five-time All-American and two-time MVP during her AAU career. She graduated third in her high school class in 1995.
Harper, who will be 32 next month, is married to Jon Harper, who has served on her coaching staff at Western Carolina. Her contract at NC State is for five years, with a base salary of $247,000.
What They're Saying about Kellie Harper...
Pat Summitt, Tennessee Lady Vols head coach:
"North Carolina State is getting a young and rising star in the game in Coach Kellie Jolly Harper. I am proud for Kellie. I expect she will do a great job in a very competitive conference -- she has what it takes to be successful.
"As a player at Tennessee, Kellie helped lead us to three consecutive NCAA titles because she was smart and always outworked her opponent. As a coach, I've seen what a keen basketball mind she has and she is always looking for a way to give her team the best chance to be in a position to win. As I watched her coach her team to the Southern Conference Tournament title this year in triple overtime, the thought crossed my mind that she's very good at what she does as a teacher and a motivator.
"She's grown up with a passion for the game of basketball and it's just a natural part of her life.
"Coach Kay Yow was the face of Wolfpack women's basketball for so many successful years. She built support for her program by getting out in the community. I believe Kellie will be active in the community and generate excitement among the fans for the Pack.
Wes Moore, Chattanooga Lady Mocs head coach and former assistant coach for NC State
women's basketball (1993-95):
"With Kellie Harper, NC State is getting the total package. On one hand, she is a young, up-and-coming coach who can recruit and relate well to today's student-athlete. On the other hand, she was raised by a coach, her father, and groomed by a legend, Pat Summitt, so as a leader, she is mature beyond her years. Bottom line, the pride and tradition of the Wolfpack Women is in good hands."
Semeka Randall, former Tennessee teammate and current head coach at Ohio
"I am very proud of Kellie and her accomplishments, as evidenced by the tremendous job she has done at Western Carolina. NC State is getting a great coach and person. She is an extremely hard-working, driven individual, who can relate to her players and get the best out of them. I expect great things from her at NC State."
Larry Hunter, Western Carolina head men's basketball coach and former associate head
coach for NC State men's basketball (2001-05):
"NC State has made an outstanding choice in selecting Kellie Harper to lead its women's basketball program. She is the perfect fit to follow in the footsteps of Kay Yow. In some ways, Kellie is a younger version of Kay, possessing many of the same high personal and humanistic qualities. She is a great person and the Wolfpack nation will quickly recognize that fact and grow to love and respect her.
"Kellie is a highly motivated, driven and talented coach. She has a great personality, but is unbelievably tough and competitive. She has unique leadership skills and she demands and gets the best out of people around her. Kellie will recruit great players and establish the Wolfpack as the team and program to beat in the ACC."