Kellie Harper was formally introduced to the Wolfpack family at 4:30pm on Thursday in Raleigh as the new N.C. State Women’s Basketball Coach. She replaces legendary coach Kay Yow, who passed away after a bout with cancer in January.
N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler said he believes Harper will be a good successor to Yow.
“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 N.C. State.”
WCU athletic director Chip Smith said that Harper will be missed and her success as the Lady Catamount’s coach will not be forgotten.
“Kellie has done an outstanding job as head coach of the Lady Catamounts,” said Smith. “Her accomplishments at Western Carolina University have been exceptional and her contributions have gone far beyond the basketball court as an ambassador for the University. Kellie has a tremendous future in coaching and we cannot thank her and her staff enough for what they have done for Catamount Athletics. We wish her much success at North Carolina State University.”
“The search now begins for her successor; we will not set a timetable for making this decision,” Smith added. “Kellie and the young women she has coached have built traditions of quality, sportsmanship and success in both athletics and academics. It is a respected program that will continue to excel and we will move deliberately to select a person who will ensure those traditions continue.”
Harper, who signed a five-year contract on Thursday with the Wolfpack, will earn a base salary of $247,000 a season as the women’s basketball coach. She just concluded her fifth season at Western Carolina, posting a 97-65 record, and guided the Lady Catamounts to their second Southern Conference Tournament Championship and second NCAA Basketball Tournament game, both under her watch.
Harper earned $112,821 for the 2008-09 school year at WCU.
“I need to thank God for the opportunity to be named the coach here at N.C. State and I am humbled and excited about what lies ahead for us,” said Harper at a press conference in Raleigh on Thursday. “N.C. State women’s basketball has a storied history and I have tremendous respect for Kay Yow, Coach Glance and staff, and the legacy Yow has left here.
“We want this program to continue to be something that she would be proud of. We will honor her by competing with passion, working hard and giving everything we have for this program–that is what we intend to do, this team and this staff will have to work hard to get where we want to go, but we accept that challenge. We want to consistently compete for and win championships. Bottom line, we want to win and make you proud.”
Harper went on to say that she was thankful for her time at WCU and believes the Lady Catamounts will continue to succeed.
“I had an incredible relationship with the players at Western Carolina,” said Harper. “It was very emotional when we actually told them that we were leaving. It’s hard. You invest a lot of time in those young ladies and they put a lot of trust in you. They’re going in the right direction, and there’s no doubt that they’ll have success. That program will continue to succeed.
“It’s never easy leaving a place that you love,” she added.
Jon Harper, who is Kellie’s husband and who was an assistant coach for women’s basketball at WCU, will be a volunteer assistant coach at N.C. State. All of the staff that the Harpers built at Western Carolina will also be making the move to Raleigh.
Once the news was released that Harper would be leaving Cullowhee, students and staff at WCU were heartbroken, but wished Harper well.
“To see Coach Harper go is a great loss for Western Carolina University and a bitter sweet victory for her I’m sure,” said Ian Reece, a senior Communications/Public Relations major. “Following in the footsteps of a college Hall of Fame great such as the late Kay Yow is a dream position for any coach. We wish the best for Coach Harper and thank her for the two SoCon Championships and NCAA appearances.”
LaShunda Ryan, a junior Nutrition and Dietetics major, who had the fourtunate opportunity to attend one of Yow’s basketball camps, said “Coach Yow is irreplaceable, but Coach Harper has great potential to continue a remarkable legacy at N.C. State.”
“This is a great opportunity for Coach Harper,” said Jamaal Mayo, Assistant Director of Academic Support. “This also gives WCU women’s basketball great exposure.”
The Western Carolinian first reported that Harper would likely make the move to N.C. State last Friday, Apr. 10 after her name bounced around as possibly being sought after by the University after WRAL-TV out of Raleigh reported last week that the Wolfpack had decided not to promote Stephanie Glance to the position of head women’s basketball coach.
Glance served as Yow’s top assistant and was named interim coach after Yow could not continue coaching as she faced a bout against cancer. She continued to coach the team after Yow passed away in January.
In the report by WRAL, sources shared with the television station that N.C. State could “elect to go for a head coach at a lower level like Kellie Harper of Western Carolina”.
Smith confirmed on Monday, Apr. 13 that Harper had interviewed with N.C. State and the Western Carolinian formally announced that N.C. State would name Harper as their new women’s basketball coach on Wednesday morning after learning that Kellie, Jon and the rest of the Lady Catamount’s coaching staff held an emotional meeting with their players on Tuesday night at the Ramsey Center.