Karen Middleton, an assistant coach at the University of Illinois, is expected to be announced as the successor to Kellie Harper as head coach of the Western Carolina women’s basketball team, according to sources close to the situation.
Western Carolina athletic director Chip Smith was not available for comment on the speculation, but as previously reported by the Western Carolinian, Western Carolina University Athletics, and Smith, will formally announce the 10th Head Women’s Basketball Coach in school history Friday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m. in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center.
Middleton has been an assistant at Illinois for the past two years and was an assistant coach for ten years at Stanford University before Illinois under head coach Tara VanDerveer. While Middleton was at Stanford, she was part of a coaching staff that guided the school to eight Pac-10 conference titles and 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Sweet Sixteens and three Elite Eights.
Originally from Monroe, N.C., Middleton has experience with USA Basketball and was a standout player at the University of South Carolina from 1988-91
“Karen has made a habit of working with winners,” said head coach Jolette Law on Middleton’s biography on Illinois’ athletic website. “Over the years, Karen has consistently demonstrated an ability to identify, recruit and develop future All-America and All-Conference talent.”
In a prepared statement to the media, Smith said “the search for the position of Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Western Carolina University went very smoothly. We had a large number of very qualified applicants, which says a great deal about the program and the coaches who have helped shape it.” Middleton will replace Harper, who stepped down in April to become the new Women’s Basketball Coach at N.C. State. Harper coached the Lady Catamounts for five seasons, posting a 97-65 record and guiding WCU to two Southern Conference Championships and NCAA Tournament berths.
(The Western Carolinian will be on hand for the press conference on Friday and will continue to provide frequent updates as they come in leading up to and after the announcement of Middleton as the new WCU women’s basketball coach.)