With eight years of head coaching experience, 150 career wins and six postseason appearances, NC State's Kellie Harper has cemented her place alongside the top young coaches in Division I women's basketball.
Winner of three national championships as a point guard for the University of Tennessee, Harper is at her best when the games mean the most. The Wolfpack head mentor owns a 20-11 career record in postseason conference, NCAA and WNIT tournament games. That includes an 18-6 slate in conference tournament contents - 6-3 alone in just three seasons with State in the ACC Tournament.
Since taking over as just the third head women's basketball coach in the illustrious history of Wolfpack women's basketball on April 16, 2009, Harper has directed her program to wins over the 11 other clubs in the ACC, something only Duke and North Carolina have accomplished in that time frame.
Harper owns a 53-47 record at NC State, with five wins over ranked opponents. The fifth victory came against top-seed Duke in the quarterfinals of the 2012 ACC Tournament, allowing the Wolfpack to become the first ninth seed to ever beat the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
She guided her third Wolfpack club in 2011-12 to a 19-16 record and a spot in the second round of the Postseason Women's NIT. State would defeat four clubs (Duke, Florida Gulf Coast, South Carolina, Vanderbilt) that went on to compete in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Harper led her first NC State team to the NCAA Tournament with a 20-14 record during the 2009-10 campaign. Along the way she engineered a group of overachievers to play in the ACC Tournament title game after becoming just the second team in league history to win three games in three days to make the finals.
A team that was predicted to finish ninth, the Pack tied for fifth in the ACC standings with a 7-7 record. Under the watchful eye of Harper, Marissa Kastanek was named ACC Freshman of the Year and earned freshman all-america plaudits.
Harper owns a 150-112 record in eight seasons as a head coach. She earned career victory No. 100 with a 79-54 win over Davidson on Nov. 20, 2009, and defeated High Point, 88-78, in the first round of the WNIT on March 15, 2012, for win No. 150.
Certainly no stranger to postseason play, Harper has led three teams to the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. Toss in her time as an assistant coach and a player and she has played a key role in eight conference tournament championships, six regular-season conference titles and three national titles during her 17 years in college basketball.
Harper directed Western Carolina for five seasons before arriving in Raleigh. Her Catamount club competed in three-consecutive Southern Conference Tournament finals, winning a pair of titles. Western Carolina had never won the league tourney before Harper's tenure. The team eclipsed 20 wins her final three season and was 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 SoCon Coach of the Year led her student-athletes to success in the classroom as well, as her 2007-08 squad ranked fifth in the WBCA Academic top-25, while her 2008-09 club was eighth 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 was on the Auburn staff for two seasons, moving from administrative assistant in 1999-2000 to assistant coach the following 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.
She was inducted into the Lady Vols Hall of Fame on Oct. 2, 2009, and to the White County High School Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012.
Harper, who turned 35 on May 3, 2012, is married to Jon Harper, who has served on her coaching staff at Western Carolina and now at NC State.