It’s been almost three weeks since Nell Fortner coached her last game as the Head Coach of the Auburn Tigers Women’s Basketball Team. As far as we know Auburn has yet to decide on her replacement. However, indications are that an announcement may be coming as early as next week.
Almost immediately after the announcement of Fortner’s retirement, rumors of her possible replacement started appearing on message boards.
The most popular name mentioned in the rumor mill was North Carolina State’s Kelli Harper. Now, at least one prominent reporter has confirmed that she is indeed among the top candidates being considered.
Harper would be a good fit as she was a former assistant on the staff of Hall of Fame Coach Joe Ciampi and she met and married her husband Jon (an Auburn alum) while coaching at Auburn.
She played her college ball for legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summit and was twice selected for the All-Final Four team. She was inducted into the Lady Vols Hall of Fame in 2009.
After all she had accomplished something at Western Carolina that no other coach had ever done – win the Conference Tournament. Her Team won 20 games or more her last three years in Cullowhee, made the tournament finals three times, and won two Championships. In addition, at just 27 years old, she took her team to the NCAA Tournament and was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2007.
She took NC State to the Big Dance in her first year in Raleigh. And although her team this year was predicted to finish ninth in the preseason, the Wolf Pack (20-16) wound up fifth in the ACC standings, made it to the ACC Tourney semi-finals knocking off No.1 seed Dukealong the way, and received a bid to the WNIT.
As a protégé of both Joe Ciampi and Pat Summit, she certainly knows what it takes to win and what it takes to get a team into the post season.
In her 16 years as a player or coach she has participated in eight conference tournament championships, six regular-season conference titles and three National Titles.
Because of her coaching resume and her Auburn connections, Kelli Harper would be a great hire to take over the Tiger Women’s Basketball program.
Jay Jacobs, might could find a coach with just as good a resume – but I don’t think he could find one that would be a better fit for Auburn.