After two years on the job, Kellie Harper appears to finally have the Tennessee Lady Vols where she wants them. That at least seems to be the case based on a recent interview she did and the way she was talking about the program.
In a recent interview with The Next, Harper, who just received a contract extension and will make $800,000 a year through 2025-2026, became very clear about her goals. Consistency on a yearly basis was one of them.
However, despite saying she would come up short in trying to reach Pat Summitt’s legacy, she brought back talk of the Tennessee Lady Vols winning national championships. Here’s exactly what she said on that front.
“If you are not coming here to win a national championship, this is not the place for you. That has to be the goal because that’s the standard.”
With the way the program has slowly improved the past two years, despite not reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Harper clearly believes she’s got this school where it needs to be. That’s a big deal.
When it comes to the first goal, consistency, that one has clearly been met. In two years as head coach of UT, she has only two losses against teams that didn’t finish in the top 25 of every ranking, both of them came in 2019-2020, and none of her losses have come to teams outside of the top 40 of the RPI or the NCAA NET Rankings.
Her first year on the job, she just ran the table against all the bad teams, as we said, with just one mild quality win, over the LSU Tigers. This past year, though, while still running the table against every non-top 25 team, she scored huge quality wins against the Indiana Hoosiers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats and South Carolina Gamecocks.
Although the program went 4-8 against top 25 caliber teams last year, that’s better than going winless like they did the year before, and it signals dramatic improvement. If she can just get them to .500 or better against such competition, then national title talk is right around the corner.
Despite losing Rennia Davis, Harper has added four new freshmen, three of whom are four-star recruits, and another transfer. She returns almost everybody else, and Keyen Green is set to return from injury. As a result, there is plenty of reason to believe that this team is about to take another dramatic step forward.
We didn’t know what to think of it, but Harper talking about national championships publicly means she’s serious about where the Tennessee Lady Vols are. It’s time to suggest that the team is no longer rebuilding. By the time the 2021-2022 season rolls around, all signs point to UT being in contention for championships again.