Missouri State University
Missouri State
The Magazine Published For The Alumni And Friends of Missouri State University
Meet the new Lady Bears head coach and assistant coaches

Meet the new Lady Bears head coach and assistant coaches

Coach Kellie Harper brings a winning pedigree with her, and she has chosen a team of assistant coaches that includes MSU legend Jackie Stiles.

Kellie Harper, who has played on NCAA championship teams, is in several halls of fame and has coached college teams to postseason play, was announced April 10 as the seventh Lady Bears head coach.

“We are very excited for Kellie to join the Missouri State family,” Kyle Moats, athletics director, said during the news conference introducing Harper. “She was a tremendous college basketball player, she comes from a great basketball pedigree and she is widely regarded as a great tactician. I know our fans, alumni and community will share our enthusiasm and welcome the Harper family to Springfield.”

Harper, 36, has entered into a five-year agreement with the University.

“I couldn’t be happier and more excited about this opportunity. This program has great tradition, fantastic facilities and a solid fan base,” Harper said. “It’s a fresh start for Lady Bears basketball. The future is very bright, and we’re going to have high expectations to do something really special here.”

Harper’s place in basketball history

As a teen, Harper (then Kellie Jolly) played for her father, a long-time coach at White County High School in Sparta, Tenn. She earned honors for her playing and was inducted into the White County High Hall of Fame in 2012.

She attended the University of Tennessee, where she was on three consecutive NCAA women’s national championship teams (1996-98) under legendary coach Pat Summitt.

As a junior, she guided the Tennessee Lady Volunteers to a 39-0 record and the national championship. She was named to the 1998 All-Final Four Team and also earned honorable mention All-America honors as a senior in 1999.

She was drafted by the Cleveland Rockers in the fourth round of the 1999 WNBA draft and earned her degree in mathematics that year.

Harper has a reputation as one of the nation’s most-respected young coaches, and serves as a Division 1 representative on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Board of Directors.

She was inducted into the Lady Vols Hall of Fame in 2009.

“As a player at the University of Tennessee, Kellie showed great leadership, poise and dedication,” Summitt said. “She knows the game of basketball. She is an excellent teacher, and her passion for the game is infectious. She will bring all this to Missouri State.

“I wish Kellie and the staff she assembles all the very best as they take responsibility for the Missouri State Lady Bears basketball program.”

Coaching experience

Harper has a reputation as one of the nation’s most-respected young coaches, and serves as a Division 1 representative on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Board of Directors.

She has a nine-year record of 167-128, including three NCAA tournament appearances and four WNIT berths during those years.

Her teams have historically played their best in the postseason. She has a collective 22-13 record in conference tournaments, NCAA tournaments and WNIT games.

Most recently, she was the head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack women’s basketball team.

Prior to her time with the Wolfpack, Harper was the head coach at Western Carolina University.

Before that, she spent three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and prior to that she was an assistant coach at Auburn University.

“The future is very bright, and we’re going to have high expectations to do something really special here.”
—Kellie Harper, Lady Bears head coach

She was part of the Auburn staff that squared off with the Lady Bears in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament in State College, Pa.

Her Lady Bears team

Harper inherits a Missouri State team with nine returning letter-winners, including four seniors.
She replaces Nyla Milleson, whose contract was not renewed after six seasons at the helm of the Lady Bears.

“I am very excited Kellie Harper has joined the Lady Bears family,” said Missouri State President Clif Smart. “She has shown she is an outstanding coach and recruiter who also wants to be deeply involved in our community.

“I am expecting great things from this program in the years ahead as we work to reclaim our rightful position in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Harper’s three assistant coaches

New Lady Bears Head Coach Kellie Harper named her full coaching staff April 18, and former MSU great Jackie Stiles and Jennifer Sullivan are set to join Harper’s husband Jon on the sidelines this fall.

Jon Harper

Jon Harper

Jon Harper has been coaching basketball for more than 10 seasons with his wife.

He spent the past four seasons at North Carolina State, serving as one of the Wolfpack’s primary recruiters as well as coaching and building the team’s schedule.

Harper earned his bachelor’s degree in health promotion/sports management from Auburn University in March 1999, and in May of that year married Kellie Harper (then Kellie Jolly).

After receiving his degree, Harper taught physical education and was an assistant football coach at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn, Ala.

He then moved into private business before joining the basketball coaching ranks at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Jackie Stiles

Jackie Stiles

This former Lady Bear needs no introduction — but here is one, just in case you need a refresher on the most decorated student-athlete in the history of Missouri State athletics.

Jackie Stiles is the all-time leading scorer in Division I women’s basketball and led the Lady Bears to the 2001 NCAA Final Four, among many, many other awards and accomplishments.

She became the first MSU player ever to be drafted by a WNBA franchise. She was the Portland Fire’s first-round (No. 4) draft pick, and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2001. A WNBA All-Star that season, she played for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002, and then went on to play professionally in Australia before retiring in 2006.

Since 2007, she has operated her own business, J. Stiles Total Training.

She entered college coaching in 2012 as an assistant to former Lady Bear Charity (Shira) Elliott at Loyola Marymount University.

Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer Sullivan begins her first season at Missouri State after serving as an assistant coach for a pair of Sun Belt Conference schools the past four years.

She will serve as recruiting coordinator on Harper’s staff.

Sullivan spent the 2012-13 season as associate head coach at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, serving as the recruiting coordinator while handling guard development and scheduling.

Prior to her stint with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Sullivan was an assistant at Arkansas State in her hometown of Jonesboro, Ark., for three seasons.

Sullivan played for the University of Memphis from 2001-05.

She was a three-year starter and helped the Tigers to the second round of the WNIT in 2004.

She finished her Memphis career with 800 points, 310 rebounds and 99 steals, graduating in 2005 with a communication degree after being named team MVP her senior season.