Marshall confirms Caldwell leaving for Tennessee

Apr. 7—When the University of Tennessee parted ways with women's basketball coach Kellie Harper last week, Marshall Director of Athletics Christian Spears just might have seen the writing on the wall.

Marshall confirmed Sunday afternoon that women's basketball coach Kim Caldwell has been hired to take over the storied Lady Vols program. She will replace Harper, who was fired last Monday after five seasons.

Caldwell's tenure at Marshall lasted one season and it was the most successful in program history. The Thundering Herd went 26-7 — the most victories ever for the team — and won both the Sun Belt regular season and tournament championships. The season ended with Marshall's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1997, resulting in a first-round loss to Virginia Tech.

Key to getting the run going was a win over Florida on Dec. 2.

Stephens was named the Sun Belt Women's Basketball Coach of the Year, and last week she was named the Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year.

Spears knew from the start that Caldwell one day coaching at Rocky Top was a possibility.

"First, we are so proud of Kim and thrilled for her outstanding opportunity at Tennessee," Spears said in a statement.

"We have talked from the very beginning about her future and the places that could sway her away from Marshall. Yes, Pat Summitt Court and Tennessee was on that list."

Tennessee became the top women's college basketball program in the nation under the legendary Pat Summitt, who passed away in 2016. She led the Lady Vols to eight national championships and at the time of her retirement in 2012 was the all-time winningest women's coach with 1,098 career victories.

Tennessee hasn't had the type of success it was accustomed to with Summit courtside. The Lady Vols have not been to the Final Four since 2008.

The goal obviously is to get back to those days and, based on her recent resumé, Caldwell is seen as someone who can get that done.

The former Kim Stephens — she is married to current Marshall men's assistant Justin Cladwell — was hired at Marshall from NCAA Division II Glenville State. She led the Pioneers to the 2022 national championship, and they returned to the Final Four in 2023.

Over those two season, Glenville was 68-4.

Caldwell's overall head coaching record over eight seasons is 217-31, a winning percentage of .875.

"I am honored and humbled to accept the role as head coach of this historic program at the University of Tennessee," Caldwell said in a press release from Tennessee. "I can't help but reflect on accepting the Pat Summitt Trophy three seasons ago and be moved by the great responsibility and opportunity of now leading and building upon the incredible Lady Vol tradition she built. I am so excited to get to work and can't wait to see what we all can accomplish together."

She later added about Marshall on X:

"I LOVE this team and this community SO much. Thank you!"

"Kim is just special, and we knew others would see that as well," Spears said. "Her impact on Marshall in just one year was substantial. Our community embraced her, and she will be greatly missed. However, the belief system she created in our ability to be successful will remain, and we are confident that we can continue winning championships.

"We have already begun our national search, and we will find another amazing person to lead our Thundering Herd."