KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New Lady Vols basketball head coach Kellie Harper is not here to be Pat Summit. She made that clear in her introductory press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm here to be Kellie, who learned from Pat Summit," Harper said.
Harper, then Kellie Jolly, played under Summit from 1995 to 1999, winning three national championships.
Ironically, the late coach told Harper that, in time, it would be her turn to lead the Lady Vols program.
"She used to say 'you know you'll probably come back and coach at Tennessee one day'", she said. "I really brushed that off because, in my mind, that was Pat Summit's job and that's going to be Pat Summit's job forever."
Summit was right. Harper is back and coaching at Tennessee.
"When the opportunity became available, this is my dream job," she said.
She brings 15 years of head coaching experience with her.
She spent the past six seasons at Missouri State, taking that program to the NCAA tournament twice. One of those appearances came this year, when she led the Lady Bears to the Sweet 16.
Before her stint with Missouri State, she served as head coach for NC State and Western Carolina. She led those programs to the NCAA tournament as well.
Harper said she learned many things in her years as a head coach.
"I've grown as a communicator...even an administer," she said. "It's not all about x's and o's, and I think I've learned that a lot throughout my career."
However, the lessons that still hold territory in Harper's mind came from Summit.
"On the court, she was always so poised as a coach, so whatever she was selling us, we were believing it," Harper said. "I've tried to have that for our team."
Harper said she also gained insight from watching how her former coach utilized her assistant coaches.
When it comes to the assistant coaches for the upcoming Lady Vols' season, Harper said that it is a work in progress.
As for the style of play, she already has that set in stone.
"We're going to play quick. We're going to play aggressively and we're going to compete," Harper said. "We're going to do that by being a fun team to watch and a fun team to pull for."