Lady Vols Hire Kim Caldwell

By Mark Nagi

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers are one of the most storied basketball programs in the history of the sport. 17 SEC Regular Season Championships and 17 SEC Tournament Championships. 18 Final Fours. 8 National Championships.

But it’s been a long time since they have been a national powerhouse. UT hasn’t been to a Final Four sine 2008 not won an SEC title or any type since 2015.

University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White believes that he found the person who will turn things around, hiring Marshall’s Kim Caldwell to replace Kellie Harper as the 4th head coach in program history.

“You want to be somewhere where the expectations are high,” said Caldwell. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my career to look at jobs and was never interested in a job that did not have high expectations, did not have a loyal fan base, did not have a hungry crowd that wanted to pay attention to what was going on. So, I think that was something that makes this program incredibly special, and I’m going to work very, very hard to make sure that we keep it there.”

“We are never going to hire a head coach who lacks integrity and strong character,” said White. “We want someone who cares about student-athletes and is coaching for the right reasons. We have that person. We wanted someone who is competitive and confident. You will see that we have a very competitive new coach. We wanted someone who wasn’t afraid of the challenge to restore this legendary program to where we all want it to be.”

Caldwell might not be a big name in the sport, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been a success. She has a career record of 217-31 in eight years of coaching, seven of those at Division II Glenville State. She also won a national title at GSU in 2022.

The style of play for Caldwell’s teams should be attractive for Lady Vols fans. Last season at Marshall (her only season with the Thundering Herd) were among the top teams in the country in forced turnovers, turnover margin as well as three-point makes and attempts.

“It looks like a lot of pressure and a lot of shots being taken,” said Caldwell. “It’s playing a lot of players, trusting your players, giving them freedom, and putting them in situations where they can make good choices and have a lot of athletes on the floor. We are going to cross half-court a lot but press almost non-stop. It’s a really aggressive and fun style of play.”

Lady Vols guard Jewel Spear said, “She wants to cross half court a lot, get a lot of threes up, a lot of shots from different players, fast paced and then, defensively, get in people’s grills, really try to turn people over and really force the hand.”

Caldwell will have to get used to recruiting against teams like South Carolina, LSU, and other national powers.

“Everyone I text has responded to me, so that’s the difference,” said Caldwell. “It’s really nice, but it’s the same thing. Players are players. People who are transferring and high school players are looking for the same thing but at different levels. They just happen to be taller in the SEC.”

Tennessee used to be the gold standard in the sport but hasn’t been near that level since the retirement of Pat Summitt. The climb back to the top was one UT couldn’t make under Holly Warlick or Jolly.  We will find out if Caldwell can get them to the point that more banners can be placed in the Food City Center rafters.

“We want to be the hardest-playing team in the country,” said Caldwell. “We want to establish our culture. We want to score a lot of points and be an exciting brand of basketball in the SEC. We want to make people proud. We want to make sure that we get back on top.”

“She seems like a good personality, fun, upbeat person,” said Spear. “You could tell she really cares for us, and she wants what’s best for us.”