New Lady Vols coach Kim Caldwell promises to revive the famous program.

Kim Caldwell and the Tennessee Lady Vols are taking a significant step with the young coach tasked with turning the ancient program into title contenders. In the shadow of Pat Summitt and her eight national championship banners in the rafters, Caldwell, who has coached only one of her eight Division I seasons, will be in charge. When introduced Tuesday, Caldwell discussed Summitt's impact on women's basketball.  

“I will never be Pat Summitt,” Caldwell added. “Nobody can, but I will strive every day to be her proud.” Tennessee named its fourth Lady Vols coach in 50 years Sunday before the women's national championship game. In the weeklong search, athletic director Danny White said Caldwell stood out in her interview.  

We have a very competitive new coach and someone who wasn’t afraid of the challenge to restore this legendary program to where we all want it to be,” White said.  

Caldwell must be overconfident. She is leaving the Sun Belt Conference for the Southeastern Conference, home to three national champions. This is the Lady Vols' first non-Tennessee coach since Summitt took over at 22 in 1974. Her Lady Vols were national runners-up five times and Summitt went 1,098-208 in her legendary career.  

Caldwell replaces Kellie Harper, who won three Summitt titles in the 1990s but was sacked April 1 after 108-52 in five seasons. Holly Warlick, another Lady Vols former player, led Tennessee to three Elite Eights, last reaching in 2016.

Summitt retired in 2012 after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, after leading Tennessee to its eighth and final national title in 2008. The SEC Tennessee dominated sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament, and the Lady Vols ended outside the final AP Top 25 revealed Monday. The SEC gets harder next season with No. 7 Texas and No. 21 Oklahoma arriving in July.  

White promised Caldwell will construct a program that can compete with the SEC's “extremely formidable opponents” and “get back to competing for national championships.” Her five-year, $750,000-a-season contract outlines expectations. A national title will give Caldwell an instant wage raise to equal the Division I women's coach.  

Marshall's second NCAA Tournament trip and first since 1997 came after Caldwell won the 2024 Maggie Dixon NCAA Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award after going 26-7. Each of her eight coaching seasons has included NCAA Tournament participation, going 217-31.  

Her old institution Glenville State won the 2022 Division II national title. Caldwell won the 2021-22 Pat Summitt Trophy as WBCA NCAA Division II coach of the year. She plays fast to maintain Tennessee the only program to never miss an NCAA Tournament.  

Under Caldwell, Marshall led the nation in 3-pointers attempted and third in made, making 10.6 per game. The Herd averaged 85.3 points per game, fourth nationally. On defense, they forced 24.2 turnovers per game, second nationally. White compared her play to Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel, whose team runs one of the nation's fastest and highest-scoring attacks.  

“If you like what you're seeing in Neyland Stadium in terms of points we score, I think you'll like what you see on the basketball floor,” White said. Caldwell said she will use her year at Marshall managing a program to get started quickly.  

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