A.J. Carr on Coach Harper, Women’s Basketball Team

October 23, 2009
By Cherry Crayton

GoPack.com has posted a good story written by A.J. Carr about Kellie Harper and the Wolfpack women’s basketball team. One snippet:

[Harper] can be vocal, yell if I have to, but is never profane. When really upset, she’s apt to vent Dad Gum it! More often players will hear Jeepers Creepers! with a country twang.

A.J. has been covering sports in North Carolina for more than 50 years and is among the state’s most respected and knowledgeable sportswriters. He took the time to speak with us today about Harper and the team. It’s another installment in NC State magazine’s coverage of the team. Read what he told us and then check out his story.

On first impressions
I was very impressed with her. She seems to know precisely what she wants to do. She has a great background and brings outstanding credentials as a player and as a coach — as both as an assistant and as a head coach at Western Carolina. And her personality. I see her as a likable coach and one that players will truly respond to. The players spoke a lot about her energy level. She’s certainly also a person with strong values and is a strong Christian, just as Kay Yow was. I sense that she’ll be very caring to players and an excellent motivator.

On the players
I think what they went through with Coach Yow was very sad, emotional and difficult for them. But in talking with the players, I feel like that they are now excited about Coach Harper and working with her and playing for her. While [Coach Harper] has made some changes in just their routine, she’s tried to not come in and make radical changes and be overbearing. She’s trying to move methodically and carefully. She realizes this transition is different than some because the players here lost a wonderful coach and a wonderful person and someone greatly beloved by everyone. [Coach Harper] has tried to be real sensitive to that, and I think the players have appreciated that.

On similarities with Kay Yow
I asked the players the similarities and differences between [Coach Yow and Coach Harper]. The players said, “Well, Kellie is younger.” And she is! She’s 32. But one of the similarities [is] character and off-the-course expectations, behavior and how the athletes will represent NC State. [Coach Harper] told me, for example, that on the court she doesn’t use profanity. From the basketball standpoint, there will be some scheme differences, and that will be interesting to watch. We have to wait and see how it might be different and look different.

On expectations
[Coach Harper] expressed excitement about the fans here and the enthusiasm and the expectations. She’s excited about what she has seen. Of course, she was in an environment at Tennessee where the fan base was huge. They had tremendous crowds at their games. NC State won’t match that, not right now. But her knowledge and background with Pat Summitt and playing for three national teams — that carries a lot of clout for a prospect.  I really sense that she will recruit well. She has a far-reaching connection through her staff, and she can show recruits her jewelry box with nine championship rings. And, she’s confident. She told me that she thought if she could just get recruits on campus that [the staff and team] could sell them. But what you have to keep in mind is that it is a big challenge because North Carolina and Duke are established as national powers. Just winning in your own back yard is a big challenge. But I think Coach Harper was an outstanding hire. I will be very surprised if she’s not real successful. I really will.

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