The University of Charleston women’s basketball team has dipped into its pool of alumni to find its new head coach.
Tianni Kelly, who played on two NCAA tournament teams with the Golden Eagles, is moving from her job as an assistant at Valdosta State to return to UC and coach its women’s hoops team.
“I first arrived at the University of Charleston as an unnerved freshman in 2009, and if you would have told me then that 11 years later, I would be the head coach of this prestigious program I wouldn’t have believed you,” Kelly said in a university release. “But God had a great plan for me, and I am extremely blessed to have this opportunity.”
UC is her first head coaching job, but Kelly has been an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks since joining them. Prior to her one-year tenure at Valdosta State, she was an assistant at Florida Southern. After her first of her two seasons there, she was named to Women’s Basketball Coaching Association’s “Thirty Under 30” list, recognizing some of the top young coaches in the sport.
Valdosta State went 18-11 in her one season there and Florida Southern won 55 games in her two seasons there as an assistant.
“Tianni is incredibly bright, passionate, articulate, and possesses a high level of emotional intelligence,” UC Athletic Director Bren Stevens said in the release. “With Tianni’s many successes at other top NCAA II women’s basketball programs, she is more than prepared to oversee and inspire a team that is comprised of talented athletes that have been remarkably successful both on and off the court.”
Kelly has history with Charleston as both a player and an assistant. She wore a Golden Eagles uniform for five seasons, playing in the NCAA Division II tournament in 2011 and 2014 and winning the 2011 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season title. Before heading to Florida Southern, the Pickerington, Ohio, native spent three seasons as an assistant with UC and won 50 games while on staff there.
Kelly replaces Becky Burke, who won 48 games over two seasons as UC’s head coach with a 2019 NCAA tournament berth. Burke recently took the head coaching job at Division I USC Upstate.
The cupboard shouldn’t be bare for Kelly’s first season at the helm. All-Mountain East Conference second-teamer Brooklyn Pannell and MEC Freshman of the Year Dakota Reeves should return.