Ex-Lady Tiger is hired as Clemson's coach

Itoro Umoh Coleman, a Hephzibah alum and former Clemson star, is the new head coach of the women's basketball team at Clemson.

 

CLEMSON, S.C. --- Former Clemson star Itoro Umoh Coleman looked out at her new players and made a vow she'd heard more than a decade before when she led the team to two Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament titles.

"There is no team that's going to outwork my team," the school's new women's basketball coach said.

That's what she heard from then-coach Jim Davis, the program's all-time winner who recruited Umoh Coleman in 1995 after a stellar career at Hephzibah High.

In four seasons, Umoh Coleman helped the Lady Tigers win the ACC Tournament in 1996 and 1999. She was an all-ACC performer who was named to the conference's 50-year anniversary team in 2002.

Umoh Coleman takes over for Cristy McKinney, who resigned earlier this month after five losing seasons.

The new coach and her family -- husband Harold Coleman and daughters Jada, 5, and Jordan, five months -- were welcomed by her new team, administrators and others, including her former coach, Davis, and Clemson men's coach Oliver Purnell.

"I automatically have respect for her because of her credentials," Clemson center Shaniqua Pauldo said. "The only two ACC championships that Clemson won were with her."

Whether the new coach, who arrived after three seasons as a Penn State assistant, can push the Lady Tigers back toward the top of the powerful ACC is another matter.

Along with yearly contenders like North Carolina, Duke and Maryland, other teams like Florida State and Georgia Tech have taken big steps into the ACC's top half.

Clemson's last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2002, which was also the last team to post a winning conference record.

Umoh Coleman was optimistic about how long it might take to bring Clemson back to the upper levels of the ACC.

"I don't know, three, four years. I'm looking to do it this year," she said. "That's a pretty lofty goal. But you bring the work ethic and we can make it happen."

Athletic director Terry Don Phillips said Umoh Coleman received a five-year contract. He said other terms would be released when the deal was finalized.

Davis, Clemson's coach from 1988 to 2005, saw leadership potential when Umoh Coleman was a young point guard before the 1995-96 season.

"Now, a lot of those seniors wouldn't listen to her," Davis recalled, "but it did not take them long to start following her."

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