After 19 years as East Tennessee State’s women’s basketball coach, Karen Kemp is stepping down.
“I feel like ETSU has been good to me, but it’s time for me to step aside and let someone else lead this program to the heights I know they can reach,” Kemp said in a release put out by the university announcing her retirement on Tuesday.
Kemp finished with a record of 272-277, and her last two teams struggled on the court. The Lady Bucs went 8-22 and 8-18 in her last two seasons.
It has been quite a drop in fortunes for a program that played in three consecutive NCAA tournaments from 2008-10.
“I think all those good things she did need to be what people focus on,” said Richard Sander, ETSU’s interim athletic director, “not a year or two of not winning as many games as she would have liked, we would have liked, everybody would have liked. If you’re in it long enough, everybody’s going to have a couple of down years.”
Two players from Kemp’s final team — Brianna Bogard and Amy Duke — quit during the season. Sophomore center Tiana Burley was suspended for the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament opener, and final game of the season, after connecting with a punch to an opponent in the regular-season finale.
Kemp won coach of the year honors twice, for the Southern Conference in 1994-95 and the A-Sun in 2007-08. Her teams won 20 games five times, including a program-record of 23 in the 2009-10 season.
Sander said a search for Kemp’s successor will begin immediately.
“I feel I have a pretty good network of people across the country that I can count on to really help me, just from the standpoint of identifying people that could be good for this program,” Sander said. “I feel very comfortable and confident that we’ll have a good pool of candidates. This has been a great program and has had a lot of success throughout the years.”
Sander, who doesn’t believe in search committees, has a vision of what kind of coach he wants to hire. Being a successful former player would help, but isn’t a deal breaker.
“I want somebody that’s high energy, plays a style that’s attractive, has kids who play hard, play aggressively,” he said. “The individual is very comfortable out in the community and has a proven record of being a great recruiter.”