East Tennessee State is turning to a former conference rival for its next women’s basketball coach.
The university announced Monday that Brittney Ezell, who has been the Belmont head coach for the last three seasons, will succeed Karen Kemp pending approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents. Kemp retired in March after 19 years at ETSU.
Interim athletic director Richard Sander recommended the hiring of Ezell, a former two-sport athlete at Alabama, after a six-week search.
“We were looking for someone who had played at the highest levels, understood what it takes to win championships, and had extensive collegiate coaching experience,” said Sander. “Brittney possesses all of these qualities. She has the dedication and passion to take our program to a championship level and back to the NCAA tournament.”
Ezell, 37, was not available for comment Monday but will be introduced at a Friday press conference on campus.
ETSU will be the fourth stop as a head coach for the Franklin native. She has a 120-113 career record, including 41-52 at Belmont.
She previously coached at the University of Montevallo (Ala.) for two seasons and at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville for three.
At Belmont, Ezell guided the Bruins through their last two seasons in the Atlantic Sun Conference — they split four games against Kemp’s ETSU teams — and their inaugural season in the Ohio Valley. They went 18-14 last season and made their first postseason appearance since 2007 with a berth in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
Defense became a calling card for Belmont under Ezell. The Bruins led the OVC in scoring defense (57.3) last season and were ranked 19th nationally in field goal percentage defense (.347).
At ETSU, she will inherit a team that has struggled the last couple of seasons after winning three straight A-Sun championships from 2008-10. The Lady Bucs went 8-18 last season, on the heels of an 8-22 campaign.
Ezell began her coaching career at Alabama, where she spent five years as an assistant and recruiting coordinator. She was credited with helping deliver back-to-back top 15 recruiting classes that produced four All-SEC guards.
Ezell was an Alabama guard herself, starting four years at the point for the Crimson Tide from 1995-98. The team went 95-34 during that span and made four straight Sweet 16 appearances.
She scored 1,022 points in her career and still ranks second in school history in assists (620) and games started (114). She was a second-team All-SEC selection as a senior and later attended the WNBA rookie combine in Chicago.
Ezell didn’t leave it all on the basketball court. She became the first two-sport female athlete at Alabama in over a decade when she joined the Tide softball team, and was a two-year starter at third base for a team that won the SEC championship in 1998.
Ezell earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Alabama in 1999 and a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Nebraska in 2005. She was a prep standout at Franklin High School, where she was a three-time district MVP and collected over 2,000 points and 600 assists in her career.