KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Kellie Harper has announced the first two assistants on her staff, selecting a pair of coaches with very successful stints working alongside her in Jon Harper and Jennifer Sullivan.
Jon Harper is Kellie Harper’s husband, and he has been a vital member of her staff for all 15 of her previous years as a head coach. Sullivan, meanwhile, was an integral part of the program with them at Missouri State from 2013-18, serving as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator there before spending the 2018-19 season at Ohio State as an assistant coach.
“I am really pleased to announce the addition of Jon Harper and Jennifer Sullivan as assistant coaches on the Lady Vol coaching staff,” Harper said. “In addition to each of them bringing different strengths to the table, there is a proven record of us working well together as a team to build measurable success in a program. Loyalty and trust are key components in how we operate every single day.
“Jennifer possesses great character, has a tremendous way with people, and is very intelligent and efficient in how she goes about her work. Jon is terrific with game flow as well as time and score, and he displays a persistent coaching approach. I am excited to work beside them but even more excited for our players to have the opportunity to learn from Jennifer and Jon.”
Jon Harper is set to begin his 16th year serving as an assistant to Kellie Harper after the two worked together as assistants at Chattanooga. He assists her with all aspects of the program.
In six seasons at Missouri State, Harper mentored players who earned a total of 15 all-Missouri Valley Conference selections, including two-time first-team picks Kenzie Williams and Liza Fruendt, 2016 MVC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Tyonna Snow, 2018 first-team selection Alexa Willard and 2019 first-team choice Danielle Gitzen.
The Lady Bears accumulated 118 wins, five top-three MVC finishes and five postseason berths with Harper on staff, including a 2016 NCAA Tournament appearance after a 24-10 record and MVC Tournament championship and a 2019 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 finish with a 25-10 record and MVC tourney title.
While at North Carolina State from 2009-13, Harper tutored four different players to a combination of All-Atlantic Coast Conference, All-ACC Freshman, all-tournament honors and a league Freshman of the Year award. Harper helped a team that was predicted to finish ninth in the ACC to a fifth-place finish and NCAA Tournament berth in 2010, as well as a pair of WNIT appearances his final two seasons there.
Prior to NC State, Harper spent five years as an assistant coach at Western Carolina with Kellie, and before that three seasons at Chattanooga, before heading to WCU with Kellie for the 2004-05 campaign.
During his time at Western Carolina, Harper worked with the backcourt players and helped produce five all-conference selections and the Southern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. The Catamounts advanced to the postseason four of his five years on staff, including a pair of NCAA Tournament berths.
Harper got the coaching bug while serving as a manager at Auburn for three seasons from 1996-99, and he worked his way up to numerous administrative responsibilities with the team.
While he was with Auburn, the Lady Tigers compiled a 58-29 record that included the 1997 SEC Tournament Championship and a pair of NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1999.
Harper joined the Auburn team as manager starting in 1996-97 and worked up to head manager in 1998-99. That season, he was charged with increasing responsibilities that included overseeing the men’s team that scrimmaged the Lady Tigers. He eventually served an internship with the coaching staff.
Harper earned his bachelor’s degree in health promotion/sports management in March 1999 and in May of that year married the former Kellie Jolly. After receiving his degree, Harper taught physical education and was an assistant football coach at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn. He then moved into private business before joining the basketball coaching ranks on the Chattanooga staff.
The Harpers welcomed their first child, son Jackson, in November 2013, and had a daughter, Kiley, in June 2018.
Sullivan, who spent five seasons at Missouri State with the Harpers, joined the OSU women’s program last season. Her lone year in Columbus found the Buckeyes mixing together five graduate transfers and three freshmen with four returning players. Sullivan played an instrumental role in developing chemistry throughout the campaign. The Buckeyes started the year 4-8 but went on to win 10 of their final 15 regular season games to finish fifth in the Big Ten with a 10-8 mark.
At Missouri State, she served as the recruiting coordinator for Harper and played a significant role in the Lady Bears landing stellar recruiting classes each of her five seasons there.
In her first recruiting class at MSU, Sullivan helped land a trio of all-state players from Missouri and another from Illinois that helped the Lady Bears to 79 wins and four postseason appearances during the careers, combining for 439 career games, more than 3,100 points and nearly 1,500 rebounds.
Missouri State’s subsequent recruiting classes reinforced the school’s strong presence in the region, with players from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois and Minnesota signing National Letters of Intent.
Prior to making the move to Springfield, Sullivan spent the 2012-13 season as associate head coach for Garry Brodhead at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, serving as the team’s recruiting coordinator while handling guard development and scheduling.
Prior to her stint with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Sullivan was an assistant at Arkansas State in her hometown of Jonesboro for three seasons. Sullivan served as ASU’s recruiting coordinator in addition to duties with summer camps, academic monitoring and opponent scouting.
Sullivan’s strong southern ties date to her playing days at Memphis from 2001-05, where she was a three-year starter and helped the Tigers to the second round of the WNIT in 2004. She finished her Memphis career with 800 points, 310 rebounds and 99 steals, graduating in 2005 with a communications degree after being named team MVP her senior season.
Sullivan remained in Memphis upon graduation as an assistant for the Rhodes College women and followed that by spending the 2007-08 season on the Memphis sideline before becoming an assistant at McNeese State for the 2008-09 campaign.