KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee women’s basketball coach Kellie Harper didn’t have to travel far to add to her staff.

UT announced the hiring of Eastern Kentucky head coach Samantha Williams on Saturday. Williams led the Colonels to 20 victories over the past two seasons in a big turnaround for the program. EKU won 11 games in 2019-20, after the team went 2-27 overall and 0-18 in the Ohio Valley Conference the year before she arrived. 

Williams is also one of the nation’s top recruiters and will serve as recruiting coordinator for the Lady Vols. She had previous stops as an assistant at Louisville (2011-19) and Duke (2007-11) before being chosen for the head coaching job at EKU.

“Sam, whom I have known for a long time, is a good person with high character,” Harper said. “She will be a great fit with our staff and a wonderful mentor and resource for our student-athletes. She is a well-connected and highly-respected recruiter, but she also offers a great presence on the court with extensive experience in building relationships, developing players and implementing game plans.

“I have enjoyed following her career from afar, thinking how great it would be to work with her. We now have that opportunity, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together as a staff.”

Williams says she is excited to play a role in helping the Lady Vols take the next step forward.

“I am excited and honored to join Kellie and the Lady Vol family,” Williams said. “I’ve always admired Kellie’s character, drive and passion for her players. We share a common trait in valuing loyalty and trust. I’m also excited to work with her in developing strong young women. Kellie is a proven winner, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work alongside her.

“When you talk about women’s basketball, all roads lead through Knoxville, Tennessee. I know the history of the Lady Vol program, and I understand what the standard of excellence is in wearing the Lady Vol uniform. Things have come full circle for me, as I have always had a vision of being a Lady Vol ever since Pat Summitt called me in ninth grade. Coming to Tennessee is truly a dream come true, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

While serving as assistant head coach to Jeff Walz in Louisville from 2011-19, Williams helped guide the Cardinals to eight consecutive NCAA appearances. During her time there, Williams assisted U of L in reaching the Final Four twice, including an appearance in the 2013 national championship game, making four trips to the Elite 8 and advancing to the Sweet 16 six times. 

Williams coached four WNBA Draft picks at Louisville. She also sought and signed the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2015, the No. 6 ranked class in 2016 and the fourth ranked class in 2017.  Between 2014 and 2017, Williams and the Louisville staff welcomed nine McDonald’s All-Americans to their program.

Assisting the backcourt players, Williams helped Louisville chart five straight years with a top-40 ranking in shooting percentage. The Cardinals ranked seventh in the nation in 2017-18 at 48.2 percent.

Prior to her time at Louisville, Williams was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duke on Joanne P. McCallie’s staff from 2007-11. She helped the Blue Devils capture two ACC regular season championships, two ACC Tournament titles and make two appearances in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. 

Williams was instrumental in Duke compiling three top-five recruiting classes, including the No. 1 class in the nation in 2009-10. She worked primarily with the team’s perimeter players, developing a pair of All-Americans who were picked in the first two rounds of the WNBA Draft.

Williams began her collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Butler during the 1998-99 season. In 2002-03 she served as an assistant coach at Columbus State University and also spent time at DePaul.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Williams was a four-year starter at Auburn from 1992-96, serving as co-captain as a junior and a senior. She led Auburn to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Sweet 16 trips and an Elite 8 berth. Williams set the program record for career 3-point field goals (161), and she finished her career with 1,106 points, 495 rebounds and 323 assists.