Vanderbilt hires Stephanie White of WNBA’s Fever as coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores want Stephanie White of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever as their new women’s basketball coach so much that they’re willing to wait.
And White will lean on her old Purdue coach, Carolyn Peck, to run the Commodores while she finishes out the WNBA season.
Vanderbilt announced Tuesday that White will be the program’s fifth head coach, and Peck will be the interim head coach while White works the rest of the WNBA season. When Indiana’s season ends, Peck then will be associate coach.
White called the combination a “win-win.”
“Carolyn is someone who can really hit the ground running. I wanted to have someone in there with whom I could have frank, honest communication, that could carry out the vision of what we want to accomplish as a program on the court, in the classroom, in the community and from a recruiting standpoint,” White said.
“Carolyn knows me, how I operate and my expectation level, and we have a great relationship, so it’s a natural fit.”
White, the first rookie coach to lead her team to the WNBA Finals last year, will finish out this season with the Fever, whose season just began this month and could run into October. That’s fine with Vanderbilt, where athletic director David Williams noted White has been a winner at every phase of her career
“She wants to coach at Vanderbilt, and we believe she is just the person to lead our program back into national prominence,” Williams said in a statement.
White told Indiana officials she wanted to pursue a college job but made it clear to she would finish this season with the Fever. Indiana’s last season didn’t end until Oct. 14, when the Fever lost to Minnesota in five games. White got one call to gauge her interest. With Vanderbilt willing to wait until the season ends, the coach got permission to explore this opportunity.
“I have two awesome, amazing jobs and an organization that’s really in my DNA in the Indiana Fever, so it was going to take a pretty terrific opportunity for me to be willing to leave,” White said. “And Vanderbilt is that opportunity.”
White replaces the program’s winningest coach.
Melanie Balcomb resigned April 27 after going 310-149 over 14 seasons, reaching the NCAA Tournament 12 times. But failing to make the field each of the past two seasons led to Balcomb’s departure from a program that reached its last regional semifinal in 2009 — the same year Vanderbilt won the last of its six Southeastern Conference Tournament titles.
This is a program that reached the Final Four in 1993 and has four Elite Eight berths and seven Sweet 16s since 1992. But the Commodores have not finished a season in The Associated Press’ final rankings since 2009.
White played shooting guard and was named both the Indiana Miss Basketball and the national high school player of the year in 1995. She won the 1999 Wade Trophy as the national college player of the year, helping lead Purdue to its first national championship with Peck as her coach.
Peck, a native of Jefferson City, Tennessee, played at Vanderbilt between 1984 and 1988. She also has coached at Florida and in the WNBA, and Peck said she is excited to return to Vanderbilt with White.
“Nobody knows what a winner she is more than me,” Peck said. “We won with her as a player and I have covered her coaching career especially in the WNBA. I couldn’t be prouder of what Stephanie has done and is going to do at Vanderbilt.
Charlotte drafted White in the WNBA before trading her to Indiana in time for the Fever’s inaugural season. She played four seasons with Indiana.
White retired after the 2004 season and was an assistant coach at Ball State, Kansas State and Toledo. She also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Chicago Sky before joining Lin Dunn in Indiana as assistant coach, helping the Fever win the 2012 WNBA title before being promoted to head coach in September 2014. White also has worked as a broadcaster with the Big Ten Network, ESPN and Fox Sports Indiana.