NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of women’s college basketball’s most respected and well-known coaches will usher in a new era of success for Vanderbilt as Shea Ralph, a seven-time national champion as a student-athlete and coach, has been named women’s basketball head coach.
“It is with great honor and a full heart that I join Vanderbilt University as the next women’s basketball head coach,” Ralph said. “I have always been motivated and inspired by people who have a passionate pursuit of excellence. Vanderbilt’s rich, storied tradition of excellence speaks for itself, but I believe what sets us apart is the people. I am so excited to work alongside our amazing community in elevating our women’s basketball program back to an elite level. Together we will invest in each other and build a greatness that transcends the game of basketball.”
Ralph, 43, comes to Vanderbilt after spending 13 seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut. As an All-American guard and later as an assistant coach under Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma at Connecticut, she was part of 12 Final Four appearances.
Ralph is an experienced coach with a demonstrated history of success in women’s basketball. As a national high school player of the year in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she gained immediate acclaim in a Connecticut program that was emerging as a perennial powerhouse. Although she dealt with numerous knee injuries during her time at Connecticut, she was a first-team All-American and the Honda Award winner as national player of the year while leading Connecticut to a national championship in 2000.
“Coach Ralph has earned the opportunity to take the reins of our women’s basketball program and transform it into what we all know is possible,” said Candice Lee, Vanderbilt vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director. “She knows what winning looks like, and she has the background and experience—as both a player and a coach—to develop our student-athletes into champions.”
Although Ralph was selected by the Utah Starzz in the 2001 WNBA draft, continued knee injuries ended her on-court career.
After beginning her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, she returned to Connecticut and joined Auriemma’s coaching staff in 2008. During her time with the Huskies, she recruited and worked with players like Paige Bueckers, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart while mentoring 21 WNBA draft picks, including nine top-five picks and three No. 1 overall selections.
“The hiring of Coach Ralph ushers in a new era for Vanderbilt women’s basketball,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Coach Ralph brings a wealth of experience from her time as both a student-athlete and coach at one of the nation’s most storied programs. Her energy, optimism and bold ambitions perfectly align with our vision of an athletics program that emboldens our mission to compete and succeed at the highest levels.”
As a student-athlete at Connecticut, Ralph finished her career with 1,678 points to rank eighth in the Huskies’ storied record book. She also ranked among the program’s top 10 career leaders in assists (456), steals (252) and field goal percentage (.579).
The appointment Tuesday of Ralph as the sixth head coach in Vanderbilt women’s basketball history will be followed by an official introductory press conference at 1 p.m. CT Wednesday.