Vanderbilt Commodores name UConn assistant Shea Ralph as new head women’s basketball coach

Longtime UConn assistant and former Huskies player Shea Ralph is the new women’s basketball coach for the Vanderbilt Commodores, the school announced Tuesday. She replaces Stephanie White, who was fired on April 6 after going 46-83 in five seasons.

Ralph is the sixth coach in Vanderbilt women’s hoops history. A native of North Carolina, Ralph spent 13 seasons as an assistant to Geno Auriemma at her alma mater, with the Huskies winning six national championships in that time.

“I have always been motivated and inspired by people who have a passionate pursuit of excellence,” Ralph said in a statement. “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, played at UConn from 1996-97 to 2000-01, missing the 1997-98 season with a knee injury. She was the most outstanding player of the 2000 NCAA tournament, when the Huskies won their second national championship. She was also Big East Player of the Year in 2000. Her career ended prematurely with another knee injury in the 2001 Big East tournament her senior season.

She was drafted into the WNBA but was never able to play because of her chronic knee issues. After working with the Hartford, Connecticut, school system, she started her coaching career as an assistant coach in 2003 at Pittsburgh, where she spent five seasons before coming back to UConn in 2008.

Vanderbilt was 13-54 in SEC play under White. In January, the program opted out of this season after starting 4-4 and 0-3 in conference play.

The Commodores have a history of success, with 27 trips to the NCAA tournament. But they have not made the field since 2014. Their pinnacle was reaching the 1993 Final Four under coach Jim Foster.

“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,” Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Storey Lee said. “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.”