Texas Tech on Monday hired former UMKC women’s basketball coach Candace Whitaker as its head coach.
Whitaker, 33, returns to her alma mater, where she played point guard from 2000-02. She joined Oklahoma State’s staff as an assistant last April after guiding the Kangaroos for seven seasons, including one of UMKC’s best seasons in 2011-12, a 22-12 record and berth in the WNIT. Whitaker replaces Kristy Curry, who left Texas Tech for Alabama.
Whitaker’s return marks the second time in the past six months the school has hired a former athlete as a coach. In December, Kliff Kingsbury was hired to replace football coach Tommy Tuberville, who went to Cincinnati.
“It is indeed special to have a former student-athlete return to lead a program that they were a significant part of,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. “Her leadership characteristics as a starting point guard and coach, her ties to West Texas, her experience as a Division I head coach, as well as the fact that she is a Red Raider makes her the perfect fit.”
Whitaker will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday. She did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
As a player, Whitaker helped lead the Raiders to the NCAA round of 16 twice. She also played for Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell at Seward County Community College in Kansas, where she led the nation in assists.
Whitaker was “probably the most underrated player” during her time at Texas Tech, former Raiders assistant coach Linden Weese said.
“She is just such a great competitor,” he said. “She’d cut your heart out and show it to you. That’s how competitive she was.”
Weese said he saw a future coach during Whitaker’s two years at Texas Tech.
“It was obvious,” he said. “She was a great student of the game, what need to be done, where people needed to go and how to get them there.”
After graduating from Texas Tech, Whitaker was an assistant at Valparaiso before taking over the UMKC program in 2007, becoming one of the youngest head coaches in the nation at 26.
Former Raiders coach Marsha Sharp said in a release that Whitaker made good moves early in her coaching career.
“Her basketball IQ and work ethic are incredible,” Sharp said.
Whitaker was hired by Oklahoma State to fill the vacancy of Miranda Serna, 36, who died along with Cowgirls head coach Kurt Budke, 50, and two others in a plane crash in Arkansas during a recruiting trip in November 2011.