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UConn's Ralph named women's basketball coach at Vanderbilt

Shea Ralph, a former UConn women's basketball great and assistant coach in the program since 2008, was named the new head coach at Vanderbilt University on Tuesday.

Ralph will be formally introduced during a press conference on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.

"I have always been motivated and inspired by people who have a passionate pursuit of excellence," Ralph said in a statement released by Vanderbilt. "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 will bring her husband, Tom Garrick, with her as an assistant. Garrick, a former standout at Rhode Island, is the current head coach for the UMass Lowell women. He was an assistant at Vanderbilt from 2009-2015.

Vanderbilt officials recently fired coach Stephanie White. The Commodores play in the Southeastern Athletic Conference. They went 4-4 during the 2020-21 season, then opted out of playing due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would like to congratulate Shea on being named the head coach at Vanderbilt University," UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement released by the university. "I know everyone here at UConn is incredibly excited for Shea. It's an amazing opportunity to be at such a great university in a great city. Shea has had a huge impact on the UConn women's basketball program, as both a player and a coach.

"We're going to miss her tremendously — she brought passion and energy to everything she did in Storrs. But we know she's going to do amazing things at Vanderbilt and we wish her the best."

Ralph, who began her coaching career at Pittsburgh in 2003, missed UConn's recent Final Four trip for COVID-19-related reasons.

Since joining the Huskies as an assistant, Ralph helped lead the Huskies to 13 straight NCAA Final Fours, 25 conference championships and six NCAA titles. UConn produced 14 All-Americans and four national players of year during her tenure.

Ralph graduated with a degree in exercise physiology in 2001. After helping the Huskies win the 2000 national championship, where she was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four, she drafted by the WNBA's Utah Starzz a year later, but opted not to play due to a series of knee injuries suffered earlier in the playing career.

"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."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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