Four years ago Larry Joe Inman ended a 30-year college coaching career as the Ohio Valley Conference’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach with 480 victories.
Turns out that number is going to grow.
Tennessee State introduced the 64-year-old as its new women's basketball coach on Monday at the Floyd Payne Campus Center. Inman, a Gallatin native, spent the last two years coaching the girls basketball team at Lebanon High School but hasn’t coached at the college level since he retired in 2008 after 20 years at Eastern Kentucky. He also coached at Middle Tennessee State from 1978-86.
“Night in and night out [at the college level] you see some great basketball, both girls and guys both,” Inman said. “I miss that. I miss that competitive edge.”
He is the first white head coach of a major sport at the historically black university. However, Mark Pittman served as the interim men’s basketball coach for two months in 2009 after the firing of Cy Alexander.
Cindy Connelly was the first white coach of any sport at TSU. She coached the softball team from 1999-2001 before Joyce Maudie, also white, took over from 2002-10. The current golf coach - men's and women's - Chris Seibel also is white.
“In 2012, I’m going to say it’s not significant. It’s the first, though,” athletics director Teresa Phillips said. “But I think we’ve been open minded through my [10-year] tenure as being an AD with that. Tennessee State, as an HBCU, never has refused for other type students or anybody to come here. But sometimes it still takes a little while for us to always be as colorless as we would like to be.
“He transcends that. He is a basketball coach. He is a person that loves to nurture and develop young people and that’s proven.”
Phillips regularly crossed paths with Inman in the early 90s. She headed up the TSU women’s team (she is the program’s all-time winningest coach) as Inman turned EKU into a conference juggernaut.
From 1988-2008, the Lady Colonels won five OVC regular season championships, two tournament titles, played in the NCAA Tournament twice and reached the Sweet 16 of the WNIT in 2002.
He won 161 games at MTSU, guiding the Blue Raiders to four straight NCAA Tournaments.
Inman was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame in 2009 after posting a 480-317 career record and capturing OVC coach of the year honors eight times. He also coached at Mt. Juliet from 1973-78, winning a state championship in 1977.
He’ll try to revive a TSU program that has had just one winning season since 1995. The Tigers went 77-157 in eight seasons under Tracee Wells, who was fired last month after going 9-20 in 2011-12.
TSU loses just one lettermen to graduation and brings back leading scorer Jasmin Shuler after the Tigers finished fourth in the OVC in scoring.
“I always thought this program was a sleeping giant,” Inman said. “It is time to wake the giant up. It is time to get after people. It is time to take this program to a whole new level, indeed where we’re capable of becoming as players and as a program.”