(Photo courtesy MSU Athletics)
Mississippi State head women’s basketball coach Sam Purcell has tabbed long-time head coach Michelle Clark-Heard as his new Assistant A.D. for Women’s Basketball. Clark-Heard most recently served as the head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
“This is simple; I won the lottery,” Coach Purcell said. “Michelle has years of head coaching experience, and she is a proven winner. She’s coached some of the best women’s basketball players of all time with Team USA and even won a silver medal. I’m just so excited to add Michelle to my staff. She’s going to be a great resource for our student-athletes and our program as a whole. She has connections with so many people from all around the country, and that will pay dividends for us on the recruiting trail. At the end of the day, Michelle is going to make me better, she’s going to make my staff better, and she is going to make our players better. She’s a world-class person, and like I’ve said, basketball is all about relationships, she is a relationship builder, and I just can’t wait for her to get to Starkville and start building those relationships with all the incredible people of our community.”
Clark-Heard, a native of Louisville, Ky., comes to Starkville after serving as the head coach at Cincinnati for the last five seasons. Prior to her time leading the Bearcats, she was the head coach at Western Kentucky and Kentucky State while also serving as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville, University of Nebraska, and Cincinnati.
“I am so excited to join Sam Purcell’s staff at Mississippi State,” Clark-Heard said. “I’ve known Sam for a very long time, and I was impressed with his growth last season as a first-year head coach. His core values and work ethic align right with mine, and that’s why I know this is a great fit for both of us. I can’t wait to get to work with his already incredible staff, and I am humbled to be a part of the Mississippi State Women’s Basketball program! Hail State!”
With 13 years of head coaching experience to her name, Clark-Heard brings with her to Starkville 252 career wins, eight 20+ win seasons, including a 30-win campaign, and four NCAA Tournament appearances. She has won two regular-season conference championships and four conference tournament titles.
Clark-Heard spent five seasons leading the Cincinnati Bearcats. She leads UC to back-to-back 20-win seasons and over 70 wins. While at the helm of the Bearcats, she coached a pair of players to All-America honors, seven players to All-AAC honors and three to Freshman All-AAC accolades. She helped guide IImar’I Thomas to American Player of the Year honors in 2021 (only player of the year in program history) and American Freshman of the Year honors in 2018. She also coached Angle Rizor to American Freshman of the Year accolades and Florence Sifa (2019) and Shanice Johnson (2017) to AAC Newcomer of the Year honors.
In six seasons at WKU, Clark-Heard reached four NCAA Tournaments and won four conference tournament championships and two regular season conference titles while posting 154 wins, becoming the second-fastest Lady Topper coach to reach 100 victories with the program. Clark-Heard took over a program with a 9-21 record in 2011-12, and she led the Hilltoppers to a 22-11 mark in her first season (2012-13), a 13-win improvement, the largest in Sun Belt Conference history.
In 2017-18 she guided Tashia Brown to AP All-American Honorable Mention honors and C-USA Player of the Year accolades. That same season her Hilltoppers went 24-9 and won both the regular season and tournament titles.
Following the 2016-17 season, Clark-Heard was invited to serve as an assistant coach for the United States U-23 National Team in the inaugural Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo, Japan. During her second stint with the red, white, and blue, Clark-Heard helped push the Americans to an undefeated record and the championship in the event, defeating their opponents by an average of 32 points.
Clark-Heard was named the C-USA Coach of the Year following the 2014-15 season and the United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division I Regional Coach of the Year.
Before taking the reigns at WKU, Clark-Heard spent five years as an assistant coach to Jeff Walz at Louisville (2007-12). During her time with the program, the Cardinals made three Sweet 16 appearances and their first Final Four appearance, finishing as the National Runner-Up in 2009.
Showing her prowess as a recruiter, she brought in the No. 12 recruiting class to UofL in 2008, followed by three consecutive Top 10 classes in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 2010 recruiting class was the highest-ranked class in school history, No. 5 nationally.
Among the most notable players Clark-Heard coached at Louisville were the overall number one pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft, Angel McCoughtry, and the overall number eight pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Shoni Shimmel. Overall, she coached five players at Louisville that went on to be drafted in the WNBA Draft.
A four-year letter-winner at WKU (1987-90), Clark-Heard was part of four NCAA Tournament teams during her Lady Topper career. She also helped guide the Lady Toppers to a pair of Sun Belt Conference Tournament championships (1988 and 1989) and two conference regular-season titles (1989 and 1990). She played in 118 games during her four years on the Hill, scoring 790 points and pulling down 615 rebounds. WKU amassed 89 victories during her four years in uniform, winning 70 percent of the games over that span and putting together three 20-win seasons.
She was named the Kentucky High School State Player of the Year (1986) while playing at Atherton High School and was inducted into the Atherton Hall of Fame in 2003.