McKinney talks about winning national titles

Updated: April 18, 2005, 6:16 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Cristy McKinney, the winningest women's basketball coach in Rice history, is now Clemson's coach.

McKinney will take over for Jim Davis, who stepped down last month as Clemson's winningest coach to become an assistant athletic director at the school. She gets a five-year contract with a base salary of $150,000, as well as $80,000 in supplemental income for personal appearances and radio and television. The school also plans to negotiate an incentive package.

McKinney, 216-139 in 12 years with the Lady Owls, said she felt she accomplished as much as she could at Rice with six 20-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances, and a share of the Western Athletic Conference title this season with perennial powerhouse Louisiana Tech.

"I want to win and I want to win big," McKinney said Monday. "The facilities, the resources and the support I have here, I think we can do it."

She even mentioned winning a national championship.

"Realistically, the opportunity to do that at Clemson is a whole lot greater," McKinney said.

For McKinney to achieve any of her goals, she has to rebuild a once proud program that has fallen on hard times. The Lady Tigers have made 14 NCAA tournament appearances since 1987. But Clemson had losing records in two of the past three years and finished this season at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference at 8-20.

"She understands building a program," Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said. "She understands working against the odds in a competitive conference."

McKinney doesn't think the Lady Tigers will stay in the basement.

"I think we'll compete next year. I think there is some talent here, some athleticism," she said.

But to make it back to the elite, Clemson needs to get better players, especially those from South Carolina who are leaving the state in droves.

"We have to go out and recruit some players to get to the level Duke and North Carolina are," McKinney said.

McKinney is used to building programs. When she took over at Rice in 1993, the Lady Owls had nine losing seasons in the previous 11 years. McKinney slowly built a solid program.

In 2000, Rice finished 22-10, winning the WAC tournament and upsetting No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA Tournament. Even the addition of Louisiana Tech to the WAC didn't slow the Lady Owls. They won the tournament title in 2005, losing to Georgia in the first round of the NCAAs.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press