Congratulations to John Leslie Pelphrey, PHS Class of 1987, Mr. Basketball on being named head basketball coach at Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, Tennessee. “Go John Pelphrey, Go Tiger” !
The Story – COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Following an extensive national search, Tennessee Tech University President Phil Oldham and Director of Athletics Mark Wilson announced today the hiring of John Pelphrey as the 13th men’s basketball coach in Golden Eagle history.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be at Tennessee Tech,” Pelphrey expressed. “My family and I, and our staff, were looking for a place where we could go and learn, lead and take on challenges in college basketball. We’re very appreciative of Mark Wilson and his pursuit of us. We have complete confidence and trust in him. We love the alignment between him and President Oldham and their vision for basketball at Tennessee Tech moving into the future, and we are very, very excited to be a part of that.
“We understand that there’s a lot of work to do, but we’re going to embrace that. We’re looking forward to developing relationships with the team, everyone at Tennessee Tech and the community of Cookeville.”
Pelphrey will be formally introduced as the newest member of the Tennessee Tech Athletics family with a press conference and meet-and-greet Friday, April 12, at 3:15 p.m. CT in the Eagles Nest in the Hooper Eblen Center. The press conference will serve as part of the University’s Wings Up Weekend.
“First of all, we want to welcome John, Tracy [wife], Jaxson [son] and Grace [daughter] to our University and our community with open arms,” Wilson said. “Our mission when we began this search was to find the best fit, not only for Tennessee Tech University, but also our student-athletes, our fans and our community. John Pelphrey is representative of each of those goals and we could not be more thrilled to have him aboard as the 13th head coach in Tennessee Tech men’s basketball history and are excited for what the future holds.”
President Oldham echoed those sentiments about the newest addition to the Tech Athletics Department.
“We are very excited to welcome John Pelphrey to the Tennessee Tech community,” said Oldham. “Through his tremendous career, he has shown himself to be bold, fearless and confident – the very values we look for and strive to represent within the University. He has an outstanding tradition of cultivating student-athletes and setting them on the course for future success. John is an outstanding addition and I am looking forward to seeing what his teams will be able to do on the court at the Hooper Eblen Center.”
Boasting over 25 years of Division I coaching experience, including nine as a head coach of two programs, Pelphrey most recently served as the associate head coach at the University of Alabama under former head coach Avery Johnson. He spent the past three seasons (2016-19) with the Crimson Tide, assisting the staff in the recruiting and signing of one of the top classes in school history, including eventual NBA Lottery pick Collin Sexton.
The 2017 signing class boasted two players among the top-25 recruits in the country, both five-star recruits as listed by, as well as two four-star players and a three-star, while four of the five signees were ranked among the top-100 players in the nation, according to the site. Combined, the Alabama signing class was ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation.
Prior to spending time as an analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network throughout the 2015-16 basketball season, Pelphrey spent four seasons (2011-15) in what was his second stint as an assistant coach under former head coach Billy Donovan at the University of Florida. In his 10 total years with the Gators, Pelphrey was instrumental in helping the team claim four SEC championships and secure seven total NCAA Tournament bids, including appearances in the 2000 national championships game, the 2014 Final Four, the 2012 and 2013 Elite Eight and a Sweet 16 showing in 1999.
In between his two stops at Florida, the Paintsville, Ky. native earned head coach opportunities at the University of South Alabama for five seasons from 2002-07 and the University of Arkansas for four seasons from 2007-11. Pelphrey holds a career 149-122 record (.550) as head coach, including an 80-63 (.559) mark at South Alabama and a record of 69-59 (.539) at Arkansas.
In 2007, Pelphrey was selected to lead the Arkansas program and responded by guiding the team to 23 wins in 2007-08, the best total by a first-year coach in the school’s history. They went on to an appearance in the SEC Tournament final, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That 2007-08 Razorbacks finished with a 23-12 record, including an impressive 6-2 mark against ranked opponents. The 23 wins were the most at Arkansas since 1999.
Throughout his stint as the Razorbacks’ head coach, Pelphrey coached four All-SEC performers (Sonny Weems, Michael Washington, Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke) and two SEC All-Freshman honorees (Fortson, Marshawn Powell). He was also instrumental in recruiting eventual All-SEC performer B.J. Young.
During his five seasons as the head coach of South Alabama, Pelphrey led the Jaguars to a Sun Belt regular season championship and a conference tournament title. That 2005-06 USA squad earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament after leading the Sun Belt Conference in scoring margin and 3-point defense. Earning Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors, Pelphrey guided South Alabama to a 24-7 mark, with the team improving its offensive output by 11 points over the previous season.
In his final season at USA, Pelphrey took the Jaguars to an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) following a 20-12 record, including a 13-5 mark in Sun Belt play.
Prior to Pelphrey’s first stop in Gainesville as a Florida assistant, he spent two seasons on Donovan’s staff at Marshall University, where the Thundering Herd went 18-9 in 1995 and 17-11 in 1996 after going 9-18 the year before they arrived. Prior to that, Pelphrey spent a season as an assistant coach under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State in 1994, where the Cowboys achieved a 24-10 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Throughout his time in the SEC, Pelphrey coached 14 players that were drafted in the NBA including World Champions: Udonis Haslem (3x), Mike Miller (2x), Matt Bonner (2x), Jason Williams and David Lee, who was also a 2-time NBA All-Star.
Pelphrey began his coaching career following one season playing professionally in France and Spain.
He played two years at Kentucky under Sutton and three under Rick Pitino. Part of UK’s class known as “The Unforgettables,” he was inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame in 2005 and named the Wildcats’ Student-Athlete of the Year in 1989. His jersey number (No. 34) was retired in 1992. During his Kentucky career, he started 90 of 114 games and finished with a career scoring average of 11.0 points.
Named Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky as a senior at Paintsville High School in 1987, he scored 2,477 points and grabbed 1,316 rebounds in his career.
Pelphrey is married to the former Tracy Lyon and they have a son, Jaxson, and a daughter, Grace.