After just two seasons as the head coach of the Coppin State women’s basketball program, Laura Harper was named Wednesday afternoon as the new head coach at Towson.
Harper, who turned 36 on April 11, replaces Diane Richardson, who left the Tigers on April 5 to fill the vacancy at Temple. Towson introduced Harper at a news conference at SECU Arena Thursday morning.
“I am so ecstatic to be here,” Harper said. “I don’t think anything could have properly prepared me to be accepting my dream job at Towson.
“Towson is a championship-caliber program, and anyone would be proud to lead what [the student-athletes] have instilled. I’m just here to not mess things up, because you [student-athletes] have killed it, and I’m just so grateful for this opportunity.”
In two years with the Eagles, Harper compiled a 17-26 record that included a 2-13 mark in 2020-21, her first season as a head coach during which she had to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
Last winter, Harper manufactured one of the biggest reversals in the sport as Coppin State forged a 15-13 record (including 9-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) for its first winning season since 2013-14, won a school-record six games against NCAA Division I nonconference opponents, and enjoyed a six-game winning streak.
For her efforts, Harper was named the MEAC’s Coach of the Year. She joined Doug Robertson in 1991 and Derek Brown in 2005 and 2006 as the only Eagles coaches to earn the postseason honor.
“Laura Harper embodies all that Towson Athletics is looking for in the next leader of our women’s basketball program,” Tigers athletic director Steve Eigenbrot said in the statement. “Her background and understanding of this area uniquely positioned her to build on the amazing foundation we have in place. We have found an excellent, high-energy leader in Laura that represents a thrilling next chapter for this program.”
Harper will be tasked with continuing the success that Richardson nurtured during her five-year tenure with the Tigers. The program made more postseason appearances (two) under Richardson than it had in its previous 49 years (one).
Richardson amassed an 80-66 mark, led the 2021-22 squad to a single season-record 24 victories, and guided the 2018-19 team to the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth. She also developed Kionna Jeter into becoming the first player in Towson history to be chosen in the WNBA draft when she was selected in the third round a year ago. Jeter was also the first player in program history to earn three consecutive All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team honors.
“I think the championship-caliber culture that was instilled by Coach Rich is admirable and coming from the leadership that Brenda Frese taught me at the University of Maryland, I know what it takes to win,” Harper said in a news release Wednesday.
One person who has faith in Harper is Frese, who guided Maryland to its first and only national championship in 2006 with help from Harper, who was named the Final Four Most Valuable Player after averaging 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in six tournament games.
“This is a home run hire for Towson,” Frese said. “Laura is a rising star in our profession. All she does is win wherever she has been. Laura is a passionate, relational, competitive person who will continue to uphold the standard for the Towson Tigers. What a great day for Towson Women’s Basketball.”
Eigenbrot told The Sun in an interview Wednesday that Towson narrowed its search to three finalists, all of whom had head coaching experience.
“Laura stood out as a candidate because of her strong ties to the area and our team felt like she was a really good fit for what we needed in our next leader here at the university,” he said. “Her research on our roster and institution was unmatched, and her energy and authenticity was impactful as well.”