Tennessee Tech’s Pelphrey receives 4-yr contract extension

Story: Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

Fresh off arguably the program’s best season in nearly two decades, Tennessee Tech men’s basketball head coach John Pelphrey will have the opportunity to continue to build the Golden Eagles in his image and fight for the team’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1963.

As announced by Tennessee Tech Director of Athletics Mark Wilson on Thursday, Pelphrey has received a four-year contract extension that will keep the former Kentucky Wildcat great in Cookeville through the end of the 2026-27 campaign.

“When we hired John, he was looking for a community to truly settle and call home and we were looking for a true leader that would build this program the right way,” Wilson said. “This has definitely been a win-win deal. I know that John and (Pelphrey’s wife) Tracy, as well as Grace (daughter and former Golden Eagle women’s basketball player) and Jaxson (son and former Tech men’s manager) have come to love Cookeville and the University. John has done a spectacular job in turning this program around and I have faith that he is the one that will lead the Golden Eagles back to March Madness and the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1963.”

Tasked with rebuilding the Golden Eagle program from the bottom all the way to the top upon his hiring in April 2019, Pelphrey has endured a number of additional significant challenges in his four seasons at the helm of the Tech squad, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of the NCAA Transfer Portal. Fans of the purple and gold saw signs of growth at the end of his first season in Cookeville, as Tech finished just one game out of earning a berth into the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

Pelphrey and the Tech program fought through a number of obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including battling through a particularly nasty bout with the disease himself at the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign. The purple and gold closed the year with back-to-back wins against longtime rivals Austin Peay and Murray State.

In 2021-22, Pelphrey and Golden Eagles took their next step as a unit, heading back to the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2017-18. Capturing five of its final seven regular-season contests to earn the bid, Tech made its presence count by blowing out Austin Peay in the final match-up between the two programs as league rivals.

Despite returning just five members of that team for the 2022-23 campaign, Pelphrey and his coaching staff brought in a class of 11 newcomers that helped lift the program to its highest point in more than a decade. While it took the squad some time to adapt and adjust to one another, come OVC play, the Golden Eagles got after it.

After back-to-back losses to open league action, Tech flipped the script and rolled off five straight victories, embarking on an 11-7 conference record that saw the purple and gold secure a second-place finish in the regular season standings, the best by the program since 2004-05.

Tech entered the OVC Tournament as the No. 2 seed, its highest since claiming the No. 1 position after winning the league’s regular-season crown in 2004-05. It earned them an automatic berth to the semifinals as well, the team’s 20th trip to the final four of the OVC’s postseason event.

After besting UT Martin by 15 points to earn the program’s fourth-ever appearance in the OVC Tournament title game, the Golden Eagles came within a single inch of snapping their 60-year drought of attending the Big Dance. Trailing by two points against Southeast Missouri, All-OVC First Teamer Jaylen Sebree through a full-court pass to a leaping Diante Wood.

The Anniston, Ala. native turned and buried a buzzer-beater off his back foot, appearing to win the game with what was initially ruled a 3-pointer. After an official review, it was revealed that Wood’s foot was barely touching the 3-point arc, resulting in a tie game instead. The Redhawks went on to best the Golden Eagles 89-82 to capture their first OVC title since 2000.

In conjunction with this announcement, Coach Pelphrey released the following statement to express his thanks for the opportunity:

We are honored and blessed by Mark Wilson and President Phil Oldham’s support and desire for us to lead the men’s basketball program at Tennessee Tech. They are the two biggest reasons why we are here. Being in alignment with the people you work with was a non-­negotiable if we were going to get back into leadership as a head coach. The daily approach of competing on the court, in the classroom, and being a part of the community of Cookeville is something we all believe in. So, once again, thank you gentlemen for the opportunity.

Next, I want to thank our young leaders – the student-athletes who we have the pleasure of being around every day, the young men who give all they have and compete for the purple and gold academically and athletically. Your commitment to our ‘CODE’ – leadership, books, ball, and professionalism – is much appreciated. Watching you grow as young men is why we do what we do.

To our staff: Andrew Steele, Alex Fain, Blake Gray, Stefan King, Jonas Alger, Chuck Cushman, and Hank Grenda – thank you as well. The commitment and sacrifice you and your families make for our program do not go unnoticed. Working with you guys does not feel like going to work at all.

To our academic staff: Dr. Leveda Birdwell, Dr. Samantha Bates, Virginia Lewis, and Kara Phillips – thank you for all the investments you put into supporting our student-athletes.

Also, I would like to thank my family. To my wife, Tracy: your unwavering love and support of me and my career has always been extremely humbling. You have made my dreams and goals your dreams and goals, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. You are not only my wife, but my best friend and most trusted advisor. I love you. To my children: Jaxson, Grace, and new daughter-in-law Mackenzie Coleman Pelphrey, like Tracy, your belief and commitment to our family not only moves me to emotion, but inspires me to be better every day.

Lastly, to Golden Eagle Nation: I am excited about the future, humbled by the opportunity, and looking forward to taking on the challenges that come with competing in college basketball. We can’t wait to see you in the Hoop this season!

Wings up!


Pelphrey was named the 13th head coach in Tech men’s basketball history on Apr. 12, 2019.

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.

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