Candi Whitaker begins new role as Texas Tech coach; ex-Lady Raiders guard replaces Curry

Candi Whitaker's introduction as Texas Tech's basketball coach was probably news to many Lady Raider fans on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old mother of one son is expecting a second in September.

"We're thrilled for our new baby to be a Texan and born a Red Raider," said the former Lady Raiders guard.

Whitaker succeeds Kristy Curry, who took the job at Alabama this month.

As the starting point guard from 2000-2002, Whitaker twice helped lead the Lady Raiders reach the NCAA round of 16. She said she intends to recruit standouts at West Texas schools — a signature of her former coach Marsha Sharp — but also to hit the metropolitan areas of the state.

"If there is a West Texas kid, like I mentioned, we're not going to let them out of our home backyard," said Whitaker, of Canyon, Texas. "But we're going to reach out and get the best players that we can possibly find that believe in what we're getting done here."

Whitaker was an associate coach at Oklahoma State last season. She was an assistant at Valparaiso and Missouri-Kansas City, and took over as head coach of the UMKC program in 2007.

Whitaker's return marks the second time in the past six months the school has hired a former athlete as a coach. In December, Kliff Kingsbury was hired to replace football coach Tommy Tuberville, who went to Cincinnati.

Whitaker takes over a program that has won eight conference titles, 20 NCAA appearances and a national title in 1993. In recent years, attendance has waned along with the program's success. Last year the Lady Raiders had their first winning Big 12 record in Curry's seven seasons.

Whitaker said she'll work on building her staff in coming weeks.

"We're going to just hit on all aspects of the program to continue to grow and move it forward," she said.

Sharp said Whitaker is competitive and will work tirelessly. After being a head coach at UMKC, there were areas Whitaker needed to strengthen, such as game planning and recruiting.

"That's why she went back to Oklahoma State," Sharp said.

Whitaker will have to deal with the loss of four starters at Texas Tech.

"There will probably be some unknowns, but I assume it will be like every year — that every game's a battle, nothing is easy," she said.

Whitaker said she's learned much from Sharp.

"She's just been an unbelievable mentor to me from day one of deciding I wanted to coach," she said. "I've kind of given her a hard time and begged her not to change her cellphone because I'm going to be calling her a lot. She is the biggest resource for me, and I will utilize her."

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt said he wanted a leader, a winner, a role model and someone driven to succeed at a high level.

"The fact that she is a Lady Raider, the fact that she is a West Texan just helped make her the perfect person to lead our Lady Raider program forward," he said.

Whitaker has imagined this day for a long time.

"This is something I've always dreamed of," she said. "From an early age, I wanted to coach, and this is a dream come true for me."