Eastern Kentucky University head women’s basketball coach Larry Joe Inman announced his retirement Tuesday at an afternoon press conference in Alumni Coliseum, just a few feet away from the court that he called home for the last 20 years. Inman ends his 28-year college coaching career with 480 wins, a 60 percent winning percentage, 10 Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championships, six OVC tournament titles, eight OVC Coach of the Year awards and six NCAA tournament appearances.
Inman led Eastern Kentucky to five OVC regular-season titles and two tournament championships in 20 seasons as the Lady Colonels’ head coach. He led EKU to the only two NCAA tournament appearances in school history and ranks as Eastern’s all-time winningest basketball coach with 319 victories.
“I want to thank Eastern Kentucky University for the opportunity to serve as the head women’s basketball coach for the past 20 years,” Inman said. “This has been a very rewarding experience. It has been one that has impacted my life as well as many others. It has touched my life and blessed me so much to see our student-athletes come through our program and become successful individuals.”
Before his retirement, Inman was the 27th winningest active coach in NCAA Division I. Now, his 480 career victories ranks 43rd all-time in Division I women’s basketball.
“Larry Joe Inman came to EKU at the women’s basketball program’s darkest hour and has provided us with many of its very brightest moments,” EKU President Dr. Doug Whitlock said. “For that, and for the extraordinarily fine way he has represented this institution, everyone at Eastern owes him a debt of gratitude.”
“I have really enjoyed working with Coach Inman these last three years,” EKU Director of Athletics Mark Sandy said. “I appreciate his long-time service to Eastern Kentucky University and our women’s basketball program. We wish him every success in his retirement.
“Coach Inman has been a leader in women’s basketball, especially the Ohio Valley Conference. His legacy will continue to serve as a foundation to EKU Basketball. All that he has accomplished during his tenure at the helm of the Lady Colonels will benefit us as we move forward.”
The Gallatin, Tenn., native began his collegiate coaching career at Middle Tennessee State, an OVC member until 2000. In eight years at the Murfreesboro, Tenn., school, Inman won more than 68 percent of his games, was named OVC Coach of the Year three times, led MTSU to six OVC regular-season championships and four tournament titles. In his last four seasons on the Blue Raiders’ bench, he led the program to four straight OVC regular season and tournament championships and four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
He compiled an overall record of 161-73 at Middle Tennessee. Inman went 73-12 in OVC games, losing only four conference games his final five seasons.
Inman concludes his career with more wins as an OVC women’s basketball head coach than any other in conference history. He is one of only two coaches in OVC history to win an NCAA tournament game, garnering two victories in the Big Dance. His overall record stands at 480-317 (.602) and he posted a 277-134 (.674) mark in regular-season OVC games.
“In his 28 years on the bench, Coach Inman has brought a passion and intensity to the game of basketball that will long be remembered,” said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, OVC Commissioner. “He has been one of the great leaders and coaches not only in the Ohio Valley Conference but in the nation as well. He has had a remarkable tenure, claimed numerous championships and his student-athletes have garnered many athletic and academic honors. We wish him all the best in the future.”
Middle Tennessee’s No. 5 seed in the 1985 NCAA tournament is the highest ever by an OVC school. Eastern Kentucky’s No. 12 seed in the 2005 tournament is the highest by an OVC team in the last 15 years.
When Inman accepted the head coaching position at EKU, prior to the 1988-89 season, the program had only posted a winning conference record twice in the 11-year history of the OVC. After posting a 6-6 record in league games his second season, Inman led Eastern to winning conference records in 12 of the next 14 seasons.
Three years into his tenure, Inman became the first coach to earn the OVC Coach of the Year award at two different schools. He took home the honor in 1991 after leading Eastern Kentucky to its first winning season in six years.
Inman led the Lady Colonels to their first conference championship in 1995 and won his second OVC Coach of the Year award. The team won 19 games and tied with three other OVC schools for the league title. Two years later, EKU won its first outright OVC regular-season championship and, in the process, established a league record for conference victories with 16, while also setting a program mark with 24 overall wins.
The 1996-97 edition finished 24-6 overall and 16-2 in OVC play. The Lady Colonels defeated Tennessee Tech by four points for their first-ever OVC tournament championship and earned the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament.
The following year, Inman led Eastern Kentucky to its third regular-season conference championship in four years. In 2002, EKU won its fourth conference banner and played in the WNIT. Inman led his squad to an overtime road win over Missouri State in the first round for the school’s first-ever postseason tournament victory and a trip to the WNIT Sweet 16.
In 2004-05, Inman earned his eighth OVC Coach of the Year honor while leading the Lady Colonels to both the conference regular-season and tournament titles, and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Eastern’s program has been one of consistency since the 1990s, finishing in the top half of the league in all but five seasons. Over the past 15 seasons, Eastern has an impressive record of 298-198, a .600 winning percentage, and has posted six 20-plus win seasons.
In addition to remodeling two arenas with a host of championship banners, many student-athletes have earned individual honors under Inman’s guidance. At EKU and Middle Tennessee combined, 30 different players earned 52 all-conference selections during Inman’s career, including 27 first team honorees. A total of 23 players were named to the OVC all-freshman team. Inman has coached four OVC Players of the Year and three OVC Freshmen of the Year. Kim Mays (1994 and 1995) and Chrissy Roberts (1998) won OVC Player of the Year awards during Inman’s tenure at Eastern Kentucky.
In 1996-97, Roberts won the College Basketball Hall of Fame’s Ed Steitz Award and the AT&T Long Distance Award for leading NCAA Division I players in three-point field goal percentage. Following that outstanding junior year, her uniform, practice gear and shoes were placed into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In November, Roberts was inducted into the EKU Athletics Hall of Fame.
In addition to success on the court, Inman’s teams have been equally successful in the classroom. With Inman leading the program, 100 percent of incoming freshmen that completed their eligibility have earned a degree.
As a team, EKU was the National Statistical Champion for scoring and steals in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
Inman’s coaching career began at Gallatin Junior High in 1970 where he went 51-4 in three seasons. From 1973-78, he went 126-24 (.840) as the head coach at Mount Juliet High School in Nashville. In just five years, Inman led Mount Juliet to five district titles, four regional championships, three Nashville Interscholastic League titles and the 1977 Tennessee Class AAA state title.
Inman is a graduate of Austin Peay State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1970. He received his master’s degree from Tennessee State University in 1978. Inman is married to the former Bobbie Gene Follis of Shelbyville, Tenn. They have one son, Jody, and two daughters, Latrice and Tiffany.
A search for the program’s eighth head coach will begin immediately.