Texas Tech taps Candi Whitaker

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech hired Oklahoma State associate head coach Candi Whitaker on Monday to coach its women's basketball team.

The former Lady Raiders player returns to her alma mater as the program's sixth coach. The move comes about a week after Kristy Curry left for Alabama.

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.

"It is indeed special to have a former student-athlete return to lead a program that they were a significant part of," athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. "Her leadership characteristics as a starting point guard and coach, her ties to West Texas, her experience as a Division I head coach, as well as the fact that she is a Red Raider makes her the perfect fit."

Whitaker will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday. She did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

As the starting point guard from 2000-2002, Whitaker helped lead the Lady Raiders to the NCAA round of 16 twice. Prior to her stint in Lubbock, the Texas native played two seasons for current OSU head coach Jim Littell at Seward County Community College in Kansas, where she led the nation in assists.

She joined the Cowgirls staff last April.

Whitaker was "probably the most underrated player" during her time at Texas Tech, former Lady Raider assistant coach Linden Weese said.

"She is just such a great competitor," he said. "She'd cut your heart out and show it to you. That's how competitive she was."

Weese said he saw a future coach during Whitaker's two years at Texas Tech.

"It was obvious," he said. "She was a great student of the game, what need to be done, where people needed to go and how to get them there."

After graduating from Texas Tech, Whitaker, 33, was an assistant at Valparaiso and Missouri-Kansas City. She took over the UMKC program in 2007, becoming one of the youngest head coaches in the nation at 26.

Former Lady Raider coach Marsha Sharp said in a release that Whitaker made good moves early in her coaching career.

"Her basketball IQ and work ethic are incredible," Sharp said.

Whitaker was hired by Oklahoma State to fill the vacancy of Miranda Serna, 36, who died along with Cowgirls head coach Kurt Budke, 50, and two others in a plane crash in Arkansas during a recruiting trip in November 2011.