CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball head coach Jim Foster is announcing his retirement after 40 years on the bench.
“Chattanooga was always a fondness for both of us,” Foster said. “When David [Blackburn] reached out, I was more than excited for the opportunity and the challenge that it presented. I have a lot of respect for [former Chattanooga coach] Wes [Moore]. I knew the success the program had and liked the challenge of maintaining that.
“On one side, the program is where I feel comfortable,” Foster said. “On the other, both my sons expressed interest in hanging out with me more often. [My wife] Donna’s moved three or four times for me. It’s time to do something for her.”
With that sentiment expressed, a defining chapter in Foster’s life came to a close.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Coach Foster on a remarkable career that has included 40 years of amazing accomplishments,” stated UTC Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Mark Wharton. “We are grateful for his commitment to excellence during his five years at UTC and the impact he had on our University. We are all going to miss Jim and Donna, but we are excited for them as they enter the next phase of their lives.”
Foster spent his final five seasons at Chattanooga, where the Mocs posted an overall record of 120-40 (.750) and 76-10 in Southern Conference action. UTC was undefeated in league play (32-0) over his first two seasons and had 20 or more wins four times.
Foster led Chattanooga to four consecutive Southern Conference regular-season and SoCon tournament titles, advancing to the postseason every year. He was named the SoCon Coach of the Year in 2014-15 and earned Tennessee Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year in each of his first two seasons. In his fourth year, Foster led Chattanooga to its fifth consecutive SoCon tournament title, the first school in league history to accomplish the feat.
In his five years on the bench, the Mocs have had one SoCon Athlete of the Year, one SoCon Player of the Year, Four Defensive Players of the Year, 16 all-conference performers, four all-freshman team selections, four SoCon Tournament MVPs and 15 All-SoCon Tournament picks.
The Mocs earned a top-25 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Top 25 in the 2014-15 season following wins over No. 4 Tennessee and No. 7 Stanford at the Roundhouse. UTC climbed as high as 17 in the AP Top 25 and 18 in the Coaches Poll.
In his first season, the Mocs went 29-4 and were 18-0 in SoCon play. UTC posted three commanding victories to take home the SoCon tournament title. That was followed with another 29-4 season in his second year on the bench. UTC was 14-0 in league play and had to take ETSU to overtime to claim his second straight SoCon tournament crown.
Over the next two years, the Mocs tied Mercer for the regular-season title and the two teams met in the league tournament final for a pair of thrilling Mocs victories. After the top-seeded Bears managed to take a one-point lead in the 2016 final, UTC closed out the game with a 12-3 run for an eight-point victory. In 2017, the No. 1 seeded Mocs mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to claim their 18th SoCon tournament title with a two-point victory.
This season, Foster claimed his 900th career victory with a 58-41 win on the road at Western Carolina. He became the eighth coach in NCAA women’s basketball history at all levels to earn 900 wins and is seventh on the list with an overall record of 903-347.
He increased the level of competition at the Roundhouse, bringing in nationally ranked teams such as UConn the year following the Huskies’ third straight national championship. He also brought in Notre Dame, Tennessee, Stanford, Louisville, Indiana and Florida as well as mid-major dynamos Florida Gulf Coast and Green Bay.
Attendance increased in his five season by nearly 1,000 fans per game. In the 2016-17 season, the Mocs averaged nearly 3,000 fans and ranked 36th in the nation, ahead of Indiana, Georgia and NC State. Last year, the Mocs ranked 39th among all NCAA Division I teams with an average attendance of 3,027.
Prior to Chattanooga, Foster spent 11 seasons at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes qualified for a school-record 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances with three trips to the Sweet 16 and six Big Ten regular-season titles. OSU ranked in the national top 10 in five of his last eight seasons and he was a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.
In Foster’s 11 seasons at Vanderbilt, 10 of his teams finished the season ranked in the top 25. In 1993, he guided the Commodores to the NCAA Final Four. Vanderbilt reached the Elite Eight four times and advanced to the Sweet 16 three times. He was twice named the TSWA Coach of the Year while in Nashville and was selected the 1993 United State Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year. He was the interim athletics director for just over eight months in the 1995-96 season.
Foster got his start in women’s basketball at St. Joseph’s in his hometown of Philadelphia, where he coached both women’s basketball and softball. During this time the NCAA began hosting women’s championships and Foster took the Eagles to the NCAA tournament in six consecutive seasons and advanced to the second round four times.
Foster is one of just two coaches to record 200 or more victories at three different schools and is the only coach in NCAA history to take four different teams to the NCAA tournament. He is the only coach in the NCAA to have all four ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll as well the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll.
His coaching expanded into the international arena. He led the 2003 Young Women’s National Team and the 1997 World University Games team to the gold medal as head coach. He was an assistant coach for the 1992 Olympic bronze medal-winning team and assistant coach for the 1990 World Championship Team and the 1987 Olympic Festival Teams, who each won gold. He served as head coach for the 1993 and 1991 Junior National Teams and was assistant coach for the 1989 World Junior Championships team.
In 1992, Foster became the first and only male to be elected president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and served as the chair of the selection committee for the U19 National Team. From 1989-92, Foster was on the USA Basketball Games Committee, selecting players and staff for various teams including the 1990 World Championship Team and the 1992 Olympic Team. He also served on the USA Basketball Player Selection Committee from 1993-96. He was selected to join the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee in September 2003 for a four-year stint.
Katie Burrows (Chattanooga, 2004) will serve as the interim head coach while a nation-wide search is conducted for Foster’s replacement. Burrows (Galloway) played for the Mocs from 2001-04 and was a member of the 2004 NCAA tournament team that beat Rutgers in the first round. She was an integral member of the team that won four consecutive Southern Conference tournament titles.
She began her coaching career at the high school level and just completed her eighth season on the bench for the Mocs. She coached three seasons under former Mocs head coach Wes Moore and has been with Foster for all five years.