Mercer Announces Michelle Clark-Heard as Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Story courtesy Mercer Athletics

Athletics department officials at Mercer University announced that 26-year collegiate coaching veteran Michelle Clark-Heard has been named as the women’s basketball program’s 11th head coach.
Clark-Heard makes the move to Middle Georgia after spending the 2023-24 season on the staff at Mississippi State. She has amassed a 252-147 record in 13 seasons as a head coach, including previous stops at Kentucky State, Western Kentucky and Cincinnati, and has led her teams to seven postseason appearances, including four NCAA Tournament berths. She also has two regular season conference championships and a quartet of conference tournament titles in her stable as well.
Michelle Clark-Heard has already established herself as a coach that can build and maintain championship programs,” said Mercer Director of Athletics Jim Cole. “She has had tremendous success at every stop in her coaching career, and has done so with great vigor and integrity. She possesses the work ethic, passion and character traits that will only translate to success as the leader of our women’s basketball program, and I could not be more excited to welcome her and her husband, Luther, to the Mercer family.”
Clark-Heard served a hybrid position on the Mississippi State coaching staff this past season as both an assistant coach and the Assistant Athletics Director for Women’s Basketball. The Bulldogs flourished with her on the sidelines, amassing 21 victories and an appearance in the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT), while ranking among NCAA Division I’s top scoring and rebounding teams, as well as one of the nation’s top shot-blocking squads. Mississippi State also spent multiple weeks in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls.
Prior to trekking to eastern Mississippi, Clark-Heard compiled 74 wins across five seasons (2018-23) as the head coach at Cincinnati, including 20+-win campaigns in each of her first two seasons at the helm of the Bearcats. She mentored a pair of all-America selections, while the program also raked in seven All-American Athletic Conference honorees, a pair of AAC All-Freshman squad recognitions and the 2019 AAC Freshman of the Year award. Cincinnati advanced all the way through to the quarterfinal round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) in her first season, and followed it up with a 22-9 clip in year two.
“This is a great day for Mercer women’s basketball as we welcome Michelle Clark-Heard to the Bears family,” said MU’s Chief Operating Officer and Senior Woman Administrator Sybil Blalock. “It was very important for us throughout the search process that we found the right leader and person that would bring both excellence and integrity to the women’s basketball program, and I believe Coach Clark-Heard exemplifies both of those qualities. Her passion, energy, knowledge of the game and recruiting acumen are all characteristics that make her a perfect fit for Mercer.”
After serving seven seasons as an assistant coach at both Nebraska (1998-2002) and Cincinnati (2002-05), Clark-Heard was named head coach at Kentucky State prior to the 2005-06 campaign and led the Thoroughbreds on an 18-game turnaround across two seasons, inheriting a squad that posted just one win during the 2004-05 season, and closing out her 2-year stint in Frankfort, Ky., by leading KSU to a 19-9 clip and a fourth-place finish in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).
She would spend the next five seasons (2007-12) as an assistant coach at Louisville where her presence on the sidelines resulted in 119 wins and four NCAA Tournament berths, including an appearance in the 2008-09 national championship game. The Cardinals also made Sweet 16 appearances to cap both the  2007-08 and 2010-11 campaigns. She showed her prowess at the UofL as a recruiter as well, bringing in the No. 12 recruiting class to in 2008, followed by three consecutive Top 10 classes in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 2010 recruiting class was the highest-ranked class in school history and was listed as the No. 5 crop, nationally.
Among the most notable players Clark-Heard coached at Louisville were the overall number one pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft, Angel McCoughtry, and the overall number eight pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Shoni Shimmel. Overall, she coached five players at Louisville that went on to be selected in the WNBA Draft.
Clark-Heard transitioned her success with the Cardinals over to her second head-coaching stint, this time as the skipper at Western Kentucky where she amassed a 154-47 clip across six seasons (2014-18) and made six postseason appearances (4 NCAA Tournaments). With Clark-Heard at the helm, WKU captured four conference tournament and two regular season championships, and became the second-fastest Lady Topper coach to reach 100 victories with the program. She inherited a 9-21 team following the 2011-12 campaign, and led the Hilltoppers to a 22-11 mark in her first season (2012-13). The 13-win improvement still ranks as the largest in Sun Belt Conference history.
Clark-Heard was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year following a 30-5 clip in 2014-15, and was also named the United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division I Regional Coach of the Year. Following the 2016-17 season, she was invited to serve as an assistant coach for the United States U-23 National Team in the inaugural Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo, Japan. During her second stint with the Red, White and Blue, Clark-Heard helped push the Americans to an undefeated record and the championship of the event.
“I’d like to take this time to thank President Bill Underwood and Director of Athletics Jim Cole for allowing me the opportunity to join the Mercer family,” Clark-Heard said. “My family and I can’t wait to get to Macon and get started. I look forward to continuing the winning tradition that has been established for many years in the program already. The passion and pride built around Mercer makes this such an exciting time, and I can’t wait to meet our amazing young ladies and get to work. Let’s Go!”
A native of Louisville, Ky., Clark-Heard played in 118 games across four illustrious seasons (1987-90) at Western Kentucky and helped lead the Lady Toppers to four-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, as well as a pair of Sun Belt Conference Tournament (1987-88, 1988-89) and regular season (1988-89, 1989-90) championships. She scored 790 points and pulled down 615 rebounds across her collegiate career, while also helping WKU amass 89 victories, including a trio of 20-win seasons.
She was named the Kentucky High School State Player of the Year (1986) while playing at Atherton High School and was inducted into the Atherton Hall of Fame in 2003.
Clark-Heard earned her bachelor’s degree in recreation at Western Kentucky, as well as a master’s degree in educational administration at Nebraska. She and her husband, Luther, recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

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