UAFS Director of Athletics Curtis Janz has announced the hiring of Tari Cummings as the new head women’s basketball coach.
Cummings, who was an assistant coach at NCAA Division I Tulsa this past season, succeeds former Lady Lions coach Elena Lovato, who resigned earlier this month to become an assistant coach at NCAA Division I Mississippi State.
A native of nearby Pocola, Okla., Cummings becomes only the fifth head coach in the history of the Lady Lions program and is the first former player to be head coach of the Lady Lions. Cummings, who is a member of the Lions Athletics Hall of Fame, played two seasons for the Lady Lions and served as assistant coach for four seasons under longtime head coach Louis Whorton.
“Tari brings a wealth of experience with her to UAFS and that includes her time here as a player and as an assistant with coach Louis Whorton. She has a gift of connecting with people, which will translate well with recruiting and developing student-athletes on and off the court,” Janz said. “I believe Tari will continue to build a program that will develop young ladies to be successful in all parts of their lives.”
During her two seasons (1997-99) as a Lady Lion, Cummings earned All-America honors in 1999 and helped the team record a seventh-place NJCAA National Tournament finish in 1998. At UAFS, she scored 1,262 points. Cummings then finished her eligibility at Oklahoma State, where she earned All-Big 12 honors in 2002, averaging 13.1 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game.
After graduating from OSU, Cummings served as Whorton’s assistant coach at UAFS for four seasons (2003-07). She helped lead the Lady Lions to three NJCAA National Tournament appearances, including two Final Four performances and a consolation championship, and coached three NJCAA All-Americans during her tenure.
“This place shaped me as a player, as a person and as a coach. The love and pride I have for this program and university runs so deep,” Cummings said. “It definitely means a lot to be coming home where we have such a loyal fan base. I’m excited about being here. There is such an enthusiasm and support for women’s basketball in this community and university. I’m ready to get started.”
Cummings inherits a Lady Lions team that finished 20-11 overall and 10-4 in the Heartland Conference this past season, finished runner-up in the conference tournament and made the program’s second NCAA Division II National Tournament appearance in school history.
She got to watch that team first hand this past season when the Golden Hurricane played the Lady Lions in a preseason exhibition game, and she said she plans on running a similar offensive and defensive style that has been the Lady Lions’ trademark over the years – an up-tempo offense with pressure defense.
“Your style of play is predicated by your personnel. I know some of the players after watching them last year when we played them in an exhibition game, and it fits what I want to do – up-tempo on offense with pressure defense,” Cummings said.
Prior to joining Golden Hurricane coach Matilda Mossman’s staff last season, Cummings was an assistant coach at Arkansas from 2011-17, helping the Razorbacks post a 116-82 (.586) mark and advance to the postseason three of the six seasons, including NCAA second round appearances in 2012 and 2015 and a WNIT second round appearance in 2013. She served as the team’s recruiting coordinator, coached the post players and was the team’s liaison with the academic center.
Prior to Arkansas, Cummings spent two seasons at Houston (2009-11), coaching the guards and serving as the recruiting coordinator. During the 2010-11 season, the Cougars posted a 26-6 overall record, including a perfect 16-0 mark in Conference USA, won the C-USA Regular Season Championship and played in the NCAA Tournament First Round.
She also was an assistant coach for two seasons at Cincinnati (2007-09).
Cummings earned an associate of arts degree from UAFS in 1999 and her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oklahoma State in 2003. She has a daughter, Tiya