Whitaker named Women’s Basketball Head Coach at North Alabama

The search for the next women’s basketball coach at the University of North Alabama has concluded, as UNA Director of Athletics Dr. Josh Looney announced the hiring of Candi Whitaker. Whitaker and the University agreed to terms on a four-year contract to lead the Lions.
Whitaker brings 16 years of head coaching experience at multiple levels, including stints at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) from 2006-2012, Texas Tech — her alma mater — from 2013-2017 and most recently at Missouri Western from 2019-2024.
This will not be the first time Looney has hired Whitaker, as he led the charge on her hire at Missouri Western in 2019. In five seasons with the Griffons, Whitaker had an overall record of 100-47 and led MWSU to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in 2022 and the MIAA Regular Season Championship in 2024. She was named the 2024 MIAA Coach of the Year.
“We’re bringing a difference maker to North Alabama with the addition of Coach Whitaker,” said Dr. Looney. “Candi is a talented coach whose leadership impact expands beyond her basketball program. I’m fortunate to have worked alongside Candi previously and experienced her championship approach to program building. From her positive interactions as a role model for the women in her program, to her influence and engagement with University colleagues and the community at large, Coach Whitaker will make a difference at UNA and her family will be an asset to the Shoals community. We’re excited to welcome Candi, (husband) Matt, (and children) Westin, William, and Callahan to The Pride!”
Whitaker becomes the ninth head coach in school history and takes over a program that has won over 700 games since 1975. Whitaker brings a career record of 231-222.
“My family and I could not be more excited to join the UNA family and the Shoals community,” said Whitaker. “I was blown away by the campus and the city of Florence on my first visit. The community support and the rapid growth of UNA’s campus and success makes it an exciting time to be a Lion. I’d like to thank President Ken Kitts, Dr. Josh Looney and the hiring committee for this opportunity, and I am ready to get to work.”
Whitaker has many accomplishments on her resume, including coaching seven WNBA draftees. She also produced seven nationally-ranked recruiting classes in her coaching career, led UMKC to its first and second postseason appearances in school history, led Texas Tech to one of the largest season-to-season turnarounds from six wins to 15 wins in 2014-15 and led MWSU to its first Elite Eight appearance in 27 years.
Her players have also exemplified success in the classroom with 61 academic all-conference selections over her time as a head coach.
Whitaker has participated in five career NCAA tournaments.
Before starting her coaching career, Whitaker played two seasons at Texas Tech and helped the Red Raiders to a pair of Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2001 and 2002. She was team captain both seasons after transferring from Seward Community College, where she was an NJCAA All-American and the NJCAA national assist leader in 2000.
After her playing career, Whitaker went on to Valparaiso University as an assistant coach, where she earned her Master’s degree in 2004.
Whitaker then went on to coach at UMKC from 2004-2012, where she started as an assistant coach before being elevated to interim head coach in 2006. The interim tag was removed in 2007 and she finished with 77 wins over six season. Her final season was the most successful at that point in UMKC women’s basketball history, as the Kangaroos finished 22-12 overall and 11-7 in conference play and made it to the first round of the WNIT. From there, she went to Oklahoma State as associate head coach before leaving for the head coaching position in Lubbock.
In 2013, Whitaker was named the head coach at Texas Tech, where she won 54 games over five seasons. After Texas Tech, Whitaker spent the 2018-19 season away from the hardwood until her call with Looney at Missouri Western. In 2019, she made her way back to the Midwest and finished with a 100-47 record over five seasons.
In the community, Whitaker was recently named the Bill Synder Woman of Impact by the St. Joseph Sports Commission in 2023. She was also recognized by the St. Joseph YWCA’s Women of Excellence Program.
A formal press conference will take place as early as next week to introduce Whitaker to the Shoals community. More details on the date and location will be announced later.
Renaissance Search and Consulting assisted the University with its head coaching search.
“College basketball head coaching searches can be very fluid and eventful, but our search was efficient and effective,” said Looney. “The energy and expertise of Herb Courtney and Adam Gordon at Renaissance Search, as well as the efforts from former UNA women’s basketball student-athlete and assistant athletic director for internal operations Dr. Janae Lyde, helped us engage an impressive pool of highly qualified candidates that resulted in an outstanding leader joining our team at North Alabama.”


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