Coastal’s Ellis earns honor from first college program

Forty-four years after taking his first college job at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., Coastal Carolina men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis will cement his place in the program’s history.

The playing surface in the Dallas Floyd Phoenix Arena will be named in honor of former Cumberland and long-time Division I men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis on Aug. 17 in a ceremony on campus, as announced this week by Cumberland University Director of Athletics Ron Pavan.

“Coach Ellis has impacted so many lives over his coaching career that we could think of no more fitting tribute than to name the court in his honor where his college coaching career began,” Pavan said.

Ellis coached three seasons at then Cumberland Junior College from 1973-75, compiling a 78-12 mark along with two league championships. He served as a high school and junior high coach before his tenure in Lebanon.

Ellis completed his 43rd season as a collegiate head coach in 2017-18, posting an overall record of 826-496. He is one of four coaches in NCAA Division I history to make multiple NCAA Tournament appearances with four separate schools and has been named conference Coach of the Year six times in his career.

He has guided his squads to 10 NCAA Tournaments and earned 13 NIT bids. Ellis’ teams have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament three times, once with Clemson in 1990 and twice with Auburn (1999 and 2003).

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the years I spent at Cumberland. It was a truly great experience in my life,” Ellis said. “The players were extremely committed and dedicated to being successful and gave me the impetus to move on to a higher level.

“Cumberland has a rich tradition that alumni should be very proud of,” Ellis continued. “I am honored to represent that time in the school’s history and those players. It was a family experience for me as a coach but also my first child was born while we were in Lebanon.”

Ellis coached nine years at South Alabama after leaving Cumberland, winning three Sun Belt Conference Championships and making two NCAA Tournament appearances. He then coached 10 years at Clemson, winning the school’s only ACC Championship (1990) and garnering three NCAA Tournament berths.

He spent 10 years at Auburn as well, earning three NCAA Tournament bids as well as two SEC West titles. Ellis worked three years in broadcasting before beginning his current position at Coastal Carolina in 2007-08, collecting a pair of Big South regular season championships and two conference tournament titles, making him one of only 12 coaches in NCAA Division I history to lead four different institutions to the NCAA Tournament.

With a victory in February, 2015, Eliis became the only coach in NCAA Division I history to tally 150-plus wins at four institutions. He is also one of two coaches to win championships in both the ACC and SEC.

“I am deeply honored and very appreciative of Cumberland and the opportunity they gave me. I have great memories of the University and my relationships with Dr. Stockton and Boone Swain, my assistant coach. The camaraderie with the faculty, administration and fans is something I continue to cherish,” Ellis said.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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