ELON, N.C. – After a decorated 36-year career on the sidelines, Cristy McKinney has announced her retirement from coaching after spending the last seven campaigns as an assistant coach with the Elon University women’s basketball team.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to be able to work in a profession that I truly loved for over 35 years,” McKinney said. “It’s been a rewarding career on the court, but even more so off the court. My last seven years here at Elon have been great because of the wonderful people I’ve been able to work with, the players I’ve had the opportunity to help coach and the friends I have made in this special community. I am retiring from coaching, but have developed lasting relationships that will never end. Thanks to Charlotte Smith and the Elon administration for giving me this opportunity. I’m sure I will miss some aspects of coaching, but am excited for new adventures.”
Throughout her career, McKinney spent 19 seasons as a head coach across five years at Clemson University (2005-10), 12 at Rice University (1993-2005) and two at University of Montevallo (1984-86). She also spent time as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky University on two different occasions (1982-84 and 1986-93) and at Elon for the last seven seasons (2011-18). In her second stint with Western Kentucky, McKinney helped lead the Lady Toppers to the national championship game in 1992.
Working primarily with post players at Elon, McKinney most recently helped Malaya Johnson and Ra’Shika White to Second Team All-CAA honors this season with White also picking up CAA Sixth Player of the Year honors. In all, McKinney helped coach Phoenix student-athletes to 11 All-CAA and All-Southern Conference team awards with Jenifer Rhodes also claiming SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2014-15.
In her seven seasons at Elon, McKinney helped the Phoenix to a 139-85 record, but her seven-year run culminated with Elon claiming back-to-back CAA Tournament championships in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to make its first two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Over the course of Elon’s last two seasons, McKinney assisted Elon to a 52-15 record with non-conference victories over Rutgers of the Big Ten, UCF of the AAC, Alabama of the SEC and 2018 NCAA Sweet 16 program Central Michigan while also beating her alma mater, NC State, in Raleigh, N.C., during the 2015-16 season. Against CAA foes, Elon has posted a 36-6 record in the last two seasons with four wins over Drexel and three over James Madison. Elon has also won six consecutive CAA Tournament games.
“Coach McKinney has been by my side on our bench since the very beginning and I cannot express enough gratitude for what she has done for our program,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “She has put in countless hours making sure our students are as good as they can possibly be on the court, but also making sure they develop into intellectual young members of our community. While she may be moving on to the next chapter in her life, we know Coach McKinney will always have a special spot with the Elon women’s basketball program.”
As a head coach at Clemson, Rice and Montevallo, McKinney amassed an overall record of 302-260. With 216 victories at Rice, McKinney stands as the school’s winningest coach and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2013. At Clemson, McKinney led the Tigers to upset wins in the first round of the ACC Tournament in 2008 and 2009. She also led the Tigers to a pair of wins over in-state rival South Carolina with the 94-92 overtime victory in 2009 standing as the last time Clemson has topped its Palmetto State rival.
A 1979 graduate of North Carolina State, McKinney played four seasons under former Elon head coach and Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Kay Yow. Throughout her career, McKinney scored 1,359 points and grabbed 600 rebounds and still holds the freshman scoring record for the Wolfpack. McKinney shot 78.3 percent from the free throw line during her playing career and was a member of NC State’s first ACC regular-season championship team. She earned a bachelor’s degree in math education from NC State before earning a master’s degree in physical education from Western Carolina University in 1982.