Cliff Ellis

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Cliff Ellis
Sport(s) Basketball
Current position
Title Head coach
Team Coastal Carolina
Record 158–98 (.617)
Biographical details
Born (1945-12-05) December 5, 1945 (age 69)
Marianna, Florida
Alma mater Florida State University
Middle Tennessee State University
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1968–1969 Ruckel JHS (assistant)
1969–1971 Niceville HS
1971–1972 Vanguard HS
1972–1975 Cumberland
1975–1984 South Alabama
1984–1994 Clemson
1994–2004 Auburn
2007–present Coastal Carolina
Head coaching record
Overall 692–435 (.614)
Accomplishments and honors
SEC regular season championship (1999)
Sun Belt regular season championship (1979, 1980)
Big South regular season championship (2010, 2011)
Big South Tournament Championship (2014, 2015)
AP Coach of the Year (1999)
2× SEC Coach of the Year (1995, 1999)
ACC Coach of the Year (1987, 1990)
Big South Coach of the Year (2010)
Cumberland Athletics Hall of Fame
Mobile Sports Hall of Fame
Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame

Robert Clifford Ellis[1] (born December 5, 1945) is an American college basketball coach, currently the head coach at Coastal Carolina University.[2] Going into the 2015-2016 season, Coach Ellis's 692 NCAA Division I victories rank him 20th on the list of all-time career coaching victories in Division I basketball.[3] With a victory over UNC Asheville on Feb. 3, 2015, Eliis became the only coach in NCAA Division I history to tally 150-plus wins at four institutions. He was national coach of the year in 1999 at Auburn, when his Tigers won 29 games and captured the school’s first SEC championship in 40 years. In 1990 he coached Clemson to its only ACC regular-season first-place finish. His South Alabama teams won Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships in 1979, 1980 and 1981. At both Clemson and South Alabama he holds school records for coaching victories and he is the second-winningest coach in Auburn history.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ellis was born in Marianna, Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in physical education and has a master's degree (1972) in the same subject from Middle Tennessee State University.[5]

Coaching career[edit]

High school[edit]

  • Assistant coach at Ruckel Junior High in Niceville, Florida (1968–1969)[2]
  • Assistant coach at Niceville High in Niceville, Florida (1969–1971)[2]
  • Head coach at Vanguard High in Ocala, Florida (1971–1972)[2]

While at Coastal Carolina, Ellis has amassed a pair of Big South regular season championships and two conference tournament tiles, making him one of only two coaches in NCAA history to win conference titles at four different institutions. Furthermore, Ellis is also one of two coaches to win championships in both the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference.

Ellis is a member of three Halls of Fame after entering Clemson's in 2013. He was already part of the Mobile Sports and Cumberland College Halls of Fame.

Ellis has been a successful coach throughout his career, amassing a Division I record of 692-447 (.614) and 770-447 (.632) as a head coach overall at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season. In addition, Ellis ranks ninth in NCAA Division I wins among active coaches. He is also just 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.



Ellis was head coach and Athletic Director at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee from 1972 to 1975.[2]

South Alabama[edit]

Ellis was head coach at the University of South Alabama from 1975 to 1984.[2] He is the all-time winningest coach in South Alabama history with a 171–84 during nine seasons.[6] When Ellis became head coach, the administrators at South Alabama were thinking of dropping to Division II. Four years later, he had the Jaguars in the NCAA Tournament and six seasons later, they were ranked in the nation's top 10.[6]

Ellis, also was the athletic director during part of his tenure, led the Jaguars to three Sun Belt titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and two NITs.[6]


On April 3, 1984 the former South Alabama coach was named the head basketball coach at Clemson University. In 10 years at Clemson, Ellis led the Tigers to postseason play eight times, including three NCAA Tournaments. His best team was the 1989-90 unit, which tallied the only Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title in school history and made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen—the second-deepest NCAA Tournament run in school history. He was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year (1987 and 1990).[6] He is currently the winningest coach in Clemson history.


Ellis led the Tigers to the 1999 SEC Championship with a 29–4 record, the most wins ever recorded by a Division I team in the state of Alabama. The Tigers reached the Sweet 16 in 1998–99 and in 2002–03 under Ellis. Ellis coached Auburn to the top three single season victory marks in school history, with the 1998–99 season, the 1999–2000 season when Auburn went 24–10, and the 2002–03 season where Auburn went 22–12.[6]

Ellis claimed his 500th career Division I coaching victory in a 100–71 win over Georgia State November 26, 2002, to become only the 34th coach to reach the milestone since the NCAA started Division I play in 1948–49.[6]

At the end of the 2003–04 season, Ellis was fired from Auburn.[7] He remained in the Auburn community, where his wife Carolyn ran for a state legislature seat in 2006.

Coastal Carolina[edit]

On Monday, July 2, 2007, Ellis was named Coastal Carolina's head basketball coach.

In the 2009–2010 season, he led the Chanticleers to the school's first conference championship since 1990–91. Coastal set new school records for victories in conference play (15) and the regular season (26) in the process.

In the 2010–2011 season, he led the Chanticleers to the school's second conference championship since 1900–91. Coastal Carolina (28–6) made its second straight trip to the NIT after earning an automatic bid by winning the Big South regular season title with a 16–2 mark inside the conference. The Chanticleers opened league play with 15 straight victories and went on to set an all-time Big South record for conference wins in a season. The Chanticleers would eventually hold the nation's longest win streak at 22 straight games.

The 2010-2011 season marked the second straight season that Coastal Carolina has captured the Big South regular season title and the first time since the 1990 and 1991 seasons that the Chanticleers have won consecutive league titles.

The Chanticleers were also a perfect 9–0 on the road in conference in 2010-2011 season and became just the second team in league history to accomplish that feat. In addition, the Chants are also the first team in conference history to win five Big South road games by at least 20 points. Coastal won by 22 at VMI (Jan. 6), 21 at UNC Asheville (Jan. 20), 24 at High Point (Jan. 27), 23 at Radford (Jan. 29) and 20 at Presbyterian (Feb. 10).

Coastal Carolina also became the first team in Big South history to win at least 25 games in back-to-back seasons and now owns the conference record for the most wins in consecutive seasons with 56 (2009-2010 through 2010-2011).

In 2011-2012, Ellis led the Chants to their first appearance in the Postseason Tournament. Coastal finished the season with a 19-12 record, while going 12-6 in Big South Conference play. Ellis led the Chants to victories over LSU and Clemson during the season, marking the first time in school history that Coastal Carolina had recorded two wins in the same season over "Power Five" schools. The win over LSU was the second-straight victory for the Chanticleers over the Tigers in as many seasons.

Ellis' 2012-2013 campaign featured a season opening win over perennial mid-major power Akron when the Chants opened their new home, The HTC Center. Coastal also picked up a 69-46 home win over Clemson in late December, giving Ellis back-to-back victories over the Tigers. Ellis led Coastal to a 14-15 overall record in 2012-2013 but the Chants were 12-4 at home with a near perfect 7-1 conference home ledger.

Ellis led the Chants to a 19-12 regular season finish during the 2013-2014 season, including an 11-5 conference record earning the Chants' first Big South Conference South Division Championship. Coastal went on to win three-straight games in the Big South Championship to earn its third Big South Conference Tournament Championship, first since 1991. Coastal nearly upset top-seed Virginia at the NCAA Tournament. The Chants led by as many as 10 points in the first half but a late surge by the Cavaliers gave UVA the victory.

In 2014-2015, Ellis guided the Chanticleers to a 21-9 regular season record, including a 12-6 mark in Big South play to earn the No. 3 seed in the Big South Basketball Championship. In the league tournament the Chants rallied for wins over UNC Asheville and Gardner-Webb before running away from Winthrop in the title game to secure a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament—a program first. Coastal was seeded 16th in the West Region and faced No. 1-seeded Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. The Chants took a pair of early leads over the Badgers, but the eventual national runner-up pulled away for an 86-72 victory.

Personal life[edit]

He is a musician, an author and a gourmet cook. He has even been an ostrich farmer. He and his music group, the Villagers, were one of the Southeast's hottest acts in the mid-1960s. He has published three books - "Zone Press Variations for Winning Basketball," "The Complete Book of Fast Break Basketball" and "Cliff Ellis: The Winning Edge," released in the summer of 2000.[2]

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Cumberland (NAIA) (-?-) (1972–1975)
Cumberland: 78–12 (.867) -?- 2 titles
South Alabama (Sun Belt Conference) (1975–1984)
1975–76 South Alabama 18–9
1976–77 South Alabama 17–10 3–3 3rd
1977–78 South Alabama 18–10 3–7 4th
1978–79 South Alabama 20–7 10–0 1st NCAA First round
1979–80 South Alabama 23–6 12–2 1st NCAA First round
1980–81 South Alabama 25–6 9–3 1st NIT Quarterfinals
1981–82 South Alabama 12–16 2–8 6th
1982–83 South Alabama 16–12 6–8 5th
1983–84 South Alabama 22–8 9–5 2nd NIT Second Round
South Alabama: 171–84 (.671) 54–36 (.600)
Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1984–1994)
1984–85 Clemson 16–13 5–9 T–6th NIT First Round
1985–86 Clemson 19–15 3–11 7th NIT Quarterfinals
1986–87 Clemson 25–6 10–4 2nd NCAA First Round
1987–88 Clemson 14–15 4–10 7th NIT First Round
1988–89 Clemson 19–11 7–7 6th NCAA Second Round
1989–90 Clemson 26–9* 10–4 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1990–91 Clemson 11–17 2–12 7th
1991–92 Clemson 14–14 4–12 9th
1992–93 Clemson 17–13 5–11 7th NIT Second Round
1993–94 Clemson 18–16 6–10 T–7th NIT Quarterfinals
Clemson: 177–128** (.580) 56–90 (.384)
Auburn (SEC West) (1994–2004)
1994–95 Auburn 16–13 7–9 4th NIT First Round
1995–96 Auburn 19–13 6–10 T–4th NIT First Round
1996–97 Auburn 16–15 6–10 T–3rd
1997–98 Auburn 16–14 7–9 3rd NIT Second Round
1998–99 Auburn 29–4 14–2 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1999–00 Auburn 24–10 9–7 2nd NCAA Second Round
2000–01 Auburn 18–14 7–9 T–4th NIT Second Round
2001–02 Auburn 12–15 4–12 6th
2002–03 Auburn 22–12 8–8 T–2nd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2003–04 Auburn 14–14 5–11 T–4th
Auburn: 186–125 (.598) 73–87 (.456)
Coastal Carolina (Big South Conference) (2007–present)
2007–08 Coastal Carolina 13–15 6–8 T–5th
2008–09 Coastal Carolina 11–20 5–13 7th
2009–10 Coastal Carolina 28–7 15–3 1st NIT First Round
2010–11 Coastal Carolina 28–6 16–2 1st NIT First Round
2011–12 Coastal Carolina 19–12 12–6 2nd CIT First Round
2012–13 Coastal Carolina 14–15 9–7 4th
2013–14 Coastal Carolina 21–13 11–5 1st NCAA Second Round
2014–15 Coastal Carolina 24–10 12–6 T–3rd NCAA Second Round
2015–16 Coastal Carolina 0–0 0–0
Coastal Carolina: 158–98 (.617) 87–50 (.635)
Total: 770–447 (.633)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

* 2 NCAA Tournament wins and 1 loss were vacated

** Includes vacated games


  • 1987 ACC Coach of the Year
  • 1987 Kodak (NABC) District III Coach of the Year
  • 1990 ACC Coach of the Year
  • 1990 Kodak (NABC) District III Coach of the Year
  • 1990 UPI ACC Coach of the Year
  • 1990 US Basketball Writers District III Coach of the Year
  • 1995 SEC Coach of the Year
  • 1999 AP National Coach of the Year
  • 1999 SEC Coach of the Year
  • 2000 National Coach of the Year Finalist
  • 2003 Inductee Mobile Sports Hall of Fame
  • 2009–2010 Big South Conference Coach of the Year

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Cliff Ellis". Auburn University. Archived from the original on July 5, 2004. 
  3. ^ "Division I Coaching Records" (PDF). 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  4. ^ "Former Auburn coach to speak to Chipola boosters" (PDF). 2005-09-26. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Auburn Head Coach Cliff Ellis To Be Inducted Into Mobile Sports Hall Of Fame". 2003-04-22. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  7. ^ "Ellis Relieved of Duties as Auburn Basketball Coach". Auburn University. Archived from the original on April 16, 2004. 

External links[edit]