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Cliff Ellis

Title Head coach
College Coastal Carolina
Sport Basketball
Team record 13-15
Born December 5, 1945 (1945-12-05) (age 64)
Place of birth Marianna, Florida, USA
Career highlights
Overall 547-352 (.608)
SEC Regular Season Championship (1999)Championship
Sun Belt Regular Season Championship (1979, 1980)
SEC Coach of the Year (1995, 1999)
ACC Coach of the Year (1987, 1990)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Ruckle JHS (asst.)
Niceville HS
Vanguard HS
South Alabama
Coastal Carolina

Cliff Ellis (born December 5, 1945 in Marianna, Florida) is an American college basketball coach, currently the head coach at Coastal Carolina University.[1] Going into the 2009-2010 season, Coach Ellis's 558 victories rank him 50th on the list of all-time career coaching victories in Division 1 basketball.[2] 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.[3]

Ellis is a musician, an author and a gourmet cook. He's even been an ostrich farmer. He and his music group, the Villagers, were one of the Southeast's hottest acts in the mid-1960s. Before he'd ever coached a college game, he had published a book on the 1-3-1 zone press.[1]


Coaching career


High school



Ellis was head coach and Athletic Director at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee from 1972 to 1975.[1]

South Alabama

Ellis was head coach at the University of South Alabama from 1975 to 1984.[1] He is the all-time winningest coach in South Alabama history with a 171-84 during nine seasons.[4] 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.[4]

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.[4]


On April 3, 1984 the former South Alabama coach was named the head basketball coach at Clemson University. Ellis replaced Bill Foster, who left for the University of Miami.[5] Ellis led Clemson to its only Atlantic Coast Conference regular season first place finish in school history. Unfortunately, the ACC does not recognize a regular season champion and is only used for seeding purposes. He was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year (1987 and 1990).[4]


Ellis led the Tigers to the 1999 SEC Championship with a 29-4 record, a state of Alabama record for most wins. 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 wend 22-12.[4]

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 1948-1949.[4]

At the end of the 2003-04 season, Auburn relieved Ellis of coaching duties. He remained in the Auburn community, where his wife Carolyn ran for a state legislature seat in 2006.

Coastal Carolina University

On Monday, July 2nd 2007, Ellis was named Coastal Carolina's head basketball coach. Ellis replaced Buzz Peterson, who left the program to become director of player personnel for the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA.[6]

In the 2009-10 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.[7]

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
South Alabama (Sun Belt Conference) (1975–1984)
1975-76 South Alabama 18-9 n/a n/a
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 1st Round
1979-80 South Alabama 23-6 12-2 1st NCAA 1st 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 2nd Round
South Alabama: 171-84 54-36
Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1984–1994)
1984-85 Clemson 16-13 5-9 T-6th NIT 1st Round
1985-86 Clemson 19–15 3-11 7th NIT Quarterfinals
1986-87 Clemson 25-6 10-4 2nd NCAA 1st Round
1987-88 Clemson 14-15 4-10 7th NIT 1st Round
1988-89 Clemson 19–11 7-7 6th NCAA 2nd Round
1989-90 Clemson 25-9 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 2nd Round
1993-94 Clemson 18-16 6-10 T-7th NIT Quarterfinals
1994-95 Clemson 15-13 5-11 T-6th NIT 1st Round
Clemson: 193-142 61-87
Auburn (SEC West) (1994–2004)
1994-95 Auburn 16-13 7-9 4th NIT 1st Round
1995-96 Auburn 19-13 6-10 T–4th NIT 1st Round
1996-97 Auburn 16-15 6-10 T-3rd
1997-98 Auburn 16-14 7-9 3rd NIT 2nd Round
1998-99 Auburn 29-4 14-2 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1999-00 Auburn 24-10 9-7 2nd NCAA 2nd Round
2000-01 Auburn 18-14 7-9 T-4th NIT 2nd 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 73-87
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 1st Round
Coastal Carolina: 52-42 26-24
Total: 586-379

      National Champion         Conference Regular Season Champion         Conference Tournament Champion
      Conference Regular Season & Conference Tournament Champion       Conference Division Champion


  • 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 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



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