Through 2014-15 Season At Coastal Carolina: 158-98 overall, 87-50 Big South Career: 41st season overall, 770-447 Overall Division I Record, 692-435
The 2015-16 campaign marks Cliff Ellis’ ninth season as the head coach of the Coastal Carolina men's basketball program.
Following the 2014-15 season, Ellis' 692 victories rank him 20th on the list of all-time career coaching victories in the history of Division I basketball. While at Coastal Carolina, Ellis has amassed 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. Furthermore, 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 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 (Ala.) Area Sports and Cumberland College halls of fame. He was also named the recipient of the 2014 Gene Bartow Award, which recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the game, on and off the floor.
Ellis has compiled a Division I record of 692-435 (.614) and 770-447 (.632) overall and 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.
Over his 40-year coaching career, Ellis has guided his squads to 10 NCAA Tournaments and earned 13 National Invitation Tournament 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).
In 2014-15, 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 VisitMyrlteBeach.com 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.
In addition to a signature nonconference victory at Auburn and a 15-2 home record, 2014-15 highlights included Josh Cameron earning a pair of Big South Player of the Week awards, Warren Gillis surpassing the 1,000 career point total and earning second team all-conference honors along with Elijah Wilson being named the Big South Tournament MVP after averaging 20.3 points per game.
Ellis led the Chants to a 19-12 regular season finish during the 2013-14 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 VisitiMyrtleBeach.com 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.
Warren Gillis was named Second Team All-Big South Conference while Elijah Wilson earned an Honorable Mention. Wilson was also named to the Big South All-Freshman Team. Gillis went on to earn Tournament MVP honors while Josh Cameron was named to the All-Tournament team.
Ellis' 2012-13 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 2012-13 but the Chants were 12-4 at home with a near perfect 7-1 conference home ledger. Ellis helped guide senior Anthony Raffa to All-District and All-Conference honors during the season while the Chants finished fourth in the Big South Conference's South Division.
In 2011-12, Ellis led the Chants to their first appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Coastal finished the season with a 19-12 record, while going 12-6 in Big South Conference play. Raffa earned second team All-District honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and Raffa and teammate Chris Gradnigo were named second team All-Conference.
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 BCS schools. The win over LSU was the second-straight victory for the Chanticleers over the Tigers in as many seasons.
During the 2010-11 season, Ellis led Coastal Carolina to its second straight trip to the NIT after earning an automatic bid by winning the Big South regular season title with a school-record 16-2 conference mark. The Chanticleers opened league play with 15-straight victories and went on to set an all-time Big South record for single-season conference wins.
It was the second-straight season that Coastal Carolina captured the Big South regular season title and was the first time since the 1990 and 1991 seasons that the Chanticleers won consecutive league titles.
The Chanticleers were also a perfect 9-0 on the road in conference during the 2010-11 season and became just the second team in league history to accomplish that feat. In addition, the Chants were 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 was also the first team in Big South history to win at least 25 games in back-to-back seasons and owns the conference record for the most wins in consecutive seasons with 56.
Ellis helped orchestrate one of the greatest seasons in Coastal Carolina basketball history in 2009-10, as the Chanticleers won the Big South regular season title with an overall record of 28-7 to set a new school record for the most wins in a season, surpassing the previous record of 24 victories set during the 1990-91 season. Coastal also finished the season with a 15-3 mark inside the Big South to post a new school record for conference victories. Ellis was selected as the Big South Coach of the Year and guided the Chants to a second-place finish in the Big South Tournament.
Three Chanticleers were named All-Big South in 2009-10 under the direction of Ellis. Senior Joseph Harris and junior Chad Gray were both tabbed to the All-Big South first team, while newcomer Kierre Greenwood was named to the Big South All-Freshman Team. Harris ranked eighth in the Big South in scoring with 14.2 points per game and second in the league and 30th in the nation with 9.6 rebounds per game. Gray stood seventh in the conference in scoring with 14.3 points per game, while Greenwood ranked eighth in assists with 3.34 helpers per game.
Harris flourished under the direction of Ellis and finished his career as the only player in Big South history with 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 100 blocked shots. In fact, Harris ranks first all-time in Big South history in rebounds (1,152) and games played (134), while standing tied for second in field goal percentage (.561).
In 2008-09, Ellis guided the Chants to victories over Conference USA foe East Carolina as well as home wins against UNC Asheville and Winthrop and last-second buzzer-beater victories at High Point and against VMI, who finished second in the Big South. Coastal Carolina had an All-Big South First Team selection in Harris, who led the Big South in rebounding and field-goal percentage. He also had 11 straight double-double's and was in the top-10 in the nation in rebounding despite standing only 6-foot-5.
Despite a myriad of injuries that affected the Chanticleers in Ellis' first season, Coastal Carolina won 13 games, including six Big South contests, and was competitive in most games night in and night out. The Chanticleers defeated Big South Conference Tournament champion Winthrop 50-49 Jan. 26 and had thrilling buzzer-beating wins over Radford (76-75) Jan. 12 and Charleston Southern (85-78 in OT) Feb. 2. Coastal Carolina also had two big wins over High Point, including a heart-pounding 56-55 win Feb. 18. Ellis coached Jack Leasure, who was an All-Big South Second Team selection, an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selection and was the Big South Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for all sports. Ellis also guided Anthony Breeze to a Big South All-Freshman selection.
Ellis spent 10 years (1994-2004) as the head coach at Auburn, posting a 186-125 (.598) record. During his time, Ellis led the Tigers to a school record 29-4 mark in 1998-99, including a 14-2 mark in the SEC to win the league title, and took the team to the NCAA Championship as a No. 1 seed, eventually advancing to the Sweet 16. He was named the 1999 Southeastern Conference and National Coach of the Year by six different organizations, including the John and Nellie Wooden and Associated Press awards. Ellis also led Auburn to the 2000 NCAA Tournament after a 24-10 record overall, becoming a finalist for National Coach of the Year. He also garnered 1995 SEC Coach of the Year honors in his first year at Auburn after taking the Tigers to a 16-13 record overall, earning a berth in the NIT.
Ellis took the Tigers to seven postseason appearances in his 10 years. A preseason last-place pick in the SEC, the Tigers went to the 2003 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, losing to eventual National Champion Syracuse 79-78. Auburn had a 22-12 record in 2002-03, 8-8 in the SEC and a runner-up finish in the Western Division. It marked the third-most wins in school history, all three while Ellis was at the helm. Senior Marquis Daniels was a first-team All-SEC selection and the Birmingham News' SEC Player of the Year and went on to play for the Boston Celtics.
In the story book 1998-99 season, the Tigers climbed as high as No. 2 in the nation in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls and finished the season No. 4. Auburn won the outright SEC Championship (the school had only won two in the previous 67-year history of the SEC with the other coming in 1960), SEC Western Division Championship and set the state of Alabama record for victories in a season with a 29-4 record.
Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum sold out seven times, and a record 123,881 fans passed through its doors. The Tigers had never had back-to-back home sellouts in the then 31-year history of the Coliseum. In fact, he reached 100 wins at Auburn faster than any other coach in Tiger history, including the legendary Joel Eaves, Auburn's all-time winningest coach for whom the Coliseum is named.
In 1999-2000, Auburn was named the preseason No. 1 ranked team in the nation by Sports Illustrated and sold out of all 10,500 season tickets for the first time in school history prior to the season. The Tigers spent most of the year in the top 10, had the second-longest homecourt winning streak in the nation at 30 games and led the SEC's Western Division for 29 straight weeks dating back to 1998-99. The Tigers' 24 wins in 1999-2000 marked the second-most wins in school history, and the Tigers' 50-9 record over the two years was the fourth-best mark in the nation behind Duke, Cincinnati and Stanford. The 53 combined wins were the most wins in back-to-back seasons in school history. Auburn played in the SEC Tournament Championship game for only the third time in school history.
Ellis coached at Clemson from 1984-1994, putting together a 177-128 (.580) record in his tenure. While at Clemson, Ellis led the Tigers to the 1990 Atlantic Coast Conference title, the only one in the school's history, with a 24-8 overall record, a 10-4 ACC mark and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. For his efforts, he earned ACC and NABC and US Basketball Writers District III Coach of the Year honors. He had previously garnered the ACC and District Coach of the Year awards in 1987 after pacing the Tigers to a 25-6 mark, the best in the school history, a runner-up finish in the ACC and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers had been to postseason play just five times prior to his arrival. He was the first coach in ACC history to guide a school to postseason play in each of his first six years with a league program.
The 1989-90 Clemson team continued the tradition of excellence that Ellis began when he took over the program. For the first time in the school's 80-year history, the Tigers won the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title. Also for the first time, two Tigers were All-ACC first-team selections of the Associated Press/Atlantic Coast Sportswriters in the same year. Ellis became the first Tiger basketball coach to be named conference Coach of the Year twice (1987 and 1990).
Later that season, Ellis' Tigers knocked off ACC foe North Carolina 69-61, and four days later, defeated fifth-ranked Duke 97-93. The Duke victory also gave Clemson its 24th consecutive victory in Littlejohn Coliseum, setting the Clemson record and ranking fourth best in active home winning streaks nationwide. Included in those 24 wins were 13 victories over ACC teams, five ranked in the AP Top 25, three in the Top 10.
In 1986-87, Ellis' Tigers became the most successful team in Clemson history, finishing with a 25-6 record, a No. 13 national ranking and an NCAA Tournament berth. Ellis, who became the first Clemson coach to be named ACC Coach of the Year, was also named NABC District III Coach of the Year by his peers and the state of South Carolina Coach of the Year. The Tigers defeated five USA Today Top 25 teams and became only the second squad (at that time) in Clemson history to be invited to the NCAA Tournament. Ellis also moved Clemson into the Top 10 in both the AP and UPI polls for the first time in school history.
Ellis started his Division I head coaching career at South Alabama from 1975-1984, where he developed the program into a nationally recognized team in his nine years. He had a 171-84 (.671) record, the highest winning percentage in South Alabama history and led the Jaguars to three Sun Belt Conference Championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances, while earning one Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year award. He led the Jaguars to a top-10 national ranking during his tenure. During his time with the Jaguars, he also served as the Athletic Director and was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 for the work he did with the Jaguars' basketball program.
He started his collegiate head coaching career at Cumberland University, where he also served as athletic director from 1973-1975. In his three years, he led Cumberland to a 78-12 (.867) record, including two league championships. Ellis started his career in the high school ranks, coaching at Ocala Vanguard and Niceville high schools and Ruckel Junior High School in his first four years.
Ellis has always had a reputation for recruiting top-notch athletes. Four of his players from the 1980-81 South Alabama team were drafted in the NBA, more than any other school in the nation. The Jaguars had three more drafted in 1985, all players Ellis had recruited to the school. He has six first round choices, including 1994 NBA lottery pick Sharone Wright, Terry Catledge, Horace Grant, Elden Campbell, Dale Davis and Mamadou N'diaye, and he has coached a conference player of the year four times. Chris Whitney, a second round pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, is another former Clemson Tiger who played for Ellis. In his first year at Auburn, Ellis signed point guard Moochie Norris, who was a second round NBA Draft pick in 1996 and played for the Houston Rockets. Chris Porter was drafted in the second round by the Golden State Warriors in 2000. Point guard Jamison Brewer was drafted in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers.
Prior to coaching at Coastal Carolina, Ellis worked as a television broadcast analyst, with numerous national and regional games including Big South Conference and Coastal Carolina games, from 2004-2007.
Ellis earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Florida State in 1968 and his master's degree, also in physical education, from Middle Tennessee State in 1972.
Ellis is also a musician, author and ostrich farmer. He started in the recording business before coaching and has released many records. In 1991, he released a record called "Loveland" by Cliff Ellis and the EBS All-Star Blues Band. He cut another record, "Cliff Ellis and Friends," which includes several rock `n' roll songs and a rendition of "Amazing Grace" dedicated to the late Jim Valvano, a close friend who taught Ellis much about life through his battle with cancer. "Shake, Rattle and Roll," another song on the compact disc, climbed all the way to No. 13 on the "Beach Music" charts. His most recent CD is "People Get Ready" in which he collaborated with Grammy winner Marty Rabun (Shenandoah) and former Auburn players. Ellis also has seven publications to his credit. 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.
Ellis is married to the former Carolyn Ratzlaff and they have three children, Chryssa Rutland, Clay and Anna Catherine Moore, and four grandchildren, Hannah Grace and Ellis Rutland and Sarah and Abbey Moore.