Nell Fortner was named the sixth head coach in Georgia Tech women’s basketball history on April 9, 2019. She begins her second year at the helm on The Flats in 2020-21. One of the most successful coaches in women’s basketball history, Fortner has compiled a 325-198 (.621) record as a head coach at the collegiate, professional and international levels.
She has led teams to Big Ten (Purdue – 1997) and Southeastern Conference (Auburn – 2009) championships and coached the U.S. national team to three international titles, including the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Prior to her arrival on The Flats, Fortner held head coaching positions at Auburn (2004-12) and Purdue (1996-97), as well as the U.S. National Team and Indiana Fever. She has also served as an analyst for ESPN for nearly 10 years.
A native of Jackson, Miss., Fortner played basketball and volleyball at Texas, where she is a member of the University of Texas Women’s Athletics Wall of Honor and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
|THE NELL FORTNER FILE|
|Hometown||New Braunfels, Texas|
|Alma Mater||Texas, 1982|
|1978-82||Texas (Basketball, Volleyball)|
|1983-86||Killeen (Texas) H.S.||Head Coach|
|1986-87||Stephen F. Austin||Graduate Assistant|
|1987-90||Stephen F. Austin||Assistant Coach|
|1990-95||Louisiana Tech||Assistant Coach|
|1995-96||U.S. National Team||Assistant Coach|
|1997-2000||U.S. National Team||Head Coach|
|2000-03||Indiana Fever||Head Coach/General Manager|
|2019-present||Georgia Tech||Head Coach|
Nell Fortner was named the sixth head coach in Georgia Tech women’s basketball history, director of athletics Todd Stansbury announced on April 9, 2019. She begins her second season as a Yellow Jacket in 2020-21.
One of the most successful coaches in women’s basketball history, Fortner has compiled a 325-198 (.621) record as a head coach at the collegiate, professional and international levels. She has led teams to Big Ten (Purdue – 1997) and Southeastern Conference (Auburn – 2009) championships and, perhaps most notably, coached the United States national team to three international titles from 1997-2000, including the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
“I’m excited to welcome Coach Fortner to the Georgia Tech family,” Stansbury said. “Her resume speaks for itself – she is one of the most successful and respected coaches in women’s basketball history. She’s not only led teams to Olympic gold and major conference championships, but she has also proven to be an outstanding leader of young women who has embodied our mission of developing the young people who will change the world.”
Fortner is the winningest coach in the history of the USA women’s basketball national team, having compiled a 101-14 (.878) record. In addition to the 2000 Olympics championship, she also led the team to the gold medal at the 1998 World Championship in Berlin, Germany and the 1998 William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan.
At the collegiate level, Fortner has 10 seasons of experience as a head coach – one at Purdue (1996-97), eight at Auburn (2004-12) and one at Georgia Tech (2019-20) – and has compiled a 182-128 (.587) overall record in the college ranks.
Her first season on The Flats saw tremendous success in leading the Yellow Jackets as Tech compiled a 20-11 overall record, marking the best record by a first year head coach in Georgia Tech women’s basketball history. The Jackets produced a 10-8 mark in ACC play, good for the first the winning conference record since 2013-14 and the first 10-win ledger in ACC play since 2011-12.
Additionally, the Jackets collected four wins over top-25 programs, including two on the road. Among those two road wins was the program’s highest ranked road win in program history when Tech defeated No. 4 NC State on Feb. 16, 2020, 65-61. The Jackets also completed the regular season sweep over nationally ranked Florida State, defeating the No. 11 Seminoles on the road, before topping the No. 17/18 squad in McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets capped its shortened season due to Covid-19, reaching the ACC Tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 2016.
Other highlights by the Jackets include collecting seven wins over teams in the top 75 RPI and defeating Georgia in Athens for the first time in program history. Senior Francesca Pan was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team, while also picking up all-ACC second team honors. Tech placed three Jackets on the All-ACC Academic Team in 2019-20 in Pan, Kierra Fletcher and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen.
After her successful season at the Georgia Tech helm, Fortner was tabbed the 2020 Whack Hyder Georgia Women’s College Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. She was also named one of 10 semifinalists for the 2020 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year.
In her first season as a collegiate head coach, she led Purdue to a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship with a 12-4 conference record and an NCAA Tournament berth. Following the impressive rookie campaign, she was named the 1997 Basketball Times National Coach of the Year.
She left Purdue after one season to take over as the full-time head coach of the U.S. national team but returned to the collegiate ranks in 2004 at Auburn. With Fortner at the helm, Auburn won at least 20 games three times, highlighted by a 30-4 campaign in 2008-09 that saw the Tigers win the SEC regular-season title for the first time in 20 years and saw Fortner named the SEC and WBCA Region III Coach of the Year.
In addition to her stints as head coach with Purdue, the U.S. national team and Auburn, Fortner served as the first head coach and general manager in the history of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever from 2000-03. She didn’t coach the Fever in 2000 due to the Summer Olympics, but took over coaching duties in ’01 and led the franchise to its first playoffs appearance in ’02.
She began her coaching career as the head coach at Killeen (Texas) H.S. from 1983-86, before entering the collegiate coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at Stephen F. Austin in 1986-87. After one season, she was promoted to assistant coach at SFA, where she remained for three more seasons (1987-90) and helped guide the Ladyjacks to an 87-12 (.879) record and three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
She then moved on to national power Louisiana Tech (1990-95), where she was an assistant coach for five seasons. In her five seasons at Louisiana Tech, the Lady Techsters went 123-37 (.794) and earned five-straight NCAA Tournament berths, advancing all the way to the national championship game in 1994.
She left Louisiana Tech for a one-year stint as an assistant coach for the U.S. national team (1995-96) under head coach Tara VanDerveer. The national team put together a perfect 52-0 record in 1995-96, culminating with a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Her career also includes two stints as a women’s basketball analyst at ESPN – first as a studio analyst from 2001-04, then as a color analyst for the past seven seasons since she stepped down as Auburn’s head coach following the 2012 season. Through her role with ESPN, she has remained actively engaged within NCAA women’s basketball, calling some of the nation’s best regular-season and postseason games, as well as being an integral part of the network’s Final Four coverage.
“I am so excited and proud to be named the next women’s basketball coach at Georgia Tech,” Fortner said. “I’ve coached for 28 years, at every level, and Georgia Tech was the perfect fit for me to get back in the college game. Georgia Tech is one of those unique institutions that has both a premier academic reputation and a successful athletics program. My staff and I will be committed to helping each student-athlete have a positive and productive experience. We will compete at the highest level possible and strive to be champions, both on and off the court. Together We Swarm!”
Born in Jackson, Miss., Fortner attended high school at New Braunfels (Texas) H.S., where she was an all-state selection and a Parade all-American. She received a dual-sport scholarship to the University of Texas, where she played both basketball and volleyball from 1978-82. She helped lead UT to 127 basketball wins in four seasons and remains one of the Longhorns’ all-time leading scorers with 1,466 career points. In volleyball, she was a member of Texas’ national championship team as a senior in ‘81.
While at Texas, Fortner also made her USA Basketball debut as a member of the 1978 U.S. Olympic Festival South team that won a silver medal.
Fortner holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Texas (1982) and a master’s in education from Stephen F. Austin (1987). Among her many honors, Fortner was named USA Basketball Coach of the Year in 2000, inducted to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Texas Women’s Athletics Wall of Honor in 2001, recognized as a distinguished alumna of Stephen F. Austin in 2007 and inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.