Coastal Carolina Men’s Basketball News: Legendary basketball coach Cliff Ellis, age 78, retires after 8 games into season

By Bane Rossi

Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina BKB coach during a timeout vs. Louisiana Lafafayette, March 3, 2020 (courtesy IMAGN, photo by James Mays, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, USA Today Sports Syndication)



CONWAY, S.C. – Cliff Ellis, the winningest active coach in NCAA Division I basketball, has announced his retirement as the Coastal Carolina University men’s basketball coach. Ellis completed his coaching career Monday night with a victory over St. Andrews, his 831st at the NCAA Division I level.

Associate head coach Benny Moss will assume the title of interim head coach, effectively immediately. Ellis will conclude the final months of his contract supporting the University with special projects.

“I planned to retire at the end of the season,” Ellis said, “but in fairness to my players and my coaching staff, I wanted all of them, but especially the staff, to have a chance to show what they are made of. This is a team that has good players, and this is a good coaching staff. I thank Coastal Carolina for giving me the opportunity 17 years ago to come to this wonderful place. It has been an invigorating experience to participate in the growth and impact that this university makes. I deeply appreciate President Benson and athletic director Matt Hogue for their support in this process.”

Coach Ellis’ impact and guidance of our program are indelible,” said Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and University Recreation Matt Hogue. “He has been an ambassador for our University, always coached with decorum and fostered opportunities for countless young people through basketball. His success and the records set at CCU will be hard to emulate. We wish Coach, Carolyn and the Ellis family all the best in their next chapter and they know they are forever a part of the Chanticleer family.”

Over a five-decade long career, few people achieve as much success—and at multiple places—like Coach Cliff Ellis has done,” CCU President Michael T. Benson said. “Think of all the lives he has positively impacted for such an extended period of time through his teaching, coaching, and mentoring. That we were able to have this Hall of Fame coach represent Coastal Carolina University for the years he did means a great deal to our institution. Our sincere thanks to Coach Ellis and his family for their commitment to our university community. They will always be Chanticleers.”

Ellis has spent 49 seasons as a collegiate head coach, spanning tenures at Coastal, Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama, and Cumberland. Ellis has captured eight conference regular season titles, two conference tournament crowns, six conference Coach of the Year honors, and an AP National Coach of the Year award. He has won 909 games as collegiate head coach (78 at Cumberland; 171 at South Alabama; 177 at Clemson; 186 at Auburn; 297 at Coastal Carolina).

With 831 career NCAA victories, Ellis ranks ninth in Division I men’s basketball history in wins, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bob Huggins, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, Bob Knight, Dean Smith, and Adolph Rupp.

In his 17 seasons leading the Chanticleer program, Ellis led CCU to 297 victories, the second-most in program history, and 10 postseason tournament appearances. Ellis guided the Chants to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time ever in 2014 and 2015, while tying a program record with four consecutive winning seasons from 2013-17. Coastal Carolina set the program record for single-season wins in 2009-10 with 28, then tied the record again in 2010-11, winning the Big South Regular Season title and advancing to the NIT in both seasons. The Chanticleers played in the Postseason Tournament in 2012 and advanced to the semifinals in 2016, reached the finals of the College Basketball Invitational in 2017 and 2021 while making the semifinals in 2019, and played in the finals of The Basketball Classic in 2022.

During Ellis’ tenure at Coastal, the Chanticleers earned eight victories over Power Five opponents. The Chants beat LSU in Baton Rouge in 2010 for the program’s first win over a Power Five school since 1993. CCU beat LSU and Clemson during the 2011-12 campaign for the program’s first season ever with multiple wins over Power Five teams. Coastal defeated Clemson again in 2012 and topped Auburn on the road in 2014. In the 2019 CBI Tournament, the Chanticleers set a record for the most points ever scored by an opponent in WVU Coliseum with a 109-91 win at West Virginia, then earned the program’s first win ever over a Pac-12 school by beating Utah the following November. Coastal hosted South Carolina for the first time ever in 2021, beating the Gamecocks by 24 points.

Ellis coached 15 Chanticleer players to all-conference selection and 10 different 1,000-point scorers. Under Ellis’ guidance, Elijah Wilson became Coastal’s career leader in games played (140) and field goals attempted (1,687), DeVante’ Jones set a program record for career free throw percentage (.855), Essam Mostafa broke the CCU record for career rebounds per game (9.4), and Sam McLaurin shattered Coastal’s career blocked shots record (155).

The Cliff Ellis File• 909-576 (.612 win pct.) as a collegiate head coach• 831-564 (.596 win pct.) as an NCAA Division I head coach• 10 NCAA Tournament appearances• 3 Sweet Sixteens• AP, CBS, and John Wooden National Coach of the Year (1999)• Henry Iba Award Winner (1999)• Gene Bartow Award Winner (2014)• Only coach with at least 170 wins at four different NCAA Division I programs• Member of the Alabama, Clemson, Cumberland, and Mobile Sports Halls of Fame• Sun Belt Coach of the Year (1979)• ACC Coach of the Year (1987, 1990)• SEC Coach of the Year (1995, 1999)• Big South Coach of the Year (2010)• 8 conference regular season titles• 2 conference tournament championships• 6 conference Coach of the Year honors• AP National Coach of the Year• Winningest head coach ever in the state of South Carolina