Beginning her 17th season at the helm of the Mississippi State women's basketball program, Sharon Fanning-Otis has compiled a career record of 594-444, including a 267-216 mark at MSU.
During her tenure in Starkville, Fanning-Otis has tutored two Kodak (now State Farm) all-Americans in Tan White (2002-2005) and LaToya Thomas (1999-2003).
As a senior, White led the nation in scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game, was named to the Associated Press's All-America Second Team, Frances Pomeroy Naismith recipient, all-SEC First Team selection and became the SEC's all-Time Career Steals Leader in addition to finishing atop five MSU career categories. She became the second Lady Bulldog to be drafted into the WNBA when she went as the No. 2 pick in the 2005 Draft to the Indiana Fever.
In 2003, Thomas became just the sixth player in NCAA history to be named a Kodak (now State Farm) all-American four times. Becoming the first player to lead the SEC in scoring all four years of her career, Thomas was a four-time all-SEC First Team and four-time Associated Press all-SEC First Team pick. During her career, Thomas led MSU to three NCAA Tournament appearances and to an appearance in the 2000 SEC Tournament title game. Becoming the seventh player under Fanning-Otis' tutelage to play in the professional ranks, she was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft, going to the Cleveland Rockers. The pick made Thomas the first Lady Bulldog to be drafted into the WNBA and the first athlete from the state of Mississippi to be taken as the top pick in any professional draft. In April of 2010, the Mississippi State women's basketball program made history when three players were taken in the WNBA Draft. Chanel Mokango was drafted ninth by the Atlanta Dream followed by Armelie Lumanu who was drafted 23rd overall by the Indiana Fever. Alexis Rack was taken 29th overall by the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Last year's squad had to replace four starters, including Rack, Mokango and Lumanu, from the 2009-10 team that advanced to the program's first Sweet 16. Led by Diamber Johnson and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Mary Kathryn Govero, the Lady Dawgs finished the year by winning three of the season's last four games en route to a 13-17 record.
A year earlier, Fanning-Otis led the Lady Bulldogs to a remarkable season during the 2009-10 campaign. The Lady Bulldogs finished with a 21-13 mark and reached a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, including the Sweet 16 berth. Rack and Lumanu earned All-SEC honors while Lumanu and Mokango were named to the All-SEC Defensive Team. Lumanu was tabbed the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Rack also won the Gillom Trophy, an award presented to Mississippi's top women's collegiate basketball player, for the second-straight year.
During the 2008-09 season, Fanning-Otis led the Lady Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament, guiding Mississippi State to the second round for the fourth time. At season's end, MSU had compiled a 23-10 record including an 8-6 clip in Southeastern Conference play. It marked State's fifth NCAA trip under her leadership and 10th overall postseason appearance.
Also during the 2008-09 season, Fanning-Otis tutored guard Alexis Rack as she was named to the All-SEC First Team as well as Chanel Mokango and Armelie Lumanu who were chosen for the All-SEC Defensive Team.
During the 2007-08 campaign, State finished with a 16-15 overall record and made its second consecutive appearance in the WNIT. The postseason appearance was MSU's ninth in 13 years under Fanning-Otis.
In 2006-07, posting an 18-14 overall season record, including a 7-7 conference record, MState finished with a school-best 5-2 record on the road in league play. MSU received a bye in the 2007 Women's National Invitation Tournament and defeated Tulane in second round action before falling to Western Kentucky on the road in the third round. It marked the program's ninth postseason tournament appearance.
The Lady Bulldogs faced a tough SEC and non-conference schedule and finished 6-22 in 2005-06. The team managed to feature a scattering of positives along the way, including a road upset of archrival Mississippi. However, the year did produce another first in Lady Bulldog history. On Dec. 2, 2005 at Florida State, MSU started four freshmen for the first time ever - Robin Porter, Lauren Roberts, Heather Hollis and Marneshia Richard.
Fanning-Otis guided her 2004-05 squad to a 14-3 start before January. During the span, the Lady Bulldogs tallied a school-record 12-game win streak (Nov. 27, 2004-Jan. 13, 2005), which included wins over 20th-ranked Louisiana Tech and UC-Santa Barbara. State went 6-8 in SEC play and earned a WNIT bid, falling to Arkansas State in the first round.
In 2003-04, tallying an even 7-7 record in league play, MState finished eighth in the SEC and posted a 14-15 mark overall. MSU defeated Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament before falling to Tennessee in the quarterfinals.
Fanning-Otis' 2002-03 squad set many firsts for the program. The Lady Bulldogs finished the season 24-8, tying the best single-season record for a Lady Bulldog team. They also yielded the best SEC finish in school history, notching a 10-4 record to place third. For the success, MSU experienced its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance that season, defeating Manhattan before falling to New Mexico on its home floor. The Lady Bulldogs enjoyed consecutive weeks in the Top 25, cracking the Top 10 in the Associated Press Poll and then finishing the season 13th in the AP Poll and 16th in the Coaches' Poll.
In 2001-02, Fanning-Otis led MSU to its fifth consecutive postseason appearance - third in the NCAA Tournament - after posting an 18-11 regular season record. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Boston College to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Texas Tech in Lubbock.
In 2000-01, following a 15-13 regular season, the Lady Bulldogs were extended an invitation to appear in the Women's National Invitation Tournament. State defeated Georgia Tech at home and Illinois on the road before falling to James Madison in the semifinals. By hosting Georgia Tech at home, the Lady Bulldogs garnered yet another first in school history. It was the first time a Fanning-Otis squad hosted a postseason tournament game. State finished the season with a 17-14 record to notch a winning mark for the third-straight campaign.
The 1999-2000 Lady Bulldogs enjoyed one of their finest seasons to date, earning the program's first national ranking and a second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. After leading her team to a No. 12 final ranking in the Associated Press Poll and a 15th-place spot in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll, Fanning-Otis received SEC Coach of the Year honors and was named Mississippi State's Outstanding Professional Non-Faculty Woman by the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
She led the 1999-2000 team to a program-best 24-8 overall record and an 8-6 conference mark, which marked the first time a Lady Bulldog team had achieved 20 wins. During the year, State picked up major wins over ranked opponents, including then second-ranked Louisiana Tech. The Lady Bulldogs also appeared in the Southeastern Conference championship game for the first time.
In 35 years as a head coach, Fanning-Otis has coached 27 all-conference selections and 11 all-America picks. In addition to Thomas and White, Fanning-Otis coached Sharon Thompson, the first Lady Bulldog to be drafted in the women's professional American Basketball League.
Academically, the Lady Bulldogs have excelled off the court, as well. A total of 77 Lady Bulldogs have been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, including eight during the 2006-07 season. This past season, Mary Kathryn Govero closed her illustrious career by being named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Fanning-Otis came to MSU no stranger to SEC basketball after serving eight seasons as the head coach at Kentucky (1988-95). She began her coaching career in 1976 at her alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. A member of UTC's Hall of Fame, Fanning served as Assistant Athletics Director and Head Volleyball Coach until 1978 before being promoted to the role of Coordinator of Women's Athletics until her departure for the Bluegrass State in 1988.
Her coaching experience has not been limited to the collegiate level, as she has gained a great deal of experience coaching on the international level during her career. She served as Head Coach of the North team at the 1986 U.S. Olympic Festival before being selected to the staff of the United States Select team that played in Seoul, South Korea, in 1987. In 1988, Fanning-Otis assisted on the USA Junior National team that competed in the World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A magna cum laude graduate of UTC in 1975, Fanning-Otis lettered each year in basketball and volleyball for the Lady Mocs, while serving as captain for both sports in 1975. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree at UTC, Fanning-Otis earned her master's degree from the University of Tennessee in 1976 and began her coaching career as a graduate assistant with Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Fanning-Otis is active off the court where she is heavily involved in community affairs including serving as the spokesperson for the 2007 Oktibbeha County United Way campaign; hosting summer basketball camps and youth clinics and is in demand as a noted speaker.
Fanning-Otis has served three terms on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Board of Directors, two terms as Chair of the Kodak/WBCA All-America Committee and was a member of the Margaret Wade Player of the Year award committee. She has also represented the Southeastern Conference on the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee. Fanning-Otis presently serves on the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year Committee and is a member of the USA Today Top-25 Coaches Poll. She also is an SEC representative on the State Farm Coaches' All-American Committee.