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Cliff Ellis retires from Coastal Carolina

The 78-year-old won 833 games at the Division-I level with stops at Coastal, South Alabama, Auburn and Clemson

NCAA Basketball: Coastal Carolina at Wake Forest
Cliff Ellis coached at Coastal Carolina for 17 seasons.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cliff Ellis entered this season as the oldest active coach in Division I men’s basketball, but one day after turning 78, the Coastal Carolina coach is retiring.

Ellis posted an 833-566 record at the Division-I level with stops at Coastal, South Alabama, Auburn and Clemson. He also coached at Cumberland in the NAIA and has 909 total career victories.

This year was his 17th season with the Chanticleers and 49th overall. He won 297 games in Myrtle Beach – the most of any stop in his career. Ellis won three regular-season championships and a pair of tournament titles when CCU was in the Big South conference.

“He did it the right way,” Coastal Carolina President Michael T. Benson said. “He inculcated these young men with principles that the took with them throughout their lives.”

Coastal Carolina began competing in the Sun Belt ahead of the 2016-17 season, and Ellis pointed to helping to build the conference into what it is today as one of his biggest accomplishments at the press conference announcing his retirement.

“I am so proud to be one of those pioneers,” Ellis said. “To see what the Sun Belt is doing, to see now what is happening, we did that. I’m a part of that.”

Ellis will remain active in the program and serve as consultant for the rest of the season.

He pointed to the changing landscape of the sport as the reason for his retirement. The transfer portal and NIL posed many challenges to the Chanticleers, and he mentioned the number of players that have transferred out of the program in recent years.

“This is the first challenge I have not been able to overcome,” Ellis said.

Ellis added that he had initially planned to retire at season’s end.

He began his Division-I career at South Alabama, where he went to consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 1979 and 1980. From there, he went to Clemson and led the Tigers to the Big Dance three times.

Ellis coached at Auburn from 1994-95 through 2003-04. The Tigers were a No. 1 seed in the 1999 NCAA Tournament and went 29-4.

Associate head coach Benny Moss has been named the interim head coach.