"Success Leaves Footprints"
Karen Barefoot began her coaching career as one of the youngest head coaches in the country and has proven herself as a winner that has made history in resurrecting programs, winning championships, producing success in the classroom and in the community. Every day, on and off the court, Barefoot brings limitless energy, passion, focus, dedication and motivation to her programs and her passion for the game of basketball is unparalleled.
Her career has been highlighted with firsts, she was the first player in NCAA history, male or female, to score over 2,000 points and accumulate 1,000 assists. While at Christopher Newport, she was first in the nation in assists all four years and the first player featured in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd in 1994.
Following her playing career, Barefoot began her coaching at the age of 22 at The Apprentice School, where she began the first women's athletic program. Under her tutelage, the Lady Builders women’s basketball program achieved respectability and captured the Apprentice's first national title in 2001 by winning the National Small College Athletic Association tournament. That season she became the school’s first National Coach of the Year. Barefoot proved to be a strong mentor at a young age as her former Academic All-American Keisha Pexton became the first female and African-American to serve as Athletic Director, holding a manager-level position at The Apprentice School since its inception in 1919.
In 2001 she led Lenoir-Rhyne to its first South Atlantic Conference regular season title, SAC Tournament Championship and its first trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Barefoot also coached Lenoir-Rhyne’s first NCAA First Team All-American, SAC Player of the Year and SAC Tournament Most Valuable Player in Crystal Clary. From Lenoir-Rhyne she became an assistant under the famous Wendy Larry for three seasons, before taking over the Elon women’s basketball program in 2008. She helped the program reach new heights in 2010-11, as the Phoenix finished the season with a 20-13 record, the program’s best season at the Division I level. That year the team also made an appearance in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, the first postseason appearance in program history since joining Division I. Her player, Ali Ford, was also named the program’s first Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Conference honoree in its Division I era.
In 2011 Barefoot was named the leader of ODU women’s basketball program and served for six seasons, leading the Lady Monarchs to much success. Barefoot led ODU to the C-USA Tournament championship game for the first time since joining the league and played an instrumental role in the program’s second-consecutive Education Day sellout, a game that has turned into a Norfolk Public Schools tradition realizing the first ever women’s basketball sellout at the Ted Constant Center in 2014. Barefoot’s mentoring also led to Jennie Simms becoming ODU women’s basketball first Conference USA Newcomer of the Year and a two-time First Team All-Conference honoree for the first time since T.J. Jordan earned two CAA accolades in 2007 & 2008. Barefoot also saw Simms, along with her first WNBA Champion Shae Kelley, score 1,000 points in two years, marking the first time since Clarisse Machanguana achieved that feat in the mid-90’s. Simms was drafted in the 2nd round by the WNBA Washington Mystics in 2017. Barefoot has had over 35 players to play overseas across the globe.
In 2017 Barefoot was selected by the University of North Carolina Wilmington to lead the Lady Seahawks Women’s Basketball program. In her first 11 games she has accomplished several milestones for the program. The Lady Seahawks are experiencing their best start at UNCW in 10 years with a record of 6-0 at home in non-conference play. Barefoot has also managed to change the direction and outlook of the program in just a few short months. Her passion and tenacity for excellence has given players a new outlook in a winning culture and has managed to produce players that are rising to the top including a former walk-on who played only 7 minutes last season and is now coming off of the bench averaging 14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and had a career-high of 24 points versus VCU. There is no doubt that Barefoot will continue to build a legacy of rebuilding extraordinary basketball programs and producing top conference ranking basketball players.
In 19 years as a head coach, Barefoot has compiled 19 winning seasons and is just 4 wins away from her 400th overall coaching win. She has been a part of ten national post-season tournament appearances and has won two National Coach of the Year awards, as a passionate mentor she begins her 20th season as a head coach and her first year as the leader of the UNCW Lady Seahawks in 2017-18.