At first glance, it would be easy to confuse Tara Koran and Leanne Morrison as sisters. After all, the two WCMS Lady Pioneer coaches have the definite resemblance.
Though they aren’t related, they’re usually inseparable on the hardwood. Their bond has been fortified for their love for basketball, a game which originally brought them together.
“We actually played each other in college,” Morrison recalls. “I first met her when she played at Martin Methodist through my best friend.”
Though they didn’t remain in constant contact after their first meeting on the court, it didn’t take long for them to become best friends when Koran took the WCMS 7-8 grade girls job in 2017. Koran believes her acceptance in Warren County started with the embrace of a hometown girl.
“Leanne has been my ally from the start,” said Koran. “She’s from Warren County – born and raised. She helped me navigate my way here while learning the Warren County way and worked with me on how we could make it better.”
Their similarities don’t end with appearances. Both have almost identical backgrounds in basketball, albeit in different parts of Tennessee.
Morrison, then Leanne Pelham, bust on the local scene by starring as a Morrison Lady Eagle, leading the program to multiple undefeated seasons. She went on to score over 1,000 points as a Lady Pioneer, parlaying her talent into a scholarship at Motlow State Community College.
In her two years as a Lady Buck, Morrison put up numbers which are still in the record book. Morrison, a 2005-06 All-American, scored the sixth-most points in school history (1,038) while averaging 19.2 points per game. She also ranks in the top 10 in single-game scoring (41 points) and steals (7).
She went on to play two more years at Tennessee Wesleyan, where she averaged 9.5 points per game. Morrison graduated from Wesleyan in 2008.
While Morrison was becoming one of the best Lady Pioneers in school history, Koran was starring for Westmoreland High School, leading the team to a 31-3 record while garnering all-district and all-region awards. The 6-foot-1 post, then Tara Black, graduated in 2003 and played two seasons at Volunteer State before finishing her career at Martin Methodist.
Despite being a double-double machine in school, Koran believes her best friend may have had the upper hand during their playing days.
“She was a stud in high school and college. I was always a solid role player who did my job,” said Koran.
Though they squared off once in college – splitting the matchups when they overlapped in 2004-05 in the NJCAA – they haven’t renewed the rivalry as coaching peers. Instead, they like to take on their teams.
“We don’t play one-on-one. We team up and play against the kids,” said Morrison.
It’s part of their practice schedule which, until this year, has allowed them to help each other grow the Lady Pioneer program.
“We’ve shared practices for two years. I owe my success here to her and Betsy (McBride, WCMS athletic director). They have my back,” said Koran.
If both have it their way, they’ll continue to work together – and side-by-side as much as possible. Nobody seems in a rush to split up the duo – the closest thing to sisters on the WCMS sidelines.