Nell Fortner was named Auburn's fifth head coach on April 22, 2004 and led the Tigers for eight seasons until her retirement following the 2011-12 season. She guided the Tigers to a 145-106, a Southeastern Conference regular-season title in 2009 and four post-season appearances, including two NCAA appearances.
An Olympic gold medal coach in 2000, Fortner's eight seasons at Auburn marked her longest tenure at any position in her career. Prior to coming to Auburn, she served as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin (1986-90) and Louisiana Tech (1990-95) before taking her first head coaching position at Purdue during the 1996-97 season. In her one season with the Boilermakers, she led the team to a cop-Big Ten championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
On April 1, 1997, Fortner was named to succeed Tara VanDerveer as the U.S. National Team head coach. She led the team to win gold medals at the 1998 FIBA World Championship and 2000 Olympic Games, and was named the 2000 USA Basketball Coach of the Year. She led the team to a 101-14 record, the most wins of any coach in Women's USA Basketball history.
Coming off the 2000 Olympics, Fortner took over as head coach of the WNBA's Indiana Fever, holding the position of head coach and general manager from 2001-03. In 2002 she took the upstart franchise to a .500 record for the first time and made the team's first appearance in the WNBA Playoffs. Overall, Fortner put together a 42-56 record with the Fever.
A studio analyst with ESPN from 2001-04, Fortner made the decision to return to the coaching ranks as she took over the Auburn program prior to the 2004-05 season. She took over the program following the retirement of long-time coach Joe Ciampi.
Fortner led the Tigers to a 16-13 mark in her first season and 14-15 in her second. She turned things around in her third season, going 21-13 (6-8 SEC) in the 2006-07 season to earn Fortner her first 20-win season as a head coach. It also marked her first post-season appearance at Auburn as she led the Tigers to the WNIT Quarterfinals.
The team made its first NCAA Tournament appearance following the 2007-08 season, going 20-12 on the year with a 7-7 mark in the SEC.
Fortner's Auburn career reached its pinnacle the next season as she guided the Tigers to the 2009 Southeastern Conference regular-season title, the team's first in 20 years. Auburn notched a 30-4 (12-2 SEC) mark that season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a No. 2 seed. For her efforts that season, Fortner was named the SEC and WBCA Region III Coach of the Year. She was also named the national coach of the year by Basketball Times.
Losing four starters, the Tigers struggled during the 2009-10 season, finishing with a 15-16 record. Despite the record, the team showed promise as it defeated three ranked teams during the regular season.
Auburn returned to the post-season the next year, notching a 16-16 record in 2010-11 with a second-round appearance in the WNIT. The Tigers lost at Toledo, the eventual WNIT champion, in their final game of the season. Fortner closed out her eighth and final season at Auburn with a 13-17 record in 2011-12.
During her eight years at Auburn, Fortner coached two players (Whitney Boddie and DeWanna Bonner) to State Farm/WBCA All-America honors and eight players to 10 All-SEC honors. She also produced two WNBA draft picks (Boddie and Bonner) and Auburn's first-ever SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Blanche Alverson).