Darren Tillis, who has 20 years of coaching experience, joined the UCF staff as an assistant coach in April 2010. Tillis spent the previous three campaigns as an assistant coach at Marshall under Donnie Jones. Tillis has helped the Knights enjoy much success since arriving in Orlando.
To go along with new look uniforms and the new blacktop court at CFE Arena, the 2013-14 season also marked the first season of play for the Knights in the brand new American Athletic Conference. Taking on some of the most prestigious programs in the nation, including the last two national champions in Connecticut and Louisville, the Knights finished the year on a high note, defeating Houston by 21 points in the regular season finale, topping Temple in the first round of The American Championships in double overtime, and taking top seeded Cincinnati down to the wire before eventually falling 61-58 in the league quarterfinals. Tillis helped Isaiah Sykes continue his development as one of the most versatile players in the country. The senior was selected to the All-AAC Second Team and The American All-Tournament Team after leading the Knights with 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.
UCF registered its third straight 20-win campaign in 2012-13, going 20-11 overall. Facing one of the most challenging schedules in program history, the Knights picked up a pair of wins over top-50 RPI squads in Belmont and Southern Miss. A pair of Knights garnered All-Conference USA honors, with Sykes receiving a spot on the first team and Keith Clanton selected to the second team. Tillis mentored Clanton for his final three years as a Knight and the power forward finished his career as UCF's all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, games played and start. Both Sykes and Clanton received NABC All-District 11 First Team honors, marking the first time in program history that two Knights were named to the all-district squad.
The Knights went 22-11 overall and 10-6 in C-USA play in 2011-12. UCF enjoyed several impressive firsts during the campaign, including its debut in the postseason National Invitation Tournament, its first trip to the C-USA Championship semifinals, the program's first wins over league foes Memphis and UAB and the first victory over a top-5 ranked team in No. 4 UConn. Tillis helped Clanton garner All-C-USA First Team honors and earn a spot on the NABC All-District 11 Team. Clanton led the Knights in points (14.5) and rebounds (8.1) per game.
In 2010-11, UCF entered the national rankings for the first time in program history. The Knights spent four total weeks in the rankings, including three weeks with a spot in both national polls. Tillis helped UCF's post players post several impressive achievements during the campaign. Clanton was named to the All-C-USA Third Team after averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent overall.
The Knights finished the campaign fifth nationally in blocks per game (5.8) and blocked a school-record 190 shots during the year. Tom Herzog (2.0) ranked second in the conference in blocks per contest, and Clanton (1.8) was third.
While at Marshall, Tillis helped Jones turn around the Thundering Herd program. Marshall went 24-10 in 2009-10 and advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The appearance was the first trip to the postseason for Marshall in 22 years. The team finished the season 11-5 in C-USA play, tying the Herd for third in the league and serving as the school's best conference finish since 2000-01.
Tillis served as a mentor for Hassan Whiteside, who led the nation in blocks in 2009-10. The post player recorded 182 blocks, the fourth-most in NCAA single-season history. Whiteside was named both the C-USA Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year, and garnered freshman All-America Second Team honors from The Sporting News. Both Whiteside and fellow big man Tyler Wilkerson were selected to the All-C-USA Second Team. Whiteside was selected by Sacramento with the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Before heading to Marshall, Tillis served as an assistant coach at Tennessee State from 2003-07. Tillis was an assistant coach at Clemson from 1998-03. During his time with the Tigers, Tillis coached several players who went on to the NBA, including Harold Jamison and Will Solomon.
Tillis played collegiately at Cleveland State and was selected with the 23rd overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft by Boston. He spent two years in the NBA, playing with the Celtics, Cleveland and Golden State. Tillis then played professionally in Europe, starting with a four-year stint in the Italian League, where he won a pair of titles. He concluded his professional career in the Spanish League from 1988-90.
A native of Dallas, Tillis began his coaching career in Europe as the head coach of Ockelbo Basket in Sweden from 1993-95. He entered the college coaching ranks in 1995, spending a year at SMU as an assistant. While living in Dallas, he finished his undergraduate degree at Paul Quinn College, receiving a bachelor's of arts in history in 1996. From 1997-98, he worked as an assistant at Wyoming.
Tillis was a four-year starter at Cleveland State. As a senior, he averaged 17.3 points and 12.8 rebounds and was an All-America honorable mention selection by The Sporting News. Inducted into the Cleveland State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, Tillis ranks first in school history in career blocked shots (171), second in rebounds (1,045) and fourth in scoring (1,423). Tillis is the proud father of a daughter, Christina.