Tilette began his coaching career as an assistant at Jesuit High School in New Orleans. In 1982 he was named head coach for De La Salle High School. In 1989 he was hired as an assistant for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, then in 1990 joined Perry Clark's staff at Tulane University. The following year he came to Samford as an assistant. He was promoted to head coach in 1997 after John Brady left to take the job at Louisiana State University.
Tillette was the winningest coach in Samford's history, with an overall record of 229-219. He led the Bulldogs to their only two appearances in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship in 1999 and 2000 while they were a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The 1999-2000 season was highlighted by upset wins over St John's and Alabama.
On January 23, 2010, Tillette suffered a seizure during a basketball game in Greesnboro, North Carolina. He was rushed to a local hospital and later transferred to UAB Hospital for observation. Assistant coach Paul Kelly served as interim coach during his absence. After receiving a positive prognosis and resting, Tillette returned to coaching on February 1.
|Samford Bulldogs basketball head coach
- Hollis, Charles. (January 23, 2010). "Jimmy Tillette suffers seizure during game." The Birmingham News
- Radice, Brad. (February 1, 2010). "Tillette Back To Work". CBS 42
- Scarbinsky, Kevin (March 13, 2012) "Samford fires basketball coach Jimmy Tillette." The Birmingham News
- Jimmy Tillette at samfordsports.cstv.com