Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack talks 2019-20 season
‘We just got to see how the movie becomes’
Felisha Legette-Jack is entering her eighth season as the women’s basketball head coach, with 28 years of coaching college teams under her belt. In her eight seasons as the Bulls head coach, she has successfully led them to a 143-86 record (.601 win percentage).
In those 143 wins, Coach Jack has led the Bulls to their first three wins in the NCAA Division I tournament as well as their only MAC championships.
Don’t mistake that though, Legette-Jack is only looking to the future with her young team, composed of mainly freshmen and sophomores.
Buffalo looks to defend its MAC title this year when they kick off the season with an exhibition against Mercyhurst University in Alumni Arena on Nov. 1.
Q: What are your thoughts on the schedule?
A: It's always great, there's always a chance to get out there and show who we are. Every team is so good from the first game against Central [Connecticut State] to the last game. We are so young this year, we are so excited about trying to see this clay that we got in our hands, and mold it to what is supposed to become, and this year is going to be way different than it has been in the last four years. But it's neat, because talent wise it’s very good. We just got to see how the movie becomes.
Q: Now, what are your expectations for the season going off of what happened last year?
A: Oh, it is not about last year. It's about what they present to me. And they present to me that they want to be great, too. And they got dreams, too. And they want to show people that Buffalo is alive and well. The women's basketball team is going to have a piece in the story that's being told about the University at Buffalo. We have amazing kids from all over the world, from Germany, from Nigeria, from Canada to all over. And nobody really cares until you make them care. How you make them care, you keep them quiet. How you keep them quiet, you win enough games where they put you in a podium.
Q: How do you follow up the success of winning the MAC and going to the second round of the NCAA Tournament from last year?
A: We don't worry about what we've done last year. So what we do now, it’s always about what we leave today, I think we won today. I thought practice was intense. We made some mistakes, we raise our hand, we got back after it. And I just love the fact that everybody felt really mad. But they had to get focused … and this young team is growing up before my eyes. I'm really excited about it.
Q: How do you go about coaching a team this young?
A: That's why I'm 53 years old. And I have been locked into the age of 17 to 22 for the last 31 years. And this year is no different. And they're young, but I give them the same medicine they've given the other teams throughout the years, and how they receive it, how they digest it, how they let it go marinate in their spirit is going to be how they become older and more mature.
Q: With the team having more international students than Americans, how successful do you think the international recruitment process has been for this team?
A: You know, it's so funny. I don't even realize that we're what we are until somebody brought it to my attention. I just love to coach people that want to play for me, want to play for Buffalo, want to tell their story. And it just so happens to be that this particular year, that majority of come from all over the world. You know, Jessika Schiffer recruited me. And it's really neat that somebody from Germany saw how I coach in America. And she really said this is the kind of coach I want to play for. … And it's recruiting that has become easier now that we got ourselves on TV. And I don't see it as Jessika is different from Summer [Hemphill] because she's from Germany, and Summer is from Buffalo. They are all my kids and they all are going to be intertwined together, the experiences might be a little bit different.
Q: Is it hard to see seniors as such as Cierra Dillard and Steph Reid leave and prepare the team for the next season?
A: I don't look at them as leaving, I look at them as being ready to merge into the phenomenal women that we presented to them three years ago, four years ago, five years ago. And I see an evolution of something really beautiful happening for those young people and their dreams coming true. And yes, you have to replace them. But it's not in a bad way is that they're ready to go. … I don't like to see them leave, because they're my kids, like my son had to go back to school and I want him to be here, but I know that he's ready to fly and find his own wings and the other people I get to coach have to be ready, and I think they are.
Q: What are your expectations for attendance here at Alumni Arena?
A: Anything less than a sellout is less than my expectation. I really think that we have a product for this city to really jump behind. Anybody can jump on us when we're in the Sweet 16, who's willing to now see that we've done the work, we've done the work, we've done the work, we are winning, we went further than the entire SUNY system.
We're talking men’s and women's basketball, we went to the Sweet 16 and nobody in the SUNY system has done that, but us. And now it's time to say, ‘Okay, we'll do the work and I need you to come, I need you guys to jump on this young team and be the foundation that they stand on. So they can fly because they're going to be good and we're going to win games.’
Q: Is there anything else you want the UB students to know?
A: The students they should come and support as we’ll do a great job of supporting our program [and] student population here. And I hope that they see now that we're also a viable option as well. We're going to keep playing, my prayer is that they will come.
Sports desk can be reached at email@example.com.