UB women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack made headlines last Sunday when she became the first woman ever to have her jersey retired by Syracuse University.
It was a feel-good weekend for Legette-Jack, who was greeted by 3,000 spectators in her return to her alma mater.
But Wednesday’s UB practice didn’t radiate the same positive energy.
A fiery Legette-Jack relentlessly ripped into her team ahead of Saturday’s matchup against No. 1 South Carolina in the inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Slated to be played at Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas, the tournament gives Legette-Jack the opportunity to assess her team’s abilities after a dominant 102-42 victory over crosstown rival Canisius in the regular-season opener.
Legette-Jack elected to vigorously inspire her team with her signature hard-nosed coaching style, which included demonstrative indications of disapproval and multiple explicit lectures.
“The reason I got my number retired, [is because] I don’t change who I am,” Legette-Jack told The Spectrum. “If you listen to my words, you’re gonna be like, ‘That’s a motivational coach.’ If you listen to the tone of my words, you’re gonna say, ‘That’s an a—le.’ You’d think I’m the worst person ever. That’s your choice. Everybody can’t play for me. I don’t change how I coach you because that’s what I’d want for me. And if it’s too much, then it’s not the place for you.”
If Wednesday’s practice didn’t set the tone, nothing will.
Now, the Bulls must embrace the challenge at hand. Not only will UB play No. 1 South Carolina in the tournament opener, but the Bulls will either face Oklahoma or No. 9 Oregon in the second game.
Legette-Jack insists the Bulls aren’t embracing the “underdog mentality” that may come with playing against some of the top teams in the country.
“We’re not underdogs anymore, we’ve been here way too long to be an underdog,” Legette-Jack said.
While South Carolina heads into Saturday’s contest as the clear favorite, Legette-Jack’s transformation of the Bulls’ program speaks for itself.
UB has made it to three NCAA Tournament appearances under Legette-Jack, including the only Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history, in 2018. The 2017-18 Bulls were also the first MAC team to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1996.
Overall, Legette-Jack is 176-106 (.624) in her UB career.
Legette-Jack knows how far her teams have gone in the past — and expects her current team to come into its games with a confidence born from winning.
“It’s not about waiting your turn, it’s not respecting people to the point where it cripples you,” Legette-Jack said. “So we don’t talk about South Carolina being this or that or Oregon being this or whatever. We talk about what we’re trying to become. We’re trying to become better than we were yesterday.”
While the Bulls will lean on proven stars such as junior guard Dyaisha Fair and redshirt fifth-year forward Summer Hemphill, they will also learn quite a bit about their depth this weekend.
Facing multiple top opponents — physically larger opponents, no less — will force the Bulls to play a more fast-paced and perimeter-oriented game.
UB scored 62 points in the paint in its season opener. That almost certainly won’t be the case against either South Carolina or Oregon, making it crucial they adjust their style of play.
“It’s about 120 minutes of how are we going to learn about ourselves? How are we going to learn about this team? We only have one game under our belt so we really are just trying to find out who we are,” Legette-Jack said.
UB’s 10th-year coach was quick to deflect questions about her jersey retirement.
While her weekend was filled with warm hugs and joyful reunions, she says the tone has changed. It’s now about the task at hand, not the weekend’s festivities.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them,” she said. “As good as I was, I want them to be way better. It’s about how I’m going to get them better. So it’s about them and our quest to get each one of them better than what they currently are. The authenticity of greatness is worthy of me really focusing on them.”
The Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament will begin Saturday, Nov. 20, and run through Monday, Nov. 22 at Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Bulls will face No. 1 South Carolina Saturday at 7:30 p.m. UB will face either Oklahoma or No. 9 Oregon on Sunday and an undetermined opponent on Monday. All the games will be aired on FloHoops.
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.