UB women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack has agreed to become the next head coach at Syracuse University, the school announced Saturday.
Legette-Jack went 202-114 in 10 seasons at UB and leaves Buffalo as the women’s basketball program’s all-time winningest coach. She led the Bulls to three Mid-American Conference Championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the first Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history in 2018. Most recently, the Bulls finished the 2021-22 season with a 25-9 record, including a 16-4 record in MAC play and an NCAA Tournament berth.
A Syracuse native who played four years with the Orange from 1985-89, Legette-Jack became the only woman to have her jersey retired in the legendary Carrier Dome last fall.
“This [Buffalo] has been my home for the last 10 years and to see it grow the way it did with the people I’ve surrounded myself with has been nothing less than magical,” Legette-Jack said in a UB press release. “We created magic here in Buffalo and at this university. My heart has pulled me back home to where I was raised and the university I attended. Although I will miss everything about this place, it is time for me to go home.”
The 1985 Big East Rookie of the Year is one of three players in Syracuse history to score 1,500 points and grab more than 900 rebounds.
After earning a degree in psychology and child and family studies in 1989, Legette-Jack spent time as an assistant coach at Boston College, Syracuse and Michigan State before securing her first head coaching position at Hofstra in 2002. She then went on to coach at Indiana and UB where she has earned a collective career record of 342-277 in 20 years as a Division I head coach.
“This is something, to be honest with you, that we were aware of and anticipated,” UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt said in a Zoom meeting with local media. “She’s been here for 10 years and has done a tremendous job in terms of being able to build this program to where it is now and becoming a national brand.
“She’s expressed to me many times, if the opportunity does come to her to go home, that’s something she’d definitely consider, and I respect that.”
In August, Legette-Jack signed a one-year contract extension with UB that lasted through 2025. In wake of the Syracuse opening, Alnutt says he had the opportunity to present a “strong” contract to Legette-Jack prior to the MAC Tournament.
Despite the offer, Legette-Jack chose to return home and coach at her alma mater.
“We are thrilled to have Coach Legette-Jack lead our women’s basketball program,” Syracuse Athletic Director John Wildhack said in a statement released by the school. “She is a builder of programs, evidenced by the success she had at the University at Buffalo. She is totally committed to the full development of every student-athlete and staff member who is part of her program. On behalf of Syracuse Athletics, all our alumni and fans around the globe, we welcome Coach Legette-Jack and her family back to Syracuse University and Central New York.”
Alnutt says UB plans to fill its head coaching vacancy within the next two to three weeks and will pursue multiple candidates currently coaching in the NCAA Tournament.
The Orange went 11-18 under acting head coach Vonn Read and missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years after former head coach Quentin Hillsman resigned in 2021 following multiple accusations of inappropriate behavior and conduct..
While Legette-Jack will be tasked with the challenge of reviving a nationally respected program, the allure of returning to Syracuse was too good to pass up.
“The draw to come home was what it was,” Alnutt said. “And regardless to what we could have done, that opportunity is something that she wanted to do for a long time coming. And again, I definitely appreciate that and [I’m] excited that she’s able to achieve her dreams.”
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.