By David J. Hill
Here’s something you’ll rarely see a coach do after a loss in postseason play: smile. But there was no mistaking the wide grin on Felisha Legette-Jack’s face after her team fell to Ball State in the MAC women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals in March.
Why the happy face? “We won 17 games this season, the third-most in the history of the program. It was just our second year together. I think our future’s so bright that you can’t do anything but smile,” Legette-Jack explains.
Two years ago, there wasn’t much for Legette-Jack to smile about. She had just been dismissed from Indiana University after a 6-24 season—despite the fact that, in her six years there, she had led the Hoosiers to three Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearances and, in 2008-09, a program record-tying 21 wins.
After losing her job in March 2012, Legette-Jack planned to move her family south and become a life coach. Three months later, Danny White was introducing her as UB’s head coach. White was impressed by Legette-Jack’s success at Indiana, but more so by her record at Hofstra, a mid-major program similar to UB’s, and where Legette-Jack coached from 2002 to 2006. She guided the Pride to the WNIT in 2005-06, one of the greatest seasons in Hofstra history.
After only two seasons in Buffalo, Legette-Jack, a 1989 graduate of basketball-crazed Syracuse University, where she ranks among the top five in Orange history for career points and rebounds, knows she’s in the right place with the right team. “When I came to Buffalo, I felt like I was needed, I felt like I was wanted. Those kids needed somebody to push them, and I was ready to push somebody.”
“Coach Jack pushed us harder than ever,” agrees Margeaux Gupilan, a senior on the team who leaves with the sixth-most assists in program history. Adds sophomore Mackenzie Loesing, who led the team in scoring this past season, “I am in no way exaggerating when I say that her passion is unlike anything I have ever seen.”
More than three quarters of UB’s scoring output will return next season, including Loesing, who this year became the first sophomore in program history to reach 800 career points, and Kristen Sharkey, whose 36 points in an earlier matchup against Ball State ranks as the third-best at UB.
Even more importantly, says Legette-Jack, “These kids have faith. They can’t wait until November of next season, and that’s something we haven’t had here toward basketball. It’s different now.”