Legette-Jack gets her dream basketball job at Syracuse

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SYRACUSE (AP) — At long last, Felisha Legette-Jack has her dream job — coaching at her alma mater in the city where she grew up.

Legette-Jack was introduced Monday as the women's basketball coach at Syracuse after a decade at Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference. She replaces Vonn Read, who guided the Orange through a difficult season after his predecessor, Quentin Hillsman, resigned amid allegations he mistreated players.

“The feeling that continues to come over me is — I am home, I am home,” said Legette-Jack, who was unable to curb her enthusiasm on the drive to campus. “We talked about this a long time ago and here we are. It has been my dream job since I was a freshman here. The perfect time is right now. We both have a want and a need. It fits perfectly.”

The 55-year-old Legette-Jack is the fourth woman to lead the program. She started her coaching career as an assistant at Boston College in 1991 and was an assistant with the Orange under the previous woman who held the job, Marianna Freeman.

Legette-Jack has a 343-279 record as a head coach. She spent six years at Indiana before she was fired. Buffalo gave her a second chance and she took the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament four times in her 10 seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2018.

“Today starts a new era, a new book, in the history of our women’s basketball program,” said Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack, who interviewed Legette-Jack a week ago and offered her the job two days later. “Coach has the experience, she has the expertise, she has the vision and she has unsurpassed passion. Coach Legette-Jack is the right person at the right time to lead this program.”

The Orange finished 11-18 overall and 4-14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference this past season and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade. That was understandable considering what happened last offseason. Read, an associate head coach since 2013, took over a program that was pretty much stripped bare.

Eleven players transferred after the 2020-21 season, and Hillsman resigned last August during an investigation into his coaching practices after 15 years of building the Orange into a powerful program that reached the national championship game in 2016. Several former members of the team said they dealt with bullying, threats and unwelcome physical contact under Hillsman.

Legette-Jack kept close tabs on the team she starred for in the 1980s. She said she watched every minute of every Syracuse game last season even while coaching the Bulls — and beating her alma mater last November at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

“I wanted them to have success despite how tough it was for everybody,” she said. “It was shocking, devastating. It’s always a tough pill to swallow if ... you love this place like I do. My heart broke for them because it had to be something really tough to have to go through to want to leave.”

Legette-Jack said she met with the 10 players who remain in the program and will rely on attracting others through the transfer portal.

“We’re behind the 8-ball a little bit. It’s going to take a while," she said. "The portal is going to be very important.”

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