A profile on Old Dominion University’s latest women’s basketball coach
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
Did you know Old Dominion University (ODU) was instituted in 1930 as the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (W&M)? Much like Christopher Newport University (CNU), ODU began as a research center offshoot of W&M. Did you also know the ODU women’s basketball team has been an official intramural athletic program of the university since its inception? In 1930, Mary D. Parker, one of the university’s instructors, acted as the program’s first head coach. Their first recorded game came against W&M’s freshman team in the very same year.
Now almost a century and nine coaches later, ODU hired DeLisha Milton-Jones on Apr. ninth of this year. Jones takes over the helm of a program that, over the aforementioned last century, has captured three national championships, 20 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearances, five Sun Belt conference championships and 17 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championships. Milton-Jones replaces former coach Nikki McCray as the leader of the Lady Monarchs. McCray, who played collegiately for the University of Tennessee and professionally for nine years in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), left ODU to take the head coaching position at Mississippi State University. Milton-Jones takes over for a Lady Monarchs team that held a record of 24-6 before the cancellation of their season.
So, who exactly is new ODU head coach Jones? She grew up in Riceboro, GA, and she played high school basketball for the Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, GA. Milton-Jones was highly recruited after demonstrating phenomenal leadership and skill on the hardwood, and she ultimately committed to Gainesville’s University of Florida (UF) under an athletic scholarship. For four years, the 6’1’’ Milton-Jones played both forward positions for the Gators under eventual WNBA Coach of the Year winner for the Los Angeles Sparks, Carol Ross. During her time at UF, Jones and her teammates, under the direction of Ross, went to four straight NCAA tournaments from 1993-1997. In 1997, the Gators made their furthest run into the tournament yet marching all the way to the final eight in the quarterfinals. In the very same season, Milton-Jones captured the Associated Press’s All-American honors, and she was also awarded the Wade Trophy, which is presented by the Women’s Basketball College Association to that season’s best performing player, for her efforts. Milton-Jones was selected fourth overall by the Sparks in the 1999 WNBA Draft. She enjoyed a 17-year-long career that saw two WNBA Final wins, three WNBA All-Star selections, a gold metal in the 2002 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) championships in China and two gold medals for team basketball competition in the 2000 and 2008 summer Olympics respectively. For her career, Jones averaged 11.2 points, 5.2 total rebounds and 1.8 assists in 499 career games. Out of the 499 games, Milton-Jones started a total of 435 of them. Before officially retiring in Sep. 2016, Milton-Jones was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. She even played professionally overseas making stops in Russia, the Czech Republic and Spain.
Once her playing days were over and gone, Milton-Jones started her coaching career at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA as an assistant in 2016. Only after one season, she took over as the head coach. After a brief stint as an assistant at Syracuse University for the 2019-20 season, Milton-Jones accepted the head coaching job at ODU. Her time in Norfolk is off to an unconventional start, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some setbacks in her process of taking over the program. After undertaking the job in Apr., she has only recently been able to meet with her team who is expected to begin their season against W&M on Dec. third. In an interview with WTKR, Norfolk’s Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) affiliate, Milton-Jones said, in response to taking a collegiate head coaching position during a global pandemic, “It’s been a whirlwind to say the least.”
As mentioned earlier, Milton-Jones takes over an ODU women’s basketball team that is coming off recent success. The Lady Monarchs only lost one game at their home site of the Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. This year, they look to keep that same will to win when playing in their own stomping grounds with games against last year’s top Conference USA, the conference ODU competes in, contenders in Western Kentucky University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and last year’s champions, Rice University.
ODU will take the court with three of five returning starters in Victoria Morris, Ajah Wayne and Amari Young. Last season, the team averaged 66.3 points per game. Compare that to their opponents’ average score of 55.3 points per game, and ODU looks in prime position to repeat their success before their season was cut short. Although the same results will be expected, Milton-Jones represents a new direction and era for Lady Monarchs basketball in the new decade. From one cerulean school to another, go big blue!
ODU history and statistics obtained from: https://sites.wp.odu.edu/oduwiki/2020/04/21/womens-basketball-at-odu/#:~:text=%20Women%E2%80%99s%20Basketball%20at%20ODU%20%201%20Old,Norfolk%20Division%20in%201930%2C%20shortly%20after…%20More%20
Information on McCray obtained from: https://hailstate.com/sports/womens-basketball/roster/coaches/nikki-mccray-penson/2363
Information and statistics on Milton-Jones obtained from:
Milton-Jones quote obtained from: