On April 6, 2018 at the fabled Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi, the center piece of activities on the University of Mississippi campus, Director of Athletics Ross Bjork emphasized the winning tradition associated with Grand Bahama native Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin.
He was announcing the hiring of Coach Yo as the head of women’s basketball at the university. The historic aspect of the Bahamian being the first black chief of the women’s basketball program; and the irony of this development within an institution that is connected to the infamous scenario surrounding James Meredith, 52 years ago, integrating the system amid great controversy, could not go unrecognized.
However, quite frankly, Coach Yo clearly transcended those notable elements and actually captivated the press conference with her ebullience; natural flair for stimulating excitement; and a certain genuineness that bodes well for the future of Ole Miss women’s basketball.
A new era had begun.
It was all that Bjork envisioned and much more.
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure to network at the University of Mississippi, taking in some games and interacting with key personnel, in particular (other than Coach Yo and boosters) Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Tyler Wooten.
An overview from Bjork, through Wooten, was significant in portraying the relationship between Ole Miss and Coach Yo.
About the “process of finding and then hiring Coach Yo, Bjork said the following:
“When we started our search process, Coach Yo was on the initial list of recommendations from our search firm partner that we engaged to help us find the best coach. Coach (Yo) has done a tremendous job of building her brand in women’s basketball and making sure the right people knew her character, work ethic and how she leads a program.
“Sure enough, she had impressed our search firm over the past few years and they brought her name to our attention. Once she expressed interest in Ole Miss, we reached out, and were immediately impressed with her charisma, and passion for the game. Our first conversation was through FaceTime, and as soon as we hung up we said we have to get her to campus right way. Once she was on campus, we knew she was the right person and coach to lead our program back to prominence,” said Bjork.
How has she done thus far?
Has the dynamic mentor of women’s basketball been impressive?
AD Bjork is highly optimistic.
“One of the first things we discussed with Coach Yo during the process was how much of a challenge this job would be, but also how it was a great opportunity to return to the glory days of Ole Miss women’s basketball (now with one more conference win…2-7… than last year and eight victories…8-15). All of us know that this will take some time through coaching, recruiting and building a culture to get it turned around, but she is on the right track.
“This year is about putting all of the ingredients together so that we can build the program the right way and have long-term success. Coach Yo has been terrific, and everyone sees the progress being made on and off the court,” emphasized Bjork.
The Bahamian connection is not lost on Bjork and the Ole Miss community. Indeed, the circumstances seem all-embracing.
“We believe the Ole Miss brand has worldwide appeal, and, having a bond and relationship with The Bahamas in such a unique and personal way only strengthens the position of the entire university. Of course, we want to win a lot of basketball games in the process, but to have a deep and meaningful connection with a great country can only help further the mission of Ole Miss on a global scale. I hear Coach Yo is a celebrity in The Bahamas, so I need to make a trip there so I can see it myself! We love the relationship that has been formed, and we will continue to grow together,’ said Bjork.
The link figures to get stronger.
Presently along with Coach Yo, red shirt freshman Franco Miller of the men’s varsity team, adds to the Bahamian flavor. Next season, reportedly, Valerie Nesbitt, a junior college star guard will be joining Coach Yo and the Lady Rebels.
Thus, the forecast is a cemented Bahamas/Ole Miss connection, going forward through the years.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at 727-6363).