The Syracuse women’s basketball team is off to a strong start, led by Felisha Legette-Jack ’89 in her first season as head coach of the Orange. While the wins are important, Coach Jack says what’s developing off the court is just as significant. “We’re building a sisterhood here,” she says.
Legette-Jack, one the most accomplished women’s basketball players in Syracuse University history, was named head coach in March, coming from a successful program at the University at Buffalo. She took the helm of a Syracuse program in disarray, following the departure of Quentin Hillsman and the transfer of numerous players during his tenure.
“We’re in the process of teambuilding, which doesn’t happen overnight,” says Legette-Jack, an Orange All-American. “It’s a process and there will be some hiccups. But when I see our players laughing and working together on the court, I see young people emerging into teammates and building friendships.”
It’s not only about the players building relationships with each other but building relationships with her and the rest of the coaching staff. “The trusting process has begun, but we’re not there all the way yet,” she says. “I want my players to know my availability and accessibility for them is 100 percent. I don’t mind losing 2-4 hours sleep a night because somebody needs assistance or wants to chat. It’s easy for me to open my heart and care.”
Legette-Jack sees her role as helping her players learn life lessons through the game of basketball, and in the process, helping navigate them toward their dreams—to give them the same transformational experience she had as a Syracuse player.
She also wants to build Syracuse into one of the best women’s basketball programs in the country. Legette-Jack is raising money through the Women’s Basketball Head Coach’s Fund to help provide players the kind of experience she wants them to have. “Their season runs over two semesters, and they spend a lot of time in the locker room,” she says. “I’d like to build them a locker room with amenities that reflects their worth and shows them they are loved.”
Given that the length of the season prevents players from taking semesters abroad, Legette-Jack hopes to take her team overseas to play, something she can’t do without outside financial support. “This is a global school and going abroad is an experience these players should have,” she says. “I’d love to take this team to Spain or Australia, the home country for two of my players.”
The Women’s Basketball Head Coach’s Fund received support from the Office of Multicultural Advancement’s inaugural Orange Legends Golf Tournament, hosted by Sherman Douglas ’89 in November, which also supported the Our Time Has Come Scholarship Fund.
When she called Douglas to thank him for his support, Legette-Jack said he told her he’d never forgotten the kindness that she and her teammates showed him as a first-year Syracuse student who lived nearby. “You all took me in as your little brother and made me feel so comfortable that I never even felt like a freshman. I never forgot that,” he told her.
“That brought me to tears,” says Legette-Jack. “In life, you do things not because you think that somebody is going to thank you later. You do it because you see a brother that needs support and we’re all Orange.”
It was a lesson she learned firsthand in her own experience as a student athlete. “When I came to this institution, I had so many people help me grow,” she says. “People that didn’t look like me and didn’t come from the same kind of financial background as me, but they loved me anyway because we were all Orange. That’s the message I want to continue to share.”