A day in the life of basketball:

Coach Jay Ladner

Coutrtesy of  Randy Bergeron

The Lion’s Roar: How do you like what the team has accomplished so far this season?

Jay Ladner: I’m very proud of the way that they have played really since Christmas. There was a point during the year just before Christmas where we were playing without our top seven players. We now have had two of them be able to come back and I am just really pleased with the progress of the team. Our win/loss record is not where we would like it to be, but the fact that we have won four of our last five games at this time of the year I am really pleased with their progress and excited about our future. The fact that three of our top 6’4’s are freshman you know it’s exciting that we can put another good recruiting class together I feel good about our future here.


TLR: What is it about the sport of basketball that has attracted you to having chosen this career?

JL: I felt like coaching is not a job and I don’t see it as such. It’s a calling. Having insight on it in the fact that my dad was a basketball coach. I was very impressed with the impact he had on the development of young men as men more so than basketball players. That is what I enjoy about coaching is the chance to impact their lives in a positive manner and try to be a good role model for them and mentor and help gain their development as young men that is why I coach.


TLR: When did you decide that you wanted to coach basketball?

JL: Third grade. I know some people probably don’t know that, but again I grew up in an athletic family my dad was a coach and I knew from the time as a child. We had that “what do you want to be when you grow up” thing in elementary school and I can still remember mine was to be a basketball coach. And I have been fortunate enough to live that dream and I feel blessed every day.


TLR: Did you play basketball when you were younger and at what level?

JL: I played at Oak Grove High School which is in Hattiesburg, Mississippi that’s where I grew up. I started playing organized basketball in the fifth grade, but obviously we all started in the backyard outside, but the first time we could play organized basketball was in the fifth grade. I was a gym rat-still am- meaning I just love to be in the gym and love the sport of basketball. I was fortunate when I graduated from high school in 1984 I was able to get a scholarship at Southern Mississippi which is located near Hattiesburg. I played at USM from 1984-1988. I also played two years of baseball in 84 and 85, but I went on a basketball scholarship. In fact, we won the National Invitational Tournament the NIT in 1987 which is the only national championship won by a four year school in Mississippi.


TLR: You mentioned playing baseball. How did you get into playing baseball?

JL: Well just loving athletics you know and growing up in Hattiesburg it’s a great baseball area and they have a great high school baseball program. In fact ,one of my mentors and high school coach Harry Brealon coached baseball and basketball at my school. As I was growing up whatever the season was that was what I was playing. Played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer.


TLR: What is your life like outside of coaching basketball?

JL: You probably have to ask my wife and kids. It still mostly revolves around athletics and I hate to say that, but I do have a very supportive family, my wife Jennifer is very supportive. Because of my obsession with basketball, I don’t have a lot of other hobbies not that I don’t enjoy doing other things. But, really coaching basketball and especially at this level it’s a 365 day a year job you don’t really have much time off. I do enjoy every now and then getting over to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and maybe going down to New Orleans for a day or two but, that’s really about it. When the season is over with, you never stop, you’re into recruiting which is a twelve month deal and then it’s just one thing after another. There is very little down time and not just for me, but the assistant coaches as well.


TLR: Do you enjoy watching professional basketball?

JL: I do. I enjoy watching professional basketball. I watch it a lot more these days than I used to. I watch it to pick up ideas with the rules changing in the shot clock being moved from 35 seconds down to 30 closer to the NBA shot clock of 24 seconds. My favorite team is the Celtics because of just the way I grew up. I enjoy watching the Spurs and the Warriors, those are the teams I enjoy watching the most.     

TLR: How has coaching at the high school and junior college level helped you to coach at the Division I level?

JL: I think it really prepared me as well as anybody. I took probably the path least taken you know most people that get into Division I coaching when they finish their playing days maybe become a graduate assistant somewhere and go from there. I became a high school coach which I loved because of again the impact that you can have on young men’s lives. But, when you are coaching at high school you have to take what walk through those doors so you have to learn many different things and tactics and strategies that fit your personal [coaching strategy.] It forces you to really become a student of the game. One year you may have a team that is big, the next year you have a team that is really small or one that is quick you have to adjust your tactics and strategies to fit your personal [coaching strategy.] That obviously forces a lot of growth so far as basketball is concerned. And in high school you do everything; promote your program, wash your uniforms, you do all that kind of stuff. And junior college was a great transition from high school and preparation for Division I. I got to get a taste of the college and game and recruiting that gave me that necessary experience. So, I really felt like I was very well prepared by my experiences for this particular job and frankly just because I have been in this for a long time. This is my 25th year and I have been in a lot of gyms and coached a lot of ball games and had to figure out the right way to do things and learn by the wrong way and making mistakes. I really felt like that my time in high school and junior college have prepared me well for this job.


TLR: How did you come to start coaching at Southeastern?

JL: I had a somewhat of a personal relationship with coach Artigues, our athletic director here. He used to be at Pearl River junior college not while I was at Jones but close to where I live and somewhat knew his family. When we won the national championship at Jones, he said congratulations and wanted to know if I wanted to consider taking the job at Southeastern. We began conversations, I was always attracted to here. So, the process was simply that I was selected to come in for an interview along several other candidates. There was a committee headed by coach Artigues and coach Bechac and after that process was over for whatever reason they felt I was the best candidates for the job here at Southeastern.


TLR: You won the junior college championship the year before you came to Southeastern was it hard to leave that team?

JL: Yes. I never bounced around very much I only had four positions in 25 years and every time I had a job I felt like that would be my job for the rest of my life. I have been very fortunate to love each job that I had. One of the difficult things was one you develop relationships with your players, but you also develop close relationships with people on campus that you work with. And every time I have changed jobs it was a step up in my career. I turned down a lot of jobs where I just didn’t feel that they were the right fit for me that I would be interested in. Another difficult thing was that those players from that championship team were coming back, not saying that we would have definitely won, but we would have been a contender had I been able to return. But, I had an opportunity to become a Division I coach and I didn’t want to pass up that shot, so here I am.


TLR: What do you like the most about Southeastern?

JL: I love the people. The people are super. I think we are a budding giant here at this school academically and in athletics and we are becoming a national contender across the board. And I think it is a direct reflection of the attitude and that people are beginning to think on a larger scale. I like that and I want to be part of that growth and help that growth with men’s basketball team. Our goal is to be a national contender certainly nothing that is going to happen overnight, but the process has started. That is what is exciting to me can we take a regional program that is recognized and turn it into a program that is nationally recognized and we think it can be done here.


TLR: If the team does make it to the Southland Tournament what do they need to work on to be able to win it all?

JL: That’s a great question and that’s something we talk about every day. One we were able to get some of the guys back that had been hurt. At one point we had four of our top seven players back. Two of the guys won’t make it back yet, we able to get one back about three weeks ago and then two games ago we got another one back. That has made a tremendous impact on us and is the direct reason that we have been able to have success recently. We got to really tighten up our defense, I’m not really proud of where we are defensively. We are certainly scoring enough points, we just got a do a better job being consistent defensively. We will play well defensively for portions of the game, but if we are going to win the big games, the games that get you into the tournament and into the championship and then win the championship and possibly get into the NCAA tournament, we have to tighten up defensively. It has been and is going to be a great focus in our practices over the next three weeks.

The Lion’s Roar/Jonathan Rhodes