Meridian Community College went looking for a women’s basketball coach to replace retiring Hilary Allen, and the Lady Eagles quickly “hit the jackpot.”
That’s how MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott characterized the hiring of Jocelyn McGilberry, who will bring over 20 years major college coaching experience to MCC, including 17 in the Southeastern Conference. She also has deep Mississippi ties, having served as associate head coach at Ole Miss and assistant coach at Mississippi State University. In all, McGilberry coached at the two Mississippi SEC schools from 1995-2012.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Elliott beamed. “Coach McGilberry is a perfect fit for MCC. First, she is a leader with impeccable character who will serve as a terrific role model for our student-athletes. Second, she is native of our region (Ellisville). Third, to say that her college playing and coaching credentials are impressive would be a gross understatement. Put it all together, and I repeat – we hit the jackpot. We’ve had a winning tradition for the past generation in Lady Eagle basketball (three Region 23 titles and numerous Miss-Lou Conference crowns), and with Coach McGilberry at the helm, I am confident that we can not only sustain that momentum, but also build on it.”
Besides her SEC stints in Mississippi, McGilberry worked for three years as an assistant coach at the University of South Alabama and also spent a year on the staff of the University of Florida. As a player, she was a four-year letter winner as a power forward for Auburn University. Prior to beginning her college coaching career, McGilberry played professionally in Switzerland and Sweden from 1990-92.
McGilberry has had a history of winning throughout her playing and coaching careers. At South Jones High School, she was a two-time All-State selection. At Auburn, McGilberry was the starting co-captain of the Lady Tigers’ 1988-89 SEC championship team that advanced to the NCAA finals. In McGilberry’s four years on the Plains, AU compiled an 119-13 record.
She has continued that winning habit as a coach. For instance, in McGilberry’s first year (2003) on the Ole Miss staff, the Lady Rebels made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. While on the Mississippi State staff, the Lady Bulldogs qualified for six straight post-season tournaments – four NCAA bids and two women’s NIT berths.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of coaching in the Mississippi junior college ranks,” McGilberry said. “I am very familiar with the junior college scene because I recruited jucos across the state for many years. The competition is top-notch, and a lot of players go on to the next level. Having played and coached in NCAA Division 1 for over two decades, I think I know what it takes to get to that level, and I believe I can help our players in Meridian to achieve that dream.”
McGilberry said she is not concerned about making the transition from the SEC to the junior college level.
“At this point in my career,” she explained, “I just want the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young student-athletes. I want to help them achieve their maximum potential as basketball players and as human beings. I want them to be winners on the court and in the classroom. As far as my approach to coaching, I’m going to employ the same techniques and philosophies that have guided me throughout my career. It really doesn’t matter whether my team is playing in a 500-seat gymnasium or a 10,000-seat coliseum. The goal is still 10 feet high, and rebounding and defense still win championships.”
While MCC is the defending Region 23 champion, Elliott acknowledged that McGilberry is coming into a challenging situation.
“Any time you replace a coach a week before school starts, it’s not an ideal situation,” he assessed. “Coach McGilberry hasn’t had any opportunity to shore up recruiting, and we lost a lot of talent off last season’s regional championship team – including probably two of the best juco players in the state – Norriana Haynes and Chasity Kearney. That’s why it’s gratifying to me that we have Coach McGilberry coming on board. She’s got the credentials and experience to pull things together and put a competitive team on the floor. I know her teams will play hard and represent the college well on the court, on campus and in the community.”