‘Coach Yo’ crafting Rebels progress chart with NCAA berth in mind – part 2
he only item needed for a near-perfect situation at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for Women’s Basketball Head Coach Yolett ‘Coach Yo’ McPhee-McCuin is a turned-around program for the Ole Miss Lady Rebels.
‘Coach Yo’ is in a pressure-packed situation whereby Ole Miss Nation is depending upon her to take the program back to the glory days, when the Lady Rebels basketball squad was one of the powers of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
It’s an arduous task she faces, but the road has been made a whole lot easier because of the warm reception she has received since April of last year, from all and sundry connected to the Ole Miss family. Reference is to those directly linked, as well as boosters and fans. The fan base has been fantastic, inclusive of the entire Oxford City community, where the university is located.
They love ‘Coach Yo’!
“It’s really incredible, the support from the community of Oxford. There is nowhere that I go that I don’t feel the full support, so, that has been great. Stacked on top of that, I really appreciate the support given to me by the university. I mean, there is nothing that I want (I don’t get) and what they do, I tell you… the resources that we have, really sets you up to be successful.
“The truth is, you don’t have excuses. You don’t have to worry about having two jobs because you’re not being (properly) compensated. You don’t have to be concerned about how you are going to be able to go and see a particular kid (for possible recruiting purposes) because the budget allows you to do it. All you have to do in a situation like this is be competent in your job and work extremely hard, because everybody in the conference has exactly what I have,” said ‘Coach Yo’.
During my recent one-on-one interview with the Grand Bahama native at her office in Oxford, Mississippi, ‘Coach Yo’ freely acknowledged that being able to justify the excellent position she has been placed in is significant to her. In essence, she readily accepts that hard work comes along with the comfort zone she operates within.
She recognizes also, another factor that often is upstaged by the mission to transform the Lady Rebels into a team that consistently wins – the milestones achieved, from a Bahamian standpoint; as a black woman at a major institution in the United States, and accordingly, as a role model for thousands of others in America who can now realistically aspire to be more than just an assistant coach or a department employee at traditional NCAA Division I programs such as Mississippi.
She has a refreshing outlook about the position she is in and appears not to be intimidated at all.
“You know, I am just a believer that pressure comes from external things that people put on you. I think if I allow everybody’s expectation to be mine, then it will tear me down. As long as I am focused on the journey at hand and prepared to take it one step at a time, I am not really feeling the pressure at all.
“I mean, I embrace it. I am aware. I do understand what it means, especially in the state of Mississippi. I get that. I embrace it and I am prepared for the moment,” said the head of the Ole Miss Lady Rebels. Of, course the moment in time of which she speaks is also about being the head coach at an institution that once did not welcome black students.
The current situation with ‘Coach Yo’ speaks mightily to the transformation of the mindset at the university and in Mississippi since the days when James Meredith had to be escorted by law enforcement agents to his class, 52 years ago.
‘Coach Yo’, the pioneer female Bahamian basketball mentor, is delighted to be a part of the process and didn’t forget to praise her personal support staff.
“There is a lot to think of, regarding the history and the immediate work at hand every day, but luckily I have a great staff. My crew, all 12 of them, are very competent in their respective areas, which frees me up from having to go into different sectors. For instance, if I had to worry about the how the budget is being managed that would be something else, a burden. If Dana, my Director of Operations, couldn’t do her job, could you imagine the stress I would have, trying to manage millions of dollars? She handles that very efficiently and I sign off on whatever is necessary. If I had to worry about the respective jobs of the coaches, then how would I get so many other things done. My staff helps me tremendously. It is not a one-person show,” explained ‘Coach Yo’.
Properly selecting her staff and structuring the force has been key to the overall day-to-day functioning of women’s basketball business at the university.
“I structure and focus on delegating. Now, year one is tough, aiming for consistency, but each year gets better and at this point, I am proud of my staff and my expectancy is high,” said the head coach.
On the competition side, there have been highs and lows. Going into this coming Thursday’s game against Vanderbilt, ‘Coach Yo’ and the Lady Rebels have won two games in the SEC (2-7) and have an 8-16 win-loss record on the season. With just six games left, it will be a challenge to win four and match the 12 won last season.
‘Coach Yo’ says the two conference wins, at this point, speak more about the squad, regarding what has to be done to improve even more next season.
“I definitely have to be transparent. I wanted for sure to surpass what happened last year, just one conference win. However, I don’t feel pressure because of the cards I was dealt. I had to use non-conference as a training ground, a discovery phase, because I just threw the team together (nine of the players from the season before left). If there is the competitiveness, there is that. I coach to win and I honestly felt in the SEC play except for our first game, we have had chances to win. As long as there wasn’t a big talent discrepancy, we had chances to win,” said ‘Coach Yo’.
For next season, there will be player adjustments, some new in-coming talent, and a team better framed to the liking of ‘Coach Yo’.
Look out Southeastern Conference… the Ole Miss Lady Rebels are on the rise!
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.
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