Ladner named Southern Miss basketball coach

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Makayla Puckett

Southern Miss announced the hiring of Jay Ladner to lead the men’s basketball program on April 17. Ladner was officially introduced on Thursday, April 18 in the Trent Lott Center.

Ladner described the moment when he learned about his new position in a press conference.

“I didn’t want to answer the call,” Ladner said. “I knew who it was and I knew that it was going to be yas or no. I stared at it for a couple of rings, and this is the truth, I stared at and said I’m going to have to answer it. I answered with literally bated breath until I found out with Jeremy [McClain] on the other line asked me if wanted to be the basketball coach. I was so excited about the opportunity that I immediately said yas.”

Ladner is a Southern Miss alum and he played for Southern Miss from 1984 to 1988. He was notably a member of the 1987 NIT championship team. His teammates and some coaches/managers from that year wrote a letter of support for Ladner earlier in the week.

Ladner was the head coach of Southeastern Louisiana University from 2014 to 2019, where he finished 76-88 in five seasons. Over the course of his five seasons at Southeastern, the 2017-2018 season was the most successful under his leadership. The Lions finished 22-12 and made an appearance in the NIT tournament.

“I hope you can feel the excitement and passion,” Ladner said. “There’s one thing to go coach at a job, there’s another thing for me personally to coach here. To be able to come home to Hattiesburg which is home for me. To coach at a school that I love and went to and to coach and to get an opportunity with our program.”

Prior to his time at Southeastern, Ladner was the longtime coach at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis from 1992 to 2011. He then returned to Hattiesburg and coached at Oak Grove High School from 2011 to 2012.

Following his stint at Oak Grove, Ladner served as the head coach at Jones County Junior College from 2012 to 2014 where he won the school’s first-ever national championship and set a school record for wins at 28-5.

Wednesday was also National Signing Day and the start of the signing period for basketball. Ladner says that he has a plan in place to begin his recruiting and fielding the rest of his team.

“A lot of the players have gone ahead and made their commitments for next year,” Ladner said. “However, there’s a lot of players out there. The great thing that I have been able to coach so long as we have a lot of contacts. Our coaching staff that we have been able to bring on board has a lot of contacts. We didn’t just wait till today in the plan of having a group. The first thing we have to do and you have to understand two days ago I’m coaching my team at Southeastern Louisiana.”

Ladner was one of four candidates interviewed for the position in New Orleans, with Texas Tech assistant coach Mark Adams, former Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy and current Southern Miss assistant and former player Clarence Weatherspoon also under consideration.

Regarding the rest of the coaching staff, Kyle Roane, who coached with Ladner at Southeastern, will join the staff, with the rest of the staff still to be determined. Weatherspoon’s return is currently unknown, but according to Ladner the two have had not had a chance to discuss a return.

“Certainly Clarence Weatherspoon is one of our all-time greats, and he’s a friend of mine,” Ladner said. “He and I have not had a chance to visit yet. Is there an interest in speaking with him? Absolutely, and there will be.”

Ladner met with the team briefly on Wednesday night in a “skimming the surface” type of meeting and said he will begin offseason workouts after the Easter break.

“We have a black and gold mind here, we just have to start selling it like that,” Ladner said. “We got to start letting people know what we have here instead of the other way. Let’s quit focusing on what we don’t have and let’s focus on what we can do to be successful because we can. There is everything in place here to be successful.”