ELLISVILLE – Jay Ladner has been named the new men's head basketball coach at Jones County Junior College.
"I cannot put into words how excited I am about the opportunity to come to Jones County Junior College," he said. "When you talk about junior colleges everywhere, Jones is always at the top of the discussion.
"I am proud to be a Bobcat."
Ladner replaces Don Skelton, who resigned in early June after four years as head coach to take a similar position at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
"What impressed us the most was his commitment to being a person of integrity and the ability to convey that to his players," said JCJC school president Dr. Jesse Smith. "That was confirmed by information we received from his coaching colleagues and found that he is held in incredibly high esteem by everyone. He has a vast network of friends, not only in the state, but also throughout the Southeast. We believe with his values and knowledge, it will be a perfect mix for success."
Ladner served this past season as the boys' head coach at his alma mater, Oak Grove High School. Prior to that, he was the head coach at St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis from 1991-2011, where he guided the Rock-a-chaws to the 2011 MHSAA 4A state championship and to the finals in 2010.
He led SSC to 10 state tournament appearances and was named the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Coach of the Year in 2011. He served as head coach in the 2010 Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Game, leading Mississippi to a 114-88 victory. He was an assistant coach in the 2009 Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Game and was a coach in the 2002 Mississippi North/South All-Star Game.
Ladner knows he has plenty of catching up to do upon his arrival on campus.
"Certainly it is an understatement to say we're behind," he said. "In terms of our team, we need to assess the players we have returning and hit the ground quickly when it comes to recruiting.
"We feel like with our in-state contacts with over 20 years of coaching in the state and our contacts around the South, we will be able to fill our needs when it comes to recruiting."
Ladner, who owns a 511-189 coaching record, has been named the Biloxi Sun-Herald South Mississippi Coach of the Year three times and was a division Coach of the Year numerous times. He has served on the MAC Basketball Committee and is in demand as a speaker/instructor at coaching clinics across the country.
Dr. Smith said Ladner's popularity in the area was impressive.
"The unsolicited support we received about Coach Ladner from the community was very positive," he said. "We have never experienced such overwhelming support for a particular person. We think he is a good corporate fit for the college.
"He is no stranger to fund-raising or friend-raising. We believe he will bring championships and produce graduates at Jones."
Ladner is excited about being able to coach close to home.
"The fact I'm able to be the head coach at Jones and not have to relocate is great," he said. "I am staying in an area I love and I am truly thankful for that. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a large and supportive family. I think they may be more excited than I am about this.
"I can assure you they are ready to become Bobcats, too."
Ladner was a member of the 1987 Southern Miss NIT championship team, which was coached by M.K. Turk. He lists Turk as one of his biggest supporters.
"Every person has a watershed moment and I am so grateful M.K. Turk gave me the opportunity to play at Southern Miss," he said. "He has always been very helpful and supportive and is a major influence on my coaching career. The year we won the NIT, people were lined up outside the (Reed Green) Coliseum and there was just tremendous excitement when we played.
"I would love to see that happen at Jones and that's what winning can create for you."
Ladner received his bachelor's degree in pre-medicine/biology with a minor in chemistry in 1988. He received his master's degree in education administration from Southern Miss in 1999.
There were around 20 applicants for the position. The field was narrowed to five for final interviews and Ladner was a unanimous selection by the JCJC Board of Trustees and Selection Committee.
The Board officially approved Ladner on Friday morning.
Ladner hopes to have an assistant coach on staff very soon. Former assistant Shane Oakley left after one year to join Skelton at Northwest.
"Our staff will soon be in place," Ladner said. "I am hopeful we will have the opportunity to hire someone regarded as one of the brightest coaches in the state."
JCJC athletic director Katie Herrington is pleased to have Ladner on board.
"We are truly excited to have Jay Ladner as our men's basketball coach at Jones," she said. "He is highly regarded by his peers for his basketball knowledge and we think he will be a perfect fit for us."
Ladner is thrilled to be a member of the Bobcat family.
"I truly believe the Lord has opened a door for me and given me the opportunity to be the coach at Jones," he said.