PRESS RELEASE FROM JONES COUNTY JUNIOR COLLEGE
ELLISVILLE – After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1988, Jay Ladner went straight into the business world, working for Merck and Company.
"I had no coaching experience at all when I graduated from USM," he said. "In fact, I was a pharmaceutical representative and I went to my father one day and told him I was thinking about taking the (basketball coaching) job at St. Stanislaus and his response was, ‘Are you crazy?'"
"That made me a little more determined. It was motivation to take a program that had been struggling and see it through."
The rest is history.
After a stellar career at St. Stanislaus College and a year as the head coach at Oak Grove, Ladner was named the new Jones County Junior College men's head basketball coach last Friday.
On Thursday, Ladner was officially introduced to Bobcat fans as head coach during a press conference in the Media Room of the C.L. Neill Student Center on campus.
Ladner said JCJC is a bright star when it comes to community colleges in the state, the South and the entire nation.
"Mississippi is known for having one of the outstanding junior college systems in the country and when you're talking about junior colleges, Jones is one of the first names mentioned," he said. "In the last few days since this has been finalized and I've been out hitting the recruiting trail and touching base with folks, the excitement level among coaches and in this area in general has been unbelievable.
"The fact that as soon as you let them know where you are and they tell you, ‘Congratulations on your job at Jones – what a great school.' That means so much."
Ladner has posted a 511-189 record in 21 years as a head coach.
He guided the Rock-a-chaws to the MHSAA 4A state championship in 2011 and a runnerup finish in 2010. He led them to 10 state tournament appearances in 20 years before taking over at his alma mater, Oak Grove High School, this past year.
Even though he has no coaching experience on the college level, Ladner is looking forward to the challenge at JCJC.
"It is certainly a different adventure," he said. "I've never been one to bounce around too much and I've been very loyal. My coaching career at St. Stanislaus has been well-documented and I was there for 20 years. I had a great experience there.
"I had a chance to come home to Oak Grove and I had a great year there last year. It was very difficult to leave, even though I felt we had laid a good foundation for really good things to come."
JCJC school president Dr. Jesse Smith is pleased to have Ladner on board.
"We have found a man who has the value set and integrity and who is going to take our basketball program to somewhere it's never been in the past," Dr. Smith said. "During the evaluation process, there was a level of genuineness that was there. He was comfortable with those around him.
"Jay is a winner. He has won over 70 percent of his games as a head coach and that is a testament to not only his integrity, but also to his ability to teach men how to win."
JCJC athletic director Katie Herrington noted that Jay's father, Jay Larry Ladner, is a highly-respected name in basketball circles in the state.
"Those of you who have been in the state of Mississippi, when you hear the word ‘Ladner,' you automatically associate it with basketball," she said. "A lot of players with the name of ‘Ladner' have come through this state.
"Coach Jay Ladner has been very successful in the state of Mississippi and we are so glad to have him here."
She added that the hiring of Jay Ladner fits perfectly with the overall athletic program at JCJC.
"We feel good about the direction all of our sports are going," she said. "We have a rich tradition of athletics here at JCJC. We are looking for new heights in all of our sports."
Pine Belt Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes director and former WDAM sports director Mitch Williams hosted Thursday's event.
Williams connected the hiring of Ladner with that of new Bobcat football coach Ray Perkins, who was in attendance at the press conference.
"Consistent with the hiring of Ray Perkins just a few months ago, Jones has hired yet another winner," Williams said. "This is someone who has a background in winning and we are excited about that here at Jones."
Ladner noted what an honor it was to serve on the same athletic staff as Perkins.
"Coach Perkins has been an idol of mine in the coaching business and I think he is a testament to the exciting things going on here at Jones," he said.
Overall, Ladner is happy to be a Bobcat and looks forward to building his own program at JCJC.
"To say I'm excited about being the head basketball coach at Jones Junior College would be an understatement," he said. "I personally want to thank the Board of Trustees, Dr. Smith and Coach Herrington for the confidence they have shown in me in giving me this great opportunity.
"This opportunity came up, the Lord opened some doors for me and I am very comfortable with my decision to be here."
Ladner added that he hopes to have an assistant coach in place soon.