ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Missy Bilderback took the reins of Jones College women’s basketball in 2015 and raised the standard of success.
After five seasons, 127 wins, three Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College championships and four straight Region 23 titles, Bilderback is rising to another level.
Northwestern State University made Bilderback its ninth women’s basketball coach in school history on Wednesday. It’s an inevitable ascent to the NCAA ranks for Bilderback who spent 21 years coaching in the Pine Belt.
She’s excited to join a program with a history of success - the Lady Demons have four NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2015. NSU finished 7-22 last season, including 4-16 in the Southland Conference.
“Just to have an opportunity to have a new challenge and somewhere you can win,” Bilderback said. “They really want to be good in women’s basketball there. Obviously, for me to make that change and make that move, I believe that we can be really good fast there.”
In just her second season at Jones College, Bilderback coached the Lady Bobcats to a school-record 30 wins, their first Region 23 title and National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament berth. Jones advanced to the “Elite 8” once and the “Sweet 16” twice in three appearances - the fourth trip to Lubbock, Texas set for this season was halted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
During her tenure in Ellisville, Bilderback helped send 20 players to the Division I level including Kira Bonner’s signing with Northwestern State.
“As good as we were and as much as we won – even looking back at this moment – I’m going to remember the faces and those kids and the memories that we had,” Bilderback said. “Anytime you leave somewhere you feel like it disconnects you from that place, and that’s what’s going to be tough.”
Bilderback coached during a “Golden Era” at Jones College, a stretch in which the Bobcats captured three national championships in five years.
Jay Ladner kicked things off in 2014 when his men’s basketball team beat No. 1 seed Indian Hills Community College to win the NJCAA-DI Title.
A couple years later, Chris Kirtland coached Jones College baseball to a NJCAA-DII World Series Title. Chris Robinson completed the trilogy as his Lady Bobcats softball team grabbed the NJCAA-DII championship in 2018, finishing the season 54-3.
“That started at the top with [President] Dr. Jesse Smith and his vision for athletics,” Bilderback said. “Winning is a byproduct of the way he operates and [athletic directors] Katie Herrington and Joel Cain. Those are some great leaders, those three people right there. They understand if you do things the right way and you work really hard at it, you’re going to have some success.”
The daughter of longtime high school football coach Perry Wheat, Bilderback played basketball at Pearl River Community College from 1996-98 before graduating from Southern Miss in 2001.
She coached Presbyterian Christian School girls basketball for 16 seasons, leading the Lady Bobcats to six MAIS state titles and compiling a record of 482-117.
Bilderback and her family’s move to Natchitoches, Louisiana draws the question about her husband of 17 years Chip’s future as head football coach of Columbia High School. Chip is set to enter his third season with the Wildcats after a 13-1 campaign in 2019.
“Obviously, [Chip] has a great thing at Columbia and I know that he’d like to continue that,” Missy said. “I know he’s got some opportunities over that way but we’re just going to continue to pray about that. There’s not anything that’s going to shake us as a couple and as a family. The best thing about Chip and our relationship is we get each other. He knows it’s very difficult to get an opportunity to coach Division I. He was probably the biggest one driving this from the standpoint of, ‘Missy this is something you need to do, you’ve always dreamed of doing and that door’s opened.’”