“We’re creating a dynasty”: Felisha Legette-Jack’s advice for new Syracuse men’s basketball HC Adrian Autry

Mar 20, 2023 - 2:00 PM
NCAA Basketball: <a href=Syracuse Head Coach Introductory Press Conference" src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/_TmCxxBTa2WZS9lXyZ8Evzzibqc=/0x0:4727x2659/1920x1080/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/72094269/usa_today_20190357.0.jpg" />
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Autry took the reigns as Syracuse Orange men’s basketball coach on March 8. His fellow Syracuse University alumna Felisha Legette-Jack was in a similar situation a little over a year ago.

Legette-Jack, an experienced coach who played for the Syracuse women’s basketball team in the mid-to-late 1980s, took the job as the new coach for the women’s program in March 2022. Coming off a disastrous season the year prior, Legette-Jack looked to rebuild the team’s brand, growth, and success in hopes of a brighter future for the program.

That sounds a lot like the situation Autry finds himself in right now with the men’s team, right?

In her first season leading her alma mater, Legette-Jack has shown a level of toughness, calmness, and focus that saw the women’s team on the cusp of an NCAAW Tournament berth. Now, Legette-Jack thinks both programs are about to raise the bar even higher than it was before.

“I think it’s gonna be a sensational situation, as our coaches here are going to grow this entire athletic department to newfound heights. No one’s here to win championships anymore. They’ve done it in the past. Our goal now is to create a dynasty,” Legette-Jack said.

Autry faces a ton of hurdles over the next few months, from the state of the current roster and recruitment to rebuilding a basketball brand that has dealt with back-to-back underwhelming seasons in 2022 and 2023.

Looking at Legette-Jack’s progress with the women’s program is a good starting point for Autry considering the current state of the men’s program.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse Head Coach Introductory Press Conference Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Since the preseason, one of Legette-Jack’s main priorities was developing talent and character. Yes, that included bringing some of her former players like Dyaisha Fair and Georgia Woolley from Buffalo to Syracuse, but it also meant hitting the recruitment trail and hitting it hard.

Legette-Jack entered this season with just one returning starter and four total players from the 2021-2022 season. Only armed with that handful of players and two rookies, Legette-Jack recruited eight different players from other institutions to play for the Orange. The common thread: find the underdogs.

Legette-Jack has secured four headline-worthy high school prospects, each for the classes of 2023 and 2024. Now comes Autry’s turn on the recruitment trail.

In a new era of college hoops defined increasingly by NIL deals and players jumping ship to the next available opportunity, Legette-Jack proved this season that you can emphasize culture-setting and connecting with her players without totally ignoring the importance of player relations, the NIL landscape, and the transfer portal.

So far, Autry is off to a good start as Ben detailed in his piece this morning. To an extent, not making the postseason is a blessing in disguise for the men’s team. It’s a jump start on all things regarding the offseason, but it’s also early reps for Autry at the helm of the program. After all, the women’s team was in a similar boat not too long ago, and the transformation over the past year has been nothing short of impressive.

Of course, a big question with who would take over as the men’s coach was why the Orange didn’t go down the path of a national search. For Legette-Jack, it was simple: what good does that do?

“When we grow people here, what we stand for right here, why do you want to go to another state or another city, another university and pick what’s the best that you can find when the best you could find is right in your backyard,” Legette-Jack said.

If Autry can cultivate what Legette-Jack did with the women’s program, that’s a major stepping stone in the right direction for the men’s team.

There’s a lot for Autry to manage over the course of the next several months. Connecting with players has to be on top of that list.

Look no further than what Legette-Jack has done with the women’s program.

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