Missy Bilderback, the coach who helped build the Jones College Lady Bobcats basketball program into a perennial regional power, has accepted a new position as head coach of Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La.
Bilderback led Jones to a 127-20 overall record and a 63-7 record against conference opponents in five seasons, winning four straight NJCAA Region 23 titles and three consecutive Mississippi Association of Community championships from 2016 to 2019. The Bobcats were scheduled to play in the national tournament, but it was canceled because of COVID-19.
She inherits the position from interim head coach Aaron A. Swinson, who took over the team Jan. 26.
“We’ve hired a winner in Missy Bilderback,” said NSU Director of Athletics Greg Burke. “She can coach and that quality is complemented by her ability to inspire her players to perform at a high level and on a big stage. She has plans to put together a quality staff that earnestly will want to work side by side with her to bring winning ways back to Lady Demon basketball for the young ladies in the program, for the fan base and for the former players who built the tradition that is Lady Demon basketball.”
Bildberback was chosen from a pool that contained 127 applicants. Her hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, of which Northwestern State is a member.
“It’s evident they’re very hungry at Northwestern State to win and to be successful,” said Bilderback. “It’s also evident the administration wants a great experience for their kids and wants someone who will care and wants them to be their best.
“There was such a great feeling around NSU. It’s very family oriented, and it is a great community that I think will really get behind and support women’s basketball. They have been successful in the past. ... It’s possible to be successful there, and I am very appreciative of the administration for giving me this opportunity.”
In her five seasons at Jones College, Bilderback coached 20 Division I signees, four of whom went on to sign scholarships with Power 5 conference schools.
Bilderback coached the Lady Bobcats to the Elite Eight in 2017 and made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the 2018 and 2019 national tournaments. A three-time winner of District Coach of the Year, Bildberback coached five NJCAA All-Americans, 11 All-Region selections and 20 All-Conference finalists while the Lady Bobcats maintained national rankings throughout four of her five seasons with the program.
“She is, overall, a caring person who carries that over as a coach,”said NSU senior Kira Bonner, a Quitman native who played for Bilderback at Jones. “She does a great job of teaching the game and breaking down. She is fair with her team, regardless of whether they are a freshman or an upperclassman.”
Bilderback says her relationships with Bonner and Louisiana Tech’s co-head coach Brooke Stoehr played a significant role in her decision-making process.
“Both coach (Brooke) Stoehr and Kira were important for me going through the process,” said Bilderback. “I trust both of them a lot. Kira felt like this was a situation in which, with my style and what we did at Jones, we could be very successful in the Southland Conference. She gave me a lot of information about the current roster and her experience and the community. I took that into consideration, knowing what type of fit it would be.”
For all the success Bilderback’s squads at JC enjoyed on the court, her players were equally successful in the classroom. From 2015 to 2018, 100 percent of her players graduated. In each of her first four seasons, her players maintained a minimum GPA of 3.12.
Several of her colleagues spoke highly of Bilderback’s relationship-building skills as a coach.
“Missy, from day one, will embrace being the head coach at Northwestern State,” said Stoehr, who became acquainted with Bilderback when the latter coached at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg.
“She will immerse herself in the Natchitoches and campus communities. She has the ability to relate to people and, more importantly, relate to her players and get the most out of them. When you watch her teams play, they have consistently shown they play hard for her. They play an entertaining, fun style of basketball based on maximum effort and dedication to the team.”
Bilderback, a USM graduate in 2001, spent 15 years as the head coach at PCS, where she boasted a 452-115 record with six MAIS state championships. Four of those titles were earned consecutively from 2004 to 2007. Along the way, she was selected six times as MAIS All-Star Coach of the Year.