Jay Ladner shows off the net he cut down after Jones County Junior College won the national championship. (File photo by Shawn Wansley/JC Sports Information)


Hattiesburg native led JCJC to first basketball national championship


Jay Ladner is coming home.

The Southern Miss graduate and former Golden Eagle basketball player was hired Thursday as Southern Miss’ next basketball coach. Ladner, a member of the 1987 NIT championship team, previously served five years at the helm for Southeastern Louisiana, guiding the team to the 2017-18 Southland Conference regular-season title.

“This all happened so fast,” Ladner said. “What I can say is that dreams can come true. It’s so humbling to know the support we have on the journey we are about to embark on, laying a foundation that has pride, dignity and is destined for success.

“To be able to come home and coach where you’re from, it’s exciting. There’s no way I can properly thank all the people who have supported me throughout this process.”

Under Ladner’s leadership, Southeastern improved from nine wins his first year to win 12, 16 and 22 contests in succeeding years. It was the school’s first 20-win season since reaching the 2005 NCAA Tournament and the third in its Division I era. 

The 2018-19 squad featured two First-Team, All-Southland performers Marlain Veal and Moses Greenwood, just the third time in school history that two Lions earned that distinction. Overall, Ladner mentored eight All-Conference performers in his five years.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jay Ladner and his family back to Hattiesburg and Southern Miss,” Athletics Director Jeremy McClain said. “Jay has proved throughout his career that he is a winner, elevating every basketball program with which he has been associated. We look forward to him leading and developing our student-athletes and taking our program to new heights.”

Ladner’s coaching credentials feature a 511-189 record in the high school ranks, from St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis to his alma mater Oak Grove. He led St. Stanislaus to 10 state tournament appearances, including the 2011 title for which he was selected the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Coach of the Year.

Ladner coached at Jones for two seasons. The Bobcats were 17-8 in his first season, finishing second in the MACJC’s South Division. During the 2013-14 season, JCJC became the first Mississippi junior college to win a national championship. 

JCJC set a school record for wins with 28 and became the lowest-seeded school to win a NJCAA basketball title in any division, as well as the first school in tournament history to win five games in five days for the title.

The Hattiesburg native received his bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine/biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Southern Miss in 1988. He received his master’s degree in educational administration from Southern Miss in 1999. Ladner and his wife Jennifer have two children, Chelsea and Luke.

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