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UB picks Legette-Jack as new head coach; Bulls ‘think big' approach?helps lure ex-SU standout

Felisha Legette-Jack was introduced as the University at Buffalo's new women's basketball coach Thursday, maintaining a trend that's fast-developed within the university's athletic program. Experience at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics counts a ton.

The "think big" approach began when Warde Manuel was hired from Michigan as athletic director, followed recently by Danny White of Mississippi. It included Manuel hires such as football coach Jeff Quinn, who had been the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, men's tennis coach Lee Nickell (an assistant at Fresno State and Alabama) and swimming coach Andy Bashor (an assistant at Rutgers).

And it continues with the first hire of the White era, as Legette-Jack takes over after six seasons as head coach at Indiana University.

"We had a very, very talented pool of candidates," White said. "We ended up bringing four to campus. . . . Through that process we were looking for someone with strong recruiting experience in intercollegiate athletics. We were looking for someone that understands the challenges of being a student-athlete at a very high-profile academic institution, someone that's been a part of a championship-caliber program as a player and as a coach and someone who's a great fit for UB. We feel we found exactly that person, the very best candidate for us, in Felisha Legette-Jack."

Legette-Jack grew up in Syracuse and starred at Nottingham High and Syracuse University, where she left as the school's career scoring leader (she now ranks second).

In four seasons, she took Hofstra from 8-21 to 19-12, which led to the job at Indiana. The Hoosiers won at least 18 games each of her first three seasons, never more than 14 the last three. They bottomed out at 6-24 this year, precipitating Legette-Jack's ouster in March.

Those trying seasons taught her she hadn't been true to herself.

"I was really known as a basketball player as a defensive specialist," she said. "I was known as an assistant coach as a teacher of defense. I was a head coach for a few years and I was about defense. And for some reason I decided to be an offensive coach my last two years. I don't know why. That's not who we are. We're going to be about defense. We're going to defend what we believe is rightfully ours. We're going to make defense our mantra. We're going to make defense something we can hold on to.

"Everybody can't be perfect one-for-one," she said, poking fun at White's three-point shooting record as a player at Notre Dame. "We can always play defense."

Legette-Jack replaces Linda Hill-MacDonald, whose contract was not renewed after seven seasons during which the Bulls never finished above .500. The first order of business will be to hire a staff of assistants and re-establish a presence in her home state.

"The first thing I'm going to do is get on the telephone and get my New York contacts back and share with them the need-base here and get after it with recruiting," she said. "I love that we can reach out and get kids from all over the world but I think it's important we start here in what I consider the Mecca of the world, the state of New York."

White believes UB found its ideal hire.

"It's about fit and it's about impact in the interview," he said. "I know I can speak for our search committee and for myself personally, she wowed us."?

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com