NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State University has taken the interim title away from Tracee Jones by naming her as the Lady Tigers head basketball coach. The appointment was officially approved, effective April 1.
With Jones, TSU has turned to one of its own to lead the Lady Tiger basketball program. Serving as interim coach this past season, Jones took over a program that was 1-25 overall and winless in 16 Ohio Valley Conference games the previous season. This season, the Lady Tigers finished 8-8 in conference play and 11-17 overall. Jones has signed a four-year contract to lead her alma mater.
"First, I have to thank God for this tremendous blessing," said Jones. "I am especially thankful to (TSU President) Dr. (James) Hefner and (Athletics Director) Mrs. (Teresa) Phillips for extending this opportunity to me to lead the program at my alma mater. I will do my very best to represent Tennessee State University and the Nashville community well. My staff and team will work hard for Tennessee State."
The eight-win improvement within conference play is the best ever from a team that finished last the previous season and the second best overall improvement since the OVC began women's conference basketball play in 1977-78. Eastern Kentucky had a nine win improvement on the way to a league title while Southeast Missouri was the last team to have an improvement of eight wins from the previous year, which came in the 1998-99 season.
"Tracee was a member of a championship team as a student-athlete, served as an assistant, and led the program as an interim coach," said Teresa L. Phillips, TSU Director of athletics, who was also Jones' collegiate coach. "She had great success this past season and definitely led the program to a turn-around season.
"We are looking for great things from her as our coach. Her being named head coach on a permanent basis was a formality."
Jones, a native of Belleville, Ill., played for the Lady Tigers from 1994-98 and was a freshman member of the team that won its second OVC title in 1995.
She started two years, leading the team in assists. She also excelled off the court, earning Dean's List honors and as a member of the TSU Honors Program. She was named to the OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll and received both the Sheila Jackson Dedication Award and Civitan Sportsmanship Award.
Jones began her coaching career at Chicago State University, where in her second year, she helped lead the program to its first appearance in the semi-finals of the Mid-Continent Conference.
After her tenure at Chicago State, she moved to Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio where she was again the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
She returned to her alma mater in 2002 as an assistant coach. She served as interim coach during the summer of 2003 and for the second time beginning last June.
The Lady Tigers return a small nucleus of players, have added one mid-year transfer, and also signed three players during the early November signing period. This month, Jones and her staff are looking forward to adding as many as five new team members during the late signing period which begins April 13.
One of the players set to return is senior guard Quanecia Fletcher, who spoke highly of the naming of Jones as the Lady Tigers' head coach.
"Hallellujah!, said Fletcher. "Thank you God, for this wonderful blessing. My teammates and I are extremely happy that Coach Jones has officially become our head coach. We have been waiting for this to finally happen. She is a great coach, a wonderful leader and role model for us. She has instilled a lot of pride in my teammates and me about who we are, and about what it truly means to be a Lady Tiger at Tennessee State."