Women’s Basketball Head Coach
(Southern Miss, 1984)
Career Record: 327-272 ( 20 years)
Building a successful program takes time and commitment and does not come
without its ups and downs. When Joye
Lee-McNelis took over the Southern Miss
women’s basketball program in 2004, she
wanted to return the program to the winning
tradition of old. Now in her eigjth season,
there is something to be said about the
return of an athlete to his or her alma mater
… loyalty and passion. With her appointment, the Lady Eagles have made steady
strides in that direction.
McNelis’ presence has formed a complete, well-rounded women’s basketball
program that is putting Southern Miss back
on the map.
Last season, McNelis placed two players on the Conference USA third team in
Rachel Vigers and Tanesha Washington
while freshman Jamierra Faulkner earned
In 2010, Pauline Love earned her third-straight first team all-conference award.
In 2008-09 season, Southern Miss was
one-win away of claiming at least a share
of a regular season title and one win away
from returning to postseason.
Her 2007-08 and 2008-09 teams posted
back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time
since the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. She
also had two players named to the C-USA All-Tournament team (Pauline Love and Andrea
Barber), another first team all-conference
selection (Love) and the C-USA Sixth Player
of the Year honoree (Tanesha Washington).
The Lady Eagles’ Candace Rucker earned two
Rookie of the Week honors as well.
In 2007-08, the program landed its initial,
first-team all-conference selection (Love)
since the inception of Conference USA,
recorded the first 20-win season since 1995-
96, and advanced to postseason play for the
first time since 1999-2000. In addition, they
had two players earned player of the week
honors (Love and Stephanie Helgeson).
While the 2006-07 team proved to be
the turning point, as a short-handed team
recorded a 15 win season, landed three
players on C-USA All-Conference teams
(Amber Eugene, Kendra Reed and Lauren
Pitman), and three others were named
C-USA Players of the Week (Eugene, Reed
and Emer Foley).
With a combined effort of McNelis’s
door-to-door, person-to-person approach to
promoting and the team’s successes, Lady
Eagle basketball has seen an increase in
attendance every year she has been here,
including increased season ticket sales and
memberships in the “The Wings Club.”
McNelis also displays a passion for a
more important aspect of succeeding in
sport -- succeeding in the classroom. In
2008-09, Kendra Reed became the only
three time C-USA All-Academic player.
The year before, two Lady Eagle players
were named to the C-USA All-Academic
team (Reed and Liz Biland). In 2006-07,
Southern Miss placed two players on the
Academic All-District Team by ESPN The
Magazine (Reed and Kristin Chaney), two
were named to C-USA All-Academic teams
(Reed and Chaney), five received C-USA
Commissioner’s List honors (Reed, Patterson,
Chaney, Biland and Rachel Manuel), and
one (Chaney) was named C-USA Women’s
Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Evidence of improvement was seen following the 2005-06 season, in which the
squad posted a 14-15 record, a plus-five
game turnaround. She accomplished that
feat with only one junior college transfer,
two sophomores and five freshmen. The
Lady Eagles finished in a tie for third in the
conference with a 10-6 record.
McNelis returned to her alma mater after
13 seasons as head coach at the University
of Memphis, where she compiled a 229-156
record. She was only the second coach in
Lady Tiger history and took over a program
that had won just 21 games over a three-year
span, including back-to-back 6-22 finishes.
In just three seasons, McNelis turned the
Memphis program into a winner and over
12 years, she helped the Lady Tiger program
gain national recognition when in 1999
Memphis entered the AP Top 25 for the first
time in 14 years.
McNelis is credited with leading her
Memphis teams to four-consecutive conference championships, five-consecutive
20-win seasons and eight postseason tournament appearances. She coached 14
all-conference players and has two former
players currently playing in the WNBA.
Over those 13 seasons, 32 players who have
competed in the program have completed
After her first five seasons at Memphis,
McNelis was tabbed as one of the nation’s
“Coaches on the Rise” by Basketball Times.
During McNelis’ tenure, she coached
three conference newcomers of the year
and two conference players of the year.
Among her top recruiting highlights is
Tamika Whitmore, who finished her career
at Memphis as the second all-time leading scorer in school history. As a senior,
Whitmore was named to five different All-American teams.
Prior to her stint at Memphis, McNelis
spent five seasons as an assistant coach at
Southern Miss (1986-91). The 1987 and
1990 squads won the Metro Conference
tournament championship. The 1986-87,
1988-89 and 1989-90 teams each participated in the NCAA Tournament, with the