By Hunter Dawkins
The Gazebo Gazette
Southern Miss Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jay Ladner was named the Joe Gottfried Coach of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference after producing one of the best turnaround stories in NCAA Division I basketball history.
Ladner’s Golden Eagles have racked up 25 wins after finishing with seven a season ago. The 18-win swing is two shy of tying the record for the best turnaround in NCAA history that Iowa State set during the 2021-22 season.
“I’m very humbled to receive the coach of the year award. To be recognized by your peers in this league is rewarding, but also I understand that this is an award that represents way more than myself,” said Ladner during an interview with The Gazebo Gazette. “We have a tremendous coaching staff, support staff, and most importantly, players. This is a recognition more so of what our team accomplished this year and I’m proud of that.”
The former 20-year high school coach at St. Stanislaus College Prep (SSC) and Pass Christian Resident, Ladner has been successful at virtually every institution he has been a part of.
From winning a Class 4A State Title at SSC in 2010 after at least ten state tournament appearances, Ladner won a National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) Championship at Jones County Junior College for the first time ever in Mississippi history. Following this, Ladner won the Southland Conference regular season title at Southeastern Louisiana in 2018 earning the Lions’ first trip ever to the National Invitational Tournament in school history.
Southern Miss has also set numerous records under Ladner’s tutelage this season, including The Golden Eagles’ 25 wins are tied for the most in Southern Miss’ Division I era and four shy of tying the most wins in program history. Ladner’s team also went 15-0 at Reed Green Coliseum to tie the 2011-12 team for the best home-winning percentage in program history.
“I am very proud of Austin, Felipe, and DeAndre. They have been outstanding all year,” expressed Ladner in reference to the three players that earned All-SunBelt accolades. “They are all high-character men who have been outstanding leaders and are very deserving of this incredible honor.”
Junior guard Austin Crowley was named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year after finishing the regular season as Southern Miss’ leading scorer. Crowley also picked up First Team All-Sun Belt honors, Graduate forward Felipe Haase was named Second Team All-Sun Belt, while senior forward DeAndre Pinckney earned Third Team All-Sun Belt Honors. It’s the first time since the 1887-88 season that three Golden Eagles landed on all-conference teams.
The Golden Eagles will head down to Pensacola, Fla. later this week ahead of the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, set to take place February 28 through March 6 at the Pensacola Bay Center. Southern Miss will play the winner of South Alabama and App State Saturday, Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m.