Jan. 10, 2014
The Southeastern Conference 2014 Class of Women’s Legends showcases former student-athletes from all 14 SEC member institutions. Each legend will then be celebrated individually on each Sunday and Thursday between January 12 and February 27 on the SEC website.The class will be honored at the 2014 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, March 5-9 in Duluth, Ga. Each legend will be honored during halftime of their teams first game of the tournament. All 14 individuals will also be honored as a group on March 8, and will participate in an autograph session on the concourse. Complimentary posters of the Legends will be available at the session.
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — One of the faces of Ole Miss women’s basketball, former player and coach Carol Ross has been selected as the Rebels’ representative for the 2014 Southeastern Conference Women’s Legends Class.
A four-year starter for the Rebels from 1978-81, Ross returned to her alma mater as head coach in 2003. During her tenure, Ole Miss complied a 77-50 (.606) record and advanced to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a WNIT appearance. In 2006-07, Ross and Ole Miss reached the Elite Eight.
“Any good coach will tell you that they’re just a piece of the puzzle,” Ross said. “I was there at a good time with Armintie Price, Jada Mincey and Ashley Awkward, some really good players who represented Ole Miss as student-athletes.
“We wanted to take the program to prominence and into the national conversation. When you talked about women’s basketball, we wanted Ole Miss to be in the conversation, whether it was USA Basketball or our players being on the board for the WNBA Draft. We wanted Ole Miss to be relevant in any conversation that was taking place regarding women’s basketball coach.”
Everywhere she has been, she has won. Every program she has been, she has made better, and she has continued to do that.
As a seven-year assistant coach at Auburn, Ross reached the NCAA Championship game in each of her last three seasons in 1988, 1989 and 1990. She was then named the head coach at Florida, where the Gators made nine NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 10 years under her direction.
And after a successful four-year run at the helm of the Ole Miss program, which she restored to national prominence, she went to serve as an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, helping them to back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011, and is currently the head coach for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
“I learned at an early age that when you’re a part of a team, you’re just a small part of something greater than yourself,” Ross said. “I have been mindful of that throughout my life .The same ingredients that I learned as a player and assistant coach, I took those into my head coaching experiences, whether it was at the University of Florida, The University of Mississippi, or being the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.
“We’re only as good as the people we have surrounded ourselves with, and I have always tried very hard to surround myself with quality people with great confidence and passion. I learned in the locker room at Ole Miss as player that it’s not how good you are; it’s how good we are. And that’s true whether you’re a coach or player. It’s about the collective group and that doesn’t whether you’re a student-athlete, assistant coach or head coach. That’s what I have carried forward.”
A decade later, first-year head coach Matt Insell, his staff and players are working toward recapturing the legacy that is Rebel Basketball. Insell takes a lot of pride in the program’s former players and coaches, including Ross.
“When you talk Ole Miss basketball, you talk about different historical people in this program, and Carol Ross is one of those people,” Insell said. “When I go out on the road recruiting, I talk about Carol Ross. The things that Carol Ross did for this program as a player and a coach are things we’re trying to get back to. Having her around and her name associated with this program means the world to our program.”
Ross, who was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame last year, remains close to the Ole Miss women’s basketball program. She is appreciative that Insell and the team are respectful of those who came before them and noted that the team has already taken steps forward.
“Wherever you tread as a person, you hope to leave some footprints and that people know that you have walked that path,” Ross said. “And at the same time, I’m happy that Matt can look back at the past and history of Ole Miss women’s basketball and see something good and see something that he can aspire to, and to not only do that, but to take it beyond that.”
Ross said it’s been a great ride and adventure, having traveled all over the world, having coached some of the greatest players in the world and making some of her greatest friendships through the game of basketball. Now entering her 30th year of coaching, her focus remains the same, as it was when she started.
“I always look at what I want to give back to it. I want to keep making a positive impact. I don’t coach for wins; I coach to help other people reach their goals,” Ross said. “I want to help players achieve their goals and live their dreams. Helping others is what motivates and inspires me. I want to grow the game and continue to push the game forward. As far as we have come, there’s plenty of room for upward movement and growth, and any way I can help women’s basketball prosper and grow, I want to be able to do that. It’s certainly given me a lot, so anything I can do to give back.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller