Program Builder

Adrian Wiggins said he looks forward to tackling what one media member during his initial press conference at the Basketball Practice Facility on Wednesday referred to as the "beast" that is the Southeastern Conference.

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"It's a great league, and I'm excited about that. It gives our staff and our program a great challenge. But in my world, every game's a beast," said the new head coach of the Ole Miss Rebel women's basketball team. "We'd like to become a beast. The goal is to be respected in this basketball conference as one of the best and to hang banners. And we will never shy away from that."

As his program became the elite women's basketball member of the WAC, the Bulldogs won or shared the conference title the last five seasons, won the WAC Tournament title four of the past five years, and made five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2008-2012.

"I don't have enough fingers to count the number of banners we've hung over the last 10 years," said Wiggins, having spent the past seven-plus seasons as head coach, and prior to that being an assistant coach there since 2002. "It's not something we take lightly. It's a great league, and if we can get to a point where we are hanging banners in this league, then that will be a very impressive thing."

New Ole Miss athletics director, Ross Bjork, was on hand for the introduction of Wiggins to the Ole Miss community. Bjork said he has a list of things he looks for in a head coach.

"Somebody that has an identity for a program. Somebody that has great relationships with student-athletes. Somebody who has a track record of getting players better each and every day, player development. Somebody who is committed to academics. Somebody who can recruit, a recruiting machine. Somebody that has the organizational skills and the discipline to lead a great program. Somebody that has a passion for the game and understands the Xs and Os. Somebody who is involved in the community. Somebody who has integrity. Somebody who is a great leader and a proven winner in all facets on and off the court.

"When I went down the list and met with Adrian on Saturday morning, check, check, check, check, check, right down the list. This man has those ingredients. He's had success at a high level, and he's ready to get Rebel basketball back where it belongs."

Wiggins, joined at the press conference by his family wife, Heather, daughter, Aubrey, and son, William, said his teams will be fun to watch and have fun playing the game.

"We will work constantly on getting better. From a strategy standpoint, we are a team that is built off attacking. We will not sit back and let someone else tell us what to do," he said. "We're very physical. We play very hard. We're very consistent. We're very fair. We all try. The saying in our program is if you mess up, mess up trying.

"Offensively we have led the nation in three-point shooting. Don't get lost in that message, but I would also argue very few people have driven to the basket and made layups as well. We rank statistically offensively in the country high every year. We will shoot a three-point shot. We will have fun with it. Fans love it. I believe the Rebel Nation will love it. Our goal is to grow together."

Just a few years ago, Fresno State was selling less than 70 season tickets and attracting less than 200 to its games. At one of his last games to coach this season, the Bulldogs drew 7,000 for a home game.

Wiggins addresses the media
Bruce Newman

"It's everything," Wiggins said about the rise of interest and attendance in women's basketball at FSU. "You can't really pigeon-hole yourself into one thing that does it. This is a very broad-based company that we refer to it as, and it has a lot of facets. The truth is we went out and spent time in the community with our student-athletes. We spent a lot of time in our community.

"We went to what we call our Hoops Club," he continued. "We said we want to promote our game atmosphere. We want to build that. We want to build our attendance. So that was an emphasis in that part of our little company. And we won a lot of basketball games. That definitely helps a lot. So there were a lot of reasons. But above all else, we had young ladies people wanted to support and be a part of. If you saw our basketball team out on the road somewhere, they'd stick out their hand and say hello, they knew your name, they talked to you, they smiled, they were friendly. We had no too-cool-for-school in our program. I have all the confidence we will not have any too-cool-for-school in this program either."

Having grown up in Oklahoma and coached in California, Wiggins had the perfect response to a media question about the challenges of recruiting in Mississippi and in the South.

"Good question. Fair question. And one that you obviously face in the interview process," he said. "I kind of remind people I wasn't from California either. I'd just say hello and stick out my hand. If I like you and think you can play, then I'll tell you that. The SEC brings great recruiting challenges, and there's a lot of new people I need to meet. And that's a fun thing for me. It's a different part of the country for me. I get to meet some new coaches. We recruited at Fresno State on a national level in a sense that we went to all the national tournaments. This definitely is a national league, and in this part of the country there are definitely a lot of really good players. I'm very aware of that."

He brought with him his associate head coach, Brett Frank, from Fresno State. He will add others to his staff in the days ahead. Wiggins summed it all up with this charge.

"We are here for two big reasons. The No. 1 reason is to gain a degree. That's why you're here. That's very important in our basketball program, that those student-athletes attain a degree. And it's going to be a quality degree, a great degree from The University of Mississippi. They're going to understand that.

"But we're not naive. Our program understands we cannot exist if the second thing does not happen, and that's to win. If we don't get a degree as a student-athlete and if we don't win, we cannot accomplish all the other wonderful things that are a part of university life. We always say there's more to life than basketball. Well there's more to basketball than basketball."

"We will build something very special."

What others said Wednesday at the BPF:

Ole Miss rising junior point guard Valencia McFarland -

"We met him (Tuesday) night as a group. A great guy and somebody I think will bring a lot of discipline to the program, academic-wise and basketball-wise. I just feel like we'll be a great team. I think everybody is excited and ready to go and is preparing for what he has coming. It will be hard work every day, but I believe he is going to bring the best out of us."

Rebel rising sophomore guard Amber Singletary -

"We're all very excited. Hearing about him was one thing. Meeting him was a whole other thing. That's when we got really excited. He's met all our expectations and more. We're really excited to start working again."

New Ole Miss associate head coach Brett Frank -

"I am so fortunate and blessed to be able to work with Adrian. He's always kept me in the loop and asked me my thoughts and opinions about things. I talked to some of my peers in coaching, and none of them had a bad word to say about Ole Miss. They all thought it was a phenomenal community and a phenomenal opportunity. To me that says something. I'll be returning here over the weekend, and we'll start workouts with the team Monday."

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