Renee Ladner takes over women's hoops program

All the role players were there – Renee Ladner, Carol Ross, Pete Boone, Lynnette Johnson, the Ole Miss women's staff and players. It wasn't an easy situation.

Pete Boone introduced Ross, the now former head women's basketball coach of the Rebels, who spoke about why she is leaving and more. Then Boone spoke again and introduced the new head coach – Ladner.

"At Ole Miss some days are filled with goodness and fun and excitement, and some are filled with some pains and anxiety. And some are both. I think that's where we are today.

"We're here to make a couple of announcements," he continued. "The first is that our friend and co-worker and partner Carol Ross, who has been here for the last four years, giving more than anyone could ask for to resurrect an Ole Miss basketball program. She came to Ole Miss because she loves Ole Miss and because she wanted to see the basketball program get back to where it was historically. She told me at that time she wouldn't have taken any job other than this one. She did it because of Ole Miss. She has done a remarkable job.

"But it's taken its toll. She said yesterday she was a sprinter, and she knew this was a marathon race. But she gave it everything she had for as long as she could. When Carol has her mind made up, then that's what she's going to do. I thank her for an unbelievable four-year run for Ole Miss women's basketball."

Ross approached the podium and at times had trouble maintaining her composure from an emotional standpoint.

"As you can tell it has been an emotional time, but if I don't look over that way," she said, pointing to her left where the players were sitting but not looking their way, "then I might have a chance to get through this."

Ross did get through it, thanking all those concerned and expressing again her intentions on why she came to Ole Miss in 2003 after 12 years as the head coach at Florida with a year of "early retirement" in between.

"I came here to pay back a school that has given me so much and to resurrect a proud program to national prominence again," she said. "With those things in mind, I was able to feel some peace about my decision. A lot of times you're with a mindset that you came to give. But I know I've taken more away from my four years here than I ever gave. And I really appreciate a unique opportunity.

"Most coaches don't go on and get to coach their alma mater," she continued. "And if they do, it doesn't always turn out to be as wonderful a four years as this has been. But having said all that, the reason I coach, they sit right here."

And at that point she turned and looked at her players.

"It's always been about the players," she said, stopping to compose herself, "and that's what makes it hard."

Boone later introduced the new head coach, one of Ross' assistants, Renee Ladner.

"We are extremely excited," Boone said. "Carol recommended Renee. She went through the litany of reasons why Renee would be a great selection. In that conversation she talked about the team that had been developed here, and that's with Peggie (Gillom-Granderson) and J (Jocelyn McGilberry) and Renee and how this worked so well because of the strengths of each of those. And that she had talked with each of them and talked with them about the possibilities of what could happen here. She whole-heartedly recommended Renee and gave me a lot of wonderful reasons.

"We believe we have the best fit," Boone continued. "We were very impressed with Renee, her poise, her aggressiveness. It became very clear to us that Renee needed to be the next person to head up the Lady Rebels. We feel we have the best fit with Renee and Peggie and J leading this team forward."

Ladner walked to the podium.

"Wow. It is such an honor to be standing before you today," Ladner said. "I‘m very grateful. I appreciate the Chancellor's confidence, Pete Boone, Lynnette Johnson, and most importantly the confidence Carol Ross has shown in me. I would not be here if not for Carol Ross.

"I worked a camp for her down in Gainesville, Fla., and then she plucked me out of the high school ranks and decided this is where I needed to be. I am most fortunate because if you wanted a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a teammate, she has been all of the above."

Ladner said the last several hours have been emotion-filled.

"It is a bittersweet day for me," she said. "I am excited and elated about being the head coach at Ole Miss. I am sad that we are closing a chapter on someone who I have been so close to and respected so much for six years (four at Ole Miss; two before that at Florida)."

Ladner said she has learned a lot along the way, from her days in the Mississippi high school ranks through her time as an assistant coach in college.

"It's a whole different world when you move from the cool seat to the hot seat," she said. "I can't begin to thank her (Ross) enough for the opportunity to help move this program where it is today and to help it move forward."

Ladner praised her family for their support – husband Eddie, daughters Allison, an Ole Miss graduate, and Jennifer, an Ole Miss student.

"My family has made adjustments and sacrifices," she said. "They have supported me tremendously."

Ladner said she is ready to continue what's been built at Ole Miss and build it even better.

"We have a very good hotbed of players in the state of Mississippi that we want to hold on to," Ladner said. "We want to keep them in Mississippi and we want them at Ole Miss."

Because, as Ross put it, this women's basketball program is the one to lead the way in this state. And with Ladner at the helm, that will continue to be a certainty.

"With (Ladner) in that locker room, I feel very confident about that," Ross said. "Ole Miss is the flagship program in this state, and that's not going to change."

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