Although it may seem like Jacksonville College made an expeditious hire in promoting associate head women's basketball coach Leasa Ailshie to the position of head coach — Ailshie interviewed early Tuesday morning and by noon she had garnered the job that was created when former head coach T. Lynn Nabi was selected as academic dean earlier in the month — that wasn't exactly the case.
“Leasa interviewed early (Tuesday) morning and handled herself extremely well when asked some tough questions,” Nabi, who along with JC president, Dr. Mike Smith, made the hiring decision, said. “But, in my mind she (Ailshie) has actually been on a two-year interview process with me.”
Ailshie, who is two months away from celebrating her 26th birthday, received her master's degree from Sam Houston State University where she was a member of the school's women's basketball team for two seasons.
She has worked along side Nabi for the past two seasons. Her first year in Jacksonville she was the Lady Jaguars' assistant coach.
Last summer Ailshie, who is a native of Claremore, Okla., was promoted to the role of associate head women's basketball coach.
“We had a lot of interest from quite a few very qualified candidates for women's basketball coach at Jacksonville College,” Nabi said. “Dr. Mike (Smith) and I have prayed about this decision a lot and I think what sat Leasa apart from the rest is that she knows our mission and shares our vision and that she has a great relationship with our faculty.
“She knows what our philosophy is and she knows the type of young ladies that we are trying to recruit here.”
Nabi stated that Ailshie will finish out the current school term as associate head coach and will dive into the recruiting waters right away.
Pending board approval, her title will officially change on July 1.
“This is definitely a dream come true for me,” Ailshie said. “I think that is is a case of hard work paying off and I can think of no better place to start my head coaching career than at Jacksonville College.
“I'm very thankful for this opportunity and for the confidence that has been shown in me.”
According to Nabi, a decision on an assistant women's basketball coach will be made at a later date.
As a high school player in Claremore, Okla., Ailshie led her team to a Class 5A state title and was named as a member of the All-State team.
She then played two seasons at Conners State (Okla.) College (NJCAA, Region II) before completing her eligibility at Sam Houston
After her playing days had ended at Sam Houston, Ailshie served as a graduate assistant coach at the university.
Ailshie said that she doesn't foresee any drastic changes in the operation of the women's basketball program at JC.
“I've learned a lot from coach Nabi and we believe in a lot of the same things,” Ailshie said. “As for as as differences, I think coach Nabi talks more and is more vocal.
“I don't have as big of voice as he does, so we will have to work harder and really get down to business in practice.”
Ailshie said that she doesn't expect the coaching change to hamper the college's recruiting efforts, which are currently in mid stream, in any way.
“We've been recruiting since last year and we are continuing to get kids in here and everything is falling into place with our recruiting,” she said.
Ailshie stated that the JC women's program will still primarily draw high school players from Texas, and to a lessor degree from Louisiana and Oklahoma, but at the end of the day it's not geography that will determine whether a young lady has what it takes to be a Lady Jaguar.
“The bottom line is to get kids with good character, ones that will represent Jacksonville College in a positive manner,” Ailshie said.