Southern Miss passes on Billy Kennedy and goes with Jay Ladner as men's head basketball coach

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HATTIESBURG, Mississippi -- Former Southern Miss student-athlete and 1988 graduate Jay Ladner has been announced as the school's new head men's basketball coach.

Ladner, a member of the 1987 NIT championship team, previously served five years at the helm for Southeastern Louisiana, guiding the team to the 2017-18 Southland Conference regular-season title.

"This all happened so fast," Ladner said. "What I can say is that dreams can come true. It's so humbling to know the support we have on the journey we are about to embark on, laying a foundation that has pride, dignity and is destined for success. To be able to come home and coach where you're from, it's exciting. There's no way I can properly thank all the people who have supported me throughout this process."

Under Ladner's leadership, Southeastern improved from nine wins his first year to win 12, 16 and 22 contests in succeeding years. It was the school's first 20-win season since reaching the 2005 NCAA Tournament and the third in its Division I era. The 2018-19 squad featured two First-Team, All-Southland performers in Marlain Veal and Moses Greenwood, just the third time in school history that two Lions earned that distinction. Overall, Ladner mentored eight All-Conference performers in his five years.

"We are thrilled to welcome Jay Ladner and his family back to Hattiesburg and Southern Miss," Jeremy McClain, Director of Athletics said. "Jay has proven throughout his career that he is a winner, elevating every basketball program with which he has been associated. We look forward to him leading and developing our student-athletes and taking our program to new heights."

The famed NIT championship team defeated Ole Miss, Saint Louis, Vanderbilt, Nebraska and La Salle en route to the title in Madison Square Garden under legendary
coach M.K. Turk.

Ladner's coaching credentials feature a 511-189 record in the high school ranks, from St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis to his alma mater, Oak Grove. He led St. Stanislaus to 10 state tournament appearances, including the 2011 title for which he was named the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Coach of the Year.

Ladner then took his talents to the collegiate ranks, spending the 2012-14 seasons as head coach at Jones County Junior College. The Bobcats were 17-8 in his first season, finishing second in the MACJC's South Division, and during the 2013-14 season became the first Mississippi junior college to win a national title. JCJC set a school record for wins at 28-5 and became the lowest-seeded school to win a NJCAA basketball title in any division, as well as the first school in tournament history to win five games in five days for the title.

The Hattiesburg native received his bachelor's degree in pre-medicine/biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Southern Miss in 1988. He received his master's degree in educational administration from Southern Miss in 1999. Ladner and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Chelsea and Luke.

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