Southern Miss

Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner turns to a USM legend as he fills out his staff

Southern Miss basketball legend Clarence Weatherspoon won’t be going anywhere after all.

USM announced Friday that the former NBA player will remain on the staff of newly-hired men’s basketball coach Jay Ladner.

Weatherspoon joined Doc Sadler’s staff at Southern Miss in 2016, but there was some question as to whether he would remain at USM after both he and Ladner were among the four finalists to be the man to replace Sadler. The two other finalists were Texas Tech assistant Mark Adams and former Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy.

Ladner, who is also a former USM basketball player, was hired on April 17 to take over the Golden Eagles’ program after serving the five previous seasons as the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana.

Ladner said that it was an early priority of his to make sure that Weatherspoon had some type of involvement with the program, whether he was with the staff or not.

“Our friendship goes back to 1988-89,” Ladner said. “The fact that he is so important to the Southern Miss nation made it a great priority for me. He’s a Mississippi guy and he really embodies all the things we want to have in our program and what we’re going to stand for. He’s not only a great basketball player, but he’s just as good a man.”

Ladner acknowledged that the hiring of Weatherspoon is an unusual situation after both were candidates for the same job a month ago.

“It’s rare that it works out in the way that it did,” Ladner said. “Because we’re good friends, there was no me-versus-him situation going on. It just made sense. It know it certainly makes sense for me. The morning after (Ladner was hired), I called Spoon and let him know we needed him involved in our program one way or another. He loves the program and the university as well. I think he is a natural fit.

“He and I had had a chance to visit face to face to talk about how my staff runs. It’s different than the way Doc ran his program. I think he was sold on our vision for the program. I was certainly sold on what he brought to the table to implement our vision. It’s a great day and a win, win situation.”

Ladner has one spot to fill on his staff and he hopes to add someone who will complement the pieces already in place.

“We may hire a Mississippi coach or we may hire someone with a strong base of contacts outside,” Ladner said. “Now, we can get to hire the best available coach for our program.”

Kyle Roane was Ladner’s first addition to his staff at USM and Garland Wilson has been tabbed as director of basketball operations. Both coaches worked under Ladner at Southeastern Louisiana.

The addition of Weatherspoon will only deepen the program’s ties in the state of Mississippi. Ladner and Roane are both natives of the Hattiesburg area and Weatherspoon is from Crawford.

The arrival of Weatherspoon in 2016 provided a significant boost to USM’s recruiting efforts in the state, helping land players like Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year LaDavis Draine, a strong 3-point shooter who is entering his junior year, sophomore guard Gabe Watson and sophomore forward Ladarius Marshall.

Weatherspoon, 48, played for the Golden Eagles in 1988-92 and was the Metro Conference Player of the Year three times. Simply known as “Spoon,” to fans, he averaged 18.5 and 11.3 rebounds during his four-year college career. He was drafted in the first round of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and also played for the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. He averaged 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds as an NBA player.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.