Women’s basketball head coach Tom Jessee started his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater Bluefield State of West Virginia during the 1988-1989 season. The Lady Blues, as they were called, competed in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), for nine seasons under Jessee. During his nine seasons in charge, the Lady Blues finished either first or second in the division six times. Jessee’s Lady Blues won four WVIAC championships while also reaching the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament twice. Jessee’s best season as coach of the Lady Blues came during the 1992-1993 seasons in which the team finished with an impeccable record of 25-4 and a conference championship.
Coach Jessee reflects on his time at Bluefield State, “I remember the championship games that we played in and all the players that I was blessed to have play for me.”
After Bluefield State, coach Jessee decided it was time to move on. Jessee had compiled an outstanding 170-89 record, averaging over 18 wins a season. Jessee left Bluefield State due to family reasons, but planned on continuing his coaching career in his new home state of Florida. Jessee became Head Coach of the New Port Richey Gulf High School girls basketball team, where he coached the team to a 75-67 in five seasons. Jessee was named the Tampa Tribune Pasco County Coach of the Year in 1998.
After coaching at the high school level Jessee decided to go back to the collegiate level, taking a job at UT. Jessee found immediate success leading the team to a 23-8 record and earning them a bid into the NCAA tournament. Jessee was named the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Coach of the Year for leading the Spartans to the semifinal round of NCAA Division II South Regional.
Jessee reached a new level of success during the 2008-09 season in which his lady spartans amassed a 26-6 record. During the impressive run, the team won 13 straight games: a UT school record.. The spartans would go on to win the SSC tournament and achieve a national ranking of 19, which was the highest in school history at the time.
The odds of repeating with another record setting season were against them, but coach Jessee was confident in his team. “I start the season off every year with the same goals. The first is to continue to graduate my players and to win a national championship,” said Jessee.
Jessee’s 2009-10 team was one for the record books, as they were able to match the previous seasons record of 26 wins. For the first time in school history, the team was ranked in the WBCA national top 25 for the entire season. The team would advance to the NCAA South Regional semifinals, where it lost to No. 4 Arkansas Tech 69-68.
During the 2013-14 season the team achieved a school record of 14 league games, including the SSC regular season championship. Jessee’s team had five victories over nationally ranked opponents, including two in the top-ten. He led the team to the NCAA South Region championship for the first time in school history.
Coach Jessee has been very successful over the course of his 21 year collegiate career. “I have been very blessed to have great players play for me here at UT as well as great support from the athletic department and the University as a whole,”said Jessee.
Jessee has the statistics to back up his illustrious career. His .679 winning percentage ranks No. 17 among active coaches and No. 33 all-time nationally. His 419 wins are good for No. 27 on the active coaches list.
His 249-109 record at Tampa gives him the program’s top overall winning percentage at .696 as he is also the program’s all-time winningest coach. He was also the fastest coach in UT women’s basketball history to 100 victories and led his 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 teams to six straight 20-plus win seasons for the first time in program history. He has coached many successful All-Americans, as well as the NCAA Division II all time three point scoring champion.
Jessee always puts his players first. “At Tampa, I remember all the players who I have been able to help transition into their careers and watch them become adults. The building of the program into a conference and national contender has been a lot of fun.”
Ed Kerner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org