Ishee back as assistant coach on Smith's staff

Thursday, June 1, 2006

The former volunteer assistant returns after two other stops.

As a volunteer assistant coach in 2002-03, John Ishee helped B.J. Smith's first Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team put together a breakthrough season.

Now Ishee hopes to help the Redhawks continue their impressive run of success under Smith as a full-time assistant coach.

It was announced Wednesday that Ishee, who has coached in the college ranks since 1989, will join Smith's staff at Southeast.

"I'm really excited about John joining our staff," Smith said. "He's a great guy, he's got a lot of really good experience and he's going to be a major addition to our program."

Smith first team at Southeast in 2002-03 had what was then the program's most successful season on the Division I level, going 19-11, finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference and reaching the finals of the OVC tournament.

Ishee became a part of that squad after Life University -- an NAIA program in Georgia where he was then the head coach -- abruptly discontinued its athletic program right before the school year started.

"That's the only reason we got him that year," Smith said. "I knew him from when I was coaching in junior college and he recruited our kids. He did a better job recruiting our kids than anybody else.

"When he became available to us that year, I was really happy to have him, and he did a great job."

Now, after two other coaching stops since then, Ishee is back in Cape Girardeau.

"I am very happy to be here," he said. "The year I volunteered, I had a really good experience. The community is great, and it's very supportive of the women's basketball program.

"I have enjoyed watching their success since I left. I hope we can sustain it and take it to another level."

The Redhawks had their best Division I season in 2005-06, going 22-9, tying for their first OVC title, winning their first OVC tournament title and making their first NCAA Division I tournament appearance.

Ishee was most recently the head coach at Division II New Mexico Highlands University. He did not complete his first season at the school, resigning in early February with a little more than a month's worth of games remaining.

The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported at the time that Ishee was unavailable for comment, but New Mexico Highlands athletic director Ben Santistevan said in a press release that Ishee cited personal and family reasons for his departure.

Ishee said Wednesday he left New Mexico Highlands to return to his home town of Gulfport, Miss., and help out his elderly parents and the rest of his family, who had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

"It was just hard being that far away," he said.

Ishee, a graduate of Southern Mississippi, has been an assistant on the Division I level for most of his college coaching career. He has been on the staff of several teams that made the NCAA tournament, and he was the recruiting coordinator at Southern Mississippi in 1994 when the Eagles made the NCAA Sweet 16.

In addition, Ishee has been the recruiting coordinator at Mississippi and New Mexico State, where he landed after his stint as an assistant at Southeast.

"He's won in some big programs and recruited on a national level," Smith said. "For us to get him in here, I feel really fortunate."

Ishee will replace Michelle Fortier, and Smith is also still looking for one more assistant to replace Katrina Colwell. Lisa Pace will be the lone holdover on Smith's staff.

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