By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Upon landing in a new university community, coaches often talk about goals, dreams and hard work.
Adrian Wiggins talked about those things at Ole Miss, and the backdrop of his speech was a resume with results.
An Ole Miss program rich with tradition but on hard times of late welcomed a 38-year-old coach on Wednesday who has been dominant in the Western Athletic Conference.
Wiggins just guided Fresno State to a school-record 28 wins and its fifth-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
In seven-plus seasons as Fresno State coach, Wiggins compiled a record of 175-66 overall, 92-18 in WAC play.
He was named WAC coach of the year twice, won five regular season titles, four tournament titles and coached the league player of the year three times.
“This is another great day in Ole Miss athletics and women’s basketball,” said Lynnette Johnson, the senior women’s administrator.
The committee found Wiggins after what Johnson called a national search, though it started with local flavor.
Danny White, the director of the UMAA Foundation, worked with Wiggins at Fresno State, and when a short list of candidates was being compiled, Johnson really focused in on Wiggins at White’s suggestion.
“He was like, ‘Lynnette, you need to take a look at this guy. He’s a good guy. He’s won a lot of ballgames.’ We pulled him in and started taking a look, and it was very impressive,” Johnson said.
Wiggins was joined by his wife and two children and was introduced by new Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork.
He takes over an Ole Miss program that has gone 23-53 in SEC play since its last NCAA tournament appearance, a 2007 run to the Elite Eight.
Wiggins met with Ole Miss players on Tuesday evening and says he’s encouraged by the little he knows about their productivity.
“Most of it’s from stats. I look at it, and really, I gain a lot of confidence. I go, ‘OK, maybe a little bit here, a little bit there.’ There are a lot of close scores, a lot of scores less than 10 points. You’re talking about three or four shots,” he said.
He says his teams will be aggressive on both offense and defense. In the most recent release of NCAA statistics, Fresno State ranked No. 10 in scoring offense and No. 3 in 3-point field goals made.
Wiggins announced that Brett Frank, his associate head coach at Fresno State, will join him at Ole Miss. Frank was in attendance Wednesday.
“We will set goals. We will work very hard to achieve those goals and will learn to deal with the success or the failure of those goals. That’s how we develop great citizens, how we learn how to cope, how we become leaders,” he said.
Former Tupelo standout Maggie McFerrin, a rising junior in the Ole Miss program, shares Johnson’s excitement.
“I’m really excited about it. The whole team is. We just needed a new start, something refreshing,” she said. “He wants to win, and we do too. We’re on the same page. I think he’ll turn the program around really quick.”