Coaches praised DeLisha Milton-Jones’ smarts on the basketball court throughout her hoops career. They loved how the 6-foot-1 forward could adapt to opponents’ offenses and defenses. They also liked how she cared for her teammates, pushed others to excel and worked hard.
“From high school to the pros, coaches kept telling me, ‘You are going to be a great coach one day,’” Milton-Jones recalled. “I never understood why they were saying that. As time went by, I started tohave conversations as to why they felt that way.”
Milton-Jones’ hoops IQ, moxie and leadership skills will be front and center on the bench of Pepperdine’s women’s basketball team now. The WNBA title-winner and Olympian was promoted to be the Waves head coach at the end of March.
Milton-Jones, a Waves assistant coach last season, said she is excited to have the new hoops gig.
“I hold the direct responsibility of leading the charge for an entire program, so I defiantly accept the challenge,” she said.
Milton-Jones is following Ryan Weisenburg’s four-year stint as the Waves coach. The university announced last month that Weisenburg would no longer be Pepperdine’s coach. Weisenburg had an overall record of 28-94 as Pepperdine’s coach, including a 7-23 record last season.
Milton-Jones was a first-year assistant coach during the 2016-17 season. Now, the top Wave, she said she is already hard at work preparing Pepperdine for next season. As of press time, Milton-Jones said she was in the process of putting together her coaching staff.
The new coach said she wanted associate coaches that are diligent, trustworthy, hardworking and who want to grow.
“I don’t care how many years you have had in this game, on whatever level: As a head coach, assistant coach or recruiter,” Milton-Jones said. “I want to create an environment where everyone seeks to learn from each other and teaches each other.”
Milton-Jones said she wants to be a role model for her Pepperdine players.
“I represent their goals,” she said. “The goals of what they want to see themselves become as a woman, [as a] professional and as a player. I hope I will be a valuable asset for their growth.”
Pepperdine Director of Athletics Dr. Steve Potts said in a statement on Pepperdine’s sports website that Milton-Jones is a natural-born leader and has an unparalled passion for basketball.
“DeLisha’s commitment to Pepperdine’s Christian mission, to the academic well-being of student-athletes and to building a championship caliber women’s basketball program make her a perfect fit for us,” he said.
Milton-Jones’ basketball career includes a swarm of accolades including WNBA championships, All-Star statuses and gold medals won as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team.
The Waves head coach played college basketball at Florida. As a Gator, Milton-Jones won SEC Player of the Year, the Wade Trophy and the Honda Sports Award during her senior year. She was also a first-team All-American and two-time All-SEC honoree.
Milton-Jones averaged 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during her 17 seasons in the WNBA. She won back-to-back championships with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 and was named to three WNBA All-Star teams.
Additionally, Milton-Jones finished her WNBA career in 2015 ranked ninth in all-time WNBA scoring, fifth in steals, sixth in rebounds and 15th in blocks.
She won Olympic gold in the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, FIBA World Championship crowns in 1998 and 2002, and a Tournament of the Americas championship in 2007 with the Team USA women’s hoops team.
Milton-Jones said a lot of disappointment and defeats preceeded her success on the basketball court. She said working through the letdowns help define her as a coach.
“I didn’t have a silver spoon as I went through basketball as a player,” she said. “I know as a coach there are going to be rough spots and the journey will be tumultuous, but if you stay the course, you work and you are diligent, you will receive the reward of victory at the end. That is what I want for these young ladies.”
Milton-Jones was added to Pepperdine’s staff last August after she concluded her WNBA career with the Atlanta Dream.
Milton-Jones said she learned a lot last season. She said she wants to “make a lot of noise quickly.
“I don’t want to revamp everything from the start or bombard the players with a lot of new information,” Milton-Jones said. “I want us to be efficient in everything we do and learn to love the game again and see it as the beautiful game it is meant to be — and played in the right way.”