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#STINGDAILY: Way 2(00) Go, Coach Jo!

Dec. 18, 2013

By Jon Cooper Sting Daily

MaChelle Joseph isn’t one to dwell on milestones.

Not even one as important as becoming only the second women’s basketball coach in Georgia Tech history to earn 200 career victories. That’s why she celebrated No. 200 the way she did.

“I stayed last night watching film on UTEP (Tech’s opponent on Friday in the Puerto Rico Classic),” Joseph said, with a laugh, the day after her Yellow Jackets beat Portland State 104-54, at McCamish Pavilion, in her 324th game at the helm. “That was my way of celebrating the win, getting ready for the next game.

“Actually I just took a minute to kind of reflect on everything and then you have to keep it moving,” she added. “That’s what I want my players to do when they achieve milestones. You want to reflect and be appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had, which I did.

Make no mistake, Joseph is very appreciative of her situation and recognizes the importance of winning 200 games.

“I’m very blessed to be in a situation like I am at Georgia Tech, with the tremendous support I’ve had from several different administrations since I’ve been here,” she said. “In this day and age to get to stay at the same school for 11 years, it’s an honor to win 200 games, especially since they’ve all been at Georgia Tech. That makes it extra special.”

Joseph also used the word special not only to describe the support she’s received from the athletic association, but from the staff and players who have been around her since she took the head coaching job prior to the 2003-04 season. Athletic Director Dave Braine chose Joseph to take over after Agnus Berenato, for whom Joseph had spent the previous two seasons as an assistant, took a similar position at Pittsburgh.

“I’ve had so many great players and that’s what makes [200 wins] special to me, all the players and staff that have gone through the program that have been a part of my life,” she said. “That’s what makes the wins important. Not necessarily the wins themselves, but the wins and the memories of the people that helped us accomplish those 200 wins.”

Several of those players were in attendance Tuesday night, as Deja Foster and Metra Walthour are on Joseph’s current staff and LaQuananisha Adams broadcasts the games.

“It’s an honor to have former players on my staff. With Deja Foster being back, she’s a great role model for so many players for so long and she’s such an instrumental part of our success early,” said Joseph. “Then the fact that Me-Me and `Nisha are part of the winningest class in the history of our program, to have those types of people surrounding our players day in and day out makes a huge difference.”

Former players Brigitte Ardossi (Class of 2010), and Chioma Nnamaka (Class of 2008) were among the former players sending congratulations via text, as did former assistant Gene Hill (now an assistant at NC State), and Sharena Taylor (Class of 2013) also was at the game.

As part of Coach Jo’s reflection, Joseph remembered how she got to Georgia Tech. After starring at Purdue for four years, she served as an assistant coach at Illinois for a season (1993), returned to Purdue for three (’94-96), and spent five years at Auburn (’97-01). She felt she needed one more stop as an assistant before beginning her coaching career. The choice came down to Rutgers, a powerhouse under the direction of Basketball Hall of Fame coach Vivian Stringer, and the growing Georgia Tech program under Berenato, coincidentally, the other Yellow Jackets women’s basketball coach with 200 wins, going 223-209 in 15 years.

Joseph chose Tech.

“I wanted to be part of something for the first time because I had that as a four-year letterwinner at Purdue, being the first Big Ten Championship and the first NCAA Tournament team. All those things that I knew that are such a tremendous experience,” Joseph recalled. “So when it came down to making a decision between those two, I decided to join Agnus at Georgia Tech and try to help her do things that had never been done at Georgia Tech and the second year I was here we went to the NCAA Tournament.”

Her opportunity as head coach came two years later and the program’s explosion would soon follow.

Joseph won her first game on Nov. 21st at Florida Atlantic her debut, and her 100th against Clemson on Feb. 1, 2009. Yet, with all the big wins in ACC, ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament play, she called an early-season, non-conference trip back to Big Ten country in 2006 the game that really put the program in motion.

It was Dec. 18, 2006 in Evanston, Ill., at Northwestern. Tech started slow, taking three minutes to score and quickly trailing by 10. Tech roared back, led by Stephanie Higgs’ 36, tied the game by half then pulled away in the second half.

“I felt like that was a turning point game for our program because it was a hard-fought battle, and we were able to come back and win,” Joseph said. “It just kind of solidified to us, `Okay, we can do this. We can play with these types of people, on the road and win against Big Ten teams and other major conferences.’ I really feel like that was a game that gave us a lot of confidence.”

The program has skyrocketed, earning six straight 20-win seasons and six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. After a step back last season, Coach Jo’s squad is ready for the next step.

That’s why win No. 200 was nice, for a minute, but not for much more. Joseph says her work is far from finished.

“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to get 200 more at the same school because my goal is to finish the job I started at Georgia Tech,” she said. “My ultimate goal has always been to bring a championship to Atlanta and to Georgia Tech.”

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