Jackets proud to get Coach Jo milestone win No. 300 at Georgia State
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
MaChelle Joseph doesn’t believe in personal glory. She’s all about team success.
Even Sunday afternoon, following her 300th career victory, a 78-71 Georgia Tech win over Georgia State at GSU Sports Arena, Joseph’s thoughts were more about what her Yellow Jackets had accomplished that afternoon than what she had the previous 15-plus seasons.
“I really never thought about it,” Joseph said, following her team’s sixth win in seven games, which raised its record to 6-2.
“I honestly would have preferred I got here a lot sooner,” she added, with a smile, “But it’s one of those things where I’ve never really thought about any milestones for myself — more benchmarks for the program.”
The Jackets forced Georgia State into 25 turnovers, scoring 29 points off them, including 21 for 25 points in the first half, to lead 35-24 at the break. The Panthers had more turnovers (21) than field goal attempts (20) and allowed more points off turnovers (25) than they scored (24) in the half. Tech opened its biggest lead, 14, (55-41), late in the third quarter, then held off the stubborn Panthers, who got to within 69-64 with 3:02 left, sealing the win for their coach.
Joseph, named Georgia Tech’s fifth head coach on May 19, 2003, adds to her program-leading total with every win. She has since becoming Tech’s leading winner on Jan. 4, 2015, a 74-66 win over Clemson at McCamish Pavilion, that gave her career win No. 224 and pushed her past her predecessor and mentor, Agnus Berenato. Joseph spoke glowingly about Berenato, who announced earlier this season that she is battling breast cancer.
“Agnus has been a tremendous role model for so many former players, former assistant coaches. She was a big influence in my life,” she said. “She gave me a really special opportunity to come to Georgia Tech as her assistant coach. I’ve learned a lot from Agnus. A lot of the things that are the core values of our program I learned from her. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Agnus. This is a small battle for Agnus because Agnus is such a big personality and she’s got such toughness. I can’t even describe to you. I wouldn’t be here to have this opportunity at Georgia Tech without her. So I have a lot of appreciation for what she’s meant to me.”
One core value Joseph lives by is putting the program first.
It’s why she didn’t even try to reminisce on her very first coaching win. It came in her first game, Nov. 21, 2003, a 73-62 win at Florida Atlantic.
“I absolutely do not remember that game at all,” she said, with a laugh. “I just remember how excited I was to be the head coach at Georgia Tech and have an opportunity to be at, not only a special athletic department and association, but a special institute. I have a lot of love for Georgia Tech and what it represents.”
That love and the love of her players is what she represents.
“The most important thing to me is that our student-athletes leave here better women and, that they — more so than winning and being successful on the court — it’s more important to me to help them become a total person off the floor,” she said. “I look back on these 300 wins and think about all the special student-athletes that have come through Georgia Tech and our women’s basketball program and all the great things they are doing outside of here in their careers and their families. It’s exciting for me to watch that and know that we’ve played some small part in their success.”
That priority actually has played a very big role in players’ success. It’s why getting the win for Joseph Sunday was so important to them.
“She gives us everything she has every day and we had to exchange it in some way,” said junior guard Francesca Pan, who poured in a game-high 22 points, hitting a pair of momentum-breaking threes when the Panthers made fourth-quarter runs, and all four free throws down the stretch to ice the game. “We had to give her something back. Today was a great team win. We should have played better, but we did a good job of staying together at the end of the game. Of course, this game goes to Coach Jo because it’s her 300th win. I’m so proud of her.”
“I did it for her,” added freshman forward D’asia Gregg, who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds — nine more points and three more rebounds than she had all season coming into the game — breaking into a big smile. “We wanted to make this special for her.”
No. 300 is special and is actually one of the few milestone wins that Joseph did not get at Alexander Memorial Coliseum or McCamish Pavilion. Her 100th, 200th, 100th ACC, and even No. 224, all came at home (interestingly, Clemson has been victim for Nos. 100, 100 ACC, and 224).
As special was the pieces of Joseph’s coaching history present around the arena. Former players Metra Walthour (2009-12) and Antonia Peresson (2014-18) are on the Jackets staff, members of Joseph’s staff, another, Tabitha Turner (2006-09), was on the other side of the court, doing radio color analysis. Former assistant coach Gene Hill, an assistant under Joseph from 2009-11, was on the opposing bench, in his first season as head coach at Georgia State.
“It was awesome to be here courtside because I was here about a decade ago playing for her when she was kind of at the beginning of getting those wins,” said Turner, who was a senior and teammate of Walthour for win No. 100, a 49-41 victory over Clemson, Feb. 1, 2009 at AMC. “It’s nice the fans were out here to give her hugs and congratulate her. I’m glad I was here to see it.
“MaChelle Joseph is really big on the people who support her and have been there from the beginning,” Turner added. “As a player and now as an analyst and a mentor to some of these girls, it’s nice to be a part of it and know that I had a hand in it somewhat. I’m really proud of her. I’m happy to be back as an alumna and witness it.”
Nobody was going to witness the celebration of this latest milestone, as if Joseph had had her way, there wasn’t going to be one. She was already looking ahead to 301, preferably Wednesday against Alabama State at McCamish.
“Oh, I’m not going to celebrate this,” she said. “I’ve got to go look at this tape and figure out how we get better, look at some of our fouls and turnovers and try to figure out how we eliminate some of that. But I’m really proud of the way the kids persevered today.”
The team chose to hold its own celebration, catching Coach Jo with a surprise Gatorade shower as she entered the locker room.
It was a fun way for them to show how proud they were of their coach.
Joseph is proud about having called only one place home as a coach.
“Being able to accomplish that all at Georgia Tech is special to me,” she said. “I started my career at Georgia Tech, I hope to end my career at Georgia Tech. I would love to be here throughout the rest of my career. I feel like we’ve done a lot of special things in the last 16 years but I honestly believe the best is yet to come.”