Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin knows how to go out and grab what she wants.
She and the eighth-seeded Rebels did just that Sunday, when they toppled top-seeded Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. And she did it five years earlier, when she went after the head coaching job at Ole Miss.
“You know how I got this job at Ole Miss?” McPhee-McCuin said after the win against Stanford. “I called Ole Miss and said, ‘What are you guys doing? I’m hot and y’all could get me for cheap, and I’m recruiting my butt off with a $20,000 recruiting budget. Give me yours and watch what I do.'”
In 2018, McPhee-McCuin had just led Jacksonville to its third straight season of 20-plus wins. After five years at the Atlantic Sun Conference program, she knew she was ready for a bigger challenge. So she cold-called the Rebels and made her pitch.
Five seasons and two straight NCAA Tournament appearances later, the gamble has worked out, for Ole Miss and for Coach Yo.
Her dogged pursuit of her goals inspires her players. And now, as her team advances to the Sweet 16, she is inspiring a wider national audience.
“I think everyone loves a story that they can relate to,” she said. “I didn’t play on Team USA. I didn’t play for the late, great Pat Summitt. Geno didn’t endorse me, you know what I’m saying?” she said. “Like, I really got it out of the mud. Y’all, I’m an immigrant. I migrated from the Bahamas and came over here and started in junior college and worked my way up.”
Got a Dollar and a Dream @YolettMcCuin pic.twitter.com/zzOmZYF9Q8— Ole Miss Women's BB (@OleMissWBB) March 20, 2023
Got a Dollar and a Dream @YolettMcCuin pic.twitter.com/zzOmZYF9Q8
Yet while her personal story may resonate beyond her sport, McPhee-McCuin also sees in Ole Miss’ upset an important lesson for women’s basketball.
“I get attacked all the time; oh, I’m too bold, I’m too brazen, I’m too this, I’m too that. But the coach from Fairleigh Dickinson said on TV that he was going to beat Purdue, and they did it,” she said, pointing to the No. 16 seed that managed to upset the No. 1 Boilermakers in the men’s tournament.
“So we need to normalize women being competitive and having dreams and goals and wanting to win, you get what I’m saying?” she continued. “I think this is good for the game.”