By Donnell Suggs
Yolanda Moore took to the podium at the Thomas W. Cole Research Center for Science and Technology on the campus of Clark Atlanta University with the same level of bravado and posture that she had when she would go to the free-throw line or drive to the basket as a member of the Ole Miss Lady Rebels or the Houston Comets basketball teams. Moore was being presented as the next head coach of the Clark Atlanta University Lady Panthers and she didn’t mince words on what she was planning to accomplish. “I’m a basketball coach on paper but I’m also in the business of knowing people,” says Moore. “As a coaching staff, our job will be to make sure these student-athletes, when they leave here, have their degrees and have all of the knowledge and skills to be able to go out in the world and compete.”
Moments earlier, Clark Atlanta president Dr. Ronald A. Johnson and director of Athletics J. Lin Dawson each took turns gushing over their new hire and her decades of basketball playing and coaching experience. Though the former All-American, All-SEC selection and two-time WNBA champion comes to the CAU family with a decorated collegiate and professional playing career along with high school, junior college and Division I coaching experience, her story doesn’t stop there; not even close. Moore’s journey as a woman and a mother is the backbone of what has made her who she is and what is soon to make Clark Atlanta University basketball better for having her. “Basketball and sports are such a small part of who we are,” says Moore. “Success cost what it cost, there are no discounts or coupons.”
A mother of four, including a set of adolescent twins, Moore brings a level of basketball expertise to CAU that, along with current men’s head coach Darrell Walker, gives Clark Atlanta one of the best men’s/women’s combinations in regards to professional playing experience in the country. Name a school with two professional championship ring-wearing head coaches in men’s and women’s basketball simultaneously on staff; currently, there are no others. This unique opportunity to create a basketball program like no other is exactly what Moore has been looking for. “I don’t take lightly the opportunity to coach student athletes and young women,” said Moore.
“I won’t ever play a game, it’s up to you to apply what you learn and use it on the court,” saysMoore, directing the comment to the 10 Lady Panther players who sat in the front row during the press conference. “Everybody in this room, we all had our time and now it’s all on you. Starting today, our season will be whatever you want it to be.”
In her first season as a collegiate head coach after three seasons as a high school coach — one as an assistant and two as the head girls coach at Heritage Academy in her native Mississippi — Moore led the Louisiana State University Eunice Lady Bengals during the 2013-14 season, a National Junior College Athletic Association Division II program in Eunice, La., to a 26-3 record and a top-10 national ranking. That success led Moore to take over the head coaching position at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La. She coached the Lady Lions for two seasons from 2014 to 2016 before leaving coaching for a year.
She spent three seasons in the WNBA, winning two championships as a member of the Houston Comets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons before being selected by the Orlando Miracle in the 1999 expansion draft. She holds degrees from The University of Mississippi and Alcorn State University, is a member of the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame and has done post-game radio for the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lady Panthers were 10-17 (4-11 in SIAC) this season, losing 70-55 to Claflin University in the second round of the conference tournament.
Moore will have the benefit of having a number of starters and key returnees on the roster next year, including rising seniors, guards Kiyanna Johnson and Marissa Mandeldove and forwards Lauren Turner and Naquaisha Rattray.
The beginning of the Yolanda Moore-era has officially begun at Clark Atlanta University. AT