Two weeks ago, JJ Davis was in his Chanute home sifting through statistics for his women’s basketball team. His goal was to input some of the all-time statistical leaders of the program from this year.
After adding stats of former players Chrissy Brown, Jessica Jones and Hayley Stiger – the core of Davis’ 2019-20 team – the seventh-year coach then took notice of the number of wins accumulated in his entire time as a head basketball coach for Neosho County Community College’s Lady Panthers in comparison with the previous coaches. That was when Davis realized he was the program’s all-time winningest women’s head coach with 73 total wins.
NCCC’s success has been because of the talented players who have graced the program, but also because of the teamwork of both Davis and his wife Lisa, who helps with the recruiting process. She was present when her husband was plugging in stats and “Coach J” said, “Babe, I think I’m the all-time winningest coach.” Lisa started laughing and said, “Babe, you are.”
Before NCCC, Davis was a part of Brown Mackie for three seasons, mustering up all-time win records, but as an associate head coach. It’s a little different to accomplish an all-time wins record as a head coach.
“The moment was amazing,” Davis said when he found out about the record. “The happiness is not for me, and I mean that. It’s not about me. It’s about the way when I took this program over, and the negativity that was behind it, and all the kids and my wife, and coach Mark (Honorary Associate Head Coach Mark Childers), all those guys and all those countless assistants that I’ve had, but coach Mark has been a huge thing, and all the ADs that we’ve had, that’s what I thought about first. All those people that put love into me and believed in the Neosho way when they didn’t have to.”
That love materialized into an historic season, which helped add wins to a record that was already broken in the 2017-18 year. The previous record holder was former NCCC head coach Rod Scheer, who amassed a total of 49 wins in his four years of coaching from 1994-97.
But the 2019-20 season was special, marking the first time in Davis’ tenure that the Lady Panthers advanced in the playoffs, and the first time since the 1996-97 season the team has made it to the second round of the Region 6 Tournament.
The program racking up 13 wins this past year was the most victories in a single season since the 2004-2005 campaign (15), too. And of course assisting in these wins were Brown, Jones and Stiger. Brown is a first-team All-KJCCC and an NJCCC All-Region player; Jones is a second-team All-KJCCC player; and Stiger was a relentless rebounder, defender and pick-and-roll player.
Brown, who became NCCC’s all-time point leader with 842 and is a current player on Division I Southeastern University in Louisiana, said she learned to navigate teamwork and standing out while working as a unit.
“I learned a lot with basketball and with life lessons,” Brown said. “I became a better human being and player. The most important thing I learned was it’s not always about me and play like I’m the best player on the court.”
Jones, NCCC’s No. 2 all-time point scorer with 825, the No. 1 all-time three-point shooter with 185 made 3s, and a Division I Southern Arkansas signee, said Davis instilled indispensable values for the rest of her life.
“The most important thing I learned was being confident and not being too hard on myself,” Jones said. “There were many times when I wasn’t making shots and I would get down on myself and he would just instill in me that he doesn’t care if I go 2 for 15 because he knows the next quarter I will hit 10 in a row. He honestly taught me how to be confident in myself even if I wasn’t doing the best.”
And Stiger, a Division II Northwestern Oklahoma player, said Davis’ coaching was synonymous with family values.
“Coach J has a way of teaching basketball and life goals,” Stiger said. “His core values, ‘serve, honor, and compete,’ taught me that the overall goal is to better myself, my peers, and my community by always giving my best effort. Outside of basketball, the most important thing he taught me is that love doesn’t care because family doesn’t always have to be blood.”
There are many family highlights of all of Davis’ seasons that eventually propelled the coach to the all-time historic mark. But the one from this past season that sticks out the most was when the Lady Panthers went on their second four-game win streak of the year, the first time since the 2014-15 season NCCC went on two win streaks as long as those.
Brown was averaging close to a triple-double, Jones hit her season-high in points with 27, and Stiger was controlling the interior. But Davis attributed the second four-game win streak to all of his sophomores, including three-point shooting marksman Morgan Bolen and interior specialist Ashley Dillinger.
“As a coach, Chrissy and those sophomores had just done everything for me,” Davis said. “They had bought in when no other person had bought in. Every year that I have been here, there’s always been a sophomore class that just buys in. This class was a little bit different, where from Day 1, they said, ‘Man coach, we’re going to get you to the second round of the conference tournament’... No other team that I have coached has said that. And that was special. And it started really special when we got momentum in that Cloud game at home and then we played Allen, got a little more momentum and then we went into Pratt playing really well. It was good.”
Another good season that helped thrust Davis into coaching immortality was the 2015-16 campaign. It was a stretch of games that resulted in the program finishing the season with double-digit wins (11-20) three straight years, which stamped the third time a coach has done that since Scheer.
Davis remembers this season like it was yesterday, a season in which the Wichita native was uncertain at first about who would step up to the plate. But after boot camp, the team started to show signs of coming together thanks to leaders Ki’Asha Harris, Bianca Valderrama and Brooke Neal. Neal and Harris both went on to Adams State in Colorado and Valderrama went to the University of Texas at Tyler.
“We were really young. We had a really good class and they were freshmen, and it was a struggle to get to double-digit wins for the third year,” Davis recalled.“But they stuck together. They did everything they were supposed to do.”
One year before, the Lady Panthers ended the season with a 12-19 record, which at the time was the most wins in 10 seasons.
“We kind of felt relevant,” Davis said. “We started to beat teams on the West. It kind of made it possible for the rest of these teams of the future to beat them. That’s when you start to really feel good about your program, when you start to beat some teams on the West that you haven’t beaten before.”
And in Davis’ first season, the 2013-14 campaign, the Lady Panthers culminated the season with an 11-20 record, the most victories for a first-year head coach since former NCCC women’s head coach Diana Coach registered 15 in 2004.
It was that year Davis found solace in taking the NCCC job.
“It was kind of validation. When I first took this job, a lot of people told me that we wouldn’t win any games,” Davis said. “I’ll never forget that first group. They paved the way. They started our culture. They didn’t have to do all of this stuff, but they stuck with it. And they did the things that nobody else would do.”
Overall, Davis has coached three first-team All-Conference players, one second-team All-Conference athlete, three KJCCC Honorable Mentions and one NJCAA All-Region stud.
Although Davis is very proud of the culture his players and coaches have established, he is fully focused on adding to his win total next year, which will include first-team All-District player Destiny Stanford from Midland Lee High School in Midland, Texas, dynamic shooter Sara Hunt from Chisum High School in Paris, Texas, and first-team All-SEK Independence player Jenna Eytcheson, who helped beat Chanute High School the second time around on Feb. 18 after putting up nine points and snatching four rebounds.
“They have expectations for the Neosho way,” Davis added. “You have to be full of servant leadership and you’ve got to have unconditional love and you just have be a worker, not talker, be a worker. That’s what we are built on, those three core values of serve, honor and compete. The people that work and don’t talk and just do what their supposed to do, then they do a lot of great things here. The ones that talk about it, and don’t put the work in, that’s not the Neosho way.”