As Brittney Ezell met and mingled with Belmont University administrators and staff, members of the women’s basketball team as well as local media representatives in the Vince Gill Room on Monday afternoon, a lone maintenance worker buffed the court at the Curb Event Center.
That one gentleman, as he walked behind a noisy machine, probably was the most significant indication of the significant step Ezell made in her career when she was introduced as Belmont’s new women’s basketball coach.
“I’m kind of excited – I don’t have to wash uniforms anymore, I don’t have to sweep the floor anymore, I don’t have to tape ankles anymore and do those kinds of things,” Ezell said. “I think doing all those things probably gave me a greater appreciation for when you did get to a situation like this where you have so many people who are willing to help, support staff and people who embrace this program as their own.
“It won’t be just a one-man operation. I’m hoping I’ll let myself be helped.”
Ezell, a Franklin native and a graduate of the University of Alabama, was Belmont’s choice based in part on her five seasons of head coaching experience. She spent the last two at Division II University of Montevallo (Ala.), where she turned a team that won once the season before she arrived into one that was 14-13 this past season. Prior to that, she went 57-28 in three seasons at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College (now Northwest Florida State College).
Tony Cross resigned a month ago after 26 years and 544 victories as the Lady Bruins’ coach.
The process of finding his replacement included on-campus interviews with six candidates (all women), according to director of athletics Mike Strickland.
“We had some great people, but she clearly meets all of our needs in terms of she has a great understanding of the game and discipline, she’s a great recruiter, she’s tremendous with the public and communication skills,” Strickland said. “I think with what we have here, we match that up with Brittany, we have a chance to have a great run in women’s basketball here.”
Ezell was a four-year starter at point guard for Alabama, and in all four of those seasons the Tide advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. She also played two season’s for Alabama’s softball team.
She remained in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for five as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Rick Moody, the Tide’s coach during her playing days.
“When (Moody) retired, I had a great conversation with the AD, Mal Moore, and we decided that it was best that I go away and try to establish my own name, separate from Rick, to learn how to run my own program and recruit my own kids,” Ezell said. “ … The head coaching route is much more fun. That six inches on the bench between a suggestion and a decision is really big when you get down to about three seconds left in a game.
“It’s been a great transition. I’ve been very fortunate to have great players and good kids and really good assistants.”
Now she has even more people to work with.