Yale women’s basketball coach Dalila Eshe ‘ready for this moment’

NEW HAVEN — As much as she knew she wanted to be a professional basketball player, Dalila Eshe always knew she wanted to be a head coach.

This dream has now come true.

After spending the past nine years as an assistant coach, including the last three under former UConn women’s basketball star Carla Berube, at Princeton, Eshe is starting her first head coaching job at Yale. .

Wednesday morning inside the John J. Lee Amphitheater — where she will make her Bulldogs debut in the fall — Eshe was introduced by Yale’s athletic department as the 11th head coach of the program. women’s basketball.

“It’s funny, from the first time I picked up a ball, I was sure of several things. I wanted to get a college scholarship, I wanted to play professionally, but I always knew I wanted to be a Division I coach,” said Eshe, the first head coach of Yale’s black women’s basketball team.

Under Berube, Eshe served as both assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the program. She helped lead the Tigers to two Ivy League championships, the program’s second appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, three consecutive top-40 recruiting classes and a 51-6 overall record.

“It’s great because coming from Princeton, you know they have a championship culture, you know they have a championship mentality, so we’re excited about that,” the second guard said. year of Yale, Jenna Clark. “They’re a great team that’s won a lot of games and we want to get there, and we know we can. So to have someone who has had that experience in this program, I think bringing them here and showing us what it takes, I think, will be really huge for us.

Eshe’s familiarity with the Ivy League and its players helped her immediately bond with her new players in New Haven on Tuesday night. Not only has Eshe, a native of Tallahassee, Fla., spent the past four years (three seasons) scouting against Yale, but she’s even attempted to sign a handful of her players. At Princeton, she coached Kira Emsbo, the twin sister of current Yale junior Camilla Emsbo.

“Just the excitement. You could feel it in the room from last night, like everyone is so excited for a fresh start and for someone who’s really here to come in and win, but also make it happen. good way,” Clark said of the team meeting Eshe.

Eshe had an outstanding academic career at the University of Florida. When she graduated in 2006, she was No. 2 on the program’s career free throw percentage list (80.2) and set the school record with 39 consecutive free throws her senior season.

A forward, Eshe was selected No. 25 overall in the 2006 WNBA Draft by Seattle. Apart from stages in Washington (2007) and Atlanta (2008), Eshe also played professionally overseas for eight years.

Eshe says that during her time as a player, she was always learning more than just skills from her coaches. She noted how negative relationships with coaches affected her as much as positive relationships. She saw how she would do things differently if she was a coach and what she loved most about how her coaches handled different situations.

Her first coaching role was as player development coach for Daily Sports Development Inc. in Florida. She worked as an assistant coach in the Nike National Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) Essence for five years before heading into the world of college coaching as director of basketball operations at Loyola Maryland in 2013.

A year later, she became an assistant at East Carolina, then in 2016, she added recruiting coordinator to her resume as an assistant at LaSalle. Three seasons later, she joined the Berube team in New Jersey.

What she’s learned throughout her coaching journey is how to prioritize mentorship and relationships with her players over what happens on the pitch.

“For them to understand that I’m here invested in them as people, not just as athletes on the court, but as a complete person, that’s what our culture will be like,” Eshe said. “They’re going to feel that I support them in all facets of their lives and that’s really important to me. …

“…I really take my role as a mentor very seriously and I understand how profound my impact is on them. I heard something years ago that said, ‘Apart from parents, coaches are the most influential people in a young person’s life, so I take that role very seriously.

Eshe inherits a Yale program that has yet to compete in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The Bulldogs were 16-11 last season and the third seed in the conference tournament.

When she finished her remarks on Wednesday, the first thing Eshe did was walk over to the 10 players seated in the front row of chairs and hug them individually.

Berube’s best advice for the first-time head coach was to breathe and take time to make decisions while investing the most in building relationships and bonds with his players.

“She left me, and I really appreciated that she, after working with me, knew that I was ready,” Eshe said. “So in order not to worry about anything (else), I’m willing to take the time to invest in the girls.”

Surrounded by friends and family, including his wife Way Veney and their children, Wray Lee, 2, and Wren Rose, 4 months, Eshe posed in front of a Yale-themed backdrop alongside the athletic director of Yale, Victoria “Vicky” Chun, holding a No. 34 Eshe Yale basketball jersey.

This is what Eshe has always wanted and she knows she is ready.

“I think knowing so clearly when I was young that this was what I wanted to do, I was always a very focused person,” she said. “I tried to take every experience, even when I was a player, and relate it to my future, when I want to be a head coach, how that moment would affect a player when I’m a coach, when I’m the one sitting on the other side…. I just think I really tried to be very focused on keeping everything going to prepare for this moment.

[email protected]

About Ronda Reed

Check Also

Are Joel Embiid’s days numbered in Philadelphia?

Who remembers the time of the “process”? What a glorious time in Sixers history. I …