As a basketball player at Texas Tech, Alesha Ellis got an up-close look at what a wife-and-husband coaching staff looks like. This coming season with the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens, she’s going to be part of just such a staff herself.
Alesha and husband Andy will be coaching the Flying Queens side-by-side after Andy recently was hired to serve as assistant coach.
“We’re super excited,” said Alesha, who’s been the Flying Queens’ head coach since 2013.
Since last October, Andy has been on Wayland’s coaching staff in charge of the women’s golf program. Now, in addition to coaching golf in the fall and spring, he’ll coach basketball in the winter alongside his wife.
“I think it will be a great experience,” Andy said.
Coaching together has been on the couple’s minds ever since they married the summer after Alesha was named Queens head coach.
“We’ve thought about it ever since we got married, and now the right opportunity came up at the right time,” Alesha said. “Other people have put that in our head, that we should do that. This is not something that came out of nowhere. It’s definitely something we’ve talked about.”
Alesha said head and assistant coaches should complement each other, much like a husband and wife.
“When you hire people to be on your staff, it almost needs to be like a husband/wife relationship. You need someone that makes you whole, which I already know that about Andy,” she said. “The former assistants (Melynn Hunt and Josh Bailey) I’ve been blessed with did a really nice job of filling in my weaknesses, and Andy does that really well, too.”
Andy said he has big shoes to fill, even for someone 6-foot, 11-inches tall.
“She’s had two unbelievable assistant coaches, as good as you can hope for,” he said.
But Andy added that he’ll be able to provide an additional element that only a husband could.
“Being her husband and assistant, I can give her a different kind of encouragement and reassurance. I think that could be big for her,” he said.
In addition to both being “super competitive” people (they no longer play video games against each other since it led to arguments), Alesha and Andy both were standout basketball players at Texas Tech.
“We’ve both played for Hall of Fame coaches (her for Marsha Sharp and him for Bobby Knight). I’ve been around some great coaches, and I think Alesha is one of them. She’s very critical of herself, but I think she’s unbelievable at what she does,” Andy said.
As for Andy’s attributes, Alesha said off the court he’s very good with paperwork and organizational aspects of running a basketball program, while on the court he’s “really, really good at X’s and O’s.
“He sees the big picture and sees things as a whole, whereas I have a tendency to look way harder than I have to for solutions,” Alesha said. “The things he points out, a lot of times they are simple solutions. I would be like, ‘Well, duh, why didn’t I see that?'”
Again, Andy — who last season served as color analyst on streaming broadcasts of WBU basketball — said Alesha sells herself short.
“She’s already proven she’s a great coach. There’s nothing I’m going to change about that. Heck, they were the best team in the country last year.”
Instead of one coaching offense and the other coaching defense, Alesha said she and Andy may take a different approach.
“We’ll probably tag-team and try to figure out what’s best,” she said.
A big plus about Andy joining the Flying Queens program is not only does he already know the head coach very well, he also is familiar with the players, all but three of which return from last season’s squad that forged a 31-2 record and was ranked No. 2 in the NAIA when the season was nixed just prior to the national tournament due to COVID-19.
“Andy knows me and what’s important to me, and he knows our system. He’s been around. I go home and talk about our team constantly, and they (players) all come over to the house.
“It will be a really easy transition.”
Ever since they married, Andy has contributed his knowledge to the success of the program. Before it was turned into a bedroom for one of their two children, he said the couple used to have a “chalk wall” in their home.
“The whole thing was covered in plays,” he said. “We also watch films together, I help her scout teams, I help at practices… We’ve worked together, it just hasn’t been called that.”
In fact, Andy doesn’t think the couple will notice much of a change this coming season from how they’ve been operating.
“I don’t see a big difference,” he said.
The couple doesn’t have any question they’ll be able to work well together – officially – for the first time.
“I understand the role of an assistant,” Andy said. “I know when to say something and I know when to shut my mouth and we can talk about it later.”
Alesha got to witness a wife/husband staff up close during her senior season at Texas Tech under head coach Kristy Curry, whose husband, Kelly, has served as her assistant for several seasons, first at Purdue, then at Tech and now at the University of Alabama.
“They worked well together…from what I know,” Alesha said. “We called him Coach Kelly and her Coach Curry.”
Andy isn’t hung up on what the Flying Queens will call him, maybe Coach Andy, but figures players will continue calling Alesha “Coach Rob,” a holdover from her maiden Robertson. “That kind of stuck. It’s been passed down,” Andy said of his wife’s moniker.
About the only drawback the couple sees in coaching together will be handling child care for their kids: 3-year-old Kingston and 5-month-old Laiken. (Alesha said they always thought they wanted four children, “but we changed our minds after two.”)
Short of taking Kingston and Laiken with them to out-of-town games, which they’ll likely sometimes do, “We’ll have to have nannies when we go on road trips, someone staying at the house with them,” Alesha said, adding that grandparents also will help in that area. “Neither one of us can be there with our kids, which hurts me. My least favorite thing is that.
“But that,” she added, “is the only negative I can see…unless we get in a big brawl” on the bench.