After resigning as head coach of the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens to accept a similar position at Angelo State University, Alesha Ellis said leaving her hometown and the program she returned to being a national power in women’s basketball won’t be easy.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. This is where I grew up. I have so many friends and family here. I hate to leave them,” Ellis said. “And Wayland has been more than great. I loved it here.”
Joining Ellis in the move to San Angelo, of course, will be her husband, Andy, who for the past year served as Flying Queens assistant coach and head coach of the Pioneer women’s golf program. Andy will fill one of two assistant coach positions with ASU Rambelles basketball.
Dr. Claude Lusk, WBU’s senior vice president of operations and student life, said Alesha’s influence on the lives of her players “will be felt for a very long time.
“This community has had the privilege of watching Alesha grow as a basketball player and now as a coach,” Lusk said. “She has had an incredibly positive impact on the Flying Queens program. Coach Ellis was not only successful in the ‘win’ column, she was successful as a role model and mentor for her players.
“She and husband Andy made a formidable duo as the head and assistant coaches this past year. They will certainly be missed.”
While Andy joined her on the sidelines for only the past season, Alesha spent a total of eight years coaching the Flying Queens, making her the second-longest coach in program history. Only the legendary Harley Redin coached the Flying Queens longer (18 years).
Ellis also was one of the most successful coaches in program history, forging a 189-52 record for a 78.4 winning percentage. Taking over a program after back-to-back sub-.500 seasons, Ellis’ teams won at least 19 games every season and never failed to qualify for the NAIA National Championships.
The Flying Queens had won only one Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament title in their history before Ellis’ teams claimed four, including the last three in a row. Her 2017-18 team advanced to the national semifinals, and before the 2019-20 season was suspended by COVID-19 the Flying Queens posted a 31-2 record – the program’s most wins in more than three decades – and were among the favorites to win a national title.
This past season, also abbreviated by COVID-19, the Flying Queens finished 13-1 and were ranked No. 2 throughout much of the season.
Ellis, whose WBU teams claimed six wins over teams ranked No. 1 in the country, attributed much of the program’s success to her players, most of whom she recruited from the Panhandle-South Plains region, as well as her assistant coaches: Melynn Hunt, Josh Bailey and husband Andy.
“No. 1, the credit goes to God, and No. 2 is our players, who were awesome. We’re in a gold mine of players in this area who proved they’re the best in the country. Great players make coaches look good, and a place like Wayland allows it to happen. I thank Wayland a ton. I will always be grateful to Wayland.”
A four-time SAC Coach of the Year, Ellis also thanked the Flying Queens Foundation.
“I can’t thank them enough. A lot of being (successful) is having the money to go out and play the top teams in the nation, and they helped make that happen. We wanted to play the best of the best.”
Ellis, who as a player led the Plainview High Lady Bulldogs to three state championships from 2001-03 before starring for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders, thanked then WBU athletics director Dr. Greg Feris and president Dr. Paul Armes for hiring her, and recently-resigned AD Rick Cooper, current president Dr. Bobby Hall and Lusk for “their unwavering support.”
“I had only been a head coach (at Lubbock Christian High School) for two years (when she was hired). That was a hard step for me because I wasn’t quite sure I was ready, but I was told by a very smart person I’ll never be as ready as I think I should be. God showed us (Wayland) was the place to be, and if you’re in the place God wants you to be you’re going to be successful.”
Now, that’s how Ellis feels about making the move to NCAA Division II Angelo State.
“God was pushing us in that direction, and we decided that going to San Angelo was the place God wanted us to be. We feel like it is a good fit.”
Still, she added, leaving Plainview and Wayland won’t be easy.
“I’ve loved being with the people in Plainview. I’m sad about that. It’s one of the toughest things of this deal – leaving people you love.”
Meanwhile, Lusk said the search for the 14th head coach in Flying Queens history is under way.
“The Wayland Flying Queens is an historic program, but it is also a very successful and vibrant team in the present. We have every reason to believe that this program has a very bright future,” Lusk said. “We have a great group of young ladies in the program and the search for our next coach is well under way.
“There is no doubt that we will continue to compete at the highest level in the years to come.”