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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Naming court after Foley is a no-brainer

by Wally Hall | August 2, 2022 at 3:43 a.m.

It was Joe Foley's first Sun Belt Conference Media Days. He was a little in awe of the event, and New Orleans, but his preference to listen rather than talk is one of his strong points.

At a reception, Foley was listening to a group of coaches, and a few feet away he was being talked about by another group.

One of the coaches said Foley was in for a rude awakening, that the Sun Belt is not the NAIA.

Foley won two NAIA women's national basketball championships at Arkansas Tech, one with just six players which he explained away that you can only play five at a time.

He was the national runner-up with Tech in the NCAA Division II tournament in 1999.

Foley and his wife Chris were happy in Russellville, but the lure and challenge of coaching on the Division I level was too big of a lure. Former University of Arkansas at Little Rock Athletic Director Chris Peterson put on a full-court press to get Foley to make the move.

Now, 19 years later, the court in the Jack Stephens Center, home of UALR basketball, will be named after the most successful coach in school history.

He is only the fourth women's coach to receive such an honor. The other three are Kay Yow at North Carolina State, Pat Summit at Tennessee and Gary Blair at Texas A&M.

When UALR Director of Athletics George Lee approached Foley with the idea of naming the court after him, Foley did exactly what anyone knows him knew he would do.

He said he was honored, but no thanks. He felt he wasn't in the same class as Yow, Summit and Blair.

Lee had an ace up his sleeve.

He knows why Foley coaches. It is all about the players.

Which is exactly who approached Lee with the idea of naming the court after their coach.

That was the difference-maker. If his current and former players thought that much about him, he would do it for them.

The official event will be Nov. 13 when the Trojans host Ole Miss.

In the official press release Foley said, "What really means the most is that this came about from my former players."

Alicia Cash, who played for Foley from 2000-05 and has been on his staff since 2008 was the leader of the movement.

Lee cleared it with the University of Arkansas System, and then was all out to get it done.

Foley has been a head coach for 35 years and has an 833-295 record, the third most wins of all current Division I women's teams behind only Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, the all-time winningest coach with 1,157 wins, and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma who has 1,149.

Foley played basketball and baseball in high school and cut his coaching teeth with legendary John Widner first at Morrilton High and then Arkansas Tech, where Foley was offered the chance to switch from coaching men to women.

He's never looked back.

Before his arrival at UALR, the Trojans had won one Sun Belt game in history.

Foley has taken the Trojans to six NCAA Tournaments, and his wins include one over his close friend and golfing buddy Blair.

He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Naming the court after him seems a natural.

Only 26 basketball arenas have been named after coaches in the country.

While Foley might have been in a little awe during his first Sun Belt meeting, he has never been in awe or afraid of competition.

Not long after that event Foley got his first Sun Belt win. It was against the coach who said he was in for an awakening.

No one has underestimated Foley since, and going into his 20th season at UALR, one with a lot of hope, he's going to receive a well-deserved honor.

Print Headline: Naming court after Foley is a no-brainer


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