Mississippi Delta Community College hired Jason Conner as its Athletic Director this summer.
Coach Conner’s resume begins as a student assistant for the men's and women's programs as a student assistant at Belhaven from 1985-87.
From there he’s been a head coach at Delta State, Belhaven, Gulf Coast Community College and Southern-New Orleans.
He’s served as an assistant coach at University of Houston, University of Texas-El Paso, South Alabama and Delta State.
The Enterprise-Tocsin caught up with Conner to learn more about his background and how he became the head athletic Trojan.
E-T: Where are you from originally and what is your educational background?
Conner: I was born in Born in Bristol, Tennessee. Dad was a Pastor and was called to Lakeland, Florida in the winter of 1976. I had two years of high school at Lakeland Senior High School and my 11th and 12th grade years at Evangel Christian High School. Earned a BA in history/political science from Belhaven College. Earned my MEd from Delta State University in health and physical education. Started and completed 15 hours towards a doctorial in administration but have never finished.
E-T: What sports did you play in high school and/or college and what positions? Did you win any awards?
Conner: I played all sports in high school – quarterback in football, power forward in basketball, pitcher and first and third basemen in baseball, goalkeeper in soccer and golf (most likely to throw a club). In college I played first and third for the baseball team.
E-T: What has been your career path since college?
Conner: I have spent 34 years coaching college basketball – 19 years as an assistant coach and 15 years as a head coach.
E-T: What made you want to be a coach? What person was instrumental in putting you on this path?
Conner: My coaches had a huge impact on my life. Athletics was a big part of our family. My dad was recruited heavily in SEC football country and was eventually drafted by the Yankees. My uncle was a lifetime .303 hitter but only got as high as Triple A baseball with the Memphis Chicks. I would say that Charlie Rugg, through an interesting turn of events, put me on my coaching track.
E-T: What sport have you enjoyed coaching the most?
Conner: College basketball is all I have coached professionally. I did play just a little semi-pro baseball. My best sport might have been football.
E-T: Favorite coaching story or memory?
Conner: Recruiting my first female basketball player at the University of Texas El Paso, Holly Russ.
E-T: What brought you to MDCC?
Conner: My 14-year-old daughter Emma Grace lives in Cleveland and I was offered the opportunity to lead the athletic department here at Mississippi Delta Community College. I never get tired of seeing sunsets. I never get tired of seeing the changing landscapes. I love seeing the sunflowers in the fields and the hardwoods in the winter. I also think the people in the Delta are solid, caring people.
E-T: What are your goals and plans for the Trojan athletic program?
Conner: New stands and press box for the visitor's side which will become the new home side. Lights for the baseball and softball fields. New floor for men's and women's basketball. Scholarship improvements for our Pell-eligible kids. New entrance to the football locker room. Upgrades to our weight room and training room. Upgrades to our locker rooms and Lord willing, a new field house and coliseum. Adding sports and staff. Creating a sports information position to give Trojan teams the coverage they need. Connect athletic alumni back to us. Continue spreading the good news of this gem in Moorhead, Mississippi.
E-T: Tell us a little about your family?
Conner: I was married for 14 years. Divorced now for nine years. One daughter adopted and could not be loved more if she was my own flesh and blood.
E-T: What are your hobbies or interests outside of coaching? (Dancing? Cooking? Science?)
Conner: Really have not had time. Enjoy golf. I enjoy being involved with my church. I enjoy walking, traveling, good food and music.
E-T: What is something no one or most people don't know about you? Have you met Ronald Reagan? Ran a marathon? Kissed Oprah? Anything unusual?
Conner: I once road in an elevator with Barbara Bush. I was somehow getting on with her around her secret service team.
One time, I was picking up Joe Niekro from the Tampa International Airport and Dick Vitale was picking up his daughters from a tennis tournament and we had a great conversation about basketball and life for an hour.
I’ve eaten dinner with Morgan Freeman at his restaurant in Clarksdale. Played golf with Nolan Ryan, Jose Cruz and Joe Niekro.
When a new athletic director who I knew, Chet Gladchuk, came in at the University of Houston, my contract was not renewed along with all the coaches in the athletic department.
He apologized and told me I could apply for the head job, but he already knew who he was going to hire. He told me he would be glad to help me in any way he could.
He then said, “Coach, I want to introduce you to some people.”
We went into his conference room and Chet introduced me to about 10 NBA all-time greats. Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone, George Gervin, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Don Chaney, Otis Birdsong, Michael Young, Larry Micheaux, Rickie Winslow and (Olympic) gold medal winner Carl Lewis.
I wished the new coach and staff all the very best.
As Chet escorted me back to his office he asked, “Well, what do you think?”
I said that he (Drexler) would sell out Hofheinz Pavilion for a year but they have never had to carry their own bags and this college coaching is tougher than what they think, and I will give you two years and you will be looking for another coach. (Editor’s note: The Cougars would go 19-39 with Drexler at the helm for two seasons.)
Coach Conner’s prediction came true but Trojan fans are happy that his career path has landed him at Moorhead to continue building winning teams at MDCC.