DeLisha Milton-Jones steps down as Pepperdine head coach; Syracuse-bound

The former WNBA star will serve as an assistant coach for Syracuse.

In what some are calling a surprise move, former WNBA star DeLisha Milton-Jones has stepped down from her post as the head coach of Pepperdine University’s women’s basketball team. The school announced the news Tuesday.

“With this being my first real job – because playing basketball definitely never felt like a job – being able to be employed by Pepperdine University has been an awesome experience,” Milton-Jones said in a press release from the school. “It felt like an expedited course of learning in my short time here.”

She will head east to serve as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Syracuse.

“DeLisha is among the most decorated women’s basketball players to ever play the game,” said Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman in a statement from that school. “She’s an amazing communicator and has head coaching experience at the division one level. She’s a homerun hire! We are very fortunate to have her join our staff.”

“As a young coach, it is a dream to be in a situation to better yourself from learning from the best. I know it will serve me well,” Milton-Jones added according to Syracuse. “Syracuse has a pedigree of excellence in winning and competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Making the move to assistant coach under Coach Hillsman is one that serves me well immediately short term and long term. I know I am in for a large treat learning at a very rapid rate with some of the world’s best players. This situation has me biting at the bit to get started. I am appreciative of the opportunity and I look forward to making good on it.”

Last year, Milton-Jones led Pepperdine to a 22-12 record in just her second year at the helm in Malibu, Calif. The 2018-19 season also included the program’s first-ever wins in the postseason, as the Waves reached the round of 16 in the WNIT. It was one of the biggest improvements in the country for a collegiate women’s basketball team, as Pepperdine finished with a 10-20 record in the 2017-18 season. Milton-Jones started as an assistant at Pepperdine in 2016 before assuming the head coaching role a year later.

“It would be a huge disservice if I did not give proper honors to Pepperdine giving me my start and believing in me to lead the program,” Milton-Jones continued to Syracuse. “I have a tremendous amount of pride and I feel good that I am leaving the program better than I found it. At Pepperdine, I created relationships that will last a lifetime and the support I was given is one that I will always cherish. I couldn’t thank our Director of Athletics, Steve Potts, and University President, Andrew K. Benton, enough for giving me the greatest gift that anyone could ever get which is opportunity.”

Dr. Potts expressed his excitement and disappointment for Milton-Jones’ move in a statement to Pepperdine while wishing her the best.

“DeLisha has done a remarkable job in rebuilding our program, as evidenced by our most recent 22-win season,” he said. “She is on her way to becoming one of the top women’s basketball coaches in the country and the opportunity to coach at one of the top programs will bring invaluable experience for her.”

Milton-Jones brings nearly two decades of professional basketball experience to the east coast. She played 17 seasons in the WNBA, 11 of which were with the Los Angeles Sparks. She won two titles with the Sparks in 2001 and 2002. Milton-Jones also played overseas and won two gold medals with Team USA.

Pepperdine says the school will start looking for a new head coach immediately.

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