On July 17, Fort Valley State University’s Director of Athletics Dr. Darryl Pope announced that Le’Coe Willingham, a 10- year WNBA veteran, as the Lady Wildcats next head women’s basketball coach.
Willingham replaces Lonnie Bartley who recently stepped down. Bartley retired from coaching after the 2012-13 season, but came back to succeed his former assistant coach, Erica Henry, who replaced him when he retired. Henry left FVSU after two seasons opening the door for Bartley’s return. After Bartley’s two seasons as interim head coach, he compiled a 20-34 win-loss record and increased his overall winloss record in 31 seasons to 652-258.
Willingham comes to Fort Valley State after serving as the women’s assistant coach at Tennessee State University and served as TSU’s individual post coach, defensive coordinator, and helped with recruiting. She was an integral part in Tennessee State capturing their first OVC Championship in over 20 years and earning an automatic bid to the 2014-2015 National Tournament. Under Le’Coe’s leadership as defensive coordinator, the Tigers were the number one defensive team in the conference.
A native of Augusta,
Ga., and former Hephzibah High School standout, Willingham played her last season with the Atlanta Dream in 2013. Willingham was a three-time All-SEC selection out of Auburn, but went undrafted before being signed by Connecticut, where she spent the first four years of her career (2004-07). She then spent two seasons with the Phoenix Mercury (2008-09) and two in Seattle (2010-11).
Willingham’s best seasons came in Phoenix, where she averaged 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 2008, and 10.0 points and 4.2 boards in 2009. She set a franchise record for field goal percentage in 2008, by making a league-leading 57.0 percent of her shots. She helped the Mercury to a WNBA championship in 2009 and also was a key reserve for the 2010 Seattle team that defeated Atlanta in the WNBA Finals.
A standout athlete at Auburn, Willingham is the program’s seventh all-time scorer and sixth all-time rebounder. She is among Auburn’s top ten career leaders in starts, points, field goals made, field goal percentage, free-throws made, free-throws attempted and rebounds. While attending Hephzibah High School, she won the 1998 AAAA Georgia State Women’s State High Jump Title.