Coach's office in Schar Center to be named for the late Ann Lashley
Lashley served as associate women's basketball head coach from 1994 through 2005, when she died after a battle with cancer.
Members of Elon’s women’s basketball teams from 1994 through 2005 will never forget associate women’s head coach Ann Lashley. Now future generations of women’s players at Elon University will remember her name, too.
Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the office of the senior assistant women’s basketball coach in the Schar Center will be named for Lashley, who tragically passed away at age 40 on Nov. 10, 2005 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Lashley was on the basketball coaching staff of then-head coach Brenda Paul and had a profound impact on the players who learned basketball skills and life lessons under her guidance, friends and colleagues say. It is the first coach’s office named within the Schar Center, which will be the future home of Elon’s basketball and volleyball teams. The 5,100-seat, 160,000-square-foot Schar Center opens in the fall of 2018.
Faith Shearer, who became senior women’s athletics administrator in 2002, said Lashley was a top-notch coach and leader whose influence touched areas of campus beyond the basketball court. She recalled Lashley as a welcoming and inclusive person who had the rare ability to make everyone she interacted with “feel special.” She forged relationships across campus but most directly influenced Elon’s players.
“She understood the experience of being a player because she was one herself. The players really responded to her,” Shearer said. “Ann was amazing. She connected with the players. She was one of those coaches who really helped develop the girls, especially the post players. You could see them get so much better after she worked with them a couple of years. She was just a great coach.”
A native of Coventry, England, Lashley entered coaching after an outstanding collegiate basketball career at Mississippi State University. She was a four-year starter on the Mississippi State women’s basketball team, ending her playing days as the team’s all-time leading rebounder and is currently ninth on the career list. She scored more than 1,000 points as a player before graduating with honors in 1989 with a degree in biological engineering. She was named to the Academic All-Southeastern Conference team twice and later earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State University.
From 1981 to 1988 Lashley was a member of the English National Basketball team and competed for Great Britain on the World University Games team in 1985 and the Olympic Team in 1988.
LASHLEY FOLLOWED Paul to Elon as an assistant coach for the 1994-95 season. She previously served four years as Paul’s assistant at Georgia State and worked for Paul as a student assistant at Mississippi State in 1988-89. She was an assistant at Georgia Tech for one year prior to going to Georgia State.
Colleagues said Lashley had opportunities to leave Elon for head coaching jobs but always elected to stay. "She wouldn't leave Elon. She was loyal," Paul said in an interview after Lashley’s death. The loyalty was not only to Elon but to the players and staff. Her family was dedicated to Elon, too. Every year her mother and father would come to Elon at Thanksgiving and stay until nearly March. Ettie and Keith Lashley were fixtures at Elon women’s games and always sat on the top row of bleachers in Alumni Gym.
“They traveled with the team to all of the games. The girls called them ‘mom and dad.’ And so did I. That’s just what we all did,” Shearer said.
Shearer said Lashley was always able to stay ahead of the players and often kept them out of trouble.
“One thing funny about Ann. She had a strange intuition. She could pick up on things with a player before anyone else. And if players tried to get away with something she was always the one who caught them. She had a second sense for those things,” Shearer said. “You see freshmen come in and see the mistakes they make and they would try to get away with things but Ann was always there waiting for it. She knew what the experience was.”
Among Lashley’s coaching honors were the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Lashley also worked with USA Basketball as site coordinator for the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival South Regional Trials in Atlanta by Georgia State, and was a member of the support staff at both the U.S. National Team Trials and the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1991.
Before Shearer was hired as senior women’s administrator, Lashley held that position on a part-time basis. When Elon decided to make it full time, Lashley elected to stay in coaching.
“When you’re coming into a position when the person who did that before you still there that can be nerve-wracking. Ann was supportive of what I had to do and me being there. She was completely supportive of the work I was doing,” Shearer said.
WHEN LASHLEY was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, it stunned the Elon women’s basketball program and university community. She was young and full of energy; liked and respected. Her sickness and untimely death left an indelible mark.
“Ann’s death was one of the worst things I ever witnessed,” Shearer said. “It was hard on the girls who were there that experienced it. She was the picture of health, ate right, exercised – you could barely get her to take an aspirin. Then she went from the picture of health to passing away. It was unfortunate and something I’ll never forget.”
Shearer said it’s fitting that the assistant head coach’s office in the Schar Center will be named for Lashley. When former players from that time return to campus, they always speak of her. “I think it’s exciting that something is going to be named for her. The players who came through during that time she was with them remember her and remember her fondly,” Shearer said.
“It’s fitting that there is something in the women’s basketball suite that is named after somebody who was important to student athletes who participated in that program,” Shearer added.
A WHO’S WHO of North Carolina and Elon basketball luminaries – including the now late hall of fame coach Kay Yow — attended a memorial service for Lashley at Whitley Auditorium in November 2005. Then-University Chaplain Richard McBride noted that one of Lashley’s favorite quotes displayed in her office was, “In the race to be better or best, do not miss the joy of being."
McBride also spoke of Lashley’s indomitable spirit and attitude as she faced her battle with cancer. That day a scholarship was established in her memory. The Southern Conference, of which Elon was a member at the time, created the Ann Lashley Inspiration Award. It goes to a Southern Conference women’s basketball player who exemplifies courage, grace and perseverance when facing a life-altering challenge. Even though Elon is no longer in the Southern Conference, the Lashley Award continues.
Lashley is well remembered. Naming the assistant head coach’s office in her honor will keep the memory alive for years to come. That echoes something McBride said at the memorial service in 2005.
"She lost her courageous battle with cancer, but that is the last time we will use the word "lost" in relation to Ann,” McBride said. “She was in every other way a winner. She chose courage and kept hope alive."