|Title:||Women's Head Basketball Coach|
Many believe the Clayton State women’s basketball program
was an NCAA Division II "Sleeping Giant" just waiting to be awaken.
All it needed was a head coach to do just that.
His name is Dennis Cox.
Cox took over the helm of the Laker women’s basketball program prior to the 2004-05 season, and his impact has been immediately felt. In his seven seasons, Clayton State has almost overnight become one of the elite women’s programs in Division II with five Peach Belt Conference regular season championships, three Peach Belt Conference Tournament championships, and eight straight trips to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
On top of that, Cox has paced the Lakers to the NCAA Division II "Final Four" in 2007 and the NCAA Division II "Elite Eight" in 2009, along with the NCAA Division II "Sweet 16" in 2008. However, the culmination of all that success was in the 2010-11 season when Cox paced Clayton State to its first ever NCAA Division II National Championship.
With a record of 213-49 and a winning percentage of .813, he is the winningest head coach ever at Clayton State in women's basketball, and the second-winningest active head coach at the Division II level.
To gauge the impact that Cox has brought to the Clayton State program, the numbers tell the story. Prior to his arrival, Clayton State was 36-82 in the Peach Belt since joining the conference in 1997. Under Cox, however, the Lakers have catapulted to a 116-27 mark in the Peach Belt - the best amongst Peach Belt programs in the last seven seasons. In addition, 17 of his players have garnered All-Peach Belt honors in the process.
The centerpiece for the Laker system under Cox has been their defense - especially the press. Since Cox arrived at Clayton State, the Lakers' engulfing full-court pressure defense has defined Clayton State's success, making the Lakers consistently one of the leaders in both the Peach Belt Conference and the nation in steals and turnover margin. Over the last four seasons under Cox, Clayton State has been ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in both steals and turnover margin.
Fresh off the banner 2010-11 campaign, the expectations were literally "through the roof" for the Cox and Lakers last season. Ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division II in the preseason, Cox paced the Lakers to an impressive 29-4 overall mark, repeating as Peach Belt Conference regular season champions at 16-1. Only a last-second basket in a one-point defeat against Wingate in the second round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament kept Clayton State from defending its national title.
In turn, Cox earned his third Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year honor and was also the WBCA Division II Southeast Region Coach of the Year.
It all came together for Cox and the Lakers in the 2010-11 season as Clayton State finished 35-1 overall and won the NCAA Division II National Championship with a victory over Michigan Tech in the championship game. The Lakers started the season by winning their first 29 straight games and being ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time in program history. Despite dropping a tough one-point overtime decision against USC Aiken in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals, Clayton State and Cox earned the right to host the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals.
Clayton State breezed to impressive victories over Francis Marion and Barton, setting up a showdown against PBC rival Lander in the "Sweet 16". The Lakers dominated the second half and downed Lander 76-60, advancing to the NCAA Division II "Elite Eight" for the third time in five seasons. At the "Elite Eight" in St. Joseph, Mo., Clayton State rolled past both Bentley (84-61) and Shaw (63-46), setting the national championship showdown against Michigan Tech. With yet another dominant second half, the Lakers rolled past Michigan Tech 69-50 to bring home the school's first ever national championship in any sport.
With that success, Cox received numerous postseason honors. He was selected Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year, the John "Whack" Hyder" State of Georgia Women's College Coach of Year for second straight season, and the WBCA Division II National Coach of the Year.
In the 2009-10 season, Cox paced Clayton State to a sixth straight 20-victory season with a 24-7 mark and 12-5 record in the Peach Belt Conference. Seeded second in the west division of the Peach Belt in the PBC Tournament, the Lakers won their third conference tournament title in the last six seasons and advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament for a sixth straight season under Cox. Clayton State finished the season ranked 22nd in the final Division II National Top 25 Poll.
For his success, Cox was honored by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club as the John "Whack" Hyder Women's College Coach of the Year for the state of Georgia.
During the 2008-09 season, he led Clayton State to the a 26-7 mark, marking the second-most victories in program history. Seeded third in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, the Lakers advanced to the Division II "Sweet 16" with victories over Carson-Newman and Tusculum. Clayton State then soundly defeated Peach Belt rival Francis Marion in the regional championship to advance to the NCAA Division II "Elite Eight" in San Antonio.
The Lakers were ranked 11th in the final Division II National Top 25 Poll.
The 2007-08 season showed Cox at his best directing the Laker women. Overcoming personnel issues throughout the season, Cox paced Clayton State to a 20-11 overall mark and 13-7 in the Peach Belt Conference for the Lakers’ third PBC regular season title in the last four seasons. Qualifying for their fourth straight NCAA Division II National Tournament, the Lakers advanced to the "Sweet 16" with victories over PBC rivals Francis Marion and Lander. However, Clayton State could not make it back to the Division II "Elite Eight," dropping an 82-72 decision against Wingate in the regional championship.
The 2006-07 season, however, was the culmination of Cox’s stellar recruiting and strong court play. The Lakers finished 29-6, marking the best single-season record in program history and the most victories in a season. On top of that they swept the Peach Belt regular season and tournament championships, and Cox was honored as Peach Belt Coach of the Year in the 2006-07 season.
Advancing to the NCAA Division II National Tournament, Cox and Clayton State won the South Atlantic Regional with an overtime victory over Georgia College, thus advancing to the NCAA Division II "Elite Eight" for the first time in program history. Once in Kearney, Neb., the Lakers took another step, advancing to the "Final Four," or semifinals of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Throughout the season, the Lakers were nationally-ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Division II Top 25 poll, reaching an all-time high of 10th in the nation at one point.
In his first season, Cox led the Lakers to a school best 25-7 record and its first Peach Belt Conference regular season title and PBC Tournament Championship. The program earned a berth to its first NCAA Division II National Tournament, advancing to the second round with a 79-54 win over Newberry.
Proving that the first season was no fluke, the Lakers followed that dramatic first season up with another stellar campaign in 2005-06. Cox paced Clayton State to a 25-6 mark, finishing second overall in the Peach Belt and earning the top seed in the Peach Belt Tournament. In addition, the Lakers earned their second straight NCAA Division II National Tournament berth, advancing to the second round of the South Atlantic Regionals with a 76-52 rout over Johnson C. Smith.
Prior to joining Clayton State, Cox served the last six years as the head coach at Daytona Beach Community College in Daytona, FL, building DBCC into a powerhouse. He compiled a 147-41 record, won three Mid-Florida Conference championships, a Mid-Florida Conference Tournament championship and had a state runner-up finish at the school.
His top season at Daytona Beach came as recent as the 2002-03 campaign when his Falcons finished fourth in the nation in the National Junior College Athletic Association final poll with a 29-2 record. In his final season (2003-04) with 14 new players, Cox still managed to lead his squad to an impressive 19-10 record.
Cox was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Region IX Coach of the Year in 2003 and has been named the Mid-Florida Conference Coach of the Year on three different occasions.
In addition to his six seasons at Daytona Beach, Cox served as the head coach at Valencia Community College in Orlando, FL, for eight years. He became the first full-time head coach at Valencia in 1989 and compiled a 144-97 record, including four seasons with 20 or more wins and three state tournament appearances.
Cox’s overall record at the junior college level is an impressive 291-138 for a winning percentage of .678.
During his junior college tenure at both Daytona and Valencia, 44 out of his 58 sophomores graduated and most continued their basketball careers at NCAA Division I and II programs.
Cox earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, and was captain of the basketball team his senior year. He later earned a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and Wellness from the University of Central Florida.