Photography by Jamison Mosley
For 19 years, the UA Little Rock head women’s basketball coach has followed the same process to prepare for each and every game – review film, hone the game plan, and push his players to execute – all with the understanding that success follows hard work, grit, and determination. That consistency over the last 19 years has made Coach Joe Foley one of the top coaches in women’s college basketball history.
His commitment to the team and to consistency is being honored. He’ll start his 20th season at UA Little Rock with an honor that few in the college basketball coaching world can claim. Only 26 basketball courts in the country have been named after coaches, and fewer still are the number of women’s basketball coaches. Foley will become just the fourth to share the honor, but he believes the credit belongs to his players.
The longtime coach will be honored during a pregame ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 13, when UA Little Rock plays Ole Miss. During the celebratory weekend, UA Little Rock will also be inviting former letterwinners back to campus to share their memories of Foley and his amazing career.
“This is a tremendous honor, and I’m incredibly touched by this gesture,” Foley said. “It is truly special. Really most of the credit goes to the players, assistant coaches, and staff members that have made this program the success it is. What really means the most is that this came about from my former players. As a coach, you want to know you had an impact on the lives of your student-athletes and for them to push for this, it is unbelievable.”
Over the course of his time at UA Little Rock, Coach Foley has impacted the lives of hundreds of players. One of those former players is Alicia Cash, a 2005 graduate of UA Little Rock who now works alongside Foley as an assistant basketball coach. Cash served as a driving force who rallied those who were eager to see Foley honored.
“It’s something that the former basketball players have been talking about for a long time,” Cash said. “We wanted to figure out a way to honor him so his legacy will be forever embedded into UA Little Rock after he retires. We put our heads together and sent a letter to the athletic director and the chancellor to see if it was possible and here we are. Coach Foley is not big on accolades and personal awards, but he is a team player. He is not doing it for himself. He is doing it for the players, coaches, and the team. To see his name on the court is an honor for all his current and former players.”
With Foley about to enter his 36th season as a head basketball coach, he carries an impressive record. He currently ranks third among active women’s basketball coaches with 833 career wins. While Foley has accumulated more wins than anyone as a collegiate basketball coach in Arkansas, his players would say that his most impressive accomplishment is the impact he has had on their lives. For Coach Foley, winning on the court was only part of the equation. For him, it’s all about ensuring students are ready for their future. Every student-athlete who played four years under Foley has gone on to graduate college.
After 19 seasons at UA Little Rock, Coach Foley’s legacy spreads across the globe as his former players carry his legacy forward in their careers. Cash, who earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree while playing for Foley, said the head coach taught her the importance of dedication, hard work, and family.
“Going from being a player to working for him, I really like how Coach Foley is very loyal to his players as far as helping them to get opportunities to be successful, and he is a family-oriented man,” Cash said. “He understands the importance of family and doing your job. As a coach, he is going to give you 120% every time he steps foot on the court.”
Coach Foley knows what it means to be a proud Arkansan. Over his decades of coaching, he’s had multiple offers to pursue other coaching opportunities. However, he remains deeply committed to his home state of Arkansas and has enjoyed giving back to the community that has given him so much in return.
“My wife and I were both born and raised in Arkansas, and we love it here,” Foley said. “I’ve always enjoyed coaching, and I haven’t been interested in moving out of state. I like to establish a program and see what I can make of it. I know I’ve had a great thing in Arkansas with both Arkansas Tech and UA Little Rock. I love to give back to the community that has given so much to me. That’s why I feel it’s important for the players to participate in community service. It teaches them to help others.”
The legacy of Foley, after all, will always be held in the stories of success told by the students whose lives he has changed.
“Coach Foley is, and will always be, a legend at UA Little Rock,” Chancellor Christina Drale said. “His record speaks for itself, but this honor is a reflection of his inspiring leadership and consistent dedication to the success and wellbeing of his players.”