ALBANY, N.Y. (News10) — If you were to take a close look courtside at UAlbany women’s basketball home games, you’d spot Ali Jaques. Her colorful high heels hidden under the press table as she transitions from one sideline to the other, from a coaching career to one of an analyst.
“Growth is uncomfortable, and that’s something I always preached to my players, and I’m in it right now,” said Jaques. “And I’m enjoying being uncomfortable.”
After 23 years as a basketball coach, Jaques finally got around to using her degree from NYU in broadcast journalism.
“We have digital cameras now instead of beta reels,” Jaques joked about how much has changed since graduation. However, the biggest difference is her experience and the expertise she can now bring to her new role as a color analyst.
“Coaching is a grind, and coaching never ends, and it’s 5% of the x’s and o’s. And what I’m loving right now is that the x’s and o’s are like 90% of what I’m doing and talking about. So I’m back to what I love.”
Jaques found herself unemployed in March when Siena didn’t renew her contract following a nine-year tenure as the women’s basketball head coach. When weighing whether or not to take another coaching job immediately, she received some advice from UConn legend Geno Auriemma.
“He looked me right in the eye and was like, ‘Ali, when else are you going to get a chance to take a year and go learn?’ And I was going to listen to Geno Auriemma. He made a lot of sense.”
From attending practices to starting her new venture, the education has been extensive, exciting, and often learned on the job.
“I can’t call a timeout,” she laughed describing the difference between coaching and calling a game, “cause once you’re live, you’re live and you’re on and you have to be on.”
The pressure’s not entirely different than drawing up a play in the huddle, down one with five seconds left, but when asked if she misses that part of her old job, she didn’t hesitate.
“I miss the players,” she said. “I miss the players day in and day out. I miss them coming in the office. I miss helping them grow. I miss the players.”
With the players in mind, she won’t wear the headset for this year’s Albany Cup game on Dec. 12, despite a seat at UAlbany’s broadcast table for all their home games. But beyond that, she’s jumping on every opportunity that comes her way, even landing a trip to the Bahamas to call the Battle 4 Atlantis.
“I have no idea where this is going. I’m just having a lot of fun watching basketball and learning a lot,” said Jaques, who won’t rule out a possible return to coaching someday.
“With everything my husband and I have been through in the last couple years, I have found that trying to plan things out doesn’t work. So I’m going to whatever job I’m in, I’m going to be a thousand percent invested in that job and do it to the best of my ability and see where it goes. And have faith.”