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Ashley McElhiney

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Ashley McElhiney

Basketball Coach

Vanderbilt University

Ashley McElhiney grfxcstvcomschoolsalabgraphicsarchiveimages

Ashley Reneé (McElhiney) Ayers (born July 7, 1981) is an American basketball coach and former college player. She is best known for having been the first female coach of a male professional basketball team, as the coach of the Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Association in the 2004-05 season.


Ashley McElhiney Ashley McElhiney Ayers Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame

Early life and playing career

Born in Martin, Tennessee to parents Danny and Sandra McElhiney, she attended Gleason School in Gleason, Tennessee. As a senior, she averaged 17.7 points and 4.0 assists a game. She was the all-time leading scorer at Gleason School with 2,073 points and all-time assists leader with 604.

McElhiney was honored for her high school performance in 1999 as the Tennessee State 1A Miss Basketball.

She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1999–2003 and was awarded the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2001, 2002, and 2003 at the position of guard. During that same time period, she was named as Tennessee State Amateur Athlete of the Year for 2002. She was also named as her team's 2001 co-MVP, along with her friend and teammate Chantelle Anderson.

In the 2003 WNBA Draft, she was drafted as the third round selection of the Indiana Fever, but was released before playing any games.

USA Basketball

McElhiney was selected to be a member of the team representing the USA at the 2001 World University Games held in Beijing, China. After winning the opening game easily, the USA team faced Canada and lost a close game 68–67. The USA team defeated Japan to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. The USA team fell behind by 12 points against undefeated Russia, but came back to win the game by 11 points. The next game was against the unbeaten host team China, and the USA team won 89–78. The USA team won their next two games to set up the gold medal game; a rematch against the host team. China would stay close early, but the USA team prevailed and won the gold medal with a score of 87–67. McElhiney averaged 1.6 points per game.

Vanderbilt statistics


Coaching career

McElhiney has served as a teacher and assistant girls basketball coach at her alma mater, Gleason School, at both the junior high and high school level. Her husband, Joel Ayers, was the head coach. She also served as an assistant at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was hired as assistant coach of the Lady Mocs in July 2007. UTC was 29-4 with McElhiney on its bench. In July 2015 she was hired as an assistant girls basketball coach at Dyersburg High School in Dyersburg, Tennessee.

Nashville Rhythm

McElhiney became the first female coach of a male professional basketball team in 2004, when she was hired to coach the American Basketball Association's Nashville Rhythm.

Her coaching career got off to a good start, with the Rhythm achieving a 9-2 record at the start of the season and McElhiney being reported to have the support of the male Rhythm players. Dontae' Jones, a former NBA player then with the Rhythm, was quoted as saying, "It’s going to go a long way toward how women succeed from here on .... If I can help her continue to raise that bar, then I’m doing my job." Another Rhythm player, Adam Sonn, commented, "She comes in, and it’s just normal. It’s just a coach coaching."

The Rhythm's season was marred by an incident in which one of the team's co-owners, Sally Anthony, attempted to fire McElhiney in the middle of a game on January 29, 2005, on the grounds that McElhiney was playing Matt Freije after Anthony insisted that Freije be benched. [1] McElhiney nevertheless finished coaching the game, which the Rhythm won. She was reinstated as coach by decision of the team's other two co-owners before the team's next game. [2]

The Rhythm finished with a 21-10 record, qualifying for the playoffs and the chance to host a first-round playoff game. However, the team's owners chose to withdraw the team from the postseason, stating, "We've lost several players and felt we were not ready for the playoffs." McElhiney resigned as coach later the same week.

Administrative career

In June, 2005, McElhiney joined the athletic department staff at the University of Alabama as the director of women's basketball operations. Her former Vanderbilt University teammate Ashley Earley also joined as the graduate assistant coach.

Personal life

McElhiney is married to Joel Ayers, formerly the head girls basketball coach at Gleason School and now the head girls coach at Dyersburg High School. They have three children together, Haylen (born 2008), Raines (born 2013), and Jentri (2014) and she is the stepmother of her husband's two children from a previous marriage.


Ashley McElhiney Wikipedia