The former West Orange High assistant will take over and lead the Knights’ program into a new era.
A new era in Ocoee girls basketball is dawning, as former West Orange High assistant Lauren Ashley looks to move the program in the right direction.
It was announced on Tuesday, May 28, that Ashley would be taking over after the departure of coach Gina Solano.
And while she has only officially been the head coach for a little more than one week, the interest that she has seen in the program has blown up.
“Well, I’m very excited about the position — I feel like Ocoee has a lot of potential,” Ashley said. “There are a lot of girls that didn’t play for the last couple of years who you see around campus — they decided to not play for the season or take a year off.
“When I reached out to a few girls and let them know, ‘Hey, I’m going to be the coach at Ocoee,’ I got some really good feedback,” she said. “That was the most exciting thing, it’s like, ‘OK, I have some girls who are interested and excited about it.’”
The process of landing the gig was a quick one for Ashley, who did the interview with athletic director Bill Alderman a few weeks back, before being offered the job just at the start of Memorial Day Weekend.
While she knows that she has a big job ahead of her — the Knights have gone 13-35 over the past two seasons — there is little doubt in Ashley’s mind that she can help turn the program around. It’s something she has done throughout her basketball career.
Since her first introduction to basketball back in middle school in Miami, there’s always been an uphill battle to change a program — which includes when she was at Miramar High School.
“The way basketball is now, it wasn’t that way when I played,” Ashley said. “When I went to high school, they weren’t that great and I just had a different mentality. So I came in and I was very strong minded and determined to turn the program around and it was very rough at first.”
That would just be the first instance of Ashley helping to change the culture of a program, and it was most certainly not the last.
“When I reached out to a few girls and let them know, ‘Hey, I’m going to be the coach at Ocoee,’ I got some really good feedback. That was the most exciting thing, it’s like, ‘OK, I have some girls who are interested and excited about it.’”
— Lauren Ashley
What followed was a playing stint at Florida Memorial University — Ashley followed her high-school coach who took over — where, once again, she was a part of a total overhaul. Beforehand the team wasn’t that good, but after Ashley showed up the Lions would go on to win two conference titles.
It was also during that time that her coach took her aside and asked her about coaching — noticing that she had a knack for helping out young players one day at a basketball camp the team put on.
“As soon as I graduated I jumped on the program at Miramar and I did a brief stint at Florida Memorial as well, and it just kind of blossomed from there,” Ashley said. “I knew that coaching was my thing and I’ve been at it the last five or six years.”
Looking to continue her coaching, Ashley landed at West Orange High, where she spent the last three seasons working under then-head coach Shrell Chamberlain.
With Chamberlain being just as much of a mentor to her as he was a head coach to his players, Ashley said that there’s a lot to take from her time at West Orange that could be put to use at Ocoee.
Though there will be some differences, Ashley noted that much like Chamberlain’s situation — in which he inherited a Warriors’ program that was coming off of a cancelled season — she, too, would be taking on a rebuilding process.
“With West Orange we had a lot of success, but there were things that we had to battle with as far as consistency goes, because at one point we were convinced we could beat anybody,” Ashley said. “So our struggle was to be consistent in practice and be consistent on game day.
“With girls they have different personalities and moods, so coming from West Orange to Ocoee, where West Orange has this winning tradition and Ocoee has a bit of a culture change right now, it’s like, ‘What steps do we take? What steps would Shrell take to bring this group of girls together?,’” she said.
There are challenges ahead for Ashley, but if you ask her, none of them are deterrents.
“I’m actually pretty excited about the girls, because when they came out … there was just like a renewed energy in the gym,” Ashley said. “They were ready, they were hungry and I was very excited about that.”