Each one of Augusta State's 47 losses the past three seasons eats at women's basketball coach Greg Wilson.
"I hate losing more than I love winning," he said. "It's something that carries me through day to day. I don't feel a whole lot of pressure from anybody other than myself."
Losing was uncommon to Wilson before he arrived at Augusta State. He started the women's program at Middle Georgia College and led his teams to a 50-7 mark in two seasons.
Wilson, 36, was then hired in 1999 to rebuild a Lady Jaguars program coming off its first losing season in eight years. Rather than winning, Augusta State regressed, going 10-15, 12-15 and 10-17 the next three seasons.
It was the losing that led Wilson to the edge of the coaching plank.
"I think everybody thinks about getting out of whatever they're doing," he said. "The way the economy goes and the way your family situation is, you have to look at that. Ever since I've gotten into coaching I've wondered what it would be like to be a pharmaceutical sales rep. What would it be like to be a nurse practitioner? What would it be like to be a full-time teacher? All those things, you're always looking at other people and how much job satisfaction they have."
Wilson's job satisfaction has improved tenfold since leading the Lady Jaguars to a 19-9 record, a Peach Belt Conference North Division title and the program's first-ever postseason berth. Augusta State plays Columbus State (27-3) in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament at 3 p.m. today in Salisbury, N.C.
"It's a whole lot easier to come to work when you're winning," Wilson said. "A whole lot of things fell into place."
Newcomers senior forward Arijana Sijercic and junior guard Melanie Massey have made immediate impacts. Sijercic has provided inside help, averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game. Massey has become a perimeter threat, nailing 45 of 115 3-point attempts.
Also, senior forward Sabrina Jones and Ernesia Wideman have had breakthrough seasons. Jones bumped her scoring average from 11.9 points per game in 2001-02 to 14.5 points per game this season, and she earned first-team all-conference honors. Wideman improved her scoring average from 8.2 points per game in 2001-02 to 10.4 points per game this season.
Wilson said: "Sabrina Jones has changed her attitude. Ernesia Wideman has changed her attitude. Shundra Johnson has changed her attitude. Not that they were bad before, but they all collectively weren't on the same page or sold on our game plans. Now they are."
NOTES: Augusta State has not defeated Columbus State since the 1995-96 season. Since then, the Lady Jaguars are 0-14 against the Lady Cougars. ... Columbus State handed Augusta State a 60-36 loss and a 72-63 loss this season. ... Candace Turner leads the Lady Cougars with 14.5 points per game. ... Senior forward Sabrina Jones scores a team-leading 14.5 points per game for the Lady Jaguars.
WHAT: First round of the NCAA Division II Women's Tournament
WHO: Augusta State (19-9) vs. Columbus State (27-3)
WHERE: Catawba College, Salisbury, N.C.
WHEN: 3 p.m. today
COST: $6 adults, $3 for children and college students with ID
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.