Cord Wright, the 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 and District 16 Coach of the Year, is currently in his seventh season as the headman of Northeast Mississippi Community College’s tradition-rich men’s basketball program.
Wright earned those honors after guiding the Tigers to their ninth NJCAA Region 23 championship and a berth to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament at the historic Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan.
The Tigers defeated East Mississippi Community College on a Wesley Harris offensive rebound and lay in as the horn sounded to win the regional title. Northeast lost to eventual national champion Salt Lake (Utah) Community College in a very competitive matchup during its lone game at “The Tournament” in 2016.
Northeast continued its success one year later by winning the 16th Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division championship in program history and the first since the 1999-2000 campaign.
The Tigers went on to reach the championship games of both the MACJC Tournament and the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. Northeast’s 21 victories were the most in a single season in well over a decade.
Four student-athletes from that team advanced their careers to the four-year level, including brothers Leroy Buchanan and Shunn Buchanan to mid-major powerhouses at Murray State (Ky.) University and New Mexico State University, respectively. The duo of Kendarius Smith and Kendall Stafford inked with the University of North Alabama as well.
Leroy Buchanan excelled under Wright’s tutelage and received All-American honors and an invitation to compete in the NJCAA All-Star Game at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. He was the first Tiger to play in this event since Bobby McCarley and Vincent Del Negro did so in 1960.
Three members of that 2016-17 team have signed professional contracts. Leroy Buchanan joined the Memphis Hustle of the National Basketball Association (NBA) G League after capturing the NBA Summer League championship with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Smith and Stafford both inked deals with overseas clubs. Smith came to terms with N.A.P.R. in the Republic of Georgia while Stafford agreed to a deal with Baskets Vilsbiburg of Germany.
Ten former Tigers that starred under Wright are currently playing at the four-year level, including NCAA Division I athletes Shunn Buchanan (New Mexico State), Conner McKay (Ole Miss) and Harris (Tennessee State).
Four Northeast athletes are at the NCAA Division II level, including Bryant Givens (Columbus State), Denzel McDuffey (Arkansas-Monticello), Daryl McElrath (Arkansas-Fort Smith) and Bryce Smith (Valdosta State).
An additional three Tigers are now at National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) members, including Darius Williams at Central Baptist (Ark.) College and Antares Gwyn and Felix Hayes of Martin Methodist (Tenn.) College.
Wright was listed as one of the “hot junior college coaches” in the country by the Basketball Times prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign. He was only one of 55 coaches from around the nation to receive this prestigious acknowledgement.
Northeast has averaged over 19 victories per season over the last four years. The Tigers have also advance to the semifinals of the MACJC or NJCAA Region 23 tournaments for five consecutive campaigns.
Wright more than tripled the win total from his inaugural year with the Tigers and took Northeast to the postseason for the initial time since the 2010-11 season as well during his second year on the Booneville campus.
The Tigers went 17-9 and captured regular season wins over eventual NJCAA Division I National Tournament participants Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College and Holmes Community College.
Northeast also defeated reigning national champion and then-No. 16 ranked Jones County Junior College in the opening round of the MACJC Tournament for its first postseason win since 2008.
Dimario Jackson received NJCAA All-American honors following his sophomore campaign under the watch of Wright. The North Alabama signee averaged 18.9 points and 3.8 assists per game for the Tigers.
Wright has helped 22 former Tigers achieve their dreams of playing at the four-year level since arriving on the Booneville campus. Among those Northeast standouts is Reggie Patterson, who played in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) at Mississippi State University.
He claimed his first victory with the Tigers in dramatic fashion on November 4, 2013. Marcus Hogan, who signed with Voorhees (S.C.) College after an excellent year, connected on a half court desperation attempt that bounced off the backboard and through the hoop to give Northeast a 79-78 win at Gadsden State (Ala.) Community College.
His inaugural triumph inside the MACJC North Division was just as thrilling. Keldrick Lesley’s free throw sent the game into overtime and Jackson drained the second of two attempts from the charity stripe with under a minute left to seal a 90-89 decision over Mississippi Delta Community College on January 27, 2014.
Wright came to Northeast from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where he served as an assistant coach on Keith Richards' staff for three years. However, Wright knew the community college environment and the Hill Country region very well.
Before joining the Louisiana-Monroe staff, Wright served as an assistant at North Alabama under headman Bobby Champagne. While with the Lions, Wright helped them earn a pair of berths to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
In 2006, Wright and the Lions earned a bid into the NCAA's South Regional. It was the first appearance by North Alabama in the NCAA Tournament since 1996.
Wright helped guide the Lions back to the NCAA Tournament one year later when they advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight after posting a solid 27-9 overall record.
Under Wright's guidance, a quartet of North Alabama players were elected to the All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) first-team. That list includes Kenny Johnson, who earned the league's Player of the Year award in 2009.
In addition to four first-team honorees, five Lions were named to the All-Gulf South second-team and three earned Academic All-Gulf South recognition thanks in part to Wright's leadership.
Before becoming a full-time member of the Lions’ staff in 2006, Wright spent a pair of seasons as a graduate assistant (2003-05) for Champagne while earning a Master's degree in health promotions and human performance.
Wright coached at Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College for one season before going to North Alabama. He got his coaching career started as a student assistant coach at his alma mater of Limestone (S.C.) College.
The Lafayette, La., native was selected as an All-Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference (now Conference Carolinas) selection and an all-conference academic honoree during his two years with the Saints.
In addition to his All-CVAC selections for his work on the hardwood and in the classroom, Wright paced Limestone in scoring and rebounding while earning a Bachelor's degree in physical education with a minor in biology.
Wright got his collegiate playing career started at Danville Area (Ill.) Community College from 1997-99. He was a threat beyond the arc for the Jaguars and ranked as the second-best three-point shooter in the country as a sophomore.
When not busy coaching, Wright works a variety of basketball camps inside Bonner Arnold Coliseum. Wright is also a founder of the "Yours in Hoops" basketball camp.
Wright, who graduated from Saint Thomas More (La.) Catholic High School, is a dedicated family man. He and his wife Kelly have two sons, Cooper and Cannon.