William McCormack, Contributing Photographer

After first announcing the hire on Monday, Yale’s athletic department officially introduced new women’s basketball head coach Dalila Eshe at a Wednesday morning press conference.

The event — Yale Athletics’ first formal press conference in several years — formally began Eshe’s tenure as the program’s 11th head coach. Held on the court of the John J. Lee Amphitheater, the presser featured a speech from Eshe, an introduction from Director of Athletics Vicky Chun and even a brief appearance from Handsome Dan XIX. 

Eshe’s predecessor, Allison Guth, departed Yale earlier this month to serve as head coach at Loyola University Chicago, which is joining the Atlantic 10 next year. An Illinois native, Guth appears to be settling into her new role smoothly: she threw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game last week alongside Ramblers men’s basketball coach Drew Valentine.

“I am honored by the opportunity to be the next women’s basketball coach at Yale — this is literally a dream come true for me,” Eshe said toward the start of her speech. “I cannot wait to start working.”

Director of Athletics Vicky Chun (right) introduced new head coach Dalila Eshe (left) during Wednesday’s press conference. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

When Wednesday’s event began, Chun and Eshe entered with some pageantry, the athletic director walking Handsome Dan on a leash as the three emerged from the hallway and onto the court. Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella opened the event with brief remarks before Chun took the podium to introduce Eshe. 

“Her rockstar status shines when you meet her,” Chun said. “You will know right away that this is a person with high character, who loves coaching, who loves recruiting, a competitor who loves the sport of basketball.”

Eshe then stood up, hugged Chun and received a Yale basketball jersey with the number 34, her number in college, and her name etched on the back.

Director of Athletics Vicky Chun led the search for Eshe alongside Deputy AD Ann-Marie Guglieri. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

The new coach’s own speech included acknowledgements of her new colleagues and bosses at Yale, as well as mentors and family members. An assistant at Princeton since 2019, she spent a sizable portion of the talk directly addressing her new Yale players. The new coach met with the team on Tuesday night, although she was already familiar with some in the program from her coaching and recruiting responsibilities with the Tigers.

“When you come see a Yale women’s basketball team, we want to be the hardest-working team on the floor,” Eshe said. “In order for us to be the hardest working team, we’re going to have to be the best conditioned team. That starts now. That starts with all the work you guys are going to put in this summer.”

“We are going to have a lot of fun together, I promise you that,” she added. “We’re gonna enjoy the grind and the process that it takes to prepare to win championships. They will know that I will be invested in them not just as players but as young women growing into adults as students. I am here not just as a coach but a mentor.”

Current Yale women’s basketball players listened to Eshe’s speech from the front two rows. From left to right, incoming first year Kiley Capstraw, Avery Lee ’25, Christen McCann ’25, Brenna McDonald ’24 and Jenna Clark ’24. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Several current women’s basketball players and at least one incoming player in New Haven for Bulldog Days attended the press conference, which was open to the public, and filled the front two rows on one side of the podium. Eshe followed her speech by going through both rows and hugging each of the players present. 

Others in attendance Wednesday included athletic administrators, Vice Provost for Academic Resources Lloyd Suttle ’69 GRD ’73 ’75 and other Yale coaches, including the men’s basketball team’s coaching staff. Many of Eshe’s family members were also there, including her wife Way, who sat in the second row with their daughters, two-year-old Wray and four-month-old Wren. Eshe said Wray couldn’t wait to meet the girls on the team as they came over Wednesday morning. She referenced her daughters again towards the end of her remarks when she touched on the importance of representation. 

“I am humbled by the magnitude of being the first Black female head coach for women’s basketball at Yale,” Eshe said. “It is important to me that my two daughters always see [themselves] and can imagine any job and position that they want. I will represent for all minorities and women to say you can truly do whatever you set your mind and intentions on.”

Way Veney (center), the wife of new women’s basketball head coach Dalila Eshe, held their daughter Wren as Eshe spoke on Wednesday. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Eshe held a follow-up interview session with the media and conducted a photoshoot with the athletic department after her formal press conference ended. Speaking with the press, Eshe emphasized that crafting a challenging nonconference schedule for Yale will be very important. Winning enough nonconference games against touted or ranked opponents could theoretically help Yale earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament even if it loses the Ivy League’s postseason basketball championship, which comes with an automatic bid to March Madness.

Eshe graduated from the University of Florida in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and played basketball for the Gators, earning First Team All-SEC honors during her senior season. She told the audience that her background in psychology helped her connect with University President Peter Salovey, who is also a professor of psychology, during the beginning of their interview. Speaking to the media later, Eshe said she tried to take as many classes as she could in sports psychology as an undergraduate because she knew she wanted to coach one day.

“I think in knowing so clearly when I was young that this is what I wanted to do, I have always been a person that’s very focused,” Eshe said. “I have tried to take every experience, even when I was a player, and relate it to my future, to when I want to be a head coach.”

“I am here not just as a coach but a mentor,” Dalila Eshe told the audience during Wednesday’s press conference. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Selected in the second round of the 2006 WNBA Draft, Eshe embarked on a professional basketball career after college, playing with the Seattle Storm, Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream and continuing her career overseas — Romania, Turkey, Russia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Taiwan and Portugal — until 2014.

As a professional athlete, Eshe began working in training and coaching and received her first job on a collegiate coaching staff in 2013, when she became Loyola Maryland’s Director of Basketball Operations. Her path to Yale included assistant-coaching stops at East Carolina, LaSalle and most recently Princeton, where she became an assistant in 2019. Working under Princeton head coach Carla Berube, Eshe helped the Tigers maintain their dominance at the top of the Ivy League — they are 28–0 against other Ancient Eight teams since the 2019–20 season and ended this past winter as No. 25 in the AP Top 25 national poll. Eshe said Berube’s best advice to her becoming a head coach was simple: breathe. 

Dalila Eshe, pictured above speaking to the media in a follow-up session on Wednesday, graduated from Florida in 2006 with a degree in psychology before beginning a professional basketball career. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Eshe’s father, she said at one point during her speech, always wanted her to go to an Ivy League school. “I didn’t make that decision then,” Eshe added, “but I’m here now, Dad. Does that count?”

Andrew Cramer contributed reporting.

WILLIAM MCCORMACK
William McCormack covered Yale men's basketball from 2018 to 2022. He served as Sports Editor and Digital Editor for the Yale Daily News and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he is in Timothy Dwight College.