In the months since her run as Siena women’s basketball head coach ended, Ali Jaques has kept busy “doing the things I’ve wanted to do, but never had time for.”
There’s been more time for family and friends. She’s dabbled with writing a book, worked toward becoming a yoga instructor and closely followed the New York Yankees’ season that wrapped up Tuesday night.
A new pursuit, one that will keep Jaques a fixture of the Capital Region’s college basketball scene.
Jaques will serve as the color analyst for UAlbany women’s basketball home games during the 2021-22 season. An NYU graduate with a degree in broadcast journalism — and one in German, too — Jaques is also in the mix to call games for other conferences and schools, but the Albany resident is locked in for Great Danes home games along with play-by-play announcer Rich Becker.
“For me, making this jump, I have tremendous experience from a basketball standpoint, a coaching standpoint, a game standpoint. I can speak to that,” Jaques said in a recent interview with The Daily Gazette. “So I have to use all that knowledge and experience in my broadcasting. I have to be really concise with what I say, be to the point and speak to the audience. It’s going to be a transition, for sure, but it’s one I’m really excited about.”
When she graduated from NYU in 1998, Jaques said she considered a few opportunities to put her degree in broadcast journalism to use. She opted, though, to start her coaching career. Jaques was on coaching staffs at five schools before becoming Siena’s head coach in 2012. She spent nine seasons in that role before the school did not renew her contract following the 2020-21 campaign.
“I’ve been coaching for 23 years, but I’ve always wanted to do analyst work, to do TV work,” Jaques said. “At the time, when I’d graduated, I had the chance to coach Division I basketball coming from playing Division III — so who would turn that down?”
Earlier this year, Capital Region Sportsnet — a streaming service founded in 2015 by Joe Calderone, who has worked in sports broadcasting within the area for nearly two decades — produced broadcasts for GymRat Challenge AAU tournament games. Chris Watson — who served as Siena women’s basketball radio announcer for two seasons during Jaques’ tenure — needed an announcing partner for those games, and he recruited Jaques to join him.
“And she was a natural. She took exactly to it like I thought she would,” said Watson, who is the director of communications for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and serves as play-by-play announcer for Spectrum News 1’s weekly high school football coverage. “I thought she was going to be fantastic, and she was.”
Calderone said it was “almost too easy” for Jaques.
“She can do this for a living, if she wants to do it,” Calderone said.
UAlbany’s first game of the season is a home matchup with Hofstra on Nov. 10. Jaques said UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen contacted her directly to see if she’d have any interest in commentating for the Great Danes’ home games this season, which are streamed on ESPN+ or ESPN3.
“So I think I’m going to do all of them — except one,” Jaques said.
That one is the Great Danes’ Dec. 12 game vs. Siena at SEFCU Arena.
“I just don’t think it would be good for me to do the Siena game,” Jaques said. “I don’t know if I’m there yet.”
Jaques said she had a few different opportunities to stay in coaching after her departure from Siena, but none felt quite right. Getting back into coaching isn’t something she’s ruled out, but Jaques said her current basketball focus is announcing games.
“Any opportunity that comes across my desk, I’m doing it,” said Jaques, who said she’s among a roster of announcers for assignments with the Atlantic 10 and Big East conferences, while multiple MAAC schools have contacted her regarding possible gigs. “I want to put myself out there with this.”