Jess Dannelly is entering his 22nd and final season at the helm of the Chanticleer softball program and is in his 16th year as Associate Athletic Director at Coastal Carolina University.
During his tenure, Dannelly has led the Chants to five Big South Conference Tournament championships and trips to the 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2006 NCAA Regionals. With his 654-506 (.563) career record, he is Coastal Carolina's all-time winningest coach in any sport and ranks 29th among active NCAA softball coaches in victories and 43rd in overall career victories. Dannelly recorded his 600th career victory at Coastal Carolina, April 11, 2005, when the Chanticleers downed Elon.
In addition to the great overall career record, Dannelly has also posted a 167-91 (.647) mark in Big South Conference play. Dannelly has coached 20 Lady Chanticleers to the NCAA All-Region team, 92 players on Big South All-Conference team and 63 players on Big South All-Tournament teams.
Dannelly's squads have also achieved high marks in the classroom during his tenure. Since 2001, Coastal Carolina has had five student-athletes named to various academic all-district squads. In 2006, Meagen Johnson was named to the ESPN The Magazine First Team Academic All-American University softball team with a 3.86 GPA. In 2001, the Chants ranked fifth in the nation with a 3.37 GPA. Last season, Coastal Carolina sported a solid 3.314 cumulative GPA, ranking them as one of the top academic squads in the country.
During his career, Dannelly has been named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year seven times and had the NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year in 2000. In addition to the 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2006 NCAA Tournament teams, Coastal Carolina's 1994 team is known as perhaps the best team to have ever played in the Big South Conference. That team posted a 44-15 record on the season and broke or tied 54 individual or team records and sported the NCAA Academic Athlete of the Year, the Big South Conference Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, four All-Conference players and three NCAA All-South Region players. Sara Graziano, who went on to star with several teams in the Women's Professional Softball League, also played on the record-setting 1994 squad.
In 1998, Coastal Carolina earned its first trip to an NCAA Regional by sweeping through the Big South Conference Tournament and then defeating Florida A&M in consecutive extra-inning games in the best-of-three play-in series. The Chants were two and out in the NCAA Regional in Lincoln, Nebraska, falling to the fifth-ranked Cornhuskers and Oregon.
The 2001 squad was historic as well. That season not only saw Dannelly reach the 400-win plateau, but it also saw the Lady Chanticleers win the program's third Big South Conference title and advance to its second NCAA Regional. The Chants also became the first female team in any sport in the Big South Conference to earn a victory in an NCAA Championship event. Coastal Carolina traveled to the NCAA Region 5 tournament in Tempe, Arizona, and eliminated #21 Florida Atlantic and Penn State before Arizona State scored a 2-1 come-from-behind victory to end the Lady Chants season. The run at the NCAA Regional gained the Coastal Carolina program national attention and a ranking of 29th in the nation in the final NFCA poll.
Dannelly's 2002 squad rolled off three consecutive victories, outscoring the opposition 21-6, at the Big South Championship to return to the NCAA Regionals for the third time in four years. After making the cross-country trek to Los Angeles, Calif., the Chants fell to second-ranked UCLA and lost a heartbreaker to #17 Fresno State.
In 2006, Coastal Carolina racked up its fifth Big South Tournament title powered by pitcher Christine Doyle, who didn't allow an earned run in 18 innings of the tournament. The squad traveled to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA Regionals, falling to Florida State and Georgia Southern.
Dannelly first came to Conway in 1984 as an assistant baseball coach on then-head coach Bobby Richardson's staff. Following the 1984 season, he left the program to coach high school baseball for one season, but returned to resume his assistant coaching duties with the baseball team prior to the 1986 season. He held that position until 1988, when he accepted the head coaching position of the Chanticleers' softball program.
Dannelly attended USC-Salkehatchie from 1970 to 1972 and graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in health and physical education. He returned to USC-Salkehatchie as the head baseball coach in 1975 and posted a 273-214 (.561) record over nine seasons.
He and his wife, Wendy, live in Conway and have two sons, McKewn and Travis.