USM Head Women’s Basketball Coach Joye Lee-McNelis battling stage four lung cancer


Some really sad news out of Hattiesburg over the weekend. Southern miss Head Women’s Basketball Coach Joye Lee-McNelis has been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

On Saturday, the long-time head coach of the Lady Eagles announced she’s facing her second battle with cancer in the last four years.

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The stage four adeno-carcinoma is in the pleural area lining of her lungs and a pet scan later revealed four other cancer spots in her back muscles.

In 2017, McNeils had surgery to remove a malignant mass in the upper lobe of her left lung and in the process of making a full recovery went on to win Conference USA Coach of the Year honors.

This latest episode began with a bad case of COVID-19 over Thanksgiving and her lungs have been giving her trouble ever since.

If there’s any potential silver lining to this recent diagnosis, McNelis tells News 25 to pray for an exact mutation from the first tumor, allowing her to have a targeted treatment without as many side effects as chemotherapy.

She goes on to say, “I am overwhelmed and so grateful for all of the people who are praying for me.”

Coach McNelis is tough as nails, saying she’s even going to keep coaching for as long as she can this season.

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A native of Pass Christian and a St. Stanislaus alum, Jeff Haeger comes to News 25 from right in our backyard. He most recently spent more than three years working as the sports reporter for WHLT-TV in Hattiesburg, where he provided extensive coverage of his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. At Southern Miss, Jeff was a member of the Honors College and graduated with a B.A. degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Spanish. He also wrote for USM's award-winning school newspaper, The Student Printz, where he won first place for Best Sports Story in 2013. Jeff loves to travel, and is excited to get back on the water to reunite with his family. In his spare time you can find Jeff spending time with his friends, and maybe even winning a fantasy football league. For sports stories contact Jeff at