ECU Crutchfield graphic

It didn't take long for East Central University to find a new men's basketball coach.

The athletic department announced Tuesday afternoon the hiring of University of Arkansas assistant coach Chris Crutchfield to run the men's basketball program at ECU.

Crutchfield has more than 20 years of experience coaching at the college level, mostly at NCAA Division I institutions including the University of Arkansas and the University of Oklahoma.

“We are excited to announce Chris Crutchfield as the new head coach of the men’s basketball program at East Central University,” said Director of Athletics Dr. Jeff Williams in an East Central University athletics press release. “Coach Crutchfield has built an impressive reputation within the college basketball community as an elite coach, recruiter and leader. The expertise he brings to our program will make an immense impact on our players and the overall program. I asked our returning players to trust the search committee to bring them a phenomenal coach and I believe we have delivered.”

Crutchfield has spent the last year at Arkansas as the associate head coach, helping the Razorbacks to a 20-12 record. He also worked to develop Mason Jones, an Associated Press honorable mention All-America and AP co-SEC Player of the Year and was the first Razorback to lead the SEC in scoring (8th in the NCAA).

"I can’t wait to develop a relationship with our current student-athletes, alumni and the community of Ada. My family and I are looking forward to a successful work-life balance at ECU," Crutchfield said via the announcement. "I am grateful to ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson and Director of Athletics Dr. Jeff Williams for offering me the opportunity to become the next head coach at East Central University."

The new ECU coach spent eight seasons at OU — the first five as an assistant coach before being promoted to the associate head coach by head coach Lon Kruger during the 2016-17 campaign. While in Norman, the Sooners compiled a 160-105 (.604) overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament six times, including a Final Four berth in 2016.

"My family and I are excited to impact our students-athletes in a positive way while competing for championships,“ Crutchfield said.

Before joining the Sooners, he was an assistant coach at Oral Roberts University for four seasons. The Golden Eagles averaged 20 wins during his tenure and advanced to the postseason in 2008 and 2011. ORU was also a top-3 finisher in the Summit League each season, finishing first in 2008, second in 2009, second in 2011 and third in 2010.

Williams pointed out that the groundwork with the ECU men's basketball program has already been set by former head coach Ja Havens.

"We are a formidable basketball team with talented returning players ready to continue winning in a strong basketball league," Williams said in the release. "The program is poised for an upward trajectory in pursuit of our mission, which is for our players to walk across the stage to receive their diploma in one hand while wearing a championship ring on the other. Coach Crutchfield’s past experiences coupled with his vision for our basketball program embodies that mission.”

Crutchfield and his wife, Jody, have three sons: Derrick, Jalen and Josh.

Williams said he's excited to get Crutchfield's family in Ada and the new coach on campus. He added that Crutchfield rose to the top of a talented pool of candidates that the ECU coaching search committee pored through.

“I would like to commend the members of the search committee for recognizing the unique opportunity ECU has in hiring Chris Crutchfield. Numerous highly-qualified coaches expressed interest in this job," he said. "Our committee is unanimous that Chris Crutchfield is the right fit for our program and 2020 is the right time for him to lead the Tigers forward. Our alumni, fans and campus community will be impressed with coach Crutchfield as a person and the leadership he will bring to our basketball program. I’m anxious to watch his team play come November.”

Crutchfield's career

Crutchfield was also on the staff at Texas Christian University for two seasons, where he was the director of basketball operations for one season and an assistant coach for a year. He also made a stop at New Mexico State (2001-05) as an assistant coach under NMSU all-time wins leader Lou Henson. He helped the Aggies to two 20-win seasons and a Sun Belt Conference championship in 2002.

Prior to heading to NMSU, Crutchfield earned his first stint as a head coach, for two years, at Tyler Junior College after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant coach for the Apaches. At the helm, he recorded a 35-28 record and saw a player graduation rate of 91%.

Before joining the staff at Tyler, Crutchfield was an assistant at the University of Texas-San Antonio for one season. His first coaching positions were at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he was an assistant for one season and a graduate assistant for two years.

The Hopkinsville, Kentucky, native, graduated from Nebraska-Omaha in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and in 1996 with a master’s degree in health, physical education and administration.

Contact Jeff Cali by email at jcali@theadanews.com.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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