After seven years of success at the helm of the East Central University men’s basketball team, head coach Ja Havens announced today that he will resign from ECU to move on to the head coaching position at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
“People love to watch coach Havens’ teams play and that’s special,” said Director of Athletics Dr. Jeff Williams. “We are grateful to Ja and his family for the time they have invested in our campus community. Every coach dreams of one day having an opportunity to coach at his or her alma mater. That moment in time has come calling for coach Havens and we wish him the best in pursuing his dreams at NSU. We will miss the Havens family in Kerr Center.”
Havens will replace former NSU men's basketball coach Mark Downey, who left NSU to become the men's coach at Arkansas Tech. Downey recently completed his third season at NSU where he held a 40-46 overall mark and led the RiverHawks to the MIAA Tournament twice.
ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson echoed Williams' support for Havens.
“Coach Havens has had an exemplary performance with the ECU men’s basketball team,” Pierson said. “We have no doubts that he will do just as well at our sister RUSO institution (NSU).”
Havens will be returning to his roots in coaching, after spending two seasons coaching as a graduate assistant coach at NSU (1999-01). He was also a two-year letter-winner (1996-98), where he was named to the Lone Star Conference All-Academic Team.
“I am so grateful to Dr. Jeff Williams and former ECU President John Hargrave for believing in and trusting an assistant coach to become a first-time head coach,” said Havens. “It has been a tremendous honor for me to have the opportunity to lead this tradition-rich program. I will continue to be a Tiger fan and will always remember my time at this fine university fondly.”
“Likewise, it has been a blessing to be a part of the Ada community and I am sincerely thankful to the many wonderful people that have supported me and my family and have made the past seven years some of the best and most rewarding of my life.”
In his tenure with the Tigers, Havens has produced a 131-74 overall record and a 96-54 mark in the Great American Conference. The success that Havens created started immediately, as he led the team to a 15-12 overall and 12-8 mark in the GAC his first season, moving up from an 8-18 overall record and 5-15 performance in the league.
In seven seasons, he has produced 15 All-GAC selections, including six on the first team and one GAC Player of the Year. Havens has also helped his student-athletes make a large mark on the ECU record books. Three players have moved their way onto the ECU 1,000 Point Club (Camron Talley, Braxton Reeves and Stirling Thomas). The team has also combined for 50 other ECU career records and 51 single season marks.
His teams have also excelled in the classroom, earning two National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Awards and numerous GAC All-Academic and D2ADA Academic team honors.
Havens became the fastest coach in ECU history to garner his 100th victory in just six years. He earned the milestone Nov. 17, 2018 with a 109-71 win over Bacone College. Mickey McBride and Wayne Cobb hit the mark in their seventh season and Jerry Anderson in his eighth.
He also helped the team to their best season since joining the NCAA in 2016-17. The team claimed its second-straight GAC Regular-Season title, the GAC Tournament Championship and the programs first trip to the NCAA Central Regional. The trip to the NCAA tournament included an overtime victory over Minnesota State-Moorhead, before falling to Southwest Minnesota State in the second round.
Havens has produced two of the best players in Tiger history, in Braxton Reeves and Camron Talley. Reeves finished his senior season being named a unanimous GAC Player of the Year, unanimous All-GAC First Team pick, the GAC All-Tournament MVP, D2CCA All-American Honorable Mention, NABC All-District First Team, the Reese's NABC All-Star Team, the Bevo-Francis Award Watch List, 2017 Basketball Times Second Team All-American and a Division II Conference Commissioner's Association (D2CCA) Men's Basketball All-American Honorable Mention.