Crutchfield felt good about his tourney chances
FORT LAUDERDALE – Nova Southeastern advanced all the way to the NCAA D-II Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind., last March in Jim Crutchfield’s second year with the program. The Sharks had similar intentions this season until halted by the coronavirus.
Crutchfield’s amazing renovation project at Nova Southeastern produced another outstanding season this winter. The Sharks finished with a 23-6 record while earning the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region. Last year marked the first time Nova Southeastern had ever qualified for the NCAA postseason.
As would be expected, the coaching legend was disappointed with the early shutdown of the season. His Sharks were poised to make another deep tournament run.
“It really was a good season. We were really playing well heading into the postseason,” Crutchfield said. “A lot of coaches say that, but I was really interested and curious on how well we could do in the tournament. We avenged two of our losses in our conference tournament.”
While the NCAA’s decision to shut down the post-season was met with disappointment, the former West Liberty coaching icon fully understands the gravity of the situation.
“It was a strange way to end the season for sure. But once you step back and see what problems other people are dealing with it put everything into perspective. People are dying and losing their jobs,” Crutchfield noted. “Our players were very disappointed. This is the first time we had a full week to prepare for the post-season. We were on the bus heading to the tournament and our school president said we better wait a day. The next morning it was canceled.
“It seems like a month ago now. I was able to meet with the team and the players individually shortly before the school was shutdown. I was very happy I was able to meet with them,” he added. “It would have been tough having everyone go their separate ways without being able to talk to them. I just wanted to hang out with them and be one of the guys. It seems almost surreal.”
Crutchfield is staging his own self-quarantine from the rapidly-spreading coronavirus. He is vacationing in a remote part of North Carolina where he owns a cabin.
While the current basketball season has gone by the boards, Crutchfield is both realistic and optimistic about the the 2020-21 hoop campaign.
“There are no guarantees we will be playing next year. There is so much certainty right now,” the Clarksburg native said. “But I really like what we have coming back. I am looking forward to it.
“We have three very good freshmen back with good size. I really like their demeanor and personality,” he continued. “They have that unique ability to play extremely hard and still have fun in the process. Usually when we have a team with such chemistry we have a good year.”
After his amazing success at West Liberty, Crutchfield inherited a 6-20 Nova Southeastern program. His frenetic style of play helped turn the program into winners in his initial year at the Sharks’ helm, notching 17 victories.
His magical touch had an even bigger impact in year two. Nova rolled to an impressive 29-4 mark, climbing to No. 3 in the national polls at one point. In the process, the Sharks pocketed their first-ever regular-season conference championship and their initial NCAA Tournament berth, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight.
Crutchfield assumed the West Liberty hoop helm in 2004. In his 13 seasons, his Hilltoppers compiled a 359-61 record (.855), the best winning percentage of all NCAA coaches with at least 10 years of experience.
Crutchfield guided West Liberty to 13 20-plus win seasons, five 30-plus win campaigns, seven straight Sweet Sixteen appearances and four straight Elite Eight berths. He was named conference coach-of-the-year seven times and national coach-of-the-year twice.
GREIG PAETZOLD aced the No. 14 hole at Belmont Hills Country Club on March 22. He used a gap wedge on the 108-yard par 3. The hole-in-one was witnessed by Dave Diosi, Anthony Reasbeck and Larry Landtiser. It was Paetzold’s ninth career hole-in-one.
THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce is holding a Fall Chamber Banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Martins Ferry Recreation Center at 6 p.m. Featured speaker will be Rich Donnelly. The Steubenville native has coached at the Major League Baseball level for several teams, and owns a World Series ring while assisting Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins. He also has a best-selling book – “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.” In conjunction with the banquet, the Martins Ferry Chamber is selling copies of that book at a reduced price. Book sales are moving briskly. For more information on the banquet or the book, call the chamber office at 740-633-2565. Donnelly’s latest coaching gig is manager for the New York Mets’ Class A-advanced affiliate farm team in Port St. Lucie (Fl). He coached the Pittsburgh Pirates with Leyland from 1986-96.
THE NCAA transfer portal has been very good to Ohio State. If getting star quarterback Justin Fields wasn’t a big enough jackpot, adding Oklahoma grad transfer running back Terry Sermon while the Buckeye hoop program added 6-7 wing Seth Towns from Harvard is a treasure chest of talent. Towns, a former Columbus Northland High star, was tabbed the Ivy League player-of-the-year this season.
BELLA CICOGNA had another exceptional prep winning season in Georgia. The Johns Creek standout was named all-state again in Class 6A in the 200 MR. Bella is the daughter of Shadyside native and former St. John Central football and track standout Sam Cicogna. Her grandfather, Robert (Chic), still resides in Shadyside.
I AM a big Alex Vargo fan. The Wheeling Park all-stater has chosen Youngstown State to continue his basketball and academic careers. I have no doubt it will be a successful venture. In addition to excellent court skills, he personifies character and tireless work ethic. The 6-5 dandy finished his Patriot career with 1,634 career points, second in school annals to his coach, Michael Jebbia.
POSTPONING THE Tokyo Olympics until 2021 was a no-brainer.
BUCKEYE TRAIL Athletic Director Aaron Bates has resigned that position and will move into an administrative role within the East Guernsey School District.