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Crutchfield has never forgotten his grooming

MOUNDSVILLE — He is the architect of two basketball powers. He has the highest winning percentage of any college basketball coach who has been in the business for at least 10 years. He is well-grounded and one of the nicest individuals you will ever meet.

He is Jim Crutchfield.

The former West Liberty University and current Nova Southeastern hoop coach was the featured speaker Thursday night at the annual Marshall County Chamber of Commerce dinner at the former state penitentiary.

Just as he does on the hardwood, Crutchfield captivated the large turnout by mixing his basketball journey with his Marshall County foundation. He is a Clarksburg native but heavily steeped in Cameron grooming.

“The turning point in my life was taking the basketball coaching job at Cameron. I was 23 and already signed up to attend law school. In fact, I had already started classes,” Crutchfield noted. “I had a plan. I figured I would coach a while and then go back to law school. I am now 63 and just signed a contract extension. So it looks doubtful I will return to law school.

“I had so much fun in my 10 years at Cameron. I met so many special people that had an impact on me,” he added. “It was an incredible time for me.”

These are very good times for the classy coach. The past year was quite eventful, in addition to Nova’s court success.

“I was contacted by (Miami Heat head coach) Eric Spoelstra. He came up and we talked basketball for five hours,” he said. “Then I was invited by (Boston Celtics head coach) Brad Stevens to come to Boston and speak at a basketball forum. It was an incredible event.”

Crutchfield noted that he really didn’t have one basketball role model to script his career. Rather, he gleaned key coaching principles he has implemented into his programs from three coaches.

“I went to a clinic in Wheeling put on by Dematha High coach Morgan Wootten. He did a drill where one player had the ball at halfcourt and had to go make a layup. The defender was at the far baseline and was instructed to sprint and catch the shot before it hit the ground,” Crutchfield said. “The player was able to grab the rebound before it hit the floor. It taught me to force players to play harder.

“Then I was at home in Cameron watching an LSU game on my 25-inch TV. LSU was coached by Dale Brown and it was a close game in the final seconds. I watched Coach Brown during the timeout and he kept asking his players what they wanted to do. He looked like he had no idea what to do,” he added. “But I said to myself, ‘he is a great coach. He is smarter than me, so he must know what he is doing.’ So I realized how important it is to get your players involved. I created a circle of trust. I will ask my players ‘What can we do at practice today to help us win the game tomorrow?'”

Two of the hallmarks of Crutchfield’s teams are how hard they play and the fullcourt pressure they apply. He changed how he pressured teams after watching a college game in 1987.

“I was watching a Providence game when they made it to the Final Four. They were coached by Rick Pitino,” Crutchfield said. “At that time we were running an organized press. Either a diamond press or a 2-2-1 press.

“I watched Providence and their press was not real structured but created a great amount of chaos,” he added. “So we switched to a press that could create chaos. We want to create as much pandemonium as possible.”

Crutchfield compiled an amazing 359-61 mark at West Liberty for an .855 winning percentage, highest in college hoop history.

After his remarkable career on the hilltop, Crutchfield headed to the Sunshine State to assume the head post at Nova Southeastern, an NCAA Division II institution, as is West Liberty. The Fort Lauderdale-based Sharks were bottom feeders in the Sunshine State Conference the year prior to Crutchfield’s arrival, finishing 10th in an 11-team loop. They won just three of 18 conference games while finishing 6-20 overall.

Crutchfield’s impact was immediate and impressive. Nova won its first six games en route to a 17-10 finish, including an 11-9 conference mark, good for fourth place. That quick turnaround resulted in Crutchfield being named Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year.

That solid start proved a springboard to a tremendous second season. The Sharks went a sparkling 29-4 last winter, reaching many milestones along the way. Nova earned its first conference regular season title and gained its initial NCAA Tournament berth.

Crutchfield’s crew made the most of the post-season berth. The Sharks pocketed the NCAA South Region championship, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind.

Nova Southeastern is no longer under the radar in Crutchfield’s third year at the helm – not in the least. The Sharks enter the campaign ranked No. 2 nationally by the prestigious Street & Smith magazine.

Last year’s on-court success has yielded dividends when it comes to Nova recruiting.

“We had a great season and we were playing our best basketball going into the regionals to get the national tournament. That success has definitely affected our recruiting,” Crutchfield said. “We are getting into doors with players that we were never able to get into before. You never know about your freshmen until the season starts, but I feel I have never had more talent in a freshman class than I do now. The success we had last year all factored into them coming to Nova.”

“The (No. 2) rating is only preseason, and I do not know accurate that is. But I feel good about my team and I think we are as strong as since I have been here,” he added. “But we haven’t played yet. But the program has improved from top to bottom. I am proud of the ranking.”

While Crutchfield now calls Fort Lauderdale his coaching home, he still is a Marshall Countian at heart.

“I always love coming home. I spend my summers here. This is my home,” Crutchfield offered. “This is where I feel more comfortable. South Florida is great but I don’t feel at home like I do here.”

Crutchfield’s coaching accolades are numerous. Here are just a few:

* Two-time National Coach of the Year (2012, 2013)

* Three-time Atlantic Region Coach of the Year (2011, 2012, 2013)

* Seven-time Conference Coach of the Year (2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019)

* Four-time Furfari Award Winner for top college coach in the state of West Virginia for all sports (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

* CollegeInsider.com Top 25 Non-Division I Coaches in the nation (2011)

It’s a safe bet that more awards and honors will be coming his way.

BUBBA’S BITS

JACK COOK continues to author a tremendous season as the University of Dayton quarterback. He established a school record by tossing six TD passes as the Flyers routed Jacksonville last week. Cook completed 13-of-16 passes for 198 yards while rushing for 30. Cook is the son of Scott and Jen Cook. Scott was a standout hoopster for Shadyside High (1988 grad) while Jen is a St. Clairsville native.

OAKLAND UNIVERSITY (Mi.) assistant athletic director John (Giz) Ciszewski recorded a hole-in-one Monday on the No. 4 hole at Gowanie Country Club in Mount Clemens, Mi. He used a Callaway 4 hybrid to ace the 174-yard par 3. Ciszewski is a 1973 Shadyside High grad and 1977 Bethany College grad. Before going to Oakland University earlier this year, Ciszewski was a longtime front office executive with the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings. It is Ciszewski’s third career hole-in-one.

I WOULD like to believe the Browns cannot play any worse than they did Monday night against the 49ers. The proof will be in the pudding come today when they host the Seahawks. I like the Brownies to bounce back.

THE STEELERS, meanwhile, are mired in misery due to an epidemic of quarterback injuries and an untimely fumble in overtime against the Ravens.

PADEN CITY High School will be honoring its 1979 state football championship team at the homecoming game on Oct. 25. The Wildcats face Hancock (Md.) that night. Steve Deem, head coach of that title team, will be in attendance for the ceremony. The Wildcats went 12-0-1 that season, beating Bishop Donahue in the state championship game.

ZACH COLLAROS is on the move again in the CFL. The former Steubenville Big Red QB great has been traded from Toronto to Winnipeg. Collaros was acquired by Toronto in July from Saskatchewan in exchange for a conditional fourth round pick. The former University of Cincinnati star is 34-31 as a starter in the CFL with the Argos, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders. Collaros was 10-4 as a starter with Saskatchewan in 2018. He passed for 2,999 yards and nine TDs that season.

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