By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
You would think Jim Crutchfield would be a great candidate for a head basketball coach’s job at an NCAA Division I university.
But the Clarksburg, W.Va., native keeps saying that he’s perfectly content in that role at West Liberty, a Division II powerhouse. His 10-year record there is an absolutely amazing 272-49. Significantly, 10 of those defeats came in his first year at the West Liberty helm.
“We’re very happy here, believe me,” said Crutchfield on the phone during a brief friendly chat. “We really like living in the Wheeling area.”
His wife, Diana, has a law practice in Moundsville, W.Va.
Jim is a 1978 graduate of West Virginia University.
He recently tied a record by winning a fourth consecutive West Virginia College Coach of the year award. It’s selected by vote of the state’s sports writers association.
While the award is named in this scribe’s honor, I have just one first-place vote in the writers’ balloting. But Doug Huff, well-known retired sports editor, will tell you this year’s voting was one of the closest competitively that he can recall.
Mike Carey, the highly successful WVU women’s basketball coach, finished second in the voting this year. His team posted a program-best 30-4 record and a share of the Big 12 regular season championship.
Doc Holliday, the head football mentor at Marshall University, wound up in third place. He guided the Thundering Herd to a 10-4 record, including a win over favored Maryland in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md.
His fourth-in-a-row triumph ties Crutchfield with former Marshall football coach Bob Pruett (1991-2000). The legendary retired Fairmont State men’s basketball coach Joe Retton has won this award a record five times.
West Liberty’s Hilltoppers, 31-4 in 2014, have won 30 or more games for the fourth consecutive time under the vastly popular Crutchfield’s guidance.
In the process, those teams attracted nationwide attention by averaging more than 100 points a game. That’s definitely another distinction for Crutchfield’s glowing coaching creditability.
This brand of basketball reminds me of the fast-breaking, high-scoring style I covered at WVU in the Jerry West, Hot Rod Hundley and Rod Thorn era.
Not even those great team’s averaged 100 points, though.
Crutchfield has another rare achievement in that all 10 of his teams won 21 or more games a season.
West Liberty University finished as NCAA Division II national runner-up this season.
Those folks who know Crutchfield better and longer than I will tell you he’s not only an excellent coach but a class-act gentleman.
He will receive his West Virginia College Coach of the year trophy at the state sports writers’ 68th annual Victory Awards Dinner on Sunday, May 4.
Huff expects a large turnout of college and high school sports honorees and numerous parents. It will be held at the Charleston Civic Center, beginning at 4pm.
Tickets priced at $20 must be purchased in advance in the sports department of any daily state newspaper.