By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Jim Crutchfield, whose basketball program at West Liberty University is the nation’s best in NCAA Division II, insists that there’s really no secret to his team’s soaring success.
The Hilltoppers not only lead the collegiate basketball world in scoring with an incredible 103-point average but also are No. 1 in marginal victory at 25-plus.
“I try to stay as local as I can in recruiting,” the 57-year-old Clarksburg native said. Most of his players come from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
He does have a lot of college coaches ask what he’s doing. “I think that’s because we are doing something different,” he admitted.
While Crutchfield isn’t sure his system is a secret, West Liberty’s high-scoring results testify that his players’ efforts are paying off in huge dividends.
“But it’s probably a lot of things that we do are a little bit different,” he stated.
Asked if there’s an emphasis on scoring in his system, Crutchfield replied:
“No. I think it’s more an emphasis on aggressive play both offensively and defensively. Our scoring is just like a byproduct. It happens when we play that way.”
He noted some teams averaging 60, 70, 80 points per game try to slow down the tempo when playing WLU. “But our defensive pressure usually dictates the tempo of the game,” he said.
“We go with pressure defensively and put the other team into position (where) it’s hard to hold onto the ball very long.
“That’s the kind of key I think that our tempo is good (because of) pressure defense.”
Crutchfield isn’t a coach, I’m told, who thrives on “pouring it on” with glee. But he readily admits that some of his wins certainly were one-sided.
So that does give him opportunities to empty his bench and use every player, and he likes that. It’s good for experience sake, at least.
Crutchfield, whose team posted a 34-2 record and ranked No. 1 in Division II this past year at season’s end, is looking ahead to his 10th year at West Liberty. His career basketball coaching record of 241-45 is the nation’s best, percentage wise, among all college basketball coaches at any level.
He has won numerous honors and awards, including a third consecutive time winner of the West Virginia Coach of the Year in any sport. He also was named by Basketball Times as the national Division II basketball Coach of the Year twice in the past three years.
There have been a few other coaching jobs which caught his interest. But he has decided he’s very happy and likes to stay where he is.
“I enjoy where I’m working,” he said. “I like the players. I like the people I am working with.
“I’m happy my family is in Wheeling. So I really haven’t focused on moving out to another job. I’m just happy where I’m at, and I don’t want to change that.”