Jim Crutchfield, who built the West Liberty University men’s basketball program into one of the nation’s premier NCAA Division II powerhouses, has resigned as head coach of the Hilltoppers.
West Liberty President Dr. Stephen Greiner announced Tuesday that Crutchfield has accepted the head coaching job at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“For West Liberty University, it’s the end of an era,” Dr. Greiner said. “Jim Crutchfield has put Hilltopper basketball on the national stage and we are forever grateful to him for the many contributions he’s made to West Liberty University, our entire community, and the state of West Virginia.
“Jim is a class act and a true gentleman and even though we regret losing such a quality coach and quality human being, we congratulate him and thank him for everything he’s done as a basketball coach and great mentor to so many young men and alumni. He leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.”
Taking the head coaching reins in 2004 after several years as an assistant basketball coach and head tennis coach at West Liberty, Crutchfield enjoyed an incredible 13-year run. The 2-time NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year has compiled the highest winning percentage in college basketball history (359-61, .855) among coaches with 10 or more years at NCAA schools.
His teams posted 13 straight 20-win seasons, cracked the 30-win barrier five times and were a fixture at or near the top of the NCAA Division II Coaches’ Top 25. The Hilltoppers have been ranked in every NCAA Division II Top 25 since Feb. 2, 2010. That 112-week run is the longest in the history of the NCAA Division II polls. West Liberty has been ranked No. 1 in the nation at some point in each of the past seven seasons. The Hilltoppers’ 45 No. 1 ranking over that span are the most of any Division II program.
Crutchfield’s teams have been no strangers to the regional and national spotlight. Along with leading West Liberty to seven straight conference championships, Crutchfield guided the Black and Gold to nine NCAA Division II Tournament bids and seven consecutive Sweet 16s. His Hilltoppers advanced to five NCAA Division II Elite Eight championship tournaments, played in three Final Fours and made it all the way to the 2014 national championship game, dropping a heartbreaker to Central Missouri.
His players collected numerous individual accolades on the basketball court, running the gamut from All-Conference to All-Region and All-American, and were just as successful in the classroom. The Hilltopper program has produced at least one NCAA Division II Academic All-American in each of the past five seasons.
Crutchfield said the decision to leave the hilltop was one of the hardest choices he has ever made.
“I’ve been at West Liberty almost half my life so this was certainly a very emotional decision,” Crutchfield said. “The West Liberty basketball fans are incredible. Their support never ceases to amaze me and the camaraderie of the people I have worked with is priceless. I have always been proud of my players – not just their performance on the court but because of the type of people they are.
“I always thought I would like for the basketball program to be in great shape when I stepped down and I’m happy to say that is certainly the case in every respect. I know I can’t say enough thank-yous to all the fans, players, co-workers and dear friends that I have been so fortunate to know. I have also been blessed with tremendous assistant coaches who had an enormous hand in our success over the years. I’m just a lucky guy.
“In closing, I hope to always be a part of West Liberty University. West Liberty University will always be a part of me.”