WEST LIBERTY,W.Va. (WTRF) – West Liberty University assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Lamberti has been hired as the head coach at Western Colorado University, an NCAA Division II program located in Gunnison, Colo.

    Western Colorado Director of Athletics Miles Van Hee announced Lamberti’s hiring on Thursday. The Mountaineers’ new head coach replaces WCU alum Brad Schafer, who stepped down last month after nine seasons at the helm. A member of the highly-competitive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Western Colorado is coming off a 4-22 season and has not finished above .500 since 1999.

    “We are thrilled to have Michael joining the Mountaineer family as our head men’s basketball coach,” Van Hee said. “Mike is absolutely one of the most progressive, up and coming coaches in Division II. He is a proven winner who brings a passion like no other to the sport of basketball and he comes to us from one of the winningest basketball programs in the division.”

    Lamberti spent the last five years as an assistant coach at his alma mater. During his time on Coach Ben Howlett’s staff, he helped lead West Liberty to a staggering 135-21 record along with five straight Mountain East Conference titles and five consecutive NCAA bids.

    This year’s Hilltopper squad swept the MEC regular season and tournament championships for the second straight season and was ranked No. 5 in the final NABC Coaches’ Top 25. West Liberty dominated the NCAA D2 Atlantic Region Tournament, punching its ticket to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind. with a 70-53 rout of No. 3-ranked Indiana (Pa.) on the Crimson Hawks’ home floor.

    The Hilltoppers opened Elite Eight play with a 95-58 quarterfinal rout of New Haven (Conn.) and followed that up with an 87-82 win against Black Hills State (S.D.) before falling to unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Nova Southeastern (Fla.), 111-101, in the highest-scoring national championship game in history.

    “I’m extremely happy to see Mike getting a head coaching opportunity,” Howlett said. “I know that’s something every assistant coach dreams about so this is a very special day for Mike and his family. He’s been a big part of our success here and we’re extremely appreciative of everything he’s done for our program and our university. I wish Mike nothing but the best as he moves forward in his career.”

    Lamberti played in 123 games at West Liberty from 2012-16, racking up more than 700 points and 400 rebounds. During his career, the Hilltoppers won four conference championships and three regional titles, played in three Elite Eights and made a run to the 2014 national championship game.

    An outstanding student, Lamberti graduated with a double-major in Finance and Accounting in 2016. He earned his master’s degree at Embry-Riddle (Fla.) while serving as a graduate assistant. In his two seasons as a basketball GA, Lamberti helped the Eagles complete a successful transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II before answering Howlett’s call to return to his alma mater.   

    Lamberti is married to former West Liberty women’s basketball standout Emily Bucon. The couple’s first child, Vincenzo, will celebrate his first birthday this summer.