The Times West Virginian

Sports

May 17, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Crutchfield ‘miracle man’ at West Liberty

MORGANTOWN — Jim Crutchfield, who learned the value of “aggressive defense” in basketball as a player at the old Roosevelt-Wilson High School in Clarksburg, continues to parlay that play phase with others to lead the nation in scoring as well as achieve smashing success as an NCAA Division II head coach.

His West Liberty University basketball team posted a 34-2 record and averaged an amazing 103 points per game last season. That amazing average topped all of the country’s hoops teams in every college classification.

What’s more, West Liberty ranked No. 1 nationally in Division II at regular season’s end, and advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals for the second time in three years.

Crutchfield, who at age 57 must be one of college basketball’s most honored coaches, led this year’s club to a fourth consecutive West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship as the Hilltoppers paced all Division II schools in scoring for the eighth time in nine years.

The Clarksburg native not only was named state college coach of the year by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association for a third straight time, but Basketball Times named him as National Division II Coach of the Year for the second time in three years.

Thanks to Doug Huff of Wheeling, the state leader of sports writers, this one had the honor and privilege to sit next to Crutchfield during the recent Victory Awards Dinner in Clarksburg. It was a most enjoyable evening for me.

He not only struck this old scribe as a great coach, but also as a class act and gentleman.

The West Liberty mentor’s career college coaching record is 244-45. It is the best, percentage-wise, among the nation’s basketball coaches at any level, according to Huff.

Crutchfield, who’s a non-athletics-playing graduate of West Virginia University in 1988, taught mathematics and coached basketball for 10 years at Cameron High School.

It was after that stint that he joined West Liberty as head tennis coach and assistant basketball coach. His tennis teams also were very successful, winning numerous conference titles.

Jim and his wife, Diana, also a Clarksburg native, have two grown daughters. They are Caroline and Allison.

Mrs. Crutchfield, who is a WVU graduate, serves as an attorney in a Moundsville law firm with state Senate President Jeff Kessler. She also teaches criminal justice classes at West Liberty University.

That school had only two 20-victory seasons in history before Crutchfield took over the reins, and he has guided the Hilltoppers to nine consecutive 20-win seasons including the last three of more than 30 wins.

His impact obviously has had an absolutely historic impact on that Wheeling-area university’s history.

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