No NCAA men’s basketball coach won games at a more prolific clip in his first decade than West Liberty University’s Jim Crutchfield.
Last year, Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers reached the Division II championship game, and he entered his 11th season with a 272-49 record. That’s an astronomical .847 win percentage. This season, fourth-ranked West Liberty sports a 24-2 record, putting Cructhfield’s career record at 296-51.
The only thing eluding West Liberty during this prolific run is a national championship, but, despite coming so close a year ago, it’s not a frequently discussed topic within the team.
“We never talk about a national championship or conference championship. Our goal is to win as many games as we can, try to win every game we play,” Crutchfield said. “We have two goals. One is to put a different product on the floor. We want to play a high-intensity game. Our other goal, as far as winning and losing goes, is we want to go into our conference tournament feeling like we’ve got a chance to win it.”
West Liberty will certainly be the favorite to win the Mountain East Conference championship when its tournament begins Wednesday. And its high-speed style of play gives the Division II program a level or national exposure rarely seen at that level.
As for that style, Crutchfield cut his coaching teeth at the small high school level. Before landing as an assistant basketball coach and men’s and women’s tennis coach at West Liberty, he was head coach at Cameron (W.Va.) High School through much of the 1980s.
If that school sounds familiar to readers of the Observer-Reporter sports section, it should. Cameron is a frequent opponent of West Greene and Jefferson-Morgan high schools.
Crutchfield hasn’t coached against those schools in some time, but he remembers the games well.
“I padded my record against those teams. I was undefeated versus Pennsylvania,” Crutchfield said with a laugh. “We always played West Greene, Jefferson-Morgan and Immaculate Conception, which I don’t think is there in Washington anymore.”
Cameron particularly enjoyed playing against Jefferson-Morgan.
“Our players always loved going into their gym” Crutchfield recalled. “Back then, they had a rim that was only 9 (feet), 10 (inches). Our guys thought they could dunk on it easier.”