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Western Carolina Tabs Tim Craft as Head Men’s Basketball Coach



An experienced head coach with regional ties, Tim Craft was named head men’s basketball coach at Western Carolina University, announced on Wednesday by Director of Athletics Alex Gary. Craft spent the past 11 years as the head coach at Gardner-Webb where he averaged over 17 wins per season.

 

Craft, whose contract was approved by the WCU Board of Trustees on Wednesday evening, becomes the 20th men’s basketball head coach in Western Carolina history.

 

Craft will be formally introduced to the Catamount Nation at a special on-campus introductory press conference on Tuesday, March 19, at 2 p.m. in the Ramsey Center Hospitality Room. A live stream of the event will be provided through the Catamount Athletics Facebook page (www.FB.com/catamountsports) and YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/catamountsports) with a link also available online at CatamountSports.com.

 

"We are excited to welcome Tim and Jessica Craft, and their children Lola, Macy, Bennett, and Christian, to Western Carolina University," said Director of Athletics Alex Gary. "Not only has Tim proven to be a great basketball coach with the ‘X’s and O’s,’ he is someone who cares deeply about his players and gets the most out of them. He is ready to get to work and we look forward to him leading the Western Carolina basketball program for years to come. We are grateful to our leadership in Chancellor Kelli R. Brown and the WCU Board of Trustees for their support during this process."

 

Including a pair of 20-win seasons, Craft led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to eight.500-or-better overall finishes during his tenure. His 2018-19 Big South tournament championship squad won 23 games including two over ACC-foes Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, finishing the season ranked No. 25 in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll. In 2014-15, GWU finished with 20 wins with a pair of Power Five conference wins at Clemson and Purdue.

 

All told, Craft’s teams won six games against Power Five conference opponents. He also secured wins over his new team, Western Carolina, in each of the past three seasons dating back to 2021.

 

Just the fourth Big South head coach to win at least 15 games in each of his first four seasons – and the 10th coach to reach 50 overall wins through his third year – Craft won 188 games during his tenure at Gardner-Webb including 102 in league play to rank fourth all-time among the all-time winningest coaches in conference history. He guided the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a pair of postseason appearances including the College Basketball Insider (CBI) tournament in 2015 and the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 2018-19.

 

The only Big South head coach to post 10 seasons of 10 or more league wins in conference history, Craft’s squads did not finish below sixth in the Big South Conference standings during his tenure.

 

Runnin’ Bulldog men’s basketball student-athletes earned a combined 26 All-Big South Conference postseason honors between the first and second teams, honorable mentions, and all-freshman plaudits over his 11 seasons leading the GWU program. Six of his players collected multiple seasonal awards from the league’s head coaches including three-time All-Big South honorees Tyrell Nelson (All-Freshman, 2013-14; 2nd team 2015-16, ‘16-17) and David Efianayi (HM, 2016-17; 2nd team 2017-18, ‘18-19). Also this past season, Lucas Streiber became just the third Gardner-Webb player to collect the Big South’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor – and the second under Craft as Will Byron earned the distinction back in 2013-14.

 

“We are thrilled to be joining the Catamount Family and the Cullowhee community. We can’t wait to hit the ground running to continue the recent success and rise of this program,” said Craft. “Western Carolina basketball will be a source of pride and excitement for the athletics department, the campus, the community, and everyone that loves the Catamounts!”

 

Craft added, “I am very thankful for the belief that Chancellor Brown and Director of Athletics, Alex Gary have in me to lead this program, and it will be an honor to represent this great institution.”

 

Most recently coming as the head coach, Craft had a pair of stints at Gardner-Webb, first as an assistant coach from 2004-07 before joining Jeff Lebo’s staff at Auburn as the director of basketball operations in 2007-08. He was promoted by Lebo to an assistant coaching role the following season where he spent two years on the Plains until making the move to ECU with his head coach.

 

Auburn averaged 18 wins per season with Craft on staff over three years. The 2008-09 Tigers finished with the second-most wins in program history by going 24-12 and placed second in the Southeastern Conference with a 10-6 record. That squad reached the quarterfinals of the NIT in postseason play.

 

While at ECU, Craft helped the Pirates to its best season in school history in 2012-13, as the Pirates won a school-record 23 games and capped the run with the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) championship.

 

During his three-year stint as an assistant at Gardner-Webb, Craft mentored four all-conference performers for the Runnin’ Bulldogs in the ASUN Conference. He recruited and coached Tim Jennings, the program’s first two-time ASUN Defensive Player of the Year, as a part of assembling a Top 50 national recruiting class at GWU in 2006. He was part of Gardner-Webb’s first team title as an NCAA Division I program, winning the ASUN regular-season title in 2004-05, advancing to the conference title game. The regular-season crown represented the first ASUN title for GWU in any sport.

 

Craft began his coaching career as the assistant varsity coach and the head junior varsity coach at Robert F. Munroe School in Quincy, Fla., in 2000-01, and was later promoted to head varsity coach at Munroe in 2001-02. He made the move into the collegiate ranks in 2002-03 as an assistant at Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College (PJC) under head coach Paul Swanson. While at PJC, the Pirates posted a 20-win season and were ranked as high as No. 13 nationally during the 2003-04 season.

 

Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., Craft earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in secondary education from the University of Florida in 2000. He is married to the former Jessica Arenas of Tallahassee, Fla. The couple has four children – Lola, Macy, Bennett, and Christian.

 

COACHING CAREER:

Western Carolina, Head Coach                                                                  2024-

Gardner-Webb, Head Coach                                                                  2013-24

East Carolina, Assistant Coach                                                             2010-13

Auburn, Assistant Coach                                                                          2008-10

Auburn, Director of Basketball Operations                                      2007-08

Gardner-Webb, Assistant Coach                                                          2004-07

Pensacola Junior College, Assistant Coach                                    2002-04

Robert F. Munroe School, Varsity Boys Head Coach                   2001-02

Robert F. Munroe School, Asst. Varsity / Head JV Coach          2000-01

 

Coaching Career Highlights:

  • Secured 188 career head coaching wins at Gardner-Webb – fourth all-time among head coaches within the Big South Conference, by-passing former Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey this season and sitting three wins ahead of Barclay Radebaugh, the active head coach at Charleston Southern;

  • Became the fourth coach in Big South history to win at least 15 games in his first four seasons … 10th coach in league history to reach 50 overall victories in his third season in the conference … and the only coach in Big South Conference history to have 10 seasons of 10 or more victories in league play;

  • His Gardner-Webb teams scored SIX Power Five victories over Clemson (ACC), Georgia (SEC), Georgia Tech (ACC), Nebraska (Big Ten), Purdue (Big Ten), and Wake Forest (ACC);

  • Led Gardner-Webb to a pair of postseason appearances during his tenure: guided the Runnin’ Bulldogs to the CBI in 2014-15 – just the school’s second postseason bid in its NCAA Division I history … Led Gardner-Webb to the program’s first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in 2019 … In that first-round game, built the largest lead of the tournament over eventual national champion Virginia as the Runnin’ Bulldogs led the Cavaliers by 14 points;

  • Finalist for the 2020 Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, which is presented annually to recognize those who not only achieve success on the court but also display moral integrity off it as well;

  • Was a finalist for the 2014 Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year head coach in college basketball by CollegeInsider.com;

  • Was part of an East Carolina men’s basketball staff that won 23 games in 2012-13 including winning the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) championship.

 

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT TIM CRAFT:

 

“Tim and his family are a perfect fit for Western Carolina. He is a proven winner who will bring dedication, hard work, and a competitive spirit to Catamount basketball. Western Carolina hit a home run in Tim Craft.”

– Jeff Lebo, Assistant Coach at North Carolina – former head coach at East Carolina & Auburn

 

“Western Carolina made a tremendous decision by hiring Tim Craft. Tim has proven himself to be a program builder, consistently leading his teams to success. Not only is he a winner, but he also possesses a deep understanding of the game, making him an exceptional teacher in practice – where games are won! Tim’s ability to connect with his players is evident in his relatability, and his firm and honest approach earns him the respect of his team. Furthermore, his keen awareness of his team’s strengths and weaknesses allows him to develop winning game plans and strategies. Overall, Western Carolina made a wise choice in selection Tim Craft, as his impressive qualities as a person and head coach make him an indispensable hire for the program.”

- Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Recruiting Director

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