MUNCIE, Ind. -- James Whitford was introduced as the 19th men’s basketball coach in Ball State history at a Wednesday morning press conference in the Alumni Lounge at Worthen Arena.
Whitford addressed a packed room full of media, community members and fans by saying the passion that exists for Ball State basketball is one of the key reasons he was interested in coaching the Cardinals.
“The turnout here today speaks volumes for this job,” Whitford said. “I wanted to be the head coach at Ball State and I wanted it because of the atmosphere like this. There is incredible passion for this program. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it.”
The 41-year-old Whitford is familiar with Ball State from his time as an assistant at fellow Mid-American Conference program Miami University and has experienced excitement in Worthen Arena.
"When the Ball State job opened up, my mouth was watering," Whitford said. "I was itching in my seat to get the job."
He is now stepping into his first head coaching job, but he is not light on experience. His hand in helping to create success at three previous assistant coaching stops, along with his reputation as a proven recruiter and his enthusiasm for the position, made him the choice for Ball State.
In Whitford, the Cardinals found someone who wanted to be a head coach and, as Ball State director of intercollegiate athletics Bill Scholl said, really wanted to be the head coach at Ball State. That made him the final target in the Cardinals’ national search.
“We scoured the country,” Scholl said. “We did truly go coast to coast, and I have to tell you the interest in this job was off the charts. This is a very exciting day I am thrilled about the days and weeks and months and seasons ahead of us.”
Most recently, Whitford served four years on the staff at the University of Arizona, including the past two as the Wildcats’ associate head coach. But he helped produce success long before his time in Tucson. He also served as an assistant coach at Miami and Xavier before following then-Musketeers’ head coach Sean Miller from Xavier to Arizona.
With those three schools combined, Whitford was on the staff for 12 teams that played in the postseason, including nine that made the NCAA Tournament. Over his past nine seasons as an assistant coach, he has made the postseason eight times.
In his eight years combined between Xavier and Arizona, Whitford helped his teams post an overall record of 199-78 for a .718 winning percentage.
Whitford has also learned under some top coaches from Herb Sendek and all-time MAC wins leader Charlie Coles at Miami to Miller at Xavier and Arizona. He has also worked alongside numerous assistants who have gone on to be head coaches.
"I have been fortunate to be with some of the best coaches in the country and have learned a tremendous amount from each," Whitford said. "I think the combination of the great coaches I have been around and the great teams I have been a part of has put me in position to be ready for this challenge here at Ball State."
Wednesday was a day heavy on introductions for Whitford, who met with Ball State athletic department members earlier in the morning. After the press conference, he headed off for a lunchtime session on campus to meet with students. He was then scheduled for an appearance Tuesday evening at the downtown Muncie YMCA to meet with community members.
A day earlier, Whitford met with his new team for the first time. He inherits a program that loses just two seniors -- Jauwan Scaife and Zach Fields -- from a team that finished 15-15 overall (8-8 MAC) this past season. The Cardinals have five seniors on the roster for next year.