|James Whitford Bio|
Courtesy: Ball State Athletics
James Whitford completed his third season as the Ball State men’s basketball head coach in 2015-16, leading a resurgence in the Cardinals’ program.
Ball State finished the season 21-14 and shared the Mid-American Conference West Division championship with a 10-8 league mark. The Cardinals earned a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) and reached the quarterfinals.
It marked Ball State’s first 20-win season and first postseason appearance in 14 years. Coming on the heels of a seven-win campaign in 2014-15, the Cardinals’ turnaround ranked as the fourth-largest of any team in the nation.
Ball State ended the 2015-16 season at No. 150 in the Ken Pomeroy rankings, marking its best finish since the 2004-05 campaign. The Cardinals, who were picked last in the MAC preseason poll, tied the school record for games played in a season with 35.
Ball State led the MAC in scoring defense (66.8) while ranking second in the league and 40th nationally in field goal percentage defense (.405). Offensively, Ball State hit the second-most 3-pointers in school history (305) and finished as the MAC’s top assist team during league play at 14.7 per game.
Whitford came incredibly close to winning MAC Coach of the Year honors, finishing second to Akron’s Keith Dambrot. He tied Dambrot with 14 first-place votes but ended up one point behind the Akron coach in total points (111-110).
Whitford was introduced as the 19th men's basketball coach in Ball State history on April 10, 2013. In his career as an assistant coach at Arizona, Xavier and Miami University, his teams posted an overall record of 400-208, reached the NCAA tournament 10 times and played in the postseason 13 times.
“We are thrilled to add James Whitford to the Ball State family as our new men’s basketball head coach,” former Ball State director of intercollegiate athletics Bill Scholl said upon Whitford's hiring. “In a very talented pool of candidates, James separated himself from the pack based on the success he has experienced at multiple institutions and the vision he has for Ball State basketball.”
Whitford laid the foundation for the future at Ball State during his first two years, installing his system and ramping up the Cardinals' recruiting efforts. His first two Ball State teams were heavy on youth, with the 2014-15 squad ranking among the 25 youngest in the country. Both teams featured the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, including Sean Sellers in 2014-15.
Whitford signed a 2014 freshman class that included three state champions, a prep school national runner up and, for the first time at Ball State since 1996, two Indiana All-Stars. Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow said of the group, “Ball State’s 2014 recruiting class is one of the best mid-major recruiting classes in the country. The future is bright in Muncie.”
Whitford has now recruited four former Indiana All-Stars to Ball State -- Sellers, Jeremie Tyler, Tahjai Teague and Tayler Persons. In the decade prior to Whitford's arrival, the Cardinals signed a total of three Indiana All-Stars. The 2015-16 season marked the first time the Ball State roster included four Indiana All-Stars since 2001-02.
Whitford served four years on the staff at Arizona, including his final two as the associate head coach. He was with Arizona head coach Sean Miller for eight seasons, dating back to Miller's days guiding the Xavier program.
Whitford also brought more than a decade of experience with the MAC, having served on the staff at Miami University under Herb Sendek and Charlie Coles for 11 seasons before joining Miller at Xavier.
“In my mind, Ball State offers the best combination of academic excellence, basketball tradition, outstanding arena and fan support of any school in the Mid-American Conference," Whitford said at his introductory press conference. "When you add the unparalleled recruiting base in the state of Indiana and the great teaching those high school players receive from their various coaches, this job became one I targeted."
Whitford helped Arizona to an average of 27 wins per season over his final three years in Tucson, including a 30-win campaign in 2010-11 that featured a Pac-10 Conference championship and an appearance in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats concluded the 2012-13 season with a mark of 27-8 (12-6 Pac-12) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Whitford served as recruiting coordinator at Arizona and helped the program consistently land nationally ranked signing classes. The Wildcats' 2012 class was rated as high as third in the country.
Whitford was in charge of developing Arizona's post players, one of whom, Derrick Williams, became the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. He also led the defensive coordination for a Wildcats team that allowed fewer than 64 points per game in each of his final two seasons. The 2012-13 Arizona team outscored its opponents by nearly 10 points per game.
“James is a tireless worker and a relentless recruiter who has helped Miami, Xavier and Arizona all experience tremendous success within their respective conferences and the NCAA Tournament,” Scholl said. “He prides himself in developing young men on and off the basketball court and has an infectious positive energy that will be great for our program.”
Before heading West, Whitford helped the Xavier program to an impressive run during his four years in Cincinnati. The Musketeers posted an overall record of 103-35, won three Atlantic 10 Conference championships and played in the NCAA Tournament all four years. The 2007-08 Xavier team reached the Elite Eight.
Whitford joined the staff at Xavier after working his way up the ranks at Miami, starting as an administrative assistant for two seasons from 1994-96 and rising to the top assistant position under Coles from 1998-2005.
He was a part of three NCAA Tournament appearances at Miami, including the RedHawks' 1999 Sweet 16 run. Miami won four MAC regular season championships during his time in Oxford, Ohio, and posted an overall record of 201-130.
A native of Madison, Wis., Whitford earned his start in college basketball as a manager at Wisconsin and graduated from the school in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He earned a master’s degree in sports studies from Miami in 1996.
Whitford and Amber Stocks, an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, have two sons, Liam and Spencer.