Video of Jeremiah Johnson, Story by Ken Sothman
James Whitford has had experience coaching teams at Worthen Arena before, so coming into his introductory press conference as Ball State basketball’s new head coach, he had a pretty good idea how passionate the Cardinals fan base was.
And then, he was blown away.
“It is what I sensed and why I went after the job,” said Whitford. “They have a good fan base here. When I walked in, I expected a good press conference, but I didn’t expect that. It was really exciting, and I felt like a player running on the floor when I came in there.”
Whitford, most recently an assistant at the University of Arizona for four years, met for the first time a completely filled Alumni Lounge at Worthen Arena of fans, students, and media as head coach of the program on Wednesday afternoon. The new head coach will be taking over the program after Billy Taylor, who finished with an 84-99 record over six seasons, was fired in the middle of March after a 15-15 season. Before introducing his new head coach, Ball State Athletic Director Bill Scholl had some kind words for Taylor.
“I was not here when Billy came on board,” said Scholl.
“But I heard somethings about our program, and there is no doubt in my mind that Billy and his staff left this program a lot better than they found it. I have to tell you, as we talked to candidates throughout the search through this progress, that was known to them. One of the reasons this job was of such great interest was because of the job that Billy left it in. So thank you very much, to him and his staff.”
From there on out the floor was there for Whitford to shine, and the 41-year old coach brought all the energy you could hope for to his first press conference as a head coach of a basketball program. Whitford laid the groundwork of his plans to carry the program to the next level, ranging from finding kids to play for him who truly love the game of basketball, all the way to how he will make an attempt to become a community figure both on campus and in the city of Muncie.
But perhaps most importantly to him, and something the Ball State Cardinals may have been missing out on in the past few years, is his interest in recruiting some of the top kids in the state to play basketball at Ball State University.
“There are a lot of players in the state of Indiana,” said Whitford.
“I was a coach at Xavier, and when I was at Xavier we went to the Elite Eight with nine players who could drive within two hours to our campus. We aren’t that far away, and I’m sure we could do the same thing here. There is more than enough talent in and around the area for us to be successful. You look around this year, and you have Michigan State and Indiana who both were competing for the same players yet had incredible success. I’m confident that there are enough players in the area to have the type of success that we want to have.”
Along with Arizona and Xavier, Whitford has served as an assistant at Miami, and has been part of twelve staffs that have lead teams to postseason tournaments, including nine to the NCAA tournament.