Record-setting West Liberty University head men’s basketball coach Jim Crutchfield was honored as the eighth recipient of the Wheeling YMCA’s “Light of the Valley” award during an Aug. 13 luncheon at the White Palace in Wheeling Park, attended by hundreds of well-wishers and community leaders.
Crutchfield was introduced at the event by WLU Director of Athletics Jim Watson. Coming off yet another storybook season on the Hilltopper hardwood, his powerhouse squad posted its fourth consecutive 30-win season and rolled all the way to the NCAA Division II national championship game before dropping a heartbreaker to Central Missouri.
A two-time National Coach of the Year, Crutchfield has the highest career winning percentage (272-49, .847) in NCAA men’s basketball history for any coach with 10 or more seasons at NCAA schools.
In addition to claiming its eight national scoring title in the past nine years, his West Liberty team has reeled off five straight conference championships along with an unprecedented four consecutive NCAA Division II Atlantic Region titles.
Former NBA player and Duke University star Chris Duhon was the featured speaker.
Proceeds from the “Light of the Valley” luncheon are used to help fund the organization’s various youth and adult projects in the Wheeling area.
More Crutchfield Facts:
- Began his career as coach and teacher at Cameron High School, where he spent 10 years. He remains the winningest basketball coach in Cameron history.
- Won 11 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and eight WVIAC Tennis Coach of the Year awards as coach of the West Liberty men’s and women’s tennis teams.
- Began his basketball coaching career at WLU in 2004 as a men’s basketball assistant and head coach of the tennis team. He took over the program, and set a single-season for victories this past season with a 34-2 record.
- Under Crutchfield, WLU has been ranked in the Top 10 for 44 consecutive weeks, and in the Top 25 for 66 consecutive weeks. Both are the longest such streaks in the nation.
- A Clarksburg native, he and his wife, Diana, have two daughters, Caroline and Allison.
To view TV-7 coverage of the event, please click here.
To read the page one Wheeling Intelligencer/News-Register coverage of the event see below:
Crutchfield Honored As Light of the Valley
By J.W. JOHNSON JR., City Editor
WHEELING – Almost exactly 26 years ago, West Liberty University Athletic Director Jim Watson was settling in to his new position. He recalls sitting in his office and seeing a young man in the lobby, waiting for someone. That young man was Jim Crutchfield, and he happened to be waiting for Watson.
“He was very patient,” Watson said of his first meeting with Crutchfield. “He was interested in transitioning from the high school setting to the college setting.”
Eventually, Watson hired Crutchfield as the school’s tennis coach and racquet sports instructor. More than two decades later, that hire has paid off for Watson and the university, as Crutchfield brought numerous tennis titles to the school before transitioning to his award-winning career as the head basketball coach.
“Eight (tennis) conference championships later, I began to realize I’ve got something special here,” Watson said of Crutchfield. “This is a guy who’s good at anything he does.”
For his contributions to the university and the Northern Panhandle, Crutchfield was honored Wednesday as the eighth recipient of the annual YMCA Light of the Valley during a luncheon at Wheeling Parkás White Palace. The designation is given to the Dr. Lee Jones “Patron of Youth” award winner, with the award given to someone whose life reflects his or her contributions and dedication to the quality of life for the youth and families of the local community. Previous honorees include Robert Contraguerro Sr., G. Randolph “Randy” Worls, the late Bishop Bernard Schmitt, Bob Robinson, Robert Nutting, Gary West, and the Ohio County commissioners and County Administrator Greg Stewart.
Watson said Crutchfield was more than deserving of the award. While his coaching career has brought unprecedented statistics and accomplishments, Watson said Crutchfield’s ability to work with the student athletes is his best trait.
“Without that ability today, you don’t get very far in this business,” Watson said. “It’s a tough racket given today’s society and circumstances that we have to deal with.”
Crutchfield said he was both honored and surprised he received the distinction, as he feels there is still much to do to give back to his friends, family and the community.
“In all honesty, as I look back on my life, if you made a ledger of what you’ve received and what you’ve given, I think I’ve received more than I’ve given,” he said. “I’ve always just been very fortunate.”
He cited his parents as examples of individuals whom he can never repay. However, there is always another option when payback won’t work, he said.
“The only option you have is to pay it forward,” he said. “I know I have a lot of paying it forward to do, and I’m going to try to do that.”
The hundreds of attendees at Wednesday’s luncheon personified Crutchfield’s message, as a check for $55,000 was presented to YMCA Executive Director Mike Panas. The funds will be used to support YMCA activities and programs in the coming year. In addition to honoring Crutchfield, the event featured former Duke University and NBA player Chris Duhon, who spoke personally about how the YMCA impacted his life as a child in New Orleans.
“Growing up in Louisiana, the YMCA … helped me to get to where I am today,ã Duhon said. âHaving a place to go and people that care about you, that treat you as family, to give you a place to not be in trouble out in the streets or give you a gym to shoot in, … to be in a safe place is definitely beneficial and gives these kids the hope, the dream, that they can do whatever they put their minds to and to have that success.”