MAGNOLIA FAYETTEVILLE — Chris Crutchfield is leaving his position as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Arkansas to become head coach at East Central (Okla.) University, an NCAA Division II program in Ada. East Central is part of the Great American Conference, which is also home to SAU along with 10 other schools from Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Crutchfield was announced as East Central’s coach in a news release from the school on Monday. He is leaving Arkansas after one year on Coach Eric Musselman’s staff.
“I think I speak for the entire program by saying how happy we are that Coach Crutch has earned this well-deserved opportunity,” Musselman said in a statement. “Crutch made a positive impact with our student-athletes and we thank him for helping us lay the foundation for a successful future.
“East Central University is getting a high-quality coach and even better mentor to develop young men.”
Crutchfield was an assistant coach at Oklahoma for eight years before Musselman hired him to be on his first Arkansas staff. He spent the last year as the associate head coach, helping the Razorbacks to a 20-12 record. He also worked to develop Mason Jones, an Associate Press honorable mention All-America and AP co-SEC Player of the Year and was the first Razorback to lead the SEC in scoring (8th in the NCAA).
In a news release, Crutchfield thanked ECU President Katricia Pierson and Athletic Director Jeff Williams for offering him the Tigers’ head coaching job.
“My family and I are excited to impact our students-athletes in a positive way while competing for championships,” Crutchfield said. “I can’t wait to develop a relationship with our current student-athletes, alumni and the community of Ada.
“My family and I are looking forward to a successful work-life balance at ECU.”
Crutchfield is replacing Ja Havens, who left East Central to become the coach at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. Havens took over for Mark Downey, who left Northeastern State to become the coach at Arkansas Tech University.
East Central is a member of the Great American Conference, which also includes Arkansas Tech, Harding University, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas-Monticello.
“Numerous highly-qualified coaches expressed interest in this job,” Williams said in a news release. “Our committee is unanimous that Chris Crutchfield is the right fit for our program and 2020 is the right time for him to lead the Tigers forward.
“Our alumni, fans and campus community will be impressed with Coach Crutchfield as a person and the leadership he will bring to our basketball program.”
Crutchfield, a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., played basketball and football at the Nebraska-Omaha and began his coaching career as a football graduate assistant at Nebraska-Omaha after being a juvenile probation worker.
Crutchfield’s previous head coaching experience was at Tyler (Texas) Community College for two seasons from 1999-2001. He also was an assistant coach at Texas-San Antonio, New Mexico State, TCU and Oral Roberts.
By taking that job, he is returning to the state were he had worked the previous 12 seasons. Before coming to Arkansas, he was an assistant at Oklahoma under Lon Kruger. That followed a four-year stint at Oral Roberts under Scott Sutton.
At OU, Crutchfield was key in signing Buddy Hield and Trae Young. Hield was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, claimed the 2016 National Player of the Year in 2016 from four groups (John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, Sports News Player of the Year and the Oscar Robertson Trophy) and was the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Young was a consensus all-American, Wooden Award finalist and 2018 Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year.
It will actually be Crutchfield’s second head coaching job in the college ranks, as he spent two years in that role at Tyler (Texas) J.C. from 1999-2001.
He is the first member of Musselman’s first staff to leave the Razorbacks. When initially hired, Musselman said he targeted Crutchfield because of his experience recruiting the area and at the high-major DI level.
Crutchfield and his wife Jodi have three sons: Derrick, Jalen and Josh.