Story Courtesy of Wittenberg Sports Information Department
Wittenberg athletics has removed the interim tag from head men's basketball coach Matt Croci, officially making him the 19th head coach in school history, the university announced on Tuesday. Croci accepted the position of interim head coach after the resignation of long time head coach Bill Brown on June 2.
With 18 years of coaching experience, Croci holds the distinction of being the only individual to ever win honors as the NCAC Men's Basketball Player of the Year (1994) and Coach of the Year (2008). His name continues to appear frequently in the Tiger men's basketball record book.
"I am extremely honored and humbled to be named head men's basketball coach at my alma mater. The tradition and history of our program make this a special opportunity for me and my family," said Croci.
"Wittenberg has always been home to me, I look forward to guiding the program into the future and leading our student-athletes to reaching their full potential. I'd like to thank Dr. Helton, the Board of Trustees and Gary Williams for their support and trust in me to lead the program. I also appreciate the outpouring of support shown by our incredible basketball alumni."
This is the fourth time in the modern era that a Wittenberg basketball assistant coach has been elevated to head coach. Croci follows Eldon Miller, who took over for Ray Mears in 1962, after serving as an assistant under Mears in 1961. In 1970, Bob Hamilton took over for Miller, after serving as his assistant, and most recently Larry Hunter who served as Hamilton's assistant before taking over in 1976.
A 2005 inductee into the Wittenberg Athletics Hall of Honor, Croci is one of the finest basketball players in Wittenberg history. Between 1990 and 1994, Croci was a standout guard for the Tigers, who compiled a sparkling 98-14 four-year record and earned All-American status in 1994.
As a senior, Croci served as a co-captain of the only Tiger team to complete an undefeated run through the regular season. The 1994 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Year, Croci led the Tigers to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Croci served as the head coach at Kenyon College from 2004 to 2010. Prior to his arrival, Kenyon had not made an NCAC tournament appearance going on three years, but under Croci's tutelage, the Lords posted back-to-back top-four finishes for just the third time in program history, which earned him NCAC coach of the year honors in 2008.
During his time in Gambier, Croci saw all of his four-year players excel in the classroom, achieving a graduation rate of 100 percent. On the court, 14 of his players earned All-NCAC honors, including the 2009 NCAC Player of the Year who was also an All-American selection.
Croci's seven seasons at Kenyon also saw 2007 and 2008 NCAC Freshman of the Year selections in the NCAC, the first in Kenyon's school history, as well as a trip overseas to Italy to compete against some of the country's top competition.
"Over the past several months we had been discussing a transitional plan with our alumni, our current athletes, and our administration that included Matt. While Coach Brown's decision to leave happened sooner than we had originally discussed, our thoughts about who is best to lead our program in the future have not changed," said director of athletics Gary Williams.
"We have high expectations for our basketball program and a great tradition to uphold. I am pleased that Matt has accepted this responsibility and am confident he is the right person at this important transitional time to lead our team."
"A special thanks to Coach Brown for the two decades of tremendous leadership of our program and mentoring of so many great student-athletes. Coach's impact went far beyond the court and I know our alumni join me in thanking him for putting his life into running our program. I'm grateful Coach gave me an opportunity to get back on the bench at Witt and wish him, Kay and the family best of luck," said Croci.
"Lastly, I want to thank our players for being patient the last few weeks and trusting in the process."
The Toledo, Ohio native earned his bachelor's degree in English from Wittenberg in 1994, and he is currently finishing his master's in sports leadership from Northeastern University.
His wife, Patrice, is a 1995 Wittenberg graduate. They reside in Upper Arlington with their three children, Sophia, Cecilia, and Cameron.