By David Rogers. March 13, 2015. BOSTON, MA — On the surface, a 33% increase in the number of wins from one basketball season to the next — especially when it is for a team still with a losing record — may not seem like such a big deal. Take into consideration that the improvement was with a depleted roster from the year before, and that all 12 wins were against NCAA Division I opponents (compared to just five wins against D-I foes a year ago), and the achievement is worth recognizing.
COVER IMAGE: Head coach Jim Fox (photographic image by Brad Batchelor for Blowing Rock News
Blowing Rock News coverage of App State Sports is made possible by a sponsorship from Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center
And so it has been. CollegeInsider.com announced on Friday that Appalachian State men’s basketball head coach Jim Fox has been named one of 10 finalists for the Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in college basketball.
The award is named in honor of Mr. Joe B. Hall who, according to statement from CollegeInsider.com, “…was given the task of following the legendary Adolph Rupp (at the University of Kentucky). In his first season at Kentucky, Hall finished 20-8, won the SEC (Southeastern Conference) and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals.
“From 1972 to 1985,” the statement continues, “Hall would win two-thirds of his games (297-100), receive four SEC Coach of the Year honors and win a National Championship (1978).”
Hall also guided Kentucky to a runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament, to UCLA in 1975; a Final Four appearance in the 1984 NCAAs; and an NIT championship in 1976. He is one of only three men to win an NCAA championship as a player (1949, Kentucky) and coach (1978, Kentucky). The others are Bob Knight and Dean Smith.
Fox took the helm of the Mountaineer program in April 2014, after 13 seasons as an assistant at Davidson under head coach Bob McKillop. During the last two seasons at Davidson, Fox served as Associate Head Coach.
Coming onboard well after the regular recruiting season had run its course, Fox inherited a program that had been put on academic probation and was returning only seven players from the previous year’s active roster.
An early indication that Fox might be the right guy to turn around the beleaguered Mountaineer basketball program came in just the third game of the season when App State upset Virginia Tech, 65-63, in Blacksburg, the program’s first win over a high-major team in almost eight years. The Mountaineers would go on to finish 6th in the 11-team Sun Belt Conference in the school’s first year in the league. In a pre-season coaches poll of the Sun Belt, Appalachian State was projected to finish 11th. Had it not been for the academic probation, the Mountaineers would have qualified for post-season play in the Sun Belt tournament being held this week.
Of the Sun Belt rivals, App State beat Arkansas State (74-73, in Jonesboro, AR), Georgia State (74-69, in Boone), Troy (69-64, in Troy AL), South Alabama (64-53, in Boone), Texas State (64-58, in San Marcos, TX), Troy (65-62, in Boone), Louisiana-Monroe (66-43, in Boone), Texas State (67-64, in Boone), and Texas Arlington (72-60, in Boone).
The recipient of the 2015 award will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com Awards Banquet on April 3rd in Indianapolis, site of the 2015 men’s Division I basketball championship.
The 2015 finalists for the Joe B. Hall Award include:
- Jon Coffman, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)
- Dennis Cutts, University of California-Riverside
- Travis DeCuire, University of Montana
- James Fox, Appalachian State University
- Chris Jans, Bowling Green University
- Kevin Keatts, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
- Scott Padgett, Samford University
- David Richman, North Dakota State University
- Craig Smith, University of South Dakota
- Keith Walker, Delaware State University