Tuesday, July 23, 2024

NAIA NEWS: Cross named Head Basketball Coach at Ottawa U (KS) – HoopDirt

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Ottawa University Director of Athletics, Janet Eaton-Smith, is pleased to announce the hiring of Matt Cross as the head men’s basketball coach. Cross comes to Ottawa University from NAIA Texas College in Tyler, Texas. He has guided four separate programs to national tournament appearances: Texas College, Talladega College, LSU-Shreveport, and Lamar State College. 

“I’m ecstatic to have Coach Cross join our staff,” said Eaton-Smith. “Matt is a proven winner in men’s basketball and is well respected by his peers. He brings a “can do” attitude to the department and will immediately elevate the program. Matt’s knowledge of the game will help grow the basketball IQ of our student-athletes. The future is looking bright for the men’s basketball program, and I can’t wait for the season to start in October.”

Cross was the head men’s basketball coach and Athletics Coordinator at Texas College from 2021 to 2024. It was Cross’ second stint with the program. He was the head men’s basketball coach at TC from 2006-2008. In 2023-24, the Steers broke the program record for wins with 22, qualified for the program’s first trip to the NAIA National Tournament, and defeated three NAIA Top 25 teams. In his four years at Texas College, Cross was a Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Coach of the Year selection and was named Athletic Department Coach of the Year (2008, 2024). He was given the President’s Service Award by Texas College in May of 2024.

“I want to give a special thanks to Director of Athletics Janet Eaton-Smith for her belief in me to lead the Ottawa University men’s basketball program to national prominence,” said Cross. “I also want to thank the entire OUKS family for their support and for welcoming me to Ottawa! As I visited with Coach Eaton-Smith, she acknowledged the tremendous opportunity at Ottawa University to attract and retain top players and compete for championships. Her strategic vision for the OUKS athletics department parallels the motto I have led with since day one, “Winning Championships, Graduating Champions, Making History.” I have always been someone with the ambition to coach at the highest level and driven to win an NAIA National Championship. I’m convinced we can do something special at Ottawa, The KCAC is the premier men’s basketball conference in the NAIA, and it just got a little bit better today!”

Before working at Texas College, Cross was head coach of the women’s basketball program at LSU-Shreveport in Shreveport, La., the city where he was born and raised. In 2017-18, he led the Pilots to a school record 31 wins and the best record by any sports program (31-2) in LSU-Shreveport history. His team climbed to as high as no. 10 in the NAIA Women’s Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, which was its highest ranking in program history. Cross led the Pilots to an RRAC regular season and tournament championship. They also set the program record for consecutive wins with 19. He was named RRAC Coach of the Year, Louisiana Association Basketball Coaches Small College Coach of the Year, and finished second in the voting by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association Collegiate Coach of the Year committee.

Prior to his time at LSU-Shreveport, Cross spent five years (2012-17) at Talladega College. It was his second stint at TC. Cross was the Athletic Director and head men’s basketball coach for one year in 2008-09 where he started the program from scratch. Cross and the Tornadoes became the first start-up program and youngest head coach to win a national championship with their 2008-09 USCAA Small College National Championship. Talladega defeated five NCAA Division I programs and received a ranking of no. 1 in the NAIA.

In his final five years at Talladega College, Cross was a three-time Athletic Department Coach of the Year, a three-time Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Coach of the Year selection, was named the 2015 HBCU National Coach of the Year and was the winningest coach in program history with 177 wins. TC had three straight NAIA National Tournament opening-round victories: Evangel University (2014), Rocky Mountain College (2015), and Westmont College (2016). Cross led the Tornadoes to seven championships, three consecutive GCAC regular season championships, and back-to-back GCAC Tournament championships. The Tornadoes had two NAIA Round of 16 appearances, an NAIA Fab Four appearance, and a 2015 HBCU National Championship. TC was ranked no. 1 in the NAIA for four weeks during the 2014-15 season and had the third longest appearances in the NAIA Men’s Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll from 2014 to 2017. Talladega was the first HBCU since Hampton University in 1982 to make an appearance in the NAIA Fab 4 and the first HBCU to earn a ranking of no. 1 since Texas Southern University in 1977.

From 2009 to 2012, Cross was the head coach of the men’s basketball program at Lamar State College in Port Arthur, Texas. He led the Seahawks to a record of 70-30, a ranking of no. 7 in the NJCAA, a 2011 NJCAA National Tournament appearance, and a trip to the round of 16 at the national tournament. Under his leadership, the Seahawks captured the program’s first Region XIV Championship in 2010-11 and the program’s first Texas Eastern Conference championship in 2011-12. LSC set a school record for wins with 26 in 2011 and Cross was named NJCAA District 14 Coach of the Year. In 2010-11, Lamar State defeated no. 9 Trinity Valley College in the quarterfinals of the Region XIV Tournament and no. 2 San Jacinto College in the championship game. At the NJCAA National Tournament, the Seahawks continued to be a giant killer. Lamar knocked off no. 1, Missouri State University – West Plains in Hutchinson, earning the program’s first national tournament victory.

Cross has a collegiate coaching record of 345-171, a total of nine 20-win seasons, nine national tournament appearances, has led four different programs to a national tournament, has two 30-win seasons, and earned two national coach of the year honors. He has coached 51 all-conference performers and eight All-Americans.

He is an advocate for the work of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC).

Cross earned his degree in physical education with a minor in history from the University of Arkansas Monticello in 2005.


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