Jonathan Gibson, Director of Sports Information
FORT SMITH – UAFS Director of Athletics Curtis Janz announced Tuesday morning that Jim Boone has been hired as men’s basketball head coach.
Boone recently completed his seventh season as head men’s basketball coach at NCAA Division II Delta State University, guiding the Statesmen to a 19-12 overall record, a 12-8 Gulf South Conference record, the Gulf South Conference Tournament Championship and their 17th berth in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
“Not long after the coaching search began, Coach Boone became an intriguing candidate. He has built championship programs at many NCAA Division II institutions and has always done it with integrity. I believe Coach Boone is a perfect fit with me and the rest of our athletic department,” Janz said.
Boone, a native of Winfield, W.Va., has been a collegiate head coach for 33 seasons at the NCAA Division I and II levels. He finished this past season with 558 career wins, which ranks him 14th among active NCAA Division II coaches in wins and among NCAA Division II’s Top 40 All-Time Winningest Coaches.
“Everything excites me about the university from the gorgeous campus, the direction of the athletics program under the leadership of Curtis Janz and his staff, the outstanding tradition of UAFS basketball and the entire Fort Smith community. The day I toured Fort Smith and walked through campus I knew immediately it was a very special place and a tremendous opportunity for our family,” Boone said.
“We can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the university, in the community and in building on previous relationships and creating new ones with the high school basketball coaches of the state and surrounding areas. We are so excited to roll our sleeves up and get to work on building an elite program. This is truly a university where we can have it all – a championship basketball program, represented by quality student-athletes and built with great integrity to last for long-term.”
Boone inherits a UAFS team that featured only one senior on its 12-player roster. The Lions finished 10-19 overall and 4-12 in the Heartland Conference and earned their eighth-consecutive berth in the Heartland Conference Tournament, losing to eventual tournament runner-up Dallas Baptist in the first round.
“Our vision is to build a championship quality program, a program that will compete for conference, regional and national prominence. We do not have a specific time-table or short-range goals, but I can tell you that we will hit the ground running to create a championship culture that will produce a program that has the foundation to last, a program that will be built with great integrity,” Boone said. “And, we will produce a championship-caliber program that will be among the nation’s elite, a program that our university and our community will be very proud of.”
UAFS, along with six other Heartland Conference teams, will begin its first season as a member of the 19-team Lone Star Conference beginning this fall. The Lone Star Conference will be the largest conference in NCAA Division II.
“Coach Boone will develop an elite level basketball program here at UAFS,” Janz said. “He is a program builder and develops student-athletes on and off the court, but what is most impressive is the culture that he builds within the basketball program. That culture will make our overall athletic culture stronger.”
Boone said the Lions will be fundamentally-sound and will emphasize a hard-working offense that emphasizes playing together, sharing the basketball and taking great shots.
“Offensively, we will play a style that our fans and the Fort Smith community will identify with and will love. We are a program that is founded upon simplicity, fundamentals and their execution. We work to develop our players to maximize their abilities and to put them into positions to enhance their strengths,” Boone said.
“We are not as much about running plays as we are about teaching our players how to play. It is our belief that players win games in March, not plays. We will be a hard-working offense that shares the basketball, we will play together and value teamwork, we will value taking care of the ball and we will take great shots. We’re going to be a lot of fun to watch as our players develop both individually and collectively throughout the season.”
Boone’s teams have been noted for their defensive toughness, and he said the Lions will be as well.
“We pride ourselves on being a defensive program that is rooted in a blue collar work ethic, that will be mentally and physically tough and that will be among the nation’s very best,” Boone said. “We will play all man-to-man. It’s what we do, it’s our trademark, it’s who we are and it’s our identity. We will be a great defensive team”
As a NCAA Division II head coach, Boone has compiled a 466-251 record, leading four NCAA Division II programs to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The next few weeks will be busy for Boone as he looks to lay the foundation for his new team.
“The first two weeks are always like a whirlwind. There is so much to do, and it’s important to remain focused on our priorities and on creating a championship culture,” Boone said. “Obviously, one of our most important objectives will be to meet our new team and to let them know that they are a part of our family now and that they are our guys. We want to lay out the pillars of our culture – hard work, toughness, passion and unity. As well, recruiting will be important, not just for now, but for building the relationships that will make tomorrow’s recruiting successful.”
He said he also will use the next few weeks to begin building relationships with the area’s high school coaches.
“We will utilize this period to meet as many coaches as we can in our immediate area, while completing our roster for the coming season and building a championship culture. It’s all about people and leadership. We want to do our due diligence in selecting the right people, young men of character and integrity that fit our culture,” Boone said. “We will hire our staff, and, very much as in recruiting our team, our staff will be about the right fit, people who fit and will embrace our culture. Lastly, we want to get around campus and meet our campus and our Fort Smith community. We are so excited as a family to call Fort Smith home. We are here for the long-term, and we will be invested in our community.”
Boone leaves tradition-rich Delta State as the third-winningest coach in program history with 128 wins.
In 2017-18, the Statesmen made their third consecutive trip to the GSC semifinals, making Delta State the only school to do that in each of the last three
seasons, and in 2016-17, he led the Statesmen to their 16th NCAA Tournament appearance, where they advanced to the second round and closed the year with a 23-9 record. In 2013-14, Boone led the Statesmen to one of their best seasons in program history, as they captured the Gulf South Conference regular-season title and made a run to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16. Boone was named GSC Coach of the Year, marking the seventh time in his career he has captured such an honor.
In all, the Statesmen completed a two-year turnaround of a program that had won just six games the year before Boone took over in 2012-13. The 17-game improvement represents the best among NCAA Division II institutions over this period of time.
Prior to taking over as head coach of the Statesmen, Boone spent the 2011-12 season as head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College, guiding the Bobcats to a school-record 22 wins at the NCAA Division II level and the program’s first ever NCAA Division II Regional Tournament Championship appearance.
Under Boone’s leadership, the Bobcats (22-9) defeated perennial NCAA Division II power Winston Salem State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to West Liberty State.
Boone began his career as a standout player at West Virginia State College, where he was a four-year letterman. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting (1981) and followed that with a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky (1982) with a concentration in Marketing.
His coaching career brought him back to his alma mater, spending three seasons as the head assistant coach and primary recruiter from 1982-85 at WVSC. Boone made the jump to NCAA DI basketball in 1986 as an assistant at Charleston Southern University, where the Buccaneers won the Big South Conference Championship.
That championship experience led Boone to California University of Pennsylvania as head coach. Over the next 10 years, Boone led California (Pa.) to unprecedented success, including a 228-71 record. During his time with the Vulcans, Boone’s 1992 squad posted 31 wins and was the number one team in the country. Boone also added two NCAA DII Final Four appearances, six regular season conference titles and six trips to the NCAA Tournament at the helm of the Vulcans.
Boone finished his time with a school-record 228 wins and a .763 win percentage. Boone was inducted into the California (Pa.) Hall of Fame in 2005.
From California (Pa.), Boone moved on to the challenge of rebuilding NCAA Division I Robert Morris University, eventually leading the Colonials to the NEC Championship game in 2000. In 1999 and 2000, he led RMU to a record of 25-13 in the NEC and produced two of the best seasons in Colonials history.
Boone left RMU after 2000 to take on the task of turning Eastern Michigan University into a competitive DI program. In five seasons at EMU, Boone quadrupled the program’s wins total and set several EMU attendance records.
He left EMU after the 2005 season for Tusculum College, a member of NCAA DII and the South Atlantic Conference. In 2009, the Pioneers won a school-record 20 games and the made its second-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. He still holds the school record for conference wins over a four-year period at Tusculum.
During his career, Boone’s teams have won seven conference championships, four tournament titles and have made 11 postseason appearances. From 1990-96, his California teams recorded more than 20 victories for six consecutive years tallying an impressive 150-33 mark during that span. His 94-24 league record in the PSAC is still the best of any coach in that conference’s history. He was named PSAC Coach of the Year on three occasions (1988, 1992, 1996) and NCAA Region Coach Year twice (1992, 1996).
He is married to the former Stephanie VanVranken, and they are the proud parents of two sons, Jimmy and Joey.