Kirk Earlywine, a former assistant coach at Big Sky Conference rival Weber State, has accepted the position as head men’s basketball coach at Eastern Washington University, EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arevalo announced Thursday (June 14).
Earlywine, who will turn 43 on July 4, will be officially introduced at a press conference at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 15, in the Red Reese Room at the EWU Special Events Pavilion in Cheney, Wash. The public is invited to attend and meet the 16th head coach in the history of Eastern, which will celebrate its 100th recorded season of men’s basketball in the 2007-08 season.
“This has always been my goal and I’ve prepared myself for this for 22 years,” Earlywine said. “It’s very humbling because there are only 325 NCAA Division I jobs and not everyone gets this opportunity. I’m very excited to work at a school I’m so familiar with.”
He comes to EWU after spending one season as the top assistant coach at UNC Wilmington -- his 21st as an assistant at the NCAA Division I level. He also spent the 1995-96 season as a head coach at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C.
His 22-year collegiate coaching career includes seven seasons at Weber State where he worked as associate head coach on the staff of Joe Cravens. The Wildcats won 116 games while Earlywine was there -- the most in the Big Sky in that span.
The 2002-03 Weber State team had a perfect 14-0 Big Sky finish. The Wildcats defeated Eastern 60-57 for the Big Sky title, then lost to Wisconsin 81-74 in the NCAA Tournament. The following season, Eastern advanced to its first-ever NCAA Tournament before going 38-49 the past three seasons under Mike Burns.
One of four finalists for the position created when Burns was let go on May 30, Earlywine agreed to a three-year contract at EWU with a rolling option of future years. He will be paid $90,000 per year.
“After making several rounds of reference calls, it solidified in my mind the final selection,” said Arevalo, who made the decision with feedback from a four-person selection committee. “Kirk's experience with coach Rick Majerus and his success at Weber State, coupled with the caliber of recommendations we received, made this a great choice for Eastern."
The University received recommendations from several high-profile collegiate head coaches, including Bruce Weber (Illinois), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Dick Hunsaker (Utah Valley State and formerly at Utah). Earlywine worked with Hunsaker at Ball State when they both served on the staff of Rick Majerus, who then hired Earlywine to join him at the University of Utah. Majerus, Weber, Ryan and Hunsaker have combined to win various national coach of the year honors in eight different seasons at the NCAA Division I level.
“Kirk is one of the best basketball minds I know with a proven record of success,” Weber said. “Having myself struggled to get that first Division I head coaching position, it is wonderful to see a coach of Kirk’s caliber finally get the opportunity to lead a program. He will accomplish great things.”
Former Portland State University head coach Heath Schroyer, now at Wyoming, has coached against teams Earlywine has been with and had this to say about his colleague:
“I coached against Kirk when I was an assistant at Brigham Young and when I was at Portland State,” he said. “He is, without a doubt, one of the best basketball minds in the game and can really evaluate talent.”
Earlywine’s team at Pfeiffer was 21-8 overall and 14-4 in conference play to advance to the NCAA Division II Championships. It was the school’s first season as a D-II member after playing previously as a member of the NAIA. He took over the team in July 1995 with only two players returning and picked up a 71-62 first-round NCAA Division II Tournament victory over 12th-ranked N.C. Central. The season ended with a 49-47 loss to undefeated and No. 1 ranked Virginia Union in the regional semifinals.
Earlywine is a 1987 graduate of Campbell University Buies Creek, N.C., where he served as a student assistant coach for two seasons. He went on to coach at Ball State (two seasons from 1987-89), Utah (four seasons from 1989-93), Central Michigan (two seasons from 1993-95), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (three seasons from 1996-99) and Weber State (seven seasons from 1999-2006).
Earlywine’s 21st year as a D-I assistant came in the 2006-07 season at UNC Wilmington where he worked for head coach Benny Moss. Moss, who finished his first season at the helm, was a former assistant for Earlywine at Pfeiffer.
“I grew up in a gym with my father as a high school coach,” added Earlywine, a native of Indiana. “So playing basketball and now coaching basketball has always been my passion. After 22 years of hard work, I’ve now achieved one of my goals.”