Having reached the coveted 300-win plateau in Army's first game of the 2003-04 campaign, Jim Crews further established himself as one of college basketball's finest mentors, building upon a sparkling resumé that also includes six postseason appearances and five regular season conference championships.
Now embarking upon his 20th year as a head coach, Crews will begin his third year at West Point with 305 career victories, which ranks him 46th among active coaches in all-time wins entering the 2004-05 campaign.
Crews' next challenge is to continue the rebuilding project that became his mission upon being hired in March 2002 as the 29th head coach in the history of intercollegiate basketball at Army.
In 2004-05, he will preside over one of the youngest teams in the nation as he continues to imprint his stamp upon the Black Knights' hardwood program. Army will feature 17 freshmen or sophomores on its 19-man roster.
Crews is certainly adept at helping build outstanding programs, having played at and coached for perennial Big Ten and national power Indiana University prior to a successful 17-year run as head coach at the University of Evansville that preceded his arrival at the Academy.
"I am very grateful to have the opportunity to serve as head basketball coach at the United States Military Academy," Crews said at the time of his hiring. "It is a tremendous honor to be associated with an institution like West Point and everything it represents. We look forward to working with Lt. Gen. (William) Lennox and Rick Greenspan. That will be a real privilege. But it will be an even greater privilege to work with the young men and women of West Point. We are excited and enthused about the prospects of interacting with the future leaders of our nation on a daily basis.
"We are also really looking forward to the basketball challenge at hand," he continued. "Rick Greenspan has great vision. We're interested in developing a foundation for winning championships at the Academy. When examining the core values of West Point, you realize those are the same qualities exhibited by a championship basketball program."
Credited with presiding over one of the country's most highly regarded Division I basketball programs at Evansville for the better part of two decades, Crews led the Purple Aces to six postseason appearances, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament. All six of those teams registered at least 21 victories. During his tenure, Evansville recorded 15 consecutive seasons of at least .500 finishes in conference play. Only eight other schools among the nation's 321 Division I members could make that claim during the same span.
Named the 1999 Rawlings Missouri Valley Conference "Coach of the Year," Crews guided the Purple Aces to a 23-10 record, a regular season league championship and their fourth NCAA tourney appearance in 14 years. It marked the fourth time that the native of Normal, Ill., garnered league coach of the year plaudits after having been similarly cited by the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1987, 1989 and 1992.
Crews is the only coach in the tradition-rich history of Evansville to register nine consecutive non-losing seasons. Before Crews, no coach at UE had ever produced more than seven straight seasons with a record of at least .500. That includes legendary Arad McCutchan, the first college division coach ever inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
While he has built an impressive resume' on the basketball court, Crews is viewed just as highly off it. Fifty-two of the 53 players who spent four years with the Purple Aces' program during Crews' tenure earned undergraduate degrees. Every senior in his final dozen years departed Evansville with a degree.
Crews was very active in the local community, particularly aiding youth in the Evansville area. The "Jim Crews Reading Aces" program, in conjunction with Fifth/Third Bank, received national recognition from the NCAA for its work in helping students succeed in the classroom. Crews and his players visited area schools regularly, encouraging reading in particular and academic success in general. Boys and girls who met their reading goals in the Reading Aces program received free tickets to an Evansville game.
The veteran mentor also served on the board of directors for the Evansville Boys & Girls Club, which provides after-school and weekend programs for Evansville youngsters, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Our goal when we began this coaching search was to find someone who had demonstrated the ability to recruit, coach and win at the highest level; someone possessing impeccable character worthy of a leadership position at this great institution; and someone boasting the necessary energy to restore the competitive pride in our men's basketball program," then-Army athletic director Rick Greenspan said at the time of Crews' hiring. "We could not be more pleased with the individual we were able to select for the position. Jim Crews meets every one of those standards. He is one of the most respected professionals in his craft and is widely regarded as an outstanding member of the college basketball industry.
"I have long admired the type of program Jim built at Evansville," Greenspan continued. "I have always been impressed with him as a coach and leader. Not only has he experienced a great deal of success at the highest level on the basketball court, his young men have achieved great things outside the gym as well. Throughout his career, he has done a terrific job of producing tremendous basketball players and tremendous members of society. He has shaped his life following the same bedrock values so vital to the Military Academy. He is a man of unquestioned character and boasts a phenomenal basketball mind. We are very fortunate to have Jim Crews at West Point. He brings instant credibility to our basketball program."
U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr. echoed those sentiments.
"In addition to being an outstanding basketball coach, we feel Jim Crews personifies everything the U.S. Military Academy stands for," Lennox explained. "He has built a winning reputation, both on the court and off. We feel very strongly that Jim is the perfect individual to lead our basketball program to future success."
A member of Indiana University's 1976 National Championship team, Crews lettered four years for the Hoosiers from 1972 to 1976 under legendary head coach Bob Knight. During his time in the "Crimson and Cream," Indiana forged a remarkable 108-12 (.900) overall record, including a stellar 59-5 (.922) mark in Big 10 Conference games. Indiana claimed conference titles in each of those seasons. As a senior, Crews helped the Hoosiers to a 32-0 record en route to becoming the NCAA's most recent undefeated National Champions.
After graduating from IU, Crews spent one year in the private sector before returning to his alma mater for eight years as an assistant on Knight's coaching staff. During that highly successful period, the Hoosiers captured the National Championship in 1981 and claimed three Big 10 championships (1980, 1981 and 1983). Indiana posted a 174-76 (.696) overall record and a 94-50 (.653) Big 10 Conference slate during Crews' stint as an assistant in Bloomington.
Crews departed Indiana in 1985 to accept the head coaching reins at Evansville. Three years after inheriting a struggling Purple Aces program, Crews guided Evansville to a 21-8 record and a berth in the National Invitation Tournament. It marked the Aces' first postseason appearance in six years. The following season, Evansville finished 25-6 and earned the first of four trips to the NCAA Tournament under Crews' watch.
Four 20-victory seasons would follow, including a three-year stretch from 1992 to 1994 in which the Purple Aces topped the 20-win mark each year. Evansville authored a sparkling 68-24 (.739) ledger during that span, earning consecutive trips to the NCAA tourney in 1992 and 1993, and a visit to the NIT in 1994.
Entering the 2001-02 season, Evansville was one of just 21 Division I schools that had captured at least five regular season conference championships in the previous 15 years. Under Crews, the Purple Aces won Midwestern Collegiate Conference titles in 1987, 1989, 1992 and 1993, as well as the Missouri Valley Conference championship in 1999. Evansville's run to the 1999 MVC title came during one of the league's best seasons ever. In fact, three MVC teams were chosen for the NCAA Tournament that year, including Evansville, which garnered an at-large bid for the second time during the "Crews Era." The Purple Aces also recorded conference tournament championships in 1992 and 1993. In February 2002, Crews coached his 500th game at the Indiana institution. During his time in Evansville, 19 Purple Aces players moved on to the professional ranks.
"My first connection with West Point dates back to my high school days when I received letters from a couple of young Army officers named Jim Oxley and Mike Krzyzewski, attempting to help recruit me to Indiana to play for coach Knight," Crews explained. "Though I have not been directly associated with the Military Academy over the years, I have had a connection through the people of West Point. I've respected the way these people have lived their lives and admired their selfless attitudes for a long, long time."
Jim and his wife, Kim, reside at West Point with their children: daughter Abby and son Todd.