W. Ky. hires Marquette assistant HornPosted: Tuesday April 15, 2003 4:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 15, 2003 11:31 PM
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- Late last week, Darrin Horn faxed a list of established college coaches to Western Kentucky athletics director Wood Selig and President Gary Ransdell.
At the time, Selig was just starting to consider replacements for Dennis Felton, who was hired by Georgia on April 10.
The 30-year-old Horn, a Marquette assistant and a former Western Kentucky player and assistant coach, wasn't making suggestions. He was bolstering his own case for the opening.
It worked. Horn was introduced as Western Kentucky's new coach at a news conference on Tuesday night.
"I was looking at every angle. I had to consider what would be concerns on their part," Horn said, minutes after slipping out of a black sport coat and into a bright red one. "I felt like that was a way to show that age can be overlooked."
Horn, a Glasgow, Ky. native and a product of Lexington Tates Creek High School, also sold Selig and Ransdell with his passion for the school.
"It's good to be home. Being here tonight is a dream come true," Horn said. "There's no place in America, there's no place in college basketball I would rather be."
Selig said Horn was one of four candidates interviewed during the weekend. The others were current Western Kentucky assistant Pete Hermann, Texas assistant coach Frank Haith and former Western Kentucky coach Ralph Willard, now the coach at Holy Cross.
"He is someone we consider a rising star and rather than let someone else catch this rising star, we decided, 'Let's get him for Western,'" Selig said.
Horn played for Willard at Western from 1991-95. Crean was Willard's assistant from 1990-94. Willard and Crean left for Pittsburgh in 1994 and Western Kentucky hired Matt Kilcullen.
"Darrin has the blueprint in how successful programs operate," Crean said, "and his ability to develop and maintain relationships with the Western Kentucky community, recruits, the student body and administration will help Western Kentucky reach new heights."
Horn's youth, his ties to Western and his coaching connections proved to be "a unbeatable combination," Selig said.
"He can talk and he can sell from his own experiences about what it's like to be a student-athlete at Western Kentucky," Selig said. "That's an extremely important and valuable asset."
A contract was still being finalized, but Ransdell said Horn plans to stay at Western Kentucky for several years.
"He's fiercely loyal, and he's demonstrated a real passion for this place," Ransdell said.
The Hilltoppers went 94-32 during Horn's playing career, reaching the NCAA tournament in each of his final three seasons.
"He's been down the same road, played in the same arena and worn the same uniform as the players he's now in charge of leading," Ransdell said.
About 200 fans attended the news conference at Diddle Arena. Horn was joined at the news conference by his wife, Carla, and their daughter, Caroline.
"I repeatedly told President Ransdell and Dr. Selig, 'You can't find anyone else anywhere in America who knows what this place is about, where it has been and where it can go,'" Horn said.
Horn briefly met with his new team before the news conference. He spoke of a demanding training regimen, but promised a fast-paced style of play.
"It seems like we're going to have to do more conditioning, but we're already in great shape," said senior-to-be Mike Wells. "But I like the fast break. That brings more excitement to the game."
The Hilltoppers finished 24-9 last season, their third straight 20-win season. The players weren't worried about Horn's arrival interrupting the program's momentum.
"There is no time for us to let down," said junior-to-be Todor Pandov. "This is just a new chapter in our book. We're going to keep moving forward."
Horn joined Kilcullen's coaching staff at Western in 1995. The Hilltoppers failed to finish above .500 in each of Horn's two years as an assistant.
Horn was hired by Morehead State coach Kyle Macy in 1997. Macy said Horn listed on his job application a desire to become a head coach by age 30.
"Looks like he'll achieve that goal," Macy said. "He was always very driven, very goal-oriented."
Macy said Horn often mentioned a desire to return to Western.
Selig and Ransdell were members of a four-person search committee to find Felton's replacement. University attorney Debbie Wilkins and faculty athletics representative James Brown were the others.
Selig said Felton had no input on the decision to hire Horn. He expects Felton to take his entire staff with him to Athens but said the Hilltoppers will make a smooth transition under Horn.
"Young men are resilient. When they meet Darrin Horn and see what he is all about, they will have no problem falling in behind him," Selig said.
He has a tough act to follow.
Felton coached Western Kentucky for five seasons, leading the Hilltoppers to sweeps of the last three Sun Belt regular-season and tournament championships. The Hilltoppers have played in the last three NCAA tournaments, losing in the first round each time.
Horn accepts the challenge.
"Nobody is going to put any more pressure on me than I'm going
to put on myself, because of how much this job means to me and how
much this school means to me," Horn said. "Any pressure anyone
can put on me will pale in comparison to the pressure I'll put on