Wheeling University named Charleston native Chris Richardson as the new head coach of its men’s basketball team on Monday, becoming the 11th coach in program history.
Richardson was formally introduced at a press conference that was streamed via Mountain East Network with school president Ginny Favede doing the honors.
“It’s an absolute honor to be named the 11th coach in the storied history of Wheeling basketball,” Richardson said. “I’m grateful to President Favede for her confidence in me.
“We grew up here. I’m from Charleston, [wife] Katie is from Elkins — we have a lot of family ties to this community and this region. But when I did my research something else stood out, the leadership and excitement present at this university right now at this moment.”
Richardson, a Charleston native and son of former Charleston city councilman Andy Richardson, has spent the past six seasons as an assistant at Central Missouri. The Mules had three 20-win seasons during that time.
All told, Richardson has 10 years of college coaching experience with assistant stops also at Fairmont State, the University of Charleston and Arkansas Tech.
Richardson replaces Will Ryan, who guided the program for one season before taking the job at Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Cardinals went 14-13 under Ryan with a loss to West Virginia State in the first round of the Mountain East Conference tournament. Wheeling was 9-21 the year prior.
The Cardinals won at least 20 games four seasons in a row from the 2014-15 season through the 2017-18 campaign.
Reestablishing that level of play is the top priority for Richardson, who said his teams will use defense to create their identity.
“The first step of establishing a championship culture is to have an identity,” Richardson said. “We want to be able to watch film and say, ‘That’s us, that’s Wheeling basketball.’
“We’re going to hang our hats on the defensive end. We want to be the team in this league that no one wants to play against.”
Offensively, Richardson said it will be key to recruit the right players and adapt to their strengths.
“Offensively, there’s not a better league in Division II in men’s basketball than the Mountain East Conference,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to be able to score to win in this league. We’re not going to focus as much on plays, but rather we’re really going to focus and dive in on learning how to play and how to play together. We’re going to emphasize spacing, learn how to move the ball, play together, be unselfish and play hard.
“Basketball is a player’s game and we’re going to be a player’s program. We will tailor our offense to fit the individual strengths of our personnel.”
Out of college in 2008, Richardson worked as an intern for the Memphis Grizzlies under Buckhannon native Chris Wallace, who was the team’s general manager at the time. On Monday, Richardson credited and thanked several mentors, including Wallace and WVU coach Bob Huggins.
“[Wallace] was the first person to believe in me from a basketball standpoint,” Richardson said. “Coach Huggins was another unbelievable mentor. When I decided to get into coaching, I basically camped out in front of his office.
“I’m excited to get back home where we can watch him and the Mountaineers continue to play at a high level.”
Richardson added that his team will carry lofty expectations from the beginning.
“The standards are the standards and we will embrace that, we won’t hide from those,” he said. “We will be a hard-work basketball program, a team that embodies the values of this community and region. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to embrace that every day. The standard is excellence and we will work diligently to pursue that excellence in everything we do.”