Fordham University named Rodney Crawford assistant men’s basketball coach and Willie Cruz assistant director of basketball operations/strength training coach on Wednesday.
Rodney Crawford, who served as an assistant at Eastern Kentucky the past three years, was named assistant men’s basketball coach and Willie Cruz, former men’s basketball speed and agility conditioning coach at Eastern Kentucky, was been named assistant director of basketball operations/strength training coach at Fordham University it was announced by head coach Jeff Neubauer.
“I’m pleased that Rodney is joining me at Fordham,” Neubauer said. “He was a big part of the recent success we had at Eastern Kentucky and brings a wealth of experience to Fordham, including experience in the Atlantic 10. He did a great job coaching the defense at Eastern Kentucky and I’m sure that will translate that toughness here at Fordham.”
As a member of Neubauer’s staff at Eastern Kentucky the past three years, Crawford was tasked with changing the team’s defensive philosophy to a more aggressive man-to-man system. The results paid off as the Colonels had three of the most successful seasons in program history. Last year, the Colonels won 21 games, their third straight 20-win season, while the 2012-13 squad won a school record 25 games, including EKU’s first national postseason tournament win in 68 years. In 2013-14, the Colonels won 24 times, an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament where Eastern nearly upset second-seeded Kansas in the second round.
Eastern Kentucky’s 70 wins the last three seasons are the most during any three-year period in program history. Last winter, the Colonels led the NCAA Division I in turnover margin (+7.2) and they also ranked second in the NCAA in steals/game (9.1) while leading the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring defense (63.6). In 2013-24, EKU was second in the nation in turnover margin (+6.3) after forcing 16.9 turnovers per game. The team also ranked sixth in the nation in steals and second in the conference in scoring defense (70.9 ppg) while in 2012-13 the Colonels forced 17.5 turnovers per game and ranked fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+5.69). Eastern finished second in the OVC in three-point field goal defense and third in steals.
Before arriving at Eastern Kentucky, Crawford served the two seasons as an assistant coach at Duquesne where he helped the Dukes equal a program record with 10 conference wins in 2010-11.
Prior to entering the collegiate coaching ranks, Crawford spent four years coaching at the prep level. Crawford compiled a combined 102-12 record as head coach at Harmony Community School in Cincinnati and The Academy at Mountain State University in Beckley, W.Va. In that time frame, Crawford coached more than 20 future NCAA Division I players.
As head coach and director of student operations at Mountain State Academy, the Falcons posted a 22-4 record in 2009-10 which included an ESPNU nationally televised 59-53 win over Oak Hill Academy in the quarterfinals of the ESPN RISE National High School Basketball Invitational. Mountain State Academy finished the season ranked No. 17 nationally in USA Today’s Super 25.
As a collegiate player, Crawford played in 49 career games for head coach Bob Huggins at Cincinnati (2000-02). The Bearcats went 56-14 in his two seasons with back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. The 2001-02 UC team finished 31-4 overall and ranked No. 5 nationally by The Associated Press.
Crawford was a four-year starter at Cincinnati Withrow High School. He and his wife, Tracy, have two daughters, Jocelyn and Jordyn.
For the past two years, Cruz served on Nuebauer’s staff at Eastern Kentucky as the men’s basketball speed and agility conditioning coach where he coordinated the creation of sport, position and energy specific drills to best prepare the athlete for game-like conditions. Cruz was responsible from evaluating and correcting the nutritional habits of the student-athletes.
“Willie will be a great addition to my staff at Fordham,” said Neubauer. “He has a strong background and a lot of experience in strength and condition coaching. Willie did a great job with the program at Eastern Kentucky and I’m confident that he will have similar results with the Fordham program.”
At Eastern Kentucky, Cruz was a part of the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference championship team as well as back-to-back 20-win teams. Last year, the Colonels won 21 games, their third straight 20-win season, while the 2013-14 squad won 24 times, took home the OVC title and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament where Eastern nearly upset second-seeded Kansas in the second round.
Cruz was a two-year member of the Eastern Kentucky men’s basketball program, but his collegiate career was cut short by injury prior to his junior season. He served as a men’s basketball assistant strength and conditioning coach his last two years as an undergraduate and, as a senior, he also served as a strength and conditioning intern for the Colonels, assisting with the football, soccer, volleyball, golf, softball and baseball teams.
A 2013 graduate of Eastern Kentucky, Cruz earned a degree in sports management with a concentration in strength and conditioning.
Cruz played at L’Anse Creuse High School, located just outside of Detroit, Mich., where he averaged 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game as a senior. He earned all-conference, all-metro and honorable mention all-state accolades.
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