Walsh named new head coach of Shenandoah men’s hoops

Adam Walsh

Shenandoah University completed its change in leadership of the men’s basketball program Wednesday morning, as the school officially announced the hiring of Adam Walsh as the Hornets’ new head coach.

Walsh takes over for former head coach Rob Pryor, who held the position for six seasons before SU opted not to renew his contract at the end of the 2016-17 season.

For Walsh, a Winchester native and 1997 graduate of James Wood High School who spent the past seven seasons as the head coach at Centenary College of Louisiana, his newest coaching assignment marks a return home.

“It’s very exciting,” the 38-year-old Walsh said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I was talking about it the other day with some of my friends, basketball’s taken me a lot of different places – 45 states and five or six different countries – and it’s never told me to come home. Now we’ve got a chance to come home, got an opportunity with the job and it worked out. It’s pretty neat to be coming home after all that I’ve been doing for basically the last 20 years since I left high school there at James Wood.”

Walsh, who graduated from High Point University in 2000, held assistant coaching jobs at various levels of college basketball – including stints at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Barton College, Odessa College and Paris Junior College – prior to taking over as the head coach at Centenary College, currently an NCAA Division III program, in 2010 after serving three years as an assistant at the school.

The Gents went 1-29 in Walsh’s first season as head coach, the final season Centenary competed as a member of Division I, but compiled an 83-71 mark over his final six seasons coaching at the Division III level. Walsh was named the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2014 and led Centenary to an SCAC regular season title in 2015, its first since joining Division III.

“Adam demonstrated enthusiasm and a clear understanding of the Division III student-athlete experience and a strong will to win,” Shenandoah University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Zipp is quoted as saying in a news release from the school. “We are very impressed with his experiences as a head coach at Centenary and are confident this has prepared him very well to support our student-athletes both on and off the court and to meet the challenges of establishing a competitively successful men’s basketball program within the highly competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

“His vision of our basketball program and of the young men he will mentor and coach resonated very well across campus and he best fits what we wanted to find in a Division III head coach.”

At Shenandoah, Walsh takes over a program that hasn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade. In six seasons under Pryor, the Hornets had an overall record of 40-117 (.254 win percentage) and were 18-74 in ODAC play.

Walsh will not only be tasked with conducting the rebuilding process for the Hornets’ basketball program, but he will be the head coach who ushers in the debut of SU’s new 77,000-square-foot James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Events Center, where the team will begin playing its home games once the facility opens in early 2018.

“I think it’s an awesome opportunity,” said Walsh, who recalled attending “standing-room only” games at Shingleton Gymnasium, the current home of SU basketball, during his high school years in the mid-1990s.

“I expect to jump in and get after it. We’ve got a senior-heavy team coming back, that we expect to have back as of right now. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete right away. I know everybody says that, it’s kind of a token thing, but when you look at our roster, it’s got some older guys on it. I think they’ve been through it. A couple tweaks here and there and if things go a little bit different, I hope that we can attack that win column pretty quick.”

This past season, the Hornets were 9-17 overall and 5-11 in the ODAC, their best conference mark since joining the league in 2012. SU had just two seniors on the squad, including guard Malcolm Clark – who earned first team All-ODAC recognition and was voted first team All-South Region by D3hoops.com – and could return up to 15 players next season.

Walsh said he will remain open-minded in terms of schemes, adding that it’s most important to fit the offensive and defensive philosophies to the roster. But he added that he prefers to run a fast-paced offense – which he said the Hornets’ current roster is capable of executing – and sound defense in the half-court.

“I’ve still gotta learn a little bit. I’ve studied the league some already but I feel good about what I’m walking into as far as knowing what the league does for the most part,” Walsh said. “I hope maybe we can do something different than what the league has right now.”

Walsh will officially begin his coaching duties at SU on June 1, at which time he said the first order of business will be to “get guys,” meaning the recruitment of not only new players, but those returning, as well, as part of the acclimation process.

And as if the excitement surrounding his newest coaching endeavor isn’t enough, Walsh said he and his wife are expecting a child this fall after what is proving to be a timely opportunity to return home.

“It’s pretty cool that I get to come home and let my parents be grandparents for a few years at least,” he said, “to be able to spend time with them and raise a child where I grew up.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com