Friday, April 23, 2010

Cornell Press Release on the Hiring of Bill Courtney


ITHACA, N.Y. -- Bill Courtney, an assistant coach at Virginia Tech and Virgina and who helped George Mason to mid-major prominence, has been named the Robert E. Gallagher '44 Head Coach of Cornell Men's Basketball by Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education. Courtney becomes the 21st head coach in school history and replaces Steve Donahue, who accepted the head coaching position at Boston College in early April. Courtney will be formally introduced to the Cornell community on Friday at a press conference in the Hall of Fame Room in Schoellkopf Memorial Hall.

"Bill Courtney brings an array of qualities to Cornell Basketball that I am confident will lead the Big Red to continued success within the Ivy league and beyond," Noel said. "His energy and enthusiasm are infectious, but his attention to the details of coaching and recruiting are what makes me confident that he have hired a winner."

Regarded as a player's coach, Courtney has had success at every stop on his journey to Cornell. During his 15-year career as an assistant, Courtney has been part of teams that have made eight postseason appearances (three NCAA, four NIT, one CBI), won at least a share of four conference titles (Mid-American, Colonial and ACC) and posted 15 winning seasons with eight years of 18 wins or more.

Courtney, 39, just finished his first season under Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech where he helped the Hokies to a 25-9 record and a spot in the NIT quarterfinals. Virginia Tech matched a school-record with 25 wins and finished third in the ACC at 10-6 in conference play behind national champion Duke and Maryland.

Courtney arrived in Blacksburg after three years at Virginia under head coach Dave Leitao and a short stint at Virginia Commonwealth University. In his first season in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers won a share of the 2006-07 ACC title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Virginia knocked off top 10 teams Arizona and Duke that year after being picked to finish eighth in the league in the preseason poll.

One year at Providence under coach Tim Welsh during the 2005-06 season followed a fantastic eight-year run at George Mason. Under head coach Jim Larranaga at GMU, Courtney was largely credited with recruiting the core of players that helped the Patriots to the 2006 NCAA Final Four. He spent eight seasons as an assistant and associate head coach (1997-2005), helping the Patriots to a pair of regular season CAA titles and four postseason bids, including trips to the NCAA tournament in 1999 and 2001. During that run, George Mason won at least 18 games five times and won 10 league games in each of his last seven years there. The 2003-04 squad set a then-school record with 23 wins.

Courtney had moved to George Mason after following Larranaga from Bowling Green University, where he was part of a 22-10 NIT squad in 1996-97 that claimed a share of the Mid-American Conference regular season crown. Courtney helped in the development of NBA Lottery pick and MAC Player of the Year Antonio Daniels at Bowling Green, who went on to a successful 12-year NBA career. He began his collegiate coaching career with a one-year stint at American University in 1995-96 under head coach Chris Knoche.

After playing professionally for the Philadelphia Spirit of the United States Basketball League (USBL) and for the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Summer League team in 1992, Courtney headed overseas for two years to play in Hong Kong. He earned the league's most valuable player award and collected the 1993 Asian All-Star game MVP Award. While pursuing his playing aspirations prior to breaking into collegiate coaching, Courtney was an assistant basketball coach at James Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va. (1992-94) and at Thomas Jefferson Science & Technology School in Alexandria, Va. (1994-95).

Courtney has familiarity with Cornell after earning a pair of first-team All-Patriot League accolades during his junior and senior seasons at Bucknell University, serving as team captain both years. Courtney set the school's single-season scoring record of 619 points as a junior and graduated with 1,499 points, a mark that still ranks among the top 10 all-time at the school. He still owns Bucknell records for career free throws made (400) and most 20-point games in a season (16 in 1990-91). He scored 31 points and had six assists and five rebounds against the Big Red as a senior, helping Bucknell to a 98-96 victory in Lewisburg. That came a year after he scored a game-high 21 points with four rebounds and four assists in a 93-85 Big Red victory at Barton Hall. Courtney graduated in 1992 with a degree in education and was named to the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame in October of 2007.

Courtney and his wife, Gina, have two sons, Billy (9) and Derek (7).

Cornell basketball thrust itself into the national spotlight the last three seasons, winning Ivy League titles each year. The 2009-10 season saw the Big Red become the first Ivy League team to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 since the NCAA went to the 64/65 team field, finishing the year with an Ivy League record 29 victories. The team finished the year No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, the first national ranking for the program in 59 years.

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