Liberty men's basketball head coach Ritchie McKay has been named the 2019 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award winner, which is presented annually to the top coach in Division I men's basketball. The award was announced at the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis, Minn.
"What an honor, privilege and incredible blessing it is to be the recipient of the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award," Ritchie McKay said. "I'm very aware of the past recipients and I am incredibly humbled to be mentioned in that class of individuals. I want to thank all of those who were apart of the process of team's great season; all of our players, support staff, administration and Liberty University and those who were apart of the selection process. I am really grateful and honored."
The award, which was presented by College Insider, has been in existence since 2003 and places McKay in elite company. Past winners of the honor include Virginia's Tony Bennett, Kentucky's John Calipari, Mississippi State's Ben Howland, Notre Dame's Mike Brey and West Virginia's Bob Huggins. McKay is the first non-Power 5 school head coach to receive the honor since 2011, when Utah State's head coach Stew Morrill was the recipient. McKay is the first coach in school history to receive the honor and second in ASUN history, as Mercer's Mark Slonaker won the award in 2003.
McKay has been nominated for three national head coaching awards this season, having also been nominated for the Ben Jobe Award and the Hugh Durham Award.
The award comes after McKay and the Flames had a historical 2018-19 season. The Flames captured both the ASUN Conference regular season title and the ASUN Men's Basketball Championship, punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. No. 12 seed Liberty upended No. 5 seed Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time the Flames have picked up a win in the "Big Dance" in their fourth trip to the tournament.
During their first year in the ASUN Conference, McKay and the Flames made history, as they became the first team to win the league championship during their inaugural campaign since the 1997-98 season. The Flames shattered many records this year, including winning a school record 29 games, the most in a single season during their Division I era.
McKay has led the Flames to their third straight 20-win season, a feat never previously accomplished in school history. The 20-win season included Liberty's third straight postseason tournament, having participated in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) in the past two seasons.
A coaching icon, Phelan led the Mountaineers to the 1962 NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Championship. When he retired in 2003, after coaching for 49 years, he had amassed 830 wins in all divisions (overall record of 830-524). During his five decade coaching career, 19 of his teams amassed 20 or more wins in a season. Last season, the Flames won the Jim Phelan Classic in the CIT, defeating North Carolina A&T, 65-52, on March 12.
Past Award Recipients
2018: Chris Holtmann, Ohio State
2017: Frank Martin, South Carolina
2016: Greg Gard, Wisconsin
2015: Bob Huggins, West Virginia
2014: Tim Miles, Nebraska
2013: Dana Altman, Oregon
2012: Mike Brey, Notre Dame
2011: Stew Morrill, Utah State
2010: Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
2009: John Calipari, Memphis
2008: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
2007: Tony Bennett, Washington State
2006: Ben Howland, UCLA
2005: Tubby Smith, Kentucky
2004: Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's
2003: Mark Slonaker, Mercer
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