A quick history lesson on LMU Basketball. Though the program has been around since 1923 (basketball was played on this campus long before it was an organized program), LMU has only competed in the NCAA for the last 20 years. Our record books are lined with championships. A whole alphabet soup of championships including SMAC Champions, VSAC Champions, NAIA District Champions and TVAC Champions to name a few. But, since taking the NCAA plunge championships have been harder to come by. In fact, since joining the NCAA in 1991, the men’s basketball program has posted just seven winning seasons. Seems kind of low, doesn’t it? I mean we have a giant arena and basketball is our marquee sport. Seven winning seasons, that can’t be right, can it?
Well actually, it isn’t entirely correct. Seven was the number of winning seasons posted since 1991 when Coach Josh Schertz was hired in 2009. He has since added two more winning seasons to that total. Just three years into his tenure he has added two winning seasons and it should be noted that his first season’s record was an even .500 year with 14 wins and 14 losses.
Clearly Schertz has turned the program around in a short amount of time, but the work is even more impressive if you consider two things. First, he inherited a team that had just eight wins the season before and just one win in South Atlantic Conference play. Second, the turnaround was as dynamic as it was quick. He took the program from winning less than 40 games in the five seasons before his arrival in Harrogate to winning 47 in the last two seasons. Last season, he took a program that had never been in the NCAA Tournament to the brink of hosting a regional as a No. 1 seed. LMU went from a team that had never been ranked (since joining the NCAA), to a perennial regional power, having been ranked in every Southeast Region poll in the last two seasons. Still not impressed? Okay, Schertz also guided the Railsplitters to their first-ever national ranking, culminating in a Top 5 Rank in February before finishing the season at No. 10.
Considering all of that, it should be no surprise that the basketball community has taken note. Coach Schertz had better start building a trophy case at home to hold all the hardware he has racked up in the last year. Just this week he was recognized as one of the Top 25 Non-Division I Head Coaches by collegeinsider.com. At 35 years old, he was the youngest coach on the list. He has also been named the Top Non-Division I Head Coach in the country under 40 years old by smallcollegehoops.com. He was voted the 2011 SAC Coach of the Year and earned NABC National Coach of the Month honors in January. Last season, Schertz was a finalist for the Clarence Gaines National Division II Coach of the Year Award.
Beyond wins and losses, Schertz and his Railsplitters have energized a community. The team is doing its part to fill one of the largest and nicest arenas in all of NCAA Division II. (One could argue that Tex Turner Arena is even better than some smaller Division I institutions.) Schertz has also taken an active role in our community. He was the commencement speaker at Leadership Claiborne this year and his team and coaches participated in Relay for Life.
A new day has dawned at LMU and Schertz, and his entire coaching staff, have set the bar high. The horizon is bright for next season. The Railsplitters return four starts for next year and seven of their top 10 scorers will be back. Now, back to history class because surely Railsplitter Nation is witnessing history in the making!