Reggie Witherspoon, a Buffalo native and a 20-year veteran of the college basketball coaching ranks, has been named the 24th head coach in Canisius College men’s basketball history, Canisius Director of Athletics Bill Maher announced Saturday.
Witherspoon, who signed a five-year contract, will be formally introduced at a 10 a.m., press conference in the Koessler Athletic Center on Tuesday, May 31. Canisius fans, friends of the program, students and faculty/staff are invited to attend.
“I am incredibly excited for our men’s basketball program, our College and for Western New York to welcome Reggie Witherspoon as our new head coach,” Maher said. “Reggie brings with him a proven record of building strong basketball teams and developing young men. He is highly respected as both a man and as a basketball coach. I had the opportunity to work directly with Reggie for six years, and having known him for over 16 years, I am confident in his abilities and his fit for Canisius. Our goal is to win the MAAC Championship and I look forward to working with Reggie to accomplish that here at Canisius.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Witherspoon to Canisius,” Canisius College President John J. Hurley said. “At every stop in his coaching career, he has been a proven winner on and off the court. In Reggie, we not only see a successful coach and recruiter, but also an outstanding ambassador and role model and mentor for our student-athletes. We look forward to his building on the rich traditions of Canisius basketball and keeping us very competitive in the MAAC.”
“I am excited to take over at Canisius on a number of levels,” Witherspoon said. “Having grown up here in the area, I remember going to see a lot of Canisius games as a kid, and then as I grew older, I started to become friends with guys that played or were playing at Canisius. The College has such a great academic reputation, and I know the school’s alumni base and fans are dedicated and passionate. I want to thank President Hurley and Director of Athletics Bill Maher for giving me this opportunity to return to Western New York as a head coach and I am really looking forward to building on the long history of the men’s basketball program.”
Witherspoon spent the 2015-16 season at Chattanooga, where he was a member of Matt McCall’s coaching staff that led the Mocs to a 29-6 overall record, a Southern Conference regular-season championship, a SoCon tourney title and the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009. Prior to his time with Chattanooga, he spent one season at Alabama under former head coach Anthony Grant, who is currently a member of the coaching staff for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Crimson Tide in 2014-15, he was part of a staff that posted 19 overall wins and eight SEC victories en route to a bid to the NIT.
Witherspoon is best known in Western New York for his work building the basketball program at the University at Buffalo. A two-time Mid-American Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year (2004, 2012), he led the Bulls from 1999-2013, where he posted a career record of 198-228 in 14 seasons. In addition, Buffalo boasted a record of 174-143 over Witherspoon’s last 10 years with the program, which featured a MAC regular-season crown, two trips to the MAC Tournament title game and four trips to the national postseason. In his time at Buffalo, Witherspoon led the Bulls to four 20-win seasons, highlighted by back-to-back 20-win campaigns in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Witherspoon, who as a student at Erie Community College played under former Canisius head coach and current Michigan head coach John Belein, mentored a pair of All-Americans at Buffalo and a CoSIDA Academic All-America Second-Team honoree as well. In all, Witherspoon played a role in recruiting and coaching 18 All-MAC award winners, two MAC Players of the Year, a MAC Rookie of the Year and a MAC Sixth Man of the Year.
In addition to winning basketball games and seeing his players earn accolades for their play on the court, Witherspoon’s student-athletes have been fantastic in the classroom as well. In his time as a head coach, 40 of 46 seniors have graduated, with eight former players earning master’s degrees and three earning their doctorate degrees.
Witherspoon has also coached at the international level, as he has assisted with USA Basketball and the national under-18 team program two times. In 2006, he worked with the USA U-18 tryout team that featured Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley, Jared Bayless and Kyle Singler. In 2010, he was an assistant coach under Jeff Capel and worked with Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers and Patric Young.
Witherspoon took over as Buffalo’s interim head coach five games into the 1999-00 season after a two-year term as the head coach at Erie Community College. In his time leading the Kats, Witherspoon posted a 43-15 record. He was named the Western New York Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in both of those seasons at ECC, while producing four Division I signees, two All-Americans and one academic All-American. His 1998-99 squad at ECC went 24-5 en route to the NJCAA Regional III championship and a national ranking in the NJCAA top-20 poll. He was also named the Region III Coach of the Year that season.
Witherspoon took over at ECC after spending five years (1992-97) as the head coach at Sweet Home High School. There, his teams won four-straight division titles, which was the first, and to date, only time that has been accomplished in school history. He also became the first African-American head coach of a varsity sport program in any Western New York suburban school district when he took over the Panther program.
Born Phillip Reginald Witherspoon on Feb. 21, 1961, he is a 1995 graduate of Empire State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. He also earned his associate degree at Erie Community College where he was a member of the men’s basketball program. Witherspoon played basketball at Wheeling Jesuit for head coach Jim O’Brien, who went on to be a head coach for the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers.
Witherspoon and his wife, the former Dawn Taggart, have two daughters, Lydia and Rachel.
He replaces Jim Baron, who retired as the Golden Griffins’ head coach May 20 after spending four seasons at the helm of the program. In his time at Canisius, Baron, a 29-year Division I head coaching veteran, won 73 games and took the Blue and Gold to three-straight CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament appearances.