Former Idaho Head Coach Claus takes over at D2 Western Colorado

Zac Claus has been named the Mountaineers’ head men’s basketball coach, as announced Wednesday by Western Colorado Athletics Director Miles Van Hee.

“We are all so excited to welcome Zac Claus into our Mountaineer family,” said Van Hee. “Coach Claus is a dynamic leader who brings strong character and integrity and is one who builds incredible relationships with his student-athletes. He brings a passion to develop strong character in his student-athletes both academically and athletically.”

Claus comes to the Western Slope after leading the University of Idaho men’s basketball program the past four seasons. His stint with the Vandals began in the 2015-16 season as an assistant coach before moving up to the head coach position in 2019, engineering a wins-total improvement in three of four seasons at the helm of the Idaho program.

Though the Vandals were eliminated in the opening round of the 2023 Big Sky tournament, their victories in the regular season include a win against the eventual conference representative to the NCAA tournament, Montana State University. Idaho teams defeated the eventual Big Sky NCAA representative in three of four seasons under Claus’ guidance.

Claus’ student-athletes not only found growing success on the court, but also off the court during his time leading the Idaho program–16 players earned Big Sky All-Academic team recognition, and the team’s cumulative grade-point average rose from 2.27 to a program-high 3.15. Every student-athlete who completed their eligibility earned a degree.

“I am excited for the opportunity to now lead the men’s basketball program at Western Colorado University,” began Claus. “My sincere thanks to President Baca and Athletics Director Miles Van Hee who are united in a strong vision, including in their beliefs, for Western Colorado’s program, its players and the team’s success.

“I welcome the challenge of competing in this terrific conference and look forward to getting to work with the fine young men in the Mountaineer program.”

Claus brings a healthy history of experience on the sidelines, beginning with assistant coach positions at Division III Nebraska Wesleyan University and then Austin College. He then stepped into Division I roles, joining the staffs at Big Sky Conference institutions Portland (Ore.) State and Sacramento (Calif.) State before joining the staff at the University of Nevada.

While with the Wolf Pack (2005-15), Claus helped the Nevada squad to Western Athletic Conference championships in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012. The Pack appeared in the NCAA tournament after the 2006 and 2007 seasons, the NIT in 2010 and 2012, and the CBI Tournament in 2008 and 2009.

During his time as an assistant at Idaho, the Vandals reached the CBI in 2016 and the CIT Tournament in 2017, before finishing second in the Big Sky in 2018.

Claus’ broad background includes directing the basketball camps at Portland State, Sac State, and Nevada, opening up a large area of contacts that enhance his recruiting reach. At each of Claus’ stops his responsibilities have included the recruitment and the evaluation of potential recruits, an experienced history that could hasten the Mountaineers’ climb up the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) standings.

“Coach Claus has an incredible reach of connections and relationships with coaches throughout the region, enabling him to attract excellent student-athletes to Western Colorado,” adds Van Hee. “I believe he has all the attributes to elevate Mountaineer men’s basketball to be contenders in the RMAC in the near future.”

An elected team captain at Eastern Washington during his playing days, Claus was previously on a University of Nebraska team that advanced to the third round of the 1995 postseason NIT. He received the Team Attitude Award as a Cornhusker then moved to an Eastern Washington program, twice earning the Eagles’ Most Inspirational Award while also earning a pair of Big Sky All-Academic Team honors. Claus completed his college days with a degree in communications from Eastern Washington.

Claus’ official start date is Monday, June 12. He will begin working remotely before moving he and his family to Gunnison in the summer. “Toni and our girls are so happy to be joining the Gunnison community and looking forward to some special days ahead.”

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