An icon at East Texas Baptist University is mounting his Harley Davidson and riding off into the sunset from coaching the men’s basketball team as coach Bert West has announced he is retiring after being at the school for 22 years. He is the all-time wins leader at ETBU with 303 victories, has 315 collegiate wins in his career, and in high school and college combined 825 wins.
“We will certainly miss watching Coach West on the Tiger sideline. He has been a great ambassador for ETBU throughout the city of Marshall, the American Southwest Conference, this region, and these past two years even on the national scene. He is an alum of ETBC and he bleeds blue and gold,” says ETBU Director of Athletics Kent Reeves.
West has served at ETBU on two separate occasions from 1991-97 and 2000 to 2016 as head coach and won championships both times in those tenures. He set the program record for wins at 28 in 1995-96 winning the Big State Conference when ETBU was in the NAIA. Last year, he guided ETBU to a 26-6 record winning the American Southwest Conference regular season and tournament championships. That team went on to win the next three rounds in the NCAA Division III national tournament while finishing in the Elite 8. Then, this past season, the team won the program’s second American Southwest Conference East Division championship with a 12-3 record.
Earning five coach of the year awards, West’s wisdom of basketball has impacted ETBU. He has twice won the ASC East “Coach of the Year” and last year, when the ASC didn’t play in divisions, was named the ASC “Coach of the Year. He was also then voted the D3Hoops.com South Region “Coach of the Year.” In 1995-96, he earned the Big State Conference “Coach of the Year”. In his time in NCAA Division III, 46 players have earned an American Southwest Conference award as he has had 16 All-ASC Freshmen team players, eight All-ASC players, five All-ASC tournament players, four ASC East Defensive Players of the Year, three ASC East Players of the Year, and one ASC Tournament MVP.
“How can you offer one quote that embodies the legendary leadership of Bert West?! A man of deep Christian faith, with a love for God, his family, our university, and his players, Coach West’s investment has and will produce Kingdom results not for just years, but generations to come,” says ETBU president Dr. J. Blair Blackburn. “When I first stepped on to this majestic Hill, I was embraced by Coach West. His enthusiasm and energy are contagious. I did not become his president, yet quickly, he became ‘my’ coach. As I visited with Coach West about his decision, I expressed how much I was going to miss him. The Lord then led me to ask coach to stay on in a consultant role to our younger coaches and to help me share with Marshall and our supporting Christian community the importance and impact of Christ-centered Tiger Athletics. Coach West will retire this May after almost three decades of coaching leadership. Effective this summer, I am appointing Mr. West as Tiger Coach Emeritus. May God guide us to find a model of a man like Bert…a caring and loving coach, a discipler of men, with a disciplined work ethic and fire In his belly for building a national championship program.”
West came to the university as a student-athlete playing for then ETBC and graduating in 1972. He played for ETBU Athletic Hall of Fame coach R.C. Kennedy and then went into coaching after graduating. West had a stellar high school coaching career in Louisiana before coming to ETBU for his first stint as the head coach. He won four straight Louisiana High School state championships at Zwolle High School before making the move back to his alma mater in 1991. From 1991-1997 he put ETBU back on the map for basketball in the NAIA world winning the Big State Conference in 1997-98 with a 28-5 record.
The past two years at ETBU have been the best in the NCAA Division III era going 47-12. ETBU won their first-ever American Southwest Conference regular season and tournament championship. They went 15-5 in the ASC and 18-0 in Ornelas Gym. This year, they followed with a 12-3 ASC East record winning their second divisional championship. Along with that, they had a 26-game home winning streak which was the longest in NCAA Division III at that time and have won 31 out of their last 32 games at home.
Last year also brought ETBU’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament where West guided his team to a 3-1 record. ETBU won their first and second round games in Ornelas Gym as the host and then traveled to Wisconsin winning their Sweet 16 game vs. the University of Northwestern. They then fell in the next game to host Wisconsin-Stevens Point who went on to win the national championship.
“Bert West has dedicated 22 years to the East Texas Baptist University men’s basketball program. In this time he has poured himself into the lives of his players. His players play hard for him because they love to play for him,” says Reeves.
Leaving for retirement after 26 years of being a part of the men’s basketball program (22 coaching, 4 playing), his role with the university will not end as he will continue to serve the athletics’ department and other special projects for the university. His legacy, though, will forever be etched in the history of ETBU men’s basketball as he used the gifts God gave him to make a difference in the lives that came through his program.
Photo Courtesy ETBU Athletics