Ja Havens has officially been named as the head men’s basketball coach at Northeastern State University. This was first reported by HoopDirt.com on Sunday (D2 DIRT). NSU released the following statement this afternoon:
Northeastern State University will be welcoming back Ja (pronounced as Jay) Havens as its eleventh head men’s basketball coach, Interim Director of Athletics Matt Cochran announced Tuesday afternoon.
“NSU is a special place for me, and it’s been a big part of my life and who I am,” said Havens. “I have two degrees from here, and I got to serve as a graduate assistant for two years under Coach (Larry) Gipson after playing for him for a year, and I got to play for Ken Hayes. It’s a great place, I know what it meant for me, and I’m excited to get to sell that to recruits. I’m equally excited about the potential for the program and the impressive changes around campus.
“We have a plan, we are going to hold people accountable to a higher standard, and believe in the process. We will work as hard as possible to find student-athletes who will buy into our program, and I believe that wins are a byproduct of how you operate and what you’re doing every day. We are going to hold true to our high standards and pursue excellence in everything we do on and off the floor.”
Havens played at Northeastern State for two seasons (1996-98) under NSU Hall of Fame head coaches Ken Hayes and Larry Gipson. After one year away from NSU, he returned as a graduate assistant under Gipson. They won two straight Lone Star Conference North Division championships and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Division II tournament. He has been a member of teams that have gone to nine NCAA Division II Tournaments and two NCAA Division I Tournaments.
“I am excited to see Coach Ja Havens return to NSU to lead the men’s basketball team,” said President Steve Turner. “Three things really impressed me about Ja. His love for his family, passion for teaching young men, and his record of wins over the past 19 years. He and his wife, Angie, are proud NSU alumni and are a great fit in our community.”
Havens will come to NSU from East Central University (Ada, Okla.) where he was head coach for seven seasons, carrying a record of 131-74, and was the fastest coach in ECU history to win 100 contests. Havens led the Tigers to back-to-back Great American Conference (GAC) Regular Season Championships (2016 and 2017) and won the 2017 GAC Tournament. He also took the Tigers to their first NCAA Division II Central Regional during that 2017 season.
At East Central, Havens posted a winning record in each of his seven-seasons and never missed the postseason, with 14 players named All-GAC, and one named as Player of the Year. Havens posted three straight 20+ win seasons at ECU and won 25, a program-best in 2017.
Under Havens, ECU earned honors in the classroom, claiming the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award twice (2018 and 2019).
Before arriving in Ada, Havens spent eight years as the assistant basketball coach at Drury University, which claimed the 2013 NCAA Division II National Championship. He helped the Panthers to five Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division Championships and two tournament championships. Drury had great success in the NCAA, advancing to the NCAA Division II Tournament six times and going 173-68 in the eight years he spent with the program.
Before moving to Drury, he spent four seasons at the University of Tulsa as an assistant coach and director of basketball operations. The Golden Hurricane earned two Western Athletic Conference championships during his tenure and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Havens started his coaching career at St. Gregory’s in 1998 and helped the team improve from a six-win season in 1997-98 to 14 in 1998-99.
“I could not be more excited or proud to welcome Coach Havens home,” said Cochran. “Coach Havens has a strong track record of putting together championship-caliber basketball programs on the court and inside the classroom. He understands the Northeastern State University mission, the Tahlequah community, and the rich history of the men’s basketball program. At NSU, we take great pride in our men’s basketball alumni and what they represent. Coach Havens is a perfect bridge to that past and the future of our men’s basketball program.
“We were humbled with the number of quality applicants in this search. I would like to publicly thank our advisory group for their hard work during this process. Members included: Our athletics administration, Jamie Hall, Scott Pettus, and Don Vieth, Faculty Athletics Representative Dee Gerlach, Larry Gipson (retired head coach), and Pete Vanzant (men’s basketball alumnus).”
Havens’ father Jerry is a member of Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His brother Jon is the head men’s basketball coach at Richland College (Texas) and was an assistant coach at NSU.
Havens grew up in Stillwater, Okla. and graduated high school in Lewisville, Texas.
Havens’ wife Angie is an occupational therapist and also played women’s basketball at Northeastern State. The couple has three sons: Trey, Trent, and Ty and one daughter, Tatum.