Thanks to great sources who got HoopDirt.com out in front of this one earlier today. It’s now been made official, Midwestern State has hired Azusa Pacific’s Justin Leslie as their new head basketball coach. Here is the official release from MSU:
A proven winner with a great track record of success is set to take the reins of the tradition rich Midwestern State men’s basketball program.
The program is set to announce Justin Leslie as the 10th head coach of the program in an introductory press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday morning at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
“Justin brings great enthusiasm and knowledge to the game of basketball,” MSU Texas Athletics Director Kyle Williams said. “He was extremely prepared and knows the competition he will face in the Lone Star Conference. We were very impressed with his coaching accomplishments on and off the court. We look forward to the Leslie family being a part of MSU Texas and the Wichita Falls community.”
Leslie makes the move to Wichita Falls following a highly successful run at Azusa Pacific in California. He led the Cougars to an average of 22 wins per season in his 12 years at the helm of his alma mater including nine 20-win campaigns, two Pacific West Conference titles and an NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance in 2015.
“This is the right move at the right time,” Leslie said. “Getting the opportunity to be around the people and understand the culture in Wichita Falls, I saw that it was a natural fit between who I am and what I can do. That will allow me to come in and hit the ground running.”
Leslie inherits a Midwestern State program which advanced to the NCAA Division II postseason tournament in nine out of 10 seasons from 2006-16 posting at least 22 wins in each campaign. The Mustangs won three consecutive South Central Region titles (2010, 2011, 2012) during the run which also included seven Lone Star Conference championships.
The Mustangs, however, posted a combined 51 losses over the past three seasons and failed to qualify for the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament for the first time since 2008 this season leading to Nelson Haggerty’s resignation.
Leslie faced a similar challenge of upholding the reputation of a small college powerhouse at Azusa Pacific after taking over for his coach and mentor Bill Odell, who amassed 454 wins in 16 seasons before announcing his retirement in 2007.
He extended the Cougars’ run of 20 -win ledgers registering at least 24 victories in each of his first five seasons at the helm. Then, Azusa Pacific made the jump from the NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II through the tough Pacific West Conference.
During the provisional seasons, Leslie’s teams boasted marks of 13-14 in 2012-13 and 17-10 in 2013-14 to set up consecutive league title runs in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In total, the Cougars own 20-win campaigns in four of five seasons as a full NCAA Division II member.
Leslie appreciated his observations during his visit to the Midwestern State campus and is ready to reinvigorate support from the Wichita Falls community.
“Stakeholders need to be involved in the program,” he said. “I sensed the care and the desire for a program that is going to represent the community in the right way. I look forward to meeting the boosters and the fans and giving them something they can be proud of.”
Leslie has been directly involved with the Azusa Pacific men’s basketball program for all but one year since 1996 as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach.
He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2000 before earning an MBA during his final season of play at Azusa Pacific in 2001.
Justin and his wife, Joy, also an Azusa Pacific alum, have two daughters — Jill and Jenna — and a son, Jaren.
COLLEGIATE PLAYING CAREER: Leslie competed as a 6-8 center at Azusa Pacific form 1996-2001. He is one of just five players in Golden State Athletic Conference history to play on four conference championship teams.
Leslie averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds while setting the school’s single season (88) and career (168) records for blocked shots. As a senior in 2001, he averaged 12.4 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds while leading Azusa Pacific to a program-best 35-3 record. In all, Leslie was a key member of teams which posted a 127-22 record (.852) during his playing career.