MACOMB, Ill. - Western Illinois men's basketball head coach Jim Molinari has been named Summit League 'Coach of the Year' by CollegeInsider.com after leading the Leathernecks to their first-ever NCAA Division I Postseason Tournament this season.
The Leathernecks took part in the 2012 College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen after making an exciting run in the Summit League Tournament that included wins over North Dakota State and top-seeded Oral Roberts, before a heartbreaking, overtime loss to South Dakota State in the championship game.
Western’s quarterfinal win over NDSU was the program’s first tournament win since the 1999 tournament, and the Leathernecks' appearance in the title game was the first since 1997.
After being picked to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the preseason poll, Western finished 2011-12 with an 18-15 overall record, went 9-9 in Summit League games, and earned the fourth-seed in the conference tournament.
Western's winning record marked the first of its kind in 12 years, and the team’s 18 wins was the most since the 1996-97 season when the Leathernecks went 19-10.
Compared to the rest of the nation, Western concluded the season ranked in the top-30 of four national categories, including: 11th in personal fouls per game (15.0), 12th in three-point field goal percentage (39.5), 22nd in scoring defense (60.2), and 27th in turnovers per game (11.4).
The Leathernecks were also able to draw more fans to Western Hall in 2011-12 than in years past, seeing a season-high 2,276 fans attend the Leathernecks’ season-finale win over Nebraska-Omaha. Western also drew 2,124 fans for Oakland, 1,897 versus IUPUI and 1,624 against Eastern Illinois, the four-highest home attendance games since playing Indiana at home in the 2005-06 season (5,021).
Under the guidance of Molinari, three Leathernecks earned Summit League honors, led by senior Ceola Clark III who was tabbed 'Defensive Player of the Year' for the second time in his career, as well as Second Team All-Conference. Clark is the only player in league history to have earned the honor twice. Junior Terell Parks was named Honorable Mention, and to the All-Newcomer team, while freshman Obi Emegano was also named to the All-Newcomer team.