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Jim Fox was introduced to the public as the Mountaineers’ new head men’s basketball coach at the Appalachian Athletic Center Wednesday.

STEVE BEHR | Watauga Democrat

Originally published: 2014-04-09 14:17:59
Last modified: 2014-04-10 17:16:34

ASU hires Fox as basketball coach

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Jim Fox finally got a chance to start the day as the head coach of a college program.

Fox was introduced to the public as the Mountaineers' new head men's basketball coach at the Appalachian Athletic Center Wednesday. Included in the crowd were his parents, his mother, Pat, and his father, Jim.

Fox, 40, signed a five-year contract that will pay him $200,000 the first year, with an additional $10,000 added for each year. He also has incentives based on items such as the team's APR, grade point average and team's performance.

An additional $200,000 was set aside for his assistant coaching staff.

Fox was hired away from Davidson, where he had been an assistant coach for 13 years under Bob McKillop. He replaces Jason Capel, whose contract was not renewed after four seasons.

Fox said one of his main objectives, outside of the obvious of winning basketball games, is to get fans and students involved in the program.

"I am humbled to be your basketball coach," he told the crowd assembled in the Mountaineer Room. "I've been at Davidson for 13 years. There's anxiety. I was in my hotel room and I put on that black and gold Nike polo and, man, it felt good."

Fox has already met the players and put them through a workout. He told them that the Mountaineers are not that far off from being a good basketball team.

The Mountaineers return nearly all of their roster from last season. Three starters -- Tab Hamilton, Mike Neal and Jay Canty -- return for their senior seasons. Michael Obacha, another returning starter, will be a junior in 2014-15.

They lose senior Tevin Baskin, who was a starter as the start of 2013-14, but spent most of the Southern Conference games coming off the bench. Former Ashe standout Tommy Spagnolo has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth-year redshirt.

Fox has also been in contact with recruits North Forsyth point guard Kendrick Flomo and Rasheed Worrell, a 6-foot-8 forward from Coker, Ala. Flomo signed a letter of intent with Appalachian State during the early signing period, but has asked to be let go from it.

It's also been reported that Worrell has been considering asking to be released from his letter.

"I've spoken to both of them," Fox said. "Hopefully it will be resolved soon and we can go back out and I want to speak to them. I want to gage their interest. I want guys who want to be here and want to wear Appalachian across their chest. I want to speak to them and hopefully we can move on one way of the other."

Later on Wednesday, Fox let Devonte Graham out of the letter of intent he signed with Appalachian State during the early signing period in 2012. Capel did not let Graham out of his letter after Graham received attention from power conference programs following his successful senior season.

"I spoke to his people, too, and I want that to end," Fox said. "I want them to know that we'll do everything we can to make sure that he's going to go where he wants to go."

Graham played post-graduate prep basketball at Brewster Academy last season.
Fox will also begin working on a new staff immediately.

Fox wants to round out his staff by the weekend. Cobb said the Mountaineers will create a director of basketball operations position.

The Mountaineers struggled to a 9-21 record in the 2013-14 season. It's a sharp contrast to the 10 regular season Southern Conference championships and six SoCon tournament championships Fox helped Davidson win since 2001.

"There's such a fine line from being good and being great," Fox said. "We're not that far off. We have to change some things. We have to do some things differently. We have to change the culture, and they want to do it. I have to get them to be committed to change the program."

Part of that change is guiding the Mountaineers to the top of their new conference, the Sun Belt. Appalachian State moves to the Sun Belt on July 1.

Appalachian State has not reached the NCAA tournament since 2000, and has played in the Big Dance just twice. Fox said that his goal is not just to build the Mountaineers into a contender, but to maintain the program as a winner.

"I know they want to achieve greatness," Fox said of the players. "I looked into their eyes. I know they want to achieve that greatness. I can't wait to work with them."

Fox also made what he said was, "a call to arms," within the fan base that includes alumni, students, boosters and supporters of Appalachian State athletics.

He wanted to let people know that he is willing to talk to them at any time.

"This is for the people in Boone, for the season ticket holders, for the alums for the boosters, for everyone listing on the radio and everyone watching on TV: I need your help. I need you to get behind us," Fox said.

Fox is originally from Levittown, N.Y. He grew up in a family that coached AAU basketball and also in the Catholic Youth Organization teams in the New York area.

He graduated from State University of New York at Geneseo in 1995 with a bachelors in political science. He received an internship to work for the Secret Service, but preferred to pursue a career coaching basketball.

"I'm a little soft, so that didn't appeal to me," Fox said. "The people were great there, but I said to my family that you all have your jobs, but you love the basketball part of it. Why don't I just do the basketball part -- and they were very supportive of me."

With his parents' approval, he was eventually hired on a volunteer basis at Davidson by McKillop, who is also from Long Island, N.Y. After three weeks at Davidson, Fox earned a salary.