NAIA NEWS: Cross named head basketball coach at Ottawa U (KS)

University of Ottawa Director of Athletics Janet Eaton-Smith is pleased to announce the hiring of Matt Cross as head men’s basketball coach. Cross comes to Ottawa University from NAIA Texas College in Tyler, Texas. He has guided four individual programs to national tournament appearances: Texas College, Talladega College, LSU-Shreveport and Lamar State College.

“I am thrilled to have Coach Cross join our staff,” said Eaton-Smith. “Matt is a proven winner in men’s basketball and is highly respected by his peers. He brings a can-do attitude to the department and will immediately take the program to the next level. Matt’s knowledge of the game will help increase the basketball IQ of our student-athletes. The future looks bright for the men’s basketball program and I can’t wait for the season to begin in October.”

Cross served as the head men’s basketball coach and athletics coordinator at Texas College from 2021 to 2024. It was Cross’ second stint with the program. From 2006 to 2008, he was the head men’s basketball coach at TC. In 2023-2024, the Steers broke the program record for wins with 22, qualified for the program’s first trip to the NAIA National Tournament and defeated three NAIA Top 25 teams. In his four years at Texas College, Cross was a Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Coach of the Year selection and was named Athletic Department Coach of the Year (2008, 2024). In May 2024, he received the President’s Service Award from Texas College.

“I would like to say a special thank you to athletics director Janet Eaton-Smith for her belief in me to lead the Ottawa University men’s basketball program to national prominence,” said Cross. “I would also like to thank the entire OUKS family for their support and for welcoming me to Ottawa! When I visited Coach Eaton-Smith, she recognized the tremendous opportunity at the University of Ottawa to attract and retain top players and compete for championships. Her strategic vision for the OUKS athletics department parallels the motto I have led with since day one: “Win ​​Championships, Create Champions, Make History.” I have always been someone with aspirations to coach at the highest level and driven to win an NAIA National Championship. I am confident we can do something special in Ottawa. The KCAC is the premier men’s basketball conference in the NAIA, and it just got a little bit better today!”

Before joining Texas College, Cross was head coach of the women’s basketball program at LSU-Shreveport in Shreveport, La., the city where he was born and raised. In 2017-18, he led the Pilots to a school-record 31 wins and the best record of any athletic program (31-2) in LSU-Shreveport history. His team climbed as high as No. 10 in the NAIA Women’s Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, the highest ranking in program history. Cross led the Pilots to an RRAC regular season and tournament championship. They also set the program record for consecutive wins with 19. He was named RRAC Coach of the Year, Louisiana Association Basketball Coaches Small College Coach of the Year, and finished second in voting by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association Collegiate Coach of the Year. Commission.

Prior to his time at LSU-Shreveport, Cross spent five years (2012-2017) at Talladega College. It was his second period at TC. Cross served as the Athletic Director and head men’s basketball coach for a year in 2008-09, where he started the program from scratch. Cross and the Tornadoes became the first start-up program and youngest head coach to win a national championship with their 2008-2009 USCAA Small College National Championship. Talladega defeated five NCAA Division I programs to earn a ranking of No. 1 in the NAIA.

In his final five years at Talladega College, Cross was a three-time Athletic Department Coach of the Year, a three-time Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Coach of the Year selection, was named the 2015 HBCU National Coach of the Year and was the winningest coach in program history with 177 wins. TC posted three consecutive victories in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament: Evangel University (2014), Rocky Mountain College (2015) and Westmont College (2016). Cross led the Tornadoes to seven championships, three consecutive GCAC regular season championships and consecutive GCAC tournament championships. The Tornadoes had two NAIA Round of 16 appearances, an NAIA Fab Four appearance and a 2015 HBCU National Championship. TC was ranked No. 1 in the NAIA for four weeks during the 2014–15 season and had the third-longest appearances in the NAIA Men’s Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll from 2014 to 2017. Talladega was the first HBCU since Hampton University in 1982 to appear in the NAIA Fab 4 and the first HBCU to achieve a ranking of No. 4. 1 since Texas Southern University in 1977.

From 2009 to 2012, Cross was head coach of the men’s basketball program at Lamar State College in Port Arthur, Texas. He led the Seahawks to a 70-30 record, a ranking of No. 7 in the NJCAA, an appearance in the 2011 NJCAA National Tournament and a trip to the round of 16 of the national tournament. Under his leadership, the Seahawks won the program’s first Region XIV Championship in 2010-11 and the program’s first Texas Eastern Conference Championship in 2011-12. LSC set a school record for wins with 26 in 2011 and Cross was named NJCAA District 14 Coach of the Year. In 2010-11, Lamar State defeated No. 9 Trinity Valley College in the quarterfinals of the Region XIV Tournament and No. 2 San Jacinto College in the championship game. During the NJCAA National Tournament, the Seahawks continued to be a huge killer. Lamar defeated No. 1 Missouri State University – West Plains in Hutchinson for the program’s first national tournament victory.

Cross has a collegiate coaching record of 345-171, totaling nine 20-win seasons, nine national tournament appearances, has led four different programs to a national tournament, posted two 30-win seasons and earned two national coach of the year honors. He has coached 51 all-conference performers and eight All-Americans.

He is a champion of the work of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC).

Cross earned his degree in physical education with a minor in history from the University of Arkansas Monticello in 2005.