MONTICELLO — Kyle Tolin was not looking for another job until he was contacted about the head coaching position for Arkansas-Monticello men’s basketball.
Leaving a university he had been associated with for 14 years as a player and assistant coach wasn’t going to be that easy.
“I turned down Division I assistant jobs and turned down head coaching jobs before just because we were there and successful and had a good thing going, and (I was) working with my dad,” said Tolin, who played and coached under his father Doug at NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma Baptist University. “It was a neat perspective that no one could take away. But this came available, and it just felt right and I knew this was where I was supposed to be.
“But yeah, it was hard (to leave Oklahoma Baptist).”
Kyle Tolin was formally introduced during a meet-and-greet Wednesday inside UAM’s Indoor Practice Facility. The Norman, Okla., native is the 15th head coach in UAM history and replaces new West Alabama coach Allen Sharpe.
Tolin, 33, who arrived on campus Monday, has accepted the challenge of building on to a current streak of four straight winning seasons, the longest in the Boll Weevils’ history.
“You have something to build on, which is good recruiting,” Tolin said. “Obviously, I’m trying to sell myself and the university (so recruits know), hey, this is a good university. This is what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and here’s my vision of what I’d like to look like.”
But Tolin is so used to winning.
As an assistant coach, he helped Oklahoma Baptist win the NAIA championship in 2010 and finish second in 2012. He played on the 2002 runner-up squad and was named the school’s Senior Male Athlete of the Year in 2004.
The Bison also won three straight Sooner Athletic Conference championships from 2010-12. According to UAM athletic director Chris Ratcliff, Oklahoma Baptist will soon join UAM’s league, the Great American Conference.
Aside from success, Ratcliff sought character and a community-oriented person in his top candidate. Tolin succeeded among a pool of at least 200 applicants.
“We’re a small community, and someone from New York or Boston isn’t going to understand Monticello,” Ratcliff said. “It’s Arkansas, so you want someone who understands that small-town life. And then you want someone who’s a winner. His bio speaks for himself.”
Athletic directors from other schools reached out to Tolin about the UAM gig once they had heard about the opening from Ratcliff.
”They knew me well enough to know this was a good fit for me to try to pursue and get involved it,” Tolin said.
Tolin’s plan for the Weevils is to play at a fast pace but take good shots.
“We’re not going to play fast just to play fast or because we’re saying we play fast,” he said. “There are going to be different styles you play against, but we like to have a balance of good athletes in a system. We don’t want to be a system that’s going to run a million sets and we don’t want to have just good athletes that are out there playing. We like to try to have a balance.”
Time isn’t on the coach’s side, however, as he tries to reload a team that went 19-10 (12-8 in the GAC) this past season. The Weevils lost six seniors including All-GAC first-teamer Brandon Wilson, and only four of the remaining seven underclassmen are returning, according to Tolin. The coach hopes to land two more by the end of this week with another recruit “on the fence.”
Most of the approximately 40 recruits Tolin’s talking with are from the junior-college ranks, where he plans to turn to quickly add experience.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, and it’s a short amount of time,” Tolin said. “It’s June 18. Some recruiting happens late, but not this much happens late.”