Aug. 21—Max Pendery can finally get rid of his interim tag.
After being named the interim men's basketball coach at East Central University following the departure of head coach Chris Crutchfield last April, Pendery was named the 12th head coach of the Tigers in a press release sent to The Ada News Friday afternoon.
"I could not be more excited to lead the ECU men's basketball program," Pendery said via the release. "The Ada and East Central University communities have been welcoming and supportive since the day I arrived and it was immediately clear this is a very special place. Getting to know the area, the students, the faculty and staff, the alumni and the men's basketball program, it is easy to see why there is an abundance of pride at ECU. I am eager to get to work and look forward to having a positive impact on our student-athletes."
Pendery joined the Tigers' staff for the 2020-21 season as an assistant coach. He helped lead ECU to a 10-9 overall record and a 9-8 mark in the Great American Conference West Division in a season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Coach Pendery has done a great job through this transition, both with our student-athletes, donors, alumni and the Ada community," said interim Athletic Director Al Johnson. "I am excited to see Max lead our men's basketball team this season and beyond."
The short season saw two ECU players claim All-GAC honors, as Josh Apple and Jalen Crutchfield were both named to the second team. Apple was one of two players to set single-season Top-10 marks in the season, while three players combined to set six Top-10 career records.
During the year, ECU set two Top-10 single-season marks, ranking No. 10 in field goal percentage (.470) and No. 9 in 3-point field goal percentage (.375). The Tigers also earned a spot in the GAC Tournament Championship, falling in the quarterfinals.
"I have known Max and have worked with him for a while," said Crutchfield, currently an assistant coach at Oregon. "He has shown the ability to be a great communicator and leader of young men. The Tigers' program is in great hands."
Pendery came to ECU after spending a season at the University of Arkansas as a graduate assistant, with Crutchfield, where he worked closely with skill development and scouting reports while assisting with recruiting and practices.
Prior to joining the staff at Arkansas, Pendery was a men's basketball graduate assistant at Ashland University for two seasons, where he assisted with all aspects of the program. He helped the Eagles advance to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in 28 years.
"Coach Pendery is a coaching star in the making," Arkansas men's basketball head coach Eric Musselman said. "He is always two steps ahead and reads the game like a veteran coach. He is a true grinder who understands work ethic and how to build player relationships and has an incredible future as a head coach."
Pendery headed to Ashland after spending three seasons as the varsity assistant coach and head junior varsity coach at Cincinnati Christian University. He assisted with all aspects of the men's basketball program, including the preparation of scouting reports, recruiting, skill workouts, practices, film sessions, travel and team community service.
In three seasons with the Eagles, the team reached the NAIA national tournament in 2016 and saw two 20-plus winning seasons. While at CCU, the staff was awarded the 2016 NCCAA Region Coaching of the Year honor.
"ECU is excited to have coach Pendery leading our men's basketball team," said ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson. "He has shown an incredible work ethic and a commitment to success this past year. We believe he has the drive to take the Tigers to their next championship."
Pendery played for the Stan Kimbrough Ballers at the AAU level, while also playing for Mariemont High School as a prep.
"I would like to thank President Pierson and the athletics department staff for their trust in me," Pendery said. "I am thrilled to get to coach this group of student-athletes and we look forward to having the program compete for championships on an annual basis."
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native earned a bachelor's degree in sports management from Ohio University in 2014 and an MBA in finance from Ashland in 2019.
Note: Teri LaJeunesse, ECU's Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications, contributed to this report.