Abilene Christian University athletics director Allen Ward announced Wednesday that longtime Wildcat associate men’s basketball head coach Brette Tanner has accepted an offer to be the 17th head coach in program history.
“I’m humbled and honored to be the next head coach of Abilene Christian basketball, and to continue leading this program,” said Tanner, who joined the program at the onset of its NCAA Division I era in May 2013. “This is a place my family and I have grown to love and we’re excited to stay here.”
“To say Brette was instrumental in our success these past few years is an understatement,” said Ward. “Not only did he have a hand in practically every aspect of the program, but he was the architect of our nationally ranked defense. He was responsible for recruiting many of the players that achieved the level of success we’ve experienced the past few years. As I examine where we are as a program, and how best to build upon our championship success, Brette is unequivocally the best coach to take the reins for us.”
As the associate head coach to Joe Golding for eight seasons, Tanner was responsible for establishing the defense, leading recruiting efforts and changing a culture that had been plagued by consecutive losing seasons.
It took some time, but by year five (2017-18), the program reached its first Division I postseason tournament (CollegeInsider.com) and the following spring was a 27-game winner and Southland Conference champion. The Wildcats won another 20 games during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season and celebrated their second conference tournament championship in March 2021. This year’s postseason run was highlighted by a first-round 53-52 upset of the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional.
“Brette has played a huge role in the success of our men’s basketball program and I’m excited to have him lead it as head coach,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert. “I know he has the confidence and respect of his players, who have played exceptionally well under his guidance. He knows our expectations for the academic success and spiritual development of our student-athletes. I look forward to seeing him and his staff continue to build upon the momentum of their first March Madness victory.”
“As a former player at Abilene Christian, I’m proud that Brette Tanner has been selected to lead this program,” said Golding. “He was my first and most important hire early in our DI transition – the most important recruit in the history of Abilene Christian – and he stuck by my side through all the good and bad. I consider him to be one of the best minds in college basketball and is a big reason for my success. I’m happy for him, his wife, Lindsey, and sons, Colby and Carson.”
Defense was key to the team’s 24-5 record this season as the Wildcats led the nation with 19.93 turnovers forced per game and a +6.3 turnover margin. They also were No. 2 nationally with 9.7 steals per game and fifth in scoring defense, allowing just 60.4 points per game.
Coryon Mason, Damien Daniels and Reggie Miller made the Southland’s all-defensive team, while Kolton Kohl and Joe Pleasant were first- and second-team honorees, respectively. Mason also received third-team honors.
Overall, ACU has had eight players make an all-conference squad since 2017with another three designated as honorable mentions. Five players have been named to the league’s all-defensive team.
In 2020-21, ACU again led the league in scoring defense (65.3 points per game) in earning the No. 2 seed at the Southland Tournament. The defense ranked 25th nationally for 3-point field goal percentage (29.8), fifth in steals (9.5) and second in turnover margin (+5.8).
The Wildcats have an overall eight-year record of 134-114 (.540) with Tanner on the bench, but are 87-39 (.690) since becoming postseason eligible four seasons ago. They also finished their Southland tenure above .500 at 71-68.
“There are many advantages to hiring from within, but that doesn’t mean internal candidates don’t have to meet the same level of qualifications and experience I expect in a head coach,” said Ward. “He has to have the skill set, must have played an instrumental role in the team’s success, must be a seasoned recruiter, must be recognized for his coaching prowess, and is not afraid of lofty expectations. That’s Brette Tanner and that’s why he’s getting this opportunity. He’s an outstanding coach and is fully prepared to be a successful head coach at ACU.
Ward said that when he looks at the top mid-major programs in the nation, it’s likely their commitment aligns with their expectations.
“Those programs have top-notch facilities, have a passionate fan base that supports the program financially, and have an outstanding head coach making a difference in the lives of quality young men. That’s what we have at ACU. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of ACU and I believe coach Tanner will do great things here.”