Kirk Crawford coached Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra at the University of Portland and soon after gave up men’s basketball to work with women.
There is no connection between the two actions, beyond hinting at the depth and variety of Crawford’s basketball experience. Wichita State women’s coach Jody Adams hired Crawford last month, adding a coach with men’s and women’s college, NBA and WNBA experience. He spent the past season at Drake, where he admired what WSU did on its way to a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference. Adams noted Crawford’s contributions to Drake in their three meetings.
“I gained a lot of respect for the Wichita State program, and what Jody is doing here, from an outside perspective,” he said. “Everything is in place here to win, not only a championship, but multiple championships.”
Hiring Crawford, 55, completed a staff makeover for Adams, who moved Dana Eikenberg from director of operations to an assistant coach. She replaced Eikenberg with Gerrett Spears, also from Drake and a former WSU graduate assistant. Crawford and Eikenberg, a former head coach at Southern Illinois and UMKC, replace Carlai Moore and Kristy Guffey.
“I’m really excited about the experience,” Adams said. “That’s what makes the biggest change in your program, and that’s what’s changed here. There’s a lot of experience here.”
WSU won two of three meetings against Drake last season. When coach Amy Stephens resigned, Crawford became available. Adams admired his work with Drake’s defense and his tutoring of center Rachael Hackbarth, the MVC Player of the Year.
Crawford went from Drake to volunteering as a scout for an NBA team. He said he had an offer to work as an advance scout, detailing future opponents, but the 200-plus travel days didn’t appeal to a man with twin sons. WSU’s opening did.
“What an advantage for Drake to have someone who trains NBA players and has been in all facets of the game,” Adams said. “Things changed at Drake. Rachael, you could see the significant changes in her game, the calmness, the poise. Her knowledge, her understanding of where her shots would come from, the ability to handle the many double-teams… his teaching took her game to another level.”
Crawford started his career in the men’s game after playing second base and point guard at Western State College in Colorado. He was coaching at Portland, where Spoelstra played from 1988-92, when he asked for time to work with the WNBA’s Portland Fire in the summer.
With that experience, his course changed.
“I fell in love with the women’s game,” he said. “I really enjoy the aspect of coaching females, because there tends to be more teaching. They tend to be more coachable, in my experience, with me and my personality. Men, well, 80 percent don’t want to hear you.”
Crawford, a native of Denver, continued his career at Air Force, Southern Mississippi and Providence before Drake. He also works with NBA and WNBA players at Florida’s IMG Academy.
“I look forward to being a resource for our team,” he said. “Maybe new ideas. Maybe new drills. I’ve worked out a lot of high-level athletes, and I take those experiences and apply them to this level.”