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Northern Kentucky University introduces Darrin Horn as the Norse men’s head basketball head coach

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Northern Kentucky University formally introduced Darrin Horn as its new head men’s basketball coach Thursday at BB&T Arena.

NKU’s new Men’s Head Basketball Coach Darrin Horn, left, is welcomed by Athletic Director Ken Bothof (center) and University President Ashish Vaidya at Thursday’s press conference (photos by Mark Hansel).

Horn said he was excited to join a program that is knocking on the door of being somebody to reckon with, but he is not satisfied with that.

“We don’t want to just knock on that door, we don’t want to just open it a little bit,” Horn said. “We want to blow it off the hinges.”

Horn takes over a team that has been to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. The Norse gave Kentucky a run for its money in 2017 and hung with Texas Tech for much of the game in this year’s first round matchup, before bowing out to the eventual national champion.

Horn met with his players this week and said he has as much to learn from them as they do from him.

“We’re here to continue to build on this momentum and this energy that they helped create, which I have a ton of respect for,” Horn said. “The next step is starting to make some noise in the non-conference and find a way to break through with some tournament wins. (There was) a lot of talk about that and just wanting to get to know them more importantly as people and individuals as much as basketball players.”

Horn is the sixth men’s head basketball coach in Northern Kentucky University history.

New NKU Men’s Head Basketball Coach Darrin Horn talks about what drew him to the position and his goals for the Norse program.

He follows Mote Hils (1971-1980), Mike Beitzel (80-88), Ken Shields (85-2004), Dave Bezold (04-15) and John Brannen (15-19).

Brannen led the Norse to its first two NCAA Division I Tournament appearances and was hired to replace Mick Cronin as the head coach at the University of Cincinnati earlier this month. Cronin left UC to take the head coaching job at UCLA.

Several members of the Norse men’s basketball team attended Thursday’s press conference. Horn said he has as much to learn from them as they do from him.

The hiring represents a homecoming of sorts for Horn, a Glasgow, Kentucky native.

He played for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers from 1991 to 1995 on a team that had four 20-win seasons. While he was there, the Hilltoppers amassed two Sun Belt Conference championships and a pair of Sun Belt Tournament Titles.

The Hilltopers went to the NCAA Tournament three times and the NIT once during that time.

He began his coaching career with stints as an assistant at Western Kentucky, Morehead State and Marquette University, before being hired as head coach at Western Kentucky and later at the University of South Carolina.

His record as coach of the Hilltoppers was 111-48 from 2003-08, which included a Sun Belt Conference regular-season and tournament title in 2008. that year, the Hilltoppers advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Horn was working as an analyst for ESPN when University of Texas Head Coach Shaka Smart convinced him to return to coaching as an assistant there.

He served as the Longhorns associate head coach in the 2018-19 on a team that won the NIT Tournament.

In a statement, Smart said he is very excited for Horn and his family and that the Norse head coaching job represents a terrific opportunity.

A large crowd of student-athletes, alumni, and other supporters of the Norse basketball program attended Thursday’s press conference at BB&T Arena.

“Over the past four years, he’s been a valuable asset to our program and impacted our team and staff in many ways,” Smart said. “We are extremely grateful for all that Darrin has done at UT and will follow his success at Northern Kentucky with great excitement.”

Horn ended his first press conference as NKU’s head basketball coach with an enthusiastic, “Norse Up,’ which brough a broad smile to the face of NKU Athletic Director Ken Bothof.

Bothof said, given the success that NKU has had in recent years, he knew Brannen was becoming a hot commodity. He had already assembled a list of potential candidates, in case someone was able to lure him away.

“You always kind of think your coach at the mid-majors level being highly successful may go somewhere,” Bothof said. “We got focused on that group pretty early, which made this search go along pretty quickly. Once you get to that point then it is finding the fit..and really spending some time getting to know them and getting to know the people they’ve surrounded themselves with, then moving forward.”

Horn was joined at Thursday’s press conference by his wife, Carla, their daughter, Caroline, and their son, Walker.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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