As Northwest Nazarene Athletic Director Kelli Lindley conducted interviews for the open head coaching position for the Crusaders’ men’s basketball program, she heard a similar message from candidates over and over.
“If you’re not going to hire me, then you need to hire the rising star that you already have on staff,” Lindley said.
NNU did just that on Thursday, taking the interim tag off Paul Rush’s title and officially naming him the Crusaders’ new head coach.
Rush, 34, joined the Crusaders staff in 2015 as a top assistant and the director of recruiting. He was named the interim head coach last month when Scott Flemming resigned to become the senior director of basketball operations for NBA India.
“My goal in this program is to build them into leaders who have integrity, discipline and a selfless love for others,” Rush said. “I want to build a culture and a program based on love. I want to build their attitudes and the way they approach the game by holding them to a high standard and pushing them to a high standard.
“I want the attitude of our team and the way we play to be tenacious, scrappy, tough and full of energy. I want that to become our brand of basketball.”
It’s been a swift rise in the coaching ranks for Rush, who began his career as an assistant coach for Capital High’s sophomore boys team in 2003. He took over the Eagles’ varsity program in 2010, taking Capital from a 3-17 record during the 2011-12 season to a 26-0 record and a 5A state championship in 2014.
In five seasons as the Eagles’ head coach, Rush compiled an overall record of 64-52. The Eagles were 56-19 over his final three seasons and made three consecutive state tournament appearances.
NNU hopes Rush’s track record holds true as a head coach in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. As an assistant the past two seasons, the Crusaders went 20-32, including a tie for sixth place in the GNAC standings last winter.
“He showed that he could take a program that was struggling and really change the culture and win a championship,” Lindley said. “That did carry weight, as did his reputation in the Valley.”
NNU begins the 2017-18 season at home Nov. 10 against Multnomah University. Tipoff is 8 p.m.