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NMJC Names New Basketball Head Coach

NMJC Names New Basketball Head Coach photo 5/29/2009 6:14:36 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. At a press conference on Tuesday, May 26, Chris Tifft was introduced as the new Head Men's Basketball Coach at New Mexico Junior College. Tifft replaces Jimmy Voight, who recently resigned to accept the associate coaching position at University of Louisiana-Monroe. Tifft was approved by the NMJC Board on May 19.

Coming to NMJC as the former Head Men's Basketball Coach at Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colorado, Tifft brings with him an impressive record. During his five years at Lamar, Tifft led the LCC men's team to a level of success that had not been seen in four decades. Coaching the team to three consecutive 20-win seasons and amassing a record of 99 wins and 63 losses, Tifft led LCC to their first-ever Region IX Championship this past season and qualified for their first trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. Under Tifft, the team concluded the tournament with a 3-1 record and placed 5th in the nation. Tifft was also named the District IX Men's Division I Basketball Coach of the Year.

Along with his team's successes on the court, Tifft also established high expectations in the classroom. For the 2007/2008 season, Tifft's team finished the academic year with a 3.04 cumulative GPA, and for the Fall 2008 semester, his team carried a 3.12 GPA.

A community college graduate himself, Tifft holds an associate's degree from Three Rivers Community College, Poplar Bluff, Missouri; a bachelor's degree (with a major in Geography) from the University of Nevada-Reno; and a master's degree (with a major in Educational Leadership) from the University of Nevada-Reno.

Prior to his serving as Head Coach at Lamar, Tifft was the Assistant Basketball Coach at both Dodge City (Kansas) Community College (2001-2004) and the University of Nevada-Reno (1996-2001).

He admits he was drawn to NMJC for several reasons. "New Mexico Junior College and the city of Hobbs both have great basketball tradition," he said. "NMJC is a college that is growing and looking to the future, and I feel that the resources are in place to take great care of our student-athletes. Also, the community of Hobbs is growing, and that leads to numerous opportunities for our program and for my family. The first time I stepped onto the campus at NMJC, I immediately knew there was potential here to build a great basketball program. Not just for one or two years, but for a sustained amount of time. That's what I look forward to doing here: building a program, not just recruiting great players and just having a good season. We are going to work hard to develop a program from the inside out that kids can take pride in, the school will be proud of and the community will attach itself to."

According to Don Worth, NMJC Athletic Director, having Tifft on board now is perfect timing. "Chris Tifft is exactly the right person in the right place at the right time. He has everything we need -- the experience, the heart, the professionalism, the integrity, the commitment, the people skills, the discipline, the focus, everything -- to take this program to the next level. We're thrilled he's here, and it's going to be great to watching Chris take the T-Birds to where they need to be," said Worth.

Last season, the T-Birds enjoyed their most successful season in a number of years as they went 21-9 overall and 9-7 in WJCAA play. Finishing fifth in the conference, NMJC was one game out of the fourth and qualifying spot for the Region V Tournament.

Tifft said that the direction he'll be taking the T-Birds will focus toughness, efficiency and accountability. "We want our team to understand what good basketball is, and how it helps you to be successful," said Tifft. "Our teams will be disciplined and balanced, and we will play with a certain tempo - very much like what you would see at the 4-year, Division I level. A lot of junior colleges want to get up and down and play at a fast pace, which is okay," he said. "But we want to make sure we can execute our game plan and have to chance to win every game we play."

Tifft also pointed out that NMJC already has the basics in place. "I want the student-athletes who play T-Bird basketball to know they have a great place here. The housing facilities are amazing, and the campus and athletic facilities are great. I want our players to know that they have all the resources necessary to compete at the highest level, and feel like they are in the best place in the country."

In addition to recruiting, coaching, and serving as a role model to the T-Birds, Tifft feels that his job will include supporting other community basketball teams as well. Referring to Head Basketball Coaches Russ Gilmore of Hobbs High School and Jerry Voight of the University of the Southwest, who both attended the press conference, Tifft said, "It's encouraging to see such support for the basketball programs in Hobbs. We'll all be working together in each other's gyms, showing mutual support for one another's teams and players. We're all representing Hobbs basketball, and not as three different entities. By working together, this will create stronger teams for us all."

Pointing out that the Western Junior College Athletic Conference is known for being one of the toughest in the nation, Tifft admits that it's a challenge, but one he's looking forward to. "It's a great league, and it has a lot of respect," he said. "Instead of calling recruits and saying, 'Yes, I'm Coach Tifft from New Mexico Junior College, and we're in the best conference in the country with South Plains and Midland' (the 2008 and 2007 national champs, respectively), I'd like to get other coaches to say, 'We're in a conference with New Mexico Junior College.' I'm looking forward to the challenge."

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