Carson Cunningham: ‘I’m just really grateful for the opportunity’

Former Purdue University guard Carson Cunningham says he is “super excited” to get the job as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the University of the Incarnate Word mission,” said Cunningham, who has coached the past five seasons at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

UIW is an NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.

Cunningham said in a telephone interview that he applied for the job soon after it came open in the first week of March.

He said he had preliminary talks with members of the UIW search committee, headed by athletic director Brian Wickstrom.

Subsequently, he was invited to the campus.

“Really, it all happened pretty fast,” Cunningham said. “I’m just really grateful for the opportunity, excited to get to work.”

Cunningham played for Gene Keady at Purdue for three seasons through 2001.

It’s the first Division I head coaching job for Cunningham, 40, from Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

In the past three years, his teams at Carroll dominated with a combined 80-22 record and back-to-back Frontier Conference titles.

Cunningham took over a program in 2013 that finished with only two victories the previous season.

He won nine games in his first year and then followed with records of 18-11, 23-10, 29-6 and 28-6.

The Saints reached the NAIA tournament in each of the past three years.

Cunningham will replace Ken Burmeister at UIW, which is still a program in transition.

In 2013-14, UIW embarked on a move from Division II and the Lone Star Conference to Division I and the Southland.

The Cardinals posted three straight winning records to start the transition but have since fallen on hard times.

Two years ago, UIW fell to 12-17. This past season, with the program eligible to compete for both the Southland and NCAA tournaments for the first time, the Cardinals dropped to 7-21.

At one point, they lost 17 games in a row. Ultimately, UIW fell short of the eight-team, SLC tournament, finishing tied for 11th at 2-16.

Quotable

From new UIW head coach Carson Cunningham:

“It’s thrilling to join the University of the Incarnate Word — a school with a wonderful mission and super-dynamic academics — as its next head men’s basketball coach,” Cunningham said. “I’d like to thank AD Dr. Brian Wickstrom and the hiring committee for the opportunity to join such an impressive athletic program; one that is positioning itself for a bright future.”

From former Purdue coach Gene Keady:

“I’m very happy for Carson. He was fun to be around and very intelligent as a player. I’ve visited him at Carroll in Montana twice and really liked his program. I’m excited to follow UIW now, and I’m happy for him and his family.”

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