SAN FRANCISCO: San Francisco lured former NBA player Rex Walters away from Florida Atlantic to take over its struggling basketball program.
Walters, who had a 31-33 record in two seasons for the Owls, was formally introduced at a news conference Monday.
"The University of San Francisco is a national name and we need to be a national basketball program," Walters said. "The challenge of that really excited me."
Walters takes over for Jessie Evans, who was forced to take a leave of absence in the middle of last season and then was fired last month. Eddie Sutton took over the program on an interim basis for the remainder of the season as the Dons finished 10-21 in their third straight losing season.
USF has struggled in recent years to compete with West Coast Conference power Gonzaga, and has also fallen behind Saint Mary's, San Diego and Santa Clara in recent years in the conference.
Walters said his goal is "to hang banners" at a school that won NCAA titles in 1955 and '56 with Bill Russell but has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1998.
"There's something special here. There's something special about the city," Walters said. "I told the guys they will all come in with a blank slate. I don't worry so much about what happened in the past. I'm here to talk about USF basketball today and in the future."
Walters inherits a roster led by Dior Lowhorn, who was No. 1 in the WCC in scoring at 20.5 points per game last season.
Walters will be the third new coach in the eight-team WCC, joining Tom Asbury at Pepperdine and Bill Bayno at Loyola Marymount.
Walters spent one year as an assistant at Florida Atlantic before taking over the program when Matt Doherty left to coach SMU. The Owls went 16-15 in Walters' first season, before falling to 15-18 this season. Walters previously spent two years as an assistant at Valparaiso.
Walters began his college career at Northwestern. He transferred to Kansas and played his final two college seasons under Roy Williams. Walters averaged 15.6 points per game with the Jayhawks, helping the team reach the Final Four in 1993.
Walters said he wouldn't be where he was if not for the time he spent with Williams. He also thanked some of his NBA coaches, Chuck Daly, Larry Brown and Pat Riley, for helping his progress.
Walters was selected 16th overall by New Jersey in the 1993 NBA draft and played seven seasons for the Nets, Philadelphia and Miami. He averaged 4.6 points per game in his career.