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Eric Duft poses for a photo after being introduced as Weber State’s 10th men’s basketball head coach Thursday, May 19, 2022 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics
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In this photo from the 2012-13 season, then-assistant coach Eric Duft, left, talks with Weber State head coach Randy Rahe, facing outward, and the player Scott Bamforth, right, during a match at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Photo provided, Weber State Athletics
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Sherri Duft, left, and Eric Duft hold W’s after Eric was introduced as Weber State’s 10th men’s basketball head coach Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics
OGDEN — There have been enough times Eric Duft has been lucky enough to leave Weber State in the past 16 years to definitely qualify as plural.
Four years ago, Randy Rahe’s first-time assistant coach seriously wondered if it was time for a new experience.
“But ultimately,” Duft said Thursday, “the reason I stayed was because I wanted to be the head coach at Weber State University. And I wanted to be as loyal to Coach Rahe as possible, and I wanted to help him every step of the way – but when he decided to move on, I wanted to be in a position to be the next head coach.”
His loyalty led to that reality on Thursday when Duft was introduced as the 10th head coach in Weber State’s Division I era of men’s basketball, succeeding Rahe after the veteran’s surprise retirement was announced on Monday.
He sat next to his wife, Sherri, at the Dee Events Center on Thursday as he thanked Rahe, his current team and current and former players. He wept as he thanked his family for everything related to coaching college basketball, especially his mother and late father.
Duft said the process was quick. Rahe told him of his decision late last weekend, and on Monday Duft was meeting with athletic director Tim Crompton and university administrators to discuss his long-awaited promotion.
And that, according to Duft, was crucial to the health of the program. As of Monday, Weber State had five players set to return from last season, four new officially signed additions, one new player hired but not yet signed, and two rookies arriving that night for an official visit.
“I appreciate that the administration is moving quickly to give stability to our current players, the players we have signed. My goal and the goal of our staff throughout this process was to make sure we take care from them and their families, we were answering all the questions we could. We assured them that the program was going to stay stable and the continuity was going to stay in place,” Duft said. “We were constantly on the phone these two first few days, but we have had good feedback.
“When something like this happens and happens quickly, it can be a shock to the system. But they were great.
That committed but unsigned player was Southern Illinois transfer guard Steven Verplancken Jr. On Monday night, he told the Standard-Examiner that he was still committed to Weber State, and on Thursday night he officially signed.
The speed of the transition means that there was no search. It might have taken away an opportunity for something new, but it was weighed against a process that could lead to short-term and long-term instability. So Duft, 49, was rewarded for his 13 years as a Division I associate head coach.
“Randy is a Hall of Famer. He is the all-time winningest coach in the history of our program and our conference. The fact that he had an assistant coach by his side who has been with him for so long and has been a part of that success, and that Randy groomed him to be a head coach is lucky for us,” said Crompton at Standard. -Examiner. “It certainly speaks to Randy’s preparation and also Eric Duft’s preparation. We love Randy and are thrilled that Coach Duft is getting his chance.
Former players like Damian Lillard, Kellen McCoy and Isiah Brown were among those who praised and expressed support for Duft’s hire. Former Utah State head coach and current Boise State assistant Tim Duryea also chimed in Thursday night on Twitter.
“Eric is one of the most influential people I have ever had the opportunity to know and work with. He will be an outstanding coach and leader at Weber State. They are lucky to have him” Duryea wrote:. “Great coach and great family.”
As previously reported in the Standard-Examiner, Rahe said fourth-year assistant Eric Daniels and freshman assistant Jorge Ruiz are committed to staying at Weber State. Duft said Thursday that Daniels will be his primary assistant coach.
“Eric Daniels is an incredibly gifted coach and scout…I appreciate his loyalty, he’s a rockstar in the business and I’m glad to have him by my side,” Duft said, adding that Ruiz “will do fantastic things.”
Duft said he will continue to lead Weber State’s offense, as he has for 16 years, and Daniels will continue to lead the defense and adapt what it looks like with each roster. But he will seek to make the program his own, including changing the training structure to a more “European” model which involves more five-on-five work, and being “good in game situations” as things that he will implement.
Its stated vision is to be “fearless in the pursuit of excellence”, to give the community a team and group of young men they can be proud of, and to maintain a “player program” where former players can coach current players.
Thursday was a big moment for the Duft family. Their eldest son, Jaret, started kindergarten when they first moved to Utah as Eric took a job on the bench from Rahe. He is now a freshman in college, but was home to hear the news earlier this week. Their second, Halle, is still in college and heard the news over the phone.
“They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and they live and die for every win and every loss, and I’m so proud of who they are,” Duft said of her kids. The two youngest, Easton and Kourt, are at home and are also around the team frequently.
“They are so into Weber State basketball and what we have here. They were jumping up and down (when told the news). And then all they could talk about was recruiting, who else we were going to get, and ‘dad, you better make sure Coach Daniels and Jorge are working hard on this recruiting,'” he said. he says. “So they were excited. It was a good time for our family.
“Our kids have all really grown up here and we feel like through them we’ve learned a lot about the community as well,” Sherri Duft said. “It’s also a great place to raise them all, and we loved the stability we’ve had here raising our family.”
Amid all the congratulatory calls and texts this week, interested people also came to fill the vacant position on Eric Duft’s bench. He said he had a few conversations this week, but mostly focused on his current players and their families. He wants the new coach to be on campus no later than a month from now, when all 2022-23 players have reported for the summer semester and practices.
That, finalizing the last three spots on the roster and scheduling are on the agenda by the end of June. Ruiz now takes the lead in the lineup with Duft, although the new head coach has said next year’s program is largely complete, at least in draft form.
“With recruitment taking longer now, planning has been pushed back as teams are a bit reluctant to sign contracts until rosters are finalized,” he explained.
Within a week, Duft’s patience paid off and his persistence in staying at Weber State did indeed lead him to the first chair on the bench.
“The last few days have been a whirlwind,” he said. “I am extremely excited and proud to be named the 10th head coach in Weber State history. Weber State has such a great tradition. We have had great coaches and players throughout the year. history of the program and I’m really proud and excited to be a part of it, and humbled and ready to get to work.