By SETH STRINGER
Bart Walker is coming back to NWF State.
The 48-year-old drove down from Tennessee on Thursday, interviewed in person and toured the facilities. Later that night he was hired to replace Tamela McCorvey, who stepped down on March 6 after the Raiders finished 1-11 in the Panhandle Conference and 14-13 overall.
"He checked off every box we were looking for," said Ramsey Ross, NWF State's athletic director. "He's an outstanding recruiter and a seasoned veteran with being a Division I coach. He also has a wealth of contacts, he has a large international network and he's intimately familiar with the Panhandle Conference with being here from 2008 to 2010."
During that two-season span in Niceville, Walker was 38-16 before departing for family reasons. But this is a new NWF State program, replete with a new arena and training facilities Walker was never able to resource.
"The reason I applied was obviously the school has transformed tremendously with the facilities and the campus growth has been unbelievable," Walker said. "When I toured the facilities yesterday I was really amazed. Being in the best conference in the nation with the best resources, I can recruit the kids I want to recruit. And I have a comfort level at NWF State, where there's still some coaches and faculty members I know."
Walker's past with NWF State wasn't the central reason why Ross selected him over fellow finalists John Marcum and David Daputo.
"It wasn't the deciding factor," Ross said. "The deciding factor was that he's been excellent in every coaching capacity. He's been successful wherever he's been."
Walker leaves Motlow State, where in one year he led the Bucks to a 27-6 overall record (tied school record) and a national title appearance. The Bucks also defeated NWF State 59-52 early in the season when the Raiders were ranked in the top 10.
Before that he spent four seasons (2012-2016) at Tennessee Tech, where he helped lead the Golden Eagles to a Ohio Valley Conference title. Walker in his career is 244-77 (.760), an impressive mark he sees translating into success in the toughest conference in the land.
How tough? Gulf Coast has won back-to-back national titles and for half the season the entire league was ranked in the top 15 nationally.
"It's gonna be an uphill battle," Walker said. "It's the best conference in the country and we just have to roll up our sleeves, go to work, get in there and grind and recruit with those guys.
"If you're competitor you want to play against the best. That's our goal, to compete for a conference championship, compete for a state title and then if you do that obviously you're on the path for contending at the national tournament. It's a process and we understand it's a process. We have 12 scholarships to fill, which is a lot of player from the time now. We got a late start but hopefully we can get some good players and be competitive in the first year and build that winning culture."