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Originally published Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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SPU hires Ryan Looney as men's basketball coach

Ryan Looney, who led Eastern Oregon to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II tournament last season, was hired as the men's basketball coach at Seattle Pacific University.

Ryan Looney, who led Eastern Oregon University to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II tournament last season, was hired as the men's basketball coach at Seattle Pacific.

Looney, 33, compiled a 95-55 record in five seasons at Eastern Oregon in La Grande, Ore. His Mountaineers won 63.3 percent of their games, the best winning percentage among the school's coaches.

"We're extremely excited to open this new chapter and welcome Ryan to our campus community and our athletic department team," said Erin O'Connell, SPU's athletic director. "Under his five years of leadership at Eastern Oregon University, Ryan's teams displayed great success in the classroom and on the court. Our men's basketball program is no stranger to these characteristics, and we look to Ryan to lead our team to push that envelope even further."

Looney directed EOU to back-to-back NAIA Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009, the first time the school had made it to nationals since the 1950s. His Mountaineers won the 2008 Cascade Collegiate Conference championship, their first title in 38 years, and shared the conference crown in 2009.

His team was 25-8 last season before suffering an 80-79 NAIA quarterfinal setback against No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion Oklahoma Wesleyan.

Looney becomes the 11th head coach for the SPU program that began intercollegiate men's basketball in 1946. He replaces Jeff Hironaka, who left after 18 years on the Falcons staff to become an assistant coach at Washington State. Hironaka served the last seven seasons as the head coach at SPU, where he compiled a 134-67 record and participated in each of the last five NCAA Tournaments.

"My family and I are excited about becoming part of the tradition of excellence in SPU athletics," Looney said. "The Christian campus, location, and people make it a great opportunity for us. The basketball program at SPU has experienced a high volume of success over the years. I hope to be able to build upon the strong foundation that has been established."

Eastern Oregon was 28-50 in the three seasons before Looney's arrival. After a 4-22 record in 2004-05, his first season, the Mountaineers improved to 17-11 in 2006 and 23-8 in 2007.

The 2008 Mountaineers produced a memorable season, finishing with the most wins in program history. EOU had a 26-6 record, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Tournament and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the national poll. Looney received the CCC's 2008 Coach of the Year award.

Before being hired at Eastern Oregon, Looney served two seasons as the top assistant at NCAA Division II Minnesota State University Moorhead, helping the team to a 33-24 record and a berth in the finals of the 2002 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament.

He played at Eastern Oregon from 1996 to 1998, and was an NAIA All-America scholar athlete and still has the school's career free-throw accuracy record at 89.5 percent. After graduating in 1998 from EOU, Looney got his first head coaching job in 1998-99 at Cove High School.

He was an assistant for two seasons at Wisconsin-LaCrosse, where he received his Master of Science degree in sports administration in 2001, Looney joined the staff at North Idaho College for the 2001-02 season.

Looney inherits an SPU team that was 19-10 record in 2008-09 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament. The Falcons placed third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference at 11-5 record. Just one letterman, senior forward Casey Reed, departs from last year's team.

"There is a great core group of players returning. I can't wait to start working with them," said Looney.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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