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Gene Cross
Position: Head Coach
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Alma Mater: Illinois
Graduating Year: 1994
Gene Cross Biography
Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 04/23/2008

Gene Cross knew he wanted to be a college basketball coach since he was a player at the University of Illinois. With that goal in mind, everything Cross has done from that point forward has led him to where he stands now as he enters his first season as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Toledo in the 2008-09 campaign.

Cross is leading the Rockets’ basketball program into a new era as UT will be playing its games in a newly-renovated Savage Hall.

"The Toledo basketball program has a great tradition, and I’m looking forward to building on that tradition," Cross said. "Savage Arena is going to be a tremendous facility, and it’s our goal to have a team that will make our fans proud and fill the arena."

A Chicago native who played collegiately at Illinois, Cross spent the last two seasons at Notre Dame as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator under head coach Mike Brey. The Fighting Irish qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each season, going 24-8 in 2006-07 and 25-8 in 2007-08, as Brey was named Big East Coach of the Year both seasons.

Prior to his stint with the Fighting Irish, Cross served as an assistant at Virginia and DePaul under head coach Dave Leitao and Illinois-Chicago under head coach Jimmy Collins.

SUCCESS AS A RECRUITER
Regarded as a tireless and innovative recruiter, Cross has received national recognition for his impressive history of recruiting success. He was named to the list of "Ten Assistants Ready For the Next Step" by CBSsportsline.com in 2007 and also named one of the top 25 recruiters in college basketball by Rivals.com in 2005.

The 2003 class recruited while he was at DePaul was ranked in the top 25 in the country by CSTV.com, while the 2000 class at UIC was ranked No. 1 in the Horizon League by Hoop Scoop.

Cross spent time with three successful head coaches working on his craft for when his turn came to run a program.

The first to take Cross under his wing was Collins, who saw his understudy’s potential right away.

"From day one, I could see Gene’s ambition and work ethic were well above the norm," Collins said. "He’s personable and has worked extremely hard to be knowledgeable of the game of basketball and the people who play and coach the game. That makes for a successful head coach."

Leitao and Brey echoed Collins’ sentiments and believe Cross is in an ideal situation for his recruiting background.

"Toledo is a terrific university and in an area of the country that will allow Gene to do well in recruiting, coaching and run a very successful basketball program," Leitao said. "I am extremely happy and pleased that after years of successful and diligent work that Gene is getting his first opportunity to be a college head coach."

Brey added, "Gene is the kind of guy you would want your son or daughter to play for. He’s been ready to be a head coach the last couple of years but was waiting for the right situation and certainly Toledo is that."

NCAA SUCCESS WITH THE FIGHTING IRISH
Cross’ tenure at Notre Dame was highlighted by a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances thanks to a high-powered, unselfish offense and a perfect 35-0 home mark. The Fighting Irish averaged 80.0 points per game over the last two seasons, including a nation-best 18.4 assists per game last year.

"We were very proud to lead the country in assists at Notre Dame, and that’s something I’d like to mirror at Toledo because that reflects a team that shares the basketball," Cross explained. "I’d like to see us at the top of the league in assists and have the league leader in assists on our team.

"It would be great if we had three or four players scoring in double figures, because that would mean we’re scoring a lot of points. That would lend itself to being unselfish, and an unselfish group is hard to guard and hard to beat."

In Cross’ first season in South Bend, he helped the Fighting Irish defy an 11th-place prediction in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll and post a 24-8 overall mark and an 11-5 conference ledger. Russell Carter and Colin Falls received first-team all-conference accolades, while Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson earned spots on the Big East’s All-Rookie Team. UND made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003 but was upset by Winthrop in the first round.

Notre Dame finished just a game away from capturing a share of the Big East’s regular-season title last year, finishing with a 25-8 record for the third-most wins in school history and an impressive 14-4 mark in conference action. Harangody received multiple All-America honors and was named Big East Player of the Year after averaging 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. The Fighting Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Washington State.

LIFE WITH LEITAO
Prior to joining the Notre Dame program, Cross spent four years as Dave Leitao’s top assistant at DePaul (2002-05) and Virginia (2005-06). It was during this time that he learned first hand what it was like to take over a program after coming in as an outsider.

"I think being with Dave at DePaul and Virginia will be helpful in my first year at Toledo," Cross said. "In both situations, the administration wanted a change and being a change agent is hard because people don’t necessarily like change.

"You have to be strong-willed and steadfast with how you approach people in and around your program so they understand your method."

Along with Leitao, Cross helped the Blue Demons rebound from two straight losing seasons to post a 58-34 record and make three postseason appearances. During his time, he coached five All-Conference USA performers.

The 2002-03 campaign saw DePaul quadruple their conference wins from two to eight and nearly double their previous season’s win total with a 16-13 ledger. That mark was good enough for an NIT appearance which ended with a first-round setback at North Carolina.

The Blue Demons continued to build on their success in 2003-04 with a 22-10 ledger in addition to earning a share of the Conference USA regular-season title and the postseason tournament’s No. 1 seed with a 12-4 record. The memorable season included advancing to the C-USA championship game and receiving their first NCAA invitation in four years as well as their highest seed since 1992. The Blue Demons opened tourney play by winning a 76-69 (2OT) thriller over Dayton to reach the second round for the first time since 1989. DePaul fell short of a Sweet 16 appearance with a loss to eventual national champion Connecticut.

A second-straight 20-win season and a 10-6 league mark followed in Cross’ final year in the Windy City. The Blue Demons advanced to the second round of the NIT, posting a 75-70 victory at Missouri before falling to Texas A&M.

When the duo traveled together to Virginia, the Cavaliers were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ended up posting a 15-15 overall record and earning an NIT berth. Among UVA’s triumphs were home wins over a No. 24 North Carolina team coming off a national championship and No. 11 Boston College.

STARTING OUT AT UIC
The first destination in Cross’ collegiate coaching career was in his hometown at the University of Illinois-Chicago. After receiving his master’s degree at Ohio State and spending one year coaching at Marion-Franklin High School, Cross joined his former Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins when he was hired at UIC.

"Coach Collins was a masterful recruiter and I’m thankful that he gave my first college coaching job," Cross said. "I learned about the importance of developing relationships from him and how that helps in the recruiting process."

During his six seasons (1996-2002) with the Flames, he helped the program to the first two NCAA Tournament berths in school history after capturing conference titles in 1998 and 2002.

In their first year with the program, Collins and Cross helped UIC post a 15-14 overall record and reach the MCC Tournament championship game, where the Flames fell to Butler by just a point, 69-68. After a 1-8 start, the team posted a 14-6 mark in their final 20 outings, including an 11-5 conference finish to tie for second place.

The 1997-98 squad tied a school record with 22 wins and captured a share of Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season crown. During the regular season, the Flames had victories over conference champions Michigan State (Big Ten), Illinois State (Missouri Valley) and Valparaiso (Mid-Continent), helping them earn an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

In his final season at UIC, the Flames finished with a 20-14 record and claimed the Horizon League tournament title. With the win, UIC earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma in the first round.

During his time with the Flames, Cross coached 1997-98 MCC Player of the Year Mark Miller and seven all-conference performers.

LIFE AS A PLAYER
Cross played four seasons (1990-94) at Illinois under Head Coach Lou Henson, lettering as a junior and senior and helping the Fighting Illini to NCAA Tournament appearances in both seasons. He played in just 29 games as a walk-on during his career, but it turned out to be a good learning environment on his road to becoming a head coach.

"I didn’t have a lot of game experience, but I did get a chance to play against a lot of good players in practice," Cross said. "One of the greatest lessons I learned about was work ethic and leadership. "

Henson said it was clear even at that point the new Rockets’ bench boss was poised to one day become a head coach.

"Gene contributed a lot to our teams and we talked about the game of basketball quite a bit," Henson said. "He was eager to learn and is a very intelligent, personable individual. Even as a walk-on he displayed as much leadership on our team as anyone and maybe even more."

Cross played his prep basketball at Rich Central High School in Chicago under head coach Ron Brauer. As a senior, he earned all-conference honors as well as being named his team’s Most Valuable Player.

ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
Cross, 36, earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Illinois in 1994 and received a master’s degree in sport management at Ohio State in 1996.

Cross has served on several committees with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), including the last five years as President of the Assistant Coaches Board. In addition, he is currently part of the NABC Division I Congress and Special Committee for Recruiting and Access.

The son of Gene Cross and Haroleon Hall, Cross comes from an athletic family. His grandfather, George, played basketball at Illinois State, and two of his cousins also played collegiate athletics. David Cross played football at Northwestern, and Gene Cross played basketball at Southern Illinois.

Cross is the father of two sons, Justin (6) and Gavin (2).

THE GENE CROSS FILE
Assistant Coaching Experience

1996-97

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

15-14/11-5

 

1997-98

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

22-6/12-2

NCAA Tournament-1st Round

1998-99

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

7-21/2-12

 

1999-00

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

11-20/5-9

 

2000-01

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

11-17/5-9

 

2001-02

Assistant Coach

Illinois-Chicago

20-14/8-8

NCAA Tournament-1st Round

2002-03

Assistant Coach

DePaul

16-13/8-8

 

2003-04

Assistant Coach

DePaul

22-10/12-4

NCAA Tournament-1st Round

2004-05

Assistant Coach

DePaul

20-11/10-6

NIT 2nd Round

2005-06

Assistant Coach

Virginia

15-15/7-9

NIT 1st Round

2006-07

Assistant Coach

Notre Dame

24-8/11-5

NCAA Tournament-1st Round

2007-08

Assistant Coach

Notre Dame

25-8/14-4

NCAA Tournament-2nd Round

Other Coaching Experience
Assistant Coach/Head Freshman Coach, Marion-Franklin (OH) High School (1995-96)

Playing Experience
University of Illinois (1990-94)
Letterwinner: 1992-93 and 1993-94
NCAA Tournament: 1992-93 and 1993-94

Personal Information
Born Dec. 20, 1971 in Chicago, IL

Education
B.A., history, University of Illinois, 1994
M.A., sport management, Ohio State University, 1996



What They Are Saying About Gene Cross

"I think Gene is going to do a great job with the Toledo basketball program and will help them win a championship and get an NCAA Tournament bid. He ranks right up there with any of the assistant coaches I had and 12 of those got major Division I head coaching jobs. He’s a tremendous recruiter and a class act."
Digger Phelps, ESPN analyst and former Notre Dame head coach

"Toledo captured a star on the rise in Gene Cross. His unyielding work ethic, vast network of recruiting contacts and program-centric approach will all pay immediate dividends. Given his enthusiasm and eye for talent, Toledo basketball is in very good hands."
John Paxson, Chicago Bulls’ Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and member of three NBA championship teams

"Gene is a great communicator and has what it takes to be a tremendous head coach. He’s done very well as an assistant coach at several good programs, and I believe he will do an outstanding job leading the Toledo program into the future."
Lou Henson, former Illinois and New Mexico State basketball coach

"Gene has the entire package and is one of the up-and-coming young coaches in this country. He’s bright, personable, intelligent and inspiring. I believe Gene is going to do a great job at Toledo. He’s a proven recruiter and knows the game of basketball. He comes from a very good academic background and is committed to the total student-athlete."
Kevin Anderson, Army Director of Athletics

"Gene Cross is an outstanding young coaching prospect. He is smart, energetic and he is a good teacher who relates to his players very well. Gene has a really bright future in coaching, and I am confident that he will be very succesful. Toledo hired a good one in Gene Cross."
Jay Bilas, ESPN analyst

"There’s not another coach in America more deserving of a head coaching position than Gene Cross. His work as an assistant in the ACC, Big East and Horizon League has prepared him well for this opportunity."
Steve Bardo, ESPN analyst

"Gene is a strong and determined leader. He’s passionate. He’s been mentored by one of the top basketball coaches in the country, Mike Brey. I am confident that Gene will have a high impact on the Toledo Basketball program."
Kevin White, Duke University Vice President & Director of Athletics

"I’m really excited for Toledo and for Gene Cross. He’s a great fit. He’s been ready to be a head coach the last couple of years but was waiting for the right situation and certainly Toledo is that. Gene is the kind of guy you would want your son or daughter to play for."
Mike Brey, University of Notre Dame Head Coach & 2006-07 and 2007-08 Big East Coach of the Year

"When you see a guy as talented as Gene you recognize it right away. I have not doubt that Gene’s personality and background will allow him to flourish as the head coach of the Toledo basketball program and make the Rockets an annual contender for the NCAA Tournament in the very near future."
John Hammond, Milwaukee Bucks General Manager

"I am extremely happy and pleased that after years of successful and diligent work that Gene gets his first opportunity to be a college head coach. It is well deserved. I couldn’t be happier for a young man who is definitely prepared and I am sure he will do very well. Toledo is a terrific university and is in an area of the country that will allow him to do well in recruiting, coaching, and running a very successful basketball program."
Dave Leitao, University of Virginia Head Coach

"Coach Cross is one of the best motivators I have ever met. He carries himself with decency and respect and cares about the well-being of his players off the court first. Coach Cross is an amazing competitor as a coach. I felt at times that he saw himself in the battle on the court with our team during games."
Sean Singletary, Phoenix Suns

"Coach Cross is one of the most intense coaches you’ll find. The intensity he displayed in practices helped to make me a better player. I know that he will bring the same drive and emotion he had at Notre Dame to Toledo and I expect his teams to have great success in years to come."
Luke Harangody, University of Notre Dame junior forward and 2007-08 Big East Player of the Year

"Coach Cross always brought intensity and focus to every practice and every game. He helped set the tone for our team."
Zach Hillesland, University of Notre Dame senior forward

     
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