Coach Kirby Dean has successfully changed the basketball culture at Eastern Mennonite University, guiding the Runnin Royals to new heights as he enters his 15th season at his alma mater. EMU has become a national name in the past couple of years with Dean registering back-to-back 22-plus-win seasons, including a trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAA D-III National Championships.
Since the beginning of the 2008-09 season, the EMU men’s basketball program has had six of the top seven seasons in school history including the top three of all time. Before Dean took over, the program had only seven winning seasons in 37 years, with a 16-win season representing the highpoint. Over the past seven seasons, the Runnin Royals have averaged 17.6 wins, including 25-win and 22-win seasons.
Dean had a strong core of seniors in 2014-15, earning their second straight 17-win season and trip to the ODAC Tournament Semifinals. Senior David Falk and Marcel Crump each earned repeat All-ODAC selections, with Falk on the First Team and Crump on the Second Team. Falk was also named All-Region and All-State, as he finishes with the EMU records for blocks in a season and career and is third in career rebounds.
Falk made national headlines as a junior with his appearance on ESPN’s top plays with two thunderous dunks vs. Randolph College which had him as high as No. 4 on SportsCenter's Top Plays, one spot behind Jabari Parker of Duke!
During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the up-tempo Runnin Royals were among national leaders in scoring offense, scoring margin and turnover margin. The men have averaged 87.0 and 87.8 points per game, giving their huge crowds a lot to cheer about while they racked up a 47-10 combined record.
In 2009-10, the men not only advanced to their first-ever national tournament, they also hosted games on the opening weekend in front of packed crowds of more than 1600 fans. The Royals finished 14-2 in the ultra-competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference that year, claiming just their second regular season title in program history.
Dean was named ODAC Coach of the Year after the 2009-10 season as well as the National Assosication of Basketball Coaches South Region Coach of the Year. He also mentored four men on the 2009-10 All-ODAC teams, including Todd Phillips who was named First Team All-American by D3hoops.com. In his senior season, Phillips was named ODAC Player of the Year, becoming just the third EMU men’s basketball player to earn the award.
Dean played four years at EMU from 1988 to 1992. He was named best defensive player in 1989, 1990, and 1992. In 1992, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education and a minor in Coaching. Following graduation he spent two years as an assistant coach with the Royals.
In 1994, Dean, who grew up in nearby Penn Laird, Va., moved down Interstate 81 to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. He spent eight years from 1994 to 2002 as an assistant coach at the Division I institution. In 1995, the team went 18-10 overall and 10-4 in the Southern Conference. It was the most wins by a VMI squad since the 1970s. From 1994 to 1999, VMI went 40-33 in conference games, the most successful five-year run at the military school since the 1970s.
The Valley called Dean back closer to home in 2002 when he spent a year as the high school boys' basketball coach at Waynesboro High School and taught middle school. After one season, EMU came calling and Kirby Dean was named Head Coach of Men's Basketball.
In addition to his undergraduate degree, Dean also holds a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Athletic Administration from James Madison University. He currently lives in Harrisonburg with his wife, Regina, who is an elementary teacher in the Augusta County Public School District, and daughter, Maycee.
Dean has two bible verses that speak to him both in his life as EMU basketball coach and in his personal life. "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord…plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Through many years of coaching basketball, Dean most enjoys the relations that he develops with players. He greatly appreciates that many of his players from years ago at VMI still call or e-mail to keep in touch.