On Friday afternoon, on site at the 2011 NCAA Final Four Men's Basketball Championship, Martin Methodist College head coach Andy Sharpe was named out of 17 total finalists as the first-ever Don Meyer Award winner, as presented by CollegeInsider.com.
The award, a national recognition among NAIA men's basketball coaches, is named in honor of the game's winningest in any division in NCAA history, and was developed after Coach Meyer announced his retirement in 2010. Alongside a prestigious national award highlighting the legendary career of Meyer, a staple among Tennessee college basketball, Sharpe's award was presented by Belmont University head coach of 25 years, Rick Byrd, also a prominent figure in the Tennessee college basketball scene. Sharpe's reception of the award recognizes him among the ranks of not only the nation's, but Tennessee's top coaches, as his team was the final collegiate Tennessee squad in postseason basketball at all levels this year.
"The successes of Coach Sharpe and our RedHawk men's basketball team is a great example of when good things that happen to good people who work hard," remarked athletic director Jeff Bain upon the announcement. "In addition, it is a true reflection of all the working components that it takes to be successful, and Coach Sharpe is the leader of that workshop."
Sharpe's young career has been decorated by two trips to the NAIA National Tournament, and this year by a 34-win season, the most wins among any four year institution in the nation. As a part of this season, Sharpe's squad reached the program's first-ever NAIA Fab Four, and set a new school win record, previously marked at 25 wins. This year's 34-3 season was highlighted by a 16-game win streak to start the schedule, as the RedHawks jumped into the national poll in December, and entered the top ten on January 10th at No. 6. MMC was ranked as high as fifth across the season, and finished at No. 6 in the final poll after nine consecutive weeks in the NAIA's top ten.
"It's a great honor for us as a school to be mentioned at the national level, especially when our guys represented Martin Methodist in a first class way all year," noted Sharpe.
This year's RedHawks claimed MMC's first TranSouth Regular Season Championship, and went on to hoist the league title on their home court at the TranSouth Conference Championship Final with a 69-66 win on a buzzer beater shot by James Justice. Justice, the TSAC Player and Newcomer of the Year, joined Ree McCrory and Chris Leggett in All-Conference selections, as Sharpe was named TranSouth Coach of the Year, a first time honor. Sharpe coached both Justice and McCrory to NAIA All-American accolades, his second and third All-Americans at MMC.
In just six years as a head coach, Sharpe, a native of Richmond Hill and former Richmond HIll High School basketball player under coach Jimmy Hires, has established himself as a top up-and-coming men's basketball figure, inheriting his first head coaching job at Emmanuel College at the age of 26. In just two years at Emmanuel, he turned the program into a conference contender with total 49-21 record in those years, and was named Southern States Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2007.
Making the move to Martin Methodist College for the 2007-08 season, he guided the RedHawks to their first national tournament appearance in four years, re-establishing MMC as a respected power in men's basketball. Compiling a commanding 99-34 record at Martin Methodist in only four years, along with his second national tournament showing this season, Sharpe carries a 140-63 career record in his six total years.