Jimmy Lallathin, who served as interim head coach for the final 16 games of the 2013-14 season, had the interim tag removed Thursday.
The announcement came just one day after the university and former head coach Lewis Preston mutually agreed to part ways.
Lallathin, who led the Owls to a 3-13 record over the last two months of the season, after Preston took a leave of absence, became the fifth head coach in Kennesaw State history.
“It’s just a humbling experience,” the 35-year-old Lallathin said of being named head coach less than 24 hours after his predecessor left. “You never expect anything. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m thankful to be around a guy like (athletic director) Vaughn Williams and (university president) Dr. Dan Papp.
“It’s been such a whirlwind. The only thing that keeps going through my mind is it’s just a humbling situation.”
This will be the first head-coaching job for Lallathin on any level, but he said he’s smart enough to know he doesn’t have all the answers just because he got a promotion.
“I’m going to make some mistakes,” Lallathin said, “but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.
“I don’t know if anyone is really ready (to be a head coach), but one of the things that was embedded in my mind by (late Miami University coach Charlie Coles) was to have a beginner’s will, and to think I’m going to learn something new every day.”
Williams said Lallathin did everything possible to keep the Owls together over the last two months of the season, and it was impressive to watch the young coach grow into the job.
“He was put in a tough position,” Williams said. “He handled himself very well. I felt better as I watched and saw that (the team) progressed.”
Kennesaw State was significantly more competitive under Lallathin than it was under Preston.
In the 13 games Preston coached against Division I opponents, the Owls averaged only 60 points per game and was beaten by an average of 17.
Under Lallathin, Kennesaw State scored 66 points a game and allowed 75. All three wins under Lallathin came in Atlantic Sun Conference play, giving him one more conference win than Preston had in 2½ years.
Williams said the improved play was just one of the reasons he decided to stay with Lallathin, instead of embarking on a national coaching search. Another was how the team has responded to him off the court.
“I really took them into consideration,” Williams said. “We felt they had a tremendous amount of trust in Jimmy, and we didn’t want to lose that momentum they were building. They are already working hard getting ready for next season.”
A contract has yet to be finalized, but Williams said those details — likely a three-year deal — will be ironed out in the near future.
Lallathin should also expect to receive a nice raise. As Preston’s associate head coach, he made just over $65,583 in 2013. Preston made just over $168,000.
Lallathin has been part of the Owls’ coaching staff since being hired as an assistant coach by Preston in June 2011. Lallathin was promoted to associate head coach last May.
Prior to his arrival at Kennesaw State, Lallathin spent the 2010-11 season as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference. He was the RedHawks’ director of basketball operations from 2008-10, and an administrative assistant in 2007-08.
From 2003-07, Lallathin was an assistant at Lakota West High School — his alma mater — in West Chester Township, Ohio.
Lallathin played two years of basketball at Marietta (Ohio) College before graduating from Miami University.