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Dustin Kerns
Dustin Kerns was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Appalachian State men's basketball team to their first conference title in 45 years.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

App State’s Kerns Named Finalist for Multiple Coach of the Year Awards

App State men’s basketball head coach Dustin Kerns has been named a finalist for both the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award and the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award, collegeinsider.com announced Tuesday.

The Hugh Durham Award is presented annually to the top mid-major head coach in college basketball. The Jim Phelan Award recognizes the top head coach in Division I college basketball.

Kerns was named App State’s first conference coach of the year since 2003 by the Sun Belt Conference on March 4 and received NABC District 23 Coach of the Year Honors earlier this week. He has guided the Mountaineers to a program-record 27 wins and a postseason berth for the third time in his five-year tenure heading into Wednesday’s NIT first-round matchup at Wake Forest.

The Mountaineers claimed their first outright regular season conference title in 45 years and earned the one seed in the conference tournament for the first time since 1978-79 this season.

In addition to his Coach of the Year recognition, Kerns coached three All-Sun Belt selections and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in Justin Abson. Donovan Gregory and Tre’Von Spillers were both first-team selections, marking the first time since 1999 that two Mountaineers were named to the conference first team in the same season.

App State won a program-record 16 Sun Belt games this year under Kerns’ direction and finished 17-3 against conference foes. With a 16-2 record in conference play in the regular season, it was the best winning percentage in league play in program history.

The Mountaineers posted three wins against current NCAA Tournament teams, which included a 69-64 win over SEC tournament champion Auburn on Dec. 3 and two wins against Sun Belt Tournament champion James Madison. App State was the only team in the country that was undefeated in both Quad 1 and Quad 2 games in the regular season (3-0).

Statistically, App State is one of the best teams in the Sun Belt in Kerns’ fifth year. Defensively, the Mountaineers rank in the top 10 in NCAA Division I in blocks (first), blocks per game (first), field-goal percentage defense (fourth), fouls per game (third) and rebounds per game (fifth). Offensively, App State had the fourth-highest scoring offense in the Sun Belt, its highest ranking under Kerns.

Kerns sits just three wins away from 100 as App State’s head coach entering the NIT.

The Hugh Durham Award is named in honor of the former Florida State, Georgia and Jacksonville head coach. Durham became Jacksonville’s all-time winningest head coach, making him the only coach in NCAA history to be the winningest coach at three different Division I schools.

The Jim Phelan Award is named in honor of the legendary bow-tied head coach who spent his entire career at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Phelan led the Mountaineers to the 1962 NCAA Men’s Division II Basketball Championship. When he retired in 2003, after coaching for 49 years, he had amassed 830 wins (overall record of 830-524) in all divisions. In those 49 years, 19 of his teams amassed 20 or more wins in a season.

The recipient of each award is determined by a 10-member voting committee which consists of current and former head coaches, as well as two senior staff members of collegeinsider.com. The winner will be announced in Phoenix, Ariz., the site of the men’s Division I Basketball Championship.

Coach Kerns and the Mountaineers will be back in action at the NIT for a first-round matchup with Wake Forest on Wednesday. Tipoff from LJVM Coliseum is set for 8 p.m. Tickets still remain.

2024 HUGH DURHAM AWARD FINALISTS
John Becker Vermont
Randy Bennett Saint Mary’s
Mark Byington James Madison
Chris Casey Fairfield
Darian DeVries Drake
Bryce Drew Grand Canyon
Mitch Henderson Princeton
Alan Huss High Point
Greg Kampe Oakland
Dustin Kerns Appalachian State
Phil Martelli Jr. Bryant
Bucky McMillan Samford
Chris Mudge Sam Houston
Eric Olen UC San Diego
Josh Schertz Indiana State
Patrick Sellers Central Connecticut State
Donnie Jones Stetson
Russell Turner UC Irvine
Will Wade McNeese
Sundance Wicks Green Bay
2024 JIM PHELAN AWARD FINALISTS
Amir Abdur-Rahim South Florida
Rick Barnes Tennessee
Randy Bennett Saint Mary’s
Mark Byington James Madison
Chris Collins Northwestern
Hubert Davis North Carolina
Bryce Drew Grand Canyon
Fred Hoiberg Nebraska
Dan Hurley Connecticut
Dustin Kerns Appalachian State
Chris Mooney Richmond
T.J. Otzelberger Iowa State
Matt Painter Purdue
Lamont Paris South Carolina
Bruce Pearl Auburn
Kelvin Sampson Houston
Josh Schertz Indiana State
Kyle Smith Washington State
Danny Sprinkle Utah State
Will Wade McNeese