Chris Victor made the decision easy for Seattle University.
Victor, who has led the Seattle University men’s basketball team to its best season since it moved back to Division I 12 years ago, was named head coach Tuesday after serving as the interim coach since the beginning of the season.
Victor was named interim coach when Jim Hayford was placed on administrative leave just before the start of the season after reports that he had repeated a racial slur.
Hayford resigned under pressure the next week. Victor not only held the team together amid the controversy, but he helped it thrive.
Seattle U (22-8) is in second place in the Western Athletic Conference with a record of 13-4, a half-game behind leader New Mexico State. The Redhawks can wrap up the No. 2 seed in the WAC tournament with a win over Chicago State at home on Saturday in their regular-season finale.
“From the beginning, he slid into the top seat seamlessly,” said Seattle U athletic director Shaney Fink, who would not divulge any details about Victor’s contract. “I think the way he carried himself, the way he led the team, all parts of it, you could see how well he stepped into the leadership role.
“I knew he was the right guy in terms of character and fit at Seattle U and it was a great chance (when Victor was interim coach) to see what he was able to do when given the opportunity, and in every aspect he delivered.”
Victor will undoubtedly be a top contender for WAC coach of the year as the Redhawks have vastly exceeded preseason predictions. They were picked sixth by the coaches and eighth by the media.
Victor said he had been hopeful that the interim tag would be removed, because “I know it has been a special year.”
“The energy around this program and this university has been cool to witness,” he said. “So I was very hopeful that I would be able to retain the position as head coach and continue to lead the program, but I was still uncertain. Me being named head coach is just a reflection of how special the group has been this year — players and staff.
“Obviously, we have a lot to accomplish this season, but today has been a cool day and a special day, and I have to give thanks to the people in this program.”
Victor, 39, led Concordia (California) to the NAIA national title as a junior in 2003, with 26 points and nine assists in the title-game win over Mountain State (West Virginia).
After leading Concordia back to the title game in 2005, he began his coaching career as an assistant at Citrus (community) College in Glendora, California, in 2005.
Victor later became head coach for five seasons at Citrus before taking a job as an assistant coach under Hayford at Eastern Washington in 2015.
Victor followed Hayford to Seattle University in 2017, serving as the top assistant.
Victor said he felt ready after 15 years of coaching when Seattle U named him the interim coach in November.
And now the job is his, with no interim title attached, as Seattle U gets ready for the most important games of the season.
“When we began this season, the goal was to win the WAC championship and get into the NCAA championship,” Victor said. “I don’t see why that can’t be the goal every season.”
Team captain Aaron Nettles, a fifth-year senior, said Victor losing the interim tag was well-deserved.
“We have a very special bond, and my freshman year he was the guy that I gravitated to,” Nettles said. “He gave me advice and anytime I was going through something I was able to talk to him. Coach Vic has been my guy ever since he got to campus, and when he got the interim coaching job I was so relieved because I knew what his potential was to take this program to the next level — and he did exactly what everyone thought he would do.
“I could not be more proud of him and am happy for everything that has come his way. With coach Vic, and his mindset and how he carries himself and connects with his players, the sky is the limit.”