Head coach Houston Fancher is entering his ninth season at the helm of the Appalachian State University men’s basketball program after guiding the program to back-to-back Southern Conference North Division titles and 43 wins over the past two seasons, the second-most successful two-year span in school history.
The 2002-03 Southern Conference Coach of the Year continues to use his talents to improve the Mountaineer basketball program as one of three coaches who have taken the Mountaineers to the postseason.
In 2006-07 he etched his name into the Appalachian record book by leading his squad to a school-record 25 victories and the team third-ever postseason appearance and first-ever berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
After spending two years as an assistant and another two as associate head coach at ASU, Fancher became the 14th head coach in the 65-year history of the program on June 21, 2000. At 42, the Newport, Tenn. native remains one of the younger Division I college basketball, but carries 20 years of coaching experience.
Noted as a players’ coach, Fancher has a true passion for the game. He is a coach who appreciates the bonds and relationships he forms with his players and understands the impact a coach can have on an individual’s life. He is a man who cares about the young men he coaches.
Raised in a home with two hard-working parents, Fancher’s father was a World War II prisoner of war captured in the historic Battle of the Bulge. Fancher is the youngest of four sons who grew up in a small town and each went on to earn their respective college degrees.
Through his academic career in which he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education, Fancher’s work ethic and passion for the game form a perfect fit for college coaching.
Last season, Fancher was charged with the task of replacing his entire backcourt from a 25-win team in a guard-oriented league. Thanks in part to his staff’s efficient and effective recruiting, a fresh crop of guards immediately complemented the team’s interior depth to the tune of an 18-13 record and a second-straight North Division title. The five graduated seniors from 2007-08 left campus with 75 wins, the second-most in any four-year period in Appalachian history. Additionally, Fancher continued his penchant for engineering upsets when squad defeated Arkansas, 74-67, in Little Rock, Ark.
In 2006-07, Fancher firmly wove himself Appalachian history with one of the most successful teams in the program’s 82 years. His Apps reeled off a school-record 25 wins and cruised to the SoCon North title with a 15-3 mark in conference play. Along the way, his team captured the San Juan Shootout Championship with successive victories over Virginia, UCF and Vanderbilt. Both Virginia and Vanderbilt claimed a share of their respective conference championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Fancher also coached the program’s first victory over an SEC opponent in the Shootout.
Following that success, he guided the team to a come-from-behind win at NCAA participant VCU that catapulted the Mountaineers to as high as No. 9 in the RPI. He also oversaw a critical conference victory at Davidson that snapped the nation’s second-longest winning streak. The dream season continued with a last-second win before a national television audience and a hostile crowd at Wichita State as part of ESPN Bracket Busters. The team advanced to the SoCon Semifinals before being eliminated by College of Charleston, placing the team firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Unfortunately, weeks of lobbying for inclusion in the field of 65 didn’t yield the desired result. However, the Apps got a chance to continue their record-setting campaign with an NIT berth, the team’s third-ever postseason appearance.
For his record-setting season in 2006-07, Fancher was named a finalist for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year Award.
Fancher’s first year as head coach was filled with turbulent times. Undeterred, his strong character and sincerity allowed him to mold a group of younger players into a team. Together, Fancher and the team contended for the Southern Conference’s North Division title until the final weeks of the regular season. Finishing 11-20 (.355) would be sub-par most years, but after starting three freshmen and two walk-ons for a bulk of the season, he was considered a magician.
The second season proved to be quite a task for Fancher. Experimenting with a new system and adding a lot of new faces, Fancher guided the 2001-02 team to a 10-18 (.357) mark.
The 2002-03 season saw Fancher’s Mountaineers picked to finish last in the conference and actually end in a tie for first place in the North Division of the conference with a record of 19-10 overall, 11-5 in SoCon play (.688). For his efforts, he was named the conference’s Coach of the Year by both the SoCon head coaches and the media.
In 2004-05 Appalachian came within one game of collecting its second SoCon championship of Fancher’s five-year tenure and advanced to the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament for the first time in his head coaching career, where it lost a hard-fought battle to host and eventual-champion Chattanooga.
The 2005-06 campaign saw Fancher’s Mountaineers advance to the SoCon Tournament semifinals after dispatching Wofford and No. 1 seed Georgia Southern. The Mountaineers ended the season with a 14-16 record.
In his two seasons as assistant coach, the Mountaineers posted a 35-22 record (.614). As associate head coach the Apps tallied a 44-17 (.721) record. In 1999-2000, Fancher aided the program to its first Southern Conference championship and NCAA appearance since 1979. Over his time on the Mountaineers’ staff, they posted three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in the history of the program. The period is also the program’s winningest three years in history.
Celebrated as a tremendous recruiter, motivator, teacher and mentor, Fancher is credited with bringing several top student-athletes to the Appalachian program. He was instrumental in bringing every player to the program over his four seasons prior to being named head coach.
Before arriving in Boone, Fancher served one year as an assistant at Vanderbilt. While at the Southeastern Conference program, he served under Jan van Breda Kolff. The 1995-96 Commodore squad finished 18-14 and advanced to the postseason NIT. It was at Vanderbilt where Fancher met Commodore associate head coach and future Appalachian head coach Buzz Peterson.
Following Peterson’s appointment as head coach at Appalachian prior to the 1996-97 season, Fancher came on board as an assistant. He moved to Boone where he quickly went to work recruiting what would become the nucleus of the winningest three years in ASU basketball history.
Although given mixed reviews upon signing an undersized point guard as the new coaching staff’s first recruit, Fancher showed his ability to eye talent when as a senior, that first signee, Tyson Patterson, received first-team all-league mention, SoCon tournament most valuable player honors, and led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers improved from 8-20 before the coaching change to a break-even 14-14 mark over one year. An improvement of six wins may not have appeared to be much, but it paved the way for the next three seasons of Mountaineer basketball.
The 1997-98 season witnessed Fancher and the Mountaineers garner their first season with more than 20 victories since 1979, finishing 21-8.
During Fancher’s second campaign as the top assistant, Appalachian earned a share of the SoCon North Division title. A 66-62 loss in the league tournament finals in the Greensboro Coliseum stopped ASU one win shy of the NCAA Tournament.
Before the 1998-99 season, Fancher was rewarded for his efforts on and off the court by being given the title of associate head coach.
After a season of surprising opponents, the Mountaineers worked harder to stay successful and the result was another 21-8 record. The program once again appeared in the SoCon tournament championship game, but College of Charleston stalled the Apps 77-67 and ended their season.
In his second year as associate head coach, Fancher helped steer Appalachian to its winningest season since 1979. He helped the program win both the SoCon regular-season and tournament crowns and earn the program’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament with a victory over College of Charleston in the league championship contest.
Prior to his stint at Vanderbilt, Fancher gained three years’ experience as a head coach at North Greenville College in Tigerville, S.C. Fancher revived a program that had been canceled for one year and posted a 44-41 mark (.518) with limited scholarship funding, against fully funded teams. While at North Greenville, he leaned on his athletic background to also coach the men’s tennis team.
Fancher began his coaching career at Maryville College (Tenn.), where he spent four seasons as assistant coach. In his last year at Maryville, the team advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Fancher received his undergraduate degree in education in 1988 from Middle Tennessee State University. While coaching at Maryville, he made the time to earn his master’s degree in education administration in 1990 from Lincoln Memorial University.
A four-year cage letterwinner at Cocke County High School, Fancher also earned three monograms in baseball.
He is married to the former Cathy Reagan of Jamestown, Tenn. Cathy is a professor in ASU’s HLES department. The couple has an eight-year old son, Hayden, and a four-year old son, Ethan.
Fancher's Record as a Head Coach
||Fancher revives a dormant junior college program in his first season.
||Leads the Crusaders to a winning-record in his second season.
||Posts a second-consecutive winning season before leaving the program.
||Fancher inherits a squad with just one senior and 11 total players in his first season.
||Seven newcomers brought into the program as Fancher begins to mold his team.
||In his third year, Fancher wins the SoCon North Division and is named Coach of the Year.
||Team falls on hard luck, losing seven games by three points or less.
||Apps finish second in the division and advance to SoCon Tournament semifinals.
||Team makes second of three-consecutive tournament semifinal appearances.
||Fancher leads team to a school-record 25 wins, an NIT berth and San Juan Shootout title.
||An entirely new backcourt leads the team to its second-straight North Division title.