For Caleb Kimbrough, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference has always been special.
Kimbrough played basketball in the conference at Guilford College, from 2004-08. Then he coached in the conference for several more years, at his alma mater and at Washington and Lee.
As an opponent, Kimbrough viewed Hampden-Sydney with high regard.
“I think Hampden-Sydney, just within the conference, is an elite program and an elite academic institution,” he said.
So, when the opportunity opened up to explore the head coaching vacancy at Hampden-Sydney, Kimbrough saw it as a no-brainer.
Now the job is his.
On Thursday, Hampden-Sydney announced Kimbrough as its new basketball coach. Kimbrough succeeds Dee Vick, who led the Tigers for 11 seasons. It was announced in February that the school and Vick had parted ways.
Kimbrough, 33, comes to Hampden-Sydney by way of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. He was elevated to head coach there during the 2016-17 season, from associate head coach, and remained in the position the last two years. It was Kimbrough’s first head coaching job, and he began developing his coaching philosophy.
Coming in to Hampden-Sydney now, one of Kimbrough’s focuses is getting everyone dialed in to one goal, and believing in one thing.
“And just to start to pull everybody together and create that pride in Hampden-Sydney basketball again,” he said.
In a statement, Chad Eisele, Hampden-Sydney’s director of athletics, said that Kimbrough stood out throughout the interview process as someone who clearly had a vision for returning the school’s basketball program back to national prominence as a premier program.
The Tigers have 10 ODAC titles and 14 NCAA tournament appearances. But they’ve endured three straight losing seasons.
“Caleb has tremendous familiarity with ODAC men’s basketball from his time as a successful student-athlete and coach at two member schools, and I have great respect for his college head coach and mentor, Tom Palombo,” Eisele said.
During his two full seasons as the coach at Huntingdon, which also competes at the Division III level, Kimbrough went 24-27. The Hawks were 13-13 this past year, marking their most wins since the 2008-09 season.
Earlier in his career, Kimbrough was an assistant coach, then associate head coach, at Guilford for six seasons, from 2010-16. Prior to that, the Chapel Hill, N.C., native was an assistant for a year at Washington and Lee, in 2009-10.
Kimbrough graduated from Guilford in 2008. He’s still Guilford’s career leader for games started, with 108. He’s also fourth on the school’s career assists list (356).
As he gets started at Hampden-Sydney, part of Kimbrough’s vision is to hit the ground running with recruiting elite D-III talent, while also pushing the returners along.
The Tigers won’t look too far in the rearview mirror. The focus is on what’s ahead.
“We’re not going to talk a lot about what has happened last year or beyond,” he said. “It’s going to be moving forward, figuring out how we can have little successes here and there and kind of buy into the whole process of growth.”