Head men’s basketball coach Joe Golding has been the Wildcats’ mentor for eight seasons now, but people may not know his history with ACU runs deep.
Golding came from Wichita Falls and was recruited as a player by the Wildcats. He chose to wear purple and white for his college career after taking a successful visit and being convinced by former head coach Tony Mauldin.
“I came here and thought the campus looked great,” Golding said. “I really thought coach Mauldin was building something and wanted to be a part of it.”
Not everything went smoothly for Golding, however, as he wanted to leave after his freshman year once ACU put together a losing season. He said he was losing interest in the sport.
“I fell out of love with basketball,” Golding said. “Coach Mauldin called my mother and they set up a surprise visit. She told me I could go anywhere else and pay for it or stay here and play ball.”
Golding decided he would remain at ACU and play the remainder of his four-year career. The Wildcats changed coaches in the middle of his playing career as Mauldin left and Shanon Hays was named to the position. Under Hays, Golding went 15-12 in his junior year and 22-6 his senior year.
“Hays brought energy to the team,” Golding said. “He also brought a brand new roster and brought in a really good class my senior year.”
In his senior year, the Wildcats made it to the conference semi-final game but were defeated by Texas A&M Commerce.
Following his graduation, Golding began his coaching career as an assistant at South Garland High School. He didn’t stay long, however, as he drifted around to four different schools over five years (South Garland 2000-2001, Seminole Junior College 2001-2002, Sachse High School 2002-2004 and Collin County Community College 2004-2005).
Golding said he was trying to find the right spot to settle in after constantly switching schools over the five-year period.
“I didn’t know what I was trying to do,” Golding said. “I’ve always been a drifter and couldn’t stay in one place at one time. I knew I wanted to coach, but I also wanted to make some money. It wasn’t as glamorous of a lifestyle as I thought, but I just kept chasing jobs.”
The former point guard knew he wanted to coach college because he wanted to experience the NCAA Div. I tournament and be apart of the atmosphere.
“I always wanted to coach in college,” Golding said. “My parents would let me skip school during the first rounds of March Madness. I remember In high school we would always go into the basketball locker room and watch the tournament. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to feel and be a part of it.”
He found his first NCAA coaching job as an assistant for ACU in 2005. Chris Beard, now Texas Tech’s head men’s coach, developed a friendship with Golding while he was a graduate assistant for ACU in Golding’s playing days. Beard knew Jason Copeland, who was the head coach at the time, and helped Golding receive the job.
“Jason took a chance on me for the position,” Golding said. “He wanted a guy that had gone to school here and knew his way around. I learned a lot from Jason and he took a chance on me when he didn’t have to.”
In his last year with Copeland, he helped lead the team to 20-9 record as they fell in the semi-finals of the Lone Star Conference tournament.
After the 2007-08 season, Golding accepted a job at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock as an assistant. Once again, Beard helped him find the job at Little Rock being friends with Steve Shields, the head coach of Little Rock at the time.
“Again, he took a chance on me,” Golding said. “He saw a young assistant that was hungry and trying to work his way up and he gave me an opportunity. There’s no perfect roadmap in college coaching, it’s unpredictable as to where you will end up as a coach.”
The first year he was at Little Rock, the team won 24 games and finished with a 15-3 conference record. The year after, the Trojans dropped to only eight wins in the season, however, Golding and the team bounced back with a 19-win season and a trip to the NCAA Div. 1 tournament in 2010-11 before he left.
“I thought it was easy after that first season,” Golding said. “I didn’t create any of those players, I was just along for the ride. The second year was when I figured out how tough it is when we won only eight games with the guys I recruited. I learned real quick that if you don’t recruit great players, you won’t have a job. The third year though, we had a chance to go to the NCAA tournament. That was an ‘I did it’ moment for me and I achieved my dream.”
After his final season with Little Rock, Golding applied for the vacant ACU head coaching job. He was turned down after Grant McCasland was initially offered the position. Golding’s name was suddenly raised again once McCasland turned on ACU fast and accepted an assistant job at Baylor. McCasland had only been the head coach of the Wildcats for four months and never coached a game.
Golding was called for the job once again and suggested Beard after not wanting to leave Little Rock. Beard, however, had already declined and Golding was given 24 hours to decide.
“This was late July,” Golding said. “They already had a team and a staff here, but I ended up taking the job. I took it for lots of reasons. First, I love this university. Two, I wanted to be a head coach and prove I could win games. Finally, Div. I was hard and I was never around my family. I didn’t have a chance to be around them and ACU being Div. II I thought I could get my family back in West Texas and spend more time with them. Obviously, year two, that all changed.”
For two years, Golding coached the Div. II Wildcats and then endured the beginning of the Div. I transition in the 2013-14 season. Golding has remained with ACU through the transition and finds himself in his eighth season as the Wildcats’ head coach.
He’s led ACU to a successful year so far earning its first 20-win season since 2008, the final season he coached under Copeland. The boasts a 21-5 overall record with five games still remaining. They also sit in second place of the Southland with a 10-3 conference record.
Golding said he’s been challenging his team to keep the strong effort up and remain focused this late in the season.
“I don’t want us to be known as a team that peaked early,” Golding said. “We’ve had such a great season, but we want to play our best basketball in March. We continue to find different ways to motivate them. They’re playing for each other and they know how much time each guy has invested into this season.”
Overall, Golding has enjoyed his time at ACU and has played more parts in the university than just being the head coach of the men’s team.
“This school has raised me,” Golding said. “I’ve spent almost 16 years of my life on this campus and I’m 43 years old. My goal has always been to put ACU in a position where the school could compete for conference championships. I’m comfortable here, my family loves it and I love ACU. I think better times are ahead and we’re going to grow more as a program.”