Brooks Savage named ETSU men’s basketball head coach

Published 2:57 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

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JOHNSON CITY – The East Tennessee State University men’s basketball program has a new leader, and it’s a familiar face.
During a press conference Monday inside Gordon Ball Court, ETSU Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander named Brooks Savage the Buccaneers’ men’s basketball head coach.
“This is a truly special day for me and my family,” said Savage. “Being named the head coach at ETSU is a dream come true. I couldn’t be more grateful and excited to be back in Johnson City and have the opportunity to lead this proud and storied ETSU program.
“I want to thank President Dr. Brian Noland and Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander for entrusting me with the future of the program and for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.  I know that we share the same pride, passion and vision for ETSU men’s basketball, and to be able to work with two extraordinary leaders and people I have great respect for makes this a tremendous opportunity.”
Savage, the 19th head coach in program history, served as an ETSU assistant coach during its historic run from 2015-2020.
“Coach Savage’s fingerprints were all over the program’s success when he was here as an assistant, and now, we are excited to bring him back home to lead our men’s basketball program,” said Sander. “He has had great success in every place he has coached and he knows what it takes to build a championship program. Brooks will be a tremendous leader for our student-athletes both on and off the court.”
Savage has a plethora of experience in the Southern Conference as he has spent seven of his 12 years as an assistant in the league. Between his five years at ETSU and two years at Chattanooga, Savage’s teams have combined to win 79 percent of their conference games (98-26) and 72 percent overall (170-67). Savage’s teams have finished either first or second in six of those seven seasons, while also appearing in four tournament finals and winning two of those championship games.
“Our community has long admired the grit, determination, toughness and work ethic of Coach Brooks Savage,” ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said. “He has a deep understanding of the history of excellence that defines our men’s basketball program, as he helped write an important chapter. I am thrilled to welcome him back to campus in the role of head coach, and I look forward to witnessing the growth and development he will undoubtedly drive within our program and our student-athletes.”
Following a run where Savage played a vital role in ETSU going 130-43 (.751), he has spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach under Steve Forbes at Wake Forest. During his time in Winston-Salem, Savage helped bring the Demon Deacons back to prominence in the Atlantic Coast Conference and on a national level.
Wake Forest enjoyed the third-largest turnaround in college basketball history in 2022 – seeing a 19-win improvement – while the Demon Deacons’ 13 ACC wins in 2021-22 were tied for the most in school history and their 18 home wins that year broke a program record. The 13 wins also marked a 10-win increase from 2020-21, featuring the largest year-to-year improvement in ACC history.
During the 2021-22 season, Wake Forest reached the NIT Elite 8, while the 25 wins marked the most since 2004-05. Over the last two years in Winston-Salem, Savage saw Wake Forest compile at least 10 ACC wins, resulting in the first time the Demon Deacons had back-to-back 10-plus conference wins since 1996-97.
In terms of player development, Savage assisted in Alondes Williams earning ACC Player of the Year honors and Jake LaRavia receiving All-ACC Second Team honors. LaRavia was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2022 NBA Draft, while Williams signed with the Brooklyn Nets. This 2022-23 season, Ty Appleby was named Associated Press ACC Player of the Year – joining Williams with that honor – becoming the first time in school history that Wake Forest had back-to-back AP ACC Players of the Year.
During his time in Johnson City, Savage saw the Blue & Gold win over 75 percent of their games, while capturing two Southern Conference regular season titles and two tournament championships. ETSU’s 130 wins were the most victories over a five-year run in program history and the most by a SoCon team since 1953. The Bucs also won 71 conference games over this stretch, resulting in a .789-win percentage.
The Bucs won the 2016-17 regular season title and went on to capture the SoCon crown, earning a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament where ETSU faced Florida in Orlando. A year later, the Bucs won a school-record 16 straight games – which was also the longest streak in the country at that point – and finished with a 25-win campaign and a trip to the SoCon championship game. In 2019-20, ETSU posted a school-record 30 wins en route to sweeping both the SoCon regular season and tournament titles. The Bucs became just the fourth team in SoCon history to reach the 30-win mark and were one of four Division I programs to register 30 wins that year – joining Gonzaga (31), San Diego State (30) and Liberty (30). To go with the 30 wins, ETSU set a program record with an .882-win percentage.
While at ETSU, Savage saw the Bucs reach the SoCon championship game in four of the five seasons, while he helped coach 15 all-SoCon players. The Bucs also defeated three Power-5 programs during his time in Johnson City – Georgia Tech (2015), Mississippi State (2016) and LSU (2019).
“ETSU has always been a dream job destination for me,” said Savage. “We loved our time here before. My family loves this community and this university. The tradition, resources, facilities and the passionate fan base makes ETSU an incredible place to coach. We will work tirelessly to once again make ETSU one of the premier mid-major basketball programs in the country.”
Prior to coming to ETSU, Savage spent two seasons as an assistant at Chattanooga from 2013-15. The Mocs won 40 games over those two years, including a 22-win campaign in 2014-15, marking Chattanooga’s first 20-win campaign since 2004-05. Chattanooga won 15 conference games in that 2014-15 season – at the time the second-most league wins in school history. Savage helped coach five all-SoCon players, while the Mocs finished second in the SoCon both years.
Savage entered the Division I ranks as an assistant in the Big South conference when he led Presbyterian College through the Division I transition during the 2012-13 season.
Savage’s first stint as an assistant came in 2011-12 when he joined Steve Forbes at Northwest Florida State College where the Raiders set a school record with 32 wins, while winning the Panhandle Conference title and finished as the NJCAA National Runner-Up. The Raiders were ranked No. 1 during the season and had a 13-win increase from the previous year.
In his 12 years as an assistant, Savage has worked for six conference Coach of the Year winners, while coaching 32 all-conference players. Savage has averaged 22 wins per season in 12 years as an assistant, has totaled 20-plus wins in seven of the last nine years and been to seven career NCAA Tournaments. Savage has also seen his student-athletes succeed in the classroom as he has a 100 percent graduation rate during his time as a coach.
A 2008 graduate of Tennessee, Savage holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sport management/business.  As an undergrad, he worked as a student manager and graduate assistant from 2004-10 and was a part of five Volunteer NCAA Tournament teams in his six seasons. Savage and his wife, Lauren, are the parents of a daughter, Waverly.
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What They Are Saying About Brooks Savage…
Today is a great day for ETSU basketball, the Tri-Cities and every Buccaneer fan who proudly wears the “Blue and Gold!” The hiring of Brooks Savage will re-establish a championship-level basketball program at ETSU and once again make Freedom Hall the most feared place to play in the SoCon. Brooks and I have coached together for 13 years, winning over 300 games together. During that time, I have watched him grow into an outstanding basketball tactician, a relentless recruiter and become a person who builds, maintains and values lifelong relationships with his players, our staff and his co-workers. Coach Savage respects and appreciates the long history and storied tradition of this proud program, and most importantly, he fully understands the process of what it takes to win championships at ETSU – because he has done it before. Congrats to Dr. Noland and Dr. Sander for bringing a valued ETSU family member back home to Johnson City! Go BUCS! #FamilyOn3 #ETSUTough
-Steve Forbes, Wake Forest Head Coach
Brooks Savage could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He has instead chosen to impact young men’s lives through the game of basketball. Leading with character and grace, he is a home run hire for ETSU and represents the next generation of passionate coaches who are going to crush it. 
-Mit Shah, Atlanta Hawks co-Owner
I’m lucky to have had a front row seat watching Brooks grow from a freshman basketball manager in 2004, and now, into his leadership role helping Coach Steve Forbes rebuild Wake Forest basketball over the last three years.  His experience, preparation and passion make him a winning selection for President Noland & Dr. Sander as the new head men’s basketball coach at East Tennessee State.
-John Currie, Wake Forest Athletic Director
Gratitude couldn’t be enough to explain how much Coach Savage helped me on and off the court. Coach brought out my full potential and it came very easy because we were always connected. I wish I had another year to play for you, but thank you for a life-changing season. 
Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest Guard / Associated Press ACC Player of the Year
Coach Savage has been one of the best assistants in the game for several years. ETSU made the right move bringing him back, given he was a massive part of some historic years in Johnson City. He’s an elite recruiter, developer of talent and he gets the best out of his guys. ETSU is about to take off once again.
Jordan Cornette, Host and College Basketball Analyst, ACCN/ESPN
Brooks Savage is a winning hire for ETSU. He knows the program inside and out, is a sharp young mind, has a skill for identifying and recruiting talent and ultimately knows what it takes to succeed at every level of basketball – particularly as a Buccaneer.
Travis Branham, 247Sports Recruiting Analyst

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