David Willson is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Emory & Henry College. He is the fifth coach to lead the Wasps during the Old Dominion Athletic Conference era (since 1976-77). The program experienced drastic progress both on and off the court during Willson’s first four years at the helm.
The 2016-17 season was one of the best in Emory & Henry history. The Wasps won 20 games for the first time in 24 years and competed in the ODAC tournament championship game for the first time in 23 years. The team also finished the season ranked fifth in the NCAA South Region. This was the first time that an Emory & Henry earned a regional ranking since the NCAA began the practice in 1998. The Wasps also garnered individual accolades as senior guard Myles Turner earned Second-Team All-ODAC honors and freshman guard Colin Molden was voted as ODAC Rookie of the Year.
Last season’s success came on the heels of a successful campaign in 2015-16. The team’s 16-12 record was an 11-win improvement from the previous season. This turnaround ranked the Wasps as the third-most improved team in the country according to HeroSports.com.
In addition to the program’s progress on the court, the Wasps are achieving remarkable success in the classroom. Emory & Henry received the NABC Team Excellence Award in both 2015 and 2016 for earning GPA above 3.0. The Wasps are involved with multiple community outreach efforts around the region and were recognized by their peers as Emory & Henry’s “Team of the Year” for 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Willson came to E&H after serving four seasons as an Assistant Coach at Furman University of the Southern Conference. While at the Greenville, South Carolina school, Willson was selected by his peers as one of the Southern Conference’s top assistant coaches in 2011 according to a FoxSports.com survey. He helped lead the Paladins to the program’s best two-season win total in over 30 years and their first postseason tournament in 10 years.
Prior to his time at Furman, Willson was the Assistant Coach at Elon University, also a SoCon member, from 2005-09. He contributed to the Phoenix’ Southern Conference divisional championship in 2006, the program’s first winning season since moving to NCAA Division I, and an appearance in the Southern Conference Tournament championship game in 2008. In this game, the Phoenix lost to Elite Eight participant Davidson College, led by future NBA MVP guard Stephen Curry.
Willson got his start in college coaching during the 2004-05 season at the College of William & Mary under Tony Shaver, who he played for as an undergraduate at Hampden-Sydney College. During his year with the Tribe, he was responsible for scouting, recruiting, player development and community engagement.
A 2004 graduate of and three-year letter winner at ODAC-rival Hampden-Sydney College, Willson went to three NCAA Tournaments, won two ODAC Championships (2002, 2004) and competed in the 2003 NCAA Division III Final Four. He earned an All-ODAC Honorable Mention selection as a senior in 2004 when he also served as team captain. Willson also played for one season at Southern Methodist University before transferring to Hampden-Sydney. As a freshman at SMU, he earned the team’s Mr. Hustle Award. Growing up for several years in nearby Elizabethton, Tenn., Willson was a finalist in 1999 for Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball award after moving to Memphis and playing at the Memphis University School.
Willson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Hampden-Sydney College. He is married to the former Anne Benham, who played volleyball and lacrosse at Sweet Briar College. The couple has three children, Maggie, Ellie and Gus.