Toledo hires Gene Cross as new men's basketball coach

Toledo hired Notre Dame assistant Gene Cross on Friday to become its new men's basketball coach and take over a program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1980.

He replaces Stan Joplin, fired last month after 12 seasons.

Cross, 36, has gained a reputation as a strong recruiter during 11 years as an assistant at Notre Dame, Virginia, DePaul and Illinois-Chicago.

He said he was impressed by Toledo's commitment to basketball, citing the ongoing renovation of its arena.

"Gene has all the characteristics we are looking for," said athletic director Mike O'Brien. "He is a bright, hardworking young man with a great love for the game of basketball."

He spent the two last years at Notre Dame after coaching one season at Virginia.

Cross, a Chicago native, played four seasons at Illinois and was an assistant at Illinois-Chicago for six seasons, including the Flames' first two NCAA tournament berths.

O'Brien said last month after firing Joplin that the program needed new direction and energy. Interest in the team had declined in recent years as season ticket sales dropped.

Cross said he told his new players that he will be committed to making sure they graduate and are active in the community.

"We're not going to be a farm system for the NBA," he said at a news conference. "We're going to be a farm system for life."