Chris Walker, who played two years for head coach Brian Katz at San Joaquin Delta College followed by two seasons at Oklahoma, completed his third season as an assistant coach in 2015-16 after spending the previous two years (2011-13) as the team’s director of operations.
Sacramento State increased its conference win total each of his four seasons on the staff, culminating in the 2014-15 squad posting a 21-12 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference while securing the program’s first postseason appearance in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the team’s first postseason victory in 53 years.
The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era that Sacramento State finished above the .500 mark, and first time since the 1988-89 season. In addition, the 21 wins were tied for second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference victories were the most in school history (regardless of conference). All of this from a program that had entered the 2014-15 season with just three winning seasons in the previous 38 years.
After reaching the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets qualified for the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the first time the program had qualified for a postseason event since the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament, and just the fifth postseason appearance in school history. Sacramento State’s 73-66 victory at Portland in the first round of the CIT marked the first time in 53 years the Hornets had won a postseason game.
The Hornets were ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Poll for the first time in school history (ranking as high as 14th), and the team finished just one game back of first place in the Big Sky standings, narrowly missing out on the program’s first conference championship since 1977. Sacramento State also won nine straight home games at one point, and completed the year with a 13-2 home record, tied for the most home wins in program history (1948-pres.).
In fact, during the 2014-15 season, the team set Div. I-era school records (1991-pres.) in points scored (2,342), field goals made (841), field goal percentage (.486), 3-point field goal percentage (.408), free throw percentage (.736), assists (466) and assists per game (14.1). The Hornets finished among the top 10 teams in the nation in both 3-point field goal percentage (4th) and field goal percentage (8th).
Walker also helped coach senior guard Mikh McKinney, who was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the third player in school history to earn All-America honors.
Though the team went 14-17 overall and 6-12 in the Big Sky during a 2015-16 rebuilding season, the Hornets have now won at least 14 games four consecutive years after reaching the 14-win plateau just once the 22 previous years.
Off the court, the Hornets have excelled in the classroom during Walker’s tenure. In fact, the Hornets have posted a team grade point average of better than 3.0 three times in the last five semesters. Prior to the start of that run in the spring of 2014, the men’s basketball program had never posted a 3.0 gpa during any semester in school history. The team currently has a cumulative grade point average of 3.008.
During his first season as a full-time assistant in 2013-14, the program showed signs of taking off when the Hornets not only posted a then school-record 10 conference wins, the team also clinched a Big Sky Tournament berth for the first time since 2006 and won 11 home games. One of the season’s highlights included Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot shot at the buzzer to defeat Weber State, and instantly gain national exposure for the program. Video of the shot went viral and was named the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that evening.
The Sacramento native spent the 2010-11 season as an assistant coach at Rocklin’s Sierra College, and also served a year as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 2007-08.
During his two-year playing tenure at Oklahoma (2005-07), Walker appeared in 43 games, including 10 starts. He was named the team’s defensive player of the year as a senior, and helped the Sooners to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005-06.
Prior to Oklahoma, Walker played two years for Delta College (2003-05). As a sophomore in 2004-05, he was named the Northern California Junior College Player of the Year, first team all-state and first team all-conference after leading the squad to a 30-2 record, a 24-game winning streak and a semifinal appearance at the California Community College Championships. Walker was also named first team all-league during his freshman season.
He prepped at Sacramento’s Foothill High School where he was named first team all-state and the Central Valley Conference MVP as a senior after helping the Mustangs to a state title.
Walker graduated from Oklahoma in 2008 with a liberal arts degree.