Josh Loeffler is jumping back into the NCAA Division I pool.
After six years as the men’s basketball coach at Division III Johns Hopkins, Loeffler resigned to fill an assistant coaching position at Division I Cincinnati, the Baltimore university announced Friday morning.
A three-year starter in basketball at Division III Swarthmore, Loeffler’s previous Division I coaching experience includes stops at Lafayette as an assistant coach from 2008 to 2012, Rutgers as director of basketball operations in 2012-13 and Loyola Maryland as an assistant coach from 2013 to 2017.
“It’s tough to leave,” Loeffler said Friday morning, adding that he has known Bearcats coach Wes Miller for a while. “Hopkins is an amazing place with a great department, unbelievable leadership, and I coached the best kids ever. But I just felt like it was a really good opportunity to pursue for me and my family. Couldn’t pass it up.”
During his tenure, Loeffler led the Blue Jays to a 114-27 overall record in five full seasons (not including the 2020-21 campaign that was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic) and a 77-13 mark in the Centennial Conference. Together, they captured three conference tournament championships and made appearances in four NCAA Division III Tournaments.
Johns Hopkins won at least 23 games four times and earned berths in the Centennial Conference title game in each of Loeffler’s five seasons. He needed only 125 games to become the second coach in school history to reach the 100-win milestone.
Last season’s team tied the program record for wins with 25 and advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling, 83-82 in overtime, to eventual semifinalist Wisconsin-Whitewater. Loeffler was named the Centennial Conference and NABC Region Coach of the Year in 2018 and 2023 and is also the only coach in conference history to win the league title in his debut (2017-18).
“I could not be more excited for Josh and his family as they embark on this wonderful opportunity at the University of Cincinnati,” Blue Jays athletic director Jennifer S. Baker said. “Josh’s record of success at Johns Hopkins speaks for itself, but his six-year tenure here has been about so much more than wins and losses. The young men he has recruited into our program have been exemplary in their representation of Johns Hopkins on the court, in the classroom and in the community. Cincinnati has gained a thoughtful, passionate coach who will cultivate great relationships with his players and the many constituents who touch the Bearcat program.”
Loeffler thanked Baker and former athletic director Alanna Shanahan — who hired him — for their support and credited the Division I men’s and women’s lacrosse programs with setting a standard for others.
“I was really lucky to be part of the best athletic department in Division III with two amazing lacrosse programs and incredible leadership,” he said. “… I’ll just miss the excellence that surrounded us. It’s not common to have a department that wins that much, and that’s a direct reflection on the leadership.”
As difficult as his decision was, Loeffler said even harder was informing the players via Zoom on Thursday night.
“Luckily, the guys on the Johns Hopkins basketball team are some of the best and brightest you will ever meet, and they’re competitive,” he said. “So I think while they might be anxious about what awaits them in the future, I think they’re also really selfless people who for the most part were also excited for an opportunity for me, and that made me feel really good.”
Loeffler joins a Cincinnati program headed by Miller, who guided last winter’s squad to a 21-12 overall record, an 11-7 mark in the American Athletic Conference and a semifinal appearance in the league tournament before losing, 69-48, to No. 1 Houston. Left out of the NCAA Tournament, that team advanced to the NIT quarterfinals before falling, 74-78, to Utah Valley.
The Bearcats will make their debut next season as a member of the Big 12. They have added four transfers in 7-foot, 230-pound forward Aziz Bandaogo of Utah Valley, 6-3, 185-pound guard CJ Fredrick of Kentucky, 6-7, 225-pound guard/forward Simas Lukosius of Butler and 6-10, 280-pound forward Jamille Reynolds of Temple.
“It’s exciting,” Loeffler said of Cincinnati’s jump to a new conference. “The Big 12 has been arguably the best basketball conference in America the past few years, and trying to tackle a challenge to help a really storied program in Cincinnati win a conference that is considered the best in the nation, it’s an unbelievable challenge, and it’s exciting. It’s something that I think everyone in basketball would be excited to try to undertake.”
Although the move from Division III to I might invite more pressure, Loeffler said those expectations would pale in comparison to his own, especially of himself.
“I don’t ever want to lose, and I want to be the best I can be every day to help the school and athletes I coach,” he said. “So I don’t think the pressure is going to change anything for me. It’s going to be the pressure I put on myself to be the best coach I can be every day and to get better every day, and that’s not going to change based on location or level. For better or for worse, that’s always going to be me.”
Johns Hopkins said a national search for a new coach will begin immediately.