LA GRANDE — Eastern Oregon University named assistant coach Chris Kemp the interim head basketball coach on Tuesday, May 25, according to a press release.

Kemp has been with the Mountaineers basketball program since 2017 and served as an assistant to both the men’s and women’s teams last season. The EOU men’s team is 61-49 overall during Kemp’s time with the team.

The EOU athletics website announced that a permanent head coach will be hired at the end of the upcoming 2021-22 season. Kemp will coach the men’s team under the interim status until that decision is made.

“Having established relationships with the core group of guys here is a huge plus,” Kemp said. “They’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Before his time in La Grande, Kemp was an assistant coach at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and spent time coaching high school basketball in Arizona. Prior to coaching, Kemp played at Arizona Christian University.

The Mountaineers parted ways with Carlito Labarda Jr. on May 10 after four years with the program. Labarda’s teams had winning records in two of his four seasons, but Eastern failed to make the NAIA tournament during his tenure.

Eastern returns several upperclassmen next season, including its two top scorers, Max McCullough and Zane Wright. The Mountaineers finished the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season with an 8-12 overall record.

“The personal relationships he has with the guys will definitely help on the court,” McCullough said of Kemp. “Everybody loves the guy, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Kemp and the EOU men’s basketball team are set to play a full season next fall after the delayed start this year.

“Our goal is to make the national tournament and see if we can make a run,” Kemp said.

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