Chris Popp is in his first season as head basketball coach at Missouri State University-West Plains. Popp comes to Missouri State-West Plains with 15 years of coaching experience, nine at the NCAA Division II level. He has been on staff with three collegiate programs, all of which were nationally ranked during his tenure. He has recruited, coached and developed 34 all-conference performers, two All-Americans, three Freshman of the Year selections and 13 student athletes who went on to play professionally.
For the past five years, he has served as the first assistant coach with the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (UAFS) Lions, which competes in NCAA Division II's Heartland Conference. During his time at UAFS, the Lions won back-to-back conference championships, were ranked as high as No. 16 nationally and earned two at-large bids to the NCAA Division II tournament. This past season, the Lions went 23-9, were ranked 24th and returned to the national tournament as the No. 6 seed in the South Central Region. As the Lions' first assistant coach, Popp was recruiting, academic and scheduling coordinator and coached post players.
Prior to his position at UAFS, Popp was an assistant coach at Newman University, another Heartland Conference team, in Wichita, Kansas. His responsibilities included recruiting, scouting report preparation, academic supervision, off-season physical and skill development and on-court coaching, specifically post players. He helped the program transition to NCAA Division II competition and guided it to a second place conference finish in its first official season at that level. He also guided the team to a No. 21 national ranking while serving as the team's interim head coach at the start of the 2005-06 season. He recruited and developed 14 all-conference players, including five post players, and aided in the success of three NAIA National Scholar-Athletes and 11 All-Heartland Conference Scholar-Athletes. He also served as Newman's game management director from 2006-2010 and its sports information director from 2005-2007.
Popp spent the 2004-05 season as first assistant coach at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas. During his tenure, the Bluejays were the No. 1 team in the nation in defensive shooting percentage, No. 3 in defensive scoring and were ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation by the NAIA. The Blue Jays also won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Championship and reached the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Branson.
He started his coaching career at Derby High School in Derby, Kansas, where he was assistant coach of the boys' varsity basketball team and head coach of the boys' junior varsity basketball team from 2001-2004. In those three years, Derby never finished lower than third in the Ark Valley League.
Popp graduated from Wichita Northwest High School in Wichita, Kansas and was a member of the 1994 6A State Runner-up Northwest Grizzlies. He went on to play at Tabor, where, as a starter, he helped lead the Bluejays to a national ranking multiple years, win the KCAC Conference Championship, and reach the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Tournament.
He and his wife, Dianne, a former Olympic basketball player for New Zealand and a standout at Wichita State University, have two children, son Vaughan and daughter Autumn.
Former University of Texas standout Reggie Freeman has been chosen to assist Chris Popp on the sidelines for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team during the 2016-17 season. His hiring is subject to approval of the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Freeman, who is the Longhorns’ fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,969 points, will begin his new duties Friday. He spent the past year as an assistant coach at NJCAA Division I Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. He replaces Chad Van Riessen, who has taken a position at another college.
“We’re thrilled to have Reggie Freeman join the Grizzly Athletics program as our new assistant basketball coach,” said Dr. Angela Totty, dean of student services and athletic director. “His experience and familiarity with the style of play Coach Popp plans to implement will make him a very valuable member of our team. He is familiar with the recruiting opportunities in our region and has had great success in his career developing young men into better players and successful people.”
Popp said the addition of Freeman to the Grizzly Basketball program “is enormous. He has extensive experience as a player and coach at the highest levels. His background will be invaluable to our guys as we strive to prepare them to be successful as basketball players, students and young men.”
A graduate of Rice High School in Manhattan in New York City, Freeman joined the Longhorns in 1993, where he had a prolific four-year collegiate career. He helped Texas earn two Southwest Conference Championships and four berths to the NCAA tournament, where they reached the Sweet 16 in 1997 during his senior season.
Freeman’s name can be found scattered throughout the list of individual records for the Longhorns in various categories. He led the Longhorns in scoring and assists his junior and senior seasons, averaging 22.4 and 21.8 points per game and 3.9 and 4.2 assists, respectively, and he led the team in rebounding his senior season with 7.6 grabs per game. He earned first team All-Southwest Conference honors his junior year and first team All-Big 12 Conference and NCAA All-American honors his senior season. His 22 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist performance against Texas Christian University on Feb. 11, 1996, is the only triple-double in Longhorns basketball history, and he was included in the Longhorns’ All-Decade Team for the 1990s.
Upon completion of his collegiate career, Freeman played briefly for the Milwaukee Bucks before traveling overseas, where he took the court for teams in seven different countries during the next 12 years. The basketball club KK FMP in Serbia retired his No. 5 jersey in honor of his contributions to the team during his tenure there.