OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) Over the last 16 years, Eric Duft had chances to move on from being an assistant coach under Randy Rahe at Weber State.

But Duft decided to stay, with the hope that one day, he may have the opportunity to be the head coach. That day has come. 

“I had some opportunities to leave but ultimately, the reason that I stayed, is because I wanted to be the head coach at Weber State University,” Duft said Thursday, two day after Rahe retired. “That is the reason that we stayed and kept grinding here. I wanted to help coach Rahe in every way I could and hopefully one day, I’d have an opportunity.”

With Rahe’s retirement from Weber State as the Big Sky’s all-time winningest coach, Duft now has that opportunity. He was formally introduced as the new head coach for the Wildcat men’s basketball program on Thursday. He moves over one seat after 16 seasons as an assistant coach and nearly 30 years of college coaching. 

“I am extremely excited and proud to be the head coach at Weber State,” he said. “Weber State has such a great tradition with tremendous coaches and players throughout the history of the program and I am really humbled to be a part of that and ready to get to work to continue the program and move it forward. 

Duft, 49, is a native of Sterling, Kansas. Prior to coming to Weber State, he spent 10 years coaching in the junior college ranks in Kansas. He spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Hutchinson Junior College where he helped lead the team to a top-five ranking in the nation. He also was an assistant coach at Cowley County CC and Central Community College, where he was also the head coach during the 1997-98 season. 

Winning will be expected from Duft, and he says there will only be small differences in the program moving forward.

“I don’t think people who show up to the games will notice a difference,” Duft said. “I’ve run the offense for the last 16 years, that system is not going to change. You have to be yourself, so the foundation we’ve built will continue, but I have to be my own person as well.”

Duft believes the fact that this move came about quickly will be beneficial to his returning players.

“When something like this happens, it can be a shock to the system,” he said. “But they’ve been terrific and those guys are the linchpins of the program.”

After Rahe led the Wildcats to five Big Sky Conference championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances, Duft wants to continue the winning tradition in Ogden.

“We want to be a championship team, on and off the floor, in every area of life,” he said. “We want these guys to develop as people, as students, as players.”

He and his wife Sherri are the parents of four children, Jaret, Halle, Easton and Kourt, and it’s the family that has been most important to him. 

“My wife Sherri has been an unbelievable supporter of me throughout my career and I want to thank her. Our children have lived and died with every win and loss and been a great support.”

Now Duft takes the reins as the leader of the Wildcats and wants to build an elite program in several areas. 

“We want to be fearless in our pursuit of excellence on and off the court,” he added. “We want to be a championship team on the court and a championship team off the court in every area of life. We want our athletes to develop as people, as students and players and we want to give a great product to Weber State University and the Ogden community.”