PELLA, Iowa -- After piloting high school teams to eight conference titles in the past 12 years, Craig Douma is looking to build on the Central (Iowa) championship tradition as its new head coach.

Douma, a two-time NAIA all-America honoree at Northwestern College, was the coach at Carroll High School the past six years after spending the previous nine seasons at South O’Brien High School in Paullina. He compiled a lofty 268-78 (.774) record over 15 seasons, including a 123-32 (.793) mark at Carroll, where he piloted state tournament squads in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and reached the substate round five times in six seasons. His teams claimed conference titles in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. At South O’Brien, Douma’s squads were league champs in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. He was the Class 2A Northwest District coach of the year in 2000-01 and took Class 3A Southwest District honors in 2006-07. Before becoming a high school coach, Douma spent the 1996-97 season as assistant coach at Northwestern.

“I’m excited,” Douma said. “I have the utmost respect for Central. It’s a premier Division III school in Iowa and in the Midwest, and it’s got a rich basketball tradition with great potential. Central is also really in line with our family’s values.”

He replaces Mike Boschee, who resigned in July after nine seasons to become the head coach at Bemidji State.

“One of the things that excites us about Craig is that he has a track record of being extremely successful everywhere he’s been, both as an athlete and as a coach,” said interim athletics director Eric Van Kley. “His work ethic as a player was legendary, and if you talk to coaches who have followed his coaching career, they’ll tell you that hasn’t changed. He’s an intense competitor who knows how to win, and how to do it with integrity.

“We’re delighted to welcome Craig, Jen and their three boys to the Central College family.”

Douma notes that he inherits a healthy program. The Dutch captured the 2010 Iowa Conference title and earned a Division III tournament berth. Central’s nine NCAA appearances are the most of any league school and the Dutch have 16 conference titles. Central returns 11 letterwinners from last year’s 18-8 squad.

“Coach Boschee played an up-tempo style and we want to continue that,” Douma said. “We want the program to get to the level where we’re competing for conference championships year-in and year-out. And the next step beyond that is to go deep into the national tournament.

“But right now, this year is what’s important. We’ve got a great team coming back and our goal will be to improve on last year and take a step up.

“It’s going to be a fun journey. I’m excited to get to know these young men. We’ve only got one year to be with some of these guys and I want to make the most of that.”

Douma is also known for working with thousands of young players through the B.E.S.T. Shooting School. He’s helped lead the program each summer since 1998.

“Through coaching and through his instruction, Craig is very well connected,” Van Kley said. “He is tremendously respected by other coaches in Iowa and beyond.”

Douma cherishes the time he gets to spend with his players.

“I’m a passionate guy and I love the game of basketball,” he said. “I want to provide the players with a great role model and I want to have a strong relationship with them. I’ll always have an open-door policy and I want the players to know that I’m a coach who cares about them. That’s been true everywhere I’ve coached.”

As a player, Douma is the third-leading scorer in Northwestern history with 2,276 points and is a member of the Red Raider Hall of Fame. He played in three NAIA Division II national tournaments, helping the Red Raiders finish second in 1992 and reach the final eight in 1994. The Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference player of the year in 1994, Douma was a second-team all-America pick in 1993 before earning first-team recognition in 1994, when he also served as Northwestern’s team captain. Northwestern, like Central, is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America.

His father, Les Douma, was a long-time high school and college coach, serving as Northwestern’s head coach from 1981-90, posting a 158-104 record. He also was the school’s athletics director.

Preparing players for life after graduation is a priority.

“We want to develop great student-athletes who are going to go out and contribute to society in a positive fashion, and play some good basketball on top of it,” Douma said

Douma knows he faces challenges, but he’s already started attacking them.

“I’m a competitor,” he said. “To do any job well, you’ve got to work hard. That’s what I’m going to do.”