Havens has been a DU assistant under head coach Steve Hesser since joining the Panthers for the 2005-06 campaign. He will take over his duties at the Ada, Okla., school on Monday, April 22.
East Central is coming off an 8-18 campaign in 2012-13. Havens becomes the sixth coach in the history of the program for the NCAA-II Tigers, who are members of the Great American Conference along with the likes of Harding, Arkansas Tech, Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist.
For Havens, it's a return home to his Oklahoma roots, where he spent seven of his first 15 years of coaching at St. Gregory's, Northeastern State and the University of Tulsa. His father, Jerry Havens, was a legendary high school coach in the state of Oklahoma and resides with his mother, Susan, in nearby Shawnee.
"Becoming a head coach at the collegiate level has long been a goal of mine," Ja Havens was quoted as saying on the East Central athletics website. "And I have patiently waited for the 'perfect' opportunity. I am confident that this position at East Central University is that opportunity. It is an honor to walk in coach (Jerry) Anderson and coach (Wayne) Cobb's footsteps. They were both household names as my father played for Coach Anderson and I had the opportunity to play against Coach Cobb. I have tremendous respect for the Tiger program."
Havens was quick to praise Drury and Coach Hesser for preparing him well for his first head coaching opportunity.
"I can't thank Drury enough for the opportunity it provided me to learn under one of the nation's best in Coach Hesser," Havens said. "He allowed me to grow as a coach with tremendous responsibilities in many facets throughout the program, which was invaluable in preparing me for this chance to develop and run my own program at East Central. This was such a special ride the entire time for myself and my family and we will never forget the way we were welcomed by the Drury and Springfield communities."
Said Hesser: "Ja is ready to be a head coach. He's been a huge asset to our program since he arrived at Drury eight years ago and he stepped up big time yet again, along with the rest of my staff, when I was sick late in the season and ran things so smoothly in my absence and during my recovery. He was a big key to our run to a national championship this season, and we wish him nothing but the best. I look forward to following his progress in building a program at East Central."
With Havens on the DU bench, the Panthers compiled a 174-68 record in eight seasons, with six NCAA-II tournament trips and two Great Lakes Valley Conference championships (2008, 2013) in that time. Drury this past season finished 31-4 overall and won its last 23 games, a school record, including a comeback from a 17-point deficit to defeat Metropolitan State 74-73 in the national championship game in Atlanta.
East Central's Director of Athletics, Dr. Jeff Williams, said "I have followed the promising career of Ja Havens for quite some time now. He has built a solid reputation as a great recruiter and has proven ability to develop basketball talent. His role in leading Drury to the (NCAA Division II) national championship on April 7 serves as evidence of his coaching and leadership abilities. Ja was raised in the home of a Hall of Fame coach and his professional resume' reveals that Ja has been a student of the game his entire life. We are excited about the enthusiasm he will bring to Tiger basketball."