EMPORIA (KSNT)- Emporia State men’s basketball is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.

The Hornets receiving an at-large bid to the big dance is a testament to what head coach Craig Doty has built in his five years with the program. However, Doty will be quick to acknowledge that he has not built it alone. He thanks players, current and past.

Doty also knows there is one man who deserves as much credit as anybody: Associate Head Coach Evan Lavery.

“Evan and I obviously go way back,” Doty said.

That much is true. The two began coaching at Rock Valley College over a decade ago. When Doty took the head coaching job there, he stayed with Coach Lavery while waiting to move into his new place.

Then, Lavery joined Doty’s staff and moved in with Doty when he closed on that new house.

“We’ve been pretty darn tight ever since,” Doty said.

When Doty took the head coaching job at Graceland, Lavery took over as the head coach at Rock Valley. The duo ‘Got the party back together’ as Doty puts it, when the Emporia State opportunity presented itself.

“Our relationship, it goes so much further than just coaching and basketball,” Doty said, before backing that statement up with specific examples. “He’s the Godfather of my youngest son, Calvin. He’s one of my best friends. On our camp business- he’s a partner with that. It’s deep.”

Doty says he often gets to enjoy family time, being married with four kids, knowing Lavery has everything under control.

“Coach Lavery lives and breathes [basketball] every single day,” Doty said. “I can stay home in the mornings when I need to and be with my family… and I know everything is taken care of at the school and in the program because Coach Lavery is so good.”

Lavery’s impact goes far beyond just allowing his good buddy Craig to get the kids to school. His mark is felt in recruitment and player development. Look no further than transfer guard Alijah Comithier.

“Coach Lavery was actually the one that brought me here,” Comithier said. “He was the first person to come visit me out in Colorado when I hit the portal. That spoke a lot of volumes to me on how much they value me.”

Mayuom Buom has spent a few seasons in Emporia now. He says Lavery plays a huge role in helping players reach their full potential.

“Coach [Lavery] is really really intense,” Buom said. “He likes the little details. He brings the best out of us [players] as well as the other coaches. He’s a big part of our program.”

ESU men’s basketball wouldn’t be the same without Lavery.

“That’s my guy,” Doty said. “We’ve worked hard together. We’ve worked well together, and we’ve achieved a lot. But neither one of us are satisfied with where we’re at. We’re always trying to become- we’ve never got there, at least that’s what the goal is.”