A.W Hamilton received a resounding round of applause from his team when he walked into the Eastern Kentucky University locker room on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the first time the players had seen him since he was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year earlier in the day.
And they wanted to honor him.
It was a very humbling moment for Hamilton.
"I was just like, 'Guys. I didn't do anything. You guys did this. This is an award for you guys,'" Hamilton said. "I'm really proud of the kids."
Hamilton was certainly worthy of the award -- and the applause.
The second-year coach led the Colonels (15-16) to 12 OVC wins -- the second-most in league victories in program history.
EKU is back in the OVC Tournament for the first time in five years and received an opening-round bye.
The Colonels will face either Tennessee State or Morehead State on Thursday in the quarterfinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
Hamilton is the first EKU coach to win the award since Max Good in 1987.
Two other Colonels were honored on Tuesday.
Sophomore guard Jomaru Brown was a First-Team All-OVC selection and sophomore Tre King was a Second-Team All-OVC honoree.
"He's a player's coach," Brown said of Hamilton. "He lets us play through our mistakes. He used to play and we know that we can trust him. He's a great coach."
The Colonels struggled early in the season.
They lost 10 of their first 13 games, then opened OVC play strong.
EKU started conference play with a 9-2 record, the program's best mark through 11 games in 41 years.
"It was hard because I was so down," Hamilton said of the slow start to the season. "I saw the potential in this group early on. We just didn't hit our stride early on -- and it was disappointing."
Brown and King were a big part of the turnaround.
Brown ranked fourth in the OVC in scoring at 18.8 points a game during the regular season. He also ranked third in the league in steals-per-game (1.9) and 13th in free throw percentage (75.1).
He poured in a career-high 41 points versus in-state rival Western Kentucky on Nov. 15. That remains the most points scored by an OVC player in a game this season. It is tied for the fourth-most points ever scored by a Colonel in a game.
Brown stepped up his game during OVC play. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 20.2 points a game against conference competition, tied for second-highest in the league. He ranked second in steals-per-game (2.2), 14th in assists-per-game (3.2) and 14th in three-point field goal percentage (38.2) during the OVC schedule.
Brown scored his 1,000th career point in the regular season finale against Morehead State, in an 80-76 win at home.
Brown is the 42nd Colonel all-time to earn First-Team All-OVC honors.
He was voted to the OVC All-Newcomer Team last year as a freshman.
"It's a blessing, honestly, to be noticed at that level," Brown said.
King averaged 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds a game this season. He ranked 14th in the OVC in field goal percentage (52.8) and fourth in free throw percentage (79.1) during the regular season.
The 6-foot-8 forward closed out non-conference play with one of his best performances of the season, scoring 18 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds at East Carolina on Dec. 28.
King used that performance as a springboard into conference play. He upped his scoring average to 12.3 points-per-game against league competition, shooting 58.1 performance from the field.
The native of Lexington, Kentucky poured in a career-high 23 points - including going a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line - at Austin Peay on Feb. 15.
King is the 22nd Colonel all-time to earn Second-Team All-OVC honors.
"It's a huge honor," King said. "I've been working hard. It's a great feeling. I have to thank my teammates and coaches for having faith in me."
Austin Peay's Terry Taylor was voted OVC Player of the Year, while Belmont's Grayson Murphy was named OVC Defensive Player of the Year and Austin Peay's Jordyn Adams earned OVC Freshman of the Year honors.
Hamilton brought his fast-paced offensive style of play to EKU when he took over the program two seasons ago.
The Colonels currently rank fifth nationally in forced turnovers (18.23/game), ninth in steals (9.2/game) and 12th in turnover margin (+4.2/game).
EKU was 6-12 in the OVC in Hamilton's first season at the school.
This year, the Colonels finished the regular season in fourth place.
"It shows how far our program has come in a short amount of time," Hamilton said.
Hamilton is the fifth EKU coach to be named the OVC Coach of the Year, joining Jim Baechtold (1964-65), Guy Strong (1971-72), Ed Byhre (1978-79) and Good (1986-87).