Willson becomes the fifth coach to lead the Wasps in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference era, since 1976-77.
"I am thrilled to join this wonderful community and look forward to getting to know so many wonderful people associated with our campus and program," Willson said in a statement from the college. "This is a place moving in an exciting direction with a new president and a committed faculty and staff."
A 2004 graduate of and three-year letter-winner at ODAC rival Hampden-Sydney College, Willson served the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Furman University. He helped lead the Paladins to the program's best two-season win total in over 30 years and their first postseason tournament in 10 years.
Willson was an assistant coach at Elon University before going to Furman.
"David Willson brings the right mix of enthusiasm and experience for rebuilding the men's basketball program at Emory & Henry," Sims said. "With a pool of 180 candidates for the position, there was a lengthy selection process for the search committee to narrow down the group of three outstanding finalists. He has garnered wide respect in the coaching ranks and I am proud to have a bright star like David join our staff.
"During the process of learning more about David, I came to view him as someone with charisma who will be able to develop positive relationships with current and potential student-athletes. I also found him to be a great evaluator of talent, someone who will work tirelessly to develop an effective recruiting plan, well versed in the tradition of Emory & Henry men's basketball, and someone who really wants to be at this level and build a program," Sims added.
Willson got his start in college coaching during the 2004-05 season at William & Mary under Tony Shaver, for whom he played while an undergraduate at Hampden-Sydney. During his year with the Tribe, he was responsible for scouting, recruiting, player development and community engagement.
"I know David from coaching him and coaching with him and can say that he is a great person that will do what is right and that he also has great basketball knowledge," Shaver said. "After being a Division I assistant for nine years, he knows that he wants to be a Division III coach. David is a great fit as he knows the ODAC and E&H, and I have a feeling that he will be there for a long time. I am really excited for him."
Willson, who grew up in Elizabethton, was a finalist in 1999 for Tennessee's Mr. Basketball award after moving to Memphis and playing at Memphis University School.
"His Northeast Tennessee roots and his familiarity with the ODAC will serve him well in recruiting the right type of student-athlete to E&H. I believe that he will be a solid member of the E&H community in every way as he is a strong family man who will develop relationships not only with current and potential student-athletes, but also with faculty, alumni, high school and AAU coaches, as well as the general community. He has a strong coaching pedigree and I am confident that we found the right coach to lead the program forward to a new era of success," Sims said.
Willson holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Hampden-Sydney. He is married to the former Anne Benham, who played volleyball and lacrosse at Sweet Briar College. The couple has two children, 4-year-old Maggie and 2-year-old Ellie.