Prior to SEMO, Arnold spent four seasons at the helm of the Central Methodist Eagles program in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. He led his teams to a record of 79-45 in his four seasons as an Eagle, including a 42-30 record in the HAAC. During the 2012-13 season, the team recorded a 25-8 record to end the season and earn a bid to the NAIA Division I National Championship. During that season, the Eagles spent four weeks ranked in the top 25 national poll, including spending a week at No. 17.
After his first year at Central Methodist, Arnold's team finished third in the conference and increased his team's win total by 12 that year, earning HAAC Co-Coach of the Year honors.
Along with coaching successful teams on the court, Arnold has a proven track record of ensuring the academic success of his teams in the classroom. During his four years at CMU, 19 of the student-athletes on his teams were named to the NAIA Dakrontics Honor Roll, and his 13-14 squad was named 20th in the nation in the NAIA WBCA Honor Roll.
Arnold also spent four years as the Head Women's Basketball Coach at Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas, and five years at the helm of the North Central Missouri College in Trenton, Missouri, earning two NJCAA Region 16 Championships, one NJCAA District F Championship, and the Sportsmanship Award at the NJCAA Division II Tournament.
During the 2007 season, Arnold and his team recorded a 30-win season and finished sixth in the NJCAA Division II Tournament, earning a spot in the North Central Missouri College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
Arnold received a bachelor's degree from Glenville State College in West Virginia where he was a member of the men's basketball team. He received his Executive Masters of Business Administration from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
Arnold is a native of Paw Paw, West Virginia. James and his wife, Lesley, have one daughter, Audrey.