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Alumnus Bob Richey Knew Early He Wanted To Coach

NGU alumnus Bob Richey (’06) was named Furman University's 22nd head men's basketball coach on April 7, 2017 where he has served as the top assistant since 2010. The journey to his first head coaching position has been an interesting one, but quite a quick ride for the 32-year-old.  

Coaching was something that Richey knew he wanted to do at an early age growing up in Columbia, SC.

“When you’re young, you kind of keep that dream alive. That [coaching] would be awesome, but things would have to really line up,” said Richey.

For Richey, things lined up.

He was born in New Orleans while his dad was a medical student at Tulane University. His family moved to South Carolina when he was in the second grade in order for his father to complete his medical residency. He remembers growing up watching Eddie Fogler coach the South Carolina Gamecocks.

“Since I grew up in Columbia, we went to the South Carolina basketball games and I thought if Coach Fogler gets to do this [coach] for a living, maybe I can too,” he said.  

A graduate of Florence Christian School in Florence, SC, Richey led his team to a 28-2 record and state championship his senior year. He was named the 3A State player of the year and currently holds seven school records at the school. He was recruited to play college basketball at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN.

While at TTU, he suffered a career-ending knee injury. He then decided to transfer to a school closer to home.

So, the search to find a new school over Christmas break and a school that would accept his course credits were minimal. He found three. While he didn’t have time to visit all three schools, he did some checking online. Since he had some friends at North Greenville and “North Greenville looked the nicest,” he decided to attend NGU.   

While Richey was shooting around in Hayes Gymnasium one day, an assistant basketball coach took notice of his skills.

“He asked me if I played and I told him my story. He asked me to come out and play,” Richey said.

He played his senior year for the Crusaders. Also during this time, he met his future wife, the former Jessica Tingle.

When asked what his most cherished memory at NGU is, he quickly responds that meeting his wife and playing collegiate basketball again, if only for one year.

“I saw Jessica three times randomly in one day,” says Richey. “I saw her in the gym. I was playing basketball, and she was practicing with the cheerleaders. I asked, ‘who is that?’ I saw her in the dining hall at dinner and then a couple of my friends and I headed downtown Greenville to get some ice cream and I see her. I’m like, ‘what the heck is going on.’ I actually met her in Marble Slab that night.”

Another favorite memory was playing on the Crusader basketball team. “We were really good that year, so that was a lot of fun,” he adds.

After graduating from NGU in 2006 with a business administration degree, he planned to be hired as a basketball graduate assistant at a school and work toward his MBA.

“Since your interview to get a GA [graduate assistant] position is helping out with summer camps,” he traveled from school to school to get noticed. While basically living out of his car, he helped with camps at [University of] South Carolina, Clemson, Auburn, Charleston Southern, and Chattanooga.  

“I hit it off with the then head coach at Charleston Southern Barclay Radebaugh. He told me that he knew that I wanted a GA [graduate assistant] position, but he had an opening for a director of basketball operations,” he said. “I want someone young that I can mold.”

Richey accepted the job and before he started his new job, coach contacted him about a third assistant position that became available.

“He [Coach Barclay] told me that I was being promoted before I even stepped foot on campus,” said Richey.

During his five years at Charleston Southern, Richey recruited five of the top 11 scorers in CSU history. Two of his recruits earned Big South Freshman of the Year honors in their rookie seasons, and he placed at least one player on the Big South All-Freshman squad in four consecutive seasons.  Basketball analyst Jeff Goodman rated Richey as the No. 4 assistant coach in the Big South Conference in 2010, while Richey also ranked as the youngest coach on the list.

As a 27-year-old associate head coach for the Buccaneers during the 2010-11 campaign, Richey helped CSU achieve its highest win total in 14 years in 2011. In five seasons as an assistant at CSU, he recruited five players who went on to garner All-Big South Conference honors, highlighted by the school's No. 2 all-time leading scorer Jamarco Warren and two 2013 all-league performers. Richey helped the Bucs improve their conference record in each season, culminating with a squad that ranked in the top 50 nationally by averaging 74 points per game in his final season.

“Signing Jamarco Warren really helped me,” Richey stated.

In 2011, Furman’s head coach Jeff Jackson, recognized what Richey was doing in Charleston and found out that Jessica was from Greenville and contacted Richey about his top assistant spot. Furman was coming off a 22-win season and by taking the position, would double Richey’s salary.

Richey decided to move back to Greenville.

When he arrived at Furman, he learned that even though Furman had won 22 games that season, they were losing six seniors.

“I got back on the road and signed a couple of young kids,” he said. “My second year, we started three freshman.”

After a seven win season, Jackson was fired. The director of athletics Mike Buddie named Richey interim coach and asked him ‘to just hold the thing together. Keep letter of intents intact and keep kids from transferring. I’ll recommend to the new coach that he keep you on.”

“The most interesting part of this story is that my two main mentors told me to get out,” said Richey. “I had two job offers. One [offer] was at East Tennessee State, a state school, more tradition, and more money. I was at a crossroads.”

Furman hired Coach Niko Medved as its new head coach and decision day came for Richey. He drove off campus that afternoon for some alone time. It was a tug that told him his job was not done. He knew that they could win at Furman.  

“Everyone was shocked that I stayed,” he said.

Richey helped Furman to a school record-tying 23 total victories and 14 Southern Conference wins this past season, while the program earned a share of its first Southern Conference regular season championship in 21 years and a trip the CollegeInsider.com (CIT) Postseason Tournament semifinals. The 2016-17 Paladins, who also won a school record 12 road games, notched back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1974-75, and captured postseason victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

After four seasons, Medved gets the head coaching job at Drake University. Furman interviews four candidates and Richey, and Richey is named head coach.    

“I look back on it, two years later, and you can see God’s hands in it. ETSU’s coach is fired, we get to live in Jessica’s home town, and everyone is excited about the program.”

When asked what advice he would give to those aspiring to coach. 

“You need to know who you are. Be you. Stay convicted. Through the adversity and trails and how people critique you, stay true to who you are,” said Richey. “I’m doing a job that everyone can sit in their living room and say they can do better. With the money in athletics, it’s even more scrutinized. You have to know what you are about.”

Richey says recruiting is a huge gamble, but you can’t waiver from who you are.

“We want kids that love to be at Furman. If their heart is there, then they will invest in the program. They will grow as people and as players.”

This past year, Furman honored Richey’s team with the campus community involvement award.

“Grow the person, grow the program,” he says.

Another piece of advice for those aspiring to coach one day.

             

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