If you can win 10 straight games in conference play then you will probably make a postseason tourney: Furman won 10 SoCon games in a row last January/February and their reward was a trip to the CIT semifinals. As is the case with many successful mid-major programs, head coach Niko Medved used the run as a stepping stone to become head coach elsewhere (Drake), which cleared the way for Bob Richey to move up from assistant coach to head coach last spring. He is a very young head coach but has plenty of experience as a D-1 assistant as he prepares to begin his 1st year as the new guy in charge. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Richey about his new job and his spectacular senior backcourt.
You won a state title and were 3A state POY at Florence Christian School: how good a player were you back in the day? I guess that I was decent. It was a small private school but I set 7 school records so I was not too bad.
You graduated summa cum laude from North Greenville University in 2006: how much importance do you place on academics? It is who I am as a person and I took a lot of pride in it. It was an expectation in my family to do your best in all walks of life.
In the 2017 CIT semifinals as interim head coach at Furman you lost to St. Peter’s: how did it feel to get thrown into the fire on short notice?! It was a great learning experience. It was hard for our team to learn that we were losing our head coach only a few days before that game so my main purpose was to give them support. St. Peter’s played a phenomenal game, defended us as well as anyone had all year, and made almost every shot they took.
You were an assistant to Niko Medved before taking over for good in April: why did you take the job, and how is it going so far? Taking the job was a no-brainer: there are only 351 D-1 head coaching jobs out there and I always felt that once we built a winning program we could be a consistent winner here. I looked forward to the opportunity: there is no better city in the Southeast than Greenville and we attract quality human beings.
You turned 34 back in March but already have more than a decade of experience as a D-1 assistant coach under your belt: do you see your relatively tender age as an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to being a head coach? I think that age is just a number. It is a people business so it is about how well you can relate to/connect with people. You have to be prepared to do whatever you have to do and I have seen a lot over the past 12 years as an assistant.
Last year you set a school record by winning 12 games on the road: what is the secret to winning games away from home? You need an experienced group: this group has as good a chemistry as I have ever seen. They can handle adversity on the road because they have been through the wars. They are willing to defend and have the ability to make shots.
Your non-conference schedule includes road games against Butler/Duke/Tennessee: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? We have a lot of really good opponents on our schedule. Duke is at the top of most preseason ballots so they will be a tough test for us but we look forward to taking things game by game and seeing what we can do.
F Matt Rafferty missed more than half of last season due to back surgery: how is his health at the moment? He is not on the injury report and has had an unbelievable summer. He is 1 of the toughest players in the country and has been resilient so we look forward to getting him back out there.
You have a great senior backcourt in Devin Sibley/Daniel Fowler: how crucial will all of their experience be to your team’s success this year? It is huge: Devin was conference POY, Daniel is our vocal leader, and John Davis is the straw who stirs the drink and sets the tone for us defensively. They are a special group of seniors, which is a pretty good formula for success: we will miss them in a lot of ways when they leave next year.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We have a really good team coming back after a really good season. We lost 2 of our final 3 regular season games and then again in the 1st round of the conference tourney so we have talked all summer about finishing. The seniors have come up with about 6-7 goals but we have a close/talented team and will try to get a little bit better every day.