With basketball season just around the corner, there is perhaps no better time to look at the man at the helm, our very own Coach Bob McVean. During the past 33 years as head coach, McVean has led our Tigers to great heights — 19 consecutive winning seasons between 1991 and 2010, a NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance and over 500 wins are just a few of his many accomplishments. However, his coaching philosophy remains almost unchanged since when he first came here back in 1982.
“I always look for that student-athlete, who does not only want to reach basketball goals, but also career goals,” said McVean.
“Coaching for RIT was always a goal of mine, even when I was coaching at Eisenhower College,” he continued. “I just felt RIT was a real good match of my philosophy, and how I was brought up. It is a very diverse institution, and the students that come to RIT are very industrious — we are a career-oriented school, so that student-athlete piece is very important.”
In fact, seeing his former players grow into fully realized individuals is one of the things that McVean takes the most pride in when reflecting on his time here.
“As a coach, when you are talking just about basketball, you can always look to NCAA participation, the Sweet 16 team, those kinda things," McVean said. "But most of the time, I try to measure success of a program not only in wins and losses, but also other factors.”
One of those factors being “close to 100% graduation rate among our players,” McVean said proudly. He feels especially rewarded when players who have graduated come back with families and successful careers.
Given his time here, McVean has seen a lot of players come and go as well as quiet a few changes to the school. “Facility wise, it’s an amazement. The school was always nationally recognized, and now it is great to see it be internationally recognized,” McVean explained.
But if one thing has remained constant, it is those aforementioned core values.
“Instead of talking about building a program, we strive to maintain the success of the players that have gone before," McVean said. "We talk a lot about tradition, because that is something our present day players need to understand — the groundwork of the guys that came before.”
Given all the benchmarks he has passed during his time here, there are certainly higher expectations. Yet at the same time, “having seen what the team has done in the past gives us a reference point and a building block for the future,” he continued.
McVean is optimistic for what this season might have in store for the Tigers. “There are still a ton of things we need to work on — but we have good quickness, and we have been rebounding the basketball very well," he said.
“From just a purely team standpoint, we are trying to play to the best of our abilities,” McVean said. “We are in a very competitive league — the liberty league — and the big goal in the sky is to get to the NCAA. And we’re right there — we made it to the playoffs just this last year.”
However, the team is still very young. “We only have two seniors,” said McVean. “The sophomores this year that got a good amount of playing time last year have really developed as players. We have a new group of freshmen that we really think a lot of — but in the end, it’s our seniors, captains and upperclassman that are critical."
“I really think that this group thinks a lot of each other, and that’s a huge plus,” explained McVean. “People change — we hope they get better — but that enthusiasm and chemistry is vital, and we got it this year”.
On top of that, the RIT bench has some great depth this year. “We don’t really drop off a great deal when we get to players 6, 7, 8, 9,” said McVean. “In fact, in some of our preseason games, those players gave us a huge lift.”
Indeed, McVean could list off whole line-up’s worth of players that he really thinks are going to make a huge impact on the team this year. Guys like fourth year guard Kamron Davis, who started in all games except one last year, 2014-15 Liberty League rookie of the year second year guard AJ Horde, second year forward Mitch Herman who is shooting the ball marvelously this year, as well as second year guards Sheldon Clay and Miguel Lopez.
To see these players in action, come out for this season’s home opener on November 20th, against D’Youville College. According to McVean, the team would also love some fan support against pre-season favorites Skidmore on January 30th, as well as any of those other Liberty League match-ups that occur in early February because those will be the ones that really determine the standings.