Bates names Furbush as new basketball coach

Father Scott

If there’s anything that trumps Pax in our ongoing “who’s nerdier?” contest (in which he upped the ante by attending a baseball stat symposium at the Museum of Science), it’s something that happened to me mere moments ago.

My mom texted me to ask my thoughts on Bates appointing its new men’s basketball coach. I need more than 180 characters, so I’ll put my thoughts here.

The Bobcats named former swingman and assistant coach Jon Furbush ’05 as Joe Reilly’s replacement.

Athletic director Kevin McHugh’s, Furbush’s, and my thoughts after the jump.In announcing the appointment Tuesday, Bates Director of Athletics Kevin McHugh praised Furbush’s “passionate commitment to the college and to the basketball program,” adding that “Jon separated himself from an extremely strong candidate pool as the best fit to be the next men’s basketball coach at Bates.”

McHugh noted that “the foundation that he received as a player and coach at Bates, combined with his energy and enthusiasm, an ability to lead and inspire, his work ethic, and his notable talent for recruiting made him the obvious choice of the search committee.

“We are thrilled that Jon will be taking over the reins of an established program and look forward to him leading the Bobcats to even greater success.”

Furbush sounds thrilled, but also quite professional. Must be those masters classes he was taking at Springfield.

Furbush was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Springfield in 2007–08 while pursuing a master’s degree in athletic administration. He held the same position for two seasons at Bates after graduating with a degree in American cultural studies.

“This is a great opportunity to get back in touch with my Maine roots,” Furbush said. “Coming back to Bates is like a dream — getting to coach at my favorite school…What Joe Reilly has done is tremendous,” Furbush said. “I want to build on the culture he created and add a few of my own contributions. I want to use basketball as an extension of the classroom, preparing our student-athletes for the next step in life. The players in my program will all be respectful and valuable members of the Bates community and will take pride in striving towards excellence on the court and in the classroom.”

I am of two minds about this.

From a personal standpoint, frankly, I didn’t know him. We went to school together for three of those years, but I had yet to become the outgoing and widely loved by women and admired by men Padre you now read. In any case, he never struck me as the coach type on or off the court. He didn’t appear to be a leader on the court in any way, and I certainly didn’t hear of him being a particularly studious student-athlete.

As a player, he had an outstanding outside shot, was tougher than Bates’ other wing players (necessary in Reilly’s endless running-his-wings-around-multiple-screens offense), and was an above-average defender. He had his limitations, but after he graduated, the team certainly missed him. He scored more than 10 ppg over his career, but only played in 45 games (that’s about two seasons’ worth). He also averaged more than 5 rebounds a game (good for a NESCAC backcourt player), and shot 43% on three-pointers. Not a star by any means, but steady and really good for the system Reilly ran.

Though he is young and never outwardly showed any coaching credentials, I obviously don’t know what things were like behind the scenes. And Reilly chose him as an assistant coach after he graduated, so he must have shown some promise. Beyond that, he went on to pursue these interests at Springfield, so I can only assume that he has the desire to move forward and craft a program of his own. Reilly was really successful at that at Bates, and hopefully Furbush picked up a few tricks out of observation.

He should also continue, given his Maine roots, the school’s strong representation of Vacationland on its roster. I’ve written about Reilly’s effectiveness in snatching up the talent from the Bangor area, but he got his fair share of talent (Furbush included) in the Greater Portland area as well. I imagine that will be a commitment of Furbush’s as well.

There’s danger with turning over any job of responsibility to someone with little-to-no experience. And while this isn’t the pros or D1 or anything, it is a strong program in a competitive conference with a pretty devoted fanbase, regularly showing strong representation at away games in the Boston area. McHugh sounds confident, and while he hasn’t been around long enough for me to place full confidence in him, we’ll have to trust him for now.

Mostly, though, I’m thrilled to see Bates hire one of its own. With coaching especially, teams (both pro and college) tend to change so often that there’s no continuity or identity. Particularly on the collegiate level, if you can install someone with a strong sense of what he is supposed to be representing, I think you’re headed in the right direction. Hopefully Furbush is up to the challenge.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Bates names Furbush as new basketball coach

  1. If it’s not Bates Women’s Basketball, I don’t care.

  2. Believe me, I know the feeling. But the ’04-’05 days of Zurek-Taylor-Hochadel-Barton are gone my friend. Gone.

  3. rufus

    Dear Father Scott – It’s hard to argue with your discussion and, for the most part, you make a great deal of sense. For my part, I know Jon Furbush well and I watched him develop from an above average athlete at Bates, to good assistant coach. I’m not certain what his academic credentials are, and quick frankly it doesn’t matter to me at all. What is important is that there be some degree of continuity to the program that Coach Reilly began and I am certain Jon will provide that. As one Bobcat that has know him both as a teammate and as a coach, I can say he has my trust and confidence to continue with the program and hopefully elevate it to the next level. No one wants to see the program suffer as it did in the pre-Joe Reilly days, not even your fan base of women fans. I hope the Bobcat fans give Jon a chance, he is a gracious person and I believe him to be a fine leader.

  4. I agree 100%, Rufus, that any move that provides continuity of Reilly’s program is a good one. He was definitely the best coach I ever saw there (granted I was too young to really judge coaching before his time) and as a recruiter he did an outstanding job making the school and its old gym and facilities and lack of program history look good to big-time players like Ray, Stockwell, Walker, Wilson, Gerrity, and the other kids who played so well during his time there.

    Now that I’ve had a few days to think about this, the only concern I have is how it looks to the outside — will incoming recruits (and their parents and whoever else helps make the decisions) respect a 25-year old coach? Maybe that’s an asset–maybe they’ll relate to him. I’m excited to see how it goes.

    One big point I missed: Bates needs to show patience with him. I don’t really think the team will be that good for the next couple of years. They have a couple of good pieces, but not really any marquee guys (unless Ellis takes a BIG step forward) that they’ve had for the last 10 years. Bates shouldn’t hold Furbush responsible for their record over the next couple of years (solely, at least).

  5. rufus

    Father Scott – we are in complete agreement. I don’t believe that age will be the issue here. Joe was only 28 and he had his hands full with that first crew of ‘cats. Jon knows most of the kids on this team and they, for the most part, remember and respect him. You bring up an interesting point about the parents of young recruits. I think that might be something Jon needs to address. The fan base gave Joe time and they loved him. “Give him time and he’ll be fine”. Good luck Jon!

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