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The basketball court, known as Pinholster Court at Dorough Field House, on the campus of Oglethorpe University has a very unique look like the hardwood at Oregon University. The design doesn’t resemble a forest but the floor is black instead of the traditional wood color and referred to as “The Blacktop.”
On this rare stretch of hardwood, the Oglethorpe women’s team played some of its best basketball since the 2008-09 season, compiling a 15-12 overall record and 8-6 mark in the Southern Athletic Association.
The mind behind this move in a winning direction is Alex Richey, who is entering his fourth year as coach and was also an impactful basketball player at the school, using the 3-point shot to place his name among the best.
On November 17, the Stormy Petrels begin the 2017-18 season at home but well before then Richey set aside some time to talk about his expectations for the upcoming season, how this offseason was personally different and other topics in this edition of 1-on-1.
Last season was the first time the program had a winning overall record and conference record since 2008-09. What are your thoughts on how last season went and how do you hope to add to that success?
Taking that next step is definitely what we are trying to focus on for sure. Progression from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3. We’ve learned and grown up a lot the last couple of years. I’ve personally grown up a lot. As a coach, you got to continue to get better. I’m still very young in the profession. I still want to strive to get better in my profession and just to be at my best for this group, program and school.
I think this is our most talented group that we’ve had overall. The best part about them is that they have also been my hardest-working group. We’ve only been in school for a month and a half but for them to get in the gym on their own and weight room on their own, getting into shape before we kick off the season has been incredible. I remember the days when I first got the job that necessarily wasn’t the case but now we have moved to that point where that level of dedication I think you need to be a championship caliber program. That is what I’m excited about.
I love coaching those types of kids that are really invested. My staff and I are extremely invested. When you have those types of things going for you it hopefully breeds success. I don’t know what the success is going to be on the court but I know if we continue to work hard and do things the right way and show great attitude of getting better everyday we are going to see the goals that we set are going to be very much attainable.
[The Lady Petrels are returning 13 players, who are mostly juniors, and adding seven to the roster.]
What are your thoughts of the schedule this season compared to last year’s schedule?
Our strength of schedule this year is going to be significantly stronger than what we’ve had in the past. I’m entering my fourth year as a head coach with a number of upperclassmen in the program. I think it’s really good for us to measure our success by playing the top teams in the region and in the country to see where we kind of stack up. It gives us a lot of growing opportunities that allow us to push forward as a program.
We are still going to continue to play fast but the good thing about this group is there is a variety of different things we can do with different lineups because we have accentuated some of our weaknesses. We are bigger than we were a year ago and stronger than we were a year ago but we have still maintained that athletic nature that we’ve had both on the offensive end and defensive end.
What has the experience been like coaching at your Alma mater?
It’s so special being home. This is my 10th year of being affiliated with Oglethorpe. Four years as a student athlete, two years working in the men’s program and now four in the women’s. I proposed to my wife on the campus. It’s just been very special to hopefully help revitalize the program. I had so much success when I was an undergraduate student athlete and now to see the fruits of our labor from the last four years of our hard work. I really think this team has the opportunity to kind of turn the corner and get us back to that national prominence that was on display a little less than a decade ago.
When you played for Oglethorpe you scored 1,147 points during your tenure and were a top 3-point shooter. Does the manner of how you competed factor into your coaching style?
When I recruit any guard I tell them I was a guard, who had the green light, to give them the confidence to shoot their shot. If there is an open opportunity, take the opportunity. I was kind of a blue-collar player when I played. I knew not being extremely athletic that I was going to have to have to do the little things to make my mark in the game other than just scoring. I tried to bring that yeoman’s attitude into my coaching ability. Bring that intensity and joy of playing the game. Try to create a fun atmosphere for our young women to come to the gym everyday.
Along with playing for current men’s coach Philip Ponder, you also spent two years coaching beside him. What did you learn from him?
Coach Ponder is my mentor. We are close friends. It was an honor to play for him and work along side of him. I can’t give him enough props for his tutelage and mentorship of me, helping me get started in my profession. He is obviously very talented when it comes to offensive X’s and O’s and having those conversations about putting your players in the best position to be successful on the offensive end has been really good on the basketball side.
On the other side of it, he showed me how to put your stamp on a program and how you come to work everyday, and how to maintain the correct mentality and level of professionalism. Those things go to the wayside sometimes for a young coach but I just take things from him and implement them into what we try to do.
I know you watch plenty of basketball footage because your craft demands it but are there other levels of basketball you view for enjoyment?
I watch a ton of basketball and all different levels of basketball. I think I follow players more so than I follow teams. Growing up in Atlanta and being in the same region of basketball I got to watch Maya Moore up close. Pretty much from the time we were 13 years old until now and the great career she has had so far in the WNBA. She has been such a great example to women’s basketball. I think she is as good of a player as there has ever been. She is just the ultimate leader. Never afraid to step up in the big moment. Always holding herself in high regard and high esteem. She has just been so good for women’s basketball.
On the men’s side, I love watching the passion of guys like Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. There are just some amazing athletes and they set their mark. Not only that but they step out and speak on issues and things of that nature. I think that’s really good for the fact that we live in a time where we may not have the ability to speak on those social issues. For our athletes, who are role models for so many people to step up to the forefront of those conversations is really important. It’s a really good example for future generations.
What are your hobbies outside of coaching basketball?
I got married last September and my wife and I have been traveling all over the world. I’m an avid fiction reader just to clear my mind from basketball. In this profession, you don’t get a lot of time off and there are no set hours. You are really working as hard as you can to get a program right but the time we spend together we like to get those everlasting memories. This summer we went Asia for two weeks. For my birthday, she took me to Greece and definitely spoiled me with that so we have been able to have some great adventures together in our first year of marriage. I also love spending time with my friends and I’m a pretty big tennis player surprisingly. It’s a good way to stay in shape.