Sunday Conversation: Rich McBride
He had a sweet shooting stroke at Illinois. The former Lanphier standout is now dispensing advice to up-and-coming basketball talent in the Springfield area. The shooting guard is enjoying his time on the Lanphier sidelines, where he’s in his second season as an assistant coach. Before unbeaten Lanphier won 55-52 in overtime on Friday at Lincoln in a matchup of the top two teams in Class 3A, McBride touched on a multitude of topics with staff writer MATT DANIELS.
Why did you get involved in coaching?
I’ve been interested in it since middle school. I just had a great relationship with my middle-school coach. It just went from there. I always knew I wanted to a coach. I was the head coach for one season at Cairo High School in southern Illinois before I came back to Lanphier, and prior to that I coached at Greenup County High School in Kentucky for one season as an assistant.
What’s it like coaching at your old high school?
It’s great just being back where I’m from and being able to reach out to the kids of the community. I work in the school district here in Springfield in the special education department. I think it’s something that I just fell into. It’s not something that I thought I would be doing 15 or 20 years ago, but I like it.
What do you think of the current Illinois team?
They’re very young, but they’ve got a lot of talent. I think the coaching staff is doing a great job with the kids that were there when they came in, and John Groce is doing a good job of bringing in his own kids as well. I think when they get meshing, they can do some pretty good things.
Who’s winning the Super Bowl?
I had the Saints, but they lost. Man, that was tough. The Saints are my team. If I had to choose, I would probably say the 49ers. Just looking at the four teams left, I’m going to go with San Francisco. They’re just riding high.
What’s your fondest Illinois memory?
It would probably have to be the 2004-05 season, without a doubt. It went by so fast, but looking back now at the things we accomplished, it was something that will stick with me forever.
What’s the least favorite?
Practice. Sometimes it could be a drag, but I really don’t have any bad memories at Illinois. It was always a great experience. I think our coaches at Illinois did a great job of mixing things up as far as drills and other things at practice to try to keep it fresh, but some of those practices were so hard. We try to do that with our kids now at Lanphier and keep them fresh and wanting to stay in the gym for as long as they can.
How often do you think about the shot at the buzzer against Penn State that was ruled good but later overturned?
I actually don’t think about it at all, but the kids I coach now, they do their homework and do a lot of research on my high school and college years, and they always bring that up. Other than that, I don’t think too much about it. There were way more plays that could have won that game for us besides that one.
Any tidbits you’ve passed on to Larry Austin, Lanphier’s senior guard who is heading to Tennessee?
Not really, but I think the one thing that he’s done that’s helped separate himself this year is just getting in the gym every day and working hard. We started seeing the progress he made this summer, and it’s carrying over to now.
How much has recruiting changed since you were in high school?
Kids just hunt for offers now it seems like. When I was growing up, that wasn’t really a big deal. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. You’ve still got the coaches coming to the schools and open gyms and things like that, which they did during my recruitment.
Looking forward to the Olympics at all?
I’ll watch the Olympics a little bit, but that’s not something I’ll be glued to. Right now I’m just focused on getting our team better each and every day.
It’s coming up on 10 years since the 2004-05 season and Illinois’ run to the national championship game. How surreal is that?
I felt old when I was at Illinois, and now I definitely feel it. Man, just thinking about that season, it doesn’t seem that long ago. It seems like yesterday when I was with those guys and Coach Weber and the rest of the staff. We were putting the work in. I’m pretty sure a lot of guys on that team, when they sit back and think about it now, have nothing but positive memories from it.
Can we expect to see Lanphier in Peoria in March?
You’re getting way ahead of me. That’s like asking if Illinois was going to win the Big Ten before the season started. That’s the goal is to play in Peoria, but we’ve got to keep these kids focused on one game at a time. Hopefully if we can keep getting better, we might be able to make a run.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I think it’s a lot different from my personality. I’m pretty laid-back away from the court, but I’m a little animated on the sidelines.
What do you think of all the transfers that are taking place in college basketball these days?
That’s different, too. I really don’t know all the rules, but I think it helps some schools, like Illinois right now. I know Jon Ekey is a big part of what Illinois does and it could be a good for the schools. I don’t see how it could be a bad thing.
How often do you try to make it over to Champaign?
I come over a lot. I was just at the Illinois-Penn State game two weeks ago. I’ve got some buddies that still live in town, so I keep in contact with them.
What’s your favorite place to eat when you’re here?
That’s tough. There’s so many options, but I’d have to say Merry Ann’s Diner. They’ve got a little bit of everything.
What advice would you give to the current Illinois team, especially with some of the struggles they’ve had in the Big Ten?
Just stick together. I know Coach Groce and those guys will have it where they’ll make sure they stick together. They’ve got a lot of talent. If you just keep working and focus on the guys that they’re around every day, and block out all the outside noise, special things can still happen.
What do you think of John Groce?
I think he’s a great guy. I met him a couple times when he was recruiting Larry and got to talk with him a few times. I think he’s going to do great things for the program. They’re actually headed in the right direction, in my opinion.
What was it like coaching at State Farm Center last month during the Country Financial Centennial Shootout?
I come down there all the time, so it’s nothing new for me to be in the building, but being on the sidelines and being a coach was a little different. It’s something that I’ve come to adjust to, and I loved the experience. It was great for our guys to see the locker room and all the other parts of Assembly Hall — I mean State Farm Center.
Is it weird calling it State Farm Center?
I still call it the Assembly Hall as you can tell. I can’t get past that yet. It’s tough. I’m trying to get past it, but I haven’t fully been able to.