|2016-17 SoCon Player of the Year Devin Sibley. Photo courtesy of Furman.|
After guiding the Paladins to a share of their first Southern Conference regular season championship in 26 years last season, Niko Medved left to become the head coach at Drake. Prior to Medved, the last Furman men's basketball coach who left to become head coach at another Division I school was Joe Williams. After five NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons at Furman, Williams left in 1978 to coach Florida State.
Richey, who's been an assistant for the past six seasons, takes over the head coaching duties of a team that returns four of five starters. That includes 2016-17 SoCon Player of the Year Devin Sibley, who's the preseason pick to win it again this year.
With those numbers no doubt in mind, the SoCon media tabbed Furman as the No. 1 team in the SoCon preseason poll, while the SoCon coaches picked the Paladins to finish third.
Lofty expectations are being taken in stride by Richey as he enters his debut as a collegiate head coach.
"Those things (preseason polls) are fun, but that's not something we put a whole lot of attention into," Richey said. "We've got the best player in the league and we've also got some good players around him, so I told the team 'this is what you created.'
"We can't run from it or hide it. It's what we've built. We've just got to figure out ways to get better every single day."
That mindset was evident as Richey helped Medved completely turn around the program the last four years. The Paladins' record improved every year under Medved, culminating in a 23-12 overall record and a 14-4 mark in the SoCon last season. Furman had a 10-game win streak, tied the school's single-season record for wins, and reached the semifinals of the CIT last season.
For the Paladins to continue to improve the program this year, Sibley should be a big part of it. Sibley followed up Stephen Croone's SoCon Player of the Year honor in 2016, by giving Furman back-to-back winners last season. Sibley's on this year's Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List. That award is presented to the top mid-major player in the nation.
Sibley averaged 17.7 points per game last season. He's joined in the backcourt by fellow seniors John Davis III (8.9 ppg) and Daniel Fowler (10.9 points 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game). Fowler and Sibley each made the preseason All-SoCon team.