Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Furman's Richey reflects on emotional week

Furman's Bob Richey celebrates with his team following the Paladins'
81-66 win over Mercer Saturday. Photo courtesy of Furman

Following a victorious return to the Bob Secours Wellness Arena Saturday, there was quite the celebration in the Furman locker room. After the Paladins' 81-66 win over Mercer gave Bob Richey his 100th win as head coach, Richey got the celebratory Gatorade bath in what had to be one of Jalen Slawson's favorite "dunks" ever. Richey then received the game ball from Furman athletic director Jason Donnelly.

Because of COVID issues last season, the Paladins' scheduled games at The Well were shifted to Timmons Arena. Playing for the first time downtown since a thrilling one-point win over Wofford two years ago, Furman improved to 3-1 there. The fact that it became the site of a historic win for Richey is kind of fitting given how much he's pushed for games downtown to help the program grow.

"The 100th win is great, but that's a program milestone," Richey said Saturday in what became an emotional postgame press conference. "It's the crew, not the captain."

It was a perfect end to an special, albeit exhausting week for Richey. Saturday's win came on the 12th birthday of Richey's daughter, Audrey. It also came three days after Furman's victory at UNCG on Wednesday. That was the same day that Richey's wife Jessica gave birth to the couple's third child.

"I don't know if I've ever been this tired, but I don't know if I've ever been this thankful," Richey said. "Just watching my wife go through all that and the gift of bringing another newborn into the world."

Richey's week began the prior Saturday, when the Paladins visited VMI on New Years Day without him. With Jessica's due date looming, Richey didn't want to take any chances on being stuck on Furman's longest Southern Conference road trip when his wife went into labor.

Richey praised the job done by associate head coach Jeremy Growe, who filled in for him and did so without assistant Jimmie Williams, who also missed the game. Richey said his availability for the VMI game was never a decision that needed to be made. He knew he was going to be by Jessica's side. Watching the game from home hit Richey harder that he thought it would though. He said not being there for his players was one of the hardest things he's ever endured professionally.

That's understandable considering where Richey has been for every Furman basketball game for the past decade. That VMI game must have ended what had to be the longest active streak of attending Paladin basketball games for anyone. This season marks Richey's 11th at Furman and fifth as head coach.

On Tuesday, the Richeys arrived at the hospital at 8 p.m. Son Jacks arrived at 3:25 a.m. Wednesday morning. As the day wore on, mom and baby were doing well so it was back to work for dad. The sleep-deprived Richey knew he shouldn't take any chances driving to Greensboro, so he got a ride from assistant Daniel Fowler and was able to catch some sleep along the way.

Without the services of starting guard Conley Garrison, only four Paladins scored but they grinded out a 58-54 win. A four-point road win in a "rock fight" type of game would be emotionally draining already, even without Richey's path to get there.

Jacks birth came four years after the Richeys suffered the heartbreak of a miscarriage.

"We waited a long time for our third child. The whole process has been a faith check. To see it through, is a reminder in life to just keep the faith and keep pressing forward. There's a lot of blessings that sometimes we miss," Richey said Saturday. "Right now, it's a world of negativity. We focus on the losses and the bad things so much. What Jacks has taught us in this short period of time is that there's a lot of good in this life too.

"It's just been an incredible week. One I'll definitely never forget." 

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