After a stunning upset in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Thursday night, Furman head coach Bob Richey gave credit to God and acknowledged his players’ tenacity. The 13-seeded Furman Paladins edged out 4-seed Virginia 68-67 on March 16, thanks to a last-minute steal and three-pointer.
ARE YOU SERIOUS?! 😨
FURMAN WITH THE STEAL AND 3 TO TAKE THE LEAD WITH 2.2 SECONDS REMAINING #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/fSCNKUzboq
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 16, 2023
During his post-game press conference, Richey referenced James 1:2. “We said it all year. ‘Count it all joy,’” he said. “You just don’t know timing of things. You don’t know timing of life. It doesn’t always go how you want, but this team has persevered.”
The 39-year-old, sixth-year head coach added, “It’s an unbelievable moment. Give all the glory to God for allowing me to lead it, but this is a day these players just found a way.”
Bob Richey: ‘Bloom Where You’re Planted’
As basketball analysts dissected the X’s and O’s of Furman’s come-from-behind March Madness win, Bob Richey was trying to take everything in. “This is one of the few things in life where they told me how good it was, and somehow it’s better,” the coach told sports reporter John Fanta.
Richey, who grew up in a Christian home, finished his high school basketball career at a Christian school, despite advice to the contrary. His team ended up winning a state championship. After playing Division II basketball in college, Richey held “two tough jobs” at the beginning of his coaching career. During his early years on staff at Furman, mentors recommended that he head to greener pastures. But Richey prayed about it and stayed.
On a 2021 episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast, Richey describes that decision-making process: “I just felt very convicted that God was telling me, ‘Stay put and finish. Keep running the race where you’re at. Nobody’s going to tell you to do this. It’s going to sound really idiotic to a lot of people. It was so clear to me. I couldn’t explain it.” He adds: “The only way you can explain that is what God did and the faith along the journey to just keep running and to stay put and to bloom where you’re planted.”
Journey Brings Fulfillment, Says Coach Bob Richey
This is Furman’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 43 years. To get there, the Paladins had to edge out Chattanooga, the team that dashed their Southern Conference title hopes last spring. That buzzer-beater defeat was an important motivator for this year’s players, says Richey.
During Thursday night’s opening-round matchup against Virginia, Furman trailed by double digits several times. But the Paladins never backed down—and now will play San Diego State on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
For Bob Richey, joy comes not from any particular victory but from the process and from progress along the way. “We get tricked up in thinking that the moment is going to be a destination that’s going to bring ultimate satisfaction,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “For us, we look at it the other way. We feel like the journey and the progress through the journey…that’s really where you get that fulfillment from.”