Sunday, December 31, 2006

Article on McKillop in Lake Norman Magazine

(I'm reprinting/preserving this article here in its entirety, in case it is deleted from their website in the future.)

Bob McKillop makes Wildcats a fearsome foe
By Sam Boykin
January 2007

Bob McKillop was a standout basketball player for the East Carolina Pirates when he first encountered the Davidson College Wildcats. It was during a 1969 Southern Conference tournament championship game at the old Charlotte Coliseum. The Wildcats whipped the Pirates 102-76.

McKillop remembered that loss, and the way the Davidson fans had cheered their team and celebrated, when the college offered him an assistant coaching position nine years later. McKillop visited Davidson and, after one look at the scenic campus, accepted the job. The Wildcats went 8-19 that season. Despite the less-than-illustrious start, McKillop eventually was named Davidson’s head basketball coach. Now in his 18th year, McKillop has developed one of the most successful and extraordinary basketball programs in the country.

McKillop says his philosophy and the Wildcats’ success are indicative of Davidson College as a whole, which he describes as a unique and special place. “We’re a mirror of the college and a bright light for the things that it represents – community, family, and people from all social, economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds blending together as one team.”

Connection with his players
McKillop, who grew up on Long Island and was a talented high school baseball and basketball player, says that one of the main reasons he got into coaching was to have an impact upon his players’ lives. “The relationship that coaches build with players is one that, if handled the correct way, is a lifelong relationship.”

Over the years he’s earned a reputation as a caring yet disciplined coach who runs demanding and detailed practices, during which he focus on the fundamentals of the game.

Detlef Musch first played for McKillop in 1988 during the coach’s two-year foray at Long Island Lutheran High School. When McKillop took the reins at Davidson College in 1989, Musch was the coach’s first recruited player. “When I met Coach McKillop I had only played basketball for one year,” says Musch, who now plays professional basketball in Germany. “I had problems making a lay-up. He spent a lot of extra time with me working on all aspects of the game. He was very well organized, and small details were very important. He was tough but fair. Without him I never would have gotten to where I am today. I’m still using the fundamentals that he taught me.”

Brendan Winters played for McKillop from 2002 to 2006 and, like Musch, describes the coach as demanding and detail-oriented, but also inspirational and pivotal to his career. Winters now plays professional basketball in France with two other former Davidson players.

“Coach McKillop definitely helped me get to where I am today,” Winters says. “Coming out of high school I wasn’t highly recruited, but he was the first coach to offer me a scholarship. He believed in me from the first time he saw me play. I can’t say the same for most of the coaches I’ve been around.”

Learning from experience
McKillop says his coaching philosophy of developing close relationships with players deepened when he had the opportunity to coach his own son, Matt. Matt graduated in 2006 after playing for his father for four years.

“That accentuated my whole approach,” McKillop says. “It’s important to remember that every player is someone’s son. You have to have a sense of accountability when a young man is put under your direction. There’s a trust and responsibility you’re accepting when you’re a coach.”

This attitude and style have paid off for McKillop and his team. He’s won more games than any other coach at Davidson, with a record of 282-213. The Wildcats have won seven of the last 11 Southern Conference Division championships, as well as last season’s SoCon championship. He’s also been conference Coach of the Year five times, and has taken his team to three NCAA tournaments and three postseason national invitational tournaments. Moreover, 95 percent of his Davidson lettermen have graduated.

Not surprisingly, such accomplishments have prompted other basketball programs to try to woo him away, but he says he has no plans to go anywhere. “Whenever another school has come knocking it’s always been as a result of the superb performances of the players and other coaches,” he says. “So I see those opportunities as a stamp of approval of what’s going on here.”

In addition, McKillop and his wife, Cathy, have developed deep roots in Davidson, having raised their three kids there. Kerrin, 26, is a 2002 Davidson graduate, and Brendan, 18, is a senior and basketball player at Charlotte Catholic High. Matthew, 23, now plays professional basketball in Europe. “Davidson basketball is my life,” Bob McKillop says. “After 18 years of coaching I’ve got an extended family of former players, fans, friends and supporters. It’s a full plate that occupies almost my every waking hour.”

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