FLORENCE, S.C. – Once Brad Bochette feared Bob Richey might follow his father’s footsteps in the medical field, he had to put a stop to it.
Once and for all.
Bochette knew Richey’s destiny was in coaching, and he’d be darned if Richey would stray from IT.
“The true story about this is that Bob is a very bright kid; his dad was a doctor and he was thinking of following that medical path,” recalled Bochette, who coached Richey at Florence Christian. “And I remember telling him, ‘Bob, don’t waste your life. You were born to coach, man. You were born to coach.’”
How did Bochette know? The best coaches know.
Richey joined Florence Christian as a junior after his family moved from Louisiana. It was then that Bochette saw more than just a star player. He saw a coach in the making.
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Not that Richey lacked anything as a player. All he did was surpass 1,000 points during his two years there and help guide the Eagles to a 28-2 record his senior season along with the 2001 state championship.
“He had such drive,” said Bochette, who currently is headmaster at Lee Academy. Bochette’s brother, Clay, now coaches FCS. “(Richey) was a very focused individual, and he worked hard. He wasn’t the most gifted player, but he would out-work you to perfect his craft.”
While Richey played guard for the Eagles, Bochette saw a leader who wanted to constantly absorb better ways to lead.
“He was the type of kid that when he went to (then-coach) Eddie Fogler’s camps at USC, he’d sit up there with a notebook and write everything he heard from coach Fogler,” Bochette said. “And he has made a habit of writing down things that could not only help him be a better coach but to live a better life. He’s just a prolific reader, and he’s still constantly throwing quotes at me from different books he has read.
“He’s a lifelong leader, whether it’s leading people or in basketball, in general,” he added. “He has a great basketball mind. But I think he’s an even better leader of people.”
Richey played college basketball at Tennessee Temple, and then North Greenville before taking an assistant’s job at Charleston Southern. With Richey’s wife from Greenville, he jumped at the chance to become a Furman assistant in 2011.
In 2017, after Niko Medved (now coach at Colorado State) left Furman to coach Drake, Richey became interim coach.
Then, the full-time coach.
And now, the tournament championship coach after his Furman Paladins beat Chattanooga for the program’s first crown and NCAA tournament appearance since 1980. Furman, in the South Region, plays Virginia in Thursday’s first round at 12:40 p.m. on truTV.
Way back then, Bochette told friends Richey would one day coach in the Final Four.
“He won’t settle for less,” Bochette said. “He just won’t settle. He’s always looking for a way to get a little bit better. He’s not about monumental growth, but to just get a little bit better each day. You can’t always go from where you are to where you want to be in one step. And he understands that well.”
Not long after Richey and his Paladins cut the nets down last week, there Bochette was in Asheville, N.C., site of the SoCon tourney. They had their photo taken with the championship trophy, and Richey reminded Bochette of that one-time career crossroads.
“Yes, he did indeed remind me at the championship about me telling him he needed to be a coach,” Bochette said. “(Richey) said, ‘You remember telling me I need to do this?’ And I answered, ‘I remember.’ He just has a knack for it. I just always thought he’d be a great coach one day. He loves it too much not to do it.”
It remains to be seen just how far this Richey-coached team can go. But with this being March Madness, there’s always magic to be found throughout the bracket.
Why can’t magic happen in Orlando, Fla., when the Paladins and Cavaliers tip off?
Richey played high school basketball in the “Magic City,” right? Anything’s possible.
And that mindset is indeed what will one day carry Richey to a Final Four.