People of South, Featuring Coach Richie Riley

By: Gracie King | Feature Editor | 

Photo courtesy of USA Jaguars

Nineteen wins and 10 losses. Considered a winning season by most teams, Coach Richie Riley and the South Alabama Men’s Basketball Team want more than that. 

The team is recently coming off of a grand finale of their regular season after beating University of Texas, Arlington, 62-52 at the Mitchell Center on February 25th. This win secured South the No. 5 seed for the upcoming Sunbelt Conference Tournament

“This year has been a battle and we’ve found a way to win 19 games so far, so heading into the tournament is win or go home time,” said Riley. “We have a team that really embraces that. We have a team that’s hungry to compete for a championship.”

Since first arriving at South in 2018, Riley has been making waves in the program as a whole. His first season as head coach was South’s first winning season since 2009 with Ronnie Lee Arrow as head coach. South has had three consecutive winning seasons with Riley as head coach, who has become known for vamping up basketball programs. 

Riley’s coaching slogan, “Burn the Boats”, has seemed to have a resounding effect on the team and how they’ve played in the last few seasons. The origin of this motto comes from a Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, who burned his own boats to keep his men from fleeing. 

“There is no safety net,” said Riley. “You have to find a way to be successful and win the battle. That’s how I’ve coached my entire career and that’s what our team is about. There are no excuses. It’s conquer or be conquered. It’s not just something we put on t-shirts. It’s a way we live our life, on and off the court.”

Riley’s already esteemed coaching career began as volunteer assistant coach at Georgetown University from 2003 to 2005. While his resume boasts positions from Coastal Carolina to Clemson, it was at Nicholls State University where he made a name for himself as a promising up-and-coming basketball coach by winning the Southland Conference Championship in 2018. 

This Thursday, South will play Little Rock, seeded at No. 12, at the Pensacola Bay Center in the first round of the Sunbelt Conference Tournament. If the team advances, they will play Troy, seeded at No. 4, this Saturday, March 5. 

“I’m excited to get down there. We’re close enough to Mobile that it’s an easier trip for our fans to get down there and come see us play,” Riley said. 

The Vanguard wishes the team good luck at the tournament this week! Go Jags!