TERRE HAUTE —
Rose-Hulman President James Conwell couldn’t have been more accurate Monday afternoon when he called it “a bittersweet day” for his school.
The tone of the afternoon press conference, which introduced Rusty Loyd as men’s head basketball coach, was celebratory, and deservingly so. Loyd, the assistant coach for the program for the past five seasons, has the looks of a worthy successor to Jim Shaw and the blessings of his former boss.
It’s the reason for Shaw’s departure that are the bitter part.
Shaw is just the second Rose-Hulman basketball coach to reach 300 victories, ending a 20-year career with a 303-221 record and a .578 winning percentage. His last three teams went 82-29 and reached the NCAA Division III tournament all three times. Shaw took six Engineer teams to the NCAA tournament and was his conference’s coach of the year on five occasions, including the past two years.
He had a serious health scare several years ago, however, and some of those issues have continued to be a hindrance to him. Currently added to that is a month-long bout with shingles, which is what prevented him from attending Monday’s event.
“It’s primarily my ongoing heart issues,” Shaw said by telephone later Monday when asked about his departure. “The grind, the daily workload and the demands of coaching college basketball made it very difficult for me to do my job and be able to take care of my health at the same time.
“The school has been very supportive about what’s best for me and the basketball program.”
“Coach Shaw has meant a lot to Rose-Hulman and the basketball program,” Conwell said. “He was a tremendous educator [mentioning the overseas trips taken periodically by the men’s basketball team] … and he will always be a part of the Rose-Hulman family and tradition.”
“He is a mentor and friend I will never forget,” Loyd said of Shaw.
Shaw came to Rose-Hulman as an assistant coach under Bill Fenlon, currently the head coach at DePauw.
“I’ve known Jim 30 years and I can’t think of another guy who could have done a better job with that program,” Fenlon said Monday. “He’s kept [the Engineers] at a championship level more often than not.
“He’s a terrific coach, a great guy and he really cares about his kids and their development and success. He’s a great example of what a Division III coach should be.”
Shaw is enthusiastic about Loyd being his successor, and for more than one reason.
“The main thing I will miss is being around the players,” Shaw said, “being a daily part of their lives and them being a daily part of mine.
“It’s very comforting to know I’m leaving my guys in such good hands; I know they’ll be cared for and watched after in a similar way, with care and diligence and the right motives behind everything that’s done.”
The current and future Engineers will be well coached too, Shaw added.
“He’s a tremendous coach,” Shaw said of Loyd. “He’s really bright, he has a great basketball background and he has great basketball insight. He sees the game develop, and he sees the game in slow-motion, plus he’s a great communicator who really knows how to deal with people.”
“This is the ideal job for someone born and raised in Indiana, who started playing when he was 5 and who has been living his entire life around the game,” said Loyd, who played for Columbus North and is a member of the University of Chicago’s Hall of Fame. He is the all-time leader in assists and steals for the Maroons.
Loyd started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Earlham under Rose-Hulman alumnus Jeff Justus and was also an assistant coach at Lewis and at his alma mater. He came to Rose after three seasons as head coach at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
During informal questioning from a press-conference audience that included the new coach’s parents plus enough Rose-Hulman faculty and staff members to almost fill the room, Loyd pointed out that recruiting athletes to the school is both very hard (because of the academic requirements) but also very easy (because of the quality of the school); that the search for an assistant coach (and also a new golf coach) would begin almost immediately; and that he and his wife Kristen’s new baby will arrive in early October, just in time for the season. The Loyds already have two children, Mia and Mason.
When he was asked about coaching without the 2014 graduates — including two-time Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Julian Strickland — Loyd’s competitive juices were evident.
“We have seven freshmen coming in,” he answered, “and we have a very motivated group of players coming back … It’s going to be fun.”
Athletic Director Jeff Jenkins, who introduced Loyd earlier by saying he was expecting more NCAA tournament appearances, raised his hand and asked about future HCAC championships. Loyd smiled and said, “My goal is to win every game … and conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances go along with that.”
Loyd was quoted in a press release from the school as saying many of Shaw’s philosophies — “hard work, tough defense and a grind-it-out mentality to do anything necessary to win” — will still be in effect.
“I think he was kind of ready to move on,” Loyd said of Shaw. “He dedicated 25 years of his life to the young men who played for him.”
Jim Shaw’s coaching career at Rose-Hulman
• 20 years, 303-221 record
• 6 NCAA tournament appearances
• 5 regular-season conference championships
• 4 conference tournament championships
• 4 seasons with at least 20 wins
• 5-time conference Coach of the Year in basketball, 2-time Coach of the Year in men’s golf