The Meridian Star
For newly hired East Central Community College men’s basketball coach Robert Thompson, the trip from Mobile to Decatur is a lot like coming home.
Thompson, who comes to ECCC from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., is a native of Tupelo. Thursday at a press conference held in in the Board of Trustees Room located in the Vincent Administration Building on the Decatur Campus, Thompson said he felt blessed for the opportunity to return to his home sate
“I’m very, very grateful to be here,” Thompson said. “God’s been very good to me. I’ve told the committee this from the start, I’ve been very blessed. I’ve had a mom and dad at home that have taught me some very simple things. They taught me to do what’s right, don’t worry about wrong and treat people the way you want to be treated. I’ve taken that everywhere I’ve gone in life.
“I’ve been around some great people who have done some great things in my life, so I want to share that with the kids here at Each Central.”
In his 14 years serving as a head coach at both Spring College and Arkansas Tech, Thompson has a combined 185-218 record. During his time with Spring College, Thompson went 142-156 over 10 seasons, including a 4-25 season last year. At Arkansas Tech, Thompson compiled a 43-62 record over four seasons.
Thompson's most successful year came in the 2005-06 season, when he coached Spring College to a 23-7 record and a Sweet-16 appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. The finish earned Thompson Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Thompson said he will stress the importance of “ABCs” to his players, stating that the program’s priorities will center on Academics, Basketball and Character.
“First of all we will be looking for character,” Thompson said. “There is a strong correlation between a kid that will work hard off the court and one that will work hard on the court. If he’s a good kid, then he’s probably going to do what I ask him to do, so character is No. 1.
“Second is athletic ability, how well he plays the game of basketball, and that he believe in what we are doing. That belief, basketball and character, we tie that into the player and hopefully recruit that kind of player.”
One priority early on will be changing the culture of ECCC basketball. East Central finished the 2012-13 campaign with a disappointing 2-21 (2-10) record, finishing in last place in the South Division. Thompson said he will work to earn the support of students on campus and attempt to build support for the program from the ground up.
“First of all you got to start on campus and get the students involved,” Thompson said. “Then you got to get the community involved. Financially, we have to raise some money and give the kids an opportunity to look good and feel good about themselves.”
Thompson, who served as an assistant coach at Delta State and Belhaven College, said he feels comfortable with recruiting in-state athletes. On top of recruiting the best in-state athletes possible, Thompson said he plans to take advantage of the rich talent pool the the area has to offer and bring in as many athletes from surrounding district schools.
“I think it starts here at the house,” Thompson said. “It’s very important for us to get out in the community. There are a lot of good players coming up out as juniors in this area. The area has rich tradition, especially with Leake County and East Central basketball. We are just excited to get started here in the community and get those guys excited about playing East Central basketball.”