Campus Celebrity: Coach Bob McKillop

You’d be hard-pressed (or should I say full-court-pressed?) to find a more popular individual on campus than Coach Bob McKillop. Since becoming the Davidson Men’s Basketball head coach in 1989, he’s achieved a record of 490-297, seven Southern Conference Coach of the Year awards, a stint as head coach of the 2013 USA Basketball World University Games Team, and seven NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight finish in 2008. You might think all the success over the years has gone to his head, but Coach McKillop keeps his ego in check. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he never had an ego to begin with. “It’s still hard for me to understand that people would want my autograph,” he says. Here are some other nuggets I learned about Davidson’s Silver Fox:

He does have a life outside of basketball. When he’s not coaching, McKillop likes to spend time with his family. He also loves music, enjoys old movies, and treasures his time with his granddaughters. And, believe it or not, he knows all the words to “Con te Partiro” by Andrea Bocelli. He claims to be good at staying in touch with old friends, recognizing his weaknesses, and packing for trips. Traveling is one of his favorite things to do in his time off – especially around Europe. He taught a clinic in Poland last summer and looks forward to seeing Italy and Germany next.

That being said… his players come first. When asked about his favorite coaching memory, Coach McKillop doesn’t hesitate to say that he loves “seeing any players move on from their Davidson experience and use lessons they’ve learned here in their family life, in their business life, in their community life.” He also notes that people might be surprised to learn that he cries – he tears up “just thinking about a memory of our players. I get emotional about these guys,” he says, misty-eyed, as he gestures to the row of post-practice basketballers as each inhales a large pizza. “There’s not anyone [in all of college basketball] I’d rather coach.”

He always strives for excellence. Coach McKillop says one of his favorite things about coaching at Davidson, specifically, is being surrounded by people who are also on a “quest for excellence.” His goal is to pass that drive on to his players as well, by giving them opportunities to be leaders – whether it’s an assignment to communicate on the court or to stand in front of the team and say something to cultivate trust among players and staff. He makes sure his passion doesn’t get in the way of what’s really important, though – over the course of his career, Coach McKillop says he’s gotten much better at gearing his coaching style toward "learning" his players – teaching, educating, and ministering to them – rather than simply satisfying his own quest for excellence.

He’s willing to sacrifice fashion for a win. Twenty-five years ago, McKillop coached a game for which his pre-game speech had been about “getting rid of the old.” He ripped his sport coat up the middle and said, “We’re taking off the old and putting on the new.” The gesture didn’t work, and the Wildcats got pounded.

He sees the Davidson community as a part of the team, and vice versa. “I wish every seat in the arena was filled!” McKillop says. “I wish our students would feel as much a part of this as our players do. We play for our alumni, our student body, and ourselves.” You might have read in a campus-wide email from Coach McKillop: “When Davidson wins, we all win.” McKillop firmly believes this, and he points to the Black Out Belk game against Dayton last month as evidence. “It’s more than just a game – we became a name overnight. Not just the team, but the school. Everyone was involved.”

You can catch Coach McKillop and the Wildcats in action against George Washington on February 28 at 7pm and against VCU on March 5 at 9pm in Belk Arena.