New arena, seasoned team create optimism at Robert Morris
Coaches, teachers and parents like to tell students if they stick at something long enough, good things will happen.
Andy Toole proves that theory.
The Robert Morris basketball coach has presided over one of the Northeast Conference’s most successful programs since the 2010-11 season.
“Scary,” he said, noting his impressive longevity. “But thankful.”
He’s won 168 games in nine seasons, with four of 20 or more victories. In Toole’s 12 seasons, including three as an assistant, Robert Morris has reached the NEC semifinals 11 times.
Yet, nothing measures up to what sits in the middle of Robert Morris’ campus in Moon.
The $50 million, 140,000 square foot UPMC Events Center is the jewel of campus. The first basketball game will be Nov. 12 against Pitt, two days after a Bob Dylan concert.
“It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” Toole said. “It’s awesome to see it come to fruition. The guys are excited about it. It can bring us a lot of pride to see it opening.
“Everybody who comes in for the first time is amazed at how nice the building is. Recruits, parents, boosters, fans.”
Toole is hoping to build a home-court advantage at the Events Center (capacity 4,000), with many fans seated close to the action.
“It’s going to be loud,” he said. “We’re hoping to get a ton of student and fans in the building. Hopefully, it will create a fun atmosphere that the fans will want to come and be a part of.”
Of course, the novelty has a shelf life that only can be extended if Robert Morris wins. Toole’s other hope is experience in the form of four returning starters translates into a winning team.
“It is the oldest team we’ve had in a while,” said Toole, who has four players who averaged at least 33 minutes per game last season.
Two of the most seasoned players are guards in brothers Josh and Jon Williams. Josh, two years older and a transfer from Akron, averaged 14.5 points as Robert Morris finished 18-17 and earned a berth in the College Insider Tournament. Jon averaged 4.3 assists.
Also returning are 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward Yannis Mendy, who scored 5.7 points while shooting 56.7% (80 for 141) from the field, and 6-8, 200-pound forward Charles Bain (10.2 points and 4.7 rebounds).
Toole believes he has the potential for a strong front court, with Mendy, Bain and the addition of junior-college transfer A.J. Bramah, a 6-7 junior, who averaged 13.2 points and shot 52.8% from the field for Sheridan (Wyo.) College.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .