CRAWFORD: Braves strike it Rich with football hire
By Brad Crawford firstname.lastname@example.org
Type-A personalities often make successful head football coaches.
They’re work-obsessed, detail-driven perfectionists that demand constant improvement from players and staff.
Athletic director Dick Christy says UNCP’s selection of defensive coordinator Shane Richardson as the Braves’ next leader accentuates that mold.
“Today’s an affirmation of our commitment to football and to building it the right way,” Christy said Friday. “I’m excited about Shane’s vision and the areas of growth he sees as opportunities for us.”
Welcoming Richardson as Pete Shinnick’s successor is the culmination of a hectic two-week stretch of final interviews, late-night conversations and personnel prep before the start of spring practice at one of Division II’s rising programs.
Richardson’s on-the-job training in the interim prior to National Signing Day — a period that included donor appearances along with several meetings and phone calls with prospects — was admittedly grueling for the father of three who wasn’t sure where he fit among other finalists in terms of the search committee’s ideal candidate.
He asked his pregnant wife, Jenna, for guidance — a direct tie-in to the family motif that defines UNCP’s football program.
“Through thick and thin, my better half was always on the same page,” Richardson said. “She is completely on board with this. That really made the difference in our decision. I tell her, I tell people, that I can make anything work. I’ll commit to it and pour everything I’ve got into it, but it’s important for me to feel like she — as my support staff — is up for it.
The former North Michigan linebacker’s been on staff since football returned to Pembroke in 2006 and has coached the last 13 years at the collegiate level. He helped salvage UNCP’s 19-player signing haul when he began handling day-to-day duties in Shinnick’s absence on Jan. 31.
Richardson expressed interest in the opening at the time, but needed to secure last-minute signatures from prep seniors before going in-depth and exploring his future within the program. He credited his assistant coaches and players with staying the course during a time of transition.
“The last three weeks have not been easy on them by any means,” Richardson said. “They have been completely committed and focused, and they have shown up with great patience in this process. I really firmly believe that our (football team) has gotten better in these three weeks. We have not missed a beat at all.”
Richardson hopes to sustain a level of pride as a region powerhouse the Braves established under the previous regime. He’s played a major role in 49 victories over seven seasons — the most by a DII Independent over that span — and was the point man in landing major signees and future All-Americans in Fred Williams, Adam Deese and Caylon Hann.
Richardson knows the local landscape and plans to implement a ‘three hours away’ plan for recruiting purposes.
“There’s some very, very good football here starting in this county and going up to the Fayetteville area and down toward the beach in Wilmington,” Richardson said. “We’re going to draw a line close in proximity (to us) and blanket that area.”
Encouragement from family and his relationship with Christy are leading reasons Richardson didn’t join Shinnick at West Florida.
“I’m not big on numbers or things in my contract to guarantee anything … I just wanted to know if (Dick) was all in,” Richardson said. “That was important to me. I believe in this university and what we’re doing as a program. I think it’s just a fantastic opportunity that I have to make sure our players and our coaches are still a part of something very successful.”
Tabbed ‘UNCP’s No. 1 fan’ by sports information director Todd Anderson, Braves chancellor Kyle Carter opened the Richardson era with a surge of reassurance two months removed from the program’s second-ever trip to the playoffs.
“It’s a great day for UNC Pembroke,” Carter said. “As we started this search, we didn’t want to break any momentum in terms of the philosophy that undergirded our success. Each and every player that we recruit and put on this team is a part of a family and each player is here to develop as a full person. The coaching staff’s been dedicated to that from the beginning.”
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
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