Apr 7, 2009

mckay Heads for the ‘Ville: Accepts job as UVa Assistant

by BJ Williams

 Only days after star player Seth Curry decided to leave Liberty for Duke, head men’s basketball coach Ritchie McKay shocked Flames fans by abruptly resigning from his position and joining new University of Virginia (UVa) head coach Tony Bennett in Charlottesville.

“I am leaving because my wife and I feel that we are supposed to start a new chapter in my professional career - one that does not involve me being a head coach at this time,” McKay said. “Not many people voluntarily leave a head coaching position to become an assistant. It speaks to my relationship with Coach Bennett and the opportunity that I have in assisting him to build a great program.”

McKay offered nothing but high praise for Liberty and the athletic administration as well in his statement.
Liberty Athletic Director Jeff Barber, along with many others, was surprised by McKay’s decision to leave, but offered high praise to the man whom he hired just two years ago.

“While this decision was a surprise to us all, I have great respect for Ritchie McKay and wish his family the very best as they open another chapter in their lives,” Barber said during an interview with LibertyFames.com. “I believe I speak for the entire Liberty family when I offer my appreciation to Coach McKay for the solid foundation he brought to our program. I know that he loves Liberty University and always will.”

This was latest incident in a serious of unfortunate events surrounding the men’s basketball program. First, freshman forward Brolin Floyd announced he will transfer for what was described as personal reasons. Just days after the Flames were eliminated from the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament by James Madison, Curry announced that he was transferring from Liberty “based on my desire to develop as an athlete to the fullest of my potential and take advantage of new opportunities that may be available to me in a higher rated conference.” Just a week later came McKay’s resignation.

McKay is no stranger to the Bennett family, however. New UVa head coach Tony is the son of former Washington State (WSU) head coach Dick Bennett. Tony took over for his father after the 2005-2006 season.

His father, who went to WSU after compiling almost 500 wins at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, stepped down after compiling a 36-49 record in three seasons. According to McKay, Dick Bennett was “a mentor to me when I started out in coaching.” Tony and McKay became good friends through the elder Bennett and when Tony and will continue their friendship on the sidelines at Virginia.

Liberty assistant Brad Soucie was named interim head coach and has expressed interest in becoming the permanent head coach of the Flames. However, Barber announced that a national search has begun, and recently flew to the Final Four to court potential coaches.

With signing day looming on the horizon (April 15) and a number of players who made commitments anxiously awaiting the decision, the hiring will prove to be an important one for Barber and the program — mainly with the future recruits. Joel Vander Pol, a 6-foot-10 center from Fort Myers, Fla., is already on board after signing a National Letter of Intent in November. Chris Perez, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Oldsmar, Fla. and 6-foot-8 small forward Ovie Soko from Hampton, Va. both gave verbal commitments to the Flames, but could de-commit pending the decision.

Contact BJ Williams at

Additional reporting by Jake Petersen. Contact him at jtpetersen@liberty.edu.


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