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Rickrode Back In The Game As Clutch Coach

September 5, 2018 GMT

It needed to be the right fit.

Jerry Rickrode has a good thing going at home and at work, so the former basketball coach — one of the best to ever do it locally — wasn’t going to return to the sidelines for any old coaching job.

Then, Dave Jannuzzi and Chris Shovlin came along with the Wyoming Valley Clutch.

Rickrode is back in the game with Tuesday’s announcement that he will be head coach of the Clutch for its inaugural season in the ABA.

“We’ll hope that I can do a good job for these guys because I think they have a pretty good vision of what they want to do with the business and the team,” Rickrode said.

Having both played for Rickrode during his 22 seasons at Wilkes, Jannuzzi and Shovlin each said Rickrode was their first choice to coach the Clutch.

“The fact you have myself, Dave and him involved in something like this, I think it’s going to be good for the area,” Shovlin said. “You’re going to have a good following, a good representation of people behind it wanting it to succeed. I just felt like it was the right thing to do, the right guy to get involved. I wouldn’t want any other coach coaching me or helping run my organization.”

As head coach of Wilkes men’s basketball from 1992 to 2014, Rickrode won 382 games and achieved a No. 1 ranking on two occasions. Rickrode’s Colonels had 20 winning seasons and made four NCAA Division III Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and one Final Four.

“My college experience under coach Rickrode was a glorious one,” Jannuzzi said. “We won a whole lot of games, we won a whole lot of championships. We were fortunate enough to make it to the Final Four in ’98. I won the national player of the year with him as my coach.”

Rickrode stepped away from coaching in 2014 when he accepted a position as the senior gifts officer at Wilkes.

Part of the appeal as head coach of the Clutch, he said, was that it’s not a “rigorous, day-to-day grind” like being a high school or college coach. Games are almost exclusively played on weekends.

Rickrode also said he’s excited to coach mature men in a semi-professional league — many of whom work 9 to 5 jobs — as opposed to college kids.

It helps, too, that two of Rickrode’s greatest former players are heading this team and are placing an emphasis on the good it can do in the community.

“These guys are doing so well with the young kids in the community right now,” Rickrode said. “I’m very proud of them.”

Shovlin and Jannuzzi recently founded S&J Clutch Basketball Academy at the Wyoming Valley CYC, where they are now in charge of basketball operations.

“I sat down and talked with Chris and Dave a couple times on the phone and then in person,” Rickrode said. “It took some convincing (to return to coaching), but I really think they have a really good business plan that revolves around the business they started at the CYC. It’s very community-based. The mission is really community-based. They’ve got a really good plan with their business and with this team and how it can bring a little bit more basketball liveliness to the community.”

Rickrode will get started with the Clutch right away, as the team will host a two-day tryout from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the CYC in downtown Wilkes-Barre, which will be the team’s home venue.

The cost of the combine-style tryout is $75.

In a news release Tuesday, the Clutch said Rickrode’s hiring ensures the team will “have the best-coached and fundamentally sound team” in the ABA.

“Our main concern is to compete — we want to compete and have fun,” Rickrode said. “That’s what this is all about. We’ll see how it works.”

After putting together the roster, the Clutch plays its home opener Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Cannons.

Contact the writer: mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter