Men’s basketball moving on without Bob Rager – Croup’s Corner

Photo by Josh Croup
Assistant head coach, Wayne Copeland, and interim head coach, Gabe Bubon, a 2000 graduate from Point Park, shout plays to their team on Dec. 3.

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

There was no announcement, no celebration and no recognition.

Instead, there was a quiet roster update online that omitted a name that occupied the head coach slot for 27 seasons.

Bob Rager is out as head coach at Point Park University, and his longtime assistant Gabe Bubon has assumed the interim head coaching duties as the 2016 season continues for Point Park.

For now.

No official announcement has been made regarding Rager’s absence and Bubon’s promotion. Instead, university and athletic officials have declined to comment, saying, “The university does not comment on employment-related matters.”

“The Vindicator” in Youngstown, Ohio reported that Rager is on a six-month leave of absence after undergoing surgery on his knees.

There are rumors that Rager could still return as head coach following the 2016-17 season, but it appears that, for now, it’s all systems go for the Gabe Bubon era of Point Park basketball.

“It’s a process. Not a whole lot is going to change,” Bubon said. “I’ve been with Bob for 12 years, and we’ve always thought the same and done things the same way. We’re just taking a little different approach to game planning and trying to stay consistent with what we do.”

Rager has more wins than any other four-year college basketball coach in the city of Pittsburgh with his 381 career victories. He took the Pioneers to three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Tournaments.

There have only been four coaches in the history of Point Park men’s basketball that dates back to 1967. Mel Cratsley coached the team in its first season and was replaced by Carl Rizzo in year two of the program.

The legendary Jerry Conboy, a Point Park athletics hall of famer, assumed the head coaching duties for the next 20 years. Rager replaced Conboy during the 1989-90 season and stuck around for the next 27 years.

Bubon played for one year at Point Park and quickly carved his name into the record books. He set the school’s single-game points record when he tallied 45 at Shawnee State on Feb. 11, 2000. He also drained 11 3-pointers in the contest, a single-game school record.

During his lone season on the court with the historically fast-paced and high-octane offense, Bubon averaged 20.1 points per game, which ranked 10th in NAIA Division II.

He helped out on the sidelines as a men’s basketball student assistant from 2003-05 and became Rager’s assistant coach during the 2005-06 season.

Oh, and he’s also the head coach of both the men’s and women’s golf teams.

Bubon was without his own assistant through the first six games as the interim head coach. That all changed when the team returned from Thanksgiving break.

Enter Wayne Copeland. He began helping out in practices when the team returned from break and brought a different style to the forefront that the Point Park team has long been without.

Copeland, a Pittsburgh native who played professionally in Europe in the early 2000s, is a self-described defensive-minded and hands-on coach.

But defense and Point Park basketball have only ever historically been mentioned in the same sentence if we were discussing its absence from the court.

“They run and shoot,” Copeland said with a laugh. “I have to get used to the run-and-gun (offense). That’s how they play. It’s exciting.”

Point Park is almost always a top-10 team in the country in offense. But this year, with a combination of the coaching change and the team’s absence of a true star player, the focus has shifted slightly to defense – with a healthy dose of run-and-gun ball, of course.

The Point Park teams of the past would play at most six or seven players in one game. Not this year.

“We have a bunch of new guys,” Bubon said. “They’re still learning. We’re a work in progress.”

Point Park won both of its first two River States Conference (RSC) contests by double figures after trailing at the half. It trailed 18-2 after five minutes Saturday against West Virginia Tech.

Bubon utilized ten players Friday night against Rio Grande and nine Saturday. In Friday’s game, three players were in double figures, but nobody had more than 19 points. Saturday saw five players with at least 10 points, and again, nobody put up 20 on the scoreboard.

Sa’iid Allen often found himself as the sixth man on the team in each of the last two seasons under Rager. He’s had to step up as a starter for his senior year, and is one of the only players that played multiple years under Rager.

“It’s a little different,” Allen said of the coaching change. “It’s good having some young blood in there. It’s a whole new system. We do miss Rager, but it’s the same program.”

This is a new era for Point Park basketball. The program’s future as far as its head coach is concerned is up in the air, but we’re going to continue with what we see on the court and on the bench.

The student broadcasters and I joked at Friday’s game about the different style that we saw from the team compared to Point Park squads of the past.

We like what we see so far.

“They’re playing defense,” we said in shock with a laugh. “They’re passing the ball, too. Who are these guys?”

They’re the new Point Park men’s basketball team. And they’re 2-0 in RSC play to start the year.

There’s a lot of talent and secret weapons in the starting lineup and on the bench that, if they stay healthy, will allow them to go up against any team in the conference.

Copeland is one of those secret weapons.

He brought a swagger to the bench that was missing from teams in the past. He danced along to the pregame music during the team’s warm ups and brought a certain hype to the entire bench that I can’t remember seeing during my time at Point Park.

His energy and enthusiasm, combined with Bubon’s knowledge of the system and Point Park’s opponents, create a nice mix on the bench that should take Point Park to new heights.

With all of the uncertainties that surround the future of the program, there’s one fact that we can all recognize and support in the present:

This is Gabe Bubon’s team.