Following up on HoopDirt.com’s report from Tuesday (D3 DIRT). Bob Sheldon’s retirement at Tufts has been made official. Here is the release from Tufts:
Bob Sheldon, head coach of the Tufts University men’s basketball team since 1988, announced he will retire effective December 31 following 33 years leading the Jumbos.
Coach Sheldon goes out on top. His 2019-20 team won the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship last year. The Jumbos then advanced to the NCAA Tournament “Sweet 16” when COVID-19 ended the season prematurely. In this unique situation, Sheldon’s last game was Tufts’ 75-66 victory over Rensselaer in the NCAA Tournament second round at Cousens Gymnasium.
“Not a lot of coaches get to say they won their last game in the NCAA Tournament,” said the quick-witted Sheldon, who often answers his phone as Bobby “Knight” Sheldon.
Matt Malone, an assistant on Sheldon’s staff for 15 seasons who was promoted to associate head coach in 2018, will take over as the interim head coach of the Jumbos.
Coach Sheldon was selected as the NESCAC and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Northeast Region Coach of the Year for 2019-20. Tufts finished the season at 23-6, tying the school record for victories, and earned first place in the competitive NESCAC regular season.
“I was getting near the end of my career as it was, and then when Covid came up and the craziness with that, I just felt that it was time for me to go,” he said. “I went back and forth with it, but once I decided I’m happy with my decision.”
Coach Sheldon retires as the Jumbo program’s all-time leader in coaching victories with 483. He entered 2020-21 as one of the top 25 winningest active coaches in NCAA Division III. However, it’s the relationships that he formed over the years that he will remember most.
“It’s not the wins – roughly 483 – or the losses – not sure how many – it’s about the people,” said Sheldon. “Guys who have played for me, the current players and their families, and the day-to-day interaction with the coaches and other Tufts people, that’s what I’m going to miss the most. Being able to develop some lifelong relationships has been very rewarding.”
Tufts made six NCAA Tournament appearances under Coach Sheldon, including four berths into the Sweet 16. In 2015-16, Sheldon’s Jumbos advanced to the “Elite Eight” and finished the year as the #9 ranked team in the D3hoops national poll. Coach Sheldon was selected as the D3hoops Northeast Region Coach of the Year. The team’s 23 wins in 2015-16 are tied for the school record. In 2016-17, Coach Sheldon led the Jumbos to the #1 seed in the NESCAC and into the NCAA “Sweet 16.” Tufts finished the year with a 22-7 record and was #10 in the final D3hoops poll.
The 2005-06 team shares the school record for wins with a 23-7 record, reached the NESCAC championship game and advanced to the NCAA Tournament “Sweet 16.” Sheldon was voted D3hoops’ Northeast Region Coach of the Year that season as well. Two other Sheldon-coached Tufts teams made NCAA appearances including the 1994-95 Jumbos who won 20 games to earn the program’s first NCAA appearance. The 1996-97 team won its final seven games to receive an NCAA berth. Sheldon’s 1999-00 team won the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) New England title.
“This is the end of an era,” Tufts Director of Athletics John Morris said. “Coach Sheldon has devoted his professional life to coaching and mentoring our Jumbo men’s basketball student-athletes, and he has contributed so much to Tufts Athletics and our university over more than three decades. The positive and meaningful impact he has on the lives of so many student-athletes during that time is impossible to measure. His sense of humor and congeniality are a big part of the life of our department as well. Bob’s retirement is a huge loss for Tufts and we will really miss him, but we congratulate him on his retirement and great career, we thank him for his dedication to the Jumbos, and we wish him and Cindy well as they begin their next adventure.”
Sheldon and his staff have recruited some of the top student-athletes in the nation to Tufts. Pierce Larsson graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,855 points in 2010. Current senior Luke Rogers was last year’s NESCAC Player of the Year and was selected All-American by D3hoops and the NABC. Eric Savage, a 2020 Tufts graduate, finished his career ninth on the team’s all-time scoring list with 1,408 points. Savage also earned 2020 CoSIDA Academic All-District® Team honors, and was one of just two recipients from NESCAC schools.
“Coach Sheldon was unlike any other coach I have had in my 15-plus years of playing organized basketball,” Savage said. “His charisma and authenticity created a program that was rooted in teammates believing in one another. I had a close relationship with him that grew and developed over my four years. By the time I was a senior, we both felt extremely comfortable confiding in one another about all things Tufts Basketball. Our conversations were always grounded in putting team camaraderie and winning above all else. I formed many of the strong bonds that I did at Tufts because of the culture that Coach Sheldon helped build, and I am forever grateful for that. I’m glad he gets to go out on top, he’s earned it.”
Coach Sheldon also mentored several Jumbos who went into the coaching profession, including current Towson University head coach Pat Skerry. One of three Skerry brothers from Medford to play for Coach Sheldon, Pat is the Tufts program’s all-time assists leader and was an assistant coach for the Jumbos before embarking on a Division I coaching career. His brother John Skerry is the head boy’s basketball coach at Medford High School.
“I want to both congratulate and thank Coach Sheldon for his years of service to my alma mater,” said Pat Skerry, who has turned around the program at Towson. “As someone who received his graduate and undergraduate degrees from Tufts and also had the opportunity to both play and coach at Tufts I know he always represented us in a first class manner both on and off the court. Personally I owe a great deal of gratitude to Bob for not only getting the chance to play for him and Tufts, but for his belief in me and willingness to help me start my coaching career.”
Sheldon participated in 12 NCAA Tournaments as player and coach. He is a 1977 graduate of St. Lawrence University and earned a master’s degree in educational administration at Fordham in 1982. He was an assistant at Clark and Tufts prior to landing the Jumbos’ head job in 1988.
Malone is a 2007 Tufts graduate who started working with the team as a student in 2006. He has played a key role in the team’s success during that time, which includes a 97-42 overall record for a .698 winning percentage during the last five years (2015-20). The Jumbos’ 23 wins in 2015-16, 22 in 2016-17 and 23 last season represent three of the most successful seasons in school history. Malone is also the assistant athletics director for facilities and event operations at Tufts.
“Coach Sheldon has been a great mentor to all of us who have been a part of Tufts Basketball during his 33-year career,” Malone said. “He made sure that everyone who came through the program understood the values of living in the moment and enjoying our time together as a team. Most importantly, Coach empowered our student-athletes to think independently and take personal responsibility for their actions while working toward team goals. His positive outlook, humility, and sense of humor made him a great representative of Tufts University and Tufts Athletics.”
Formerly the head coach of the Tufts Golf team, Sheldon received the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association’s McCullough Award in 2011 for his commitment and contributions to the sport.
Coach Sheldon and his wife Cindy live in Northborough. They have three children: Jen, Bobby and Jess. His retirement plans included buying a lake house in New Hampshire.