Rider Retires as Head Basketball Coach at Cal Lutheran; Dains Named Interim Coach

Photo Credit: Tracy L. Olson

Rich Rider, the winningest men’s basketball coach in Cal Lutheran history, is retiring just as the 2016-17 season is about to start.

Assistant coach Geoff Dains has been named interim head coach for this season. CLU athletic director Dan Kuntz said a national search to fill the position would begin soon.

Cal Lutheran President Chris Kimball said in an email to the faculty and staff that “the entire campus community (was) saddened by the news” of Rider’s retirement.

“His decision to retire at the start of the season was not easy,” Kimball wrote. “However, he has pressing family concerns that he felt will prevent him from dedicating the time and energy necessary to effectively coach a successful team.”

CLU opens the season tonight at UC Santa Cruz.

Rider, 70, did not specify the reason for the timing of his retirement, saying it was “just personal.”

“It’s been on my mind and the time and place occurred a couple of weeks ago that it was the right time,” Rider said. “I’ve got an excellent staff that can take over on an interim basis and continue moving forward. So I just had some other items that I had to take care of and I made the decision to take care of them now as opposed to later, that’s all.”

Rider accumulated a record of 345-207 (.625) in his 22 seasons at Cal Lutheran with three conference championships and one NCAA Division III tournament appearance. His total record as a college head coach is 481-311 (.607).

After coaching his final game, an exhibition on Nov. 8, Rider informed his team of his decision after having previously told his staff and Kuntz.

“It was probably a little off-guard,” Rider said of the team’s reaction. “That was kind of a tough thing to say because you’ve been with those guys for weeks, months and years. That was not an easy talk.”

Dains, who has been an assistant for two decades at CLU along with Bob Massell, had no indication Rider was retiring until the two had lunch together the day before the team was told.

“Huge surprise. I had no idea it was coming,” Dains said, adding the players were just as surprised.

“Just like everyone else, I think there was initial shock and I think they were completely caught off-guard like we all were,” Dains said.

With the staff having been in place so long (another assistant, Brendan Garrett, has been on the staff for three seasons), the transition promises to be a smooth one.

“The lucky thing is that over Coach Rider’s career, he’s laid an unbelievable foundation for us to continue to grow,” Dains said.

“We talked about this with our players and we said, ‘Look, the practice plan is going to be the same. The drills are going to be the same. There’s just going to be a different voice. The No. 1 voice is coming from a different direction. But the philosophy will be the same and the practice will be the same.’ That’s what I told them, I said, ‘Our first practice, you know what the first seven drills are,’ and they laughed. I think you’ve got to keep it as routine as possible and Coach Rider’s routine is as good as anyone’s to keep these guys focused on the task at hand.”

Dains said he’d be very interested in being named the permanent head coach.

“I consider Cal Lutheran home,” Dains said. “I’ve put in a lot of time, sweat equity and I have a lot of relationships built right here and consider this a fantastic place to work and, obviously, I would love to continue to do so.”

Prior to coming to CLU, Rider coached in the Boise, Idaho, school district. Before that he was associate head coach at Boise State, serving under Bobby Dye. Rider was head coach at Chapman from 1973 to 1982, accumulating a 136-104 record (.567) and earning an NCAA berth in 1978. In addition to his coaching duties, Rider has been an assistant athletic director at Cal Lutheran.

“After being at CLU for 22 years and watching it grow from a small private college to a major university with strong academic commitments, it’s been fun,” Rider said. “This has been kind of a quick decision, but one I felt that I needed to make, a tough decision, but the right decision.”

Despite any awkwardness in the timing of the announcement, Rider received nothing but good wishes from the university.

“Most importantly, Rich has been a tremendous colleague to us, he has been a friend and we’re happy for him in this new transition,” Kuntz said. “I know the timing seems odd, but each of us finds our own time.”


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