Ravenswood native Rector makes next move in coaching career at Salem University
Nearly a year ago, Brett Rector left a great situation as Parkersburg South’s head boys basketball coach to return as an assistant with the University of Charleston’s men’s program.
He did so with the intent on one day becoming a head coach at the collegiate level.
The day arrived perhaps sooner than he expected.
But he feels more than ready for the challenge.
Rector’s life-long dream was realized on June 25 when he was named the head coach at Salem University.
“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Rector said during his final day on the UC campus before an introductory press conference less than 24 hours later at Salem (June 29). “I don’t want to get overwhelmed where I can’t enjoy it because I have been preparing for this moment my whole life. I’ve always wanted to be a college basketball head coach. It’s a dream come true.”
Rector takes over as head coach for the tradition-rich program from Robert Ford, who left to lead St. Xavier University men’s basketball. The school is located in Chicago.
When one thinks of basketball at Salem, the name Archie Talley resonates. Talley was one of the most prolific scorers in West Virginia Conference history. He was the top points producer in the country while wearing a Tiger uniform in the mid-70s when the program competed at the NAIA level.
Another name associated with Salem basketball is Mike Carey, who won multiple league championships before becoming an outstanding women’s head coach at West Virginia University.
Ford had taken over at Salem from Adam Williams, a former West Virginia High School Player of the Year from St. Albans and the son of coaching legend Tex Williams. Adam Williams is now at Stetson University as an assistant for Point Pleasant native Donnie Jones.
“People at Salem were just unbelievable throughout the whole process with the committee and the way they handled things” Rector said. “I think about the tradition at Salem. It’s unbelievable dating back to Archie Talley to Mike Carey to all of those guys.
“And then from the time I played at D&E (Davis & Elkins) when Clark Maloney was there. Those guys were good. So that’s what I think about when I think of Salem basketball.”
Rector, who becomes the eighth head men's coach in school history, inherits a program that has certainly shown vast improvement in recent seasons. Under Williams and Ford, Tiger basketball has gone from averaging three wins a season in the span of 2015-18 to more than 17 per year.
“Robert Ford and Adam Williams have done an unbelievable job in the last couple of years,” Rector said. “So, I’m just hoping we can continue that tradition and kind of elevate it to a new level. That’s my hope.”
Salem certainly thinks they have hired the individual to do so.
In a release by Salem, Director of Athletics Steve Potts stated:
"Our search committee fielded unprecedented interest in our men's head basketball coaching position and we spoke to an impressive pool of candidates. However, through the process, it became clear that Coach Rector is ready and has the passion, coaching background, drive and experience to lead our men's basketball program to continued success in the future.”
Potts said conversations with Dr. Bren Stevens, UC’s director of athletics, and UC head men’s coach Dwaine Osborne made him feel that Rector could bring a winning and positive culture to Salem.
“It was clear that he played a significant part in the success of their program, both on and off the court, and that he is ready to take on this challenge,” Potts added. “Coach Rector comes highly recommended and well respected in the industry.”
Salem presently competes at the NCAA Division II level as an independent. The Tiger program is a part of the Atlantic Region with teams from the Mountain East Conference (primarily West Virginia schools), Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Rector said he is trying to schedule as many teams as possible from those leagues.
“We are still eligible for the national tournament so it’s to our advantage to play as many of those schools as we can.”
Rector feels being a state native and his background in Division II basketball will be valuable in being successful at Salem.
THE COACHING JOURNEY
This past season Rector helped UC win the regular season crown of the Mountain East Conference and garner the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament.
He helped recruit and develop four All-MEC players during the season.
Rector had previously been at UC for a four-season stint.
"I cannot begin to explain how much I appreciate Brett Rector,” said Osborne. “The work he does for our program is superior. On top of that, I enjoy our friendship so much. Brett has been helping me become a better coach each and every day. I feel honored to work alongside of him."
Rector feels equally honored to have been with Osborne for five seasons overall.
“Dwaine has prepared me for this opportunity more than anybody because of the responsibilities he’s given me here. I’ve kind of had my hand in everything we do here at UC and he’s given me a lot of responsibility because of the trust that we’ve earned,” Rector said. “We worked together five years. It was so awesome to come back this year and win the conference regular season championship and some of the things he’s done for me I can never repay him for.”
Stevens had this to say regarding Rector becoming the new head coach of the Tigers.
"In my opinion, Salem University just hired one of the most talented coaches that is currently working in NCAA Division II. Brett's ability to recruit, build interpersonal relationships and teach the latest tactics and techniques is extraordinary. From my perspective, Coach Rector's emotional intelligence is off the charts, and I am confident that the basketball program and the Athletic Department will get a lot better by having him as a part of their staff."
Rector returned to UC after just the one season at South, in which he guided the Patriots to a Class AAA regional championship and berth in the West Virginia High School State Tournament.
Unfortunately, South didn’t get to compete in Charleston and battle for a championship as COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 state tournament.
“It was an unbelievable experience at Parkersburg South; I just still really had that itch to be a college head coach,” he said in his departure from the Wood County school. “And I just kind of took a chance and said, ‘Hey, you know what, I’m going to give myself one more go at this. I’m going to go back to Charleston and see what happens in the college world.’ And the reason I left Parkersburg South was for this opportunity.”
“And again no guarantee it (a head coach job) was going to come. Who knows? But that’s why I did it (leaving South).”
Rector admitted being naïve early on in his quest to rise in the ranks of coaching but learned quickly how hard it is to ascend to a top job at any level. He simply went to work, hoping this day would arrive in some capacity.
“I think when I was 20, 21, 22 years old I felt like you’re just young and by the time I’m 30 I’m going to be the coach at Kentucky,” he said laughing. “Life just doesn’t work that way.”
Rector’s coaching resume includes stops on the collegiate level at West Virginia University Tech for two years followed by a pair of seasons at the University of Pikeville, where he was associate head coach.
While at UPIKE, the Bears won the NAIA national championship in 2011.
Rector helped recruit two All-Americans who later reached the professional level.
"Brett is a great person and one that I would be honored to have my son play for in the future. I cannot make a greater compliment than that,” said UPIKE Director of Athletics Kelly Wells, who was the Bears head coach when they claimed the national title.
Rector also spent a year as an assistant women’s coach at Eastern Kentucky University.
He came back to West Virginia and spent a season at Ravenswood with his high school head coach Mick Price. Next came his first stop at UC before heading to South.
His love for the game of basketball started in Ravenswood. He spent countless hours at the Old Gymnasium. His hard work as an athlete led to not only being a Class AA First Team All-State basketball selection but a Class AA First Team All-State football player as a quarterback for the Red Devils.
Rector was also a standout on the baseball diamond.
He not only soaked it all in as an athlete while wearing the red and black of Ravenswood, where he graduated in 2003, but utilized the coaches he was around to help mold his future.
“I tell people all the time, Mick Price and my dad (Tim), Jim Mahan, Bryan Canterbury, Greg Varney, those guys, man, I mean I grew up around those guys,” he said while reflecting on the blessings of being the son of a coach. “And those guys were my heroes. Just seeing how those guys worked every day I wanted to be a coach.”
Rector, who graduated from Ravenswood in 2003, took his basketball talents to WVU-Tech in Montgomery to play for Bob Williams, whom he later worked with as an assistant coach when his coaching career was launched.
He played his final three seasons of college basketball for Davis & Elkins and scored over 1,200 points for the Senators.
Rector, who was a three-year captain at D&E, delivered 300 field goals from behind the 3-point line. He led the country in 3-pointers made during his junior season.
He earned a BA from D&E and then got his masters in sports management at West Virginia University.
“I had some success in college and got a taste of the college (coaching) stuff,” he said. “And I felt like that’s where I can have the most impact. I just really enjoyed that level and being around those types of kids.”
Rector is married to the former Cassie Gross of Gauley Bridge. They are the proud parents of one son, Bryce.
Rector said his great life in coaching was paved by two people who set the standard for what it takes to be successful both as parents and professionals.
His father and mother, the former Jeri Waugh, were highly respected educators in Jackson County. They are both now retired.
“They showed me how to work,” Rector said of his parents. “My dad got up every day and packed his lunch and man, he was going to work. He was serious about it.
“Just being able to see their example. I think a lot of times people can say what you want to hear and give you advice but you’re not going to follow advice, you’re going to follow examples. And that’s what I can say about my parents. They got up every day and really worked hard for us and did everything they could for us.”
Rector has a younger sister, Emily, who was also an outstanding athlete at Ravenswood. She attended the University of Charleston and then went to the Cornell Law School. She is an attorney with Jones Day in Columbus.
Rector’s mother was a second-grade and kindergarten teacher at Henry J. Kaiser Elementary. His father taught upper-level math at both Ravenswood High School and Ripley High School.
“He coached everything known to man,” Rector said.
Tim Rector served as his son’s top assistant at Parkersburg South.
“That was awesome. I’m hoping he’ll be a part-time assistant/part-time babysitter at Salem. That’s my hope.”
THE WORK BEGINS
Rector officially started his new job on July 1. Assembling a staff, setting up a schedule, meeting returning players and recruiting new ones were just some of his duties as this new chapter of coaching gets underway.
A chapter he has been dreaming about for a long, long time.