Men’s basketball head coach Chris Bunch said he distinctly remembers the day he fell in love with basketball. On one summer night in 1974, he sat outside shooting hook shots, mimicking his childhood hero Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who made a game winning basket earlier that night.
Now 31 years into his coaching career, including 17 years in Webster men’s basketball, Bunch said he still has the same passion he felt three decades ago.
“My father used to say to me all the time when I was growing up, ‘Well, pick something that you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Bunch said. “There’s a lot of truth to that.”
Bunch said this year’s team plays differently than teams he previously coached. The two teams Bunch coached to 20-win seasons in 2007-08 and 2013-14 had one similarity: those teams focused on their height advantage and ability to ‘pound teams into submission.’
The 2018-19 Gorloks’ men’s basketball team focuses more on speed, Bunch said. Nonetheless, Bunch said he still sees St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Championship potential in this team and appreciates the unique challenge in guiding them.
Bunch owns numerous coaching records for Gorloks men’s basketball. He has coached 17 seasons, which is three times as long as any other coach. He is also the only men’s basketball coach in Gorloks’ history to have amassed 50 wins in his coaching career. He has 244 wins of his own.
Bunch attributes his high passions to not seeing coaching as a job but rather a means to pass time.
“My wife tells people at her work, ‘What type of job does your husband have?’ and she’ll say, ‘He doesn’t have a job. He hangs out with his friends all day, jacks around and has a good time,’” Bunch said. “There’s some truth to that. I think being around young people keeps you young a little bit.”
Players on the team said the practices feel refreshing. The 3-time Coach of the Year said that the balance between fun and fundamental drills is something that keeps everyone involved fresh. Senior center player Vladimir Radojkovic said he enjoyed the competitive aspect Bunch brings to the practices.
“Regardless of if it is a re- bounding drill or two on two or three on three, I enjoy when we, the players, can compete with each other,” Radojkovic said. “Also, it is more fun when the losers have to run afterwards.”
The unified feeling among numerous players on this year’s team is that they believe they are a championship caliber team, even if they are only 10 games in. As of now, the team sits at 7-3, which includes an undefeated three-game stretch within its own conference. Sophomore guard Elijah Macias agreed with the team’s goal.
“I truly believe this team has
championship potential,” Macias said. “Even with our big win over [Washington University], I feel like we still didn’t play to our full potential. Once we get to learn- ing who we are, putting a full game together, we have an opportunity to beat anybody in this conference.”
Macias acknowledged the team’s struggles earlier this sea- son with starting slowly and creating an uphill battle in the first half of games. The team won games thanks to what Macias called a “new energy” after half- time. However, during their last four games, they have outscored their opponents in the first half, thus putting themselves in a bet- ter position to win.
Right now, the Gorloks own a 70 percent win percentage, ranking as the fourth highest during Bunch’s near two-decade regime.
“I’ll laugh and say all the time that I’ll coach until somebody tells me to go home,” Bunch said.
Bunch and his team are one of only two teams currently with a winning record. They will have a chance to add to their first- place advantage with one more game in 2018 against Spalding University. They will then shift their focus to the second half of the season in 2019.