‘Hockey guy’ Rob Riley enjoying new challenge as athletic director at Regis
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Regis goes with Riley as athletic director Rob Riley was working as a regional scout for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets last fall when an advertisement on the NCAA website caught his attention.
Regis College in Weston was seeking an athletic director to succeed Marybeth Lamb.
Riley, whose two-year stint as head coach of the Springfield Falcons, the Ohio team’s American Hockey League affiliate, ended last April, was intrigued.
“I started doing some research and felt it was a great opportunity,” said Riley, a Needham resident who grew up with his four siblings at the US Military Academy, where his father, Jack, was the longtime hockey coach and assistant athletic director. His own son, Brett , who played on Needham High’s Division 1 state championship team in 2009, now skates for the Division 3 nationally ranked squad at Hobart.
Riley, a former hockey captain at Boston College who succeeded his father as coach at West Point, has been at his new job for nearly two months. Lamb has moved on to a similar position at Bridgewater State University.
He was one of about 100 candidates, according to college vice president Paul Vaccaro .
“We got the list down to eight, and what swung it for me was that Rob really understood the big picture and the role of athletics at a Division 3 school,” said Vaccaro, a reference to Riley’s tenure as rookie coach of the national champion Babson College team in 1984.
“You look at him and see a hockey guy and not your traditional candidate for AD,’’ Vaccaro said. “But once you get past that you see a leader and motivator, an out-of-the-box thinker with great ties nationally to intercollegiate athletics.”
Regis, strictly a women’s college until 2007, now fields 10 women’s and eight men’s teams, and will add men’s and women’s cross-country in the fall. An $8.5 million outdoor athletic complex was completed in 2010.
“I came away from my interviews with Paul and with Regis president Antoinette Hays impressed with their positive energy about the school and its athletic future,” said Riley, who coached at Army from 1986 through 2004, succeeded by his brother, Brian .
“That’s 62 consecutive years of Rileys coaching Army hockey,” said Riley.
He was 5 years old when his father coached the 1960 US Olympic men’s hockey team to the gold medal in Squaw Valley, Calif., upsetting the favored Russian squad and then beating the Czechs in the final. “I remember when Mom and Dad returned home and he addressed the corps of cadets on the central parade ground after riding in a Zamboni,’’ he said.
Riley worked in the financial field and as a part-time scout for Columbus before coaching in Springfield.
“So now this is a whole new world for me,’’ he said. “However, I had a chance to see my dad in his job as an administrator and the impact he made in that position. He was a no-nonsense guy with great time-management skills who knew exactly what he wanted, and his office was never cluttered. I’m trying to emulate him but I’m not as organized — yet.”
His father, 92, resides in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod.
“He thought it was a great opportunity for me at Regis,” said Riley, “and, of course, he was the first person to push me to bring hockey to the school, a question I’m frequently asked. It’s a fair question, and the fair answer is that we need to focus on improving what we have.”
Vaccaro said no matter what the future holds regarding hockey or football on campus (“both are big ifs”), Riley is the right person for the school at the right time.
A senior on BC’s national champion runnerup in 1978 (to Boston University), Riley received congratulations from counterparts Brad Bates (Boston College) and Jim Knowlton (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) after his hiring.
“I hadn’t met Brad, but he sent me a great card, and Jim played for my dad and was one of Army’s greatest scorers,’’ said Riley. “He’s been a wonderful resource for me.”
Odds and ends
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