When I stopped writing regularly for ASOR a few years back, I always said that if I had something to write, then I would.  So here we are at the end of a disappointing Liberty Men’s Basketball season.  As a coach, as a player, and as a fan, disappointment hurts.  However, like any other emotion, the feeling of disappointment needs to be tempered with a solid dose of perspective and reality.

Some grace needs to be shown to newer Liberty fans.  They’ve lived in a world where the Flames, led by Ritchie McKay, have generally dominated their conference foes.  For those of us who have been around, let’s just say, longer…we know just how good this run has been.

In Coach McKay’s second tenure on the mountain, Liberty has made three NCAA tournament appearances (counting the COVID cancel).  They have appeared in two other conference championship heart breakers.  That means in nine seasons, Coach McKay has five times played for a tournament birth.  That is success in any mid-major program in the country.  His three NCAA appearances are equal to the rest of Liberty’s history in Division 1.  That fails to mention that the Flames have become a sustained winning non-conference program for the first time in school history under McKay.

We’ve gone from a consistent 300 and lower program to one that has stayed in the top 150, and often times much higher than that.  Liberty has become a name brand in mid-major basketball.  Unthinkable a decade ago.

There is something else worth bringing up.  Coach McKay has has all of this on court success, while simultaneously building a program that all of us as alumni of a Christian university can be proud of.  Listen to an interview with Coach.  Better yet, listen to his players when they get a chance to speak about the impact this program has made on their lives.  Listen to the Flames’ Assistant Coaches speak about their involvement in the players’ lives.  If you can step away from that and not be incredibly impressed, you weren’t around this program in the 90’s and early 00’s.  Coach McKay has built a consistent winner, and he’s done so with kids that actually fit the worldview of this university.

So again, newer fans get some grace.  It would be easy to build a sense of entitlement about this program, and the results we as fans crave.  However, the toxic nature of much of what is seen online simply lacks perspective, and it lacks an understanding of what this program is really about.

This program lost its GOAT after last season, a man who accounted for giant chunks of the Flames’ offense for a couple of seasons.  It was always going to be a recalibration and rebuild this season.  However, moving up to Conference USA was a giant move in terms of competition, and that move’s timing was unfortunate for a rebuilding team.  The upside is that McKay has now seen his new conference foes up close, and knows what he needs to build a team that will compete for championships here.

Guess what?  That is exactly what Ritchie McKay is going to do.  He’s noted what needs to change, and it will.  He will bring in the right talent, and it will be the right fit for this university.  This program will win again, but more importantly, it will continue to be built on an identity centered on Christ.  Sounds a little bit like the motto our Founder loved so much for the school, right?  So yes, Coach McKay will continue to Build Champions For Christ, and because of that, there is still no better guy to coach our Liberty Flames.