Cincinnati Bearcats Director of Student-Athlete Development Chris Shumate has accepted an assistant coaching position at Murray State University, and BearcatLair.com had a chance to catch up with him shortly after it became official.
Chris Shumate pictured to the right is headed to Murray State.
After an impressive career at Murray State that produced 1207 career points, Chris Shumate spent two seasons in the NBDL before starting the path to a college coaching career by joining his former coach Mick Cronin at Cincinnati in 2007. Four years later Shumate is headed back to the Racer program as an assistant, and the Louisville, KY native is understandably excited about his new opportunity.
“It means a lot for me to be a coach at the same place where I'm an alum and also where I played,” Shumate said. “It holds a special place in my heart professionally and this is where I met my wife. It's a lot like going home for us.”
The four-year apprenticeship in an operations role at Cincinnati had him ready for the next step, and there were several opportunities for Shumate to choose from in taking his next step in the coaching profession. While there were a few higher profile choices in front of him, it was the pull of returning to his alma mater that made the most sense.
“The connection to the program, the community,” said Shumate. “The people down there are great and I don't want to define my life by how much money I make. You take money out of the equation and line up several different jobs, which was my situation, and Murray made the most sense. That's where my family will be the happiest, and it was an easy decision.”
After NBDL stints in New Mexico and Arkansas, Shumate was ready to explore a different path while staying in the game, and it was his former coach at Murray State that gave him the chance to gain the experience needed when an opening became available.
“I wouldn't be in this situation right now if it wasn't for my relationship with Mick Cronin,” Shumate said. “Having played for him back in 2003-2004 and then him opening his doors at Cincinnati when really he didn't have to. He could have hired a lot of different guys instead of just hiring me off the street, but he had a lot of faith in me. It's allowed me to progress in the profession, and to spend four years there at Cincinnati with coach Cronin, the staff, players and administration was a great learning experience for me.”
Shumate arrived on the Clifton campus after season one of the total rebuilding project Cronin inherited, and he leaves with a team fresh off the long awaited return to the NCAA Tournament. He learned a lot about the business along the way, and credits Cronin for keeping the ship on path to lofty expectations.
“As everyone knows we've come a long way, and coach Cronin has built Cincinnati basketball back to the level people expect in the toughest conference in the nation,” Shumate said. “A lot of people wouldn't have been able to get it done, but coach Cronin is a great coach, a good leader and he's got it done.”
As the Director of Student-Athlete Development he was tasked with making sure the players were living up to expectations in the classroom, and with the Bearcats being recognized as a program in the top 10% of the nation in the latest APR release he clearly did an exceptional job there as well.
“You define these kids as student athletes, and first and foremost they're students,” Shumate said. “I think the biggest thing we did, and why we had so much success is we held the guys accountable and made sure that we always knew exactly how guys were doing. It was very challenging, but very rewarding at the same time. It was very important, the APR, especially with the situation coach Cronin took over.”
Shumate graduated from Louisville Male High School as the 6th leading scorer in program history, and he has his targets set on making Murray State a factor in the state of Kentucky as three talented classes make their college decisions.
“The 2012, 13, 14 classes are three of the better ones in the last 10-15 years,” Shumate said. “The surprising thing is Murray State doesn't have a Kentucky kid on their roster, and I'm going to change that. I'm going to get good players and compete with programs above our level because that's how the program was built. That's how we're going to continue that tradition by recruiting against higher level conferences, higher level schools.”
As he gets ready to embark on his new journey Shumate is grateful for not only the opportunity presented at Cincinnati, but also for the work Cronin did while at Murray State as well.
“A lot of the success now is attributed to when coach Cronin was there,” said Shumate. “You look at the facilities, the locker room that stuff was done because of the success he had and coach Kennedy came in and took it to the next level. I'm looking forward to getting down there and digging in to make things happen.”
If his four seasons at Cincinnati are any indicator, he will have no problem keeping things rolling on the bench at his alma mater.