McCullum, Rattlers riding high at right time

FAMU men's basketball coach Robert McCullum is leading the Rattlers in his first season as head coach.

Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

Robert McCullum, is confident his team is heading in the right direction.

The first-year coach of Florida A&M’s men’s basketball program acknowledges that the team struggled early in the year, but he likes where the Rattlers are now going into Thursday’s regular-season finale – a rivalry game with Bethune-Cookman at the Lawson Center.

The season wraps up next week with the conference tournament in Roanoke, Va., and a long-shot chance for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

McCullum’s team (8-23 overall, 7-8 in the MEAC) is riding a three-game winning streak after downing the Bulldogs of South Carolina State on Monday. The Rattlers haven’t run off this many consecutive wins since the 2013-14 season.

McCullum has a 91-129 overall record as a head coach He was also an assistant at Georgia Tech (2010-2011), UCF (2009-2010) and San Francisco (2007-2008).

This is his first stint as a head coach in nearly 10 years, and McCullum’s approach to making FAMU his new home was no different from those of his past. He said he kept himself actively involved with coaching prior to his time coaching for Oregon.

“Even when I wasn’t working with their athletics program, I was working for the NBA in South Africa in 2013, and coached in China during the summer of 2012 and 2013 season,” he said.

McCullum also said it was difficult for him at first at FAMU trying to adjust.

He was hired in May 2017 after applying for the position three times, but didn’t have a full coaching staff until a week before the fall semester started.

As for the players, they have been dealing with challenges on the court, he said. Their leading scorer, Desmond Williams, has been sitting out the last few games due to an ankle injury.

 “Despite my injury, coach McCullum keeps me in practice for a reason. Though I want to be out there with my teammates and everyone, the game will go on regardless of whether I play or not,” Williams said. Williams leads his team in many statistical categories.

Given the number of setbacks this season, McCullum couldn’t be more pleased with the performance level of the team while under his coaching staff. For a program that is short on resources, he makes sure to not let it be an excuse or a hindrance to the best results possible.

“We’ve lost a few guys to injuries and some due to lack of performance in academics, but that doesn’t take away from the great players that we do have,” McCullum said.

He said he would have preferred to have been brought on sooner, but nevertheless he is continuing to prove why he deserves to remain in the position of head coach.