The foundation of Robert McCullum

FAMU head men's basketball coach Robert McCullum.
Photo submitted by Nikyya Smith.

Most people don’t find their calling until they stumble through different jobs and careers, but Robert McCullum found his calling, or it more so found him at the age of 12.

McCullum is the head men’s basketball coach at Florida A&M University. He was introduced as the new coach in 2017 and just completed  his second season with the Rattlers.

“I was coaching before I even knew I was,” said McCullum as he sat in his office.

His office is decorated with a plethora of different accolades. Multiple signed basketballs adorn his bookshelf along with binders full of X’s and O’s.

“I was 12-13 years old organizing games of basketball and baseball with kids in my neighborhood.”

McCullum was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. He recalls memories of living in what he called a “shotgun house."

“It was an old wooden framed house, three rooms and adjoined those, three rooms on the other side, you could literally stretch your legs from one front porch to the other,” said McCullum.

Birmingham is the most populated city in Alabama, and during the 60’s was the center of the civil rights movement. Raised by a single mother, McCullum did not have a father figure in his life until high school.

His freshman year of high school is when he met a man that he says is essential to his foundation and who helped make him the man, coach and father that he is today. “My high school coach was a great teacher, he cared for you,” said McCullum. “He always instilled in me that I was just as good as they are.”

McCullum’s coach, Willie Scoggins, passed away May 27, 2008. At the time of death, Scoggins and McCullum still had a strong relationship that lasted over 30 years.

In McCullum’s coaching style you can see Scoggins influence in his foundation as a coach.

McCullum believes that it is extremely important to have a relationship with his players on and off the court.

“For me, basketball provides a platform that enables coaches to help prepare young men to become more responsible adults… responsible citizens, better fathers, better husbands, better people.” McCullum says he often questions himself and asks: “What did I do to help prepare them for life after basketball? Life after college?”

Current players MJ Randolph and Hnric Murray Jr are direct examples of McCullum’s emphasis on having a relationship with his players outside of basketball.

“My relationship with coach McCullum off the court is great, He definitely makes sure everybody is straight and doing good in school,” said Murray.

Randolph added that “He makes sure the whole team has their study hall hours and does our work. School definitely comes before basketball with coach McCullum.”

McCullum and the rattlers closed out the season Thursday March 7, beating Bethune Cookman University 64-56.