VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard returns to the Rams this season following stints at Illinois State and Pitt.

By Andy Lohman

After two years as an assistant at Illinois State, then Pittsburgh, VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard is excited to be back in Richmond.

“I’m ecstatic. VCU is a special place,” Ballard said. “Richmond is a special place and I knew that the first time around. Being away for two years it’s emphasized more and the point is driven home that there aren’t many places like VCU out there.”

Ballard had served as an assistant coach with current head coach Mike Rhoades at VCU under Shaka Smart from 2012-15, helping guide the Rams to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the school’s first Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship in 2014-15.

A standout player at Colgate University, Ballard worked closely with shooting guard Troy Daniels in his first year as a coach at VCU. Daniels would go on to set a school record for three-pointers in a season (124) and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now Ballard has returned to a place and a school that he loves.

“I missed it all, I mean really,” Ballard said. “Richmond is a special city, it’s a beautiful city. It’s vibrant. I missed the people. It’s an eclectic, unique, diverse city, which is awesome. And just the energy and the passion at VCU, I definitely missed that.”

One big change since Ballard’s last stint with VCU is the addition of the VCU Basketball Development Center, the state-of-the art and all-encompassing practice facility behind the Siegel Center.

“One of the biggest differences obviously is this facility,” Ballard said. “This was being built last time we were here with Coach Smart but I had never stepped foot in it. This place is special; it’s got everything you can think of. It’s a wonderful place for our guys, it’s a wonderful place for our staff.”

Ballard brings a wealth of experience to Rhoades’ staff, as he enters his 14th season as a Division I coach. Prior to VCU, he was an assistant at Tulsa from 2007-12, and at his alma mater, Colgate, from 2004-07.

While he has been an assistant coach for over a decade, this is the first time Ballard has been in the role of associate head coach.

“The associate head coach title is something I’m appreciative of,” Ballard said. “But just being back at VCU and with Coach Rhodes is something I’m extremely grateful for. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I just want to do my best each and every day.”

Ballard is a big-picture guy, which he credits to having a head-coach mentality even as an assistant coach.

“One thing that Coach Rhodes and I did, when we were assistants together, we constantly tried to think like a head coach. I think that’s probably magnified in this role,” Ballard said. “A lot of times as an assistant coach you can be thinking about solely what your roles are as an assistant, maybe what position you coach or your recruits that you’re in charge of versus looking at the totality of the program and constantly thinking big picture, while keeping a keen eye on the details.”

Seeing the big picture allows Ballard to be whatever the program needs him to be.

“Whatever Coach Rhodes needs, whatever our players need,” Ballard said. “I just want to help him in any way possible. With the staff, with the players, with the media, with donors, administration, however I can help, I want to serve in that role.”

Running a Division I men’s basketball program requires a coach to wear a lot of hats, but the players are still the top priority.

“We’re a players-first program. We love our guys. We spend time with our guys and get to know them and what really makes them tick,” Ballard said. “Hopefully I can be a role model for our guys. Hopefully they see me as somebody who does things the right way and cares about them as people before players.”

With eight newcomers, the Rams are a mix of new faces on the court and old faces in new roles on the sideline. Still, there is motivation to continue the standard of success that has been set.

“We had a really good spring and an even better summer,” Ballard said. “The guys worked really hard. They really embraced what we want to do style-of-play-wise and culture-wise. We were really invigorated each time we were around the guys and we’re looking forward to this fall. You know I think a lot of people think VCU is going to take a step back this year, but that’s motivation for us. We’re motivated to work with these guys and let them know what VCU is all about.”