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Forbes chasing 100th victory at ETSU

Joe Avento • Mar 7, 2019 at 7:58 PM

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — There’s plenty to play for in the Southern Conference basketball tournament this weekend, and East Tennessee State coach Steve Forbes will be chasing a milestone in his team’s first game.

The next victory will be Forbes’ 100th as the Bucs’ coach. That chance comes in the quarterfinals where ETSU takes on Chattanooga on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Center.

“I think first and foremost, you have to have really good players,” Forbes said when asked how he’s averaged nearly 25 victories a season with the Bucs. “In the four seasons I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of really good players. We’ve had real good chemistry. They’ve always played really well together and that’s indicative of this team.”

This season has definitely been one of Forbes’ best coaching jobs. He got his first ETSU team to the SoCon tournament finals, which was quite an accomplishment.

This season, he has taken a roster full of newcomers — 12 of his current players weren’t on the floor for ETSU last year — and molded it into a team that went 23-8 in the regular season and finished tied for third in the SoCon.

Making relative strangers come together and play as a team isn’t as easy as Forbes has made it look.

“I think every coach has his strengths and weaknesses,” said Forbes, who has made the SoCon final in each of his three season at ETSU. “I think that’s my strength, to get guys to play together. It probably has a lot to do with my 11 years in junior college where you have a lot of turnover. It’s something I’ve had to do a lot of during my career.”

Forbes is quick to share the credit.

“We have a really good staff,” he said. “I trust them 100 percent. And we have good fan support. We have the best fans in the Southern Conference. To get that many wins in four seasons, I think it’s a combination of all that.”

Forbes won 166 games as a junior college head coach. Assistant coaching jobs at Tennessee, Texas A&M and Wichita State showed him how things happen at big-time programs. He’s brought that knowledge to ETSU and has flourished.

Should the Bucs win on Saturday, Forbes would become the 11th active NCAA DIvision I coach to win 100 games in four seasons.

“He gets us prepared like we’re a high major team,” said ETSU junior forward Jeromy Rodriguez, who was chosen first-team All-SoCon on Wednesday. “The coaches watch how Tennessee and Kentucky do things, the high majors. They want us to be just like them. That makes us practice and play like a high major team.

“He’s done a great job since he got here. Every year he wins 20-plus games. That’s not something that everybody can do. He obviously is a great coach.”

The winner of the ETSU-Chattanooga game will likely face top-seeded and 22nd-ranked Wofford in Sunday’s 4 p.m. semifinal. Wofford takes on the winner of Friday’s play-in game between VMI and Western Carolina in the quarterfinals.

The championship game is set for Monday at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

NO CURTIS

Freshman guard Carlos Curtis, who hasn’t seen much action for thee Bucs, won’t dress for the tournament after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Curtis has been out of action for a couple of weeks and just got his diagnosis this week.

 

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