This article originally ran here  in the Johnson City Press, Nov. 19, 2017.

By Tanner Cook, JCP reporter

Rich Aubrey fell in love with basketball when he stepped out on the court at his local high school in Pittsburgh and started doing ball-handling drills in the first grade.

Since then, it has been a match in coaching that is hard to find in today’s sports world of constantly shuffling coaches.

“When I was growing up, I had dreams of playing in the NBA,” Aubrey said. “That didn’t pan out for me and I decided that going into coaching would be a route that I could take. I figured that out in high school.”

Aubrey came to East Tennessee in 1981 and started college at Milligan, where he earned his BA in 1985 and later earned his MEd in 1993.

“When I came here, I just fell in love with East Tennessee,” he said. “I knew I wanted to coach and it just so happened that the Milligan women’s job opened up when I was finishing up my master’s degree.”

Aubrey had a few other stops before coming to Milligan, including Sullivan South High School, but he returned to his alma mater in 1993 and the program has been churning along ever since.

Milligan’s first conference title came in 1997 and he says that that team still holds a special place in his heart.

“That team was a special one. They still stick together to this day and back each other in whatever happens in life,” he said.

One of Aubrey’s most memorable moments was the 2014 team that started out 2-11, but finished the season 14-17 and made it all the way to the AAC title game.

“That team was a good one because they could have just given up on the season, but they didn’t. We really couldn’t get anything going that year, but we finished well and that was really the foundation for the past two conference titles,” he said.

In his 25th season at the helm for the Buffs, Aubrey is 463-312 and has two 30-plus win seasons under his belt. He also has 10 conference Coach of the Year awards. His list of accomplishments goes on and on, including coaching the men’s and women’s tennis team at Milligan for a period of time, but he is one of only 10 coaches in the history of NAIA Division II basketball to reach 400 wins.

“My father was a minister and he believed that ministers also serve the role of being a teacher. That’s what I try to do when I’m coaching. I try to teach the kids lessons and have them be prepared for life because basketball has a lot of life lessons,” he said. “I’m also one of those coaches that loves winning more than I hate losing. I don’t like to dwell too much on the losses. We learn from them, but I like to see success as well.”

Aubrey has two daughters, Erin and Amy, and he and his wife Sheri have lived happily in East Tennessee for more than 20 years.