Shiloh hired boys basketball coach Kim Rivers away from Randallstown High School in the Baltimore area last spring. Rivers was hugely successful during his 14 years at Randallstown, leading the school to five state championships, eight state final appearances and 12 21-win seasons. They were in the final four 11 times during Rivers' 14 seasons.
Rivers came to Shiloh with a 315-50 coaching record and the Generals got off to a 5-1 start before dropping their last two games. A graduate of William Jewel College in Missouri, Rivers is a former NAIA All-American and played professionally in Australia for three years.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...," the New York native talks with sports writer Christine Troyke about coaching, moving around and musical tastes.
CT: Do you have a coaching philosophy?
KR: Yeah, I do have a coaching philosophy. I like an up-tempo game. I love to have a strong defensively minded team. And I believe in strong team unity as opposed to one superstar. I really like to have a team that doesn't have a superstar. We like to have everybody involved.
CT: How often do you get that? Is it just whatever happens to be at the school at the time?
KR: At the high school level, it's always different. You always do want someone that can put the ball in the hole and that's possibly a Division I athlete. But at the same time, you want that kid to be just a part of the team and not the team. You want that kid to inherit or have some characteristics of being humble and being just part of a program. As opposed to "I'm bigger than the team."
CT: You came to Gwinnett from Maryland. Have you had a welcome-to-the-South moment?
KR: (laughs) Just walking into certain restaurants and hearing the voices. It's a lot different. But it's nice. Much more friendly. Much more welcoming than the East. And the food is definitely very good down here as well.
CT: How would you compare the basketball in Georgia to that of the Northeast? Even just in terms of do they play different styles or the talent pool itself?
KR: I think the talent is similar. I think the East Coast brings a more physical, more flashy type of game. More, I would say, mentally tougher kids - not always, but a lot of the kids, their livelihood depends on basketball. Whereas in the South, some of these kids don't look at basketball as their means to an end.
CT: Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that we are in the suburbs here? Does that change it a little bit?
KR: I'm sure it does. I mean, we're a product of the Gwinnett environment, which is a good environment. And that's why I chose to come here, and to get these kids to buy into myself and the coaching staff here at Shiloh's philosophy. One team, one unit and play hard every night. It's something that has been somewhat of a challenge because a lot of these kids haven't been pushed this far before in their careers.
And it's a change for them. Change is good, but just adjusting to change sometimes can be difficult. Especially in the early stages.
CT: What were the big factors in your taking this job at Shiloh?
KR: The community. The administration, Dr. (Gwen) Tatum. And just wanting to have some new challenges in my life. I felt this was a great avenue for me. To have that challenge that I would like to build a program as opposed to being at a program that had been so successful for so long..
It is pressure on me. But it's not like the daily pressures of having won five state championships in Maryland.
CT: Was it a tough decision to leave, especially considering how much success you had had in one place?
KR: The toughest part was leaving my coaching staff and some of my players, but most importantly, leaving my daughter (Kimberleigh) who is at a school of the theater arts. She is at a very prestigious school in Baltimore County and she didn't want to have to pack up and leave her sophomore year.
That was the biggest obstacle we had to deal with. But through winter breaks and spring breaks and summers and daily phone calls, I think we'll be OK.
CT: When did you move down here? You got the job in April?
KR: Yes. I moved down the first week in July.
CT: So you had a little bit of time with your daughter?
KR: Yes, and she was down the whole summer.
CT: What did she think? Did she like it down here?
KR: She really did like it and it was tough for her to go back. She really liked Shiloh, but at the same time, being in the field that she's in and having the opportunities where she's at was something that was hard to give up. If she hadn't started high school, it wouldn't have been that much of a problem. Because they do have some good theater programs here as well.
CT: Where did you grow up?
KR: I grew up in the Bronx, New York.
CT: A little bit different than Gwinnett.
KR: (laughing) A lot different.
CT: Do you miss the area?
KR: I miss the family. But after having gone to college and played overseas, having had the opportunity to travel a little bit, I knew that once I left college, there was something bigger than New York City.
KR: Yeah. I had the opportunity to look at life a little different. New York is, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. That was one of the reasons why I just packed up and came out here.
CT: Mets? Interesting. I like you much better.
CT: You played professionally in Australia. How long were the seasons down there?
KR: January to, I would come home in about September. So it was a nice time. It was only about three, four months off. Beautiful weather. Beautiful beaches.
CT: It's so laid back there. Does that suit you as far as your off-time?
KR: Yeah. I'm pretty laid back. I'm pretty reserved. Not much of an outgoing person. Give me some TV and some chips and I'm set.
CT: Did you start teaching and coaching as soon as you got back from (last season in) Australia?
KR: I volunteered at first. I worked for the state for a year and a half with the department of juvenile services. I wanted to get into the field of working with the youth, even though I had done it over there as far as some of the camps and clinics we did in Australia. And in the offseason and the weekends. But through my juvenile services connections I was able to get the job at Randallstown.
CT: When you say juvenile services, who were you working with in those cases?
KR: I was working with kids from the age of 13 to 17 in Baltimore City, which is, if you've ever seen "The Wire" you know how difficult it can be. And I worked in a unit that primarily dealt with kids that had substance abuse issues.
CT: They were just kids that had been in trouble and were trying to work through that?
KR: They were kids that may have had some type of juvenile offense that was more or less related to them getting involved with drugs or alcohol. So once they went through treatment, then we were the ones that helped them to stay in school and to follow the program that was set by the state.
CT: So I guess that prepares you pretty well for dealing with any high school kids after that?
KR: It most definitely did. We dealt not only with the kid, but with the family. It was a holistic approach to making sure their recovery was proper and successful.
CT: Was that rewarding to see when it was successful?
KR: Yeah, just coming from the background I came from in New York and wanting to make sure that I could help somebody the same way someone helped me was always the reason why I got into the juvenile justice as well as teaching and coaching. Because if not for a coach or a teacher, I know I wouldn't be in the situation I am today.
CT: What kind of music do you prefer to listen to?
KR: I'm a jazz type of guy. But I do get down a little bit with some of the hip-hop just to make sure that I stay in tune with my players, being able to talk that talk around here in the school. You have to listen to what they listen to in order to identify with what they're going through.
CT: What was your first car?
KR: My first car (laughing) was a Dodge Colt. At 6-4, it was not very comfortable, but it got me from A to B.
CT: Do you have a favorite basketball player you like to watch?
KR: I love watching LeBron (James) play right now. He's just the type of guy that I would love to coach. He's a team player. Even though he's their best player, I see he has a lot of fun with his teammates and he's very competitive. I think when it's all said and done, he'll be the greatest basketball player of all time.
CT: Growing up, did you have a favorite?
KR: Julius "Dr. J" Erving.
CT: Did you try to emulate him?
KR: We all did in my era.
CT: How successful were you?
KR: I wasn't bad. But there was only one Doctor.