ST. PETERSBURG — The Eckerd College men’s basketball program has been around since 1963. The school was called Florida Presbyterian at the time, and its first coach was Jim Harley.
Since then, there have only been two other coaches in the team’s history. Harley retired prior to the 1996-97 season, when his former player and assistant coach, Tom Ryan, took over.
History repeated itself this year when Bryan Galuski, a former player and assistant coach for Ryan, was named the head coach in April. Ryan retired from coaching to become the school’s athletic director.
“It’s like I never left,” Galuski said. “It’s great to be home. It’s great to be working again with Coach Ryan.”
Galuski found his way to St. Petersburg in 1994, when Harley started recruiting him through a contact he had in New York. Galuski was a high school player in Latham, N.Y., and was familiar with the area. His family used to vacation in Sarasota.
Ryan recruited Galuski. He decided to come to Eckerd late in his senior year of high school.
“I told mom and dad that I wasn’t going back to New York and the snow,” Galuski said. “I’m going where there’s palm trees.”
Galuski wasn’t just an average player. He was on the 1994-95 team that won the school’s first Sunshine State Conference regular-season championship. He led the team in scoring his senior year and is still eighth in program history with 154 steals.
“He was better than I was,” Ryan said. “He was the type of player who, when you got done playing against him, you had to make sure you had all your body parts. He competed at the highest level.”
Galuski said he hoped to play professionally somewhere after graduation, but when that didn’t work out he got a job with Eckerd’s admissions department and was also a voluntary assistant coach with Ryan.
A year later, when a full-time assistant coaching position became available, Galuski was hired. He remained an assistant through 2005. That’s when he landed a head coaching job at Greensboro College in North Carolina. For the next 10 years he was the school’s head basketball coach. For the past four he added athletic director to his resume.
“I thought I was going to be at Greensboro for two years,” Galuski said. “Then I was going to move on. Then you figure out it’s not that easy.”
He ended up with 183 wins at Greensboro, tops in school history. That includes a forgettable 3-22 season last year.
Galuski was selected over 200 candidates who applied for the job, Ryan said.
The Tritons were 19-10 last season. They are 2-1 after a win over Puerto Rico Mayaguez on Monday.
That does not include an exhibition game on Nov. 1 at Auburn. That was the first time Galuski brought the Tritons onto the court as their head coach.
“Everything has happened so fast,” Galuski said. “When I walked out on the court I thought, ‘Wow, this is for real. I’m the head coach at Eckerd College.’ ”
Things are a bit different for Ryan as well. For the past 21 years he was the one worried about recruiting and game days. Now that he is no longer head coach he doesn’t have to worry about wins and losses, but of course he still does.
“I was nervous just watching the stream (of the past two games),” Ryan said. “I was yelling at the screen. I’m lucky I didn’t throw anything.”
This year’s team is a bit unusual for Galuski because he didn’t recruit most of the players. Since September, he has gotten to know his team much better. One thing he didn’t have to get used to was the school. That’s where he met his wife, Julie. And he knows all about the basketball history.
“I’m completely comfortable where I am,” Galuski said. “I plan on trying to continue the success that Coach Ryan and Coach Harley have had. I realized I have tough shoes to fill.”
Contact Rodney Page at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam