Former NBL star John Rillie who has been both Director of Basketball Operations and assistant coach for Boise State, is leaving the Broncos for an assistant coaching role at the University of California Santa Barbara.
Rillie, who had been alongside head coach Leon Rice at Boise State since 2011 - even playing under Rice when he played at Gonzaga - played in a key role in recruiting their talent. He was largely responsible for the successful attracting Australian rising stars Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers), Igor Hadziomerovic (Melbourne United) and Nick Duncan to Taco Bell Arena in Idaho. Drmic went on to become Boise State’s all-time second-highest scorer, while Duncan finished fourth in school history for made 3-pointers. With Duncan graduating, there will be no Australian on the Broncos roster for the first time since 2011.
While recruiting from down under to Idaho has its geographical challenges, California is a much more attractive location for future Australian prospects.
"You are who you are. I’m an Australian guy. I’m known for my recruiting in Australia," Rillie said via the Idaho Statesman. "Eighty percent of the country [Australia] lives on the water. When you’re in the recruiting trenches, that’s certainly very appealing to an 18, 19-year-old."
Having had Rillie by his side throughout the Broncos rise in the Mountain West Conference, Rice was understandably full of praise for his long-term assistant.
"I'm so grateful for the seven years that john has to give to the Boise state basketball program and this community," said Rice. "He and his family, Heidi, Jaron, Kael, Halle, and Keen, have been a huge part of building this program. He has been very instrumental in all of our successes. This will be a great step in building his resume."
Apart from luring some exceptional talent to the Broncos, Rillie played a key role in delivering on court success, include trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13 and 2014-15, while earning the school's first Mountain West Championship in 2014-15 (Boise State joined in 2011-12). As a player, Rillie's collegiate career began at Tacoma Community College, where he played one season (1991-92) before transferring to Gonzaga. In his three years with the Bulldogs, he helped lead the team to a NIT appearance in 1994 and the school's first berth in the NCAA Tournament in 1995.
With a long and illustrious playing career, and a successful stint as an assistant coach under his belt with the Broncos, Rillie's next assignment will see him help re-build the Gauchos under the direction of recently hired head coach Joe Pasternack, a former assistant coach at Arizona. It has been reported by Michael Katz that while Rillie will not take on the title of associate head coach, yet he will take on extra responsibility on his journey towards becoming a head coach.
"For me, I see a great opportunity. A program that can be reinvigorated. I believe we can be successful," Rillie said. “I want to become a head coach...You need to take sorts of steps and processes to make that happen."
A number of other Australian coaches have been making their mark in Division I ranks, including the likes of Chris Harriman (New Mexico), David Patrick (TCU) and Marty Clarke (Saint Mary's) who will return with their teams for the 2017-18 season.
The Gauchos may well prove the challenge that Rillie needs to earn that coveted head coaching position. Their record last season was a poor 6-22 overall and just 4-12 in in the Big West Conference, and if Rillie can help turn that around quickly, a head coaching role may soon follow.