“What do I do next?” or “now what?”
These are just a few of the questions people ask themselves once they retire. For some, the answer means spending time with family, friends, or relaxing and enjoying free time to pursue your hobbies. For three-time Hobbs Eagle state champion, and former Red Raider, Ronald Ross, retiring from playing basketball professionally led him to try his hand at another aspect of the game, becoming a coach.
“Right after Texas Tech, I left and did NBA workouts with teams like the Rockets, Golden State Warriors, did summer league and stuff like that,” said Ross on his pro career. “That didn’t work out and I ended up signing my first contract in Italy. I played in Italy and had an unfortunate time as I broke my leg the first year. That put me out for a year and I came back the next year played minor league for a while, and then I got a great contract back in Europe again. I had a decision to go try out for the D League (now G League) or go back overseas and play in Europe. I was just ready to get out of the States and try something new, and I fell in love with it.”
Ross graduated from Hobbs in 2001. He won state championships in basketball during the 1999, 2000, and 2001 seasons. He then attened Texas Tech University from 2001 through 2005.
In his 13 years as a professional in Europe, Ross was able to travel and play in different countries such as Germany, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Israel. He does not regret choosing playing in Europe over going to the D League and trying to make the NBA. He said he was blessed to be from Hobbs and have the chance to travel to 26 different countries thanks to basketball.
As his playing career began to wind down, Ross began to look towards the future and what his next step would be once he hung up his shoes. It’s at that moment he began to look at coaching as a possible future, even though he knew from early age he had what it takes to be a coach.
“It’s going to sound funny, but I kind of learned the feeling of being a coach at an early age being a big brother to my sisters,” he said. “I knew I could coach a little bit having my younger sister Adrianne being under my wing and knowing that I had to mentor her and show her a couple of things, even though she was an extraordinary talent. You knew you had to lead and coach and from my situation then just being a leader in high school and college, you have the feeling that ‘I could actual coach if I needed to one day,’ but you are so tied into being a player you don’t think about coaching you are trying to win, be best you can possible be, and win as many championships as you can.
“I would say from an early age the ability to coach was something I knew I was able to do, I just didn’t know for sure if it was something I would be doing.”
For the past two seasons, Ross has been a graduate assistant at Texas Tech University under head coach Chris Beard. He credits Beard with helping him try his hand at being an assistant coach.
“I was at the tail end of my career about three to four years ago, it was before I even thought about coming to Tech, me and coach Beard met up here in Lubbock mutually as fiends,” Ross said. “We just talked for a while. We talked about everything from back in the day when he was an assistant and I was talking about things overseas. We were just kind of reminiscing and he told me that I could be a good coach one day. He told me a little bit of his process and what he has been through to get where he is. I finally returned and he gave me a call and he gave me a call, letting me know that he would be happy to have me be part of his staff as a graduate assistant.
“That’s when the opportunity kind of opened up to become part of the staff and start this coaching journey I am currently on.”
Even though he felt he could be a coach, Ross still had some doubt and fear that he would fail. He knew that there are plenty of examples of great players failing at being coaches just as there are those that were successful.
“I think you do that naturally with anything you do. You have your doubts about whether you want to be a great coach or are you willing to succeed,” he said. “I think the ones, players like Magic Johnson or somebody that did fail at coaching, it was just more of their desire and passion to put in the work that it takes to become a great coach. If its something they want to do and passionate about they will do it. But sometimes people realize that just because they were great players, they don’t want to be a great coach. Currently for me, I know that I can coach, but I also have my mind on other things such as the business world and getting into different things. Even though I am coaching right now, I’m still open minded to other ventures in the world. When I grew up as a kid, I didn’t dream of being a great coach, but I know that I can and I know that I can help people. I believe that I keep my mind open also to business things.”
The two seasons he has spent as a graduate assistant, Ross has called them a wonderful time, especially being able to be on the Tech bench.
“It was really great because I was really lucky to come back to my old school,” he said. “ Most people don’t get to come back to the university they played at and be able to be coach with guys that where on the coaching staff when you played. Sometimes it’s a little bit different but I was really fortunate to come into a comfortable situation. Learning form it its more a psychological approach from a coach’s perspective you have to put all the pieces together and it requires a lot more patience and a lot more understanding of each player. You are not dealing with them on just the court, just for an example a teammate would, but now you are dealing with them and their entire life from academic standpoint, how their family is doing at home, and how they are doing, and the one of the key factor being how they are developing as a player and how they are going to help us win this year. There are so many factors that going into the coaching scheme of things then a player who just focuses on being a great teammate and trying to win and holding yourself accountable to putting in the work.
“It’s two different worlds the coaches and players, but it’s still a lot of great things like watching a kid grow. My first year we were really fortunate to go to the Final Four, and watching the kid grow who only dreamed of and seeing him accomplish it, there is no better feeling of knowing you played a small part in watching a kid’s dream come true.”
As a graduate assistant Ross was able to use his experience to help build relationships with the players. His experience playing for Tech and playing overseas allowed him to help connect with the players and pass on what he has learned to those who are trying to achieve what he accomplished.
“That was probably one of the biggest things I could do was relate to the players,” he said. “I understand I was a player. I played under coach (Bob) Knight, and no disrespect to coach Beard, is a much tougher coach then coach Beard in terms of how he manages his team. I keep them calm, I relate to them, and I tell them that I don’t always have all the answers, I listen to them, and then I tell them how I would react as opposed to telling them how to react to certain situations or adversity or even to success as well. That’s one thing we always get caught up in is we want to be put on the cake when things are going bad for a player but also you need to put it on when they are doing good and be supportive and acknowledge their improvements in whatever it is they are doing.
“Relating to the players and using my experience that I had not only at Tech but my pro experience in Europe really benefited the players but myself as well.”
Due to COVID-19, Texas Tech missed out playing the Big 12 Tournament and playing in the NCAA March Madness. Ross spoke about what it was like to have the postseason taken away and how the coaching staff looks back on the unfinished season.
“I kind of look at as having our postseason being ripped away from us,” Ross said. “It was kind of tragic to be honest with you. I think of it in terms of what if that happened to us last year, there would be no Texas Tech Final Four, no this player going to this place here, it would end a lot of futures for guys that were able to change their lives in that postseason. It was really unfortunate especially for our players and seniors, just because it was another opportunity to be great and better your life. To have that taken away from you, to have the window or door shut on you is kind of unfortunate. Talking to our players there is nothing we can do about it and we acknowledge that part. What we do is just a sport and there are bigger is life and bigger struggles that people are going through outside of being great basketball players. We just try to look at the bigger picture and be extremely supportive and the only thing you can do is get ready for what’s next.
“It’s really bittersweet. Last year we were the Big 12 champs and going into the postseason knowing exactly what we were going to do. We knew we where going to make the tournament and had the potential to do some really great things but it was up to us. But this year we where caught in the middle, like hey if we have a good Big 12 tournament and get us an NCAA berth and make some noise there we will see what happens. We had more ups and downs we weren’t really sure whether it was a really great season or a good season and move forward for next year. We didn’t get to define our own grounds on what we need to work on, what we need to do, cause you base it off your failures and accomplishments of course. It was unfortunate cause we don’t know as there was no end or how did we do; did we do good or did we do bad it was just left unspoken on what we could have done.”
Under the current situation created by COVID-19 and social distancing, Ross has found himself at a pondering what he wants to do next.
“Right now I am currently at the crossroads of deciding if I want to continue coaching or I if I want to jump into the business world,” said the former Hobbs Eagle. “With the COVID-19 situation everything is a little slow motion so I have been shopping around in both markets, mostly in the business world. I know in the coaching world that if I need to do something I’m optimistic that I can continue growing as a coach but also I have to keep my options considering the certain circumstances right now.”
If he decides to leave coaching behind, there is one thing he hopes he was able to instill in his players that he learned from his time with Knight, to be a student of the game.
“It’s a slow process to be great but it can come faster with the more intelligent you are in the things you do,” he said. “For me I always told them that I came in as a freshman, I was just as athletic as I was as a senior. The difference was I knew a lot more of the games, the game was really slow to me its kind of like if you talk to one of the pros like if you talk to Lebron James they will tell you the game is extremely slow. For somebody like him its always been slow, but image how it is now being seasoned the way he is; its just the more that you know the easier things will go for you. You just have to take the time get in the film room, listen to the coaches, sit back sometime and observe, and of course get the actual experience on and off the court.”
If Ross does leave coaching to pursue one of his business ventures, he said it was something he hoped to be able to leave to his children, besides being a coach. It’s something he has always wanted to explore outside of basketball and he would do it back home in the states. Yet Ross did state there is a chance he could return for another year to work with coach Beard and the Red Raiders.