ANNVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — When it comes to getting to know new Penn State head coach Mike Rhoades, few people know him better than his college coach, Pat Flannery.
While at Lebanon Valley College, Rhoades and the Dutchmen won the 1994 Division III National Championship, a 66-59 overtime win over NYU.
“I met Mike when he was nine or ten years old,” Flannery said. “So from that age until he was a senior in high school, everybody knew Mike because he had always been a player.”
Rhoades was the 1995 USA Today National Player of the Year, a two-time All-American, and three-time Middle Atlantic Conference Player of the Year while at LVC. But it wasn’t a given Mike would play for the Dutchmen.
His family’s relationship with Coach Flannery was a driving force in getting one of the best players in program history to come to LVC.
“In recruiting, people think it’s a straight line and it’s not a straight line,” Flannery said. “There’s a lot of bumps and turns. Remember, we’re at Lebanon Valley; it’s a Division III school, but we think we’re building something special. [But] we needed another piece or two, and this area had them. Mike was one of the best players out of the area. We weren’t probably his first, second, third, fourth choice maybe, but we were always there.”
Rhoades, who retired as the program’s all-time scoring leader with 2,050 points (#3 now), still retains LVC program records for free throw percentage (84.5%), assists (668), assists average (5.9), steals (212), and steals average (1.9).
Rhoades is a Pennsylvania guy from the start, born and raised in Mahanoy City.
“When they talk about Mahanoy, which is a real proud basketball tradition, they were saying Mike Rhodes is going to be one of the best ever, if not the best ever,” Flannery said.
After his playing days, Rhoades took to coaching beginning his career as an assistant coach at Randolph Macon College in 1996. Three years later, he was named head coach and won 197 games with four NCAA Tournament appearances.
His career then took him to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) under Shaka Smart in 2009 as an assistant coach. VCU made the tournament seven straight years with Rhoades as associate head coach.
That success brought him to Rice University for his first Division I head coaching job. He returned to VCU in 2017 as the head coach and led the team to three NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons.
Rhoades was then named the head coach at Penn State in March 2023, after Micah Shrewsberry left the program.
“Mike has always had a relationship with his players,” Flannery said of Mike’s strengths as a head coach. “He makes them his family.”
As Rhoades begins the task of rebuilding a depleted roster and developing Penn State into a perennial winner, his LVC roots still run strong.
“Boy, what a what a great opportunity, what a great hire,” Flannery said. “He will take on that challenge and he’ll spend 24/7 getting that right and he’ll do it the right way.”
Penn State men’s basketball just finished the 2022-23 season with a 23-14 record, losing to No. 2-seeded Texas in the NCAA Tournament second round.