'You'll enjoy watching us play'

September 11, 2019

Sports, Portrait

A new coach will give women’s basketball a fresh start when the season opens in November.
By Aggrey Sam

“There’s three rules that we have,” Aaron Roussell explained on a summer morning in his Robins Center office. “You can’t say, ‘I can’t.’ You can’t say, ‘That’s not my job.’ You can’t say, ‘That’s good enough.’ Those are things that we just don’t put up with.”

The new Richmond women’s basketball head coach’s guiding principles are simple, and they have led to favorable results. His last four seasons at Bucknell University concluded with postseason appearances, including the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and 2019.

Prior to that, Roussell engineered a turnaround at Division III University of Chicago, finishing his tenure there with the most victories and highest winning percentage in program history after taking the helm as a 25-year-old. Not bad for a guy who, just a few years earlier, was torn between coaching and law school.

“I had a great professor who kind of talked me out of it,” said the affable native Minnesotan. “I realized I wasn’t really following my true passion. [The professor said] ‘Hey, you’re young — why don’t you go do something you’re really going to love?’”

What Roussell loves is a challenge. With his strong track record of success, he checked off all the boxes for Richmond when he was hired in April. It worked both ways — an opportunity to coach at a higher level, another academically rigorous institution, reuniting with athletic director John Hardt, under whom he worked at Bucknell — but some less obvious factors also helped him with the decision to become a Spider.

Roussell met his wife, Molly, when she was a member of VCU’s women’s basketball coaching staff and getting a graduate degree at UR’s crosstown rival, so he had some familiarity with the city. The same goes for his close-knit coaching staff at Bucknell, all of whom have joined him
at Richmond.

“My staff knew this area very well, so I think they were probably pushing me,” said the father of three. “I don’t want to say that I wouldn’t have done it without them, but I think that was a big thing.

“I think a re-energizing fresh start was appealing, especially with a boss that you had some familiarity with,” he continued. “There was [also] some comfort because it’s a high-level academic school.”

Roussell describes the style of play he coaches as “positionless” with an emphasis on outside shooting. While it will take time for the current roster to adapt, the coach believes Spider fans will appreciate what they see on the court.

“Our kids probably hear the words ‘standards’ and ‘process’ more than they probably want to — standards and expectations,” he said. “It’s a style that requires a high [basketball] IQ, to a certain extent. I think it’s a refreshing style to watch because it’s not just kids being robotic.

“You’ll enjoy watching us play.”