Queens basketball coach Bart Lundy landed his 400th victory on Nov. 12. He points to his firing at High Point University in 2009 as a turning point in his career.
“I like the saying, ‘As you go up in anything, you better plant some flowers because on your way down, you’re going to have to pick them,” Lundy said recently. In 2020, Lundy was named one of America’s 50 most impactful coaches in Division II and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
After going 9-21 during the 2008-09 season at High Point and getting fired when a new athletic director came on the scene — at the same time Lundy was going through a divorce — he leaned on his own advice.
“As I was on my way down, I had planted enough flowers that I was fortunate enough that Buzz Williams (now head coach at Texas A&M) reached out to me and gave me a job at Marquette,” Lundy said. “Through those trials, life is about change. And if you’re not willing to be tough through the change, and adjust, then it’s going to be difficult to have success.”
Three years as director of basketball operations at Marquette were like a Ph.D. in basketball, Lundy said, working with Hall of Fame coaches and future NBA players. After Marquette, Lundy served as an assistant coach at North Texas before landing back at Queens for a second stint. He had started at Queens at the age of 25, taking the Royals to their first NCAA regional title and an Elite Eight appearance in 2001, followed by a trip to the national semifinals in 2003.
That led to his six-year stint at High Point, which included four winning seasons. Ninety-six of his 400 wins came at High Point.
His second run at Queens has been nothing short of remarkable, with three consecutive 30-plus win seasons from 2016 through 2019 and six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Royals reached the NCAA Division II Final Four in 2017-18 and the Elite Eight again in 2018-19.
Philosophies of Basketball and Life
After reaching the 400-win milestone, Lundy shared that for him, there is not one coaching philosophy, principle, or fundamental in place.
“We kind of work on two premises,” Lundy said. “One is that everything matters. Everything, the smallest details, it all matters… with your recruiting, with academics… it all matters to have a successful program, successful team,” he said. “We preach to our guys, it’s just work.”
With every head coaching position, there comes a responsibility to perform, compete and win. During his first stint at Queens, Lundy said he was more concerned with results. Over time, he realized building relationships with players was more important.
“Everybody wants to win, that’s part of it,” Lundy said. “But the relationships with the guys are more important. They are calling you (and asking), ‘Hey, what kind of lawnmower should I buy?,’ 10 years after they are done playing. That’s more significant that any win. And that’s what you’ll remember.”
Game planning is one of his favorite processes. For some opponents, Lundy said, his team needs to play Monopoly. For others, they play poker. “You have to find ways to win each and every game,” Lundy said. “Can you get that message over to your guys to give them all the tools that they need in their toolbox to win the game?”
Players Who Haven’t Had It Easy in Life
Lundy looks for an unexpected characteristic when he’s recruiting. He appreciates players who haven’t had it easy in life. “I like to go war with those dudes because they don’t give in, and they’ve seen tough times,” he said.
“Watching Todd Withers who had one scholarship offer, which was Queens coming out of high school, finish his degree and get NBA chances, sign a deal in Australia that changes his life and his family’s life. It’s those moments there,” Lundy said. Withers now plays for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian National Basketball League.
If there were something about basketball that he could change, Lundy said, it’s a fixation with immediate success. Coaching is about preparing players for life, and it’s not instant pudding.
“Coaching is about teaching, and it’s about trying to get the best out of each individual,” Lundy said. “You know, we have freshman who think they’re already pros… they’re not. It’s a process, and you have to work to get there. “Coaching is about really getting them to buy into that process. Wake up every day, do it as best as you can, and work as hard as you can, lay your head on the pillow tonight. Wake up and do it again tomorrow.”