It is 11 p.m. on Saturday night of Halloween weekend, one of the biggest party weekends of the year at Vanderbilt University. People across campus are putting on their costumes getting ready for the night’s festivities, including Vanderbilt men’s basketball manager Rob Cross. However, Rob then gets a text from Steve Tchiengang, power forward on the team, saying “Let’s shoot in 45 minutes.” Most sane people would say not tonight, but Rob is not sane when it comes to basketball. So at 11:45 he trudges over to Memorial Gym in full costume and rebounds for Steve before starting his night. This incident is just one of many that exemplify Rob’s undying commitment to Vanderbilt Basketball.
Rob was a freshman this past year, and as someone who worked alongside him on the team, I can say his work ethic is unparalleled. Everything Rob does revolves around learning and soaking up as much about basketball as he can, and he will do anything to help out those involved with the program. It is not uncommon to see Rob in the gym well past 2 a.m. doing something nobody else would do at that time, whether it be making highlight videos or rebounding for one of the players – most likely Steve. Rob and Steve have developed a bond this year, and they shoot and workout together every day. It doesn’t matter when Steve wants to get a workout in, Rob shows up, sometimes on only a few hours of sleep.
While Rob has spent nights sleeping on the locker room couch, and worked 12-hour days at practice and in the office, the reason he works so hard is not only for his love of the game, but because he desires to be a head coach someday. He realizes that if he wants to move up the ladder, he must work his tail off every day – and that is what he does. It is often comical to see the hours Rob spends on basketball, and his grades and ability to go out have suffered somewhat because of his commitment, but Rob wouldn’t have it any other way. He wants to be a head coach, and nothing is going to stop him until he reaches that goal – no matter how hard it may be to achieve his dream.
“There is no feeling in the world like being on a basketball court and knowing that I could be a part of that for the rest of my life,” says Cross. “And the impact I can have on other’s lives that comes from doing something I love? Why would I not work my butt off to make that a reality?”
Rob’s knowledge of the game and his work ethic will be what help him land a coaching job in the future, but that is not what will make him a great coach. In an age when young coaches who can relate to their players is becoming the new phenomenon in college basketball, nobody fits that bill better than Rob. The Vanderbilt players respect him, and they like him because he is a great guy; they see how hard he works, and they admire that in him.
His friends, including myself, know they can count on him for anything, and he will be there. When parents are helping to decide where their kid should play college basketball, one of the most important factors is the relationship the parents and kid have with the coach. The parents are letting go and want their kids to be under the guidance of someone they can trust, and in 10 years when the Class of 2021 is deciding where they want to play college hoops, playing for Rob Cross will be a hard choice to turn down. So when the next Brad Stevens comes along, you can say you read about him here first.
“You look at a guy like Coach Stevens and what he’s done for his players and that university and it’s just crazy,” says Cross. “I work as hard as I do because that’s what I want to get to.”
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