Off the Bench with Coach Jon Furbush of Men’s Basketball

Jackson Elkins, Managing Sports Editor

While COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of life at Bates, the men’s basketball program has continued to forge ahead with Coach Jon Furbush ’05 at the helm.

Because he played at Bates during his college days from 2002-05, Coach Furbush has a unique perspective on coaching and interacting with his student-athletes.

Furbush was part of an extremely competitive Bates program during his years here. “During my time we played in the NESCAC quarterfinals, semifinals and championship. We added competitive depth to the conference that had been top-heavy prior to my arrival,” he said.

In terms of the differences between his experience at Bates 16 years ago and today, “The competitiveness across Division III basketball,” claimed Furbush, has changed. 

He continued, “When I played, there were some games that we knew we were going to win. Some Division III teams didn’t have a full-time coach or anyone recruiting, so naturally they would struggle. That doesn’t exist anymore. Every game we play now forces us to play our best basketball to win, especially in NESCAC play. The difference between first and eighth place in conference play is usually 2-3 wins at most. We’ve seen No. 8 beat No.1 in the first round of playoffs and even No. 6 win the entire conference. That doesn’t happen in other leagues. It is much more challenging to win now.”

Acknowledging the competitiveness in Division III today is one of the keys of Furbush’s coaching philosophy. While he was able to help solidify Bates as a more consistent contender in the NESCAC and Division III, Furbush made sure to note that he “puts a premium on what we are doing, not what we’ve done.” 

He continued, “Our past success or failures are great experiences, but we focus on our process of today. This also applies to our opponents. While I respect some of the NESCAC teams that have historically had success, they are still a Division III basketball team. We are not out here playing against LeBron [James] and Steph Curry. I keep our focus on us and the winning habits we need to create.”

Furbush’s philosophy can be seen in his team today; last year, the Bobcats made it to the quarter finals of the NESCAC Championships, falling to Colby in a triple overtime thriller that could have gone either way. While on paper the game goes down as a loss, the competitive spirit and finish in the quarter finals reflects Furbush’s desire for his team to have a confident, winning mentality. 

While Furbush is able to use his lessons as a player at Bates to be a better coach, he is also able to use his own personal experience as a student-athlete at Bates to relate to his players.

“Having endured the student-athlete experience myself, there is an element of empathy and understanding I have for my current players,” he said.

“They have much more on their plate than I did!” he said. “Time management is important so I make sure I give them all the tools they need to find excellence in all their endeavors as student-athletes. Having an assistant coach who is also a graduate and played for me helps in this process tremendously.”

Coach Graham Safford ’15, Furbush’s assistant coach, also played at Bates and now coaches alongside Coach Furbush.

It is no secret that it is something special to be able to coach at one’s alma mater where one also competed as a student-athlete, and this is no exception for Furbush.

“My pride for Bates and the basketball program runs deep,” he said. “There were many coaches and professors that challenged me in ways that really helped me grow into the person I am today. I am grateful for those people who cared about my development.”

Along with trying to continue to build a legacy of excellence and success for Bates men’s basketball, Furbush explained that his goals run beyond just wins and championships. “My passion and purpose is clear: to help my student-athletes be the best versions of themselves and prepare them for the next chapter of their lives,” he said.