Hoffman finally receives national recognition

Justin Baxley, Staff Writer

After 34 years of hard work, dedication and a passion for the game of basketball, Bob Hoffman, head coach of the Mercer Bears men’s basketball team, is finally receiving national recognition.

Coach Hoffman has won the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year award in 2013 and 2014. He has also been awarded the Atlanta Tipoff Club Georgia Coach of the Year award and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes John Lotz “Barnabas” award. Along with the nine victories over high majors schools, such as Duke University, the Bears also won the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship in 2014. Coach Hoffman has finally convinced fans and experts alike that he belongs among the best coaches in college basketball.

On July 3, ESPN released its list of top 50 coaches in college basketball, and Coach Hoffman was one of the coaches that they selected. MidMajormadness.com conducted a poll on who is the best mid major coach in the country, and Coach Hoffman received well over fifty percent of the final vote. Again, this shows that Coach Hoffman ranks in the upper echelon of college hoops.

“I already knew he was one of the best coaches in the country, but now I have proof for everybody that he is one of the best,” said senior forward T.J Hallice.

Coach Hoffman looks at the awards and recognition as an honor but turns more of the spotlight on to his players, assistant coaches and the university instead.

“It is an honor for our program to have the exposure when we get mentioned with those other coaches because those guys are unbelievable,” said Hoffman.

His love for the game and the student athletes with whom he gets to work are the things that got him into coaching in the first place.

“I knew in junior high that I wanted to be a coach because I saw it as a vehicle to hopefully make a difference in young people’s lives,” said Hoffman.

A former player is now following in Coach Hoffman’s footsteps. Kevin Canevari, now graduate assistant, decided that he wanted to coach after spending four years under Coach Hoffman. Coach Hoffman was the person who helped influence him into coaching.

“Watching how he motivated our team and got the best out of us, it really inspired me and added fuel to my desire to want to be a coach,” said Canevari.

With all these accomplishments and accolades piling up for Coach Hoffman, he stills remains humble and focused on getting back to NCAA tournament.

Doing so, however, could be a challenge after losing seven seniors to graduation. Coach Hoffman put a lot of time and effort into bringing in guys who can step in immediately.

“We go after guys who are dedicated to the game, who are willing to work and those that can be groomed into not only great players but high character athletes,” said Hoffman.

Stephon Jelks, freshman for the Bears, is one of those players coming with this recruiting class.

“Coach Hoffman really showed he was interested in me and was not like some coaches, who go away and comeback,” said Jelks. “He saw a lot of potential in me and is making me a better player.”

Jelks joins five other freshmen in this class as well the veterans that remain from last season.

Regardless of what this season holds for the Mercer Bears, the fans can be sure to see the same Coach Hoffman patrolling the sidelines with the same fire and passion that he has always had. “The faces may change, but coach and the mentality will never change,” said Hallice.