L3 Leadership Podcast #114: Interview with Coach Andy Toole, Robert Morris University Basketball

By September 11, 2016Blog, Leadership, Podcast

In this episode of the L3 Leadership podcast, Doug Smith interviews Andy Toole, Coach of the Robert Morris University Basketball team. They talk coaching, team-building, leadership, and more.

L3 Leadership Podcast #114: Interview with Andy Toole, Robert Morris University Head Basketball Coach

Interview with Andy Toole, Coach of the Robert Morris University Basketball Team

Interview with Andy Toole, Coach of the Robert Morris University Basketball Team

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Coach Andy Tool’s Bio:

Presiding over the golden age of Robert Morris University men’s basketball is Andrew Toole, who is in his seventh season as the head coach of the Colonials in 2016-17.

Introduced as the eighth head coach in the program’s 40-year Division I history at a press conference at the Charles L. Sewall Center May 11, 2010, Toole signed a two-year contract extension at RMU April 15, 2015, and will lead the Colonials through the 2019-20 campaign. In six seasons under Toole’s tutelage, the Colonials have posted an overall record of 120-87 (.580), including a mark of 73-33 (.689) against Northeast Conference opponents.

Toole has overseen the most successful stretch in school history during his nine-year tenure at Robert Morris. Named an assistant coach under former head coach Mike Rice in 2007, Toole was elevated to associate head coach the following season before taking over the reigns as head coach in 2010.

During Toole’s six seasons as head coach at RMU, the Colonials have claimed two NEC regular-season championships (2013, 2014), appeared in four NEC Tournament championship games (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) and have made four national postseason appearances. Robert Morris played in its first CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) in 2012, earned automatic bids to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in both 2013 and 2014 and appeared in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Four of RMU’s five victories in a national postseason tournament have come under Toole. In 2011-12, his second year as head coach, Toole led the Colonials to an overall record of 26-11 (.703). Robert Morris tied a school record for victories by advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2012 CIT thanks to road wins over Indiana State (3/13/12) and Toledo (3/17/12).

In 2012-13, RMU claimed its 10th NEC regular-season championship with a ledger of 14-4 (.778) in conference action and overall finished 24-11 (.686). Robert Morris earned a spot in the 2013 NIT, advancing to the second round thanks to a landmark 59-57 victory over Kentucky (3/19/13) in front of 3,444 fans at the Charles L. Sewall Center, the largest crowd in school history.

RMU earned its second straight NEC regular-season crown in 2013-14 with a record of 14-2 (.875) in league play and finished 22-14 (.611) overall. For his efforts, Toole was named the 2014 NEC Jim Phelan Coach of the Year. Led by a career-high 38 points from 2014 NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson (2012-14), the Colonials notched a win in the first round of the NIT for the second consecutive year with an 89-78 victory at St. John’s (3/18/14). In the history of the NIT, a No. 8 seed has knocked off a No. 1 seed just four times, with Robert Morris owning two of those victories thanks to its wins over Kentucky and St. John’s.

Toole guided Robert Morris to an overall record of 20-15 (.571) in 2014-15, including a mark of 12-6 (.667) in the NEC. The Colonials finished in a tie for second place with Bryant in the league standings and as the No. 2 seed claimed the 2015 NEC Tournament title with a 66-63 win at No. 1 seed St. Francis Brooklyn (3/10/15). The win over the Terriers helped RMU secure its league-high eighth NEC Tournament title and subsequent bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Robert Morris earned its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1983 and second overall in program history by posting an 81-77 victory over North Florida (3/18/15) as part of the 2015 NCAA First Four at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. Two days later the Colonials fell to eventual 2015 national champion Duke (3/20/15), 85-56, in Charlotte, N.C.

In his first season at the helm in 2010-11, Toole guided RMU to an overall record of 18-14 (.563), including a mark of 12-6 (.667) in the NEC. The Colonials advanced to the championship game of the NEC Tournament, falling three minutes shy of earning their third straight title before falling in overtime at LIU Brooklyn (3/9/11), 85-82.

Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Robert Morris owns an overall record of 193-118 (.621). RMU’s 193 wins over the nine-year period is tied with Valparaiso for 13th among mid-major programs during that stretch.

While RMU’s overall success is apparent, the program’s accomplishments in the NEC are also clear.

Over the last nine years, the Colonials have posted a mark of 119-41 (.744) against league opposition. Robert Morris won outright NEC regular-season titles in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014 and shared the championship in 2010 with Quinnipiac.

In 2008, the Colonials made their first appearance in the NIT, dropping an 87-81 decision to No. 1 overall seed Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. In both 2009 and 2010, RMU earned automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament thanks to winning its sixth and seventh NEC Tournament championships, respectively.


Personal Questions

  • Tell us about yourself and what you do.
  • Give us a brief overview of your leadership journey – how did you get to where you are today? What made the biggest difference in getting you to where you are?

Coaching and Leadership:

  • A few years ago, you beat Kentucky and you’ve also had the opportunity to play Coach K and Duke – Can you tell us about those experiences and what they taught you?
  • As a player who helped your team go to the NCAA Tournament, how did playing impact how you coach? What did you learn about leadership as a player that carried over into your coaching?
  • What did you think you knew as a player about leadership and coaching that wasn’t actually true when you stepped into coaching?
  • What coaches do you study and learn from to help shape your leadership style? What is it about them that you want to emulate? What did you take from each coach?
  • What have you learned about leadership from coaching?
  • What are some the most exciting part of being a head coach?
  • What are some the most frustrating parts?
  • What qualities do you look for when recruiting players?
  • What character traits do you find yourself having to help men grow through the most? How do you help them do that? Where do you see young leaders “missing it” most often?
  • What can young leaders do to set themselves apart on their team or organization?
  • What do you do every season to intentionally build a strong team and strong men? How do you relate to your players and get your message across on a daily basis?
    • For example, do you have core values that you drill into the team? If so, what are they? How do you actually get players to live them out?
    • In your experience coaching leaders, where do you find yourself spending the most time helping people develop?
  • How would you describe the culture of the RMU Basketball team? How did you get it there and how do you sustain it!
  • Can you talk about the need for candor and care when it comes to coaching?
    • How have you learned to deal with the parts of leadership that just plain stink?
    • If you were not good at dealing with these issues in the beginning of your journey, how have you grown to the point of handling them well?

Personal Leadership:

  • How did you deal with the insecurities that may have come from being the youngest D-1 coach?
  • What do you wish people knew about what it took to get to where you’re at in this stage of your journey?
      • What books do you find yourself giving away most often?
      • What are some of your daily disciplines and routines that help keep you as effective as possible?
      • What have you learned about failure?

Closing Questions:

  • If you could go back and give your 20 year old self advice, what would you tell him?
  • Out of everything you’ve accomplished in your life, what are you most proud of?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?


  • Mastermind Groups – We have small groups that meet the 2nd & 4th Wednesday of every month.  E-mail Doug atdougsmith@l3leadership.org if you are interested.


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