For any small college team, branding is important. For the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team, theirs is not only catchy, it’s true– #SuccessWithLess.
The saying and subsequent hashtag’s creation are credited to graduate assistant, Thomas “Tank” Shiffert.
“The coaches were telling me the scholarship money situation, I thought ‘they’ve been really successful with not as much [funding] as the other schools, so it was success with less,” Shiffert said. “I thought it was only for certain times, it just kind of sticks now.”
“Social media is such an important way to get your message out there,” Graduate assistant Aaron Kollar said. “The way to do it is just to hit it hard and they are going to associate those hash tags with our program, it’s going to help us stay around.”
The meaning of the Rock men’s team social media branding stems from the achievements the program has brought with much less financial help available. Slippery Rock ranks dead last in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in total scholarship aid available with $114,188, $327,537 dollars less than Merchyhurst who The Rock faced in the first round of the PSAC playoffs last year.
“’Success with less’ is that we haven’t had for nine years what the other teams have had, but we’ve had success,” Slippery Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “We don’t make excuses, we knew we had to work harder.”
While financial struggles are common for small-college athletics, the results SRU has churned out while being so financially restricted is outstanding.
Compared to 1998-2008, the Rock has a plus 98 win differential from 2008-2017; which is the fifth-most in the contry and more than 30 wins better than the second-most in the PSAC.
“We used to be that kind of team where the other team could put in their 13th, 14th and 15th guys versus us, and the crowd goes nuts because those guys work hard in practice,” Reynolds said.
“When you play Slippery Rock now, you know that it’s going to be a big game. No matter where we go, it’s the best crowd of the year at their place.”
Reynolds attributes this success to the players that he has had, and his assistant coaching staff.
“The other part of the success with less coach Grady and the GAs,” Reynolds said. “There isn’t a more valuable assistant coach in the PSAC for any sport, that’s just what it is. Look at the wins and look what we’ve done it with.”
Attracting coaches and players to a program that receives weak financial support can’t be easy, but Kollar jumped at the chance to come back to SRU.
“Any opportunity to continue my education and continue working in basketball was obvious,” Kollar said. “Working for Coach Reynolds for two years as a manager was a great experience, so I definitely wanted to stay as a GA.”
Reynolds has been at SRU since 2008, meaning his first year was the first of the huge turnaround that the Green and White are in the midst of. While Reynolds is never one to speak on his own behalf, his assistant coaches have a high opinion of his work.
“He’s been very successful out here, so it was a no brainer [to join the program],” Shiffert said.
The branding of the Slippery Rock team, which also includes the social media slogans of #RockBoys and #GlassCleaners (relating to the team’s rebounding proficiency) has done a great job of bringing everyone around the program together.
“[The hash tags] mean that we work with what we have and we find ways to break the mold. If you’ve ever watched Moneyball, that’s the kind of mindset we have,” Kollar said. “Everybody else has a lot more than we do, and we need to find a way to stay competitive, even though we aren’t up there with the other teams in terms of funding.”
“Everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder now, knowing that we’re working with less but we’re at the same level as those other teams competing,” Shiffert said. “We’re grinding as coach [Reynolds] would say.”
Even though Slippery Rock has done a tremendous job with their turnaround, they are still hungry to further improve what they’ve done.
“We’re not satisfied. We’re happy with what we’ve done, we’re prideful of what we’ve done, but we’re not done yet,” Reynolds said.
Slippery Rock will look to build even further upon that win differential when they start play on November 11th, versus Glenville State.
This season is Reynolds 10th, which came as a surprise to the coach that he had been at the Rock that long.
“I don’t think if you asked me when I first came that I would [have thought] I’d be here for ten years. It’s been a great ten years and I’ve really enjoyed it,” Reynolds said. “The people inside the buildings at SRU are what have made these ten years good. Time flies when you’re having fun.”