Wooldridge Changes Roles at Riverside
After six seasons as the head basketball coach at UC Riverside, the former Kansas State basketball coach is now six months into his post as interim athletic director for the Highlanders.
"It's setting mid- and long-range goals, it's about organizational skills, it's about people skills and it's about doing things together," said Wooldridge. "That sounds like coaching to me."
The 58-year-old Wooldridge had coached Riverside to a six-year record of 70-112, which included winning a school record 17 games in 2008-09, before slipping to seasons of 12, 12, 14 and six wins in the last four years.
"It's been a process. We've only been a Division I program for 13 years," said Wooldridge. "We're trying to build a legacy. Kansas State has a legacy... we're working on it.
"We're working every day to improve just like I did when I was coaching. It's the old Bill Snyder approach," said Wooldridge. "I do the same thing. I did the same thing as a coach and now I'm doing the same thing as an administrator. We're working on improving each and every program that we have."
Wooldridge had coaching stints at Central Missouri State, Southwest Texas State, Louisiana Tech and Kansas State where he posted a collective 382 wins as a head coach, not to mention a brief stay with the NBA Chicago Bulls as an assistant coach.
"I don't know if I was ready to leave coaching, but this was a new opportunity that presented itself and my answer was yes," said Wooldridge of becoming an administrator. "I was excited about the new challenge and I've enjoyed it. I'm still trying to win games, but in every sport. I'm not void of the athletic experience at all."
Wooldridge is hoping that the "interim" title will be removed this month, but says, "I'm just working as hard as I can and letting that process take care of itself."
If there's one specific thing that Wooldridge has missed in the last two months of not coaching, he said, "There's no better feeling than winning a particular game. It's hard to put into words and I have missed that opportunity to win a game."
Wooldridge's biggest win at K-State came in his final season. It was January 14, 2006. It came against the Kansas Jayhawks. Not only that, but the game was played in Allen Fieldhouse. The final score: Kansas State 59, Kansas 55. The victory snapped an overall 31-game losing streak to the Jayhawks dating back to the 1994 season.
"The pinnacle of my time at K-State was when the buzzer went off in Allen Fieldhouse and we were the winning team," said Wooldridge, with the memory of the game bringing a dance to his voice. "It was such a short bus ride home. It was a chance to think about the number of people that win affected. Great people like Ernie and Bonnie Barrett, Jack and Donna Vanier, and so many more.
"People greeted us at Bramlage when we got back and we had people over to the house late that night," recalled Wooldridge, who was 83-90 in his six years with the Wildcats. "It was really a magical 24 hours. It was so meaningful to hand our fans a victory. It was really was a cool deal. (Pause) It really was a cool deal."
Today, Wooldridge is trying for more magical moments at UC Riverside, which is a member of the Big West Conference.
The school has an enrollment of 22,000 students in a Riverside community of nearly two million people located 60 miles east of Los Angeles and about the same distance north of San Diego. Riverside is a major research school, has a medical school, and Wooldridge said is a school where the average GPA for the enrollment is nearly a 4.0.
"There's so much going on in this area that it's difficult to brand yourself and create an identity," said Wooldridge. "There is a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar. Creating a brand is one of our biggest challenges."