WMSB Profile: W&M Head Coach Tony Shaver

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Tony Shaver has turned the W&M Tribe basketball team into a perennial power, and deserves all the credit. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Since it’s basketball season, we felt it necessary to profile the man, the myth, the legend– that’s right, head coach of your William and Mary Tribe men’s basketball squad, Tony Shaver. Coach Shaver has had a very impressive career and his athletes have excelled not only on the court but in the classroom. Serving as a head coach at a school that requires stringent recruiting policies, focused especially on recruiting scholar-athletes, we think that Shaver is one of the most underrated coaches in W&M history. Let’s dive deeper, who is Tony Shaver?

Playing Career

Born in High Point, North Carolina, Shaver played collegiate basketball under legendary Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith at UNC from 1972 until 1976 on a team that made the NCAA tournament twice during Shaver’s career. The other two years he was there, the team qualified for the NIT.

However, most impressive is the fact that Shaver was initially a walk-on, who would eventually earn a scholarship his freshman season with the Tar Heels. He was also chosen by his teammates for the Butch Bennett Award, presented to the freshman who best exemplifies determination, sportsmanship and sacrifice for the team. Wow.

Shaver UNC
Tony Shaver not only played for UNC as a walk-on, but earned himself a scholarship under Dean Smith in the process. (photo via Tribeathletics.com)

All of this tells us that the traits we now know Coach Shaver by, specifically those such as determination, sportsmanship, leadership, and sacrifice, as well as a winning attitude and high basketball knowledge, were all ingrained in him in his early days, especially while playing at UNC.

Early Coaching Career: Episcopal High School

After graduating from UNC in 1976, Coach Shaver went on to coach Episcopal High School for 10 years, from 1976-1986– a private high school in the DC area. He had a very successful coaching career at Episcopal, as the team won 73% of its games, never posting a losing season. He won two IAC championships, in 1982 and 1986, which were the first two in school history.

Shaver’s 1986 team, his last at Episcopal, garnered an insane 21-2 record and was ranked No. 1 in Northern Virginia by the Alexandria Gazette and No. 14 in the Metro area by The Washington Post. In the same year, Coach Shaver was recognized as the Virginia Private School Coach of the Year, and the Alexandria Sportsman’s Club selected him as its high school basketball Coach of the Year.

In November 2005, Shaver would be inducted into the Episcopal High School Hall of Fame.

Tony Shaver Episcopal
Tony Shaver Coaching at Episcopal. Shaver would go on to establish himself as a premier high school coach, as he was inducted into Episcopal’s Hall of Fame in 2005. (via episcopalhighschool.org)

 

College Coaching Career: Hampden-Sydney 

After 10 very successful years at Episcopal High School, Coach Shaver accepted the job to coach division III basketball at Hampden-Sydney College–the private liberal arts college located in Virginia. He coached the Tigers from 1986-2003.

Shaver was head coach at Hampden-Sydney college for 17 seasons, amassing an incredible record of 358 wins and 121 losses, winning 75 percent of his games–eerily close to his 73% win mark at Episcopal. He made the Tigers a national Division III powerhouse, leading them to eight Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) titles, twelve 20-win seasons, and eleven NCAA Division III tournament appearances, including two Final Fours.

Tony Shaver HS
Tony Shaver Coaching at Hampden-Sydney. He was elected to Hampden-Sydney’s Hall of Fame in 2004. (via hscathletics.com)

In 2003, Shaver took the Tigers to the NCAA Division III Final Four after his team finished with an electric 28-4 record.  In 1999, Shaver led Hampden-Sydney to the national championship game, where the Tigers lost in dramatic fashion, by one point in double-overtime to Wisconsin-Platteville. The 1999 team finished the year 29-3, setting a school record for most wins ever in a single season.

Shaver found himself as the winningest basketball coach in program history. Along the way,  he was named the ODAC and South Region Coach of the Year in 1995, 1999 and 2000, and was picked as the Virginia Sports Information Directors Division II-III Coach of the Year in 1997, 1999 and 2000.

After a stellar career at Hampden-Sydney, Coach Shaver was named to the Hampden-Sydney College Hall of Fame in 2004.

Current Coaching Career: William and Mary

After an incredibly successful stint at Hampden-Sydney, Coach Shaver took his talents to William and Mary in 2003, where he was tasked with turning around a program that hadn’t tasted sustained basketball success in a very long time. While his early years coaching William and Mary were difficult, Coach Shaver has gone on to completely turn things around.

Over his first eight seasons alone, W&M produced three 20-win seasons and advanced to the CAA Championship game four times. Coach Shaver has twice led the program to National Invitation Tournament (NIT) berths, only the second and third postseason bids in program history (a Tribe program that began in 1936!). Coach Shaver is now William and Mary’s ALL-TIME winningest head coach, with 175 victories over 14 seasons for the Green and Gold.

Recent On-Court Success

Under Shaver, W&M has been known for its offensive prowess, typically ranking in the top 30 (nationally) in field goal percentage. Additionally, the Tribe has also been ranked in the top-15 nationally in three pointers made more than once under Shaver. It is safe to say that the offense has thrived under Coach Shaver, and has played a large role in William and Mary’s recent success.

Over the past three seasons, the Tribe posted a 20-win season each time. William and Mary also won the CAA regular season title for the first time in program history in the 2014-2015 season.

Off the Court Success: Coaching Awards 

At W&M, Shaver is a two-time CAA Coach of the Year winner (in 2007, 2008), and has also been named a finalist for the National Mid-Major Coach of the Year. He was also listed as a finalist by CollegeInsider.com for the 2015 Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, presented annually to those who not only achieve success on the basketball court but who also display moral integrity off the court–no surprise there.

Tribe Athletics’ True Mission: Producing Scholar-Athletes

While Coach Shaver’s teams have been very successful on the court, they have been even more impressive off of it, a testament to Coach Shaver and his coaching staff. In five of the last eight years, a W&M student-athlete has received the CAA’s prestigious Dean Ehlers Leadership Award, which is given to the student-athlete who best “embodies the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship in conjunction with his academic athletic achievement.”

We couldn't pass up an opportunity to post a picture of Tim Rusthoven, AKA "Beasthoven," who graduated as a true Scholar-Athlete under Head Coach Tony Shaver. [photo via Times Dispatch]
We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to post a picture of Tim Rusthoven, AKA “Beasthoven,” who graduated as a true Scholar-Athlete under Head Coach Tony Shaver. [photo via Times Dispatch]
On top of this, W&M basketball typically posts a cumulative team GPA of better than 3.0–at one of the toughest academic institutions in the country, don’t you forget. Over Shaver’s fourteen seasons at W&M, the Tribe leads the CAA with the most number of players selected as All-Academic honorees. And yes, we’d argue that W&M is the hardest academic school in the entire CAA. This is incredibly impressive.

Additionally, five times under Shaver a Tribe player has been named the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Adam Hess in 2004, David Schneider in 2008, Quinn McDowell in 2012, Kyle Gaillard in 2013 and Tim Rusthoven in 2014). Finally, In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the men’s basketball program earned NCAA Public Recognition for its perfect four-year Academic Progress Rate of 1,000, ranking among the top 10 percent nationally. What more could you possibly ask for?

Conclusion

Coach Shaver has been wildly successful wherever he has gone. He has been named to the Hall of Fame in his two previous coaching positions, and we expect him to go 3/3 after his stint at W&M. He has established a winning formula at William and Mary, which has become a team that is competing for the CAA crown every year.

The last thing he needs to do before he leaves William and Mary is get them to the coveted NCAA TOURNAMENT! W&M remains one of the “Sad Five” original D-1 NCAA teams that have never qualified for the NCAA Tournament, along with West Point (Army), St. Francis Brooklyn, the Citadel, and Northwestern (it’s looking like Northwestern will undoubtedly receive at least an at-large bid this season).

Coach Shaver has come painstakingly close in the recent past, leaving us hoping that the time will come soon. But one thing is for certain: as long as we have Coach, we have a shot. Keep up the great work, Coach Shaver! See you in Charleston on March 3. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

 

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