KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- At 14-years-old Jeremiah Samarrippas knew he wanted to pursue a career in coaching, 14 years later he’s taking over one of the best division two programs in the country.
On April 1, Lincoln Memorial announced the longest-tenured assistant of former head coach Josh Schertz would be taking over, becoming the 18th head coach for the men’s basketball program. The Florida native joined the team as a graduate assistant for the 2014-15 season and was hired as a full-time assistant following LMU’s program-record 34 wins and a national championship appearance.
Since joining the team, the Railsplitters have an incredible 197-28 record; including five 30-win seasons, have reached three Division II Final Fours including this past season, won three NCAA Southeast Region championships, and posted a remarkable 107-6 record at home.
“I’m super fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity to not only work for a great university, but lead a great group of guys,” said the new head coach. “I’m just fortunate that I get to continue to do what I love and coach the game that I love. I’m so excited.”
LMU’s season came to a heartbreaking end in the program’s third NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship semifinal. On March 25, Top-seeded West Texas A&M hit a buzzer-beater three, ending the Railsplitters’ quest for its first-ever national title.
LMU played in its first national championship game in the 2015-16 season but fell short to Augustana. Despite the program’s consistent success, LMU is the only remaining collegiate basketball program in the state without national title.
Samarrippas has a chance to change that during his reign.
“Having that chip on my shoulder, not just me, but our players. They want to get back,” said Samarrippas. “That’s a goal to try to get back there, but we want to take it one day at a time.”
Samarrippas said he knows he has, “big shoes to fill” replacing Schertz, who left Harrogate after 13 years to help restore Indiana State men’s basketball to its 1970’s glory but gives credit to coaches he has played for and worked alongside with preparing him for this opportunity.
In his seven years at LMU Samarrippas saw how much Schertz cared for his staff, players and university and attacked each day with a positive attitude and gave 100 percent effort, has helped ease him into this new role.
“Just doing the small things every day, coming to work, trying to tackle the day….being process-oriented and making sure that every day, I do the best that I can as a head coach running this program for our players and get them to think the same way,” said Samarripppas.
Samarrippas has had a key role in developing All-SAC guards at LMU and recruiting All-American talent including Chris Perry (2017), Courvoisier McCauley (2020), and Devin Whitfield (2021).
“We want to have smart players, not only off the court but on the court as well because I think if you have high IQ guys, you can compete with anybody.,” said Sammarrippas on the types of players he is looking to add to the program.
“A lot of coaches try to recruit with athleticism and try to get the tallest guy and the strongest guy and the guy that can jump out of the gym. We want to get those types of guys, but we also want to be very smart and be able to play out there, make decisions, and reads at the same time. I think that’s huge in today’s game.”
While players are the heart of a program, the coaches are the backbone and right now Sammarrippas is focused on building a strong support system.
An offensive juggernaut LMU averaged just under 93 points this past season, ended the season with a 19-4 record, and ranked atop the South Atlantic Conference in win percentage, ranked top five in the nation in field goal percentage, and captured its league-record ninth SAC regular-season title in 11 years.
Samarrippas said the program models itself after NBA teams in the way they play and operate and is looking to continue that has head coach.
“Being able to stay ahead of the curve and play like some of the NBA teams are playing, I want to continue that trend and play that way if we can. So having guys on staff that, know that and know the game and can relate to players and have a great relationship with players. I think that’s super important.”
While Samarrippas said there is not much he wants to change about the program, as he has been a part of its rise to becoming a perennial Division II power but looks to leave his mark while at the helm–by developing standout players both on and off of the court.
“Obviously we want to win a lot of basketball games and try to stay at the same level that we’re at. But seeing kids graduate, seeing guys accomplish their goals, I think we’ve had the most pros in division two. So, a lot of kids want to come here and take that next step when they leave LMU. I think this is a place that not only you can win a lot of basketball games and have a great career, but set yourself up to be a pro.”