New men’s basketball coach reflects on past as a General, preps for season ahead

Chris McHugh, ’09, hopes to inspire and mentor the young men on his team just like his coaches did when he went to W&L

Elly Cosgrove

Jeremy Franklin, WLUR general manager, walked into the tiny gym of Washington College on Nov. 22, 2008, to provide play-by-play radio commentary for the men’s basketball game against Washington and Lee University.

“At the time, they had a tiny gym that was smaller than your average high school’s,” Franklin said about Washington College’s gym. “They had one set of bleachers that was just kind of half open, so I was literally sitting on half of a bleacher with my equipment next to me.”

Little did Franklin know that he was about to provide commentary for one of the best game-time winning shots he had ever witnessed throughout his career with the Generals.

“Jones fires it to McHugh. McHugh to the left sideline throws up a 35-footer and banks it in!”

These are the words Franklin exclaimed into his microphone as Chris McHugh, a senior at the time, launched the winning three-pointer to beat Washington College by two.

Fast-forward nine years, and McHugh is now head coach of the W&L men’s basketball program. His new position was announced by the athletic department this past August.

“To be on this side really completes the full circle that now I can give back and mentor and lead young men like I was led when I was here,” McHugh said.

Many on campus still remember McHugh’s time here as a student-athlete and the mark he left on the program.

“Chris McHugh was an outstanding leader as a player and he was the loudest player on the court,” Matt Phillips, W&L assistant athletic trainer, said. “First one to practice, last one to leave, always wanting to put in extra time.”

Phillips has been an athletic trainer since McHugh’s time as a student-athlete and recalls several instances that encompass the head coach’s determination as a key player for the Generals.

“Chris had gone up to get a rebound and got elbowed or punched in the throat and was having trouble breathing,” Phillips said. “But he had to go running off the court, I don’t know if he had to get sick or what but he was having trouble breathing and play resumed… but then he was able to compose himself, get back down on offense and ended up making a three on that possession.”

Since graduating from W&L in 2009, McHugh spent three years assistant coaching at Mount Saint Mary College, one year at Connecticut College and four years at Emory University. Emory made four NCAA runs and one Elite Eight appearance during his time with the Eagles.

“I think I’m taking a little bit from everybody,” McHugh said about what he’s bringing to the program. “I’m trying to meld a lot of what I learned at each spot and kind of infuse our personality of what I think can work here for our guys at W&L.”

McHugh said that one of the team’s goals this year is to “improve every day and combine all of our individual talents so that we can overachieve as a group.”

“We are better than just a collection of individuals and where that falls record wise or how far we’ll go or how we’ll do in the ODAC, that’s to be determined,” he said.

The men’s basketball’s season does not officially start until the middle of October. In the meantime, the team has been playing pick-up games and working on strength and conditioning.

“I can’t wait for us to be together as a group where I can actually get in there and coach,” McHugh said. “This is a well-coached and talented group, and I am excited to see us compete and embrace the challenge of our non-conference and ODAC schedule.”