Christ the King head coach Bob Mackey is the definition of a lifer when it comes to the game of basketball. Whether it’s leading his team to a plethora of state championships, or coaching legends like Sue Bird and Tina Charles, Mackey has seen – and done – it all.
The thing is, coaching wasn’t always his plan.
“I had an argument with my high school coach and quit (playing),” Mackey said. “So then I got bored and I went down to a local high school and became the JV coach.”
Mackey, who returned to the Hoophall Classic this year for the first time since 2018, is in the midst of his 40th total season as a coach－33 of them being at Christ the King. He credits former Villanova head coach Jay Wright, UConn women’s head coach Geno Auriemma and former University of Virginia head coach Terry Holland with piquing his interest in the profession and showing him the ropes.
Mackey doesn’t just limit himself to coaching.
He also serves as the athletic director at Christ the King and teaches honors chemistry, where he has led multiple science research projects.
Despite the countless wins and devastating losses, Mackey’s real pride and joy of coaching lies in the impact he has on his players.
“When you see them light up, that’s the best part,” Mackey said. “When you see a kid who just picks it up, whether it be Tina Charles or Sue Bird or even (current freshman) Olivia Vukoska, when you see them light up when they make a shot or after they make a stop…that’s what it’s all about.”
Mackey has enjoyed success since the moment he took over as head coach of the Royals’ girls basketball program 22 years ago, compiling many wins and so few losses.
In 2018, he led CTK to its 25th state championship overall, posting a 26-4 record – earning Mackey the USA Today All-USA Girls Basketball High School Coach of the Year award. It was the third time thatMackey’ received the award; he also won it in 2005 and 2006 – when his team posted a perfect 30-0 record.
One thing that truly personifies Mackey’s impact are the members of his coaching staff throughout his career.
Countless alumni have come back to help coach at CTK, both in the past and to this day. Whether it be Clare Droesch, who coached with Mackey during his 2018 run and played under Mackey before going on to play at Boston College, or current assistants Joe Deluca and Sharod Tomlinson, both of whom played for the men’s teams and were students of Mackey, his impact has been felt.
“It’s great to have them back,” Mackey said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job all year.”
A large part of what has made the program successful is the culture Mackey created at CTK.
“We’ve had some great people come through this program,” Mackey said. “We’ve had great players play at the professional level…that’s just what the good programs do.”
That culture came full circle for the Royals’ family during one of Bird’s final WNBA games when Mackey and former CTK alumni came to show support.
“With Sue’s last game in Brooklyn, we were all there,” Mackey said. “It was special, and it’s still so fun to talk to her.”
Although his team lost 64-47 to La Jolla Country Day (CA) at the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic on Friday, Mackey’s influence on the next generation of young women’s basketball players was apparent. Some things remain the same no matter the game’s result. Whenever Mackey is on the sidelines, he will be seen sporting his signature black, gold and maroon sweater vest, pacing back and forth- encouraging his team until the final buzzer sounds.
Photo: Luke Whitehouse/Springfield Student