HAMMOND — Rick Costello stood before a packed room at Purdue Northwest on Thursday afternoon and spoke to the excited supporters of the NCAA Division II school.

When the Pride's athletic director announced that Brian "Boomer" Roberts was the new men's basketball coach, 4-year-old Griffin Roberts pumped his fists in the air as his dad walked to the podium.

Moments later when Griffin was brought up to meet the crowd and was asked what his favorite sport was, he almost screamed, "Basketball," with his hands raised up to the sky again.

The moment perfectly illustrated what his father wants to do. Roberts wants to bring a family atmosphere to the Pride's struggling hoops program, which won just two games last season.

He said he wants to teach young men to be faithful fathers and husbands, but since they're keeping score they might as well win games, too.

"Everything I've ever had, or my family has had, has come from the Lord's hand," said Roberts, a devout Christian who has only coached at faith-based schools in the past. "We all know one day the ball will stop bouncing. So I need to lead these young men to be faithful fathers and faithful husbands.

"That's what will count most when I go into eternity."

Roberts replaces former PNW coach Matt Bush, who died from cancer in April.

Roberts was raised in Phoenix, where his father, Dave coached high school basketball for a decade.

"I was raised in the gym with 15 older brothers," Roberts said, again pointing out the importance of strong family connections.

He played basketball at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, then served as an assistant coach there from 2008-14. In his final season, Vanguard won the NAIA Division I men's national championship.

He then became head coach at Trinity International University in Bannockburn, Illinois. Trinity International was 84-48 in the four years Roberts was on the bench.

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The year before he arrived, the Trojans won five games. In his third season, 2016-17, Trinity International won 30 games and reached the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II national tournament. The Trojans made the NAIA Division II national tournament again this past season.

After the 2016-17 season, Roberts was named the National Christian College Athletic Association's regional co-coach of the year.

"Being in the Region, a name I'm getting used to now, this is a great, untapped area for talent," Roberts said. "Chicago and Indianapolis are great areas, too. I have connections in Milwaukee and California as well.

"We have to create a family with the guys we have, I want all of our players to love each other and work together like brothers and we can get the ball rolling."

Roberts was joined at the conference by his wife, Brittney, the coach of the family, he said, and their 1-year-old son Trey.

Roberts said he understands Indiana's unique basketball history. He said he watched "Hoosiers" when he was 5, then played some basketball with Maris Valainis in a men's league in California. Valainis played Jimmy Chitwood in Hoosiers.

"He could still shoot the same when I played with him as he did in the movie," Roberts said.

Roberts said he loves athletes and wants to get them to come to PNW. He believes in pushing the ball offensively. He is learning the returning Pride players and hopes to start building with them.

As far as coaching at a public university that does not have a religious affiliation, Roberts was very clear about one thing.

"The rules will not change who I am," he said.

And you can almost see those 4-year-old fists pumping in the air, again.


Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.