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McKay, Liberty agree to third multiyear contract extension
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McKay, Liberty agree to third multiyear contract extension

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Ritchie McKay led Liberty to its third consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title March 7. One month later, the university rewarded the men’s basketball coach with a third contract extension.

Liberty announced Wednesday it signed McKay to a third contract extension in as many years. The latest pact will keep McKay in Lynchburg through the 2027-28 campaign.

Liberty, as a private university, did not release the terms of the latest extension.

“I’m very appreciative of the commitment that’s been shown to my family and our basketball family. I understand that when success or a semblance of success is attained, options usually get presented,” McKay said in a phone interview. “I think we’ve had some opportunities to change addresses, and we’ve done that before in our career. I love where I am now and where we are, and the people that I’m around make this place pretty special.”

McKay has spent the past 14 years in the Central Virginia area between his eight seasons at Liberty and six seasons as Tony Bennett’s associate head coach at Virginia.

He had previously coached at Portland State, Colorado State, Oregon State and New Mexico before arriving at Liberty prior to the 2007-08 season.

“I really feel at peace about where we are,” said McKay, who has a record of 177-92 in his eight seasons coaching at Liberty and owns a career record of 342-250 in 18 seasons coaching at the Division I level.

The Flames, playing in an uneven 2020-21 campaign because of the coronavirus pandemic, extended their streak of 20-win seasons to five with a 23-6 record. They have won 82 games and three ASUN tournament titles in the past three seasons.

Liberty won its first NCAA Tournament game under McKay’s guidance in the 2019 tournament, and it missed out on playing in the 2020 edition when the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

The Flames were knocked out in the first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament by Oklahoma State.

“I think our guys have accomplished something that’s really hard to do, and that’s three consecutive conference championships and this year we won an outright regular-season championship,” McKay said. “I think because of that, I think our university feels like we’ve got a good thing going and we want to try to continue to grow it.”

Gonzaga, with 95 victories, is the only team with more triumphs than Liberty since the start of the 2018-19 season.

“We’re grateful that Coach McKay has made a long-term commitment to Liberty,” athletic director Ian McCaw said in a phone interview. “I think that, coupled with the opening of the new arena, really signals a bright future for our program. Obviously what he’s done over the last three years building this program into being among the winningest in the nation is really remarkable, and capturing three straight conference championships. We’re certainly excited about his success; we’re excited about his loyalty. He really, to me, embodies the term ‘selfless exceptionalism’ in how he goes about his business, and we’re very grateful and fortunate he’s leading our basketball program.”

McKay and the Flames went 13-0 at home inside Liberty Arena, the new $65 million home for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball programs. Liberty has won 36 consecutive home games dating back to the 2018-19 season, a stretch that ranks second to Gonzaga’s 51 straight home triumphs.

“I think that new arena is fabulous. I get that there might be some questions about its size, but I love the intimacy of it,” McKay said. “ … There is a commitment to growing it and it’s been evident.”

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