Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

Tony Skinn opens up about his first week as Mason’s head coach.


Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tony Skinn weighed in on how he handled the home opener versus Monmouth on Nov. 6. He is in the midst of his inaugural season at the helm for a program that has only three returning players from this past campaign. 

“I’ve been around this game a long time. I’ve played at the highest level and some really crazy atmospheres, so the nerves were probably not there for me. It was more so just trying to stay focused you know I can lead these guys to victory… that was it.”

He lays out his coaching style in four categories: Attitude, commitment, class and family. “If you have the right attitude, for the most part, you’ll be successful from the basketball standpoint,” Skinn said.  As for commitment, he said, “…there’s a lot of really good basketball players out there that just float with their talent level. But they’re not always committed and so there’s a certain type of commitment that you have to have to play for me.”

For the last two pillars, there is an overlap in messaging. Despite that, it still has a lot of weight within Skinn’s style. “For class, you got to be able to handle yourself in a high degree… because you’re representing not just the university, you’re also representing the name on the back of your jersey.”

To understand how Skinn is in the position he is in today, you have to go back to his professional playing days in 2012. He was gearing up to play for Team Nigeria in that year’s Olympics. “I had an injury… and it was a quad injury: A very tough injury to come back from.” Skinn said. “I had fully separated it and I went through rehab for about a year, year, and a half.”

“Once I started to feel a little bit better I still didn’t feel right in my knee. I remember going back to the doctor and then they had to do another procedure…I woke up to a micro fracture. So, that was kind of when I panicked. I thought to myself: You’re 30 years old; you never had a job before. Basketball was the only job I had ever had.” Skinn said

“I kind of thought to myself: What am I going to do next?” Skinn said.

Luckily, Skinn found a new avenue: Coaching basketball. “I was fortunate that I had some resources with coaching in high school coaching, in AAU. I just kind of just stepped into it. I didn’t really know the landscape; and from there, it just lined myself up to the notion that, ‘I think I have to coach.’”

As for his coaching origins, the first coach he worked under was current Tulsa Hurricane’s Coach Eric Konkol. Skinn said, “…we have always maintained a steady, good relationship and communicated all the time, and he was with Coach [Larrañaga] at the University of Miami. Then he got his first job at Louisiana Tech in 2015; and at that point I was going into my second-year coaching AAU, and coaching high school.” Skinn said.

“He wanted me to be a part of his staff. So, I looked back at it: I would say Eric Konkol gave me my first opportunity. Without Eric Konkol going out on the limb for me with no experience, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Flash forward to 2023. Three home games have come and gone and the first was a win over the Monmouth Hawks. In the game, the Patriots collected thirty-four offensive rebounds and secured eighteen bench points in the 72-61 win. “You got to flip the page and go to the next game…you know once this thing gets rolling, there’s no time to adjust.”

As for Austin Peay, Skinn lays it out clearly what they bring to the table. “You got a Head Coach coming from Northwestern State where he was successful. I truly believe he was a couple of possessions away from going to the NCAA tournament. He’s brought with… what does Deion Sanders say? ‘He brought his luggage with him.’ He has got a group that plays fast. They shoot a lot of threes; in their previous game they shot forty-one threes which is, I mean, that is a lot of threes. So, I expect us to see a team that’s going to play with a lot of confidence”

In that game, the Patriots would contain the Governors’ three-point attack to just three three-pointers made on nineteen attempts. The Patriots would eclipse the opposition with seven made on twenty-five attempts. The Patriots would cruise to a 67-45 win, with their biggest lead at any point of the game being at the 17:07 mark of the second half.

For home games at EagleBank Arena, Skinn expects the fans in attendance to apply what he calls “Patriot Pressure” to opposing teams. “Patriot Pressure is simply this: We’re going to play. We’re also going to play fast. There is a press that kind of gets us going. But overall, Patriot Pressure is not limited to us,” Skinn said.

Skinn leaves a challenge to the school and community. “Patriot Pressure is not limited to us… Fairfax: This is a non-football school, come support the team.” There is still time as there is definitely more basketball to be played in this burgeoning campaign.