He may not see much playing time as a member of the men’s basketball team, but unheralded senior Erik Goldbach brings no shortage of energy, enthusiasm and emotion to the sidelines.
From elaborate high fives and handshakes with teammates to his fist-pumping and ground-crawling moves, the senior walk-on has a contagious passion for the game and his teammates.
The 6-foot-1 guard from Lancaster, Pennyslvania, stuck it out as a team manager for three years before earning a coveted roster spot this season.
And what a season it was — the Cougars finished with a 23-8 record and are the No. 2 seed in the 2017 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship on March 3-6 at the North Charleston Coliseum. If the team wins the tourney, Goldbach and the rest of the Cougars will be guaranteed to make their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1999.
Goldbach, a communication major and coaching minor, answers a few questions about his journey and, of course, his irresistible sideline antics.
What made you decide to come to CofC?
I had AAU tournaments in the South and I liked the beach, so I decided to see what schools down here had to offer me. One of my sister’s friends also encouraged me to look at CofC. I convinced my dad (John) to come down here to visit. The first day we visited was Second Sunday on King Street, and then we both knew I needed to go to school here.
Describe your transition from student manager to roster player.
When I first arrived at the College of Charleston, there weren’t any available roster spots. I decided to stay to be a team manager. After my freshman year, the coaches had a meeting with me, because of limited roster spots again. I thought about transferring to play somewhere else, but the relationships I had already formed were too strong for me to do that. With the new coaching staff, I knew I had to gain their trust and show them I was good enough. I didn’t want to quit. To me, transferring would have been a sign of quitting. I would have always regretted doing that, because that would mean I didn’t believe in myself. My junior year, there was still no availability. I’ve been on the scout team the past four years and I’ve progressed each year.
Where does your big personality on the court come from?
I’ve always been the class clown and the one that speaks the loudest in a room. It probably comes from my mom (Karla). She has the biggest personality. I’m so excited and I genuinely care about basketball and this program so much that sometimes I don’t even think about what I’m doing, I just do it. Then I’ll look back, and think, ‘wow, I really just did that. I just crawled on the ground!’
This is such a ‘walk-on thing to say,’ but part of my job is being bench captain. To me, you have to take pride in doing what your job is. I feel my biggest job during games is to ensure that morale is high and that we’re confident and emotional. Passion is infectious and I would like to think I have an infectious personality. If you see someone cheering and they’re passionate, then most likely that will make someone else do the same thing.
What has been the biggest difference between your senior year and previous years?
It doesn’t feel any different in the locker room. The only difference is on game days. I’m amped up, because it’s different having a jersey on. We run out of the tunnel, it’s an amazing feeling. There are some games this year when I feel like if there is a kid in the stands who doesn’t even like sports, they would fall in love with the sport instantly. Games like the UNCW game make you fall in love with the sport again just because of the passion and how loud it gets in the arena. Moments like that are why we play sports and show what sports can do.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
I play music you wouldn’t think would be pump-up music – because it’s not. Ninety five percent of the time this season, I’ve played slow Ed Sheeran-type songs – all love songs. I don’t know why, but I just love listening to it. It’s like the calm before the storm. It’s definitely different. I think everyone on our team loves the song “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.
Describe the bond you and your teammates share.
I’ve been friends with every single player since I’ve gotten here. Our whole team is super close with each other – probably this year more than ever – in terms of guys genuinely liking each other. We have a brotherly relationship. It’s cool because you are more accountable and can call each other out. At the end of the day, they are my best friends.
What is the best memory you’ll take away from being on the team?
There’s not one specific moment. It has been a combination of moments. The bus trips, the road trips, the silly things and funny inside jokes that happen – that’s what I’ll miss the most. The camaraderie of the team, too. I have laughed harder than I’ve ever laughed. I’ll just miss being with this group of guys.
How is the team preparing for the CAA Tournament?
Everyone is definitely getting antsy and it’s hard not to think about it. We’re excited. It would be great if we could make a run at the NCAA Tournament. If we get there, and get the right matchups, I think we can make some noise. We are really talented and this year’s team is special.
Are there any life lessons Coach Grant has taught you?
Coach Grant is a God-fearing guy. Having faith in each other, trusting each other and who you are as a team is what I’ll take away. Trusting the process is key. So many people are focused on the outcome and results, but if you can fall in love with the process, that’s where you can be successful. The results will start to come out of the process if you’re doing everything the right way. He lets everyone be themselves. I want to be a coach, so I want to coach in a similar fashion. He’s very calm and lets you be free, but then he can also be stern. He’s a good player’s coach. Coach Grant cares about each person and this program and that’s something I will definitely take away.
What are your plans for after you graduate this year?
I want to go to school to be a graduate assistant and work my way up to being a coach. I don’t feel called to do anything else but to coach. I’m going to make the most of my experience at the College of Charleston to translate it into a coaching career.