PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Tray Woodall was a fan favorite at Pitt for his on-the-court leadership and uncanny ability to deliver in big moments.
A natural floor leader, it was easy to recognize that Woodall possessed the acumen and intelligence to be a coach, a profession he wanted to pursue since being a teenager in Paterson, N.J. Woodall moved closer to fulfilling that dream Tuesday when Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole announced the former Pitt standout had been promoted to assistant coach, per a release from the school.
Woodall had served as the program’s director of operations since last June, but after assistant coach Dante Jackson recently left for the same job at Kent State, Toole only needed to look down the bench to fill the sudden vacancy on his staff.
“A few days after Dante accepted the job at Kent State, he [Toole] pulled me in his office and told me I’ve earned it,” Woodall said. “I worked my tail off all year, and he thought I did a good job and earned the right to be promoted to assistant. That was probably the best news I’ve heard all year.”
After graduating from Pitt in 2013, Woodall played professionally overseas but eventually returned to the United States to pursue his dream of coaching. He served on the staff at IUP under former Pitt assistant Joe Lombardi during the 2016-17 season before being reunited with Toole at Robert Morris last summer. They have known each other since Woodall was a freshman at St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey. Toole was an instructor for The Hoop Group, a basketball instruction and showcase program, which Woodall participated in.
Woodall writes out goals each year and the chance to be promoted motivated him in his director of operations role.
“It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders because it’s kind of been a goal,” Woodall said. “Each and every year I write down goals, and I want to progress in my career. The possibility of being promoted is always on my mind—it’s always a goal.”
“I just tried to continue to stay focused and do the best I can with the job that I did have. As an ops guy, I wanted to be the best ops guy possible, and that led to a promotion. I’m grateful for coach Toole for giving me the opportunity to go out there and really try to make an impact.”
In his new role Woodall will instruct the Colonials’ guards and look to develop a young backcourt that features only one senior in Matty McConnell. He looks forward to gaining more coaching experience and teaching the team’s younger players.
“I know you need to have a certain amount of years of experiencing in coaching,” Woodall said. “This is the first opportunity to go ahead and start that process. I look forward to continue to learn and to teach. This gives me a great opportunity to teach.”
Woodall claimed he “learned a lot” over the last year in the director of operations role, and the job demands required him to be more organized than ever before. Much like his playing days, he leaned on habits to guide him throughout the season.
“I lean on it heavily,” Woodall said of his playing experience. “One thing you have to lean is some of your habits. I was fortunate enough to be coached by some pretty good coaches, that when I leaned back on my habits, there was some pretty good habits in place.”
“You want to develop those habits, and keep working on them and hopefully that leads to some success. I know it has for myself.”
It’s those same habits he hopes to teach to Robert Morris’ current players.