Derek Schooley Continues to Build Hockey Legacy at Robert Morris


Schooley accepting the St. Louis Amateur Hockey Hall of Fame Honor at the Celebrity Hockey Game Photo credit: Julia Wasielewski

Cole Brennan

Derek Schooley has had quite the hockey coaching career as he has been the Robert Morris men’s hockey coach since the start of the program in 2004.

During his coaching tenure, the Colonials has reached four American Hockey Association title games, three conference championships, and one NCAA Tournament appearance.

Schooley was recently inducted into the St. Louis Amateur Hockey Hall of Fame. He talked about what the honor means to him.

“It’s something you take pretty special growing up in St. Louis,” Schooley said. “It wasn’t a great hockey town then, but it’s become a really good hockey town now with the Blues winning the Stanley Cup and a lot of first-round drafts out there. I guess it shows something good in hockey so I’m really excited. My dad is in the St. Louis Hockey Hall of Fame so it’s really neat to be able to join him in it as well.”

Schooley’s dad, Rick, was a long-time amateur player and coach in the St. Louis area who was inducted in 2018.

While the hockey programs were cut by the university, Schooley put in a lot of effort to raise money to reinstate both teams.

His hard work paid off because the programs will return for the 2023-24 season.

Coach Schooley talked to CSN about his motivation to get the programs back.

“I think it’s just the people in town. I think everybody understood that it was something not in the best-case scenario for our student-athletes,” Schooley said. “I wanted to help our student-athletes get to different colleges if they wanted, I wanted to help the student-athletes here and the alumni really wanted to be involved.”

Schooley also talked about his coaching idol and philosophy.

“I’ve had a couple of really good coaches that I have learned a lot from and admire. The first one that would come to my mind is Frank Serratore,” said Schooley. “Frank’s the head coach at Air Force. He was my junior hockey coach in Omaha. I worked for him for five years. He’s a good friend of mine. He inspired me to want to get into coaching and I was fortunate enough to be able to work for him. Another one would be my coach at Western Michigan, Bill Wilkinson. Bill was good at dealing with the players and a really good person and I obviously got into coaching because my dad was a coach.”

As well as helping bring the programs back, Schooley has helped many players improve their game.

Gavin Gulash and Cam Hebert were both players on the team when the program was cut in May 2021; they returned to finish their college hockey career at Robert Morris.

Gulash during the Celebrity Hockey Game (Photo by Ethan Morrison)

“I think a lot of the stuff he harps on is the little things,” said forward Gavin Gulash. “He’s been coaching at this level for a long time, so obviously, he’s seen the game a lot and he knows what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. I think the biggest thing is working on the little things.”

Hebert, also a forward, told CSN about what Schooley has done for him.

“You know you have to appreciate everything because he knows it’s not just for his job,” Hebert said. “He knows all of us have been training our whole lives for this and he worked so hard to get us back and I appreciate it so much. I owe him so much as well.”

Many players have gone through the program under Schooley’s watch, including current Robert Morris women’s head coach Logan Bittle. Bittle was one of the first players to play for the men’s hockey team from 2004-2008.

“He’s a great mentor and a great friend,” said Bittle. “I was fortunate enough to have him as a coach when we started the program in 2004. I’ve leaned on him a lot and I don’t think RMU hockey is where it’s at without him. To say he’s the biggest piece of RMU hockey would not be an understatement. He got the program to where it is and where it’s going to go.”

Associate coach Matt Nicholson is back for his second stint with the Colonials. He was the team’s assistant coach from 2009-2015.

Schooley played a big role in getting Nicholson to return behind the bench.

“I was with Derek for six years from 2009-2015, said Nicholson. “I’m an alumnus. I did my masters here in 2011. We had some really great years with our staff. Derek reached out and offered me the opportunity to come back and I jumped at it because it’s very rare in life that you get to be on the ground floor of something.”

While Schooley has had a decorated career, he gave us very good insight into the Oct. 7 doubleheader.

“It’ll be a little bit of everything. I’m obviously focused on winning the game. We’re going to have a doubleheader with the women’s program. It’s going to be a festival. There’s going to be a carnival-like atmosphere.”

Schooley expressed what he thinks the first game back will feel for the team.

“I think the focus of winning the game, but also standing behind the bench for the first time in almost two years will be something we soak in and be appreciative of the community, appreciative of the alumni that we’re back playing hockey. I think it will be a little bit of everything.”

The RMU Men’s Hockey team will continue preparing for their first season’s opening since the programs were canceled.