Embry-Riddle men’s basketball Head Coach Steve Ridder has announced the addition of two coaches to his staff for the 2016-17 season. Steve Wright and Michael Lamberti will join the Blue and Gold bench as the Eagles enter their third and final year of the NCAA II and Sunshine State Conference membership process.
Wright comes to Embry-Riddle with 38 years of basketball coaching experience, and his resume is filled with notable achievements, not the least of which was a 697-247 career record in the high school coaching ranks in the state of Kentucky. Wright’s .738 career winning percentage closely mirrors Ridder’s .731 (656-241) career mark and between them, the pair have over 1,300 wins. Wright’s nearly 700 wins rank eighth all-time in basketball-rich Kentucky high school history.
“Coach Steve Wright is considered one of the most accomplished coachs in the state of Kentucky,” Ridder said. “The timing of this is perfect as he closes his incredibly successful high school coaching career and we make this transition to the Sunshine State Conference and NCAA II.”
“I loved every minute of my high school coaching career,” Wright said. “But it was just the right time for me to move on to a new and different type of challenge, and with Embry-Riddle making the transition to NCAA II it was really a perfect fit.”
Wright reached the pinnacle of Kentucky basketball in 2005 when his South Laurel squad claimed the state championship in the midst of a four-year streak of reaching the round of 16 from 2004-08. In total, Wright claimed 15 district championships, eight regional titles and nine trips to the Kentucky state tournament, an impressive achievement considering there are no classifications in the Bluegrass State as all schools compete in the same tournament. Wright registered three quarterfinal finishes as well as claiming a pair of Kentucky AAU State Championships.
“Coach Ridder and I, both being from Kentucky, applied for many of the same jobs when we were first starting out,” Wright said. “I’ve been able to follow ERAU’s success from afar and I have been so impressed with the way Coach Ridder has built this program, doing things the right way.”
Wright began his head coaching career at Walton-Verona High School before taking over at Laurel County/South Laurel where he spent 21 seasons with the Cardinals. Wright took the Pulaski Southwestern job in 2011 and immediately led the Warriors to their only region title and the state semifinals in his first season. Wright posted a 121-41 record at Southwestern before stepping away following the 2015-16 season.
“Coach Wright will have an immediate impact to our program in a number of ways,” Ridder said. “Skill development, recruiting of high quality student-athletes, practice and preparation for opponents are some of the areas he will make us better.”
Wright racked up 24 different Coach of the Year honors over his career and has been inducted into five separate Halls of Fame. He served as president of the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches from 1998-2002 and was selected to coach in several All-Star games, including the 2007 McDonald’s All-American Game.
“Coach Wright is a fierce competitor and a proven winner,” Ridder added. “He will be a great mentor to our student-athletes both on and off the floor. He’s a strong family man and we are excited to have him, his wife Lisa and the rest of his family to join the Eagle basketball family.”
Steve and his wife Lisa have three children; Stephanie (Harris), Courtney (Swanner) and Eric; and two grandchildren: Mason and Kaden.
“I’m extremely honored that Coach Ridder is entrusting me to assist him in continuing the Embry-Riddle basketball tradition,” Wright said. “Anything I can do to assist Coach Ridder and Coach (Chad) Keller will be my goal. Hopefully I can bring a little different perspective that will result in continued success for the Eagles.”
Lamberti will be the Eagles’ graduate assistant coach while he pursues his MBA from Embry-Riddle. Lamberti spent five seasons, including a redshirt year, at perennial NCAA II powerhouse West Liberty where he helped the Hilltoppers to a 156-17 record, including a national runner-up finish in 2014, two additional Final Four appearances and a Sweet Sixteen trip. Lamberti, a native of South Fayette, Pa. played in 122 games with 49 starts for West Liberty, compiling more than 750 points and 420 rebounds as a forward.
“Michael is an extremely impressive additon to our program,” Ridder said. “Michael was part of a special, championship-caliber program at West Liberty and played for one of the very best coaches in our profession in Jim Crutchfield.”
“I was blessed to have the career I did at West Liberty,” Lamberti said. “When I knew I wanted to stay in the game of basketball I started looking into premier D-II programs in the country that also offered a great academic situation so I could pursue my MBA and that’s when I discovered Embry-Riddle.”
Lamberti was a standout at South Fayette High School where he was a first team All-Pennsylvania Class AAA selection as a senior, leading his team to the state tournament semifinals. Lamberti graduated from South Fayette as the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points and nearly 1,000 rebounds. As a junior, Lamberti helped his team to the 2010 Pennsylvania AA state championship game where he scored a game-high 17 points to lead them to a state title. He was the only player ever to earn four consecutive first team All-District citations from the Washngton (Pa.) Observer-Reporter and was the 2010 Observer-Reporter Player of the Year.
“Michael is a natural leader by example and his influence on our players will be instrumental,” Ridder said. “He is very intelligent, communicates well and is driven to be successful in all areas of his life. He will excel in our MBA program and our student-athletes will respect him at a high level and really enjoy and benefit from the relationship. We are, without a doubt, excited to have Coach Lamberti join our Eagle basketball family.”
“I’m excited to bring a winning mentality to an already successful program,” Lamberti said. “I’ll be able to coach under one of the best staffs in the country and also be working with some of the hardest working athletes in DII. I’m thrilled to be spending time with Coach Ridder and his staff, and having him as a mentor will be instrumental in my growth not only as a coach, but a student and person as well.”
Lamberti graduated in 2016 from West Liberty with two degrees in Business Administration and Accounting.