Even after the contract was signed and his bags packed, the reality didn’t truly hit Zach Ruebesam until his parents picked him up at the airport on Sunday.
It was a one-way ticket that brought Ruebesam back home, and there was no going back.
On Monday the Colorado men’s basketball team filled the long-vacant void on its staff, as head coach Tad Boyle announced the hiring of Ruebesam as the Buffaloes’ new director of player development.
A Berthoud native and a former team manager for the Buffs when he was a student at DU, Ruebesam takes over the staff position vacated by former Buffs guard Nate Tomlinson. In April, Tomlinson accepted an assistant coach spot at George Mason under former Buffs assistant Kim English after holding the director of player development role at CU for two seasons.
Five-plus years after leaving CU as a new college graduate, Ruebesam returns to campus as a full-time member of Boyle’s staff.
“It’s definitely surreal and has kind of come full circle for me,” said Ruebesam, whose first day on the new job was Monday. “It’s hard to put into words how excited I am. Colorado is home for me. It’s where I chose to come to try and jump-start my coaching career. To get the opportunity to come work for coach Boyle, who’s my biggest mentor in college basketball, and coach (Mike) Rohn, it’s a dream come true. Kind of come full circle in a sense, but I’m unbelievably excited. My family’s unbelievably excited and I’m glad I’m here now and can get to work.”
Ruebesam held the same role for two seasons at the University of Denver and also was a graduate for the Pioneers under another former CU assistant, Rodney Billups. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Division II Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte. The Crusaders finished 18-5 in 2020-21 and reached the Division II NCAA Tournament.
Ruebesam earned a Bachelor’s degree at CU in business management in 2016 and added a Master’s at DU two years later in sports coaching.
“He was one of the best managers we’ve ever had when he was here, so I know what kind of work ethic he has,” Boyle said. “He’s extremely loyal. He bleeds black and gold. He’s a Buff through and through. But more importantly, Zach’s a grinder. He started at the very bottom and was willing to make some sacrifices.
“I’ve always respected guys like that. I know what I’m getting by hiring Zach Ruebesam.”
Boyle admitted that after a run of younger staff members (Billups, English, Tomlinson) ended with Tomlinson’s departure without an obvious heir apparent, adding a younger voice to the mix was a consideration during his search.
“I wanted to make sure I was thorough and got the right guy,” Boyle said. “There’s a lot of guys that can do this job, but I think Zach fits in some long-term plans I have for that spot in the program. As long as you get the right guy, that’s all that matters.
“As I look at the makeup of our staff, none of us are getting any younger. It’s nice to have some youth. It’s nice to have some guys that think a little more like college-aged kids.”