The Great Connector

John Griffin III ’08 returns to Bucknell with sights set on bridging the program’s headline-making past to its promising future
Basketball player for Bucknell on the court pointing his finger.
Photo: Hannah Penington
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Before returning to Bucknell, John Griffin III ’08 was associate head coach at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, his hometown.
John Griffin III ’08 remembers taking the court in Sojka Pavilion before what he says was a “loud, sold-out sea of orange.” The crowd had plenty of reasons to cheer. During Griffin’s playing career in Lewisburg, the 6-foot guard from Philadelphia helped deliver the only two NCAA tournament victories in Bucknell history. The first — a March 18, 2005, upset win over the third-seeded Kansas Jayhawks — is considered by many to be the program’s proudest moment.

As the 20th anniversary of that victory nears, Griffin sees himself as a bridge between that monumental moment from Bucknell’s past and what’s possible for the program’s future. If anyone is equipped to carry the team into a new winning era, it’s Griffin. He’s been a part of four of Bucknell’s eight NCAA tournament appearances — two as a player and two as an assistant coach. By focusing on a three-part plan, Griffin sees success on the horizon.


As he scouts potential recruits, Griffin isn’t just looking for talent. He’s looking for student-athletes with a balance of academic curiosity and a coachable growth mindset. When he finds a promising prospect, he crafts a pitch that reflects his overall approach. “They’re coming here to not only get a nationally recognized degree,” says Griffin, who studied economics. “I want players to come here thinking, ‘I want to play professionally, use my degree, get to the NCAA tournament and become part of something bigger than myself.’ ”


Returning the “the sea of orange” to Sojka starts in the community. As a player, Griffin had a hard-working, energetic persona fans loved. “I was a wild competitor — I was loud, unapologetic and confident, and this community embraced that.” Griffin will tap into the community and personally invite people to return to the stands and bring their friends. He’ll encourage students to attend, hoping they’ll see Bucknell basketball games as a core part of their collegiate experience.

Style of Play

If Griffin’s plan works, opponents should peer down their schedule and feel a bit queasy at the sight of Bucknell. “I would like us to be identified as a team that makes our opponents uncomfortable,” Griffin says. “I’d like us to be a little bit scary defensively.” He envisions an energetic team that’s tough on defense, impossible to scout and that makes timely 3-pointers, and wants to make Bucknell men’s basketball games one of the most exciting ways to spend a Wednesday or Saturday night in Lewisburg. And winning, Griffin knows, is the finest form of marketing. “I think we have the combination of facilities, history and fan passion,” he says, “to be at the top of the league.”
John Griffin playing basketball on the court
Photo: Steve Puppe
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“Sojka can be one of the most exciting places in college sports,” says John Griffin III ’08. “I am on a mission to create that excitement for the students.”
Get To Know Griffin

Get To Know Griffin

Favorite Sports Movie
“I’m a Philly guy, so I’ve got to say Rocky.”
Bison Buzz
“On reading day before finals, our team partnered with Bucknell Dining to offer free hot and cold coffee to students at 7th Street Café. The staff members there have great energy. Whenever I grab an afternoon coffee at the café, they always give me a boost that lasts the rest of the day.”
Career Rebound
“After graduation, I played professionally in Germany. I tore my ACL. When that happens, you have to pivot. I didn’t pivot immediately. I still tried to hang onto the dream. After rehab, I played in Slovakia, but it didn’t work out. I ultimately landed on my feet as a video coordinator for the Indiana Pacers. It was quite a whirlwind of experiences at a young age.”
Family Guy
“My wife, Brianna, played Division I basketball and lacrosse at Mount St. Mary’s before coaching women’s college basketball. We have three amazing, energetic boys whom you’ll see running around Sojka. I’d like children in the community to come to games and connect with the players.”