Sunday, April 25, 2010
McClain A Good Fit For IU Basketball
Today we are going to reveal the secret why Indiana coach Tom Crean chose Steve McClain as his new assistant coach and not, say, Dane Fife.
First, we begin with this new bit of intrigue -– Crean was so upset with former coach Roshown McLeod that he stopped using him as a recruiter last fall. That meant the IU staff was a man short on the recruiting trail. Yes, that likely impacted recruited, but bigger issues were at work.
“The guys who are probably most excited (about hiring McClain) are probably (assistant coaches) Bennie (Seltzer) and Tim (Buckley), because frankly since about the end of October, we have been a man down in recruiting,” Crean said. “By my choice, but that is the way that it was.”
Crean didn’t specify a reason, but it goes back to trust and loyalty and support. That’s huge in the coaching profession and if you don’t have it, or are perceived you don’t have it, you ain’t lasting long.
Anyway, McLeod was on his way out. Just before the end of the season, Crean apparently had enough and cut him loose.
So why McClain?
“He’s fearless,” Crean said.
“He’s a great coach,” Crean added.
“I didn’t tell you about the golf outings you’ll do instead of me,” Crean joked to McClain. “Back in Wyoming you were riding horses, going to barbecues, roasting pigs.”
Here, it’s golf. And then, of course, it needs to be about winning. McClain apparently has that covered.
“When you look at the whole package of being able to recruit, of being able to handle all the administrative parts, being able to represent the program in so many different areas,” Crean said, “he fits.
“The number one parameter is I had to find somebody that had some trust and loyalty. Bottom line. And I wasn't going to hire a stranger, that doesn't work.”
By now you know that McClain has been a successful coach for 28 years. He won a national junior college title as the head coach at Hutchinson Community College (a 91-16 record in three seasons) and later had a successful run at Wyoming (157-115 with four postseason appearances in nine years), although his last few years were rough enough for him to move on. That took him to Colorado as an assistant coach, where he was instrumental in helping to rejuvenate a Colorado program that is now poised for postseason opportunity. He was a finalist for the head coaching job after Jeff Bzdelik left for Wake Forest.
The Colorado search took a while and Crean, who had known McClain for years starting when both were assistant coaches, was willing to wait. In fact, if McClain had gotten the Colorado job (and Crean hoped that he would), Fife likely would have been IU’s new assistant coach. After all, Fife had strong Hoosier roots from his days as a defensive standout. He was a key member of IU’s 2002 national runner-up team, and later served on then coach Mike Davis’ staff. As a head coach Fife has boosted an IPFW program that has struggled since moving to Division I. He directed the Mastodons to their first winning record at the Division I level this past season.
Anyway, when McClain didn’t get the Colorado job, Crean snapped him up.
“He goes into the Mountain West and wins that league,” Crean said. “He competes year after year. The closest airport to Laramie, Wyo., was 2 ½ hours away, yet they recruited throughout the country.
“He’s developed a toughness in his players. A perseverance. His teams were tough. Absolutely tough. They were the epitome of toughness. To have him part of our staff will help us continue this restoration process.”
So what does McClain think of this? That’s coming soon.
Oh, for those of you who pointed out the brain-dead error I had in a recent blog headline -– I corrected it -– thanks. I have lots of excuses, most involving alien abduction. Anyway, I am convinced that it will be the last typo, error or glitch I will ever have. Now I’m going to do some research for that hit song McClean had before becoming a coach – “American Pie.”