Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @CoachMcGreal
David McGreal is the head men’s basketball coach at Penn State Altoona.
Prior to arriving at Penn State Altoona in July of 2016, McGreal posted a successful 15-year track record as a basketball coach, ascending the ranks from high school head coach to junior college assistant to eventually become a head coach at the NCAA Division III level.
Before arriving at Penn State Altoona, McGreal was an assistant at LaGrange College in Georgia where he spent five seasons and helped guide the Panthers to three consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament appearances.
David was a four-year player at Division III Maryville College (TN), where he played all three guard positions and contributed to two NCAA Tournament teams. He graduated from Maryville in 1998 with a degree in Psychology.
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Have your notebook handy as you listen to this episode with David McGreal, Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Penn State Altoona.
What We Discuss with David McGreal
- Learning the game from his Dad and his Uncle who both played college basketball
- Why he likes coaching multiple sport athletes
- The danger of burnout in youth basketball
- “You don’t want to love the game more than your kids.”
- Playing for his Dad as a high school player in Florida
- Today’s pick up basketball scene for college players
- His decision to attend Maryville College and his lack of knowledge about D3 basketball
- Why he would take his commitment to being a college basketball player more seriously if he could do it over
- Why your grades and GPA always matter
- The 5 years he spent in the restaurant business after graduating from college
- Becoming a volunteer coach at Maryville to jump start his coaching career
- Coaching high school basketball and how the challenge of teaching and the recruiting from rival high schools pushed him to pursue college coaching
- The side jobs he had to work after getting back into college coaching
- The lessons he learned in each of his college coaching positions
- “To start a program on the road to success, that hasn’t been, you have to start bringing in the best players possible, no matter what position.”
- Intangibles he looks for in recruits
- “I don’t drive to just see a recruit score 20, I want to see what he does and how he acts with his teammates.”
- How he landed the head coaching job at Penn State Altoona
- Building accountability in his program
- “On bad teams, no one leads. On good teams the coaches lead. On great teams, the players lead.”
- “Leaders will present themselves eventually if you give them the right platform.”
- “If parents invest in us that I’m going to invest in their son and we do that, not only through basketball, we do that through a bunch of other avenues including community service.”
- Why he loves to play a fast paced style of basketball
- “The biggest challenge for us is getting that to that next level.”
- “The biggest joy is making a difference in people’s lives.”
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THANKS, DAVID MCGREAL
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TRANSCRIPT FOR DAVID MCGREAL – PENN STATE ALTOONA MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 628
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, but I am pleased to be joined by the head men’s basketball coach at Penn State Altoona, David McGreal, David, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
[00:00:14] David McGreal: Mike, thanks for having me just on, real excited to be a part of the podcast.
You do a great job, listen to a lot of it and excited to be a part of it. Thank you for inviting me.
[00:00:23] Mike Klinzing: I appreciate the kind words. We are excited to have you on looking forward to diving in and digging into your background. Learning more about how you got to where you are now and your basketball journey.
So let’s start by going back in time to when you were a kid. Tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball. What are some of your earliest memories.
[00:00:42] David McGreal: Well, that’s pretty simple, man. I you know, I’m not going to say I was born with a basketball in my hand, but I do have a father who was a college basketball player, actually, a very successful college basketball player on my dad played Illinois state university back in the late sixties was a small college All-American and did a lot for the game of basketball and the collegiate ranks.
And he went into coaching and, but ironically enough, that was during the time of the Vietnam war. So he was drafted into the Vietnam war, which cut his post college basketball live short. So I’ve been in love with the game since I can remember and it was, it was taught to me at an early age by my dad and my uncle who also played at Southern Illinois.
You know, and it was just something that was just part of our family. You know, I had an older sister. And she played sports as well. She played basketball all the way up until high school. You know, so it was, it’s been a part of my life since day one daddy, like I said taught me how to shoot the basketball the proper way since I was five, six years old.
And just been something that you know, like I said, the love of the game has been there since birth.
[00:01:58] Mike Klinzing: Did you play any other sports when your kids?
[00:02:00] David McGreal: Oh yeah, man. That’s the one thing that’s generational. It’s funny. I had a recruit on campus yesterday and I was asking him the same thing.
He said he played football until high school. And then he started concentrating on basketball. And I respect that, but that’s not how I grew up. You know, I played everything when I was little baseball, basketball, soccer going one, my dad, he wouldn’t let me play you know tackle football.
I grew up in Florida, actually. We’re a football team, but dad always said, you don’t want to have a career ending injury when you’re 10.
[00:02:32] Mike Klinzing: My dad told me the same thing. I never set foot on never set foot on a football field. I mean, I played a lot of backyard football.
[00:02:40] David McGreal: I’m going to say, don’t get me wrong. We used to kill this golf course in our neighborhood, playing football every Saturday. But.
[00:02:47] Mike Klinzing: Go ahead. I’m sorry. No, it’s funny how those things get passed down. Like my, again, like I never set foot on a football field and now my son is a sophomore in high school.
He’s never set foot on a football field. They’re just the same thing. Just feels like man taking all those knocks to your head. I think I’ll pass on that.
[00:03:03] David McGreal: Well, I mean, of course that way, everything is today with you know, the concussion protocols and thing like that. It’s just a different, it’s a different game for lack of a better word.
But yeah, I mean, to be a hundred percent honest, you get back to your initial question. In high school, but actually basketball was probably my third best sport. I was I was blessed to be a great cross country runner, never really thought I was going to, and I just ran cross country. Cause my best friend’s dad was a coach and ended up being All-state, had some small D one offers to run cross country and, and then baseball man baseball is probably my second love and sports.
And I actually had a couple of small D two offers to play baseball, but I wanted to play basketball man, like my dad did in college. And so once again, I could have been like the guys now and just said, I’m not doing anything else concentrating on basketball but, some of my best friends today growing up or kids, I played little league baseball with played high school baseball with ran cross country with as well.
Obviously basketball was where my love was, but you know, and I don’t. You know, condoned people that, that specialize as I call it now, but I love seeing kids that are well-rounded man. You know, I like recruiting kids who are the starting quarterback on our football team as well. And things like that.
It’s just intangibles that I don’t think point just one sport can teach if you want my honest opinion.
[00:04:21] Mike Klinzing: So do you think in your experience as a college coach, when you look at, and obviously I’m sure you’ve had guys who have had success that have been athletes that have specialized and only played basketball, and then I’m sure you’ve had some that have played multiple sports at Xcel, but just what’s your experience with guys that do guys that don’t that intangible piece.
What do you like about guys that maybe do play multiple sports? What are some things that they bring to the table that are sort of unique maybe to as compared to a kid who’s only played hoops this whole life?
[00:04:51] David McGreal: I think they’re more adept to change I think it’s more commitment for these young men that showed a commitment to two or three sports during their entire high school career. And then also do well in school obviously. And so I think maybe the commitment level but again, then people would argue, say, well, Hey, I’m totally committed to basketball. I’m totally committed to basketball, but I can’t really think of any case where I’ve had one or the other just completely stand out, but again, maybe sports specific, the toughness factor it’s, it’s something to have a young man that, like I said, he may play safety on the football team.
You know, he may be a running back. You know, so again, I would, I would assume he’s probably been through a little bit more of a physical you know, upbringing in high school. So I’m sure he’s a little bit tougher, a little bit more physical of a player. God, it’s such a hard question, man, because of how many people do it now.
I just really think I like well-rounded young man that have, because again, man, the flip side of that is burnout, right. I’ve seen it, man. I’ve seen it. I got it. I’ve got a kid right now that’s playing for me that’s thinking about not playing basketball anymore.
It started a year, was a starter for me. And the kids got a license plate that said I’d rather be playing basketball and playing basketball. And he’s been a young man that’s been through the circuit. All he did was play basketball you know, got a shooting machine at his house. So I just think maybe it’s just burnout if you just really focused on basketball Filet Mignon is good, but if you ain’t filet me, y’all every single day, you’re going to want a piece of chicken every night, you know?
So that’s kinda the way I look at it.
[00:06:44] Mike Klinzing: It’s a challenge. I mean, I think when you start talking about a kid who let’s say, they start out with travel AAU basketball, when they’re seven or eight years old and every single spring and summer they’re playing travel basketball and they’re going on the road and they’re doing all those things.
I remember before I had my own kids looking at the basketball situation and just saying, man, that is crazy to me because I just don’t. And I still don’t. But I understand that a little bit more now that my own kids have kind of gone through it to some degree, but prior to having kids, I was like, there just isn’t I’m sorry.
There’s not 50 kids in community X that want to be practicing basketball at age eight or nine, two or three times a week for an hour and a half, and then go and play four or five games on the weekend. I just don’t believe that. There’s really kids who want to do that to me, it just seemed like it was all parent-driven and then now you get into it where the way you grew up is the same way I grew up where you’re going from season to season.
And even when you’re not officially in baseball season or football season, like we were picking up those balls and playing in the backyard. I tell my kids, like I used to play one-on-one baseball with one of my, one of my neighbors. And they look at me like, I’m crazy. Like what, what does that even mean?
What does that even mean? And I just look at it and I say, man, if I would have, and I love basketball. And eventually like I gave up everything else. I stopped playing everything probably in maybe seventh grade, but I mean, I was still playing stuff out in the neighborhood, but just didn’t play for a team or anything.
And I still think that man, if I had been doing what kids today do from age seven, Like, that’s just, that’s a lot. And I was a kid who loved it and maybe I would have been okay because I had such a love for the game, but I know there’s guys that I played high school basketball with guys that I played college basketball with.
It. There’s no way they would’ve wanted to do those things. And to have the number of kids that are involved in the system today, I think you’re a hundred percent, right. When you say that to me, burnout is the biggest risk when we start looking at this specialization piece.
[00:08:51] David McGreal: Yeah. You know, and you hit it on the head too.
In my personal opinion, I think a lot of it is parent driven. You know, it’s a certain parent that just sees his son or daughter for that matter as having some talent. And they were pretty, they just they wanna relive that through them in a way. And I think that puts undue pressure on, on these kids too.
I mean, you go to your tournaments, as you said. I mean, the parents. Sometimes just they’re worse than the coaches. And I’m saying that as a coach who was pretty bad. But I think that the pressure and the specializing early on, I think you will see more and more of that. And, and you already have, I seen it, I’m going to see it at the high school level.
Seen it at the college level. I just think you still got to let kids be kids, you know? And I find myself now I got started late in the game. I got a seven year old daughter. She just turned seven and four year old son. And I find myself, my four year old has became, he started dribbled a little bit.
And I’m about, I’m starting to get mad at him because he doesn’t dribble with his left hand.
I know I don’t put any pressure on him. I don’t ever say, let’s go get a ball, let’s get a ball. I think you just got to let kids be kids, because again, you, you want them to. You don’t want to love it more than your kids, you know? And, and, and the only way you gonna find out for sure, if the kids love it is if you leave it up to them you don’t, you don’t force him to go to practice every day.
You don’t force him to do this every day, no matter what it is, man, whether it’s basketball, baseball, you playing a guitar or whatever if it’s something that they want to do, they’re going to be better at it, man. And rather than your parent forcing the kid to go to eight, Craig is one of these nine and he doesn’t go more than 10.
So that’s another piece of it.
[00:10:45] Mike Klinzing: That’s a great piece of advice. And it’s something that as a parent myself, is what I’ve tried to do. And at the same time as a competitive person, It’s really hard to walk that line with your own kids where you’re going, I’d be going to work with some other kids or do some group stuff or go to camp and ask the kids, Hey, you want to come along?
And sometimes they’d say yes. And sometimes they’d say no. And when they’d say no, I’d be like, come on. Like, what do you mean? But you have to, I think, as a parent and you said it best, you have to let them come to it on their own because that’s how they develop the love for it. And if they don’t develop the love for it, let’s face it right at this point, especially if you’re not going to put the time in whether it’s basketball, whether it’s violin, whether it’s art, it doesn’t matter what it is.
If you’re not going to put the time in and you’re not going to love it, you’re never going to have a tremendous amount of success that whatever you try to do, unless you’re coming to it, because it’s what you want to do. If it’s, if you’re doing it because it’s what dad wants to do or what mom wants you to do that usually doesn’t turn out well.
And then I think as a parent, you’re not only are. Putting them in a position to do things that they don’t want to do. But also I think you’re jeopardizing and damaging the relationship that you have with your own kids. Or again, they get to be 25 and they’re like, God, dad was, it forced me to go do all that stuff.
Why did you know that? And so I think to me, I’ve always tried to err, on the side of give them opportunities, let them make decisions. And my kids look, my, my kids have gotten and I’m sure yours kids will be exactly the same way your kids are going to get a lot more opportunities to, to turn down basketball basketball opportunities than, than other kids, just because of who you are and what you what you do.
But by the same token, I think if you let it, if you let it come to them and let them eventually get to the game, then that’s when you really got something. And it’s it’s fun to see when that, when it finally, when it finally comes on in my son’s life, came out about a year and a half ago. And it’s been fun to see.
[00:12:42] David McGreal: Nice. Yeah. I mean, it just, again, kind of give back to my father. So he was actually my high school basketball coach. Not only saying long lines when I was in high school, like he had a key to the gym and he would want me to go every single day and I’d go probably three out of five days, five out of seven days.
And he finally would, he finally got to the point where he stopped asking me and you know, and I was a great shooter in high school, a great three point shooter. I played with my high school team. We were very good. We lost in the state championship, the state of Florida, my senior. And he kept telling me, dad kept saying, you need to work on your dribble and you’re not going to be a shooting guard in college.
You were going to ball games and I’d go in the gym and I’d just sit there and I’d just keep shooting. And then sure enough what happened was I go to college break my hand going in and they moved me to point guard. And guess what? The coach told me I needed to do work on my ball game. So just it’s you can, the old saying you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink and you definitely don’t want him to force him to drink. But like you mentioned, I look back now. I wish I would have went every damn day. My dad wanted me to go. Like, I wish I wish I would’ve worked on my ball handling more once I was in that position. But unfortunately as I get back to the point we all have to live and learn and I was, I was happy with where my career, what winded wound up.
You know, I could have been better. You know, again, it was my decision. And dad didn’t like drag me to the gym, even though he could have. And you know, again, sometimes you just learn from, from both of your mistakes and also the good parts of what you’re being taught.
[00:14:27] Mike Klinzing: Did you realize at the time how lucky you were to be able to have a dad who had the keys to the gym where you could get in and shoot and do things, or would you, or is it just kind of, that’s my reality in the momrnt?
[00:14:38] David McGreal: I think a little bit of both. You know, as I got all, as he didn’t really take over till my freshman year of high school and I didn’t even play varsity til I was a junior. So I mean and I did all those other sports and it was, yeah, I think I took it for granted almost I knew I could go to the gym whenever I wanted to.
And it wasn’t that it wasn’t that big a deal. Now I, to me, and this is another thing about it, we’ll get into about what really is better for development to me, like in the summer, I wanted to go to the park and play pickup. I wanted to go to rec and play pickup. I didn’t want to go to the gym and just shoot for an hour.
My dad, I wanted to for different reasons, for social reasons, but also because that’s where everybody was at. You know, so yeah, I mean, it was good as well because as I got older I’d take some of the teammates there and we’d work together and we do stuff like that.
But no, I don’t think, I think the answer your question, but no, I don’t think I realized how loved that was again as a coach as a player now that I’m a coach
[00:15:45] Mike Klinzing: When you talk pickup basketball. So in the summertime sounds like your situation was similar to mine, where you wanted to go and be able to play.
And you know, I worked on my game and did shooting and stuff in the morning with that. I wanted to go play and try to find games and pick up and the scene of pickup basketball back in the time when you were a kid, when I was a kid was a lot different, you could find games. All over the place outside, it was easy.
It was easier to find good high quality pickup games. Whereas today those games just don’t exist or if they do, I’m not sure where they’re at. So when you think about yourself as a coach and obviously at the division three level, like your access to players in the off season is basically nothing, right?
You have to be able to figure out and trust that those guys are going to go out and work on their game and get better and improve. So what are your guys do when you’re talking to them? And you’re having conversations with them and they are trying to find games. So they basically plan amongst themselves when they go home, how they try to organize games, just what do they do from a pickup basketball standpoint?
How do they get, how do they get a good run in as a college player in the off season?
[00:16:50] David McGreal: Well, first of all, everybody’s got put down or joysticks and get off the NBA2K and actually get out and work on their own game rather than their player. That’s my, that’s my big joke. I’ll tell them. Anytime you’re working on your 2K guy in your room.
Think about how much time you could be in the gym. We’re going on your own. I just don’t. So when they get here on campus, obviously they play pick-up against each other for the fall do open runs in here and there’s we open it to, we have to open it up to all student populations. So play I’m like, I don’t know.
It, I would say that it depends on where each student athletes, Trump it’s it’s basketball is becoming more regional and regional I mean, I do have some kids from some pretty big basketball areas of upper Marlboro, Maryland kids DMV kids, where you can go to the rec center there in the summer and find runs all the time.
But now again, it’s just kind of, they, they find these leagues adult leagues, or rec leagues that are going on in the summer, man. I mean you, you, you drive around you drive around here during the summer and you know, you don’t see anybody playing pickup. Outside. Anyway again, that’s just a different, a different commitment to the game of basketball.
You gonna play. You’re going to play whenever you have an opportunity. But yeah, I think it just depends on where they’re at. You know, cause obviously kids of DMV are going to find a pick up game probably a little bit easier than, you know you know, some of my guys from more of a rural PA, whereas only one rec center and you know, nobody goes and plays very much anymore.
So that’s, that’s a good point and it’s, it’s hard to find good pickup and you know, I’m going to tell you, it translates to the stuff that I happened to walk by and see every now and again that they call pickup. And I’m glad I’m not allowed to
see some of the stuff I see, 30 seconds I’m walking through. So it’s, it’s different, man. It’s just different. You know, Commitment love the love of the game. I think people I don’t want to say a plane or for the wrong reasons these days, but it just seems like the love of just playing a game of basketball or playing in sports in general.
Like you mentioned earlier, just going out and playing home, run Derby, or I was going to tell a joke, like, I bet your those guys didn’t know what a ghost runners meant, ghost runner on second base, or and, and hell man, even I would spend I worked on my shock. The most growing up was in my driveway and I had a goal on the garage and I’d be out there til nine, 10 o’clock when I was in high school and I’d be out there shooting by myself with a light on that doesn’t happen anymore.
That doesn’t happen anymore. And, and, and I just, I just think in general, we’ve got to, I would love for our youth to get back to that sense of You know, they’ll just point having fun outside.
[00:19:58] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, I agree. I mean, part of that is the way society has gone in terms of parenting. I know I think about my own childhood and in the summer.
Yeah. I mean, in the summertime I’d get up in the morning and I can remember being second, third grade and going to a neighbor’s house and then down the street or whatever, or riding bikes or climbing trees or being down in the Creek or playing a pickup football game.
And my parents didn’t know where I was. I mean, they knew that I was in the neighborhood hopefully, but they didn’t know exactly where I was. And nowadays it’s like, even you let your kid out on the driveway at your own house. And you’re like, I gotta check on them every two minutes. And it’s just a totally, it’s just totally different the way we parent, I think that takes away from the opportunity that kids have to be able to experience it.
Being a kid and having fun and whether that’s sports or whether that’s chasing around the neighborhood on a bike or whatever it might be. And so things are just, again, it’s different. I always say that. I’m glad that I grew up in the era that I did. I’m sure I would’ve liked AAU basketball. I’m sure to love being able to get the opportunity to play in all the nice gyms that players get to play in today as opposed to run up and down on the asphalt all the time.
But some of my best experiences in the game of basketball. When I think about the people that I knew at the time and the characters and just all the people that played at the park and I’m a 16 year old kid and there’s 28 year old guys and 34 year old guys and 22 year old college players. And everybody’s just kind of melted it’s like a melting pot of people playing together.
And that just, that’s the thing that I feel like kids miss out on. And I think you get some, you get some leadership, you get to figure out how to fit into a role on a team. Whereas when kids today just play. All the time with I’m nine. So I play with nine-year-olds and there’s a ref and there’s a coach and my mom’s in the stands.
And then I’m a 10 year old. I do it all again. And so you never really have to kind of fit into these different scenarios. And I think it’s got to, it’s got to have an effect. I don’t know what that effect exactly is, but to me, I feel like it has to be, it has to have some type of effect on the way that kids interact with each other and just as a basketball players.
[00:22:09] David McGreal: Yup. I agree. A hundred percent, man.
[00:22:11] Mike Klinzing: All right. So let’s go back to you, your decision to attend college at Maryville. Talk about a little bit about what that recruitment was like. And obviously you’re talking about, you had some opportunities to play other sports and you wanted to go with basketball because it was your your first love the one that you liked the most.
So just talk about how you ended up in Maryville, what that decision.
[00:22:31] David McGreal: Yeah, well, first I have to correct you because the actual pronunciation is Marvel.
[00:22:39] Mike Klinzing: So you’re going to here’s what’s going to happen, right? They’re going to come out. They’re gonna come up. They’re gonna come after you?
[00:22:42] David McGreal: No, I mean, it’s a good joke because there’s this old, it’s the old good old boys in Merriville where you know, coach Lambert, who was my coach, he born and raised there and they made these hats and they spell it.
Honestly, it was Maryville was the first school that reached out to me and it was, we had, there was a small connection. So that’s all I did. I grew up in Florida. I grew up a Brevard county and went to a little, little high school Rockledge high school was by Cocoa Beach where the space center is.
And Merriville college had an assistant coach named Dean Walsh. And Dean Walsh was from Merritt island, Florida, which is literally right over the bridge where I grew up. And so Rockwood high school. When I, when I was growing up, man, we used to have this great holiday classic man called the Kiwanis holiday classic.
And we had teams come in from Philadelphia, from Lexington, Kentucky from all these different little Alcoa Tennessee. We had these great teams coming in, so it was a big tournament. And actually Dean was in town for around Christmas. And he came to our tournament when I was a junior. And we, we, we, we lost in the championship game that year to Tate’s Creek from Lexington, Kentucky, but I played pretty well, I guess, and, and that summer.
They reached out to me you know, and, and just started showing interest and being told me where he was from and all that. You know, so they were the first ones. I had a couple other small semi offers, a Tennessee Wesleyan. And then my, my big place, I wanted to go. I wanted to add a preferred walk on opportunity at, at UNC Asheville.
And that was the only school I applied to that didn’t get admitted through, which I still have this day. Don’t know how I didn’t get. That’s a whole nother story. And then I had another prefer walk on to, to go up the, and we stay where dad play. Bob bender was the coach there and probably wouldn’t even dress to be honest, but but instead I decided I wanted to play.
So I went to Maryville, who was the first people, the first school to actually show me any type of interest at all, which I never thought I’d even play college basketball, really. But but so I chose Maryville just because of the location and they, and they were coming off of. A couple of years I believe that 1991, they went to the elite eight lost a Bo Ryan and Wisconsin Platteville and elite eight.
And then the next year, I think they made a sweet 16 run and they were one of the, still are one of the best teams in the south. And the NCA division three south region. Cause D three is not big and four. There’s not one. There’s not a single D three in the state of Florida.
[00:25:26] Mike Klinzing: How did you know about division three? What was your, what was your knowledge of division three before you went there? None.
[00:25:32] David McGreal: None. I didn’t know anything about it. I mean, you’re talking I’ll tell my age, you’re talking 1993 and it was not, but you know, it’s nothing like it is today. I just knew it was an opportunity to play college basketball.
I knew it was a small college. I knew it was an NCAA school. I didn’t know anything about division three. You know, where I grew up. It was all D1. It was all jucos. There was a division two conference where I grew up for the Southern fit, which were all really, really good schools that I knew. I probably wasn’t a good enough player to play a lot there.
So I was looking at smaller schools out of state. My parents, we always vacationed in the foothills of the smoky mountains and the blue Ridge Parkway. So we just started looking at schools in that area because we knew they had small private schools that had good basketball. And my dad just being knowledgeable of small college basketball.
Cause like I said, when he played it Illinois state, there was no divisions either. It was just, it was just university and small college. That’s how the NCAA was broken up. So this is you talk about recruiting and you talk about the different at different times. My dad and I spent four days making VHS tapes creating highlights, and we would watch it record, stop, watch, record, stop on different games because we had all the games because dad was the coach and things of that nature.
And we put VHS tapes in Manila envelopes and sent them out to, I don’t know, 20, 25 small colleges back then I heard back from two. So it’s a little different, but not much different.
[00:27:23] Mike Klinzing: Coaches knew how to work the VCR
[00:27:26] David McGreal: So yeah that’s kind of how I ended up there and actually was playing American Legion baseball after my senior year of high school.
And I’m playing on a really good American Legion team. I’m getting some, some interest in different levels and slid into second, broke my hand a month before I was supposed to go to school to play college basketball. And so that was at a startup kind of a a few setbacks I had as far as being a player at Maryville, but I love Maryville coach Randy Lambert.
Guys went over 750 games in the division three level. He is retired now Raul pulsars, and there now has done a great job. Continuing the winning tradition there. And just to kind of spin off a little bit Kendall Wallace and the head coach of the Grange college. He’s a memorable guy that was there when.
And he’s who got me in back into division three coaching by giving me a job over at LaGrange when he got the head job there. So Maryville was a family, a basketball family. And I was kind of, kind of like we talked about when I was there. I didn’t know how good I had it. And again, looking back now as a, as a, an adult and as a coach, I wish I had done things differently there as well.
I teach my guys all the time, man. I talked to him all the time. I’m very honest, I’m very real. And I only not, not only want them to try and teach them new things, but I also want to teach them what not to do and, and, and I’ve had experiences on both. And so when I talked to my guys, I’m very open and very honest, and a lot of that comes from my experiences at Maryville college.
[00:29:13] Mike Klinzing: What would you do differently if you had a chance to go back?
[00:29:15] David McGreal: Taking not been so caught up in different aspects of college. I’m not taking my commitment as a player at that time, as seriously as I probably should have you know, the injury, I actually played like four or five days my first year, and then I just couldn’t take it anymore.
And I end up having to get a bone graft on my right hand, which is my shooting hand. So I actually had a medical hardship my first year at terrible. And honestly I think that was the start of kind of some bad decision making. You know, I didn’t have basketball. You know, I was there for games. I went to some practices.
I couldn’t do anything. I was in a cast. So just making sure you if your decision is to go be a college basketball player, whether it’s a D one D two or D three you gotta make sure that you’re ready for that commitment. Then you gotta also be ready that you make that you’re ready for all.
The other things that are going to be thrown at you, because those types of temptations, especially when you’re, when you’re away from home for the first time they’re tough. And I see it. I seen it a lot. I see it a lot at our level I think at our level I think it’s easier because of the inability to have as much interaction with our student athletes as the do you know, I mean, as you mentioned it earlier, I know we can have indigenous individual meetings and things like that, but I don’t even really get to have any type of accountability on my kids.
So October 15th then shoot kids come in at the end of August. And you talking about August, October and you don’t really have any accountability other than what you put on yourself. So I think those things are very important to, and I talk about it all the time. Decision-making outside of the court and a.
You know, if I had it to do it all over again, I, I would’ve, I would’ve definitely taking my commitment to my commitment out of season. Let me just put it down more seriously. I never missed a practice. I went hard as hell and practice coach Lambert, those guys would say that I never took a day off, but I didn’t put myself in the best position to be the best player I could be.
[00:31:30] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. I think when you go to school and you’re going to be a plat basketball player, there’s, there’s certainly that commitment. And when you’re talking about the division three level, when you don’t have that oversight, like you talked about whether you look at it from a coach’s perspective or you look at it from a player’s perspective, it’s man, you gotta, you gotta really, you gotta really focus in and it’s so easy to take for granted.
I think kind of as a kid, Where you’re at and what your life was like as a college student, as a college basketball player. And then it’s really easy to look back and say, oh man, I wish I would have done X, Y, or Z. And I look at my own situation. And I think from a basketball standpoint, I’ve probably got as close to as much out of what I put in as I could have.
But as a college student, like I got good grades and I was on the Dean’s list as a college student. But I look back on what I learned and how I just, my approach. I was telling my own kids, like if I could go back to college now and retake the courses and all the things that I kind of learned, I’m like I would have come out of there with so much more knowledge as a guy who’s in his fifties, as opposed to when I was an 18 year old kid, I just would’ve come out with way, way more.
That’s one of, that’s probably my biggest, I don’t know if it’s necessarily a regret, but it’s certainly something that I think about that, man. I wish. Sat in that class where I was learning about investments and taking it a little bit more seriously, and really tried to learn something and then be able to apply that knowledge moving forward.
It’s just, again, youth, youth is sometimes wasted on the young there’s. There’s no doubt about that.
[00:33:01] David McGreal: Let me kind of piggyback on that because you know about grades because I’ll just be the first to admit I got a degree and I didn’t have a great grade point average and you know, there there’s, there’s people that’ll say, oh it doesn’t matter.
You know, you just get your degree. That’s all you need. And so I kind of, I kind of live by that mantra and I can give you a perfect example where it can come back and bite you in the world of even college coaching. So I was a high school head coach for seven years in the state of Florida.
And I just, I knew I wanted to get back into college coach. And so I did a couple of camps. I went actually, we’re dealing with state universities camp. I met a guy who hooked me up with the head coach at Henderson state which is a D two in Arkadelphia Arkansas. And how can’t think of his name right now, it’s going to bug me.
But so I went down there met him in person. It was in the middle of the summer and he needed somebody. He literally gave me the job for me, a job right then and there. And he said, all we got to make sure to do is we need to get you in our master’s program for education. Now, listen to this. I had taught seven years of high school history in the state of Florida, seven years.
I was a high school teacher. I was a certified high school teacher in Henderson state in Arkansas would not let me into their graduate program for education because my college GPA, which was 10 years ago at this point, and I thought seven years was too low. That’s crazy. Yeah. How about that? And so all of you out there listening, if there’s any players going to listen to this, when people say your GPA doesn’t matter, You may get lucky and it may not, but I’m telling you from experience, it can come back and bite you.
And you know, again, you talk about that, just that decision back then that was a division two GA assistant position that I was offered, I guess that’s been, that was 2009. Yeah, 2009. So 13 years ago if I would have been a division two grad assistant 13 years ago, where would I be right now?
And you’re not, I love where I’m at. I love, I love Penn state. I love the division three level, but you kind of see what I’m saying. You just, you gotta take everything seriously, man. You just can’t take things for granted.
[00:35:13] Mike Klinzing: When you got to school, what was your initial thought about what you wanted to do?
Obviously your dad being a coach and you having a love of sports was coaching in your mind when you first got to school or were you thinking I’m going to go do something else and just, what, what, what was your mindset at that point when you first got.
[00:35:30] David McGreal: Oh, I think especially when the first guy to school, I knew that that no one thing I wanted to do is some involve a basketball.
I was one of those naive ones that still thought I could help I knew I wasn’t going to the NBA. I don’t get them all, but I thought I could probably play overseas or something like that. And then of course I had my injuries. And then that was over pretty quickly.
Yeah, I mean, basketball was always, probably what, what I was going to let, Hey you know, I hang my hat on. You know, I remember that I remember one game, we were playing Methodist university and it was halftime and they were pressing us and, and Coach Lambert was on the board. We were going back over our press break and it wasn’t working.
And so I just walked up to the board and I said, well, why don’t we do this? And I drew a guy flashed in the middle of the other guy. And he looked at me that might work. And sure enough, we go out there and I didn’t play a single second.
We beat Methodist, who was, I think at that point was like they were ranked in the nation in those early nineties. They were really good. So that was a huge win for us on the road. And I remember coach Lambert saying, well, you might be, you might be pretty good coach one day. So I always knew basketball was going to play a role in my life.
I did have a little soiree in the restaurant biz right after I graduated Maryville and that was another, another my first my first SORAY into marriage you know, I’ve kind of piggyback on another. What if scenario that involves my first wife after I graduated from Maryville, I had an opportunity to go to Tusculum under Jim Boone, who is now I believe he’s at Somewhere at Alabama, Huntsville, but he went to VMI after Tusculum.
I could have been a GA at Tusculum while I was engaged to this young lady. You add just finished as well. And I was working part-time at a Ruby Tuesday’s there until she graduated. And she said she didn’t want to move to Greenville, Tennessee. So instead I started working for Ruby Tuesday’s management corporation, and I spent five years in the restaurant business and it was the worst five years of my life.
Again, that an opportunity like that. And you know, who knows, that’s 1998. I go with Jim Boone to be his GA division two Tusculum there. And again, so to all the young coaches out there, I will just kind of say this if this is the, it, this is the path you want to go. And college coaches where you have got to make those sacrifices and you just have got to take those chances no matter what.
Because they are few and far between.
[00:38:09] Mike Klinzing: That’s really good advice. It’s something that we’ve talked to. It’s amazing day. The number of coaches that have that story of, Hey, I just took this job and it was paying zero. I was a volunteer and I just wanted to get my foot in the door. I had to move across the country in order to be able to do that.
And I think if there’s one thing that has come across throughout the whole time we would do in this podcast, that’s probably one of the biggest themes that we’ve heard, at least again, when it comes to college coaching, obviously different than high school coaching. But from a college standpoint, you gotta be willing to go wherever the job is, and you gotta be able to work for nothing.
And so often I think we grow up and let’s face it like as basketball players as kids. What are we seeing on TV? We’re not seeing division three. We’re not seeing Juco. We’re not seeing division two. We’re not, we’re not even seeing. Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of guys on that coaching staff. North Carolina, but we’re not seeing the guys who were at the low end of that totem pole and thinking about how they’re trying to climb the close coaching ladder.
We only see, we only see the guys that are making millions of dollars. And I think it, it quickly the people who realize faster that that’s not the way it works in the real world. I think those are the people that ultimately probably end up having the most success because they figure out right away, like, Hey, I gotta start.
I gotta start grinding. I got to get to camps. I got to start building relationships. I got to get my foot in the door and work as hard as I can and the job of men. And then that’s when the opportunities start to come. It’s, it’s very rare that you you fall into this dream job right out of the gate and see that you’ve got to put your time in and you’ve got to build relationships and, and do the best job you can, whether it’s you know, whether it’s an unpaid volunteer job at a Juco in the middle of nowhere or whatever job it is, you gotta, you gotta really put your feet on the ground and get to work.
[00:39:59] David McGreal: Well, I could go two ways with that, like the first one. But so I was, like I said, this is how my coaching path went from, from that time period. Right. I worked at Panera Bread. I finally said I can’t do this anymore. Went back to coach Lambert. And I said, coach, I want to get into coaching please.
You know, please help me make me a volunteer assistant in Maryville that year. I worked at a, there was no joke. I worked at the liquor store. Todd was a substitute teacher. That team was bright, went to the sweet 16, lost the wash U and the sweet 16 the very next year. I get an opportunity to go back to my high school Alma mater and be the head coach.
So I did that. And then seven years as a high school coach down the state of Florida, I said, I said, I realized I want to get that college coach. And so I told you the story about the Henderson state that fell through. Well, luckily enough Roane state community college, which is in Tennessee as well, guy named Randy Nesbitt.
I owe him, I owe him a ton for getting me back into college. And he gave me an opportunity to be his assistant as a D one Juco in Tennessee. Coach Wallace helped me with that as well. He was the assistant at Merriville there where we played at the time. Cause Ron stays not too far from Merrill.
And so you talk about getting paid and what you, right. So I got paid I’ll just kinda give you a, it was, I got paid a thousand dollars a month. All right. And, and he told me, he said, I want him to get you here. We’re, we’re going to do to I’ll be able to help you with housing. You’ll get breakfast and lunch every day, dinner would be on your own.
And I’m like, oh, great. So sure enough I get put up in housing and it was, it was, it was housing apartment. It was an apartment. And then the bread, the breakfast was good. One of my jobs was every morning I went to McDonald’s and I bought dollar sausage biscuits for the players and myself. And so that was my breakfast.
And so you know, the first day or two, I didn’t get lunch. I was like, so do I go down to the little cafeteria for lunch? And he goes, no, your lunch is, is just warm up. One of the songs
I love you. We talked still to this day, he just retired last year. But you talk about grind and man, those two years that round state yeah, and it was, it was a grind, but it was an amazing experience, coaching some great athletes and great. But it just all, how also how a lot of those coaches make it work with the, with the even smaller budgets that some of us degrees have obviously some other schools, but so that’s how I got back into college coaching.
And then that’s when coach walls got a job at mid-range and again, you talk about another decision making in ways that my loyalty to my friend, coach Wallace, Kendall Wallace, and former Maryville alum. I went with him and then basically started all over LaGrange. I got there, they didn’t have an assistant position made a thousand dollars stipend.
And I worked as a bartender of beer distributor in a pizzeria. And in that summer we recruited 13 guys. Grange had won seven games the year before we won the G sec regular season for the first time in school. And then we lost in a conference championship game that year and the very next year, guess what?
I had a job as an admissions counselor. So that’s how basketball works in a nutshell. And that’s what you have to do if you want to be committed.
[00:43:39] Mike Klinzing: All right. So before we dive into what you learned during your time as an assistant, let’s just talk quickly about the differences between high school coaching and college coaching.
Let’s start out with the positive. What are the things that you really liked when you were a high school coach? What are one or two things that stand out for you when you think back to your time as a high school coach that you really loved about high school coaching?
[00:44:03] David McGreal: The atmosphere at times you know, the rivalries you know, again, going back to your high school where you played at and you were pretty good programming, decent player, Having that pressure in all honesty was tough, but I loved going back as the coach and leading the team back, we won that, go on his tournament one time and against our big rival.
And it was one of the most memorable, emotional experiences that I had but in all honesty, that’s about it. You know, especially here’s one of the reasons I got out of high school coaching. It was because of recruiting. And it was because some of those high schools in the state of Florida that were starting to come out of that time were small private schools.
And it was, it was getting bad already. And I worked for us high school district that was, that was bought a book, which you’re supposed to be. And you know, there was, we lost some really good, talented kids from eight grade that should have been coming to our high school and started going through this private school.
And I said, you know what, I’m not doing it. If I gotta recruit, I’d rather I want to be a college. But I’ll tell you this I’m a victim and this was going to be my. Shout out to all the teachers out there, but biggest reason is I just, I just was not a very good high school history teacher. And again, you talk about doing things you love.
I did not love it. I have the utmost respect for people that do it know for their career, their entire career and do it well because teaching high school kids, especially in this day and age even in the two thousands, early two thousands, when I was doing it trying to teach a kid about the civilians and Mesopotamian buddy is like trying to pull teeth.
And, and that was really the biggest thing for me was I just knew. And it wasn’t that I wanted one of the leave. I knew that I was not. Doing a good job of teaching those young kids, the way that they needed to be teaching. As far as it came to academics, it was going to be 100% honest. I was doing a great job.
Every basketball job I had, I turned it, turned around Rockledge where I was, I went up and thought it left rock lights after my divorce is why I left. And I went up to a high school in Pensacola beach area for three years that had never had a winning season. And we had a winning season and my second year there, but that’s when I realized, like, I, I need to get back into college coach because I think I’d have a better effect on a young man at that, at that level.
You know, rather than at the high school level. So I love the pageantry man of high school sports man. It’s, there’s nothing like it.
[00:46:43] Mike Klinzing: I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. I know there’s a lot of high school coaches out there that probably have. Thoughts, if not, if not every day feel on that, I’m sure we all feel that anybody who’s teaching day in and day out has those feelings sometimes that like, Hey man, I just want to get to the end of the day so I can get to, I can get to basketball, get to basketball practice.
Right. And so once you get to college, even though I think there’s also a perception that as a college coach, you’re doing basketball stuff all day, and I’m sure we can dive into the fact that yeah, you’re doing stuff that’s maybe tangentially related to basketball, but there’s still a lot of administrative things and whatever, but you’re not in front of a class teaching.
So talk a little bit about your time as a college assistant and just a couple of things that you learned during that time as an assistant, that when you eventually got the opportunity to be a head coach, things that you’ve learned as an assistant, you think have made you a better head coach because of your experiences as an assistant.
[00:47:43] David McGreal: Yeah. That’s a great question. You know, every coach you work under, obviously you’re going to take a little bit of what they do. And then I think even you see things they do and you say, man, I’m never going to do that. But I think especially with Coach Nesbitt at Roane State, when I was there this two years, this guy was the most technical teacher of offensive moves that I’ve ever been around in my life.
Like he had a name for everything for every dribble, for every spin yet or rip through or the, in it I mean, just everything talking span, a tuck him, but so I learned how to Do a better job of individually teaching kids moves. I mean, he was a master at jump stops and master the foot work and, and things like that.
I mean, he even taught his guys the specific way he wanted them to pass the basketball. I mean, he was just a technician. And you think about it being one Juco, that’s probably not what you think about a lot of places, but this guy was when we did individual workouts. Every one of them was like a cerebral exercise.
And, and I learned the positives of that and I’ve taken those into my steals, a slice sweep. There’s one of the ones he taught and I basically did like a double rip through, but I still use some of his terminology when I teach moves. You know, he actually was the first coat. I mean, really was other than coach Lambert, who I only worked under as an assistant for a year and a volunteers.
But Coach Nesbitt was so just ingrained with like what was going on in the game that he didn’t even sub I substituted for him and his rule the game being BG, ecology you wanted everybody to play. So it was just as long as I got everybody in there for X amount of minutes first half and X amount of minutes, second half, and then just make sure the best players ran at the end of the game.
That was my, that was all I did. And he didn’t care. He didn’t care who I put in. Because he would just be staring at the game, making sure they’re running the offense. Right. Making sure they’re running the break. Right. You know? And he was just so dialed in in the fundamentals of the game, both individually and team, that is something that I really realized that I needed to have a better grasp on and that he really helped me with that for sure.
And then coach Wallace, my guy at LaGrange you know, you talk about a culture builder. ou can kind of look back at the history of a Grange college you know, before he took over and see what, what he walked into and what he’s done since he’s been there. And really, it’s just it’s just the attitude of while we’re in this gym, while you’re a part of this program, you’re going to give it your all, you’re going to give it 110% because he does he’s, he’s intense, he’s he’s fiery.
And he doesn’t really he doesn’t really accept excuses. And you know, again, once again, I’ve learned how to take those types of things and use them positively. And I’ve taken those things that I think may have not have had such a positive impact on the players and kind of push those to the side.
So there’s that. But you know, he was again, a guy that was very Done with practice plans. You know, he knew exactly. We always had a broken down what we were going do and, and really kind of made sure that each day, each day, that whatever the goal was that day that we got accomplished.
You know, then he was also very good scouter. I mean, he learned that being assistant at Maryville college there for coach Lambert for seven or eight years. And he became a really good scouter of the other teams, which I, he, he taught me, we worked on that a lot together. But you know, it’s just, as I said, I think you’d take a little bit from everybody you’ve worked under.
You know, the biggest thing with, with, with LaGrange was different types of. Recruiting. So you go from, I went from D one Juco where like, you can literally recruit anybody, anybody talk to the kids that may not be financially well suited, or you could go talk to the, to the kids that you thought you had a 4.0, you could talk to the kids that you know, are, are super athletic or, or the guys that are so you didn’t, and you can offer them something, right.
And then you switch over to D three and it’s kind of like a more, like, more, like a bigger cast of a net to hopefully catch more that you can find more diamonds in the rough that way rather than really just going and talking to anybody you want, you really gotta more pinpoint who you’re, who you’re going after, when.
You know, set those parameters. So I learned that a lot from coach Wallace as well.
[00:52:44] Mike Klinzing: Let’s talk about that. I want to get back into how you got to Penn State Altoona, but I think now’s a good time to talk about that recruiting piece of it. So when you’re going out and you’re thinking about how you’re going to put together your recruiting class and who you’re going to go out there and who you’re going to see, how do you put together your initial list of players that you’re going to take a look at?
How does that first list come together and how many kids are on that initial list of players? You’re going to look at in any given year.
[00:53:13] David McGreal: Oh man. You know, I guess it all depends on, on where you’re at and your program, you know in all honesty, when we took over the grades, it was literally like, all right, man, we just got to bring in the best players possible.
We need to look at position. And we just got a net. You know, we went to showcase after showcase that summer, I went and got hired and we created a list of probably about 50 to 60. And just started hammering out emails, texts, phone calls, and you just kind of hear the kids narrowed down the list for you.
You know what I mean? I know the answer, you, they don’t respond or they tell you flat out are not cutting, you know? So they, they, they narrowed that list down for you. Pretty good. You know, so I, I, and that’s kinda how I started here at Penn State Altoona two, or at our level, you want to, I should say, I feel that to start a program to be successful, that hasn’t been, you got to start bringing in the best players possible, no matter what position.
And then you just have to kind of start building around. You know, if you go in there and, and this is my personal opinion, and you go into your purse and you got, well, I want to make sure I get the best point guard. I want to get the best big guy. Well, you might miss out on an all conference wing, because that’s not what you’re looking at right there.
So I just don’t think you can, especially early on you can really pinpoint, oh, we need this, we need this at our level. You just got to take the best player possible. Now, now that you know, you get to a situation and we’re kind of finally at it here at Penn state Altoona, where we had 19 wins. We only have one true senior leave.
And now we do have a couple guys that are testing the waters, which blah, blah, blah. And so we are a little bit more defined and our list is a little bit smaller. And we are going for guys that we probably are going to get because you know, they’re really good, but we’re going to, we have that confidence.
Now. We also have a pretty good nucleus of dogs where we can take those risks and not have to just sky’s really good amounts. Well, we gotta bring in, we gotta bring in, we’ve got to bring them in. Now we can be a little bit more selective than we can be a little bit more you know try to pinpoint what we need.
But again, man, it’s so fluid at our level. You know, rosters man, it goes back even to when I played in the nineties marital hell, I went, I came in my freshman year and the class of 93, I think we had 12 freshmen, three of us finished at Maryville college and that’s and you know, so the, the, again, Went into my into your meetings.
We have exit meetings this coming week, but we had end of season meetings and we started talking about this and then the other, and I don’t think for one minute I need to start looking at point guards and then, you know had some conversations and next thing you know, I get back out there and I’m looking for because so I really think it’s not like the big time, man, the best big we can be fine.
We really have got to bring in just a knockdown shooter. So on and so forth. I am a firm believer that you just have to bring in the most talented kids you can and work around that until you put yourself in a situation where you can be a little bit more finicky and more direct in your, in your recruiting.
[00:56:48] Mike Klinzing: What do you look for from an intangible standpoint? So clearly there’s a certain level of talent that you’re looking for, but I’m sure there’s other things that you’re looking for when you go out and watch a kid play. What are some things that leap out at you? Some things that you’re looking for beyond just what the player can do from a skill standpoint,
[00:57:10] David McGreal: Hustle, play hard, coachable. Don’t talk to the officials. I do that enough. You know, those sorts of things, really, to be honest, man, it’s lost arts taking charges diving on the floor stuff like that. I just love to see still. That’s how I’ve made my claim to fame. By the time I finished the, but with, after again, my injury really hurt my actual ability to be a big time contributor.
But I played in over 90 games in my college career. And when I got on the floor, they knew I was going to, I’d be on the floor. I’d be crashing through the door. I’d be diving in the stands or taking charges. And I just love seeing that, man. I mean, in all honesty, we don’t have enough people to do that program right now.
And something that we try to bill, we didn’t charge the drills and stuff like that, but those are the things that I like to see. You know the best way ki can, can impress me. And this is, this is probably progress, but if he comes down on offense and he turns the ball over, he turns and he sprints back.
And he’s the first one back to try and stop them from scoring. Instead of sitting there counting that he just turned the ball over. That’s how you can impress me. Cause I can’t stand that.
[00:58:28] Mike Klinzing: It’s funny. I love that. And I can’t remember on a recent pot, I forget who we were. I was talking to you and we got into a discussion about just being able to hold kids accountable as a coach.
Right. And I said that I’m amazed. I’ve been kind of out of watching high school basketball. And then this year with my son playing I’m seeing a lot more games and seeing a lot more different coaches and teams and stuff. And, and I’m amazed by the number of times that what’ll happen. What you just described will happen.
So there’ll be a turnover and it may not even be the kid that I’m talking about that turns off, but there’s a, there’s just a turnover and there’s two or three kids who don’t even run back. And then, and then they. To me. I just don’t, I don’t understand that. Like, look, I, I don’t like to, I don’t like to coach where every time you make a mistake, you’re coming out.
But to your point, if you’re not going to play hard, you’re not going to run the floor. Like that’s just, to me, that’s a basic, and I think as you said, unfortunately, it’s a lot more rare than it should be. And so when you do see a kid who does that, who runs the floor on every single possession, like I love watching the kid who there’s a turnover and it’s a breakout for the other team.
And it’s clear, they’re probably just going to get a breakaway layup. There might not even be able to be a guy that gets back. And there’s still that one kid who, even though they know they have no chance to get back, that kid’s still run on the floor and sprint in the floor because maybe one out of 20 times, right.
That kid misses the layup and now somebody is there to get the rebound. I just think that if you can build your program around kids, that that’s their mentality, Matt and you’re so far ahead.
[01:00:11] David McGreal: My eyes, I guess it’s been three years now. I was before COVID we lost the game by one point and there was a play with like 30 seconds.
Maybe more than that, 50 seconds to go where that happened. They, the kids get to turn it over. You know, one of those it jumped, the passing lane looked like it was going to be a clear break. My point guard, if he would pass jobs, jobs back, one of his guys, teammates, hustles back, guy blows the layup.
The guy went by, my guy gets the rebound scores and then my guy fouls them one
by one. We watched that play, I don’t know, 15 times the next day in film. And it’s just unbelievable that and it’s, I don’t know. It’s just, it’s just.
[01:01:04] Mike Klinzing: It takes no skill, right? It takes no skill. It takes those
[01:01:06] David McGreal: It takes no skill.
[01:01:08] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. It takes no skill to run. And I think those are things that is like as I try to talk to players or the things I think about what I’ve tried to teach my own kids in the game.
And like, that’s one of the things that I’ve tried to teach them. And that’s one of the things like when I was a player, look, I was not fast. I was not quick a six, three dude that never dunked in his life. So I wasn’t, I wasn’t wiling anybody with my athleticism, but what I was willing to do is just every single time I was willing to run and I was willing to run longer and faster, longer, harder than the guys that I was playing against.
And that gave me an advantage that my athleticism in short bursts didn’t allow me to have, but because I was willing to maybe do those other things. That’s set me apart. And so I try to teach again, any player that I work with, but my own kids, especially like, look, you gotta be the person that you gotta run the floor every single time.
I don’t care what the situation is. You gotta run the floor and you gotta play hard. And it does stand out when you see a kid that, that does that because it’s just, it’s rare. And, and I think it’s a great point that you make just when, when you’re watching. And it’s funny because you could have a million conversations with parents and players and you can say, Hey, what is a college coach looking for?
And that scenario that you just described, you might be to like 1700 things before you got to, before anybody even thought of coming up with that. And yet it makes so much sense to anybody who understands that.
[01:02:49] David McGreal: Yeah. I mean I think you kind of were making a point, like if I’m there, if I’m there watching a kid, I already know he can make shots.
I know he’s quick. I he can dribble. I already know he’s a pretty good player. I don’t drive to just see him score 20 against the, I want to see what he does and how he acts, what his teammates know. Is he a good teammate? Because he is the selfish is the things like that that you can see. And again, that’s one of the things though for recruiting at our level, that that’s a hindrance is I don’t get to do that as much as the big schools do I don’t get to send my assistants out to turn a gangs or things like that because just me and one part-time assistant and in a very small recruiting budget.
So sometimes you gotta take a word for the coaches or just seeing the kid play in person maybe one time. And then the on campus visit and how to interact with them. No, you can get food it’s not let’s be honest, but if you get those types of kids that do those things on the core, when you do see them more than likely, it’s not an anomaly, it’s the norm.
[01:03:57] Mike Klinzing: All right, let’s go backwards to when you first get the job, how does the opportunity at Penn State Altoona come to you when you’re an assistant at LaGrange? What’s that process look like? How do you get word of the job? And just talk a little bit about how, how you ended up getting the job?
[01:04:11] David McGreal: Yeah, I mean it was, so when I was at LaGrange, as I mentioned, I got, I worked my way up pretty quick in the admissions world.
And I ended up actually the, the director of admissions. And I was the associate head basketball coach at that time. And I just wanted to focus on coaching. So LaGrange college, as I mentioned, we had great success there in the USA south. We won back to back conference championship. Went to went to back to back NCAA tournaments for that.
And then then we made it to the conference championship of third year round. We asked them lost in double overtime, but we won 21 games that year. We got an at-large bid per the terms. We went to three straight NCA tournaments and you know, won a regular season title. And that in that time span as well.
And I just felt it was time to start at least looking and putting my name out there. So I did, and it was just hoop, dirt, nothing major which, you know the only reason I even applied, I joke about it now. Cause it’s it’s something that actually came to fruition. But my wife is from the Howard county Maryland area, which is not too far from here about two or three hours and her sister’s in Pittsburgh and mom.
So I said, Hey babe, I applied for a job near your family. So he gave a little bit closer and now, and Shoot man. I got a phone interview and did really well on that, I guess. And they, they invited me to an on campus interview and it was me between me and I think three or four guys.
And you know, the, the thing about our profession you know, and you’ll, I’m sure you’ll back me up on this is a lot of times it’s, it’s it’s what and it’s whether or not you’re a good coach and, and I don’t mean to downplay that at all, but it’s a lot to do with who who puts your name in who so on and so forth.
And one of the reasons I took this job, because in all actuality it was, it was kind of a step backwards in pay. And the things that I was doing at LaGrange was because Brent Baird, athletic director here, he hired me based on my resume based on my interviews and based on my in-person interview and that’s, that’s, that’s pretty rare.
You know, and so I felt a loyalty to him, a commitment to Penn State Altoona for for taking a chance on this dude from Georgia who didn’t know anybody up here. And you know, I can back that up with a statement. So I was on the NCA division three national committee. I think that’s where I met you at the sweet 16 games, a guy on here is a guy named rich ferry.
He’s the head coach in the ed at Albright College in PA. And he was telling the story. One of his old assistants, Adam Van Zandt was one of the main guys that was applied that applied for this job and was like, the front runner is a guy everybody thought was going to get. And he told me the story. He said, when they, when they first read my name that he said, who the hell is that
exactly. You know? And, and, and so good, man not to get too in depth to everything that’s happened and transpired since I’ve been here. But. You know, that’s why I took it, man. I just felt a sense of loyalty. Like, man, these guys hired me in that they ain’t even know. And, and you know, I’m happy to say that.
I think it was a good hire. I mean, obviously I’m the all time winningest coach here by wins. You know, we’ve got the four most wins in a season in school history and we won our first regular season championship ever. So sometimes just cause your buddy tells you, you should hire somebody might not be always the best thing to do.
[01:07:49] Mike Klinzing: What’s been the thing that you’ve improved the most upon as a head coach from your first season to where you are now.
[01:08:00] David McGreal: Well, I think you mentioned it accountability, as an associate or assistant head coach, whatever you want to call it, assistant coach you’re, you have a different role.
You know, you kind of are, especially when you coach with a coach like Kendall Wallace, who, like I said, the very intense coach and he demands a lot out of his players, which what’s happening, what you should do, but when you’re the assistant sometimes you gotta be that good guy. And you know, the good angel on the shoulder every now and then be like, Hey you know, coaches, coaches just mad because of this things like that.
And I think I took that same mantra into my first couple of years here at Altoona. We had success. And a lot of that had to do with the people that were before me and I have to give them credit too, because I don’t want to take all the credit for that first year, Billy Clapper, who was the head coach.
And then I actually took over for Doug West. He was here for one year and then left. And then I took over and, and the guys that were here, the majority of them were really good players. And for whatever reason, they just didn’t have success on the floor. But I was just kind of, I think while I was trying to set my mark, I was allowing more than I probably should have those first couple of years.
And we had some success in my third year is only a year. We did not have a winning record and I had a lot of issues behavioral wise academics wise socially and you know, had to let go of some players and, and it really affected our team and some injuries too. But, but really after that year going into the 1920 season you know, we, we created a new set of rules.
We created this new set of you know, things to make us more accountable. In that year we weren’t expected to do anything. We were kicked, I think, fifth or sixth, pre-season in the league and we ended up finishing tied for third and made the semis at a conference one 16 games. You know, and I think that really kind of set the stage for this year and we just are continuing to make these guys a little bit more accountable.
And I’m not as berating as, as I was as well when I first came in I, I’m a guy that I, I kind of I’m, I’m a very emotional person. So I can, I, I had the tendency to get after guys, and I just think Jim had kind of talked to him about how the generations are changing. It just doesn’t work that much anymore, man.
You know, there’s a few kids that still respond to that type of coaching. But the reality of it is man, every young man in today’s basketball, my opinions, you kind of have to treat differently. You know, you can’t treat everybody the same way because they just don’t respond to it. Like. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
I’m not saying one way better than the other, but that’s just the reality of it. So those are the two things I think I’ve done. Number one, like I said, I’ve been harder in the fact that I’ve made a more accountable and I’ve been very kind of just matter of fact broke proper rule, you got sit a game, oh, you missed a practice.
You know, you gotta do this. Versus not being as, I can’t believe
those are the things and that’s just maturing too. And I’m, I’m old, but I’m still young as a, as a head coach at the collegiate level. So those are the two biggest things I think I’ve changed. And hopefully continue to, to build on that. And you know, the young man, I think mama, my program are starting to provide them more.
But I have one of my big sayings and I’m sure you’ve heard people say it too, but I love it is you know, on bad teams, no one leads. On good teams the coaches lead. On great teams, the players lead. And you know, I’m trying to get now that accountability within the players to hold each other accountable.
So I’m not having to sit in for a half of a game that they’re telling each other, I mean, you’d be a practice right now. You know, that’s, that’s where we’re getting. And I think that’s going to help take it to that next level.
[01:12:11] Mike Klinzing: How do you get there? So what’s the process. Like, obviously it happens over time and you’re influencing kids as they come in as freshmen and then they get to be upperclassmen and they can start to do those things.
But when you think about what you’ve done, cause I know that there’s a lot of coaches out there that struggle with that same idea, right. That everything has to come from me as a head coach, especially when I think of young coaches that they want to have their hand in everything. And that ability. To let go of some things to delegate, whether that’s to their staff or in this case, we’re talking about delegating some stuff to the players.
What advice would you have for a coach who is trying to do those things, but maybe is struggling to be able to get their players to take some ownership in the team so that they can kind of take a step back.
[01:12:56] David McGreal: And I that, that, that’s a tough question because I think leadership is an innate behavior.
Like it’s hard to teach kids how to be a leader. You know, leadership is something that I think most young men are just born with, as I said. And, and the things that we do is we there’s the old basics of you you make somebody a captain and you’re the leader now.
And I think sometimes that even is a. Not done correctly, you know? And in those kids that are placed in that mantle may not want to be the leader. So to say whether you let your players vote on, or whether you just, as a coaches vote, maybe that kid doesn’t want to be a leader.
So I think it’s leadership. Shouldn’t just be one kid. Shouldn’t just be one guy. I mean, obviously you want a couple of the upperclassmen that have been around and know how we do things. Like for instance, how we like to play pickup how we when I’m not around as you know, how to, how do we play pickup?
There’s a specific way that they play pickup or others, a specific, you know time that they run in the pre-feed there’s a specific way that we do our stretching who’s going to be in charge of tracking. So it’s just things like that, that I think the upperclassmen just unconsciously pass on to the next generation.
But trying to make somebody a leader or push somebody into being a leader, I think is, is kind of asking for trouble in that way, too leaders leaders will present themselves eventually you know, if you give them the right platform in our platform is everybody has a voice.
You know, we, we, we huddle up before practice. We huddle up after practice. I’ll give everybody the floor to, to say whatever they have to say, positive or negative. Usually the leaders kind of blossomed from that. You know, we, right now, we were actually trying to figure out who is going to be our captains next year and how we want to do it because of everything I just said.
You know, we had a great season this year. We had a great a group of guys that were. But I still think especially early in the season, early in the preseason, when I am not allowed to be there and allowed to really interact with them, that’s when it needs to be you know, a team dynamic like, Hey, look, we need to get in the gym.
You know, it needs to be a team voice hopefully not just one or two guys, boys, but it is those returners. It is those upperclassmen that kind of pass on that mantle. You know, as new new guys come in.
[01:15:46] Mike Klinzing: I’m assuming that you building relationships with those kids and them kind of getting to know you, what you want, what you expect, and then they sort of internalize it because of that relationship that they’ve built with you.
And then they can take that and sort of indoctrinate the next round of. Into what you’re trying to do. So how, how do you go about what’s what’s the relationship building like piece of it for you? Do you do you have formal things that you do? Is it, is it informal a combination of both? Just how do you go about making sure that you build your relationship with the kids on your team?
[01:16:20] David McGreal: Yeah, man, I mean, I think first, it starts in the recruiting process, obviously. You know, one of the, one of the few perks that we do have as division three coaches is we don’t have any of the black periods or live periods or whatever you want to call them. We’re allowed to you’re allowed to start communicating with prospective student athletes you know, second semester of their junior year.
So a lot of, a lot of the relationship building starts then and I think it’s important. And you, and I’ve had these conversations just now about finding out what else they like to do. You know, that’s the first thing you don’t just sit there and brave about basketball. You don’t berate them about school, even you just kind of find out what they do.
You know, what else do you like. You know, and that’s what I kind of bring up my jokes when I started talking about two K and all that. So that’s the first day, that’s the first part of it, you know? And what do you want to do? You know, what do your parents do? Things like that. So that’s the first step. And the second step in is, is as soon as they get here, as soon as they’re on campus campus, get them involved.
You know, we have we have a anagram that we use a pride P R I D E. In the, I stands for involved. We get involved right away, whether it’s in community service, whether it’s in things here on campus. But we get them involved right away. We do individual meetings. So the first week of class they go to their first two first, two day of classes.
Then we start our individual meetings. Right. Then. And I talked to them about the classes and how they like them. Their professors will look at the professors, they have, we’ll talk about whether or not we feel like they might need to do different things. So we take it, we take an interest in them immediately.
And that interest that we take in them immediately is really non-basketball related. You know, we’re trying to get him involved in things on campus right away. And, and we’re, we’re talking to them initially about their class. We have three individual meetings before October 15th. And we also do study halls twice a week starting the second week of school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Obviously we do different types of team bonding. You know, I have a cookout at the house for you know, so things like that. It’s my big line to the families that, that I recruit with us being division three, I think it’s very fitting because. No, probably 90% of, of our students shoot more than that.
But 95% of our student athletes that come here are going to be investing money to come and play basketball for us. So I always thought of parents. I said, if you guys invest in us that I’m going to invest in your son and we do that, not only through basketball, we do that through a bunch of other avenues Clinton, community service.
I’m, I’m really good with special Olympics and things like that. So we get them involved in that and, and I don’t think they really enjoyed it at first, but by the time the guys are juniors and seniors and they, again, set a special, when gotten to know some of these special Olympians and things like that, you could see, you could see a change in them.
And that’s, what’s important too. I mean you know, not to sound cliche, but you know, the ball is going to stop bouncing somedat. You know, to give them those skills to, to interact and make people feel special and use their platform. And even though it’s small at our level at time to use that platform for
[01:19:44] Mike Klinzing: Invest in them ad people, right?
It’s not just about them as basketball players, but it has to be about them as people. And I think when you do that, then kids see, they feel that they know when you’re genuine, when you care about them. And then that allows you to get more out of them on the basketball court. When you think about your team on the court and somebody comes to watch you guys play, and what would you hope they would say in terms of why your teams are successful?
So somebody sits in the stands, they watch your teams play. What would you hope if they were having a conversation with the person next to them? Hey, what makes Penn state Altoona? What makes them successful out there on the floor? What do you hope.
[01:20:28] David McGreal: Yeah. I mean, people come to watch us play. I hope they really see just how fast we play, you know? And that’s why we’re successful. I mean, we, we play a fun style of basketball I think we finished a year 12th of the nation of score on average, about 87 a game. I would, I would hope that they see, man, these guys they’d love to play.
They play for each other. They shared a basketball not as much as I’d like at times, but but more in line, more than anything is that they have a good time when they come and watch us. Cause that’s what it’s all about. It’s entertainment. It’s a game was supposed to be fun.
Like I said, we get up and down the floor, we press you know, we quite a lot of play. You know, so you come to one of our games when you leave there, you should say, man, those guys can really play in here really fast. And they’re fun to watch. Yeah.
[01:21:19] Mike Klinzing: Getting up and down. Right. It’s fun to coach that style.
Certainly fun to play it. And fans, fans enjoy coming to games with balls going up and down.
[01:21:26] David McGreal: Yeah. I grew up in the south man. That’s how we play down there. We just throw a bunch of athletes at you, man.
[01:21:36] Mike Klinzing: There you go. That’s the way everybody would like to play in an ideal world. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
All right. Before we wrap up, I want to ask you one final two-part question. So part one is when you look ahead over the next couple of years, what do you see as being your biggest challenge? And then number two, when you get out of bed in the morning, what brings you the most joy about being the head coach at Penn State Altoona?
So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy.
[01:22:01] David McGreal: Yeah. I mean the biggest challenge. That we have at Penn State Altoona and within our men’s basketball program. I think we mentioned it is just trying to continue to develop a good nucleus and to continue to grow year in, year out. The biggest thing that we have to avoid is a lot of attrition and with, with everything that’s gone on in the last few years, one of the reasons we’ve been successful is because we didn’t have a lot of attrition through that, that COVID year.
So I think that is just huge. That’s that’s the biggest challenge is to keep everybody here through this whole. New era of transfer portals and things of that nature, even one and dones happening at, at the NCA division three level is that we’re getting guys here that want to be here that are going to be willing to fight and claw for every minute they get, and that are okay with it.
You know, one of the other letters in the pride mentality of uses are for resilience. I want guys that are gonna be resilient. I want guys that are going to stay here. I want guys that are just going to come here for a year and for whatever reason, just say I’m outta here. Because you you’re not going to build a great program like that.
And again, I think that’s why you had success. I think in all honesty and I’m sure a lot of college coaches would say that’s a big challenge right now. And as unfortunate as it is, it’s the reality of where we’re at, but, you know We, so that’s the biggest challenge, I guess, like all encompassing, right.
You know, the biggest challenge for us is getting, getting that to that next level and being able to, to maintain our success throughout the entire year and get over that hump and win our conference tournament to get to, to through the national term for the first time. And that’s going to be a challenge, man, we’ve got two great programs, Penn State Behrand, and Laroche that you know, always are good and always tough to be.
And you know, the biggest challenge for us is finding out ways to, to get better and beat those teams. So we can make that final run.
[01:24:22] Mike Klinzing: Your biggest joy?
[01:24:24] David McGreal: Oh, man, it’s tough. Basketball related, biggest joy, basketball related, or,
[01:24:29] Mike Klinzing: and just related to what you get to do out it from a basketball standpoint, obviously family I’m sure. Ranks number one,
[01:24:35] David McGreal: Yeah. The biggest joy is, is what you said that I get to come coach basketball. You know, I was not blessed to be the greatest player. Worked hard as I could, and probably worked a little harder, but you know, being a professional athlete probably was not in my DNA for whatever reason.
So I get to do the next best thing I get to, to be part of a, of the game of basketball you know, still get the butterflies and anxiety before games. You know, still get the competitive juices flowing and get a chance to compete get a chance to be around young men that that, that share, share the same joy, the game of basketball with me.
You know, as you mentioned, and get a chance to hopefully make a difference in these guys’ lives outside of the game of basketball, you know some of the biggest joy man, I’m getting emotional. Some of the biggest joy that that I do get are things like going to go to my boy, Trey Butterworth wedding and, and a few months one of my players that played for me for four years here, I’ve only had a handful of them cause I’m only been here five years.
So that group is very special to me, my first freshmen class. So to say, and he’s one of them and I’m going to his wedding, you know? And then those are the things that you know, when, whenever I put something out on social media, whenever I put something out, you know you know, recognizing the program and I see the, the alumni and the guys that you know, that coach responding and instill still keeping up with the guys and keeping up with me and reaching out to me and things like that.
When, when I won the coach of the year award getting calls from some of the former players about you know, things like, oh, it’s a long time coming. That’s the biggest joy to me, I mean, you’re going to win games. You’re going to lose games, but the relationships I’ve made from basketball starting with my father to coach Wallace, to coach Lambert.
And, but to all the kids that I’ve coached at LaGrange and the high school kids I coached, you know those guys know they can call me anytime they need to right now. And I’d be there for them the drop of a hat. If I. And I think that’s the biggest joy is, is, is making a difference in people’s lives that, that hell 20 years from now I may be gone.
I hope not. I’m not that old, but 30 years from now, whatever. And they’re talking to their grandkids and hopefully they’re telling stories about some of the road trips we went on are some of the dumb, silly stuff that coach McGreal used to do on road trips. And, and I hope that that’s, that I hope that it’s something that they’ve enjoyed and, and, and, and we’ll live with them for, for the rest of their lives as well.
[01:27:15] Mike Klinzing: That’s a good stuff day well said. And I think it speaks to just, again, the kind of coach that you are and the relationships that you’re building with your players, that, that that’s where the meaning comes from before he get out. I want to give you a chance to share how people can reach out to you, whether you want to share email websites, social media, whatever you feel comfortable with sharing.
And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things
[01:27:38] David McGreal: up. Yeah. I mean the biggest, the easiest way to get ahold of me to be honest is, is just the email. And it’s simple. It’s DJM570@psu.edu. And then I’m also a, I do handle our Twitter page and as simple @CoachMcGreal.
And we do have an Instagram now that one of my players run because that’s a little too fancy for me, but it’s @PSAltoonaMBB. And please follow us. We do some good content on there. You can see different things that we do within our program, the different community service stuff. It’s not all just basketball stuff on there all the time.
But if you have any questions directed towards a specific coach or anything, please hit me up. And again, Mike, thank you so much for this opportunity, man. I really appreciate you. You giving me this platform
[01:28:36] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. You’re welcome. And Dave can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to jump on and share your story and be a part of the Hoop Heads Pod, and getting some information out there to our audience of coaches.
And again, it’s getting a chance to talk with guys like yourself is really what the podcast has been all about. And it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you tonight. Really want to say thanks and how much we’re appreciative of that and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you
[01:29:06] David McGreal: We have got to give Ian Cunningham a shot. Absolutely the reason we met. He’s the guy who runs the Kenny Anderson showcase in Northwest Ohio. Ian, thanks for the connection. Appreciate you and your relationship and introduced me to Mike. So I to put that out there.
[01:29:26] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, no, that’s a great, that’s a great point. Ian does a fantastic job. He’s been on the podcast with us and what he’s been able to build here in the Cleveland area with his showcase, to be able to help a bunch of kids, to get an opportunity to play college basketball and to help college coaches, to be able to find talent.
He and does all that out of the good of his heart, goodness of his heart. And doesn’t take a dime out of it. Doesn’t charge a dime for it. And he’s just doing really great things. You know, again, in his partnership with Kenny Anderson and it’s just that event, if anybody here in Cleveland, or if you’re a college coach and you you’re at a level where you’re looking for.
Ian showcases something that he’ll be having. I think it’s coming up in, I don’t know the dates off the top of my head, but I believe it will be on June 11th. So Ian does a tremendous job with that. So please, if you get a chance to check out his Kenny Anderson showcase, by all means, please do that.
So again, Dave, thanks for the reminder on that. And it’s everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode, thanks.