Twitter – @CoachMattMcCall
Matt McCall is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Massachusetts. Coach McCall recently completed his third season at Umass after previously being the head coach at UT-Cahttanooga for two seasons where he led the Mocs to a 48-18 record and was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2015-2016.
McCall spent 11 seasons, over two stops, with Billy Donovan at Florida. After five seasons as a manager and graduate assistant, he was named Director of Basketball Operations (2006-08) before returning to Gainesville as assistant coach prior to the 2011-12 season. In total, McCall was part of four SEC titles, four SEC Tournament titles, two NCAA Elite Eights, a Final Four and two NCAA titles.
Between stints in Gainesville, McCall was an assistant under Mike Jarvis at Florida Atlantic for three seasons.
Matt became the 22nd Head Coach in UMass history when he took over the program on March 29, 2017.
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Be prepared to take some notes as you listen to this episode of the Hoop Heads Podcast with Matt McCall, Head Coach at the University of Massachusetts.
What We Discuss with Matt McCall
- How he ended up at the University of Florida
- How he camped outside Florida AD Jeremy Foley’s office as a sophomore looking to be a part of the basketball program
- Being the low man on the totem pole as a first year student manager at Florida
- Being part of two National Championships
- Hitting Coach Billy Donovan in the head with an errant shot on his first day on the staff
- Working out Joakim Noah & Al Horford in the summer as a manager
- Sweating with your players on the floor and spending time with them off the court
- His relationship with Coach Donovan
- Don’t chase jobs, instead focus on serving your head coach and your program
- Why it’s important to get the “right” guy not “your” guy as a recruiter
- Why player development was so important at Florida
- How he got his first opportunity as a head coach at UT-Chattenooga
- You don’t know what you don’t know as a first year head coach – it can be overwhelming
- Building relationships with players and key people on campus
- Why he loves practice
- Dealing with social media as coach and the impact it can have on players
- Why he took the UMass job after two great years at UT-Chattenooga
- Figuring out what type of culture he wanted to build at UMass and what his values are as a coach
- The Future of UMass Basketball
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THANKS, MATT McCALL
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TRANSCRIPT FOR MATT McCALL – UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS MEN’S HEAD COACH – EPISODE 310
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle, and we are pleased to welcome from the University of Massachusetts head coach Matt McCall. Matt, welcome to the podcast.
Matt McCall: [00:00:11] Mike, I appreciate you guys having me on tonight, man. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:15] Absolutely. We are very excited to have you on talk about all the great things that you’ve been able to do in the game. All the great experiences and people that you’ve been able to work with. Want to go back in time first and start out talking about when you were a kid. How’d you get involved in the game of basketball?
What made you fall in love with it when you were younger?
Matt McCall: [00:00:32] You know, I think like, like most kids, you know, growing up in a, in a family of , my father was a middle linebacker at the university of Florida. so, you know, you play everything, you know, you, you play football, you play baseball, you play soccer.
You even got on the golf course at a young age. And basketball was the one sport that just. I kept kind of gravitating towards it, kept gravitating towards it, [00:01:00] amongst playing, you know, all these other things. I used to go to lawn Kruger’s camp back in the day when he was the head coach at the university of Florida.
And, just kept gravitating towards the game. And you know, it wasn’t really, I tell people all the time when they asked me how did I get started in basketball, I said, well, you know, my mother was a musician and my dad was a linebacker. Unfortunately for me, I get the body of it. You’re a musician and the face of a linebacker.
So. You know, basketball was an easy choice for me to pick. And, you know, my father, I give him so much credit because even, you know, he was a captain in the 1967 know Florida team. he never pushed me to, to play football. He wanted me to. To play and enjoy the things that I liked. And I just kept gravitating towards it.
And it was probably, you know, when I started getting into middle school where it became the thing that I was going to focus on the most, each and every day, I’ll never forget, I was on a YMC team and I had a coach named Leroy [00:02:00] Simms, who’s still a very, very good. Dear friend today, and, you know, we had a practice on an outdoor court at a park for our first practice, you know, in sixth grade YMC ball.
And you know, my father, because he knows athletics, he could see that Leroy knew what he was doing and the way he, you know, structured practice or how he was in the game, his knowledge of the game. And. You know, when that season was over, my dad approached Leroy about, you know, working with me kind of on a one on one basis.
And, Leroy just did it out of the, the kind of his heart, and it just grew from there. And we would be on outdoor parks, you know, and in Ocala that we rotate and we go to Tuska Willow one day we’d go to. You know, Scott Kerrigan park, the next day we’d go out to war Memorial. One day we just keep rotating around town and he’d throw me into these pickup games against, you know, grown men.
And I’m in sixth and seventh grade, you know, and, it just became. You know, the game that I really, [00:03:00] really wanted to focus on. And, I ended up selecting, my high school was the school that was closer to my house, but their basketball program was up and coming. And, you know, I played football and going into high school, the varsity football coach had coached.
Four of my uncles, back at Ocala high, which is now forest high school. And he would come in the gym and I’d be in the gym working on my game, you know, in the fall, in September, after school, before school. And he’d always just stop and say, when you come play for me, like your uncles did. And I just would just not pay it any mind.
I knew I wanted to focus on basketball. So that’s kinda how the, the journey for the game got started. And it just, it took off from there and loved it and played four years at Bellevue high school and you know, was able to compete in three state tournaments and you know, had had a lot of fun playing at some great teammates and some great teams.
And you know. You go through that, you got these dreams, these aspirations to [00:04:00] play in college and you know, you kind of get hit in the face a little bit, you know, with reality. And that was a decent player. I worked really, really hard. didn’t have any real scholarship offers, anything like that. But I love to work.
I love the game. I loved being in the gym and I kind of went through my whole senior year trying to figure out what was going to be next for me and how could I continue, you know, with the game, you know, being a part of my life. And, you know, that was kind of a crossroads for me on what I was going to do.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:33] So when you think back to that time, and you’re going through to decision, I assume the decision is, do I go and play at a division three or NAIA school, that type of environment, or do I go and do something else and start looking at what are my options beyond playing? Is that kind of where you were at at that point?
Matt McCall: [00:04:48] Yeah, and we were, we were kind of touring the state, me and my dad and my mom, we w we were going to. No division two schools like Rollins college and, [00:05:00] you know, we visited different places like that, you know, Flagler and checked out campuses to see. we ended up going and taking a visit to Stetson university and I was going to be kind of a preferred walk on there and be a part of the team at Stetson and was going to go there and actually enrolled in summer school and went through a summer session there.
And it was just. Didn’t feel right, just wasn’t the right fit for me. And I just didn’t, you know, it was a very, very small school in the middle of Florida. Actually, one of my mentors now, Donny Jones is the head coach there, ironically. But it was just, you know, that was what I was wanting to do, but I don’t know if that was ever the right place for me.
You know, I was kinda. Still trying to figure it out. I, we had kicked around the ideas of prep school, you know, and, I didn’t really, no about prep school back then, like I know now, but you know, it was kind of the military academies, but the Hargraves the fork [00:06:00] unions, is that the route I want to go? And then, you know, some just kept pulling me in.
Dragging me back to the University of Florida. You know, my father played there. Obviously I had two older sisters. That one had just graduated from there. My other sister was a junior in college there. I had friends that were going to school there and something just kind of kept pulling me back to Florida, pull up, pulling me to the university of Florida, and you know, it was kind of one of those things.
Okay, well, you know, let me, let me, let me go to Florida and I’ll play intermural basketball. I’ll have basketball still as a part of my life. I’ll play intermurals I’ll join a fraternity because that’s what, that’s what everybody does. When you go to Florida, you’re either an athlete or you’re part of the Greek life.
I’ll do that. I’ll be a normal student and I’m gonna have a great, great experience at that point in time. I kind of wanted to do the journalism route and I was thinking about, you know, getting a degree in journalism and maybe I wanted to be a journalist and interview athletes or be on [00:07:00] ESPN or do something like that.
So I was still at, at 18 years old, I was confused. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Mmm. I took a break really from the game, and that’s when I, I, it was then, and that year, that freshman year of college, the University of Florida, I couldn’t have been more miserable. And while everyone was going out, having a great time, college life, this, that, and the other.
I was miserable. I was, this is not what I want to do. This is not what I want to be doing. I want to be involved in basketball. I want to coach. It was then and there. I didn’t know, you know what route I wanted to go as far as where the coaching piece was going to take me, but that freshman year in college where I was away from the game and I was just a normal student at the university of Florida.
I was, I was hit with that though. So reality, man, you’re, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing and I’m not having any fun here in college and I got to get back involved in the game and that’s, [00:08:00] that’s where it started.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:01] Had you ever had any experience coaching? Like when you were in high school, did you coach like a youth team or anything like that?
Did you have any experience at all with coaching or was it just something that you’re like, man, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I gotta be back involved in the game.
Matt McCall: [00:08:14] I had never really had any experience coaching at all. I love to work. I love to be in the gym. you know, I, I would get up before school and if I couldn’t get in the gym, I’d be in the driveway shooting.
You know, I’d stay at the practice. I try to get extra work in there, you know, Christmas break, going to the gym. You know, I loved working. I loved it. I love being in the gym. You know that back then you had that one class that was like your period class, but it was your bar city basketball class. We’d be in the gym.
I just, I loved working and even my freshman year, you know, at Florida, I would, you know, Florida is such a big campus that I would find, you [00:09:00] know, different gyms throughout campus and whether it was a part of the rec center or not, sometimes I’d get kicked out. I’d go in and still just work on my game, you know, and I wasn’t ever going to play after that, but I would just work and I just, I loved it.
And. You know, really that, that the, the start of my sophomore year, and I tell people this story all the time, they kind of ask, how did I get started at Florida? How was I fortunate enough to work with, with coach Donovan? And then, you know, I sat outside Jeremy Foley’s office who was the athletic director at Florida, and this is the fall of my sophomore year in college now.
My dad played with Coach Spurrier at Florida. So Spurrier was still the football coach at Florida. And through that relationship, I knew Jeremy Foley and Jeremy Foley knew who my father was. And so I went to Jeremy’s office. This is the very beginning of my sophomore year in college, and I sat there and his secretary is just [00:10:00] staring at me like crazy.
Like this is the athletic director, University of Florida. I don’t know when he’s coming back. He’s in meetings on campus all day, Matt, like I have no idea when this guy’s coming back. So I sat there for like two hours and finally Jeremy walks in and I just kind of pop up and I just said, Mr. Foley, can I get two seconds of your time?
And because of how great of a human being Jeremy is, and still look at him as one of the best athletic directors to ever do it. you know, I went to him, I said, Jeremy, I, I just want to be a fly on the wall over there with coach Donovan. I just, I don’t know what that looks like. but I would love to just be able to watch, practice, help out, do anything I can.
And Jeremy set up a meeting for me with Donnie Jones, who was an assistant coach at the time, and they ended up hiring me as a student manager. And it was, it was on from there. That’s really how I got started at Florida. And you know, very fortunate that I was able to, to get my foot in the door through through Jeremy [00:11:00] Foley.
So how many
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:01] guys on a program like Florida, how many guys were managers during that time when you were there? So that first year, what number manager were you in the rotation?
Matt McCall: [00:11:09] Oh man, I was, I was a bottom of the total. Okay. That first year, I’ll never forget, they didn’t have enough seats on the bench. For the games, you know?
And so here we are, it’s like the first exhibition game of the season. And I think back then it was like, you completely played like those EA sports teams that were made up of like former college players. and I remember that first game it was, they brought me in. The other manager they had just brought in at the same time, his name was Brian Reeves, and they said, Hey, all right, we’re gonna flip a coin to see who gets to sit on the bench tonight.
And the head manager at the time was a guy named Bob Episodic, who’s a very, very good friend to this day. And we flipped a coin. I lost. So I had to sit up in the video booth with the video guy at the top of the arena in my first game as a student manager, and they’ll Connell center. I was [00:12:00] just dreamed about that all my whole life.
Being able to sit on a bench in the O’Connell Center for a game with the Gators and my first game. It’s up at the top of the rafters in the video booth. So I was, I was definitely. The low man on the totem pole that year. Dream delayed. Yeah, no question. No. Cool.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:19] So that first year, when you think back to that time, who was, who was your, who was the player on the team that you got to be closest with that first year?
Matt McCall: [00:12:28] Well, there’s no question. Brett Nelson, and he’s one of my best friends to this day. Brett was in my wedding. he is, he’s a very, very close friend. He’s the head coach of the Holy cross now. him and Matt Bonner were, were the two guys that, I just gravitated towards that. I would hang out with the most, Brett at the time, I believe was in his junior year.
Matt was two as well. And we ended up living together that following year, me and Brett, and then [00:13:00] after their senior year, Brett went on to play professionally in Sweden and then he came back and ended up finishing his degree. And Matt Bonner obviously got drafted and played in the NBA. And that first summer back.
Matt lived on our couch and we kind of like an about bottom. Like, you’re in the NBA, you don’t have to sleep on the couch, buddy. We can probably find you a little bit better set up than this. But, you know, it was, it was definitely Matt and, and Brett, no question about it. I’d be in the gym with those guys rebound and late at night, snapping passes to them, you know, two guys that love to be in the gym and love to work.
And, you know, all of a sudden, here I am as a sophomore in college, my senior year in high school. Florida made that run to the final four. They lost to Michigan state in the national championship game. And I was right there. I, I, me and my dad went up there to Indianapolis to watch that. So I watched Brett as a freshmen, you know, kind of scattered around North Carolina and he had an unbelievable freshman year in an NCAA tournament that year.
And [00:14:00] here we are two years later and I’m rebounding for him and the practice facility and you know, him and Matt. And, it was great. It was, it was an unbelievable time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:08] Yeah, that’s very cool to be able to experience it sort of on the fan side of it. And then suddenly there you are a part of it. And I’m sure that was, I’m sure that was a thrill.
And again, just with all the connections that you and your family had previously to university of Florida, made it even more special. When you think back to your first experiences with coach Donovan and kind of being. A part of the staff. What are some things that you remember that maybe were a little bit surprising to you that you didn’t realize that coaches spent so much time on when you first kind of got behind the curtain, so to speak, and got to see what was going on?
What were some things that surprised you?
Matt McCall: [00:14:50] Well, I think, you know, at that age, you know, and in high school you’re not. You guys aren’t watching nearly as much film. [00:15:00] When I was in high school, we barely watched any, and I know that a lot of coaches today are doing much, much more with obviously technology as it continues to advance.
But I was blown away. You know, I grew up in the video room. While these guys were breaking down tape and breaking down every single action, every single set that every single team runs, and coach would just sit there and watch film after film after film and the amount of edits these guys were making on every single thing that the team was doing at that age.
I was, you know, a sophomore in college. I couldn’t believe it. I was blown away. It’s just the amount of. Film and tape that these guys were doing. You know, back then, you know, technology is not,
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:46] it was a little different. That right. It was a little different.
Matt McCall: [00:15:49] I remember like I’m having, you know. My first year on the team.
We ended up playing Creighton in the NCAA tournament in [00:16:00] Chicago, and it’s Kyle Korver and he actually had an unbelievable game. They beat us in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but when we got that matchup. I remember driving to the Jacksonville airport to meet the airplane where the film on Creighton was coming for him.
Erase it back to camp. That’s how you did it back then. There was no synergy. There was no just hopping on the internet. It was all taped to take deck to deck video and you went and got like. Five or six videotapes of Creighton had to run from the Jacksonville airport back to campus late at night. Give him these guys.
They start cutting them up. I mean, it was, I was blown away. It’s just the amount of video that went into the whole deal, you know? Especially back then.
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:46] How much time did you get to spend sitting with them? Just kind of, again, as you said earlier, as a fly on the wall while they’re breaking down tape, did you get to sit in on a lot of those sessions too?
Matt McCall: [00:16:55] You know, I didn’t get to sit in when I was a manager. When I was a student [00:17:00] manager. I didn’t sit in on any film sessions with the team. I would go up in the video room and see if coaches needed anything, if they needed me to run and get, get them lunch if I needed to. You know, get them another tape. I would sit there with those guys and watch them break down tape, you know, and scout the games.
especially with the video guys or the video staff. And then, you know, I constantly be asking assistant coaches if they needed any help. Is there anything I can do? you know, Donny Jones was there at that time. Anthony Grant was there at that time. John Pelphrey was there. Tom ocean was there, you know, so like I, I got to, it became me just establishing relationships with them.
through asking if they needed any help with anything, but in terms of being in there with the team while coach Donovan was going over film study, I was never in there as a student. That kind of came and evolved once I transitioned into grad school and then became the ops guy.
Mike Klinzing: [00:17:58] All right. As a manager, [00:18:00] What was your favorite memory from the time when, when you were a manager? Both. Maybe something behind the scenes and then maybe just a game or two that you remember that really stands out for you.
Matt McCall: [00:18:12] Well, I mean, you know, obviously the, my, my second year in grad school, I was a graduate manager, was the first national championship, you know, and being a part of that thing, that being on the bench, that’s something that obviously I’ll never forget.
You know, there’s, there’s a million stories I could tell you from, from behind the scenes. My first day. I’m on the court and I, you know, I’m completely intimidated by coach Donovan. He’s got the barrel chest, the slick back hair. You think this guy is like all business all the time and I’ll never forget my first day, I just got hired.
We just finished individual instruction. Or are actually the first practice of the year and our practice facility was set up that you can kind of sneak up these back steps and it went right to [00:19:00] coach’s office and everyone’s cleared off the floor. I’m still out there. I’m kind of cleaning up some stuff and putting some basketballs away and I’m like, alright, you know what?
I’m going to shoot around a little bit. Now there’s nobody in the gym, there’s nobody left, and I shot a ball and coach. Comes through the doors. I was walking towards the door to go up to his office and I didn’t realize he was closed and it misses and hits him on the top of the head, turns around and gives me a look and said, Hey man, next time, just say heads up.
Never spoken to the guy to up to that point in time, nothing. It was my first day on the job and I hit the head coach, a future hall of Famer right in the head off a shot. I didn’t even need to take. Need to take, you know, but, that’s a memory that that’ll stick out. And then, you know, when we’re making the run in, Oh six college game day was there.
We’re playing Kentucky, in front of college game day. They had Rajon Rondo, Randolph Morris, they had a terrific team. And [00:20:00] Jay Bilas has wanted to do a pick and roll segment with coach Donovan out on the floor. So coach calls me into his office. He said, Hey Matt, I need you to gather a couple of the guys.
I need about four guys with you to help you or to help me with this segment that I’m going to do out there on the floor. I said, great. So I go gather, you know, for the other managers we put on, you know, the, the Florida practice jerseys, we all go in a weight room, do a couple curls, make sure our arms a little bigger on national TV.
And Billy comes over to me and he goes, I’m going to put you in the corner. Okay? And we’re going to talk about playing and spread pick and rolls. And when I come off and I throw it to you, I want you to shoot it. Now, keep in mind, this is going to be on national television.
You got students in the stands, everybody’s there. And this, I say, coach, no, no, no, no. Let me be the screener or the roller. No, no, no, no. Get in the corner when I thought to you shoot it. And so he puts me in a corner. I’m like, whatever you do, don’t shoot him. No your ball. You got to hit the rim. Got it. Hit the rim. And here we are. We just did a couple of curls, couple of [00:21:00] bench presses, and he comes off and he goes, I’m going to throw it to the best shooter in Gainesville right here.
And he throws me a pass and I shot a set shot from the corner. Just so I didn’t shoot an air ball and it went through, the net players were going nuts. Horford and Noah come on the floor like chest bumping me and green those guys. So that was, that was a pretty cool memory for a guy. I never got to play in college.
The hit a shot like that on that. I’ll never forget that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:26] You still have that tape.
Matt McCall: [00:21:28] Somewhere. I don’t know. My wife probably threw it away. somewhere. It’s gotta be in the, in the archives somewhere.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:37] That’s good stuff. That is very, very cool. So when you went from being a manager, and then you obviously got the GA position, and then you get the director of ops job. So just talk to us a little bit about sort of the job description and each one of those positions just for people. We got a lot of young coaches that are listening, and I think just to kind of clarify maybe what ] your role was in each of those [00:22:00] different positions within the staff, just so people out there have an idea of what it is that you had to do. What were your responsibilities?
Matt McCall: [00:22:05] Yeah. You know, I was very, very fortunate when I was a graduate manager or a GA or whatever you want to call it. I’m getting my master’s degree. Back then, coaches couldn’t work with players in the summertime, so what would happen was, because this is how I really got kind of my start in terms of coaching, I would be the guy in the summertime that was working guys out.
Because it was legal. The managers could be in the gym with the guys snapping passes and putting them through workouts. Well, that, that, that was me and it just so happened, at that time it was Noah Horford, Corey brewer, Maurice spates. Those guys were the guys that were coming through the program. So I’m a GA, I’m a graduate manager, and I’m the guy kind of working these guys out over the summer, and it was unbelievable [00:23:00] experience.
For me at that time. as a manager, you can be much, much more involved in practice. You know, you can’t technically practice, but you may be thrown out there on the scout team for a drill or a guy to contest shots as guys are running off screens and you know, stuff like that. You can do those things as a manager.
So from that standpoint, it was unbelievable. It was, there’s days in practice, I leave there, you know, in a sweat, you know. but the, the workout piece. The summer workouts piece. Well, you’re down there. You’re the guy rebounding, you’re snapping passes and trying to put them in drills on your own. I got to really, really grow as a coach.
When you transition into the ops role or the video role. The freedom you have to be out on the floor with the players is completely taken away. You’re really the guy that’s up in the office doing all the administrative work. You’re not allowed to do anything down on the floor with the players. So when you’re looking at being a [00:24:00] graduate assistant where you could go somewhere, get your master’s degree, you’re going to have a lot more freedom to be out on the floor interacting with the players, whereas you’re an ops guy or a video guy.
You’re not going to have that luxury. So I think that for me, that experience to get my master’s degree and go through that and be able to be a part of that, and be working guys out on out there on the floor with them. And I think that was unbelievable experience for me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:30] And I’m sure not only from a coaching standpoint, point from just from a on a personal level to be able to.
Build the relationships with those players. As a coach, I’m sure that that’s something that probably served you well over the course of your career is just gaining more of an understanding of how to build those relationships with the guys who were part of the team. I
Matt McCall: [00:24:47] mean, it was, you know, I was, I was fortunate to be there at Florida during that time, and I was a piece of, you know, those, those national championships, a very, very small piece.
[00:25:00] but like you’re saying, the relationship, the relationships that were built. Being there during that time, being in the gym with Noah, Horford and Green and Humphrey and Richard and Brewer and all these guys, you know, those relationships are lasting through the day. Being up in the office and with Anthony Grant, Donnie Jones and Larry shy and all these guys that I was at Florida with during that time.
I mean, you’ll never, you’ll never forget that, and that was, that was huge for me. I was able to learn just how important that is. at that age, I mean, you know, the, the day that, that Anthony Grant, this, this, this day I’ll remember for forever when Anthony took the VCU job after we won the national championship in Oh six.
It’s ironic. Yeah. He called me and offered me his op shop. and I was, I was on, I was going, I was going to VCU, I was on board, I was on the plane. I had the bags packed. Here I come Richmond, Virginia, that a [00:26:00] very, very close relationship at the time with, with Coach Grant. and five minutes later after he offered me the job, coach Donald and calls me, I’m thinking, he’s calling to congratulate me and I pick up the phone and I say, coach, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me over these last six years, five years.
I’m so grateful and forever indebted to you and thank you. I’ve gotten up to, he’s like, yeah, I heard Anthony offered you a job. I said, yeah, he did coach. Thanks man. I really appreciate everything you did for me. What do you mean I want to offer you the same job here? And I’m like, no. I was like spinning. I do.
And, but I saw when Anthony left, I saw the impact that it had. On our players on Noah and Horford and brewer and all those guys. And to me it was Oh really cool deal because it made me realize just how close and not that I didn’t know it. [00:27:00] Well, just how close he was with those guys and the respect level that he had with our players, just from him building relationships on and off the floor with those guys every day.
That was great for me to see, you know, at such a young age, just how important as an assistant coach your relationships with players is. I mean, that was, that was a powerful, powerful thing for me to see at a young age.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:26] All right, so talk about that. What’s something tangible or specific that you can point to that Anthony did or that you continue to do to build relationships with your players?
Obviously we know spending time and conversations, but is there anything that you can point to that really helped him or helped you or continues to help you in building relationships? What are some things you’ve had some success with in terms of building relationships with players.
Matt McCall: [00:27:53] Well, obviously I think, you know, coaches has done a terrific job and continues to do a terrific job [00:28:00] on the year he had a date and was, you know, second to none.
I think back then I had a, I would see him in practice, you know, really engaged. In practice each and every day. I mean, he’d have a pad, you know, and these big guys, these pro core players will be doing drills and jump hooks and Mikan drills and line items and all this. And Anthony would always be down there and sweating with them and working with them.
It wasn’t like he was working them out, which he was. But he was working with them and he would work up a sweat just like all of them. I mean, it was, and there became like this bond that you could see he could build with these guys. Just being out there on the court. Obviously, I think the amount of time that you spend. With your players off the floor is huge. I think, you know, something I’ve tried to do as a head coach is meet with our guys once a week. so I’m engaging with them. I’m talking to them [00:29:00] about things that maybe have nothing to do with the game of basketball, you know, but watching Anthony work with guys out there on the floor.
At that point in time, I gained great respect for, and it’s something that I try to do. It’s something that I’ve tried to do as an assistant. It’s something I’ve tried to do as the head coaches when we’re doing individual instruction. You’re not just roaming the sidelines, you’re out there and engaging and working with your players.
And I think that they need to feel that from you, that that you’re out there. And I think Kevin Eastman talks about it all the time, like a sweat with your players so they can feel you’re invested in them in getting them better. I think that’s huge.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:36] Yeah, absolutely. I think that when you spend time with them and when you’re out there and you’re grinding, just like you said they are, I think that’s something that players respect and if you’re engaged with them and you can help them get better, then they’re going to have, it’s going to be easier to build that relationship if they know that you have their best interests at heart and that you’re trying to help them get better and that you can [00:30:00] help them get better by being prepared with whatever it is that you’re doing.
Talk a little bit about your relationship with coach Donna and just over the course of the time from when you first started and you hit him in the head with the shot. Yeah, Rocky start to the end where obviously when you finish there, Florida, I’m assuming that he’s eventually helping you to, to move on, to get your next position.
So just talk a little bit about how the relationship developed over the course of the time while you were there.
Matt McCall: [00:30:26] Yeah, I mean, it was, it was built really, I think, just to just over trust and, you know, I would try to. To get to the office before him. whether I was a student manager, GA, an ops guy, I would always try to meet him there and make sure that he knew I was there and there to assist and help in any way I could.
and really, really served the program. that’s what I was always trying to do. Just just serve the program. W how can I help? How can I be, you know, not add value. Because I think a lot of times [00:31:00] when you hear the term, I want to make sure I’m adding value. I think that that’s. That’s kind of an ego driven thing and you’re really kind of talking about yourself.
I just want it to serve the program. I just wanted to help, but that’s all I wanted to do, you know? And it just kind of grew over time. I mean, my senior year in college. I went into his office and was like, coach, what do you think’s next? And he said, I’ll tell you what’s next. You’re going to go to grad school, you’re going to stay here and get your master’s, and we’ll talk about what’s next after that.
Perfect. Let me enroll in grad school and then go get my master’s. And did that for two years. And obviously kind of shared the, the Anthony Grant VCU story when, when coach Donovan, you know, called me and wanted to keep me. and I went from, from being a. A graduate assistant graduate manager to being a director of basketball operations at the university of Florida.
So here on now, I’m, I’m full time. And I really became, you know, coaches right hand man. you know, wherever he went, I went. I [00:32:00] was the first seat on the bench. You know, it was funny that the national championship game in 2007 was on the other day or a few weeks back and it was my wife. I met her long after that.
And I was, we were watching the game and I was talking to her about different things and that game, I’ll never forget, Billy turned around and asked me for a paperclip and I’m like, coach, the middle of national, where am I going to find a paper clip? And then like. Five seconds later, he screams at me, I need a paperclip.
Take off to the back. You know, try to find a paper clip in the middle of national championship game. But you know, I was, I was his guy. I was, you know, I was helping him in any way possible way I could. And I did that for two years and I walked into his office and I said, coach. I’m forever indebted to you for everything that you’ve done for me.
But I want to coach. I want to, I want to recruit. I want to be on the floor. I want to teach. I want to scout. I mean, I, I [00:33:00] had the opportunity to learn how to scout from some of the best that ever did it. I mean, when you watch. John Pelphrey and Larry shy at Nan Anthony Grant and Rob Lanier, and you know, Donnie Jones going in front of the team and present their Scouts.
They just had this poise about them. They had this calmness and this energy to get the message across. And I watched that. I learned that. I felt like I was ready and I walked into coach’s office and said, you know, coach, I want to be an assistant coach. I’m forever, again, grateful for everything you did.
And he’s like, you know what, Matt. We got to find you a coaching job. And if you go out there and get that experience, I’ll hire you back here. But I want you to go get that experience. And Mike Jarvis got hired at Florida Atlantic and Larry shy it and coached on him and hounded Mike Jarvis, I mean, Larry shy, it must have called the guy.
30 times before kosher harvest picked up his phone and really got [00:34:00] me in the door with coach. I drove down, I jumped in my Chevy trailblazer. I drove to Boca Raton. I had a three hour meeting with coach Jarvis. and he hired me off of many job on the spot. And you know, a lot of that was, was because of coach Donovan and the success we were having at Florida.
The recruits that were coming in from the state of Florida. It helped me with that, and I’ll never forget my two years down there, I was grinding. You know, at that point in time, budgets were a lot different, wasn’t making very much money at all, but it wasn’t about that. It was, it was about the experience.
And I constantly staying in touch with coach Donovan and I’ll never forget, I had met my wife now and, my second year, I just finished my second year down, my first year down there, we were six and 26. It was the longest year I’ve ever had them. You think about it.
Two years before the streamers are coming down.
We just won a national championship, back-to-back national championships off the top of the world. [00:35:00] Thanks. Six and 26, you know, and I’m living down in Boca Raton, Florida. And after my second year, I got offered an ops job at a, at a power five school, for a lot of money. You know, I was like, wow, man, the ops guys are making tons of money.
Holy cow. And I called coach and he said, you need to sit down. You need to stop worrying about anything financially right now. You’re too young. You need to keep working you to keep getting experienced, and I will hire you back. And the guys unbelievable was a man of his word. You know, next year he loses three assistants.
Richard Pitino goes back with his father, Rob linear goes to Texas. Larry Shai becomes the head coach at Wyoming and coach Donovan hire me back. but it was just the, the build of relationship that me and him forged over the time that I’m forever indebted to him for everything that he’s done for me and continues to do for me this day.
Mike Klinzing: [00:35:53] All right. Give us a quick summary of. Advice from those stories. I think I could probably do it, but on a, here you do it. So if [00:36:00] you have a young coach who’s out there, somebody who’s just starting out in the profession, somebody who’s currently a manager at the school where they go, where they attend, just give me, give us the, the 32nd piece of advice for what they should do in terms of their career path and kind of how it applied to what you just went through.
Matt McCall: [00:36:18] Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest thing is, it’s all about relationships. Your work ethic, your willingness to serve whatever program you’re at. not chasing any jobs. Definitely not chasing any jobs at a young age. Financially. I mean, I get it, and it’s easy to say when you finally put yourself in a position to make a good living in this business, but we all started somewhere, and at that age, at that time, that phone call that I made to him.
where it was, sit down and get back to work. You know, if I would have left there at that point in time, it really would have been a financial decision and that would have [00:37:00] been bad for me and my career and my trajectory in this business. I would not be the head coach at UMass today had I done that. and you just gotta you gotta continue to put your nose to the grind, continue to work, and if you stay humble.
And you continue to serve whatever program you’re at at that point in time, great things are going to be, are going to happen for you. Being a normal, good guy, working hard and investing in the relationships with the people that you have on your staff is huge. Always making sure the program comes first.
You know, when a young coach gets a job, it’s all about, I got to sign a guy. I got to get a guy. I’ve got to get a guy and I got to get a guy recruiting. No, you don’t. You’ve got to get the right guy. Your program has to get the right guy. And I think that’s one of the biggest things too, that just, even as a young coach, when you get on a staff, it’s not about your guy.
It’s about who can the head coach, coach and what is [00:38:00] best for the program. And you got to remember that bar none no matter what. Yeah,
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:05] I think that’s great advice that applies. Across levels. I think you can apply that to the high school level when you’re thinking about assistant coaches, clearly you can apply it to the college level.
I think ultimately, whenever you’re in that assistant role, it’s just so important that you know, I, I love this story with the paperclip because I could totally relate to that. Not from the coaching side of it as much, but I remember when I was playing college, and I remember there were times where my head coach would ask for something or say something.
That seemed completely nonsensical in the moment. Kind of like what you described, like why does he need a paperclip in the middle of this national championship game? And I just remember several times where he’d say, I need whatever. And all our assistant coaches, I still remember like this deer in headlights look, that they would all get that all kind of be looking at each other going, does he really?
Does he really want that? Where are we going to find that? How are we going to answer this question? It’s just totally, totally out of the blue. [00:39:00] But again, they did whatever it took to be able to support. Their head coach and and try to get what he wanted because again, he’s the man leading the show and making sure that you’re doing what’s right for the program.
I think that’s a great, great piece of advice. What was it? What was it like in terms of, how was it different, your role when you go back to Florida as the assistant, obviously now you’re out of the director of ops position, so you’re back on the floor, you’re getting to recruit, you’re getting to do the things that you described earlier.
It’s just talk about how your experience was different that second time through.
Matt McCall: [00:39:32] Yeah, I mean, I, you know, here, I, I spent three years at Florida Atlantic. Coach Jarvis gave me a tremendous amount of freedom down there to, to recruit, to work our players out and scouting and everything. And, obviously we were fortunate to win a championship while we’re down there. And. And coach was, was, was great to me.
and you know, coach was a, a man of his word coach Don. And he called me, hire me back, and it was, [00:40:00] no, it was get back to work. the other two guys he hired were John Palfrey, who had just been a head coach at university of Arkansas and norm Roberts, who had just been the head coach of st John’s. So I’m now walking back into a situation with two former head coaches.
that couldn’t be better people. and we had an unbelievable staff. I tell people this story at that point in time on our staff, yet Oliver winter bone, who went on to work with the thunder for a number of years. You have Mark diagonal on staff. He was a special assistant to the head coach who is now on Billy bench with the thunder.
We had Darren Hertz, who now is an assistant at, at Dayton. we had just unbelievable people. And last summer, Mark dagnall got married. And everybody came back and it was our secretary Tracy path, our trainer, Duke Warner, our strength coach, Preston green, our academic coordinator, Tom Williams, coach Donovan was there, Oliver was there.
I was there, and it’s no secret to why [00:41:00] we won. It was because there was just everyone had the program. It was the program first no matter what. And that’s what Billy would preach every day. So when I got back there as an assistant, obviously I was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to be there. and I, I really tried to.
Dive in from the relationship piece with our players. Just because you got two former head coaches, you knew that their voices were going to carry a lot of weight in practice, and that didn’t need to be my role. you know, and, and I think that that’s another good thing for coaches to understand. You know, everyone wants to add value.
Everybody wants to be heard. Everyone voices wants to be heard. Well. You also got to have a feel for your coaching staff and the experience of your coaching staff and who’s there and who’s been there. And you still got a lot to learn, you know, and when I got back that was fortunate, you know, that, that [00:42:00] Norman Pell were both there.
And, here you got two guys that both had been successful head coaches. But really on a staff then that of all the support roles, those guys had been there for a number of years, so it was more just coming through the door and getting to work and recruiting, continuing to establish a relationships with the people.
In the state. that w that I’ve been able to do over the last three, three years at Florida Atlantic and really try to dive in for the relationship piece with the players that were there. Because it’s not easy when you lose three assistant coaches and you got Brad deal signed, you’ve got Kenny Boynton, Irving Walker, Eric Murphy, Patrick Young.
Will you get, you got a really, really good team. Coming back, Scotty, we’ll begin. I mean, you’ve got a good team coming back. So I thought diving in there with those guys, relationship wise was, was the biggest thing for me to do coming through the door, being back in Florida and the system.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:57] So once you get those relationships established.
[00:43:00] And you start getting into that recruiting process and you get out, then you’re able to coach back on the floor. Talk a little bit about what coach Donovan’s recruiting philosophy was. What were some of the things, obviously, beyond the talent out on the floor, what were some of the key things that he asked you to look for that you look for while you were a part of his staff?
in terms of maybe some of those intangibles that you guys were looking for.
Matt McCall: [00:43:25] Yeah. You know, I think coach’s recruiting philosophy really evolved probably through his 19 year career at Florida. You know, the rules kind of changed and evolved as well. And I think that his philosophy in that, and he’s always been a huge, huge development guy, and he tells a story all the time that that’s, that’s how he got Mike Miller.
You know, Mike Miller was being recruited by every school in the country. You know, and coach kind of made a promise to Mike that he worked on him with his game more than any other coach in the country. And he was a man of his [00:44:00] word. And that’s why Mike came to Florida at a time where Florida wasn’t a popular choice, I think for, for coach, you know, he would always talk to us.
No, he talked to us a lot about competitiveness, you know, and when you watch them play. Does, when is winning important to them? When they’re out there on the field, they play the game with passion. What’s their basketball IQ like? You know, I think that that’s two reasons. Coach has an enormous amount of success in the MBA.
One is because of the type of person he is and the human being too. It’s just his mind offensively. How it works out there. He loves guys that have great feel out there on the floor. They know the right play to make. He loved front core players that can really, really pass, but coach was really gravitated towards guys that just played the game with enormous amount of passion.
and just that competitiveness and that will to win was very, very important to him. And then, you know, we would sprinkle in and McDonald’s all [00:45:00] American here and there, you know, but we hung our hat or coach on his hat a lot on the development piece, you know, Horford Noah Bonner, I mean, those guys weren’t McDonald’s, all Americans, you know.
Corey brewer was, you know, then we had like that group of Patrick Yellen, will you get Scotty will be, can Casey pricer will Patrick Young was the only McDonald’s American, those other guys. So we put a lot of, you know, into the development piece of our players. And I think that too goes back to relationships because there weren’t a lot of guys that were transferring out of Florida.
The Scotty didn’t play much as a freshmen. Casey pricer didn’t play much as a freshman or a sophomore. But those guys developed and got better. And Casey was a wooden award candidate his senior year, and Scotty was sec player of the year. So I, you know, seeing that, that, that those guys, you know, evolve and get better through their career was, was important for me to see.
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:52] Yeah. I think the relationships and the development, you put those two things hand in hand. And now you’re able to overcome some of those [00:46:00] challenges that I’m sure all coaches are facing. And we can talk about that as we get to, once you get to be a head coach. Just the challenges of, I think keeping keeping your entire roster engaged and understanding that out of 15 man roster, not everybody’s going to get them out of minutes and the amount of shots that they want to get.
And once we get to your head coaching stints, we can talk a little bit about how you go about handling max. I think that’s a. A key component to being a successful head coach. So let’s kind of transition there and talk about how the opportunity to go and get the head job at that you teach at Nuka. How that comes to pass.
Matt McCall: [00:46:34] Yeah, I mean, I think, listen, anytime you’re at, at the university of Florida, the success that you’re having breeds opportunity. And that’s exactly what happened. I got an opportunity because of the success that we were having there, Florida, and. you know, we had that year where we won 30 games in a row, we went to the final four and there were some jobs that came open.
there was some interest [00:47:00] from some athletic directors and some search firms. And coach Donovan’s biggest thing to me was always don’t chase a job. Let these guys come to you. You shouldn’t have to go win an interview if you got to go win an interview. Okay. It’s not the right job for you. You’ve got to want to, you know, the relationship that he had with Jeremy Foley that is still so strong to this day.
I mean, when you go watch the press conference of Billy took the thunder job, let me follow, it was emotional because of their relationship and coach always preached that to me. You want to have that relationship, that bond with your athletic director, that Fox hole mentality that you guys are in this thing together.
so that’s really what happened. I had some opportunities. coach wasn’t, wasn’t very high on, on any of them. And the Chattanooga thing happened and he was like, that’s the one. And you know, he had been in the league with Chattanooga when, when he was at Marshall and he was like, that’s the one that’s a good job for you.
That’s the one you got to get. And [00:48:00] he, you know, he’s the one that kind of started everything. The athletic director reached out to him first. And then it kind of evolved from there. And, you know, drove to Atlanta, had an interview up there and, and was offered the job the very next day. It was funny, we had a recruit on campus and when we were at breakfast with the recruit, I think it was a Saturday morning or Sunday morning.
And the athletic director, David Blackburn called, was calling my phone and I say, coach, it’s David Blackburn. He said, let me take this. Anyway, got up, took my phone, walked out of the restaurant, back in, and he goes, you got the job, but you got to go now, can I, can I talk to them? and that’s, that’s really how it started for me at Chattanooga.
And, got on a plane, flew right there. And walked into a, a room full of players, that, you know, obviously I [00:49:00] think that they had had their, their world rocked when they’re, is their coach left. and we had an unbelievable group. We had some seniors, or some juniors at the time that were getting ready to be seniors that have been recruited.
Two coaches ago, you know, by John Shulman. And, you know, there was a group in there that, that, wanted to stick together. Not one guy left, not one guy left. I walked into that room knowing about the team and knowing that they had a chance to be really, really good. And I just walked in there and said, guys, I’m here to help.
You know. and it took off from that. We had a hundred percent retention that year. I think. Those guys really kind of came together. I knew I didn’t have to go in there and crack the crack the whip or dive in and start preaching culture and all this because I could feel in the room just from my first day there that this group wanted to stay together.
They wanted to stick together and we sprinkled in a piece or here or there and we took off. So when you get that and you walk in on that first day and you get that sense from your players.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:06] how’s it? How’s it different? feel inside of you as the head coach versus the assistant?
Forget about the X’s and O’s and just the, the, the texts, the, you know, the, the tangible side of it just inside of you. What did it feel like to be the head coach versus having come through a man and assistant for the number of years that you had been?
Matt McCall: [00:50:25] Well, I think you always dream of the opportunity.
Right? And you know, even as an assistant, and this why I, you know, yeah. You, you don’t know what you don’t know, right. And what you dream of the opportunity, you’ve got it all laid out, right? You got, you got it all laid out. We’re going to play this way on offense. We’re going to run this, we’re going to do this on defense.
We’re going to press, we’re going to trap, we’re going to be disrupted. But you’ve never sat in the seat. And it’s just a completely different feeling. And I think the thing that I really tried to [00:51:00] do when I got to Chattanooga, I was going there with an unbelievable amount of humility, and really kind of take the approach of, of, Hey, I’m here to help.
Let’s, let’s, let’s bring this thing together. I know if we can sacrifice for one another, we have a chance to be really good. We got a chance to be special, you know? So. The feeling was is obviously this is a dream come true. You’re now a head coach and those first 90 days, I don’t care if it’s your first head coaching job, your second or your 30th.
Your world is spinning out of control and there is so much going on in so many things coming across your desk and so many phone calls coming in and this guy has got a player, this guy’s got a player. That guy’s gotta play gotta hire staff. Gotta do this. Gotta do that kind of bubble. And it is, it’s overwhelming.
It really, really is. You know? And but from the standpoint of the feeling, it’s a dream come true, but you really don’t know what’s getting [00:52:00] ready to come your way. And that’s something that until you’re a head coach, you don’t know what you don’t know, you know? So it’s, it’s something that’s, that’s obviously a very humbling experience.
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:12] So what was the first thing, what was priority number one, once you kind of got your head straight, what was priority number one? Staff? What was the first thing you had to
Matt McCall: [00:52:19] do? Well, I think the priority ones, the players, I think staff is, is very, very important. you know, I knew that group there at Chattanooga I wanted to take to keep.
Intact for the most part. I mean, we had Casey Jones coming back who was preseason player of the year, Justin Toyo, defensive player of the year. We had a really, really good team. Greg, prior, Trey McClain, Eric Robertson. I immediately started meeting with those guys. One Oh one that first night. I mean, I got through the whole team before my press conference.
I think that’s a, that’s a big thing you gotta you gotta get a feel for, for those guys where they’re at. Start not, you’re not going to [00:53:00] establish a relationships with those guys in that short amount of time, but you got to start diving into your team and diving into your players. I think, you know, staff probably the next piece.
Very, very important. I kind of knew. A couple of guys that I wanted to hire guys that I’d either worked for in the past, or guys that I’ve been around. I think I had three guys in mind. I had a strength coach in mind already from who I had worked with at Florida. so I think that that’s another important piece.
Who are they? Who are the. Important people on campus, the academic advisor you’re going to work with every single day, who you know, the relationship you can have with people throughout campus, your donors calling your donors, you know, things like that. I mean, there’s just a checklist of things, and the biggest thing is, is you can’t do it all at once.
It’s just one thing, one step at a time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:53:50] I can only imagine. So what was, if you think back to now, you’ve done it twice, obviously you did it at UMass too. Those meetings with the players, what are those [00:54:00] conversations like? Do you have, do you go into them with some questions that you want to ask each one of those players, or is it kind of more free flowing?
Just talk to me a little bit about what those individual meetings with players look like when you first
Matt McCall: [00:54:13] come in. Well, I, you know, on both trips, what I tried to do is do as much research as I can on each guy. where’s he from? is there a connection with someone that I know or something, maybe it’s his AAU team or his high school team or his prep school team?
Where’s he from? Where’d you go to high school? Where do you go to prep school? Was there any relationship that I have somewhere down the line. With him. in terms of that, maybe I know his coach, maybe I, you know, where, where is he from? I think that that’s, that, that’s a big thing. I, I don’t think you can, you can go into any of those meetings trying to be, very direct with anything and you’re not going to get kids to really, really open up [00:55:00] at that point in time.
But I think it’s just really about establishing dialogue. Let them get a feel for who you are as a person. You know who you, who you’re going to be as a coach. You know, one of the things that I did both times was, Hey, I’m going to be in the gym on Saturday morning. You know, I’ve had a press conference on Thursday or Friday.
I’m going to be in there on Saturday morning. Anybody that wants to come by and get some work in, it’s not mandatory, but let you kind of get a feel for how we’re going to do things. Let you get a feel for my energy out there on the floor, you know? That’s something that I try to do at both spots, but I think in those first meetings with those players, it’s very hard to get them to open up about anything.
I think you just got to start establishing some level of dialogue and really get them, give them a feel for who you are, what your values are, and how this whole thing is going to go.
Mike Klinzing: [00:55:53] That makes a lot of sense. What’s the, when you first get that opportunity to be a head coach, [00:56:00] what over the course of those first two seasons at Chattanooga.
What did you absolutely love about being a head coach compared to being an assistant? What was something that you, as the head coach got to do that you just really loved having that responsibility as the head
Matt McCall: [00:56:16] coach? You know, I, I always loved practice. Mmm. Whether I was an assistant or whether I was a head coach, but I think.
I think as a head coach, I enjoyed it even more. you know, you’re all, you know, as an assistant, you’re going to have a say in practice. Hey coach, I think we should work on this today. Or, Hey coach, I think we should work on that or put this drill on or do that. But as a head coach, you’re the guy that’s actually planning practice and going down on the floor for practice with your plan on how we’re going to do things and what we’re going to work on.
I just, I love, I love practice. I love practice as a head coach. I love it. I love being down there on the floor involved in drills and not that you’re [00:57:00] not as an assistant coach, but obviously as the head coach, your voice is carrying the most weight down there. And that’s something I love. I gotta be honest with you.
Game days are as, as an assistant coach, they’re a lot less stressful. You know, the day you get your game day run in, we got this, that and the other. You don’t have to put your suit on too early cause you’re gonna be the guy snapping passes and warmups. There is a lot less stress as an assistant coach on game day as a head coach, I, it’s, it’s a little, a little more on your mind.
No question about it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:35] Yeah, no doubt about that. I think that that when, when the, when the one loss doesn’t go on your own personal record as an assistant, as just thinking back to your own time as an assistant coach, and I spent a lot of time as an assistant at the high school level, there’s just a totally different.
Level of investment, no matter what you say. There’s a difference between the investment and the head coach who ultimately has that [00:58:00] game on their record versus the assistant coaches who, who don’t. And I think you hit that and described it perfectly, that
Matt McCall: [00:58:07] little story right there. Yeah. And I think, you know, as a head coach, some of those walks to that media room, there’s some long walks, there’s some long walks to the media room as an assistant.
You don’t want to do media room, you know, as a head coach. You gotta go to the media room and sometimes those walks are a lot of fun and sometimes they’re there a little longer than you’d like them to be.
Mike Klinzing: [00:58:30] All right. Let me ask you this, cause this is something that I think you’ve probably been able to see the evolution of talk about maybe just the impact of social media from the time you started way back when, up until where you are right now.
Just how has that changed your life as a coach? Maybe something that’s positive and then maybe some things that. Maybe aren’t quite so positive about it.
Matt McCall: [00:58:54] Yeah. I mean, I, you know, it’s, it’s completely evolved. I mean, it’s, it’s crazy. I mean, when [00:59:00] I was. A GA. I think that Facebook was just starting and there was no Twitter, there was no Instagram, there was, there was nothing.
It was just Facebook, and then it was my space. And just to see this stuff evolve and just the amount of information that’s out there that’s out there on your program that that I think. From a recruiting standpoint, from a marketing standpoint of your program? I think it’s all very, very positive. I think there’s a lot of things that you’re able to do in content that you’re able to get out there for fans to see, but also for recruits to see.
But you can see, you know, whether we’re doing things over the summer of art, whereas our team, or you know, our locker room celebrations after the, you know, a big win. You know, I think that fans and recruits and people can really see, you know, our culture building and our team building where, you know, I think it was harder to do that, you know, 15, 20 years ago.
You know, obviously every fan base is going to be passionate. [01:00:00] you’re going to have your, your loyal fans that are always going to say very, very positive things about your program. Then after a couple of losses, you’re going to have fans that. Are ruthless and don’t have anything positive to say, and even have negative things to say.
And you know, I think as a 38 year old guy, you know, when you’re in this business as a coach, you’ve got to have some thick skin and you got to not pay attention to it and block it out. It’s harder if you see people talking negatively about your players on there as 18 1920 year old kids. I think that’s the negative side because they just.
Have complete access so your players and can say anything you know they want. And then it’s, it’s easy for me to, to go home and just put the phone down and not look at it and turn on the game film and start thinking about how we’re getting better. I think it’s harder for 18, 19 year old kids to block that stuff out.
And that’s the, that’s the biggest negative thing is when you can see some fans really going at guys that, you know, at [01:01:00] that age. That to me, that’s one of the hardest things.
Mike Klinzing: [01:01:03] Yeah, I would agree with you. I think if I go back and kind of think about my playing career and just think about just the way that it sort of went and I don’t want to say pressure cause it’s probably the wrong way to put it, but just the demands that are placed on you as an athlete and then, you know, you put pressure on yourself and you have demands from coaches and professors and all this stuff.
And then I never had to deal with. People coming at me on, you know, on the internet, on Twitter, when you have a bad game. And I, I think that you’re right, that it’s one thing to, it’s one thing to go after somebody who is an adult, who’s a coach, you know, is, I don’t want to say used to the criticism, but you just sort of learn to deal with it.
It’s part of the business, you understand it. But for a kid who is 18, 19, 20 years old, that’s a really, really tough spot, I think, to put those kids in. And it’s just, it goes to, I think social media just in general. When you think about it with kids at all levels, not even kids who are athletes, but just [01:02:00] there’s no real safe Haven anymore.
It used to be before the time of social media, you could go home and even if you were having a tough day at school where somebody was teasing you or making fun of you or said something to you, you go to your house and it’s kind of this safe Haven. Nobody can get to you. And now. You know, we all carry around that device in our pocket.
People can get to you whenever, whenever they want, and a lot of kids at that age, 18 1920 aren’t necessarily mature enough to do what you or I might do and just put that phone off to the side and not look at those things where
Matt McCall: [01:02:29] that @ button, that button on Twitter can be very ruthless at times. And no question.
It’s hard to, to not hit it. You know, it’s hard to not hit it. And, you know, I think as much as his players market themselves and brand themselves through their own social media, and they’re used tubes and their announcement videos in there. You know, everybody’s got to have a video announcement nowadays, right?
Like there’s no more days. It’s just picking up the phone and committing. Like everyone’s, everyone’s got a [01:03:00] video announcement, you know? And that’s the positive side of it. That’s fun. Everybody likes to see it. Retweet, retweet, retweet. But you go one for 14 and your team loses on the road, and the Atlantic 10.
Don’t hit that button, right?
Mike Klinzing: [01:03:19] No question. No question about that. All right. Before we leave Chattanooga, I got to tell you that the arena there, the roundhouse is probably my favorite. That is probably my favorite. College arena that I ever played in. we played there, I think when I was, playing a tournament. I think it was when I was a sophomore, I’m pretty sure, but I just, my recollection of it, I was only there the one time that we played.
it’s just that all those seats are just on top of you. I just remember just that arena blew me away. It was just such a fantastic venue to be able to play in.
Matt McCall: [01:03:55] It was great. You know, we obviously, when you’re in Chattanooga and what a great town, [01:04:00] great people, you’re in an area where, especially during football season, you’re so close to the university of Tennessee, you’re so close to the university of Georgia, you’re so close to Alabama, you’re close to all these places.
So there’s so many different sporting events going on at the time. But you start getting into Southern conference play, man, that lower bowl and the round house is full. And, it was a great environment. It was, it was, we had some great times, some great wins in there over the two years that we were there and established some unbelievable relationships with some great people.
And, you know, it was really, it was a difficult decision to leave. because, you know, we had a great team coming in. We had Jaylen Crutcher coming in who’s now, you know, a Dayton had an unbelievable year. Rodney Chapman, or starts a date and it just finished his freshman year. We were in a good place and it was a very, very difficult decision for us to pack our bags up and leave.
Mike Klinzing: [01:04:57] So talk about the decision. What made you [01:05:00] decide to take the leap?
Matt McCall: [01:05:02] You know, it was, I was in a place where, you know, again, we had had two good years, one really, really good year, and battled some, some injuries my second year there. so I had had some, there was a couple of schools that were calling and it had some conversations with some other schools, but was really committed to staying there.
And. I’ll never forget. I was watching Florida playing the elite eight on a Sunday. They were playing South Carolina, and coach Donovan calls me that day and he said, Hey, I got a phone call from UMass. What, what do you think? I said, coach, all I know about a UMass really is Marcus Camby and John Calipari.
I don’t know, and enough about it to say that that’s a job that I would really, really want to go after or, or take. And he said, well, they’re calling me and I think you got to take the job. I was like, [01:06:00] wow, let’s kiss my wife, my two kids. I jumped on an airplane. I went to Florida to recruit. I had a meeting set up on Monday morning in Florida with a couple of different players and home visits and stuff like that.
And sure enough, 7:00 AM the next morning I wake up and, and, the search firms calling me saying. They wanted to meet with me at, in Boston that afternoon. I said, well, I can’t do that. I got two home visits set up here. If I cancel these visits, can put me in a bad spot with these players. So the search firm calls me back and said, can you meet tomorrow morning at eight?
And I said, sure. So I called coach Don on the back, and I said, they want to meet. It’s a great, you got to take the job. All right, coach. Let’s see how this meeting goes. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll make a decision from there. And I ended up flying from Orlando to Atlanta. I had my assistant at the time, came to the Atlanta airport, brought me a suit that my wife had packed.
Awful shirt, tie combination. I can’t believe she [01:07:00] packed me. I ran through security, grabbed the suit, went back to security, jumped on an airplane, flew to Boston, landed in Boston. One o’clock in the morning and, met with the athletic director, Ryan Banford the next morning at nine and walked out of the meeting after meeting with Ryan in Boston for about three, four hours.
My phone rings and it’s, it’s Billy. And I said, hello. You said, Matt? I said, yeah. He goes, how’s it go? That’s what I, I think it went pretty good coach. And he was, they’re gonna offer you the job. What do you think? And I’m like. Coach. Honestly, I think the athletic director is a great guy. I don’t, I don’t know.
I don’t got to take the job. Gotcha. That’s all right. Here we go. Let’s go to UMass.
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:44] Did Billy just want you in the Northeast or what?
Matt McCall: [01:07:47] Well, my wife wanted me in the Northeast. My wife’s from, from New York. She’s from long Island, New York, and her being close to her family was, was very, very important to her.
but I think coach felt [01:08:00] Ryan Bamford’s energy. I think he knew the tradition and the history of the program. I think he knew that, that UMass is really, really starving and that Ryan was going to give us the resources necessary to compete in the Atlantic 10. And he just felt like it was the right step for me at that time in my career.
And, that’s what happened when we left the hotel there. And. In Boston, we drove out to Amherst and give Ryan a lot of credit. Man, he didn’t take any of the back roads from, from Boston to get to MRC. Took the highway the whole way. And walk me through the facility. I mean, we have a brand new practice facility.
And I was just blown away at the infrastructure, off the rip, and went up, back up to Ryan’s office, and he offered me that job that night. And then obviously saying goodbye and leaving a place. It’s very, very difficult. And that’s one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do as a coach. so that wasn’t easy, but you know, the opportunity that [01:09:00] to be in the Atlantic tan for my wife to be close to her parents and you know, coach Don and him putting his stamp on it the way he did.
I couldn’t pass it up.
Mike Klinzing: [01:09:11] Alright, so you take the job. What’s your first step before you even like, alright, so you’ve got the job. What do you, what do you immediately start doing beyond, we talked about with the UT Chattanooga job, talked about meeting with the players, talked about thinking about your staff that first 24 hours after you accept the position, what do you immediately start to do?
Matt McCall: [01:09:30] Well, here I am. I’m a guy from the South. I’m from a small town in Florida. I’ve recruited. A lot of my time in the South, whether I was at Florida or Florida Atlantic or Chattanooga, I had some relationships up here in the Northeast. just from some guys that played at Florida, whether it was Eric Murphy, Alex Murphy, you know, both those guys were new England guys.
You know, Irving Walker was a New York guy. You know, Mike Rosario was a New Jersey [01:10:00] guy. Joe Kim played in high school in New York. So. No, I had some relationships through some of those guys. So I just tried to start calling as many AAU guys that I had in my phone that I knew were in my phone that were from this area.
And I just started to kind of go through and make a list. And then I started to look at UMass as roster and call AAU and high school coaches of guys that were on our roster, started to do that, started to really, really reach out to our biggest donors. the guys that. You know, do a tremendous amount for our school financially started to call all those those guys.
But it was really for me, trying to dig my heels into the recruiting piece of being up in the Northeast, which was completely different to what I was used to, you know, being in the South. Yeah,
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:50] absolutely. Trying to rebuild your whole network that you had kind of spent pretty much the entir, you know, the entirety of your career building.
And now that. Relationship, not [01:11:00] that obviously you can’t still recruit the South, but you still have to start to build those relationships with AAU and high school coaches up in that new area. And I could see where that would be a huge priority, right as you come in the door and start trying to figure things out.
As you look at your program where it stands. Today compared to where it stands when you first got the job, what were some things that you tried to instill from a a culture standpoint, a a pillar standpoint, the standards? What are some of the things that you, as you took the job want is your program to be known for, and then just talk a little bit about where you are in the process of getting the program to where you want it to be.
Matt McCall: [01:11:40] You know, my hits, it’s, I’ve had to learn a lot. I’ve had to really, really grow. I’ve had to get stretched as a leader. I’ve had to make some very, very difficult decisions, but I’ve, I’ve had to learn a lot. You know, when you’re at a place like the university of Florida. [01:12:00] You are just constantly adding to the culture and you’re around people every day that no matter what their role is, they’re adding to that culture.
That’s what Coach Donovan created. No, through his 19 years there. That’s why when you see him get on or they named the court after him, just the amount of people that showed up for that. To support him because everyone, it’s just adding into that culture. And I think when I was there, as much as I was adding to it.
I don’t think I was studying it the way that I needed to. I was studying our basketball piece. I was developing and investing in relationships with citizens is extremely important, but I wasn’t really studying what he was doing each and every day. Culturally, I would sit in the back of the film room when he’d be up there doing it.
I’m just writing down notes. Whatever would come out of his mouth, I would write down, write down, write down, write down, but really dissecting and studying. [01:13:00] What’s the message? What are we preaching? What are his values? What are my values? You know, I listened to a podcast with was Steve Kerr, and he was, you know, talking about just how he, when he got to the warriors, him and instilling his values.
He met with Pete Carroll and Pete Carroll talks about, you know, when he got fired from the new England Patriots, he was ready to be. The head coach for the University of Southern California because of the experiences, because of the things that he did bad or didn’t know or didn’t do when he took over some of these other jobs.
And for me, I had to go through two very, very difficult, challenging years to open to my eyes a lot. What are we doing culturally? What are my values? What do I stand for when I get to Chattanooga? We had a team that was built to win. We had really, really good players coming back. We had guys that have been through a lot.
We had guys that were in the [01:14:00] program. I was their second, or I was their third head coach, and I went in there with a level of humility and just really trying to connect that team and keep that team together. And was I pumping my values to a certain extent, yes. But I had to learn and really get stretched as a leader and really dissect what are we doing culturally, every single day here at UMass.
And I think one of the things, that may have set me back or our program back a little bit is my first year. We were able to win some games that people didn’t think we would have any shot at winning. We beat Providence, we beat Georgia. We beat Dayton twice that year, and nobody thought we would win over, you know, five games based on how our roster was.
Some of the turnover and stuff like that, and almost think that that, that piece of it set us back. But I look at it, Mike, as a good thing because. It opened my eyes going through a very difficult [01:15:00] second year here, man, I got to get a lot better and I got to grow a lot as a leader and I got to look and dissect every single aspect of our program right now.
And why aren’t we moving the needle culturally? What, why aren’t we doing that? And you know, I think one of the biggest pieces for me was, was just the character piece. And not that we had bad people or bad kids, but. No, I don’t want to have to chase guys to class every day. You know? Like what are some of my values?
Like I’m a passionate guy. I want a team full of guys that are also passionate out there on the floor. These are just some things, Mike, that I’ve had to learn over these difficult years to now get our program in a place where I feel like we’re now finally in a place to take off. I mean, our, our best players, Trey Mitchell.
he was second in the league in scoring this year only to OB topping. But Trey’s got extremely high character’s at three, five student. He’s in every class. He’s got tremendous work ethic. He’s the kind of kid that [01:16:00] you want to coach every single day. And for me, you know, I think those are the kinds of guys that.
But I do really extremely well with. And I think I had to learn that over these last couple years and find out what was really, really important to me. And, as difficult as the times and experiences I had to go through, I had to do it. I had to, I had to learn and grow as a leader.
Mike Klinzing: [01:16:23] So is that a combination of understanding the type of player and kid that you want to recruit and bring onto campus along with some of the things that you’re doing day to day. Then to continue to build the pod. The qualities that those players that you’re bringing in already have? Is that kind of how you characterize what you’re trying to do?
Matt McCall: [01:16:44] No question. you know, these are, you know, I took a step back after, after my second year here, and again, I’ve got a great partnership, with my boss, Ryan Banford and, and he knew we needed to make some changes and do some things differently, and he [01:17:00] supported me. 100% and I looked at, you know, the rosters since I’ve been a head coach for four years and guys that I felt like I did a great job with and guys that I felt like maybe I struggled with and, you know, what are the characteristics of these guys and what are the characteristics of these guys that maybe I’ve struggled with?
And you know, I’ve tried to dissect every aspect from that standpoint, from a recruiting standpoint. And there was a pretty eye opening experience for me and I’m, I think it’s really, really helped me as we’ve moved forward. Yeah,
Mike Klinzing: [01:17:31] I can see where once you start to go through, and I think your story just all the way going back to the very beginning about just continuing to be able to learn and to be humble enough to understand that I don’t know everything and I’ve got to reach out to the number of people that you have in your network who have had a tremendous amount of success.
I’m sure those people have been tremendously valuable to you. And yet all that being said, no matter how much you. Talk to your network, no matter how much you reach out to your mentors, no matter [01:18:00] how much you’re studying the game, it still comes down to, as you said, you got to get that experience cause you don’t know what you don’t know.
And I think what you’ve just described perfectly sort of encapsulates that whole idea that you have to continue to grow as a coach. And I think that goes all the way back to, you had to probably grow when you were a manager and now you’re having to grow as a second time. Head coach so that you can be at your best for your players and your program to be able to give them the type of success that you hope to have.
We’re coming up close here, Matt, to about an hour and a half. So I want to give you a chance to just answer one or two more things. And the first thing I wanted to ask you is when you think about being the head coach at UMass and you wake up in the morning, what’s the one thing that gets you super pumped up, super excited that you can’t wait to.
Get out the door and get to work. What is it that you just love about being the head coach there at UMass?
Matt McCall: [01:18:57] I think that, you know, first and foremost, [01:19:00] the players on our team right now, I’ve got an excitement, to get in the gym, and get to work. We’ve got guys that want to work that are gym rats. I think that’s, that’s the first piece of it.
You know, looking at it, and this is the other thing that I had to do, like, you know, there has just been. Pockets of success here over the last 25 years. You know what Cal was able to do in the nineties over that five year run was remarkable. It really hasn’t been done since then. And there’s a fan base up here, which we alluded to earlier, that is very, very passionate that loves their school, and it drives me to get up every single day.
And it excites me that, Hey. Well, we got to change. We got a chance here to change the trajectory of this program. I think they haven’t won an NCAA [01:20:00] tournament game since 1997 or 90 I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s been crazy. So we’ve got a chance to really put our Mark and our stamp on this program where it hasn’t been done and they can talk about our players and the players that are here.
That will change that for the rest of their lives. And that that excites me for our players, that they have an opportunity to do that, and I need to help them in any way I can to help them do that, to help them change the trajectory of UMass basketball and do something here that hasn’t been done in a very, very long time.
Mike Klinzing: [01:20:37] I love the humility of that answer, and I think it speaks to. Just sort of your whole entire story that you talk to every, almost every step of the way about being there to serve the program. And that answer that you just shared is basically you’re here to serve your players and then ultimately serve the UMass basketball program.
And I think that speaks to the old saying [01:21:00] that it’s fun to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself. And that’s kind of what I take away from your answer there as being a challenge. So that’s just that answer. Totally resonated with me and made a ton of sense. I’d have two more questions for you.
One, kind of a not silly question, but, one question that’s a little silly and then ones that one that’s serious. I’m going to ask the serious question that I’ll end with a silly one. So the serious question is, when you look forward now from where you are right at this moment, what’s the biggest challenge in front of you to get UMass basketball to where you want it to go?
Matt McCall: [01:21:31] Well, you know, I think that we’ve, we’ve got a roster here. that’s extremely talented. we’ve got, you know, we’re going to have a really good senior class with two seniors. One that, that’s been with me from day one since I walked through the door here, and Carl Pierre, and then Mark Gasperini is a grad transfer.
you know. We’re hoping that Noah Fernandez gets a waiver to be able to play right away [01:22:00] from, from Wichita state. So we feel like we have got a roster full of high character kids. that’s, that’s ready to win. but we’re also very deep. So I think the biggest challenge for me and our coaching staff this year is getting guys to completely buy in to their roles.
And understanding that maybe my role last year on this team is going to look a little different then this year on our team and still being able to have a positive attitude, give great effort every single day. I think that’s going to be our biggest challenge. And I think that’s the biggest challenge, you know, for, for us, this program going forward, especially, you know, right here, you know, in the short term.
And I just think that. Obviously, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re all dealing in a very difficult time here. in terms of when are we going to be able to get back? When are we going to be on the floor? What does it look like from our, our budget standpoint, things like that, that are out of our control. But I think that, you know, for me right [01:23:00] now as the leader, it’s going to be really getting, you know, a roster full of guys of very, very talented, very deep roster by far the deepest roster we’ve had since I’ve been here.
To buy into their roles and make sure that we keep the team first and have a positive attitude and give great effort every single day.
Mike Klinzing: [01:23:20] That’s the better problem to have than the opposite one. You don’t have enough talent. It’s better to have more talent and try to figure it out. Not that it’s not a challenge cause I know it is to be able to get guys to buy into their role.
All right. Here’s my silly questions. Not really silly, but have you had a chance or have you tried to reach out to Dr J at all? If you had a conversation with Dr J.
Matt McCall: [01:23:39] I have, I’ve talked to him a couple times on the phone. Right when I got here, I had the opportunity to go down to the hall of fame and it was amazing to me one of the years that, I’ve gone every year that they’ve done the instrument, cause it’s only about 20, 25 minutes away.
But one of the first time I met him, [01:24:00] I went down there with some of our guys from development. Jason Germane, who’s a former walk on at UMass. I went down there. And we were standing there waiting on dr Jay to get from the entrance to where we were standing, which was probably, it wasn’t that far. I’m going to say it was a hundred feet and it took him, I want to say an hour to go a hundred feet because of the amount of people.
Well, you just, you forget how like. I mean, we all remember how good of a player he was, but just the start, like just the celebrity status of him, especially in that environment at the hall of fame, it took them an hour to go a hundred feet. so he was great. He was very, very gracious to me and got to spend.
You know, 10, 15 minutes. But really, you know, all these guys, Marcus Camby been great to me. You know, coach towel was one of the first people I reached out to when I got the job. He’s been great to me. [01:25:00] They don’t, you know, the people that are still here around this program in this community, just hold him to the highest regard.
And because of what he did and the run that they went on here in the nineties. And, you know, a lot of former players, we have. Tyrone weeks, his son on our, on our team who had a great freshman year and then ended up getting hurt and I was going to get the year back. But. You know, the alumni, the former players, the fans, the donors, the loyal UMass fans have been great to me and my family and we’re just excited to keep it going in the right direction.
Mike Klinzing: [01:25:33] Absolutely. That is fantastic. Matt, we can’t thank you enough for spending this time with us. Before we get out tonight, I want to give you a chance to let people know where they can find out more about UMass basketball, how they can reach out and connect with you and your program, and then if there’s any final points you want to make before we wrap it up. I’ll jump back in and wrap up the episode.
Matt McCall: [01:25:52] No, I mean, I, you know, obviously we’re very, very alive and involved in social media and UMass basketball. I think that [01:26:00] UMass basketball, my Twitters at coach Matt McCall, you know, the more fans we can get as we continue to move forward, we’re excited.
We’re excited about our team. We’ve got a great coaching staff that’s done a terrific job in recruiting and. You know, we’re just excited to move this thing forward. So it’s been a pleasure to be on with you, Mike, especially during these times. We’re all at home, or hopefully everyone’s out there staying safe and continuing to do our part in this, this pandemic.
But it’s great to talk ball. It’s great to, to be on a podcast and escape some of the craziness and the bad news that’s out there right now. But I just appreciate you guys having me on. And. If I can help you guys anyway in the future, man, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Mike Klinzing: [01:26:42] Awesome. We really appreciate it, Matt.
We can’t thank you enough for spending that time with us tonight and to everyone out there. We will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.