The coaching search is finally over. Matt McCall is now the head coach of the Minutemen. While we can’t predict what kind of coach McCall is going to be, here’s what we know.
McCall started his career as a manager for the Florida Gators while he was a student. Eventually, he worked his way up to Director of Basketball Operations and won an NCAA Championship in 2006 under Billy Donovan. He also spent four years as Donovan’s assistant coach after a stint as an assistant at FAU (source).
McCall’s time working under Donovan puts him in the UMass coaching tree as Donovan was groomed by Rick Pitino as an assistant at Kentucky. Billy Donovan is known for preaching an up-tempo style of basektball that relies heavily on the press (source). This is a type of basketball that Derek Kellogg tried unsuccessfully to bring to Amherst. It requires skilled guards to handle the ball and athleticism on the defensive end. Hopefully Matt McCall will be able to succeed where Derek Kellogg couldn’t. In DeJon Jarreau, Luwane Pipkins and Donte Clark, he certainly has the personnel to play a Billy Donovan style of basketball at UMass.
After his time at Florida, McCall spent two season as the head coach at Chattanooga. This is where analyzing his potential gets murkier. In his first season in 2015-2016, McCall lead the Mocs to a 29-6 season, a Southern Conference championship, and a trip to the NCAA tournament where they lost to Indiana as a 12 seed. Notable wins that season include Georgia, Illinois and Dayton.
Year two was more of a Derek Kellogg type season. He ended at 19-12 and failed to return to the big dance. On the surface it looks like a big down step, however for a second year head coach, 19-12 is a pretty good record. He came in hot his first year which probably unfairly raised expectations – the Mocs were picked to repeat as conference champions (source). He was only one win a way from a 20 win season.
It remains to be seen how McCall will fare at UMass, but he has a strong roster with most of the stars sticking around and he can hopefully build on the momentum he gained down south.
One place where McCall might have an immediate impact is recruiting. In the past, UMass has had a recruiting connection in Florida and with McCall that could get stronger. Guys like Freddie Riley (from the same home town of Ocala, Florida as McCall) and Tyler Bergantino come to mind when you think of UMass players from Florida. With his deep connections there, look for McCall to bring in even more Florida guys.
For Chattanooga, he was able to bring in three star recruit David Jean-Baptiste which is they exact type of talent UMass fans are hoping he can bring to Amherst (source).
For now, it seems like the Minutemen are excited to play for Coach McCall. Rashaan Holloway and CJ Anderson both expressed confidence in their new coach at his introductory press conference (source). Unfortunately, some of the older guys have already decided to transfer or will in the near future which is not unexpected during a coaching change. Zach Lewis, Zach Coleman and Seth Berger are all either gone or on their way out (source). Coleman and Berger saw their minutes decline with the addition of the start studded freshmen class and Lewis never seemed to click with the team. All three are eligible for immediate transfer.
This is good news for McCall because it means the core of a young, talented team will be staying with him for the long haul. UMass Final Four 2018 back on!