Enthusiastic McClain ready to rebuild UIC
CHICAGO – Even he admits it was a rare moment in his normally up-tempo pace.
For a few minutes on Wednesday afternoon, Steve McClain couldn’t move. All he could do was stand in front of the podium and talk to the Assembly Audience in the hall of the UIC Pavilion.
“It’s probably the only time you’ll see me stand still as long as I’m here,” said McClain.
It’s not like he didn’t try get around. He bobbed back and forth, sometimes leaning side to side with a few points to his left, right and ahead. When it comes to the Flames’ new head coach, enthusiasm isn’t an issue.
“I love what I do, I can tell you that,” said McClain, who was officially introduced as UIC’s new head men’s basketball coach on Wednesday. “You know what, I’ve always believed this, if you expect you team to have great passion, you expect them to play hard, they better know you have it.
“And I think I do.”
That would seem so to the audience gathered to hear from McClain for the first time representing the Flames. He comes to Chicago after five years in Bloomington, Indiana where he was an assistant to Tom Crean with the Hoosiers.
McClain is nearly a decade removed from his last head coaching job at Wyoming which ended in 2007. While that ended unceremoniously with a firing, he led the Cowboys to three 20-win seasons, three NIT appearances, two Mountain West titles and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002.
It’s been a decade since UIC could talk about tournament appearances. From 2002-2004 the Flames made a pair of NCAA Tournaments and an NIT under Jimmy Collins before slipping into a bit of a slump. After his retirement in 2010 Howard Moore took over and only had one winning season in four years on the West Side of Chicago.
After winning just six games Moore was fired and McClain was brought in.
“Jimmy Collins had it going. Why it slipped? Sometimes it does. It’s proven you can do it here,” said McClain. “Do it at a high level and sustain it and that’s what we plan on doing.”
His style to do so will mimic that of his attitude to the job: Enthusiastic.
“We gonna play fast because at the end of the day, that’s the way the kids want to play,” said McClain. “They want to get up and down the court, they want to score the ball.”
As he bounded about the crowd after the news conference was over, the enthusiastic coach was quick to express his desire to win quickly.
“We’re gonna get it going right now,” said McClain of when he hopes to have UIC back in the basketball conversation. “Were gonna compete for a Horizon League championship a year from now.”
Doesn’t sound like it will be hard for him to hit the ground running.