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Brian Stanchak

17 Nov

Chattanooga got their Man

After a total of 10 seasons working under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida, Matt McCall was well-prepared to take over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men’s basketball program. He assisted Florida to tremendous success, including the 2013 and 2014 SEC Championships, 2014 SEC Tournament Championship, 2014 Final Four appearance, and three Elite Eight appearances. He embraces the tradition of UTC basketball and is looking to forward to the challenge. 
Take us through the emotion and the process once you got the call from UTC that you were being offered the Head Coach position?
It was kind of a crazy week. With the year that we had last year at Florida, Billy spent an enormous amount of time in the off-season trying to get the returnees that we had in a better place mentality and making the new guys that we had coming in understand that so there was a lot of staff meetings. We had a 13-hour staff meeting on a Wednesday and that night I found out that they (UTC) wanted to interview me in Atlanta. I got in a rental car and I drove at 9:00 at night from Gainesville to Atlanta. I got there at 3:00 in the morning. Interviewed at 8am. Then I went recruiting. I actually flew back to Gainesville on a Saturday and we had an official visit on campus. We're sitting there on Sunday morning at breakfast and that’s when David Blackburn (UTC Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics) called. I saw the call coming in and as I stepped out to take the call Coach Donovan was walking in to breakfast and he stole the phone from me and he basically accepted the job for me before I even knew what was going on. It was crazy. 
Once you figure that out, there's a couple of emotions you go through. You're excited. The first thing for me was I have to let my family know and make sure my wife is ok because it's about to be a whirlwind for her. Two, the players at Florida. Some of those guys I started recruiting when they were freshman and sophomores and you end up developing such an unbelievable bond. Through the adversity, through the struggle, through the good times, through the bad, you end up developing this bond and it's hard. It's hard to basically tell them you're going somewhere else. The one thing I learned from Billy a long time ago is this whole thing is about the relationships. The coaching staff as well. John Pelphrey and I were there together four years. Rashon Bruno for three. You got all those emotions going through you. Once you get through that now its alright, I have to get up there and I have to get with the team because the same emotions that I've had for the players at Florida, they probably had for their coach that just left. There's a lot of different things going on at that point in time. It's a whirlwind. It hits you hard, but it's all exciting. It's something you worked a long long time for to get to this point and it was neat. It was exciting. I think through success comes opportunity. My opportunity came because because I worked for Billy Donovan for 11 years. And I get that. There were other opportunities that came my way that Coach Donovan did not put his stamp of approval on. When this one came about, he put his stamp of approval on it from the beginning. I'm blessed. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
As an Assistant Coach at Florida under Coach Donovan, how did he prepare you to become a Head Coach?
I think the biggest thing for Coach is he really tries to prepare us (to become a Head Coach). I think there's a lot of different programs where assistant coaches get labeled as just a recruiter, or just a scouter, or just an individual instruction guy. Coach isn't like that. He wants us to have our hands in every single possible aspect of the program because he wants us to be prepared for when that call comes. I think that's why you saw Anthony Grant go to VCU and have a tremendous amount of success. I think that's why you saw John Pelphrey go to South Alabama and have a tremendous amount of success. Shaka Smart. Richard Pitino's first year at FIU. A lot of success. I think it's because he really prepares us for that aspect of it. Now, there's certain things in the job as a Head Coach that you're not going to be prepared for. I've never stood up there and called ball plays at the front of the bench, but he really allowed us to grow as assistant coaches and not get labeled or put in a box to where we only have this responsibility or that responsibility. One of the things I really respected about Coach Donovan is he wants everyone to have a voice. He wants everyone to give their thoughts or opinions on what do we want to do on offense or what do we want to do on defense. Or how to do we attack this team or how do we attack that team? Or how do we get this kid in a better mental state? He listens to everyone's voice, almost to a fault. You're given opportunity to really expand and grow as a coach working under him.
How did Coach Donovan assist you in the process of obtaining a Head Coach position?
Through this process, he was great. The one thing he never wants to do is hold us back. I don't think he ever wanted me to be in a situation where he felt like I couldn't be successful. Not because I wasn't ready, but may be because he felt the administration wasn't very stable or it wasn’t a great basketball. job. When this came about, because of his relationship with Shaka Smart and Shaka knowing David Blackburn the Athletic Director, Billy put his stamp of approval on it early on. So much so that before I even got the job, Billy had my whole staff built. He was great through this whole process.
What makes the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga a special place?
I think a couple things. First and foremost, the Athletic Director and his administration. During the interview process, I never felt like I was in an interview. It was comfortable. It was natural. I never felt like I was being grilled with questions. I felt like we were sitting around a table and just talking basketball. Talking philosophy.
Then there's tradition here. Mack McCarthy took the team to the Sweet 16. John Shulman did a heck of a job and went to two NCAA Tournaments. This town, this community is starving for basketball to be in the NCAA Tournament and win the Southern Conference. Will Wade and his staff did a really good job recruiting where the cupboard is not bare. This is by no means a rebuilding project. There is some talent and some talent here to win big right away. Obviously we have become a “team”. We’re going to be faced with some adversity early on, especially with our schedule, but there’s a lot of factors that went into this as far as this being a really good job and a good situation for me.
What goals do you have for your team this year, being your first year there?
I think our goal, Brian, is we want to get better every single day. If we focus on the process of getting better every single day, then we can achieve some great things as a team. Obviously in our league, you have to win the tournament to go to the tournament. Sometimes luck comes into play. Sometimes the best team or the most talented doesn’t always win the league. The best team does a lot of times, but not the most talented team. We have to focus on getting better every single day and becoming a great team where we get to the point where we want and we get joy out of seeing other people's success and not just my own individual success as a player. If we can do that, I think they sky's the limit for this team. Are we writing up on the board our goal is to win the Southern Conference? That's everyone's goal. No one goes into the season not wanting to do that, but we have to stay focused on the process of getting better every single day.
What are some areas that Assistant Coaches should better prepare for that they may not think of before becoming a Head Coach and what advice do you have for current Division I Assistant Coaches who desire to become a Division I Head Coach?
You're never going to be fully prepared for the whirlwind you're going to go on when you get the job. It's just impossible. Everyone is calling wanting a job. Everyone is calling having a player for you. The biggest thing is being organized as possible for when that time comes. May and August are slow months. Those are months where you can maybe start to try to put thoughts and ideas together as far as how you want your staff to look or how you want your team to look from a recruiting standpoint. Have an idea and feeling of who to hire on your staff so that way you're going to have difficult conversations with people that you care about, that you have relationships with. It's part of growing in this business. It's part of making you better as a coach, having some of those difficult conversations.
I also think continuing to try to expand and grow as a coach with whatever job you're in and not get so focused and wrapped up on I have be a Head Coach, I have to be a Head Coach, I have to be a Head Coach. If I was still at Florida right now and Billy Donavan was still the Head Coach of Florida, I would be happy. I would be happy and I would be doing the best job I could at that job. If I was at Oklahoma City with Billy, I'd be happy and I'd be doing the best job I could at that job. I wouldn't be focused on my next job. I would be focused on getting better every single day and I think that Assistant Coaches need to continue to do that. When you start thinking that way, that's when you get let down if you don't get a job. I had a couple opportunities after the year we were the number one team in the country and went to the Final Four, but I wasn't disappointed or upset when I didn't get a job or I had turned a job down because it just wasn't my time. I feel like going through the year that we had at Florida last year really prepared me for anything that comes our way. Everything is great when your winning 30 games in a row and you're going to the Final Four, but what about when you're really facing a difficult year and some adversity? How you going to handle that? I think continuing to stay focused on your job and doing the best job you can do at that job. 

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Brian Stanchak

Brian D. Stanchak is the Founder of The BDS Agency, LLC. The BDS Agency exclusively advises, markets, and represents college basketball coaches. Prior to founding The BDS Agency, Brian spent four years as a collegiate Director of Athletics and 10 years as an assistant basketball coach at the NCAA Division I level, coaching at Seton Hall University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from California University of PA in 2013 master’s degree in sport management studies, intercollegiate athletic administration and Seton Hall University in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, sport management.


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