By Zack Kirby
Chattanooga, Tenn.– With his wife Allison and his infant daughter Brooklyn sitting by his side, Matt McCall was introduced as the 19th men’s basketball coach of the Chattanooga Mocs.
Following the press conference, McCall greeted people in the room and discussed the process that brought him to Chattanooga.
“He [Blackburn] contacted Billy Donovan before he contacted me, which says a lot about him as a person,” McCall said. “[Blackburn] decided to tell my boss before he told me, and when that call came in, his eyes lit up. This is an opportunity that if I got it, I couldn’t pass it up. I found out I was getting the job yesterday morning [April 12] at about noon.”
“He [Donovan] is not pushing me anywhere unless he’s 100 percent comfortable,” McCall said. “I’ve had opportunities at other places, and I think sometimes he had question marks about those places. At no point in time did he every have that about this place. For me, that meant a lot.”
Even though his announcement and arrival have been a hectic two days, McCall is already getting settled in the city.
He spent his first night dining at Hennen’s restaurant in downtown Chattanooga.
“The shrimp and grits was good stuff,” McCall said with a smile.
McCall, who is 33 years old, began his career at Florida in the 2002-03 season as a student manager, and became the head manager a year later. He graduated from Florida in 2004, and in May of 2006, he earned his master’s degree in secondary education from the university. He became the director of basketball operations that same year, and held the position until 2008.
During those two years at Florida, he was a part Florida’s second NCAA national championship in the 2006-07 season, which capped off their back-to-back title run.
Following that year, he spent three seasons as an assistant at Florida Atlantic University under head coach Mike Jarvis.
In that span with the Sun Belt Conference school, he helped them to a 21-11 record in his last season with the Owls, which included a National Invitational Tournament appearance.
He returned to his alma mater in 2011, and since that year the Gators have won the SEC Championship in 2013 and 2014.
In 2014, they went 36-3 and won the SEC regular season and tournament championship, along with a Final Four appearance. The Gators ended up falling to Connecticut, the eventual national champions.
With the reputation as an energetic recruiter, McCall has already begun assembling a staff.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS sports, McCall plans to hire Jesse Bopp as an assistant coach, who was the director of basketball operations at VCU for two years.
Rothstein also reported that Peter Gash, who was the video coordinator at Florida, will join McCall’s staff as an assistant coach.
“I’m excited to go to work,” McCall said. “I’m ready to get into the gym and get working with these guys, develop some trust and get this thing rolling.”
“Coach Donovan brought me to Chattanooga and I talked to a lot of different people and mentors in this process, and they all said the same thing, that this is an unbelievable opportunity.”
For Blackburn, he said that there were many deserving candidates for this job and was blown away by some of the interviews, but he believes McCall will be the man for the job.
“Keep in mind that he has been involved in recruiting throughout the southeast and the country,” Blackburn said. “The aggressive nature of that recruiting has refined his network and his ability to recruit. He’s got that network to know where the next group of players are, and how to go head to head with the best people in America.”
From a player’s perspective, Justin Tuoyo, Fayetteville, Ga., who will be a redshirt junior and is the reigning Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, is glad that the search process is over.
“It’s been a stressful two weeks, but Coach McCall came in and talked to us, and I met with him one-on-one, so it’s been getting better and transition is never easy,” Tuoyo said. “Honestly, he worked very hard under Billy Donovan, and has the experience of winning. We’re going to build our relationship. I’m ready for the ball to go back in the air come November, and want nothing less than a SoCon championship.”