McCall Returns with Work to Do

Florida basketball head coach Billy Donovan has a lot in mind for new assistant coach Matt McCall. The youngest and least experienced coach of three new assistants, McCall will be working overtime a lot as a Gator coach. It's nothing new to a man who returns to the Gators after years behind the scenes making a name for himself and soaking it all in. He cherishes the chance to return home to work.

Matt McCall was the third of three assistants hired by Billy Donovan to replace three that helped coach the Gators to an Elite Eight birth a last season. With the hires of John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts, Donovan turned to a guy that spent years on his staff behind the scenes as a manager, grad assistant, and director of operations for the program.

A guy that knows all the ins and outs of what Donovan wants to do inside the program, McCall will be asked to work very hard in his new role. He sought McCall because of his work ethic and he understands the recent history at Florida. "This is not a nine-to-five job," Donovan said of his coaching profession when talking to the media and introducing his new staff. "This is a job that entails a lot of labor after five o'clock. In order to have that, you have to have guys committed to do that. In my 15 years with the investment I have made with my life into this program here, there have been unbelievable coaches and unbelievable players that have come through.

"What you want to do, when you bring someone in, they need to understand the commitment and sacrifice for what has happened here. When I first got here, this was a non-conventional basketball school in a lot of ways. There were pockets of success. You talk about trying to build a tradition here over a period of time."

With McCall, Donovan gets a guy that went to school at Florida, graduated, and has the fire to be a Gator that will help push through the hard work that is ahead of him.

"You want to have guys that bleed orange and blue," Donovan continued. "Even though John (Pelphrey) was at South Alabama and Arkansas, in a lot of ways he is a Gator. Matt McCall, more than anyone else out there, his dad played football with Steve Spurrier, and he graduated from the University of Florida. He has a huge investment here and the University of Florida really means something to him.

"I think when you look at a lot of great programs across the country, it is the pride that someone has inside their program that really matters. For Matt, being a young guy. I think he lives and breathes the profession, recruiting, and what goes into it. I think he understands the challenges he has as a coach coming into this situation. With three coaches leaving and him being the young guy, he will have to work around the clock. That isn't to say that John and Norm won't help him, but he has to make an incredible investment of time and energy for us to take the next step… He being here for a seven year period means a lot to me."

McCall was asked to do a bit of everything in his time from manager, to being the head manager, to taking care of some of the administrative duties as the operations director. He has great insight into just what Donovan wants in all parts of his program and what every man in the program will be asked to do for this team.

"It just gives me an appreciation now of being a coach and right under the head coach and knowing what those guys go through and know how important they are to your program," McCall said of his past and understanding of every one's part in running the program. "I think sometimes when you are a big time player or you never experienced the experiences that those guys go through… there are a lot of things that they do that a lot of people that don't understand, whether it is stuffing mail outs, or helping edit a film, or go get this tape. For me, it is a different level of appreciation because I have been there.

McCall originally entered college at Stetson where he was a preferred walk-on, but his love of Florida drove him to Gainesville where he transferred before he ever really got started at Stetson. His father's relationship with athletic director Jeremy Foley landed him a manager's job with the basketball program and he worked his way up from there.

McCall wasn't the ball player a Donovan or even a Pelphrey was at the college level, but believes that isn't necessary to get the job done. "You don't have to play to be a coach, you have to study the game and you have to be able to develop relationships in recruiting," he said. "Just because you can put the ball in the basket doesn't make you a good coach.

"Obviously being able to relate to your players and teach the game, and individuals. You don't have to be able to play at the highest level. You just have to have a love for the game."

He learned a lot about coaching and became more enamored with the job in his younger years on the staff when he was asked to do things like greeting coaches when they came into town to speak at camps or to the team. Even picking up the Gator coaches at the time meant he got one on one time with them.

McCall was all in for learning and doing what he needed to do to get ahead in the program.

"Picking coaches up from the airport was exciting and is kind of how I got to know these guys," McCall said. "Whatever they needed, but just try and be a sponge and soak up as much information as I could from a basketball standpoint. I had to do a lot of grunt work, but I also got to see how the program was run, sit in the office while these guys were on the phone with a recruit.

"I was kind of quiet, but they would talk to me, open up to me, and ask my opinion. I got to pick up guys at the airport like Lawrence Frank, Jeff Van Gundy, jerry Qwest. I got some good experiences there just spending time with some of the best coaches in the game."

The staff has made a quick plan for recruiting until they can get on their feet with relationships that need to be forged. The plan requires McCall to take charge of most of the younger recruits and let John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts handle the prospects that will be recruited for the 2012 class.

"Coach Pelphrey and Coach Roberts have honed in on the 2012 guys," McCall said. "I am trying to cast a huge net on the 2013 and 2014 guys. They are young and you have to get in there with them when they are young to be able to have a chance with them down the road.

"I am trying to assist them in any aspect that I can with my contacts in the state of Florida that maybe Coach Pelphrey or Coach Roberts don't have. At FAU I focused a lot on the state of Florida. We built our team around Florida guys. I am using my relationships in-state and then extending my net around the country with the younger kids trying to make sure we are in with the right kids right now."

McCall also believes he really understands what the head coach is looking for in a prospect.

"With Coach Donovan and me here, I know what he is looking for in a player," McCall said. "I know the makeup, the mindset, and things he looks for in players. That is also where I can help with too… It is all of us just working together, because recruiting is such a big part of this job."

As for the attention he is getting as a Florida assistant, McCall says that the door is a little more wide open when calling from the University of Florida.

"It was a lot easier to get them to answer the phone," he said of the transition so far from FAU to UF and calling the high school coaches and prospects. "It's unbelievable. To be able to say, ‘this is Matt McCall, assistant coach at the University of Florida', is exciting."

But for him it is more than Florida, which is such a big part of it all. It is about the current situation and everyone he is working with.

"To me it is more than that," he said talking of being at Florida. "I bleed orange and blue. I grew up here coming to games. I always wanted to be a ball boy when I was little, but this is the profession I chose.

"For me it's more than just the University of Florida. It's Coach Donovan, one of the best coaches in the game. To do what he did in '06 and '07 is unbelievable and I don't know if that can ever be duplicated. To be here with him again and be able to learn from him again, to be able to be with great coaches like coach Roberts and coach Pelphrey is unbelievable. We are ready to go to work."

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