A week removed from being jilted by Winthrop University coach Pat Kelsey, University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford wasted little time in hiring Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Matt McCall as the school’s 22nd men’s basketball coach. UMass scheduled an introductory press conference for 5 p.m. Thursday.
“It is my pleasure to welcome Matt McCall and his family to the University of Massachusetts,” Bamford said in a statement released by the school. “Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career.”
McCall, 35, succeeds Derek Kellogg, who was fired March 9 after nine seasons at his alma mater. Bamford initially tabbed Kelsey, who accepted the job but then backed out a half hour before his introductory press conference last Thursday in Amherst.
McCall’s hiring put to rest a bizarre saga for Bamford, who was left blindsided by Kelsey’s stunning change of heart which, the AD said, was a “strictly personal” decision.
A 2004 graduate of the University of Florida, McCall worked his way up the ranks from student manager (2001-04) to graduate assistant (2004-06) to director of basketball operations (2006-08) for former Gators coach Billy Donovan. McCall left to serve three seasons (2008-11) as Mike Jarvis’s assistant at Florida Atlantic before returning to his alma mater to work as Donovan’s assistant from 2011-14.
“He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague, and a confident leader of young men,’’ Bamford said. “Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”
Spending the previous two seasons at Chattanooga, where he succeeded Will Wade, McCall compiled a head coaching record of 48-18 with marks of 25-11 in league action and 24-4 at home. Under his tutelage, Justin Tuoyo was a two-time Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Pacing the Mocs to a 19-12 record in 2016-17, Tuoyo led the conference in blocks and ranked sixth nationally at 2.9 per game.
In his first campaign at Chattanooga, McCall’s squad set a school record with 29 wins, captured the regular-season and tournament championships, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
McCall’s 29 wins were the most in the nation by a first-year head coach in 2015-16.
“My family and I always said it would take something extremely special to move us away from Chattanooga and that’s what we have here at UMass,” McCall said. “The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but one of the best jobs in the country.
“We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.