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New Flames basketball coach ready to win next year

New UIC Flames men's basketball coach Steve McClain at press conference

New UIC head coach Steve McClain at a press conference announcing his appointment Wednesday. “We’re going to have fun, because winning is fun,” he says. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

 

Steve McClain didn’t become the new UIC head basketball coach to win in two or three years. He’s ready to win next year.

“The first step is the players believing they can win,” said McClain, introduced at the UIC Pavilion today as the 11th head basketball coach in UIC history. “We’re going to have fun, because winning is fun. When you win, there’s nothing better.”

McClain, who for the past five years has been on the men’s staff at Indiana University, said he came to UIC to “win championships and to go to the NCAA tournament. Not just go, but to win.”

The last time UIC played in the NCAA tournament was 2004, and that, McClain said, “was a long time ago.”

Athletic director Jim Schmidt said he knew McClain was the right person to take over the basketball program 15 minutes after meeting him. That’s 10 minutes longer than it took McClain to know he wanted the UIC job.

New UIC Flames men's basketball coach Steve McClain meets players L-R  Tai Odiase, David Ramon and Jason McClellan.

New UIC basketball coach Steve McClain meets team members (L-R) Tai Odiase, David Ramon and Jason McClellan. Photo: Brian Kersey

“I knew after five minutes that Jim is an athletic director I want to work for,” McClain said. “I’m honored to be your coach. There is a great past here, but we need to get back to that.”

Schmidt said McClain’s energy, experience, attention to detail and thirst to win moved him ahead of a strong pool of candidates. McClain, he said, has “great commitment to ensuring that our student-athletes experience success in classroom and life.”

McClain said his style is to play fast, hard and tough. As part of several successful Division 1 programs, including nine years as head coach of the University of Wyoming, where he compiled a winning record of 157-115 (.577), he said he “understands winning.”

“This is a great university, with a great medical center and great professors and great alumni. I want to be a part of that,” he said. “When our fans walk out of the arena I want them to walk out and say that’s the hardest team they’ve seen play.”

Chancellor Michael Amiridis, a basketball fan who played on club teams in high school and college, said he was excited to introduce McClain as head coach. The new chancellor, who came to UIC from a Southeastern Conference university (South Carolina), said he has seen how important athletics are in developing school spirit.

“I’m confident we got a great teacher and mentor of our young men, and that’s the most important aspect,” Amiridis said. “I’m confident we got a great recruiter for our team, and I’m confident we got a winner on the court.”

To win in Chicago, “we have to keep the best players here,” McClain said. He achieved success at Wyoming with several Chicago players, and he said he can do the same at UIC.

“UIC is a great university and we just need a great basketball team to go with it,” McClain said. “There won’t be a staff in the country that will work any harder than we will. We will take this city over.”

 

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