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New UNCW Men's Basketball Coach Shares Winning Approach

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 15, 2017
C.B. McGrath (from left), head coach of the UNCW men's basketball team, answers questions from Rob Kaiser, publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, on Thursday morning at the Wilmington Convention Center. (Photo by Maggi Apel)
In both business and basketball, building relationships and making sure everyone on the team is invested in common goals are keys to success, UNCW's new men's basketball head coach said Thursday.

C.B. McGrath, who replaced Kevin Keatts in April when Keatts became head coach at N.C. State University, answered questions related to the the topic, “Coaching Success,” Thursday morning at the Wilmington Convention Center. Part of a quarterly Power Breakfast series, the event was hosted by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Announced as the new head coach April 3, McGrath took over a program that has had six appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back trips in 2016 and this year. The Seahawks closed out the 2016-17 season with a 29-6 record.

McGrath's career success has involved working on the coaching staff of Roy Williams, UNC's head coach, for 18 seasons, four years when Williams was at the University of Kansas and 14 years at Chapel Hill. McGrath was part of three national championships and played for Williams at Kansas as a walk-on initially, earning a scholarship before the start of his freshman year.

McGrath said when he was a player as a walk-on, Williams never treated him differently than sought-after recruits.

"Coach always made everybody feel really important, and that always stuck with me," he said.

He said Williams is "terrific at getting everybody to buy in to what he wants you to do," and Williams would "treat the relationship as the most important piece."

McGrath said he's found that the most important part of recruiting players also involves building relationships, and when it comes to student-athletes, that includes finding out who the most important people are in a player's life, whether that's his parents or others, and building a relationship with them as well. 

Power Breakfast interviewer Rob Kaiser, publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, asked McGrath about his experience with college basketball's so-called one-and-done rule, referring to players being required to play one year in college before they can attempt to become professional players.

McGrath said, "Would we prefer to have the most talented kids to coach? Absolutely. But that doesn't necessarily equate to the overall picture of Coach [Williams] trying to run a program. He doesn't do it year-to-year ... he does it over the long haul, and if kids that have the ambition to go one-and-done but their parents and them still talk about a college education, then we'd continue to recruit them."

On his decision to pursue a career as a coach, McGrath said, "I just wanted have an influence on kids and teach them the game of basketball and try and teach them how to mature and grow, and luckily I get my chance here at UNC Wilmington."

He was familiar with UNCW because his sister-in-law was the head women's tennis coach at UNCW and her husband also worked for the school. When it came time to make the decision, McGrath said he felt UNCW had the three things he really wanted: support from the administration and university, a great place to raise a family and a chance to win.

"It's been terrific so far. ... People are very supportive and awfully excited," McGrath said.

An audience member asked about whether there is discussion of a home-and-home series between UNCW and UNC.

McGrath replied, "There is. Coach has told me they're going to come down here and play, and he's a man of his word; he always has been. I have no doubt that he'll do that."

When that series might take place some time in the future remains to be seen because of scheduling, he said.

McGrath said he plans to do a lot of things similar to Williams, but will be adjusting plays, defense concepts and an up-tempo style that fits the team's needs.

Asked about putting together a consistently good program, McGrath said, "From the manager to the head coach, everybody has to know what the common goal is ... and talking about it on a daily basis. What do we want to do? What are our core values ... They know in the end that what the core of your business or your entity is, everybody is all bought in and they're working towards that."

He said that this year's recruits coming in, "they know what we expect."

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