Hoops coach brings young, energetic vibe

From Contact magazine, Winter 2015-16

As a young boy in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., Martin McCann always had a basketball in his hand – at the mall, his siblings’ sporting events or even the airport.

“I wanted to play all day, every day,” said McCann. “Carrying the ball around was definitely a comfort thing and a sign of my passion. I always wanted to play and improve my game.”

AC7_1690McCann’s love of basketball was shared among his family members who introduced him to the sport. His father didn’t play beyond high school but was devoted to the game and began coaching McCann and his two older brothers on youth teams.

There, McCann’s dedication and his skills increased. This passion continued with him all the way to college where he became a four-year letter winner at NCAA Division III Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.

“Playing at Hartwick was an unbelievable experience,” said McCann. “I had the opportunity to play for two excellent coaches in Paul Culpo and Todd McGuiness. Both were influential in my development as a player and as a coach. While at Hartwick, I was blessed to be on some very good teams that went on to win an ECAC Championship, Empire 8 Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.”

McCann is still creating great memories today—in the role of coach. In his first season as the official head coach of Palm Beach State College’s men’s basketball program, people are quickly taking notice of his excitement and
strong coaching technique.

McCann landed the position at age 26, becoming the youngest head coach at the College and one of the youngest in the College’s history. During the previous year, he served as interim head coach after the sudden departure of former head coach Scott McMillin. Before the interim position, he served as the assistant coach for one year. McCann was selected from 124 applicants for the head coaching gig.

“I use my age and familiarity with today’s players and basketball culture to help mold my ‘players first’ coaching style,” said McCann. “My style on the basketball court is one of high energy and enthusiasm at all times with the hope to instill a passion in our players during practice and games. I hope to build teams that are committed to our defensive principles, while also playing loosely and freely on the offensive end. Off the floor, my style is to create quality relationships with my players that will last well beyond their basketball careers.”

He and his Panthers team experienced a number of highs and lows in 2014-15. Although they weren’t able to reach the state championship, they achieved some memorable moments including 20 wins, two wins against top 10 nationally ranked opponents, and ranking for numerous weeks in the top 10 in the state.

This season, Palm Beach State basketball fans can expect to see an exciting brand of basketball. The team consists of five returning players and nine newcomers, including three Division 1 transfers and three former Division 1 signees.

On the defensive end, fans should expect to see full court pressure and a variety of defensive schemes. Offensively, the team expects to deliver a high-powered, high-scoring offense with contributions from the entire roster.

“My hope is to improve our play in the Southern Conference and move onto the state and ultimately national tournament,” said McCann.

Before coming to Palm Beach State, McCann was the graduate assistant coach at NCAA Division II Lynn University.

“Coaching at the NCAA level was a tremendous experience and ultimately prepared me for junior college,” said McCann. “As an NCAA assistant, I learned what coaches and programs look for when recruiting junior college players. Now at the junior level, this has helped me prepare our players to be recruited and, in the end, perform once they reach the NCAA level. I have come to love junior college athletics and all that comes with it.”

McCann further explains that players’ goals are different between divisions.

“At the NCAA level, players are motivated to have success and hopefully have a chance to play professionally. At the junior college level, athletes are playing for the team’s success but at the same time are working to earn a scholarship at the NCAA level. This factor keeps players hungry and motivated to improve and perform.”

Supported by Assistant Coach Odell Witherspoon and volunteer manager Tony Richmond, McCann and his Panthers are ready to roar.

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