VCU then-head coach Mack McCarthy in 2001 Tonight at 7 p.m in Greenville, NC, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams (2-1) will be on the floor of the Minges Coliseum to play the homestanding East Carolina Pirates (3-1). There was a time when ECU was in the Colonial Athletic Association, along with VCU. In 2001 the […]
VCU then-head coach Mack McCarthy in 2001
Tonight at 7 p.m in Greenville, NC, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams (2-1) will be on the floor of the Minges Coliseum to play the homestanding East Carolina Pirates (3-1). There was a time when ECU was in the Colonial Athletic Association, along with VCU.
In 2001 the Pirates left of their own accord, to join Conference USA. Hard to say if that has worked out well for ECU. In that same year the current Pirates head coach Mack McCarthy was still running the show with the Rams men’s basketball team on West Broad Street.
McCarthy resigned after his fourth season, but his departure was not based on wins and losses in the 2001-02 season, which was the first time VCU had won over 20 games since the 1995-96 season under Sonny Smith. Yet, in spite of the window dressing around the announcement of his resignation, after going 21-11, McCarthy was shown the door.
His youngest assistant, Jeff Capel, was named to replace McCarthy. Local sportswriters were mostly content to let sleeping dogs lie, rather than probe the reasons behind the ushering out of McCarthy. On the record, he had resigned.
What was all too obvious to anyone paying attention was that McCarthy had been fired. Off the record, among other reasons, McCarthy was let go for being an embarrassment to VCU.
On the court during games McCarthy prowled the sideline with the mean scowl of a bully. He frequently berated his players in a way that was impossible not to hear throughout the Siegel Center. I can remembering cringing any number of times as the bulbous coach yelled at a Rams player like the kid had just shot his dog. Then I’d watch the body language as the admonished player would shrivel before sitting on the bench to hang his head.
How was McCarthy in practices? Off the record, one of his best players once told me McCarthy was the cruelest man he’d ever known; that the coach seemed to enjoy humiliating people. Other players I asked about it said less, but wouldn’t disagree with that characterization. Until now I haven’t written about that revelation.
So, why mention it at this point?
McCarthy is quoted in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. The story was written by Tim Pearrell, the beat reporter for Rams hoops. Among the things McCarthy said was this: “We got the program straightened out and headed in the right direction, I’m glad they’ve gone on and done well. Jeff did a good job with the guys we left there, and Anthony [Grant] has continued to build on what Jeff did.”
Well, that statement is pure bullshit!
McCarthy left Capel a few guys that played roles. Capel coached them up. But Capel also brought in all conference players, such as Nick George, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, B.A. Walker and Jamal Shuler. And, while Capel was tough, from what I could see he treated his players with respect.
When VCU meets Oklahoma on Dec. 20 in Oklahoma City, I can all but guarantee Jeff Capel, who now coaches the 11th-ranked Sooners, will not be quoted as taking credit for what Grant has done at VCU since he left, following the 2005-06 season. That’s because Capel has class.
The Rams attack is paced by its returning CAA Player of the Year, senior guard Eric Maynor (21 ppg., 5 apg.). The Pirates are led by their senior guard Sam Hinnant (19.3 ppg., 4.5 apg.).
Perhaps McCarthy has mellowed. Maybe he is no longer the bellowing lout he was when he coached at VCU. But, when it comes to having any class, well, he apparently still has to work on that aspect of his approach to being a leader.
VCU is favored by 9.5 points. For Capel, George, Pellot-Rosa and company, I hope Grant’s Rams beat McCarthy’s Pirates by 50 points.
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea