Big Ten Basketball Coaches Mourn Loss of McClain
Coaches attending the Big Ten basketball Media Day event in Chicago Thursday found time to remember Wayne McClain, the former Illini assistant coach who died Wednesday at age 60.
Former Illini assistant coach Rob Judson recruited McClain's son, Sergio McClain, to the team in the 1990's, and was succeeded by Wayne McClain when he went to Northern Illinois University. Now with Indiana’s basketball program, Judson says McClain was one of his closest friends in coaching, and a man of great integrity and competitiveness.
McClain had “ a great way about him, of telling young people the truth, of giving them some accountability, but yet still pushing them to be the best that they can be”, said Judson. “I know in my heart I have a great hole today, because Wayne is a big loss.”
Indiana head basketball coach Tom Crean says he always respected McClain as an Illini coach, because of how hard his teams played.
“And it wasn’t just that they had these household name players”, said the Hoosiers coach. “They had guys that absolutely laid it on the line.”
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo looked back to McClain’s time in the 1980s and ‘90’s with Peoria’s Manual Rams, when he coached the team as it won four consecutive state championships from 1994 to 1997. McClain was an assistant coach at the time of the first state title win, but became head coach for Manual the following year.
“He really had an impact on a lot of kids coming out of Peoria, a positive impact”, said Izzo.
McClain coached for the Illini from 2002 through 2012, under head coaches Bill Self and Bruce Weber. During that time he helped guide the team to two Big Ten championships, and advancement to the 2005 NCAA title game, losing to North Carolina.
Wayne McClain joined Bruce Weber’s coaching staff at Kansas State for a season, but then returned to the Champaign-Urbana area last year to become head coach for the boys’ basketball team at Champaign Central High School, a post he held until his death. Under McClain, the Champaign Central Maroons won a 2014 regional title.
CORRECTION: This story has been revised to show that Rob Judson did not recruit Wayne McClain to the Illinois men's basketball coaching staff, but rather his son Sergio McClain to the Illinois team, and that McClain succeeded Judson on the Illinois basketball coaching staff. -- JM 10/19/14