Temple’s Aaron McKie has been in basketball a long time, but things will be much different this summer as he begins apprenticing for his first head coaching job.
In April, McKie, the former Temple star who played 13 seasons in the NBA, was named the coach in waiting at Temple. Entering his fifth season as an Owls assistant, McKie will be the associate head coach this season and then replace Fran Dunphy for the 2019-20 season.
“I think it is a great positive,” McKie, 45, said about having a year to transition into the head coaching job. “It gives me the opportunity to decide how I want to grow this program, and I can take pieces from all the coaches I learned from throughout my life.”
While Dunphy has one more season as head coach, McKie is no doubt going to have more responsibility, especially in recruiting since the players recruited will be competing for him, not Dunphy. McKie says recruiting remains a collective effort with the staff, including Dunphy, but he understands he will set the tone.
“Obviously, moving forward, I will be the guy, I will be the face [of the program], the closer, so I will be the guy spending the majority of time with those kids or seeking out those kids because they will be part of my vision and these are the guys that I want to come and play for me,” he said.
McKie is doing much of the same work he did as an assistant, but this summer, he will have greater visibility, knowing that he will be running the program at this time next year.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) May 22, 2018
At the same time, he remains greatly respectful of Dunphy.
“With Coach Dunphy being the professional that he is, we keep the lines of communication open,” McKie said. “We make sure we both keep the same goal in mind, which is to continue to try to get these kids we have get better and concentrate on the upcoming season.”
One of his goals is for Temple to become a more serious player in Philadelphia recruiting. “It is a huge priority to recruit Philadelphia,” he said. McKie starred at Simon Gratz in Philly before enjoying an outstanding career at Temple, where he remains sixth on the all-time scoring list with 1,650 points. This past season, Temple had two scholarship players from the Philadelphia area on its roster: guard Shizz Alston (Haverford School) and center Ernest Afklapui (Archbishop Carroll).
He points out, however, that Temple didn’t dominate the city in recruiting when he attended the university.
“I think it’s a perception that Temple has been having a large number of Philadelphia players because, when I was there, the only players from Philadelphia were me and Mik Kilgore,” he said. “Everybody else was from other places, and it has usually been like that at Temple.”
That said, he promises to recruit hard in this area.
“What I try to share with the [local] kids is you can leave a lasting legacy in the city of Philadelphia,” he said.
Temple, which has qualified for the NCAA tournament once in the previous five seasons, has struggled from the perimeter. Last season, the Owls (17-16) were sixth in the American Athletic Conference in three-point percentage (.350), despite attempting the second-most threes per game (23.4).
So will Temple recruit some more shooters?
“You want to find balance,” McKie said. “I think part of it is taking good shots. We have good shooters and had good shooters in the past, but we didn’t get great shots and you have to find a way of getting great shots for those guys.”
More than anything, he wants players who will compete, and this summer, McKie will look for players who have the same level of competitiveness that he displayed at Temple and in the NBA.
He was never promised playing time when he attended Temple, and he won’t promise any as a coach. All minutes will be earned the old-fashioned way.
“I don’t care about a player’s name, his reputation, his national ranking — all that goes out the window when he comes here,” McKie said. “You are going to be judged by how you practice because if you develop great practice habits, it will transfer into being good or great in a basketball game.”
One thing is for sure: Nobody can sell the university like McKie.
“I am Temple-made, and I think I check all the boxes,” he said. “The only box I don’t check is winning basketball games [as a head coach] because I haven’t had the opportunity to do that.”
That opportunity, though, is quickly approaching. This summer, McKie gets to set the tone for that in recruiting.