Gym class at Bishop Hendricken was very basketball-centric when I went to school there. We’d play dodgeball and badminton and floor hockey once in a while, but it seemed like at least twice a week – and often times more – we’d just break up into teams and play ball.
In 2004-05, two of the gym teachers had pretty good basketball pedigrees. Jamal Gomes, the current Hendricken head coach, was there, and so was Rob McClanaghan, a former Hendricken and Syracuse player who had finished his career with the Orange in 2001.
Gomes had, and still has, a reputation for being one of the better high school coaches and former players in the state, and he certainly didn’t damage that image when he routinely torched whoever felt like guarding him in class.
With McClanaghan though, there wasn’t necessarily a reputation that came with him, as he was relatively new as a teacher at Hendricken. We heard that he played at Syracuse, so that became a huge point of interest for myself and my classmates initially, but I’ll be honest – it was little bit of a letdown that he never played with Carmelo Anthony. Plus, he wouldn’t share any juicy stories from his Syracuse days with us, which, looking back, was probably the right decision on his part.
But a couple things caught everyone’s eye. First, he could shoot. Man could he shoot. It didn’t matter if I was guarding him or someone seven inches taller tried their luck. Swish after swish. Second, when he talked, you listened. Sometimes it was easy to kind of goof off in gym class – but not with McClanaghan. For whatever reason, he commanded a level of respect. For instance, he wasn’t even my coach in anything, but I called him “Coach Mac.”
I graduated from Hendricken the following year and moved on, and he moved on as well.
And when we were both standing in Pepin Gymnasium this past Saturday morning as he co-ran the Shoot Like A Pro clinic – a comprehensive shooting clinic for kids ages 9-18 – along with former Hendricken and URI standout Jimmy Baron, I saw firsthand what he had moved on to after hearing about it for the past few years.
He now has a reputation that comes with him.
McClanaghan is considered by many to be one of the top NBA basketball trainers in the United States. His client list includes 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, three-time scoring champion and 2012 MVP runner-up Kevin Durant, all-star point guard Russell Westbrook and all-NBA performer Kevin Love.
It turns out that listening to Coach Mac has its benefits.
“I grew up in a small town, Cranston, I went to Hendricken,” McClanaghan said on Saturday. “I just wanted to work out kids for extra money. Here I am, training some of the best players in the world.”
His rise up the training ranks has been a gradual process. He was an assistant coach at the University of South Florida for a year after leaving Syracuse, and then he began teaching at Hendricken.
While he had been in Florida he realized how much he enjoyed working with players. With his summers free in Rhode Island, he began to focus more and more on training.
He went up to Syracuse to work out some guys there, he began to help out with some of the players at Providence College and he worked at New Jersey’s prestigious ABCD basketball camp as well.
From there he interned at a facility in Florida where NBA players regularly trained. Next, he went to Las Vegas for a little while. Eventually, he wound up in Los Angeles – where he is now – with his own business, RobMacBasketball.
Through the process, he wound up with his first two clients – former Providence players Ruben Garces and Ryan Gomes.
Before long, Rose, who had attended the ABCD camp, wanted McClanaghan to be his trainer.
That was a big deal. Soon after, Westbrook and Love joined on. Rose became the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, while Westbrook went fourth overall, and Love went fifth.
During the season, Rose won the Rookie of the Year, and the others made all-rookie teams.
Suddenly, McClanaghan had some of the most promising young players in the game as his clients. From there, it was like an avalanche. The players he trained continued to improve, and more players came calling.
“They kind of built momentum, and I just kind of rode it out,” McClanaghan said.
His trainees continued to be some of the best. Kevin Durant, considered one of the top handful of players in the league joined on. Atlanta Hawks’ all-star forward Al Horford became a client, as did women’s basketball standout Candace Parker and 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
And everyone has taken notice. His work with Rose prior to Rose’s 2011 MVP campaign received tons of press, and just less than four weeks ago, Sports Illustrated did a feature on how McClanaghan’s work with Westbrook has helped turn him into one of the best players in the NBA.
He recently trained the NBA’s newest No. 1 draft pick, Anthony Davis, who was selected by the New Orleans Hornets last month.
Coach Mac has so many big name clients that it almost seems fake.
Sometimes even he has to take a step back and say, ‘Wow.’
“All the time,” McClanaghan said. “Maybe every day. I’m really grateful and appreciative of what I’ve done and what I’m doing and hopefully what I’ll continue to do. The Russell Westbrooks and Derrick Roses and Kevin Loves of the world, the Al Horfords of the world, they make my job easy. They’re very humble kids who just work hard.”
When I watched McClanaghan speaking to the group of about 40 kids at Hendricken on Saturday, I couldn’t help but notice how fixated they were on everything he had to say, and everything he did.
I don’t know if he can still shoot like he could when he was my teacher, but he certainly still commands a certain level of respect.
“I just try to bring knowledge, that I’ve obtained the last 10 years or so, doing this,” McClanaghan said.
Amazingly enough, it didn’t even seem like the kids were disappointed that Coach Mac hadn’t played with Carmelo Anthony.
Names like Rose, Durant, Westbrook and Love were enough to hold their attention.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and email@example.com.