May 6, 2013
This feature was originally published in the K-State Sports Extra on May 6.
By Mark Janssen
In the midst of the recent departure of Angel Rodriguez from Kansas State to enroll at Miami so he could be closer to his home in Puerto Rico, lost was the fact that Wayne McClain also left the Wildcat program to return to his native state.
After serving as Coach Bruce Weber’s associate head coach at Illinois, McClain became a Wildcat serving as the Director of Student-Athlete Development last year, but will now go home to be the head coach of Champaign Central High School in Champaign, Ill.
It was a K-State position that he described as “… one where I just tried to help the guys make good decisions. That could mean making sure the guys are in class, to a little bit of counseling and career planning … just helping with decision making situations when necessary.”
It was during the year that McClain said of his job, “This is just a great group of guys. A lot of time you have to motivate guys to be students, but this group has been refreshing. They were self-motivators and very much into reaching their goals.”
McLain returns to his home state where he became a legendary coach and Dean of Students out of Manual High School in Peoria, Ill., where his team won four straight state championships.
His coaching heroics caught the eye of Bill Self when he was hired at Illinois and quickly added McLain to his staff. When Weber replaced Self, the decision was easy to retain McClain, and later promote him to Associate Head Coach for three years from 2010-2012.
Of Self and Weber, who he spent a total of 11 years with from 2002-2012, McClain says, “Bill was a fastball pitcher. Here it is … see if you can beat us, and he is successful at what he does. This is what we’re going to do, and we’re going to do it well. Try to stop us.
“Bruce is equally effective, but is a little different every game depending on who you’re going to play,” said McClain. “He gears things to what team he’s going to play.”
McClain also had an association with K-State icon Lon Kruger when he was coaching at Illinois prior to Self’s arrival in 2002.
Today McClain says, “I’m a better coach today than when I left Peoria Manual just from getting different views from some very good coaches. It’s allowed me to grow as a coach.”
Once Weber was hired at K-State, McClain knew one thing for sure: “I knew K-State was getting a very quality coach. He’s a guy who knows basketball … a great X and O coach … and a coach with a lot of credibility. He does things the right way.
“How many coaches can say they’ve coached in the Final Four?” asked McClain. “He’s a proven winner.”
The footprint of Illinois was home to McClain, and at first he wasn’t sure he would make the move to Kansas State with Weber, or, whether he would remain in coaching at all.
“I couldn’t coach in this position, but it allowed me to stay competitive in the game,” said McClain of his role at K-State.
And, whether in Illinois or Kansas, and whether it’s with teenage high school student-athletes or those in their early-20s, he says, “What I get out of each experience is very much the same.
Coaching them and trying to relate to them is very much the same.
“At times you wonder if you’re getting through to them, or catching yourself second guessing yourself on how you handled a situation, but then out of the blue you get an e-mail from one of them years later and they’re thanking you for something,” said McClain. “No matter what level you’re on, you’re teaching boys how to be men.”