UCLA Basketball: AAU coach Korey McCray in the running for assistant opening

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UCLA Coach Ben Howland said Tuesday that his list of candidates for the Bruins’ assistant coaching vacancy includes Korey McCray, an Amateur Athletic Union coach from Atlanta whose roster includes several top national-level recruits.

McCray told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that he was ‘probably the favorite right now.’ But reached by The Times last week, McCray said, ‘I can’t speak on that situation.’

Asked what had changed since he had been so forthcoming in his previous interview, McCray said, ‘I have no comment about the UCLA situation.’

Hiring McCray could give the Bruins a recruiting pipeline to a talent-rich region and a storied Atlanta Celtics AAU program whose rosters once included NBA stalwarts Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

Though critics might contend an AAU coach could seek a college job in exchange for access to his players, Howland said: ‘That’s not the case. People can try to infer whatever they want to infer, I guess.’ McCray’s Celtics roster features William Goodwin, a 6-foot-7 power forward rated as a five-star prospect by, and Jordan Adams, a four-star 6-4 small forward. Both players have UCLA listed among the colleges they are considering, according to the scouting service.


Hiring an AAU coach at a storied program such as UCLA would be an unusual but not unprecedented move. Arizona assistant Emmanuel ‘Book’ Richardson once coached the New York Gauchos and helped the Wildcats land New York natives Lamont Jones and Kevin Parrom, both former Gauchos.

Howland noted that former Bruins assistant Ernie Zeigler, now the head coach at Central Michigan, was once an AAU coach. Howland said he would have no reservations about hiring an AAU coach ‘if the person has a background in college basketball and is qualified.’

McCray, 32, was a point guard at Mercer who later coached at his alma mater and was a graduate assistant under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. He also runs a basketball training camp called Fundamentals, whose clients have included Howard.

Howland said McCray was among the ‘probably half a dozen people’ he had talked to about the assistant coaching vacancy that came open last month when Scott Duncan left for Wyoming. Howland said he expected to hire Duncan’s replacement by the middle of June.

Some fans have pointed out on Internet message boards that by delaying the hiring of McCray, Howland could allow the AAU coach to continue to interact with UCLA prospects during an NCAA-designated quiet period in which recruiting contact on behalf of college coaches is limited. Howland denied that was the reason no hiring had been announced.

‘It’s not it at all,’ Howland said. ‘We’ve been in no hurry.’

Howland isn’t the first major college coach to consider adding McCray to his staff. Paul Hewitt, who is entering his first season at George Mason after 11 years and one Final Four appearance at Georgia Tech, said he would have hired McCray as an assistant with the Yellow Jackets if Darryl LaBarrie, who played for Hewitt, had not applied for the same vacancy.

‘I think it’s unfortunate that because of the connotations that AAU brings that people think there’s something subversive about it,’ Hewitt said of hiring an AAU coach at the college level. ‘My players that McCray has worked out for the draft, they rave about him.

‘If Ben hires him, he’s a solid addition to his staff.’


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-- Ben Bolch