UCLA went outside the box by making one of the more intriguing assistant coaching hires of the offseason. It hired Korey McCray, the CEO and head coach of the Atlanta Celtics -- an AAU program that has produced NBA players including Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudamire and Joe Johnson. McCray's hiring was officially announced Tuesday.
Speculation over the hire drew so much attention that UCLA coach Ben Howland in May downplayed the idea that McCray was getting the job to provide access to AAU players. According to the Los Angeles Times:
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."
But for a UCLA program that appears to have had to deal with an AAU perception issue, McCray gives the Bruins more credibility on the grassroots level when it comes to recruiting. He should especially make an impact in helping open up a pipeline to the Georgia area. Already, many of the state's top players are including UCLA among their top college possibilities.
McCray, a former Mercer assistant, could also make an impact with his NBA connections, given that he's worked on skills development training for some of the league's biggest names. "I'm looking forward to him developing in every area," Howland said in a statement. "He will be a great asset in the development and mentoring of our players, in on the floor coaching and in recruiting." From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
However, McCray knows he is stuck with the college-team-hires-AAU-coach label and he’s fine with it. "I'm getting a lot of attention for it, but I'm not the first. Hopefully I do a good job so other guys will get opportunities. I've coached at the Div. I level before, and I look forward to learning under Coach Howland and the other guys on the staff. I'm grateful to get this opportunity."