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Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Still Snacking

The Journey Continues for Men’s Basketball with New Coach Jay McAuley 

The word “surprise” may be an understatement for the way many Wofford basketball fans felt when the news dropped that Mike Young, head coach for the Men’s team the last 17 years, and another 13 prior as an assistant coach, was moving to the helm of the Virginia Tech program, barring a last second fall-through in plans. Fall-through these plans did not, however, and within a matter of days Young had begun the transition to the Atlantic Coast Conference power. 

A mere week after the news of Coach Young’s departure, it was announced Associate Head Coach Jay McAuley had been promoted to the position. A popular choice among the players, McAuley will step in as an individual who has studied under Young the past two years as his right-hand man, after a previous stint in 2008-10 as an assistant. McAuley commented on what Young leaving was like,  

“No one ever anticipated him leaving here, just because when you think of Wofford, you think of a few individuals that have really impacted this place the past 20, 30 years and he’s one of those guys on the Mt. Rushmore of Wofford athletics. That’s why I came back, that’s why all these kids are here, and they wanted to sign up for that.  Nobody anticipated that, but the year that we had, and along with some things happening elsewhere, it was just the perfect storm of him getting an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. He’s from that area, he used to grow up going to those games, that was the program he followed with his dad and his family. Who could control Buzz Williams going to Texas A&M after the year they [Virginia Tech] had and the perfect timing of that opening with our season? It was something that nobody’s mad at Coach Young [for], we’re happy for him and his family.” 

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McAuley is taking over after having served as an assistant at Gardner-Webb, Furman and Wofford during 2008-10 and 2017-19 until he was promoted. Prior to that he played for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2003-2006, followed by a student manager job at UGA. Talking about the transition, McAuley admitted it took him somewhat by surprise, 

“I think I was naturally getting prepared these last 13 years for this opportunity. Did I think it was going to happen like this? I didn’t. It never really does, it’s life. But I think the players were really comfortable with me and I see what I have done with Coach Young the past two years, the administration was comfortable with me so very thankful not to be packing up any boxes right now.” 

McAuley has no plans for a radical overhaul of the system, likely the main reason he was appointed head coach after just two years under Mike Young’s direct tutelage, 

“For me, there’s not a lot broken around here, we’re not gonna go around here reinventing the wheel, fixing a lot of things. I’m my own type of person, I’m not Mike Young, I’m Jay McCauley, and I’ve got my own set of ways of doing things. But I think for the most part, the comfort level for our team is that a lot of the things I helped bring the last two years we will continue to do and evolve. If anything, we’ll continue to play a really good schedule, a national schedule, we always play a top 25 schedule, that won’t change. We’re gonna return a game at UNC, the rest of those games will be announced later on this summer. We’re always gonna play a national schedule, and we’re always gonna play team-oriented basketball, so we’re gonna share the basketball, we’re not gonna turn it over a whole lot.” 

McAuley understands that as the program begins a new chapter, Wofford Men’s basketball will remain the same book that practices and teaches a winning philosophy. “Well I think we’ve got a great sell here” McAuley responded when asked about his recruiting pitch, 

“You know, Wofford is an unbelievable balance of the highest of academics and one of the best mid-major programs in the country. I think we finished second in the standings behind Gonzaga, and we all know Gonzaga is not really a mid-major program. You partner that with the people here, the community, and then you’ve got this brand new facility that we’ve got, it’s a tough, tough deal to beat in recruiting, and if we can get kids here to campus, we feel pretty good about them falling in love with the place, because we’ve got all these things, the degree, the facilities…but the best things at Wofford that we’ve got is the people, our culture is tight. When you’ve got a locker room like that that leans on each other, it’s a pretty powerful sell for us, a multidimensional sell, it’s kind of a triple threat in basketball terms.”  

That the team will look different next year is undeniable, “We’ll probably play a little faster with our personal coming back next year, with Fletcher and Cameron graduating we’re gonna have to score something quickly” said McAuley,  

“and that comes off our defense which got significantly better this year, so with our defense improving still, and us playing faster maybe that’s some new opportunities that will be showcased…What people need to realize, the truth is we graduated, what, 4500 points, 1500 rebounds, a lot of experience, those are the facts. Fletcher was an incredible player, Cameron was an incredible player, and Matthew Pegram, dealing with all his injuries was probably one of the best Wofford guys to ever come through here, locker room guy, fought through injuries, and he produced at a high level last year.” 

Even with the loss of Magee and Jackson graduating, McAuley says that there is plenty talent, both remaining and incoming, to ensure that the team has another strong season coming off this historic one. “So where do we go from here? Well, we’ve got a 47% 3- point shooter in Storm Murphy, who is probably the most underrated player in the Southern Conference” McAuley pointed out,  

“We’ve got Nathan Hoover, who arguably got snubbed from all-conference honors because of the seniors ahead of him, maybe taking away some of his shots. Well we saw what he did in the NCAA tournament and the SoCon tournament, he shot 45% from 3. We’ve got other guys that were considered on our “1B” team, logged 15-20 minutes a game, helped us win 21 straight in our conference season. My point is, all those guys are prepared to continue to move forward and help this program, not only stay where its at, but push the envelope in my opinion. And the only way you do that is if you give them more opportunity. I get that there’s facts that we graduated, but I think there are some facts on the other side that are pretty exciting.” 

To the students, McAuley had just one thing to say, “Snack-time. Period, the end. We’ve still got snack-time. It’s something that our players buy into, it’s something that the students love, and they were phenomenal last year. They’ve always been good during our championship runs in the last decade, but the way our students come out being the #1 student section in the conference, they bring so much energy to the program.” A new coach, a new chapter, but the same tradition should give Wofford fans and students alike plenty to look forward to next basketball season. 

Written by Chalmers Rogland

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