North Texas Daily

Grant McCasland elevates men’s basketball team to new heights

Grant McCasland elevates men’s basketball team to new heights

Grant McCasland elevates men’s basketball team to new heights
January 30
10:00 2019

With 18 years of head coaching experience under his belt, then-Arkansas State head basketball coach Grant McCasland accepted a job opening at North Texas. The 40-year-old Irving, Texas native joined the Mean Green in 2017 with an winning percentage of 80 percent.

“When [McCasland] first got here, he made sure we knew he was all about winning,” Woolridge said. “He’s won everywhere he’s been, he’s won rings and championships. He knows what it takes to win.”

McCasland began his coaching career in Lubbock, as the director of basketball operations for Texas Tech from 1999-2001. He served as an assistant coach at Northeastern Junior College in Colorado following his stint in Lubbock.

Midland, a small junior college in Texas, was McCasland’s next stop. While there, he led their basketball team to the 2007 NJCAA National Championship. Following his stint at Midland, McCasland served as the head coach at Midwestern State, where he took the team to two consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament.

McCasland left Midwestern State and accepted his first Division I coaching job at Baylor, where he spent five seasons as an assistant coach. While he was there, the Bears made five postseason runs, including four appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2012-16. Baylor won its first postseason championship in program history in the 2013 season, winning the National Invitational Tournament title.

When McCasland came to North Texas for the 2017-18 season, he brought a record-smashing hammer with him. He broke numerous team records in most points scored (2,828), total rebounds (1,451) and 3-pointers made (302).

Mean Green head coach Grant McCasland talks to senior guard Michael Miller at half-court before benching him. The Mean Green defeated the Blue Raiders 70-53 on Jan. 26, 2019 at the Super Pit. Image by Trevon McWilliams.

Under his new head coach, junior guard Roosevelt Smart broke the school record for total points scored (742), 3-pointers made (133) and was named the College Basketball Invitational MVP. Smart additionally earned second team all-district honors and all-conference. Junior guard Ryan Woolridge broke the university record for most assists (221), breaking a record dating back to the1976-77 season. Sophomore forward Zachary Simmons broke the record for field goal percentage at 66.2.

McCasland ended his first season with the Mean Green with a 20-18 record, one season removed from North Texas winning eight games. His 20 wins were second-most by a first-year head coach in program history and led the Mean Green to the 2018 College Basketball Invitational Championship, attaining their first national postseason tournament victory.

What started as a program rebuild turned into a historic start to a season as McCasland currently has the men’s team sitting tied for first place in Conference USA in 2018-19.

As most basketball savants would say, the key to having successful game days is to have successful practices and off days. McCasland has implemented this by consistently putting time in the hands of the players themselves. 

“It’s definitely a different experience, but it helps you as a player because you have no choice but to communicate,” Woolridge said. “You have no choice but to step up and lead the team, and in my position, you have to put people in positions they should know and make sure they do know.

There will be days where McCasland will sit on the sidelines at the beginning of practice days and watch the players run throughs warm-ups, drills, game plays and run-through. He doesn’t say much, letting the players engage in running practices as a team and communicate with each other.

“They hear a lot of the same messages over and over and they start to rely on [coaches] to deliver the message on what we need to do as a team,” McCasland said. “The truth about winning teams and the ones that win championships is that they are player-lead teams, so we let them run practice so they themselves can deliver those expectations and fix any issues together as a team.”

Team-led practices not only lead to better communication and accountability, but they also generate chemistry throughout the team. McCasland and his coaching staff implement ways to enhance team chemistry. For the team, winning basketball games is the after effect of gaining trust among each other.

Mean Green head coach congratulates senior business marketing and management major Stephen Patterson on making a free-throw for a basketball shirt on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. Image by: Trevon McWilliams. 

“Everything we do, [McCasland] wants it done together, whether it’s over the summer or preseason,” senior guard Michael Miller said. “They’re keeping track of high fives and huddles during dead ball moments — all those little things contribute to us building good chemistry.”

When it comes to the men’s style of play there isn’t just one scoring option. College basketball teams have one or two primary scorers, North Texas is the only team in the country that has six players with a double-digit scoring average – Woolridge (12.2 ppg), freshman guard Umoja Gibson (12.2 ppg), sophomore forward Zachary Simmons (11.3 ppg), junior guard Roosevelt Smart (11.0 ppg), Miller (11.0 ppg) and senior guard Jordan Duffy (10.4 ppg).

“The focus is always on winning, it’s not about making sure just one person is successful, but about being collectively successful as a team,” McCasland said. “When we’re collectively successful then we’ll be individually successful. I think that’s what leads to having multiple leading scorers compared to just leaning on one guy to carry the load.”

North Texas is currently tied for first place with Texas-San Antonio and Alabama-Birmingham with a conference record of 6-2. The Mean Green are scheduled to take on Old Dominion (16-6, 6-3 C-USA) as they travel to Virginia for a pivotal conference play matchup on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Featured Image: Mean Green head coach Grant McCasland talks to his team during a timeout against the Blazers. UAB defeated North Texas 52-49 on Jan. 24, 2019 at the Super Pit. Image by: Trevon McWilliams.

About Author

Matt Suarez

Matt Suarez

Sports Editor

Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad