Woods Charter selects alumni McNair to lead men’s basketball program

Chapel Hill Five years ago, Woods Charter gave him his first chance at playing high school basketball.

Now, he was given the keys to the program.

On June 15, Woods Charter announced via social media that it was placing Leonard McNair, a 2015 graduate and former Wolves goalkeeper, as the head coach for the men’s basketball program.

He took the lead from Taij Cotten, who collected 10-57 records in four seasons as coach of the team from 2018-22.

“Help us welcome Woods alumni Leonard McNair to the athletics team as the men’s basketball coach,” “Leonard has been a college-level coach for the past few years as well. He brings so much experience and passion to the game. #Welcome back.”

McNair spent three seasons as a member of the Wolves men’s basketball team from 2012 to 2015 before heading to Greensboro to play for the Guilford College Quakers during his sophomore and junior seasons, from 2016 to 2018.

That’s a dream come home to McNair, a native of Pittsboro, who was an assistant coach for Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) Red Hook in Hickory before getting a call from Woods Charter in April.

“It’s fantastical to me because I actually went to Northwood High School in my freshman year (in 2011-12) and then ended up transferring to Woods, but I didn’t really get a chance to play basketball at Northwood,” McNair told the newspaper. + record. “Woods kind of gave me a chance to grow up and play (basketball), and I ended up going to college to play the sport, so I always looked at Woods as the place that gave me my first chance.

He added, referring to his first phone call with Dina Floyd, Woods Charter’s sporting director. “I immediately told her I was interested. I just had to figure out how to make the transfer work.”

From competitor to coach

Having a basketball coach wasn’t always in the McNair cards.

Far from it, actually.

As a teenager, McNair said he often watched basketball games on TV and was puzzled as to why the head coaches were there in the first place.

“The funny part about this whole thing for me is that I always said, ‘I don’t even know why the coaches are there, especially at the NBA level,’” McNair said with a laugh. “I felt like these guys were playing forever, getting paid in the millions.” Why do they need a coach?

This was until he met John Perry, Woods Charter’s chief men’s basketball coach.

Perry coached the Wolves for nine seasons from 2008-2017, including McNair’s three-year stint as a player.

McNair said that Perry — along with college coaches, including longtime Guilford coach Tom Palumbo, among others — made him see the situation differently, and most importantly “the way you can really impact young lives.”

At Guilford, McNair spent his freshman season playing for the school’s JV team and then started his sophomore year in the same spot, a position he described as “really frustrating”. But during the sophomore season, he said that Mark Slade, one of the assistant Quakers coaches, “he took me under his wing and showed me little bits and nuggets I could do until I was called.”

Soon, McNair was promoted to the Collegiate Quakers, which went on to win the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) title for the third time in the program’s history and reach the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship.

In his junior season, the Quakers fell in the ODAC quarterfinals against Washington and Lee in the final for McNair as a player. Afterwards, he said, lingering ankle and knee injuries forced him to give up his role on the team, leading him to become Guilford’s first-year student coach, a pivotal moment for his coaching future.

“First of all, I was just my teammates (the year before), so even the fact that they trusted me to lead them, I thought was phenomenal. It was a real natural transition,” McNair said of the time he spent coaching the students. A great year because I finally got a chance to sit in coaches meetings, watch movies and develop game plans, and I was really able to improve my knowledge of the game from that perspective. I just fell in love with him.”

After graduating from Guilford with a degree in business administration in 2019, McNair has not been sold to become a coach yet, but has instead focused on his own company, Tranquil Ambitions LLC. , which he started in 2018 and described as “a basketball marketing company intended to connect basketball players with advancement opportunities through scholarships or career opportunities through film sharing and screening,” according to the CVCC website.

However, when he was at an event for Tranquil Ambitions in 2019, Evan Fancourt—the newly hired coach at Page High School in Greensboro—presented himself after the game and almost immediately offered McNair a place at Page as assistant coach, who eventually accepted him. .

McNair spent two seasons at Page not only as an assistant to Vancourt, but also as the head men’s basketball coach for the Buccaneers, an experience that convinced him that coaching was his goal.

“Obviously being in JV, a lot of players get frustrated, so once I told them all the things I’ve been through in the game, they were able to gravitate toward the idea of, ‘We put the work, we can still make our dreams come true,'” McNair said. …I am very grateful for the work these people have done.”

Then, last season, McNair served as assistant coach to longtime CVCC head coach Brian Garmruth, helping lead the Red Hawks to the 19-12 record and appearance in the Zone 10 semifinals.

Despite only being out of college for three years, McNair said his experience at both high school and college level helped him develop a training style centered around high-intensity defense.

“Up until now, I was basically a strong, defensive-minded trainer, just trying to tire you out with a lot of bodies and a lot of arms,” McNair said.

Muscat Champion

It’s been more than a decade since Woods Charter had a competitive men’s basketball team, with last season over .500 coming in 2011-12, when Wolves went 6-6 under Perry.

Since then, Wolves have run a combined record of 38-148 (.204) in 10 seasons, and haven’t gone past seven wins in a single season.

But just outside of Pittsboro, a town rich in basketball talent — as evidenced by the success of both Northwood and Seaforth, along with a first-team scout eyeing a handful of players in the area — McNair said he’s striving to give a Wolves fan base, And the players themselves, cause for optimism.

“When you don’t have a lot of success, you start to get frustrated and your motivation for what could come of this starts to degrade, so I think it’s about rebuilding that belief system within the program,” McNair said. “It all starts in the gym. We just have to put in a lot of time to make up that gap we’re looking to deal with. From there, I want to make a lot of movies — I know we’ve been watching a little bit when I’ve been playing there, I’m not sure how much What they’ve had since – so I think this is going to be a great implementation.”

McNair said that creating relationships and bonds with the players is one of the most important steps the new coach should take, which he believes will help him after graduating from Woods less than a decade ago.

“A lot of these guys told me they used to watch me when I was big and they were in elementary school (in the Woods),” he said. “I’ve always been great at building relationships and building trust, and I think it would be very natural with these people.”

Having already interacted with the team after the few open gyms he was able to attend, McNair seemed happy about the potential he saw of wolves, including their ability to spread the ground and shoot from the ocean more than his teams can usually.

With a roster like wolves, and plenty of time to apply his system to play according to his strengths, the possibilities are endless.

Over the years, Woods Charter has had a proven track record of former players returning to work as assistants, coaches or volunteers, regardless of the sport. McNair’s pedigree is a major reason for this: society.

“The story that a lot of people share about Woods is that it was a place where he kind of served as a believer in you. A lot of kids come to Woods, whether they’re having trouble fitting or finding their place in other schools, they come in and they love the fact that everyone is treated well. …the support is tremendous.

“The thing that talks a lot about this is that lately Woods has kind of struggled, at least from a basketball perspective, but the gym is always packed,” he added. “It’s just that support. It’s the belief that, no matter what you do, no matter what happens, Woods will always be there for you.”

Press reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @frezeal33.

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