Associate Head Coach Ray McCallum is in his first year with the Georgia State men’s basketball team, but his resume speaks volumes.
Coach McCallum has been a head coach for 19 years and currently has over 30 years of coaching experience. These facts are impressive, being that in the sport’s world today, coaches are often dropped from programs like bad habits.
Every coach has their unique way of making an everlasting impression on an organization. For McCallum, it’s his passion for the game of basketball.
“The big thing is, I coach for the love of the game,” McCallum said. “It started with me as a player; I had a great love for the game, and the game was good to me as a player.”
McCallum had the opportunity of playing for the Indiana Pacers and playing in the CBA, which is now considered the D-League. His journey as a basketball player is what led to him securing his first coaching gig.
However, unlike many other coaches, who seem to score their first coaching opportunity at an older age, Coach McCallum landed his first job as a coach at a considerably young age.
“After I got cut by the Pacers, I went to the CBA, which is like the D-League and after that, I got released from the CBA and went on a couple tours overseas to Europe and down to South America,” said McCallum, as he explained his journey that led to him becoming a coach.
“During that time, I was in the process of training to give the NBA another shot, and I went back to my alma mater [Ball State] and helped out the coaching staff. “And that’s when I kinda got the call. It continued a pursuit of a professional basketball career, or get into coaching. And I made the decision to get into coaching, so I was probably 24. I went in as the third assistant [University of Wisconsin].”
McCallum’s stint with Wisconsin lasted for nine years. He then became a part of the Michigan Wolverines’ organization. He considered this move to be “a great time to go into Michigan,” since Chris Webber had just gone pro.
Coach McCallum becomes the youngest head coach in Division I
Coaching for McCallum has not always been peaches and cream, however. He endured some tough challenges along the way, one in particular, being a young head coach.
“I was the youngest head coach in division I —I might’ve been 31 or 32,” Coach McCallum said.
“That was difficult from the standpoint of, all of a sudden you were at Michigan with the fab four, and you get a call the day before the start of the season to go coach a team, and you didn’t know any of the players—and I mean, that was challenging. That was probably the most difficult thing I’ve experienced in coaching.”
McCallum found a way to thrive as a first-year head coach at Ball State and vastly improved his team’s overall record.
“We ended up finishing fourth in the league and had a winning season. We won 16 games.”
His second year as head coach of the Cardinals was even better.
“The next year, we won the tournament. So, in my second year, we won the championship.”
Of all the challenges as a coach that McCallum faced, the “most exciting challenge” was coaching his son, Ray McCallum Jr., who is currently in the NBA and plays for the Charlotte Hornets.
McCallum explained that since his son McCallum Jr. had turned down so many offers from top Division I programs such as UCLA and Arizona to play for him at the University of Detroit, it added a “certain level of pressure”.
He called that period of him being able to coach his son (2010-2013) “the best experience I had in coaching”.
McCallum Jr. also shared some kind words about his father. He credited his father for the level of success he has achieved while playing in the NBA and throughout life.
“A major influence,” McCallum Jr. said in response to how much of an influence his dad has had on his life. “Growing up I always say he’s always been my coach my whole life. He really taught me the game and everything that I’ve learned and just in life in general, too, not just basketball. Even making it to the NBA, none of that would’ve been possible without him.”
The most significant piece of advice McCallum Jr. said his dad shared with him is “to always stay true to yourself.”
Observing coach McCallum’s resume, one will notice that he has had his fair share of working for highly dominating basketball programs.
Georgia State isn’t considered to be a powerhouse basketball program, so just how did Coach McCallum find his way to the dirty south?
The answer to that is in this cliche saying: It’s not what you know, but whom you know.
McCallum’s relationship with Head Coach Ron Hunter runs deep and is what ultimately led to his appearance on coach Hunter’s staff.
“The reason I’m here is because of Coach Ron Hunter,” McCallum said. “I mean, Coach Hunter and I we go back—we played against each other in college, so we got a great friendship when you’re talking basketball.”
“When Detroit made the decision to move on from me and my contract, I mean he said right away ‘come on, come on and work with me.”’
Coach McCallum’s stats as a coach
- During McCallum’s seven-year tenure as Ball State’s Head Coach, helped them to a 126-76 record
- McCallum directed Ball State to two NCAA Tournament appearances (1995, 2000) and a NIT berth (1998)
- Became the first coach in Ball State history to post seven consecutive winning seasons.
- During his first five years at the helm at Detroit, the Titans increased their conference win total in every season
- During McCallum’s tenure at Detroit, 16 Titans went on to play professionally.
McCallum’s stats as a player
- McCallum was a member of two state championship teams at Central High School in Muncie, Ind.
- Played collegiately at Ball State
- He was named the MAC’s Freshman of the Year after leading the Cardinals in scoring with 16.5 points per game.
- As a senior, McCallum was named MAC Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP.
- The Indiana Pacers selected him in the 1983 NBA Draft