Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McClements rebounds after VU left him devastated

When Vanderbilt opted to disband its men's soccer program in January 2006, students were outraged, but only for a day or two, maybe a week. Then they went back to their lives, not paying much attention to the aftermath.

Well, I checked up with coach Tim McClements in mid-October of that year, and wrote this column for The Hustler:

That’s how Tim McClements described the university’s poorly timed decision to disband the men’s soccer program in January.

“There’s no other way to put it,” said McClements, who earned Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors after leading Vanderbilt to a third-place league finish. “You invest so much time and effort into a place. My family loved Nashville and the school. And then it’s gone.”

Whether or not Vanderbilt was justified in cutting the men’s soccer team is not even the issue. It’s about how the university went about doing so. McClements deserved better. So did his wife and two children.

“The fact that it’s done and how it’s done are two completely different things,” McClements said.

By the time Vanderbilt officials announced the decision, all head coaching vacancies had been filled. McClements was stuck without a job or a home, and while he ultimately became an assistant coach at Southern Methodist University, the transition from Nashville to Dallas has not been a smooth one.

“Every day it gets a little bit easier, but without a doubt, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to experience as a coach,” McClements said.

Life still isn’t normal for McClements. It’s the small things, like enrolling his two children in school, ordering a new driver’s license and unpacking (which he still hasn’t finished), that have made the move so difficult. As he said, “our whole life was disrupted.”

“It was hard because it was just so unexpected,” McClements said. “We had things going in the right direction and all of a sudden it’s gone.”

But, as McClements stressed countless times during our conversation yesterday morning, he’s moved on. He simply cannot afford to dwell on something that he can’t change.

“I’m going to put that behind me,” he said. “If I do, I’ll find success. If I keep looking back, that’s just not how I operate.”

The focus now is on something much more important than a whistle or a soccer ball. As much as he’d like to be a head coach next fall (and is more than qualified to be one), his loved ones come first.

“The main thing is to get my family back together,” McClements said. “I’m going to do what I’ve always done – work hard, do things the right way and let the future take care of itself. If I stay here, it's a great place. If there's a better fit or opportunity for my family, I'll look at it then."

While the past 10 months have been far from enjoyable for McClements, SMU is 13-0-1 and the No. 1 team in the country, and many of his former players are finding success at other schools.

"I'm just trying to move on with my life and it's been difficult," he said. "But being number one helps, doesn't it?"

It most certainly does. But it still doesn't take away from what Vanderbilt did to him. McClements should be coaching his players, not checking up on them through another school's website.

And while he does his best to move on, and most students forget the soccer team was ever here, I'm still upset.

I'm glad that McClements stayed true to his word because last week he was introduced as the head coach at SMU.

"The thing I remember most about him is that he is a player's coach," said Joe Germanese, who played at Vanderbilt under McClements before transferring Duke after the program was eliminated. "He has the ability to really challenge players to improve and get better on the field, but at the same time off the field he really cares about his players and how they're doing regarding school and family. He helped me get better on an individual level and really challenged me to take care of all the little aspects of the game that get overlooked.

"Additionally, he is without a doubt one of the best recruiters in the country," added Germanese, who now plays for the New England Revolution of the MLS. "He has the ability to recruit nationally, and at Vanderbilt, he was able to find `diamond in the rough' players who he was able to model into our system and culture. Players at Vanderbilt came in as freshmen at one level and by the time they were juniors and seniors, they were at a whole different, much higher level because of Coach's ability to develop players."

1 comment:

Greg Viverito said...

McClements was a really good coach, and an even better guy. I was so happy to hear this news yesterday, and wish him nothing but success at SMU. He deserved a break and he finally got it.