Jordan McCabe started his college basketball journey in Morgantown. Even though he finished playing elsewhere, West Virginia is once again where he’s starting a new chapter.
McCabe, who wrapped up his playing career at UNLV in March, now finds himself on the other side of the game as he is an assistant coach on Josh Eilert’s WVU men’s basketball staff.
“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I started to think about [coaching] as a player. I have an obsession and a passion for the game of basketball that I knew I never wanted to do anything outside of this game,” McCabe said.
Did he envision jumping straight into a full-time assistant role? Not necessarily.
Initially, he reached out to former WVU head coach Bob Huggins and discussed returning to the program in a player development role. He thought that would get his foot in the door and he could work his way up the ladder from there.
McCabe moved back to Morgantown on a handshake deal with his former head coach and figured the rest would take care of itself. However, that plan quickly changed when Huggins resigned in June.
“It was an eventful time for me. Nerve-wracking at times. Chaotic for sure, but I’ve always been somebody who thrives in chaos and finds an opportunity through that,” he said. “I was blessed that coach Eilert gave me an opportunity to be an assistant coach here.”
Uncertain of what would happen next, McCabe explored the possibility of extending his playing career overseas, though he ultimately decided to join Eilert’s staff.
Life has come full circle for McCabe, returning to the place where it all started, including his relationship with his fiancé Olivia.
He dedicated three seasons to WVU as a player. There were several reasons that led him to transfer out of the program after his junior season, but his love for everything West Virginia didn’t and hasn’t changed. Putting down his first roots in the University City is proof of that.
“[Huggins] and I sat down and had an emotional conversation after my junior year here after we lost to Syracuse. I told him what my goals were and why I didn’t think I’d be able to reach them here at West Virginia and how that had nothing to do with him, it had more to do with me,” McCabe said.
McCabe acknowledged that the biggest challenge is his age. He is only a year or two older than some of the players on the WVU roster. Eilert does have a fairly young coaching staff, but if you go by age, McCabe is considered the players’ peer.
Age was McCabe’s biggest concern when he accepted the job. He reached out to several people from the basketball world, including coach-turned-analyst Fran Fraschilla, to get their advice on how to handle the transition. The responses all followed a common theme – lift up your head coach in everything you do.
That has been McCabe’s focus ever since, especially since Eilert gave him the chance to prove himself at a time when the program had a lot of uncertainty and adversity.
“He took a risk for sure in my position, I think being the youngest assistant in Power 5,” McCabe said. “He put his faith in me and I don’t take that or granted any day in my life and coaching career any day from here on out.”
Despite all the uncertainty, McCabe knew one thing: he wasn’t going to let a title change affect him and his approach. He may be new to coaching, but he isn’t new to the game of basketball. It has been a part of his life from a very young age and he has learned a lot along the way. Those lessons are what he wants to pass on, and his youth gives him an advantage in doing so.
As someone who was very recently in their shoes, McCabe can communicate Eilert’s message in a way that is tailored for players to understand. He can get on the court and demonstrate exactly what the coaching staff is looking for. He also has fresh ideas on how to navigate the ever-changing landscape of college basketball as someone who just experienced it for himself less than a year ago.
“A coach has to think of all the moving pieces in an organization and within a team. Every decision affects all our guys right down the roster. That’s an adjustment for me, trying to think that way. I like to think I did that when I was a player, especially when I wasn’t getting time,” McCabe said. “Trying to take the focus off myself and trying to help us win even if I’m not on the floor as much as I’d like to be. I think that is going to be a huge help for me in this adjustment as the coach.”
The most eye-opening part of this new experience is the time required. It’s not just offering input at practices and on game day. There’s scouting and recruiting. It’s being responsible for a group of people daily and pushing them to succeed. It takes a lot of time, something that has been a big adjustment for both him and his fiancé.
“She asks me a lot, ‘How do you feel? Do you think you made the right decision?’ Every day I tell her and anyone who asks, the best decision I ever made in my life was getting into coaching,” said McCabe. “[I’m] absolutely in love with it. Obsessed with it. Don’t see myself doing anything else the rest of my life.”