When Mark Macon left Temple University after an illustrious basketball career that concluded in 1991, he never had visions of coaching, even though he always wanted to be a teacher.
Macon knew he wanted to teach life’s lessons and the game of basketball to promising young talent. Adapting to playing in different environments or even teaching players the proper way to cut to the basket was what Macon had in mind.
It seemed logical. After all, he did receive a bachelor’s degree in education. Friends and teammates always told Macon he’d make a great coach. Despite the compliment, he never pursued any college coaching opportunities.
Toward the end of his professional playing career overseas, though, Macon began speaking with his former coach, John Chaney, about a possible coaching position.
September brought Macon back to North Broad Street, this time as an assistant coach on Chaney’s staff.
“We found ourselves in a situation where we needed someone else in here to help us with recruitment,” Chaney said. “It was just imperative that we find somebody of our own.”
Macon should fit the bill perfectly. He left Temple as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,609 points, a record he still owns.
Macon was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the eighth pick in the 1991 NBA Draft and played in the league for the next six seasons, rounding out his career with the Detroit Pistons. He then continued to play in Venezuela, Italy, and China.
“Overseas was an educational experience,” Macon said. “I got to walk around and meet different people even if they didn’t understand me and vice versa.”
When he returned to the United States, Macon worked nearby at the Abington YMCA as the physical program director, where he facilitated youth and adult recreation programs.
“I’ve seen him teach, I’ve seen him relate to young people,” Chaney said. “He hasn’t gotten away from that.”
Before Macon could teach, he had to learn. And as a player, Macon soaked up everything he could from Chaney. He wanted to be a better basketball player and person then and still plans to absorb as much as he can now that he’s coaching alongside Chaney.
Chaney’s old adages serve as the fuel for Macon’s fire as a coach. He’s prepared to help deal with whatever hardships may arise during the season.
While away from Temple, Macon kept up with the team when he could. And when he did, he found it hard to watch the games.
“I’ve been there before, and a lot of times I knew what was going to happen before it would even happen,” Macon said.
Macon did, however, notice last season that the team began to come together near the latter part of last season, as they’ve been known for doing. Now that he’s joined the coaching staff, he’ll stress focus to the team, a “Books and Ball” approach he took as a player.
“You need more discipline to be an athlete now because you have more distractions than what I had,” Macon explained.
Drilling them in practice, teaching them to use their imagination and assisting them in simply doing the right thing is how he plans to help the team progress.
“If we do enough of it at practice, it will come easy for us in the game,” Macon said.
Macon isn’t going into coaching green, either. He’s quite familiar with current assistant coaches Dan Leibovitz and Bill Ellerbee. He’s known Leibovitz since his teen-age years and has met Ellerbee previously.
And Macon won’t disregard former assistant coach Nate Blackwell from the family, who left the team for personal reasons last May. Macon says he still has a close friendship with Blackwell and will be one of the first people he calls for advice.
“We still have that family bond,” he said, “because that’s the way coach (Chaney) raised us.”
And it’s the family bond and legacies of the past that has Macon so optimistic about his new position.
“When I walk between those doors, it’s all about getting the job done,” Macon said.
One thing Macon refuses to accept is anything less than the best from the players. He’s also wise enough to know he’s still learning on the job.
“Right now I’m in the first stage. I’m the baby,” he said. “I’m crawling and trying to learn how to walk.”
Donnell A. Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org