Whether it was clumsy 9-year-olds at his basketball clinics or NBA-bound players like former Owls Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones, Mark Macon has been a teacher to all.
A legend in the annals of Temple basketball, the 34-year-old Macon, the school’s all-time leading scorer and most heralded player, is now back on the team. Hired by coach John Chaney as his third assistant coach, Macon will indoctrinate the youthful Owls, who have but one senior on the roster.
After playing six years in the NBA and three professionally in China, Italy and Venezuela, Macon now sees himself an instructor of the game to young people. He recently worked at the YMCA in Abington, where he learned how to motivate kids, create better habits and see what makes them tick.
“I got to soak up all this new stuff,” Macon said. “I was so engulfed at the Y(MCA) to where I really didn’t get a chance to watch basketball until the summer. And I love to watch basketball.”
Last January Frank Walker, the program director for the YMCA, was looking to hire a physical director to run basketball clinics and camps. Walker mentioned the vacancy over lunch to his friend, Dr. Michael Jackson, who coincidentally is one of Macon’s close friends. Jackson works for the University as Director of Sports Administration and relayed the opportunity to Macon.
Uncertain about his pro career, Macon took the job, and Walker was thrilled with his new employee. Ironically, Walker also is a Temple graduate with a deep affinity for Owls basketball. In addition, he was the manager of two Final Four teams coached by the legendary Harry Litwack.
Upon his hiring at the YMCA, Macon began running numerous leagues and clinics for kids ranging in age from six to 18. He’s returned to Temple every summer to run clinics since graduating in 1991, so working at the YMCA was a familiar role.
“Most of the kids didn’t know who he was, but we made sure they knew,” Walker said. “A lot of the parents knew who he was. He did very well with the children and they responded to him.”
Macon worked there through August and realized he had a passion for teaching the game.
“Mark knows the game,” Jackson said. “He’s a student. He can teach you the rules. He’s familiar with the routine. He can give you a reason. Mark was always great around kids. He has always been warm and outreaching. He’s humanistic.”
From the time he arrived at Temple as a freshman, Macon said he always maintained discipline on and off the court. His mantra was “Books and Ball.” Macon realized if he didn’t take care of his studies, he could forget about seeing time on the court.
Through his tutelage and acumen of the game, Macon had an impact on players who were trying to follow in his footsteps.
NBA stars Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie, who played together at Temple from 1991 to 1994, were heavily influenced by Macon. Macon played a role in seeing both of them through their Prop 48 status as academic non qualifiers and gain eligibility.
Macon mused about hot summer days in McGonigle Hall, drilling and coaching Jones and McKie. They would play 2-on-1, with Macon beating them both single-handedly. The next summer, however, Macon played them again to see how far they had progressed.
“I played them once and they killed me, so I didn’t play them again after that,” Macon chuckled.
Chaney had long recognized Macon’s ability to connect with students and players.
“I’ve seen him teach,” Chaney said. “I’ve seen him relate to young people. He hasn’t gotten away from that. He hasn’t been someone that is far away from these students.”
Chaney initially wanted to bring in Macon as a graduate assistant. This would allow Macon to pursue his master’s degree and still coach. But new requirements at the University’s graduate school prevented Macon from qualifying. Obtaining his master’s degree, however, is still a goal.
Macon is ready to help the Owls get back to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year hiatus. He admitted it was tough watching last year’s squad struggle.
Macon said he needs “to understand 12 guys and see if 12 guys can understand me. And it’s hard to understand 12 guys because of different personalities. Everybody’s unique in their own way.”
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.