The date is April 4, 2019, and Aaron McKie, Temple University’s new head men’s basketball coach, is being introduced to the media before starting his “dream job.”
“I’m a proud Philadelphian and I’m Temple-made,” McKie said during his introductory press conference at McGonigle Hall. “I want to make Temple proud.”
McKie is now entering his second season leading the Owls, hoping to improve a team that finished 14-17 in 2019-20. But as McKie and his staff aim for progress, they will have to adapt to a new schedule structure, find new team leaders and integrate a roster with eight new players.
The Owls’ season begins on Nov. 28 with a matchup against Virginia Tech University, followed by a game against the University of Rhode Island on Nov. 29 in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
The team will also play a 20-game, double round-robin conference schedule beginning as early as Dec. 14, The Temple News reported.
When the Owls take the court for the first time, their lineup will look much different than it did at the beginning of last season.
Of Temple basketball’s 11 players who logged at least 100 minutes last season, only four are returning: senior forward J.P. Moorman II, junior forward Jake Forrester, senior forward De’Vondre Perry and redshirt-sophomore forward Arashma Parks.
Former guards Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis both left to enter the NBA draft. The Owls relied on them last season, as the two led the team in minutes played, field goal attempts and points scored.
To replace the contributions of previous key players, the Owls will turn to new arrivals on campus, including four freshmen and three transfers.
“I love what all of our freshmen bring,” Moorman II said. “I’m excited to play with those guys and watch them learn and grow.”
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the team didn’t practice much during the summer. This makes building chemistry especially difficult for a team already undergoing roster turnover, McKie said.
“It’s going to take some time for the guys to get used to each other,” he added. “We’ve got to work from behind, but as long as we get the opportunity to get out there and play, everybody is going to be happy.”
McKie is looking for his most experienced players to step up as leaders in the gym and in the locker room, he said.
“Your leaders are not always the guys who score the most points,” McKie added. “It’s the guys who have the most impact daily. That’s who guys respect the most.”
Mark Macon, who starred for the Owls from 1987-91, returned alongside McKie as an assistant to the head coach when McKie was hired in 2019.
Macon has the chance to provide players with an example of how to lead the team, he said.
“My job is to mentor players,” Macon added. “I’m an elder statesman. It gives me an edge.”
Despite having a young roster and a different schedule structure, McKie believes he is prepared for the challenges of navigating this season, he said.
“The one common denominator is when you come to the gym, be coachable and compete every day,” McKie added.