Temple trying to right the ship after McKie’s departure

After four years without a postseason berth, Aaron McKie stepped down as head coach of the Owls as the program tries to get back on track.

With McKie stepping down, guards Khalif Battle and Hysier Miller have entered the NCAA Transfer Portal along with center Jamille Reynolds and forward Nick Jourdain. ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After a 30-point loss to Cincinnati (21-12, 11-7 American Athletic Conference) in the quarterfinals of the 2023 American Athletic Conference Championship, Temple head coach Aaron McKie stepped down from his position on Monday.

McKie finished his Temple career with a 52-56 record, including an 0-3 record in the conference tournament. In a season plagued by bad losses and issues with the team’s best scorer, Temple is currently a program without direction or a leader.

“I want to thank Aaron for his service to Temple these past nine seasons, both as an assistant and head coach,” said Temple vice president and athletic director Arthur Johnson. “Aaron has been a role model both as a student-athlete, a professional player and as our coach, representing the University and the program in the finest manner.”

McKie will now serve as a special advisor for athletics at Temple, sticking around the program that has been his home since 1990.

With McKie stepping down, guards Khalif Battle and Hysier Miller have entered the NCAA Transfer Portal along with center Jamille Reynolds – who will need a waiver to play for another school next season since he transferred to Temple last offseason.

Temple’s last season under McKie didn’t go the way he wanted. The Owls labeled this season as “tournament-or-bust,” yet they finished with a 16-16 record. Temple played 14 games against Quadrant 1 and 2 opponents this season – seven games in each Quadrant. The Owls went 6-8 in those games, going 3-4 against both Quadrants.

One game under .500 isn’t awful. However, a 10-8 record against Quadrant 3 and 4 competition is despicable. 

“We had every opportunity during the course of the year to do something,” McKie said after Friday’s loss. “We didn’t take advantage of it. I’ve been saying this to the guys throughout the season, ‘Don’t squander opportunities. And it’s just not in basketball, it’s in life.’ We had another opportunity today to extend the season, and we didn’t do so.”

Both the players and coaching staff are to blame for Temple’s failed season. No Owl that attempted more than 154 field goals this season shot better than 41.1 percent from the floor. Shooting 41.1 percent from deep on that many attempts would easily get anyone some attention from a professional league. However, anything less than 45 percent from the field as a whole is peak inefficiency.

Temple was also limited to just three players that can shoot the three: the preseason all-conference backcourt of redshirt-sophomores Battle and Damian Dunn, and sophomore forward Zach Hicks. However, Battle left the team after the Feb. 16 loss to Wichita State (17-15, 9-9 AAC), and Hicks shot a dreadful 22-of-68 from inside the arc while shooting a respectable 35.6 percent from deep this year.

Reynolds was the Owls’ only other viable scoring option this season. However, the Central Florida transfer missed 10 games due to injury, and Temple couldn’t find ways to get him the ball as the big man attempted just seven shots per game.

Miller couldn’t get the ball to Reynolds in the pick-and-roll, and his size served as a disadvantage for Temple at times. The six foot, one inch guard averaged 8.6 points on 36.9 percent from the field this season, and didn’t compensate for the poor shooting with playmaking as he averaged just 3.75 assists per game.

It isn’t all Miller’s fault though. Temple’s offense was stale and unable to get scorers open throughout the entirety of McKie’s tenure at Temple. During his four years as head coach, the Owls shot 40.6 percent from the field.

Not only was McKie unable to design an efficient offense, but he failed to successfully recruit multiple dynamic players, especially local talent in the Philadelphia area. 

Since discovering he would be Fran Dunphy’s successor starting with the 2019-20 season, McKie missed out on talents like 2019 four-star Maryland forwards Donta Scott and Hakim Hart of Imhotep Charter High School (PA) and Roman Catholic High School (PA), 2020 four-star Miami guard Wooga Poplar of Math, Civics and Sciences (PA) and 2021 four-star Cincinnati guard Dan Skillings Jr. of Roman Catholic.

None hurt McKie more than Skillings, though. The guard, who averaged 5.3 points per game this season, scored a career-high 15 points in the Bearcats Feb. 22 win against Temple. He then set his career-high again with a  20-point performance in Cincinnati’s AAC quarterfinals win against the Owls.

Temple now enters an offseason that will involve finding a new coach and navigating the transfer portal – both for incoming and outgoing players. 

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