There are some people who are easy to interview, and Nike McClure. So when she moved up to Coach this season it became easy to identify who I wanted to sit and talk with first for the 2022-23 season.
All photos are courtesy on UNM Athletics.
Joe: In a little over two years, you’ve gone from playing in France, to being on the staff here, to being a coach here. That’s a lot of change in two years. How do you absorb that in terms of thinking and realizing where you are now or what you are doing now?
Nike: It is. Change is always welcome. A lot of people would not do as well with change, but thankfully I grew up in a military family. When I was a kid, I never stayed in one place for very long. Never did anything except basketball for this long, so change is welcomed. Change is appreciated. I like change.
Joe: Thinking back to your first year on the staff, how did it go compared to how you expected? Those things are never what you expect.
Nike: Yeah, definitely a little bit of baptism by fire. I didn’t expect a lot of what was going on. I have a deeper appreciation for that job last year because I went in not knowing all of what was going to happen with it. Learning and getting into it was tough, but over all it was worth it.
Joe: Even though it’s the same thing. Same team. Same sport. Same environment. Seeing it as a player is different as seeing it as a staff or as a coach. What has been the biggest surprise to you now that you have been on the other side of things?
Nike: The biggest surprise to me has been all the details that go on behind the scenes. As a player it’s very straight forward. You get on a bus, you go to a game, you get some food after the game, you go back to the hotel, and you get on a plane. Very straight forward. The itinerary has thirteen steps to the trip, maybe. But all the steps that go into making that itinerary you don’t know as a player. That’s something I had to learn last year and I’m still learning now. It’s all the little details that go into making a team function.
Joe: What were the hardest ones for you?
Nike: The hardest ones for me to do? All of that is easy to do, arranging the buses is easy to do. But dealing with a person, a kid who is fresh out of high school–doesn’t know a lot about living by themselves, dealing with the mental aspects, dealing with the mental aspects of the game. Dealing with all that is the hardest part. Coaching is easy. You make a career out of that, but it is the easiest part. Dealing with a person, the player, you have the human to human every day, that’s the hard part. Especially when there are 15 different ones.
You have to build trust, respect. They have to start growing as people themselves. Building a person up is a hard thing to do.
Joe: Do you do that?
Nike: First of all, you have to command the type of respect that makes people want to hear what you are saying. And, you have to know what you are saying. Becoming as knowledgeable as possible, listening whenever you can. Watching. Learning. Doing all your research before you open your mouth. Because if you come out here and you’re telling the kid some kind of story that is not true, they can sense it in a heartbeat and then all your credibility goes out the window.
Joe: You’ve got the players that are here, but now you’re also out recruiting. That’s a totally different interaction with people. How do you go from the mindset from being recruited, to now trying to convince them that this is the place they want to go?
Nike: I think of it the same way. When I was being recruited, I was marketed to a lot. “My school can give you these shoes.” “My school can offer you this or that”. Nobody ever recruited me. My biggest thing is that I don’t want to market to these kids. I want to trust my eyes on a lot of these things. That is the biggest difference, recruiting and not marketing.
Joe: The other part of recruiting is evaluating. You can tell how tall this person is and how fast they are. That’s the easy stuff. How do you look at someone or talk to somebody and start to decide whether this is somebody UNM wants to pursue or not?
Nike: I do a lot of things to decide if I want a player. Especially on the road, I’ve learned a lot of ways of seeing if I like a player or not.
First, I see a player. They can shoot. Perfect. They play defense. Check. Court vision. Check. All these little categories, I check off and I give them a rating on all of those things.
After that when they are on the bench, I assess how they are with their teammates. Are you cheering for your team or is your head down? Are you moping around? Do you jog off the court when it’s your time to come out, or do you put your head down and walk off? I look at all that.
The third thing I check out is are your parents in the stands. What kind of parents do you have? What’s your pedigree? Are you going to be a kid that comes in here and be a knuckle head because I can see your parents cursing and screaming and leaving their trash all over the place?
If I really like you and I think you’re a good kid and I see your family there, I might walk around a little bit to see your interactions with your family. See how you talk with each other. Little stuff like that. It all adds up. I can assess a basketball player all day. You can find basketball players a dime a dozen. It’s a matter of finding a good basketball player that you can keep in school. Or do they get caught up in some mess in their personal life when you get them here. So, trying to eliminate all those factors when you’re trying to find a kid to come play.
Joe: How often do you come back and say here’s my evaluation of this person. And you listen to any of the other coaches, and you say, “What did I miss? Why do you see someone totally differently? Are we talking about the same person?”
Nike: Yea, it happens often and causes a lot of tension in those meetings because they think the girl’s good, and I think she’s bad. Or I think she’s good and they think she’s bad. It’s just a matter of getting out there and watching her again. That’s why we attend so many events during the summer so we can get a true evaluation of the player. You want to give them a real 100% shot at this. You don’t want to write a kid off immediately, but sometimes it does happen. That’s the one thing about having so many recruiters out on the road, you can fully evaluate a kid.
Joe: As you look towards your first year as a full-up coach, what are your goals for yourself this coming year?
Nike: Having to ask permission less. I think I’ve been walking on glass through here my first couple of months coaching here. I think I’ve earned my rights just like everyone else and I’m going to start asking permission less. I’m going to start commanding more respect for myself and earning that trust from my colleagues so I can be trusted with the work I know I can do. So, that’s going to be the biggest thing for myself: asking permission less and taking care of business.
Joe: What are the areas you think you still need to learn more?
Nike: Everything. I’m always learning every day.
Joe: That narrows it down quickly.
Nike: I’d like to learn more about the Xs and Os of the game. Offensively, I’m not as talented as everybody else. Defensively, I can write everything down right now, if you want, but offense is the biggest thing I need to learn this year.
Joe: What do you see as your role on the staff right now? What piece do you think, I’m going to carve this out and do more of this?
Nike: I want to recruit kids, good kids and make sure that our defense is solid. I want to make sure that these players feel loved. That’s all I’m taking on this year.
Three things. Stay solid in those three areas. Learn and get better. Try again next year, but I won’t extend until I have those down. I’m not going to overwhelm myself and say I’m doing everything and try to juggle everything because multi-taskers are fakers.
So I’m taking on three challenges this year. If I get it right, move on to the next.
Joe: What else do you want to say to people?
Nike: I want to say thank you. I love Albuquerque. I appreciate Albuquerque. Please support Lobo Athletics anyway you possibly can. Also, take care of Albuquerque. It’s getting a little crazy out here. So let’s just take care of each other and make sure that we can take Albuquerque back to its glory days and feel safe to go outside again.
Joe: It’s getting crazy a lot of places.
Joe: Thank you very much.