AmeriCup Assistant Mo McHone Enjoying His Return To Coaching
While it’s never hard to find USA Basketball AmeriCup team head coach Jeff Van Gundy at practice, there’s another key figure on the coaching staff who is far more inconspicuous.
USA assistant coach Mo McHone stealthily hovers along the sidelines at practice, quietly offering advice to his players, just as he has done for nearly half a century.
McHone has a valuable cornucopia of experience at a vast array of different levels of basketball. He’s coached at the collegiate level, the NBA level, the former Continental Basketball Association (CBA), internationally as well as the NBA G League, where many of the AmeriCup players have spent time.
Meanwhile, in his own self-evaluation, Van Gundy doesn’t shy away from the fact that he has little to no experience with international basketball.
“It’s not knowing our players, it’s not knowing the other teams very well, it’s not knowing the venues, it’s not knowing the officials, and never having coached internationally,” Van Gundy said. “It’s all five -- I’m an 0-for- so far. It’s given me great anxiety.”
That’s where McHone comes in.
“He’s a veteran FIBA coach, and he knows the possible pitfalls that could get in the way of us being successful,” Van Gundy said. “He’s someone I’m going to rely on heavily as I get my feet wet in this FIBA basketball world.”
But from McHone’s perspective, he’s been learning just as much from Van Gundy. Until this summer, he hadn’t coached in five years since his last stint with the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the G League. Like Van Gundy -- who had been out of coaching for more than a decade prior to accepting this role -- McHone has had to shake off some coaching rust at the team’s training camp in Houston.
“This has been a great coaching clinic for me -- I didn’t realize I was going to learn so much,” McHone said. “Jeff is a great teacher, and I’m learning a lot from him.”
McHone served as head coach of three USA Basketball teams that compiled a 16-8 overall record and won gold at the 1997 Tournament of the Americas, silver at the 1999 Pan American Games and finished fourth at the 2005 FIBA America Championship to earn the USA a qualifying berth into the 2006 FIBA World Championship
McHone guided the USA to an 8-1 record and the gold medal at the 1997 Tournament of the Americas in Montevideo, Uruguay, earning the 1997 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year Award.
This time around, McHone -- who just turned 74 in June -- he said he was more than happy to serve as an assistant coach alongside current G League Northern Arizona Suns head mentor Ty Ellis on Van Gundy’s staff.
“I’ll be honest with you -- I enjoy being the assistant quite a bit,” McHone said. “I told Jeff I’ll sleep easier and a lot better than he will at night.”
McHone said with the rapid globalization of basketball since his first dip into international play, much has changed about the game and the level of competition.
“Back then, the international guys were a lot more inexperienced and maybe a little intimidated of our guys,” McHone said. “These days, that’s not the case. These guys have played in college and internationally and the NBA. They’re not intimidated at all by the fact that they’re playing the USA. But people still expect that you can go out there and just easily win every game, and that’s not the case.”
But surrounded by talented and versatile players with plenty to prove in the upcoming AmeriCup play, McHone has faith that the team will compete well.
“These are all extremely competitive guys no matter when or where they’re playing -- they want to win,” McHone said. “When they’re playing, the stats go out the window and they want to win.”