Building a Culture of Success
Feb 22, 2018 02:20PM ● Published by Maleesa Johnson
Southlake Carroll’s Eric
McDade has been a high school basketball head coach since he was 26 years old.
But he’s always looking for ways to improve his craft. For the past two years, that search has included furthering his education by working toward a masters’ degree from Concordia-Irvine.
Not surprisingly, the impact of his recent studies is evident on the basketball court during a very successful 2017-18 season.
“I had a mentor tell me if you want more, you have to be more,” McDade says. “So it’s been a constant journey and search to figure out what I need to do here that hasn’t been done before.”
Last year, McDade worked on a graduate study titled, “Building a high school basketball program based on leadership and character development.” The study, he says, challenges him to look at the team’s values as well as the Dragons’ style of play.
“It forced me to look at running and gunning, make it data-driven and really analyze the effects of a fast-paced tempo and increased possessions in basketball,” McDade says. “Everything is about getting possessions and creating opportunities and that’s what we’re getting back to.”
The results have been staggering, with Carroll tied for second in 5-6A behind reigning champ Hebron and sitting with a 21-4 record overall. Even more impressive, this success is coming from a relatively young team, as the Dragons entered the season with only two returning varsity seniors, Stephen Blomstrom and Jack McBride.
Early season success, coupled with Carroll’s frenetic style of play, brought about an increased level of enthusiasm to Southlake Carroll fans and the program as a whole. By late January, the team had already hit 20 wins – a goal they had laid out for the entire season. Top that off with breaking the school’s record for 3-pointers in a season, and you can see why fans and players alike are amped up.
“It’s up-and-down and it’s exciting to watch,” McDade says. “We’ve had great crowds so far and we’re doing well. We’ve reaped the benefits of our style and it has rejuvenated the program in a lot of ways. The kids and community are excited about it.”
Included in Carroll’s start — in which Blomstrom, McBride and junior Brandon Haddock were each averaging better than 13 points per game — was a 12-game win streak, a first-place performance at the Keller ISD Tournament and a strong showing at the Magnolia Tournament to open the season.
“We go down to Magnolia every year and it’s a great time,” McDade says. “We get to see a bunch of top-notch teams and this year it was really big for us. It really jump-started our season and gave us some confidence.”
McDade was hopeful Carroll’s non-district slate would prepared them for district play, and that was the case with the Dragons getting out to a 5-1 start.
“Those tournaments showed us we could play with anyone and you need that because this district is a grind,” McDade says.
McDade also credits the willingness of Carroll’s versatile and selfless roster, including seniors Hudson Taylor, Cam Cozzens and Gabe Dato and junior Jonathan Zapinski, to accept their roles as a reason for the strong results.
“This group came in with two guys with varsity experience and we were really unsure about what the other guys would bring,” he says. “But what we have is great senior leadership and a bunch of guys that all pull for each other. It’s a true team and they get the big picture. That solves a lot of problems you have as a coach.”
While work ethic can hide many potential deficiencies, talent and smarts on the court are still required to contend for district titles and playoff berths in the Metroplex — areas the Dragons aren’t lacking in, either. At the midpoint, Blomstrom was Carroll’s top assassin from the outside, knocking down 66 3-pointers (on 42 percent shooting), while Haddock knocked down 62 from deep. Overall, eight players on the Carroll roster have converted at least seven 3-pointers. McDade also doesn’t shy from letting his players bask in their success and enjoy the process.
“Nothing can be accomplished without enthusiasm,” he says. “At the end of day, play hard and fast and get after it, but have fun at the same time. I’m here to guide the players … you have your culture in mind, but sometimes they create a different one and you want to empower them to do that.”
That’s something McDade has always encouraged since he began his coaching career some 22 years ago.
Called to Coach
After growing up in the Denison area competing in football and basketball at the high school level, McDade played hoops at Grayson College. He then transfered and graduated from Concordia — where he already had an inkling to become a basketball coach.
After one year as an assistant at Concordia, McDade was an assistant for one-year stops at Round Rock McNeil High School, A&M Consolidated and Cleburne.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach because I just enjoy the game and enjoy people,” McDade says.
After continued success in the coaching ranks, McDade took a head coaching position to start a new program at Mansfield Timberview, where he led the Timberwolves to the state semifinals.
From there, McDade spent three seasons as the head coach of powerhouse Duncanville before arriving at Southlake — where he is coaching in his sixth season for the Dragons.
“Duncanville was a great job, but there was just something about [Southlake],” McDade says. “I was really intrigued by the building of the program aspect, and I knew this would be a great place to live and for [my wife Janet and I] to raise our kids.”
McDade’s oldest son, Bryson, is now a sophomore at Carroll, with Braylon now in the seventh grade.
“Southlake goes well beyond basketball and sports,” McDade said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and is a great community. I’ve been blessed to be in my sixth year here. We’ve had good groups lay down the foundation and it’s culminating this year with the team doing really well. It just takes some time.”
McDade is not only pleased with Carroll’s success at the varsity level, but with an increased level of participation and enthusiasm for kids of younger ages.
“It’s been a great opportunity to grow as a coach and get linked in, especially with my boys getting older and liking basketball,” he says. “A few us of recently established Southlake Basketball, which is kind of like the Dragon youth football program. It’s an avenue for kids to play and an opportunity to coach them when they’re younger. Some of these kids that are sophomores now, we’ve coached since fifth or sixth grade. It’s been neat to see.”
And for McDade, seeing the growth of players he has coached is one of the greatest rewards
He recalls a recent teacher appreciation night where a former player of his who is now a coach was acknowledged.
“It was neat to listen to what the students said about him and [to realize] it’s all about the relationships,” he says. “It’s a word we toss around a lot and it may sound cliché, but having the chance to be a part of these young men lives is important. Even if you don’t talk, once they’re grown, you know you had an impact on their development.”
And at Carroll, those players return to show their gratitude more often than not.
“That’s the really cool thing about Southlake,” McDade says. “The guys here really do come back. During the holidays, they text and are on Twitter supporting us. They all try to come back for the alumni game to be a part of this and keep up with what’s going on. It’s incredible.”