Raul Placeres and Jeff McCord both played for Maryville College the last time the men’s basketball program reached the Sweet 16 in 2003-04.
The duo hopes together they can get the Scots back on that stage, this time from the sidelines.
Placeres, entering his second year at the helm of the program, promoted McCord to a full-time assistant coach on Sept. 25 after spending the past two seasons as a volunteer assistant.
“It only made sense to elevate him for his hard work the past two years,” Placeres told The Daily Times. “It is just a great fit for us. We have a great working dynamic, and it stretches to us being teammates for close to 20 years now.
“I’m really excited to have him on board because he knows what it takes as a player, and now obviously as a coach, to hopefully be successful at a high level.”
“It’s been surreal to not only be here coaching, but to do it with Raul,” McCord added. “If you had told me 15-16 years ago that me and Raul would be sitting here coaching up Maryville College, I would have told you that you were crazy.”
McCord is one of the winningest players in Maryville College history, helping the Scots amass a 92-22 record with four NCAA Tournament appearances during his four-year career (2000-04).
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and worked for ORNL Federal Credit Union until 2018 when he joined the program as a volunteer assistant under the legendary Randy Lambert.
McCord replaces Sean Jones, who was named the boys basketball coach at The King’s Academy on Sept. 9.
The Scots achieved three consecutive 20-win seasons (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19), won back-to-back USA South championships (2017-18 and 2018-19) and made two straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2017-18 and 2018-19) during his time on the bench. Maryville College’s 63 wins were the most among the 57 teams in the NCAA Division III South Region over that stretch.
“My aspiration as a head coach is always to promote my assistants,” Placeres said. “That’s why I think I’m in this profession, especially at this level — for all my guys, whether it be high school or college, to move on and continue to move up the ladder in this profession.”
Placeres and McCord believe the connection that started between the two of them almost two decades ago will not only be beneficial to each other, but also to the players they coach.
“I look back to when I was a player, all of my assistant coaches were players at the college,” McCord said. “As a kid, you want to be able to trust who you play for, and I think it’s easier to trust the coaches if they have the experience and been at our level because it is a different experience at the Division III level.
“I think us having gone through it, we can relate to the kids better than maybe somebody who hasn’t been to school here or been at the Division III level.
“It’s a huge advantage.”
The USA South Athletic Conference has yet to announce details for the upcoming season, which is expected to start during the spring semester, but Maryville College expects to be one of the favorites despite a 9-17 campaign last season.
Less than two weeks into his new role, McCord already sees why, and he believes the Scots could be set up to replicate the success he and Placeres had 16 years ago.
“I try to think back to when I was here as a player, and I don’t know that I’ve seen as many kids in the gym on their own time than I have for this team,” McCord said. “We have 23 kids and over half of them are in here every day for hours just working out and shooting.
“It makes our jobs a little bit easier when you don’t have to try to drag the kids into the gym to get them to work.”