MCCOOK, Neb. (KNOP)- After one season as McCook Community College men’s basketball coach, Kyle Drennan is leaving to take over as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“This wasn’t my plan and it was a very difficult decision,” Drennan said. “My plan was to coach here for three or four years, establish myself and prove that I could coach at a high level.”
The UIC Flames compete in the Horizon League. Luke Yaklich was named coach on March 26. The Flames went 18-17 in the 2019-20 season, tied for fourth place in the Horizon League under former coach Steve McClain. As an assistant coach, Yaklich helped lead three collegiate programs – Texas, Michigan and Illinois State – to national postseason success.
“I’ve always wanted to live in Chicago and Coach Yaklich is someone I have a lot of respect for. He always told me if he ever got a D1 job, he wanted me to be part of his staff and the opportunity was just too good.”
"Kyle has worked incredibly hard throughout his journey into college basketball and has a wide variety of experiences with professional sports organizations and Division I athletics, as well as being a junior college head coach," said Yaklich, in a press release on the team’s web site.
“It is hard to see Coach Drennan go, but we understand it is hard to pass up on opportunity to be involved in a Division 1 program,” said Kelly Rippen, Area Vice President of Student Affairs and McCook Community College. “Coach Drennan loves the game of basketball and we knew his long-term goal was to work in a program full-time, and these opportunities don’t come about that often.”
“This was still a very difficult decision. I think with the players I’ve recruited plus the ones coming back that we would be even better next season with the goal of a Region IX championship,” Drennan said. “To give that up wasn’t easy, I had to sit down and talk to people about the direction I wanted to go, but at the end of the day my goal is to be a Division I coach, and this opportunity is the best one for that.”
“I’d like to thank Kyle for his work here and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said MCC Athletic Director Jon Olsen. “I was impressed with Kyle’s work on the basketball court, he kept coaching up his guys the entire year and it showed with how well they played down the stretch.”
Drennan, who was hired in June of 2019, took over a program with no returning players on the active roster. He brought nine freshmen and three sophomore transfers to MCC as the team picked up momentum near the end of the season. The Indians went 15-16 and won five straight games to finish the regular season before hosting a first-round home game in the Region IX tournament (the first in 13 years), where the Indians beat Lamar Community College 89-64 – the first Region IX tournament win in 20 years.
The Indians fell in the second round to No. 15 Western Wyoming.
Prior to his time in McCook, Drennan served as the director of operations at McNeese State for a year. Before than he served as the director of scouting and operations with JUCO Advocate out of Austin, Texas, where he guided players to the junior college ranks assisting them to obtain scholarships from four-year programs. Drennan began coaching in 2015 as an assistant coach at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan. He started his career in marketing with the Fenway Sports Group and the Salem Red Sox, a minor league baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
“Coach Drennan has an incredible knack for recruiting and an ability to bring in talented players from all over the world,” Rippen said. “Although his time at MCC was short, I know he learned what being part of a college family was all about and I hope he will carry with him some great memories of MCC and the community. He will be a strong addition to the University of Illinois in Chicago and we wish him all the best.”
According to Olsen, once the position is approved and advertised, a search committee will begin work on filling the position.
“I am excited for the process, it will be a highly sought after job again just as it was last time, the opportunity to be a head coach at this level is pretty special,” Olsen said. “McCook is a great place to work so we will have our work cut out for us but I’m sure it will be a great search.”
Drennan said his 10 months at McCook had a profound impact on him and while he said he had a great deal of fun coaching in McCook, it is the wide-spread kindness he experienced that will leave a lasting impression and a trait he hopes to carry with him.
“McCook itself is a special place. As someone who came from the outside I’m telling you McCook has the nicest people in the world and I experienced that throughout my 10 months here,” he said.
“I think sometimes you guys don’t know how special you are, and I told Kelly and Jon the same thing with regard to the college. I hope I can take that positive impact the people of McCook have had on me and take it with me and pass it on.”