With slightly more than a minute remaining in the second Big East tournament game against Creighton in March, former walk-on guard Edwind McGhee made a 3-pointer to bring it to 84-62 for the Bluejays. After that shot, McGhee soaked in the final minute of his college basketball career.
He received the ball again with nine seconds left and hoisted up another 3-pointer. A miss. As the ball bounced off the rim, McGhee took in the scene. He looked around the iconic Madison Square Garden, his teammates on the floor and watched the clock run down on the top of the backboard.
“That’s when you knew it was it. It was definitely a moment for me,” McGhee said. “I went back to the locker room and cried a little bit. I realized that this was the end of a journey.”
McGhee graduated in March with a degree in journalism and returned to his hometown of Champaign. In June, however, McGhee received a call from head coach Oliver Purnell. Purnell offered McGhee the job he interviewed for back in the winter — a graduate assistant. Being around basketball would still be an option after all.
Now in the midst of his post-playing career, McGhee has transitioned into the other side of basketball. His end goal, he hopes to become a head coach one day.
“It’s a transition, and it’s different,” McGhee said. “But I’m just happy to be around the game and be around the guys. You can’t play, but you can still be involved.”
As a graduate assistant, McGhee’s responsibilities rely on a lot of busy work, helping DePaul prepare week to week.
But McGhee is also seen at practice and on game days at the end of the bench. He’s allowed to help his former teammates, trying to motivate them and help them understand the game further.
“The fact that I’m only one year removed, it helps me with most of the guys,” McGhee said. “They look at me as an older brother and aren’t afraid to come to me. I just try and tell them the truth.”
The role has also let McGhee pick up on areas that he said he wouldn’t notice as a player. He said being at a distance allows him to see what’s a bad shot versus a good shot or where they should be on the court with more clarity.
His mind is developing toward the mindset of being a coach, and it’s a mindset that Purnell has noticed. He said he’s noticed the amount of “grunt work” that McGhee has had to fill.
“He’s in our coaches meetings and is learning the game,” Purnell said. “His relationship with the players is his most valuable asset, as far as the program is concerned, that and his character. The only reason he’s in this position is because he showed me he’s an outstanding young man. He’s the kind of young man that I want to put in a leadership position in front of our players.”
Purnell said McGhee is more than capable of becoming a head coach in the future too.
“I try to talk him out of it everyday,” Purnell said, jokingly. “But no, Ed’s the type of person that whatever he really works at, he’ll be successful. I’m proud to have coached him.”
For now, McGhee is just trying to absorb as much information as he can. McGhee’s already noticed what he said was the biggest takeaway from coaching.
“It’s patience,” McGhee said. “There’s a lot of patience involved with the other side. But you just have to make sure you take time to explain and to coach.
“It’s about taking a step back and realizing as a coach, ‘What can I do to be more beneficial than just yelling at them right now?’” he said.