WASHINGTON — The Wayne McClain basketball coaching era at Champaign Central is off to a slow start.
McClain’s return to the high school game came Wednesday afternoon and began with a 65-33 loss to Brookfield (Wis.) Central in the eighth Tournament of Champions event at Washington High School.
It took 74 minutes to complete the game. It took another 26 minutes for McClain to finish his postgame address to the team.
There was a lot to say.
“I totally understand it takes time to get guys thinking and reacting the way you want,” McClain said.
The coach was back in the area where he won state championships while at Peoria Manual High School in the 1990s.
“I walked in here, said hello to a lot of people,” he said. “Everything was good but the game. (Wednesday) was bad because we got drilled.”
McClain wore a black pin-striped suit and gray tie.
For the most part, he remained seated on the end of the bench.
“Probably just for (Wednesday),” McClain said. “I never did like to just sit there.”
Central won the opening tip and scored the first four points, all by Sean Suggs. Brookfield took its first lead, 8-6, with 4:50 left in the first period. The Maroons never caught up again.
“I’m not naive to think it will happen overnight,” McClain said. “We’ll get better. The more we play, the better we’ll get. I watch them every night at practice. We’re not that bad of a shooting team.”
Central hit 12 of 50 shots (24 percent) against the Lancers. Suggs scored a team-high 13 points.
He had seven rebounds, as did Lucas Beesley.
McClain has no regrets about taking the Central job.
“It’s a good fit for me,” he said. “I love being there. We have great attitudes, for the most part.
“We played a very good team that’s systematic. That’s what we want to build. These were good lessons for our kids.”
Whether a high school head coach or a college assistant, McClain said there’s always an opportunity for input.
“I’ve always said as a head coach, you make the decisions, and as an assistant, you have a lot of suggestions,” McClain said. “In my mind, those (suggestions) now become decisions.”
His 15-player roster includes no one taller than 6-foot-4. McClain sees better days in the future even though there were few bright spots to pinpoint in his Central debut.
“When you lose that bad, it’s hard to try and reach,” he said. “I thought we’d guard a little better.”
Central struggled from the free throw line (5 for 13) and committed 16 of the game’s 26 turnovers.
Reserve Dominique Brize nailed back-to-back three-pointers in a 30-second span of the third quarter. Brize finished with six points.
The task of seeking improvement will start with a Thanksgiving morning practice. Central returns to action Friday with two games, starting with a noon contest.
“We’ll get a whole lot better,” McClain said. “I guarantee it.”