Return of the Mac: Q&A with FAU head coach John McCormack, who recently signed a new deal

Rolando Rosa

Head coach John McCormack has been a part of the baseball program since 1991. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Head coach John McCormack has been a part of the baseball program since 1991. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
For the past four seasons, Owls baseball coach John McCormack has presided over the most successful program on campus. McCormack’s squad has won the Sun Belt regular season championship in two of the past three seasons.

McCormack started his FAU career in 1991 as a recruiter for then-head coach Kevin Cooney. In 2008, Cooney decided to resign, paving the way for McCormack to take his place.

New AD Pat Chun rewarded McCormack with a four-year contract extension this past off-season.

The UP caught up with coach McCormack to get his thoughts on the program and life both on and off the field as FAU’s field general:

Q: Your team overcame a lot of obstacles to regain the Sun Belt title. How fortunate do you feel about how the season ended up?
“Winning another championship is always good. We had some bad luck with the weather. We were probably about two or three wins away from getting into a Regional. But the guys did an unbelievable job last year. At one point we’re down to eight positional players. We have a pitcher playing left field. And of course the pitching. Kevin [Alexander] was coming off of arm surgery. Hugh [Adams] was out. So we pieced it together. The guys kept fighting and we were fortunate enough to win.”

Q: With a new AD looking to make his imprint on the program, how did it make you feel that he decided to extend your contract?
“It’s nice to be recognized and wanted, you know? And I guess there’s some security that goes along with it. But I think it’s more a recognition of ‘We appreciate what you’ve done and we think that you’re doing the right thing and we want to make sure that you’re here.’”

Q: You’ve spent over two decades coaching at FAU. How does that familiarity with the program help guide you in your day-to-day activities?
“I’m able to put things in context. I have history. But, as far as knowing how the ‘system’ works, it always helps when you’ve been at a place. The one thing that I have that some people don’t have is some history that I can draw upon on how things have been done in the past, whether it’s good or bad.”

Q: When coach Cooney resigned, it was a unanimous decision by the players that they wanted you as coach. But it didn’t end up happening as soon as they’d expected. How difficult was the waiting game for you before you finally got signed in 2008?
“Deep in my heart, I knew it was going to happen. But like anything, the longer it takes, the more doubt starts to creep in. From the day they said it was going to happen, it ended up taking 10 weeks. I was concerned for myself but I was more concerned with the program. That first year, it did rear its ugly head a little bit. We were short a few players. We lost 10 weeks. No matter how hard we worked, and when we put the staff together, we couldn’t make up that 10 weeks and it cost us.”

Current coach John McCormack (left), former coach Kevin Cooney (middle), and catcher Mike Spano (right) share a moment before the 2012 Manhattan series. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Current coach John McCormack (left), former coach Kevin Cooney (middle), and catcher Mike Spano (right) share a moment before the 2012 Manhattan series. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Q: You have one of the most success programs on campus. That means you have a ton of rings. Where do you keep all of them?
“In my drawer at home. I’ve given some of them away to my dad, one to my brother. I wear them out sometimes when recruiting on the road. My favorite one, on the top of it, it’s circular, and it has the Blue Wave (FAU baseball’s old team name) on it, and it’s a really neat, nice, clean ring.”

Q: This will be the final baseball season in the Sun Belt for your team. What are your thoughts on the upcoming Conference USA transition?
“I’m excited about the new move. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Conference USA. For us, I think the transition is going to be: baseball is baseball. But we’re looking forward to it. It makes the university’s athletic department a little more high profile. The league seems to be a little more TV driven, which is always good. It’ll give our athletes a chance to be on a bigger stage.”

Q: You mentioned that you still text coach Cooney every couple weeks to keep in touch. What would you say is the best advice he’s ever given you?
“Remember that they’re young people and that if you’re going to coach in college, the baseball is important, but help them become better men. As a young assistant when you get here, you’re talking about, ‘Oh, this kid’s not doing very good. Let’s get rid of him. Let’s get somebody else in here.’ And he’s like, ‘patience, patience, patience.’ Now it’s a reversal. Now I’m the patient guy and the young assistants are that way, but that’s the circle of life. He said if you want to coach and win at all costs, then go to professional baseball. If you want to coach and win and do things right, and help these guys become better men, then this is the place for you.”

Q: What was your major in college?
“Business. I didn’t necessarily want to be a baseball coach growing up. I wanted to go to Wall Street and make millions. That’s why I was a business major. I jokingly tell people, the way I treated coaches, I’d never want to be a coach. I came here to go to graduate school from Lynn, and the baseball coach at the time, coach Cooney, offered me a job. I thought it was a means to an end. Get some tuition to help out. And then I just kind of fell in love with it. I stayed here and didn’t make millions. [ laughs ] I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Q: Sunshine, conference championships, starting a family here. What’s the best thing about being FAU’s baseball coach?
“The greatest part of my job is, you have to graduate and leave. I never have to leave. I’ve been here for 23 years. I’ve been on a college campus for 27 years. I’m 44 so that’s well over half my life. So I never have to grow up. You guys have to grow up. You have to go into the real world and grow up. I don’t.”