As a kid growing up in the 90s, Dave McCann was hardly a fan of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
“And the reason for that was that my older brother was a Bulls guy and we’re about four years apart,” he recalled, laughingly, “so any time I could twist the knife a little bit when they would lose, that was enough for me.”
McCann, though, was old enough to appreciate Jordan’s greatness in real time. He understood, even then, the profound impact that No. 23 had on basketball, one that is still felt today.
And that’s a subject he’s looking forward to examining with a new generation of potential Jordan junkies — his Ellicottville boys basketball team.
In response to a Facebook post he made after Sunday’s final episode of the wildly popular “The Last Dance” documentary, about the Jordan-era Bulls, McCann received a handful of messages from parents saying they’d watched, and enjoyed, the 10-part series with his players.
The kids, much like McCann himself, were fascinated by what they saw, this behind-the-scenes look at arguably the greatest, and most ruthless competitor, in sports history. It provided an opportunity for his kids to gain more of a perspective on the player most commonly referred to as the GOAT.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s been Kobe Bryant (as a basketball influence). And it was cool for them to see the one episode where Kobe was talking about what he learned from Jordan,” McCann said. “Any time the kids can learn the history of the game, I think that’s a great thing. And for them to see how that all played out, basketball was definitely way different in the 80s and 90s than it is today …
“Just how physical the game was, the discontent there was for each other at that point in the game. I don’t know if kids today really see that when you watch today’s NBA.”
DUE TO HIS school and athletic director responsibilities in such an unsettled time, McCann hasn’t gotten a chance to meet virtually with his team.
But when he does, he’s going to encourage his guys to watch the documentary if they haven’t already. McCann and other coaches believe it can be used as a tool to educate players on qualities such as leadership, determination and drive.
And to open his kids’ eyes to the basketball legend they were too young to know.
“The No. 1 lesson they can learn from this is, what do you want to do to be the best,” McCann asked, “and you saw Jordan do it in the documentary time and time again … find motivation to get better.
“Nowadays, especially with high school basketball, you can’t take days off; kids have to work at it all the time. Whether that’s playing in the game or going out and shooting shots on your own, you can get better. Basketball’s a game where you can get better on your own. You don’t have to play 5-on-5 to get better.”
Fellow Cattaraugus County coach, Salamanca boss Adam Bennett, echoed that sentiment.
“I definitely think our kids can learn from (it),” he said. “It clearly showed that there’s a level of dedication and determination to be the best. So many times, kids watch the great performances, but they don’t understand the amount of work it takes to get there. The documentary showed a lot of that, and we’ll definitely try to take advantage of it.”
MCCANN HAS done plenty of winning in seven years as head coach at Ellicottville.
Since 2013-14, he’s led the Eagles to a mark of 105-45 (good for a .700 winning percentage), multiple league titles, five trips to the sectional semifinals and a championship game appearance in 2016.
Many of his players have also been contributors to the powerhouse Franklinville/Ellicottville football co-op and the school’s strong baseball and track and field teams.
In other words, his kids have been receptive to what’s needed to achieve success. And he’s confident that they’ll be receptive to the lessons on display in “The Last Dance.”
“We’re fortunate with what we have at Ellicottville where we have a lot of kids that want to do well,” said McCann, a 2001 Allegany-Limestone graduate. We have a lot of parents that are willing to push their kids to do well. I think that’s a big part of it, too, is just having the access to do it — whether that’s dropping their kids off at the park to go shoot a hundred shots or go for a run or go work out on their own.
“Right now, it’s kind of tough; we can’t get into the weight room, we can’t do team workouts and things like that, but I think we have a lot of right-minded people pushing for the right things.”
IN ANY other year, McCann and Bennett would both be busy from a live basketball standpoint.
By early June, with the spring sports season having come to an end, McCann would be holding a nightly open gym. Then, too, his team would be preparing for the Penn State-Behrend team camp and the annual Cattaraugus County summer league, of which both he and Salamanca have been hosts.
Until things return normal, the coaches will be doing what they can virtually … with a little help from “The Last Dance.”
“There’s a lot you can take from (it),” Bennett said, “I may try and clip some things and share with the team as we continue to Zoom.”