Return of the "Mac", Phil McCrary is Back As Columbia Boys Hoops Head Coach
On Wednesday evening, the Columbia Eagles out of Decatur, Georgia were getting set for their second scrimmage of the week as high school basketball season is officially underway. Walking into the gym, there was a familiar feeling in the air. Since the 2012-2013 campaign, the Eagles have only finished with more than 5 losses twice. In 2015, Columbia finished 18-11 getting knocked out of the first round of the State playoffs and in 2016 ended the season at 14-13 losing in the Sweet 16 of the State Playoffs. Accustom to no more than five loss seasons and deep State Playoff runs, including nine State title game appearances and five championships since 2006, the Eagles have enjoyed decorated success on the court and a trend had been created. A trend that began with the Eagle’s new head coach, Phil McCrary. McCrary, who had been serving as Assistant Athletic Director for Dekalb County Schools Athletics the past four years, lead Columbia to a State title his first time around as the Eagle’s head coach back in 2006. Following the 2006 one-loss season and Championship win, the Eagles returned to the title game the next year only to come up short, falling to Tucker 56-51. During the 2007-2008 season, Columbia finished with a 29-3 record and another State title under McCrary’s watch. In 2009, McCrary led Columbia to a second consecutive three-loss season, but a Derrick Favors led South Atlanta team prevented McCrary and the Eagles from winning back to back titles as the Hornets defeated Columbia 62-53 in the State Championship game.
The Eagles bounced back the very next season, advancing to the State Championship game for the fifth consecutive year capping off the season with their third State title under McCrary. In 2011 and 2012, Columbia repeated as State Champions and sent McCrary off in style as the Eagles went 31-1 in his final season as the Eagles head coach. After winning five titles in seven years, McCrary decided to step down as Columbia’s head coach and took a position as the Assistant AD with Dekalb County Schools. Though only four years removed from the court, McCrary soon realized that he was missing what he enjoyed the most and although still part of the Dekalb County School’s athletics program, he’s love for coaching began to tug at his heart. “I always missed the game and it was hard for me to just sit in the gym and watch a game being played while I was in administration,” McCrary says about his decision to return to coaching. He goes onto say that it was during his fourth year as Assistant AD that he finally decided to have a talk with his Athletic Director about his “love” for the game. “He said Phil listen, you should go back to doing what you do the most,” and coincidently for McCrary, there was a head coach opening at none other than Columbia, “it was the ideal place for me to come back to.” McCrary goes on to say “to be honest, I don’t know that I would have returned to any other school than Columbia. It’s a special school and a special breed of kids and coming back home is a great feeling!”
McCrary says he and his coaching staff are looking forward to seeing what his return brings out of his players, “we have fourteen kids and we’re looking to be able to play all fourteen and get the best out of all of them.” McCray also noted that despite his success his first tour, he doesn’t necessarily have any expectations and that his coaching staffing, all who played under McCrary during his first tenure, are helping make the transition easy. “Having those guys around helps make the transition easier. And they have a chance to come back and teach and give back to a program that helped them along the way and that helps maintain the continuity within the program.” Columbia begins regular play November 19 at the “Battle at the Rock” Tournament at Rockdale High school.