Throughout his career, University of Houston head basketball coach Ray McCallum has achieved what many others might have thought to be improbable. As a player, he led his university to its first NCAA Tourn-ament berth. As an assistant coach, he helped guide a school to its first postseason tournament berth in nearly four decades. As a head coach he has turned around the fortunes of one program and is in the midst of revitalizing another.
McCallum's coaching career began as an assistant coach at Wisconsin, where helped lead the Badgers to their first three NIT tournaments in school history. They also were Wisconsin's first postseason tournament berths in nearly 40 years.
In 1993-94, he began his head coaching career at his alma mater, Ball State University, just two weeks before the Cardinals played their first game and were in the midst of NCAA probation. He led Ball State to a NCAA Tournament and two NIT berths in the next seven years.
In 2000-01, he took over Houston's program and led the Cougars to their first postseason tournament in nearly a decade in 2001-02. Houston won 18 games that season and advanced to the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Cougars also won nine C-USA games, which were the most in six years.
As a High School Player
McCallum's basketball career began as a player on a state championship teams at Central High School in Muncie, Ind. in 1977-78. As a senior, he was a starting guard and was named the Most Valuable Player in the state championship game after leading Central to its second straight state championship in 1978-79.
Following the state tournament, McCallum signed with Ball State, a university located in Muncie and a member of the Mid-America Conference. There, he began an historic collegiate career.
An Historic Collegiate Career
In his first season at Ball Sate, he was named the MAC's Freshman-of-the-Year and earned Second-Team, All-Conference honors after leading the Cardinals in scoring with 16.5 points per game.
As a sophomore, McCallum again led Ball State in scoring with 18.4 points per game and helped the Cardinals finish the season with a 20-10 record and a tie for the MAC championship. Ball State also earned a NCAA Tournament invitation for the first time in school history that year.
The following year, McCallum led the Cardinals in scoring again with a 17.6 average, and Ball State won its first MAC Championship, outright.
In his senior season, McCallum was named the MAC Tournament MVP and MAC Player-of-the-Year. He also earned first-team all-MAC honors for the third straight year, concluded his career as the MAC's all-time leading scorer with 2,109 points and graduated from Ball State with a bachelor's degree in industrial technology. One week later, the Indiana Pacers selected him in the 1983 NBA Draft. One of the final players cut in training camp, McCallum continued his professional career briefly in the CBA before returning to Ball State as a graduate assistant coach.
As An Assistant Coach
In 1984-85, he went to Wisconsin and was an assistant coach on both Steve Yoder's (his collegiate coach at Ball State) and Stu Jackson's staffs. In their previous six seasons, the Badgers won just 63 games and only 32 Big 10 contests. Wisconsin had not been to a postseason tournament since 1946-47.
He helped reverse that trend when the Badgers were selected to play in the 1989 NIT and defeated New Orleans, 63-61, in the first round. It was the Wisconsin's first NIT appearance and first postseason tournament berth since the 1947 NCAA Tournament.
In 1991, the Badgers played in their second NIT Tournament and registered an 87-79 overtime victory against Bowling Green in the first round. After Wisconsin played in its third NIT in 1992-93, McCallum joined Steve Fisher's staff at Michigan.
During his 10 seasons at Wisconsin, McCallum helped coach the Badgers' all-time career scoring leader (Danny Jones), all-time assists leader (Mike Heineman), current Dallas Maverick Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith, one of the nation's top three high school recruits and future All-Big 10 performer.
His stay at Michigan lasted just a few months because on October 29, 1983, McCallum returned to his alma mater, Ball State, as head coach.
Head Coach At Ball State
When he took over as head coach, McCallum had just one week to prepare his team for its first exhibition game and the Cardinals were a far cry from the MAC championship caliber program he helped build as a player. Ball State faced three years of NCAA probation, was limited to 12 scholarship players for two seasons and only one assistant coach could recruit off-campus.
It was obvious that McCallum had been brought back to restore integrity to the program, graduate student-athletes and win championships along the way. In the next seven years, he achieved each of those goals.
First, he instituted a successful community service program where his teams served as celebrity grocery sackers for the American Cancer Society and helped support such worthwhile programs as Meals on Wheels, Healthy Kids Day at the YMCA and the Heart Association's Jump Rope-A-Thon.
Ball State enjoyed success on the court as well. McCallum led the Cardinals to a 16-12 record and a fourth-place finish in the MAC during his first season as head coach. In his second year, he guided Ball State to a 19-11 overall record, a MAC Tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
After leading the Cardinals to 16 wins in each of the next two years, McCallum coached Ball State to a 21-8 overall record and a first place tie in the Western Division of the MAC with a 14-4 mark in 1997-98. The Cardinals went on to play the University of Memphis in the NIT. The following season, McCallum became only the second coach in Ball State history to reach the 100-win plateau when his squad finished the year with a 16-11 overall record and a second-place finish in the MAC's West Division with a 10-8 mark.
His most successful season as a head coach came in 1999-00 when he led Ball State to a 22-9 overall record and the MAC's Western Division championship. Ball State also won the MAC Tournament to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Following the NCAA Tournament, McCallum left his alma mater April 20, 2000, to become the head coach at Houston. He left behind a legacy that includes being the only coach in school history to lead the Cardinals to seven consecutive winning seasons and having the fourth-best overall winning percentage in the history of the Mid-American Conference with .624. His teams also averaged 18 wins per year and played in three national postseason tournaments.
Soon after being named Houston's head coach, McCallum was named an assistant coach for USA Basketball's National Young Men's (20 and under) team. It marked the first time a coach from UH had been selected to coach a USA Basketball squad. The team competed in the Confederation of Pan American Basketball Association's (COAPABA) World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Brazil and earned one of three Americas Zone berths for the 2002 FIBA World Championships.
Sixth Head Coach At Houston
Following the qualifying tournament, McCallum took over as Houston's sixth head coach. His initial goals at Houston were to make the Cougars more formidable on their home court and more competitive in conference play. Houston had not won more than five Conference USA regular-season games and one C-USA Tournament game in the four previous seasons.
In 2000-01, the Cougars finished the season with 5-3 record against C-USA teams on the Guy V. Lewis Court inside Hofheinz Pavilion. It was the Houston's first winning record in C-USA home games.
During that stretch, the Cougars posted first-time league wins over C-USA Tournament champion Charlotte, defending C-USA Tournament champion Saint Louis and UAB. The Cougars ended the year with six league wins after winning just two conference games the previous year. In his second season, McCallum led the Cougars to an 18-15 overall record and 9-7 mark in Conference USA games. Houston finished the 2001-02 campaign in second place in C-USA National Division standings, advanced to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament for the first time in school history and played in the NIT. The Cougars also had their most home wins in six years a 9-4 record on Guy V. Lewis Court.
The 18 wins and NIT berth were the most wins and first postseason tournament for Houston since the 1992-93 season. The nine C-USA victories also were the school's most conference wins since 1995-96.
He had hoped to have three starters returning from that successful team and help stabilize Houston's program. However, one player departed as an early entrant in the NBA Draft and another suffered a season-ending injury in a summer pick-up game.
Instead, Houston had just one starter and two part-time players returning. The Cougars struggled early and ended its non-conference schedule with a 2-9 record. Determined not to allow his team to ride out the rest of the season, McCallum rallied the team to win six Conference USA games and qualified for the C-USA Tournament a second straight year.
He enters the 2003-04 season with a 161-131 career record, including a 35-55 mark at Houston.
Off the court, McCallum has enriched Houston's program as well by coordinating a life-style and managerial skills program for his players. He and the Cougars serve the Greater Houston community by visiting patients and families at Texas Children's Hospital, tutoring students at various elementary schools and after-school care programs; as well as helping with various youth sports camps and clinics. McCallum also serves as a guest speaker at numerous schools. Born on March 6, 1961, McCallum and his wife, Wendy, have two children: Brittany and Ray Michael.