After one season as McCook Community College men’s basketball coach, Kyle Drennan is leaving to take over as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“This wasn’t my plan and it was a very difficult decision,” Drennan said. “My plan was to coach here for three or four years, establish myself and prove that I could coach at a high level.”
The UIC Flames compete in the Horizon League. Luke Yaklich was named coach on March 26. The Flames went 18-17 in the 2019-20 season, tied for fourth place in the Horizon League under former coach Steve McClain. As an assistant coach, Yaklich helped lead three collegiate programs – Texas, Michigan and Illinois State – to national postseason success.
“I’ve always wanted to live in Chicago and Coach Yaklich is someone I have a lot of respect for. He always told me if he ever got a D1 job, he wanted me to be part of his staff and the opportunity was just too good,”
"Kyle has worked incredibly hard throughout his journey into college basketball and has a wide variety of experiences with professional sports organizations and Division I athletics, as well as being a junior college head coach," said Yaklich, in a press release on the team’s web site.
“It is hard to see Coach Drennan go, but we understand it is hard to pass up on opportunity to be involved in a Division 1 program,” said Kelly Rippen, Area Vice President of Student Affairs and McCook Community College. “Coach Drennan loves the game of basketball and we knew his long-term goal was to work in a program full-time, and these opportunities don’t come about that often.”
“This was still a very difficult decision. I think with the players I’ve recruited plus the ones coming back that we would be even better next season with the goal of a Region IX championship,” Drennan said. “To give that up wasn’t easy, I had to sit down and talk to people about the direction I wanted to go, but at the end of the day my goal is to be a Division I coach, and this opportunity is the best one for that.”
“I’d like to thank Kyle for his work here and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said MCC Athletic Director Jon Olsen. “I was impressed with Kyle’s work on the basketball court, he kept coaching up his guys the entire year and it showed with how well they played down the stretch.”
Drennan, who was hired in June of 2019, took over a program with no returning players on the active roster. He brought nine freshmen and three sophomore transfers to MCC as the team picked up momentum near the end of the season. The Indians went 15-16 and won five straight games to finish the regular season before hosting a first-round home game in the Region IX tournament (the first in 13 years), where the Indians beat Lamar Community College 89-64 – the first Region IX tournament win in 20 years. The Indians fell in the second round to No. 15 Western Wyoming
Prior to his time in McCook, Drennan served as the director of operations at McNeese State for a year. Before than he served as the director of scouting and operations with JUCO Advocate out of Austin, Texas, where he guided players to the junior college ranks assisting them to obtain scholarships from four-year programs. Drennan began coaching in 2015 as an assistant coach at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan. He started his career in marketing with the Fenway Sports Group and the Salem Red Sox, a minor league baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
“Coach Drennan has an incredible knack for recruiting and an ability to bring in talented players from all over the world,” Rippen said. “Although his time at MCC was short, I know he learned what being part of a college family was all about and I hope he will carry with him some great memories of MCC and the community. He will be a strong addition to the University of Illinois in Chicago and we wish him all the best.”
According to Olsen, once the position is approved and advertised, a search committee will begin work on filling the position.
“I am excited for the process, it will be a highly sought after job again just as it was last time, the opportunity to be a head coach at this level is pretty special,” Olsen said. “McCook is a great place to work so we will have our work cut out for us but I’m sure it will be a great search.”
Drennan said his 10 months at McCook had a profound impact on him and while he said he had a great deal of fun coaching in McCook, it is the wide-spread kindness he experienced that will leave a lasting impression and a trait he hopes to carry with him.
“McCook itself is a special place. As someone who came from the outside I’m telling you McCook has the nicest people in the world and I experienced that throughout my 10 months
here,” he said.
“I think sometimes you guys don’t know how special you are, and I told Kelly and Jon the same thing with regard to the college. I hope I can take that positive impact the people of McCook have had on me and take it with me and pass it on.”
The McCook Community College softball team has signed its first recruit for the 2021 season.
Taylor Thein of West Branch, Iowa has signed her letter of intent to continue her softball in McCook next season.
“Taylor’s strengths are her athleticism and speed. She brings versatility as she can play outfield or infield,” said MCC Softball Coach Kevin Kaalberg.
Within her school, she has been involved in many different activities and clubs including softball, basketball, soccer, track, student government, National Honor Society, co-editor in chief of her school newspaper, and was elected president of the student leadership activity team.
“I love being challenged to prove to myself that I can overcome obstacles,” she said.
She added that if she’s not playing a sport, you can find her fishing, hanging out with friends, or eating pizza.
Thein is not sure what she will study at MCC but, said “I am excited to start my journey as an Indian! Go Tribe!”
The GNAC conference would like to announce the following changes for the 2020/21 school year. In October 2019, Columbus High School applied and was accepted to the Heartland Athletic Conference (HAC). The following schools will remain in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference for the 2020/21 school year: Hastings, McCook, North Platte, Gering and Scottsbluff. Due to the re-alignment of the conference, the tournament schedule will be reduced to the following tournaments: Boys’ Tennis, Girls’ Tennis, Boys’ Golf, Girls’ Golf, Swimming/Diving, and Track and Field.