By Tom Ballato
McClure’s Time at Duke University
David McClure arrived at Duke University as a proven winner from Connecticut who won three state championships in his high school career. Before the start of his freshman year, he got injured. It was an injury that would require surgery, but he opted to put it on hold because he had a chance to start for Duke. He played in 25 games and averaged 1.7 points per game as a freshman, where his team won the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Championship and made the NCAA Tournament. The following year, he underwent surgery on his left knee and missed his entire sophomore year. He was redshirted and returned in 2006-2007 and was a big contributor for Duke. He averaged 4.2 points per game in 33 games with 11 starts.
Throughout his time at Duke, McClure battled injuries but always came back ready to compete and do his job. He finished his Duke career averaging 2.2 points and 3.1 rebounds a game while shooting 48.1 percent. He was known for his ability to guard and play multiple positions, defend, and rebound. He was part of NCAA Tournament teams each year he played at Duke.
McClure’s favorite moment from his time at Duke was winning the ACC Championship his freshmen year. “It was an up and down season. It was the year to get us (Duke). Luol Deng left for the NBA Draft, and Shaun Livingston went straight to the NBA.” The key freshmen coming in were McClure, DeMarcus Nelson, and Shaun Livingston, but that changed when Livingston went to the NBA, where he was selected 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. David talked about how it was written in newspapers that Duke was down, and this was the year to get them. All of the media surrounding Duke and how it was expected to be a down season for them served as extra motivation.
When reminiscing about his experience at Duke, playing on the biggest stage for the greatest coach, McClure responded, “Looking back, it was so incredible.” He looked forward to the game against North Carolina every year. It was something he dreamed about as a kid, and the game’s history was something special.
“If you do what you love every day, sometimes you need something extra.” -David McClure on Coach K’s motivation.
When talking about playing for coach Mike Krzyzewski, he said, “Coach was so dedicated to his craft.” They worked hard, but coach K worked harder. “The importance of trying to motivate is his special gift. If you do what you love every day, sometimes you need something extra.” McClure talked about the motivation the players received and that it was just a privilege to be there every day.
When asked about the importance that coach Krzyzewski puts on practice and how that translates into playing time, McClure said, “Tremendously. We keep stats in practice. Coaches would keep all types of stats. If we would practice for an hour and a half and 90% of the sets are for J.J. Redick, coaches would keep stats to see how the rest of us are doing in practice.” Coaches kept all kinds of statistics in practice, like deflections, and they were called “True Blue Points.”
One notable moment at Duke for McClure came against Clemson in 2007. Duke blew a five-point lead with under ten seconds left. With just 4.4 seconds left in the game, Jon Scheyer hit McClure with a pass as he cut down the middle of the court, and he hit the game winning shot as time expired to beat #17 ranked Clemson. When McClure spoke about that game-winner, he said, laughing, “I blacked out a little. In practice, if you messed up, you ran. Jon made a good pass, and I ran my route. We were trained to do our job. I grabbed the ball, saw the rim, and blacked out for five minutes.”
After graduating from Duke, McClure went undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft. He was drafted in the 5th round with the 6th pick in the NBA Developmental League Draft by the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs affiliate. He played one season for the Austin Spurs, coached by former Duke Blue Devil Quin Snyder, and averaged 2.3 points per game in 40 games.
After the 2009-2010 season with the Austin Spurs, he headed overseas to play in Lithuania. He went on to play four years in Lithuania and had to make adjustments to the style of play. In college, they were asked to control the entire game using the clock, but in Lithuania, the biggest thing was shooting and having to be ready. The game over there was free-flowing, and everyone had to contribute. “We were asked to shoot it right away because they felt that you might not get that look or opportunity again.”
McClure had his ups and downs while playing overseas. He also battled injuries, and as a professional, he had to worry if he was going to get cut while being injured. He was surviving overseas while in the hope his body recovered from injury.
From Basketball Play to Coach
Coaching was a “blessing in disguise” for McClure. He was facing double knee surgery due to bone on bone in his knees, but he was rehabbing with the intent to play and continue his professional career. Having made connections while he played in the San Antonio Spurs organization, he reached out to the Spurs, interviewed for a coaching position, and got the job. “Timing worked out,” said McClure. While he misses playing, the lifestyle of a coach is similar to the lifestyle of a player.
He started in player development with the Spurs in 2014. An organization with a great culture that knows how to win and is coached by Gregg Popovich. As a first time coach, McClure soaked up everything as he was learning. He was responsible for working out injured players and was expected to step up when he was called upon.
After a few years with the Spurs, McClure moved on to the Indiana Pacers in 2016. The Pacers did not have a player development coach, and it was a model that was being copied around the league. Once again, he interviewed and got the job with a young and upcoming Pacers team.
His role daily is to take a minimalist approach. According to McClure, most players get to the NBA because they have one or two special abilities if they aren’t elite. There is only so much court availability, so players need to develop even if they don’t see consistent minutes in a game. He emphasized the importance that players need to pay attention to their bodies as they age. Players need to consider mileage on their bodies. McClure expressed, “I need to make sure they get concise work each day. Hours they can rest matter.” As for his goal for developing players, he stated, “Turn players into the best person, in the best role, on the Pacers they can be.”
I asked David what he has utilized most as a coach from his time at Duke, and he responded, “Accountability. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. How you build trust is, to be honest with a pure heart. Demand accountability of yourself and hold players in the same regard, and you can reach your ceiling.”
The Indiana Pacers have made the playoffs each year McClure has been on the coaching staff. The Pacers also have developed into a contender in the Eastern Conference of the NBA while developing notable young talents like Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis. While it remains to be seen what McClure’s long term plans are, the Indiana Pacers have found themselves a talented young coach who is a student of the game.
While McClure’s generation of Duke players are dwindling in the NBA, he spoke about remaining close to some of his teammates like J.J.Redick, Gerald Henderson, and Lance Thomas. He talked about how J.J. Redick continues to improve as he gets older and how his points per game have gone up each year. McClure still returns to Duke each summer to attend camps that are held.