There were plenty of aspects of coaching that Dan McCarney wanted to get back to after suffering a stroke in the offseason that temporally slowed him down.
Days like Wednesday were at the top of the list.
There were no packed stands and no scoreboard at the Darrell R. Dickey Practice Facility on the opening day of the Mean Green’s second spring drills under its new head coach.
Outside of old friend Chuck Long and a few observers, the field was filled with the bare essentials — McCarney, his players and his assistant coaches.
McCarney wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It’s the best time of day, being out here on the football field with the team coaching. This is what I love doing and what I have been doing for a long time. Thank God I am getting to do it again.”
McCarney suffered his stroke after working out at a local gym on Feb. 12.
If there were any questions as to whether the setback would slow McCarney down, he seemed to answer them in his first practice back. McCarney jogged from drill to drill and worked with his players, who couldn’t see where he had changed at all.
“He was the same old same old,” quarterback Derek Thompson said. “It’s hard to keep him down. He was champing at the bit to get back out here. He knows his limitations and when he needs to back off a little bit, but he is the same old coach. He looked great out there.”
McCarney even invited one of his old friends down to see him and his team. Former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long watched practice and then spoke to the team.
Long played at Iowa when McCarney was an assistant coach at the school.
“He has great energy,” Long said. “He loves coaching, has a lot of passion and is very positive. He looks good. You can’t tell he’s had a stroke.”
McCarney has credited the medical care he received following his stroke for helping him return to coaching so quickly. He mentioned that care again Wednesday, along with some good cooking by his wife, Margy, who was also at practice.
UNT’s players said having McCarney back out on the field gave them a boost during what the team hopes is a spring that will help the Mean Green build on a breakout season. UNT finished 5-7 last year, its highest total since 2004, when the Mean Green won the Sun Belt Conference title and played in the New Orleans Bowl.
UNT is hoping to take the next step in the fall and get back to a bowl game for the first time since the 2004 season.
“It was great and a blessing to have him back out here,” UNT wide receiver Ivan Delgado said of McCarney. “He is real energetic. It rubs off on the team. We are excited to have him out there.”
McCarney was just as excited on an afternoon when he returned to where he always wanted to be doing what he loves to do.
“I was absolutely having a lot of fun,” McCarney said. “There are so many things we do as head coaches throughout the year. If this isn’t the favorite thing you do, getting out here with your players and coaches, you are in the wrong profession. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time I was out here.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .