TriCounty Wayne McClain had both a plus and a minus going into his first season as head coach of the Manual Rams last season.
He was now the boss of the bench at his alma mater after a long stretch as an assistant coach, which means he had great knowledge of his players, but he was succeeding an Illinois coaching legend and his long-time chief, Dick Van Scyoc.
So all he did in his initial season as head coach was post a 32-2 record and coach Manual to a second consecutive state championship, something only a handful of teams have managed.
And his long affiliation with Manual, both as a player under Van Scyoc and his tenure as an assistant coach, helped much in his quick success story.
"Some teachers and townsfolk tend to think of you as still a kid in short pants," the 39-year-old coach, who played one season for Bradley in 1974-75, said after bringing his team back from Champaign with its first-place trophy. "I went to school with the parents of a lot of my players and they trust me to mold their kids."
In his first season, Manual lost only to Danville and Springfield Lanphier and won the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament and whipped St. Louis Vachon in the St. Louis Shootout. On the way to the state title, the Rams disposed of Quincy 74-63, Glenbrook North 64-36, Joliet 62-60 and Harvey Thornton 65-53 in the championship game.
Wayne McClain had both a plus and a minus going into his first season as head coach of the Manual Rams last season.
1985-86 Bradley Basketball Team
Picture left to right: Anthony Manuel, Jim Les, Hersey Hawkins, Donald Powell, Trevor Trimpe, Keith Berry, Jerry Thomas, Mike Williams, Bruce Mordini, Greg Jones, Paul Wilson, Len Bertolini, Jeff Anthony.
Coached by Dick Versace and led by the dynamic backcourt of Jim Les and Hersey Hawkins, the 1985-86 Braves enjoyed one of the best seasons in Bradley Basketball history. The Braves tied the program record for victories, finishing 32-3 overall, and remain the last unbeaten Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion (16-0). The 16-0 season tied Indiana State for the league all-time best mark. The Braves also had 6' 8'' senior Mike Williams and 6' 8'' sophomore Donald Powell inside, and 6' 7'' sophomore Trevor Trimpe on the wing. Jerry Thomas, Len Bertolini, Anthony Manuel and Greg Jones provided great production off the bench. Point guard Jim Les was named the MVC Player of the Year and Hawkins was second in scoring.