Familiar face takes over Cadets boys basketball after McAloon steps away

Patrick Behan replaced Sean McAloon as head coach of the St. John's boys basketball team. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

St. John’s boys basketball coach Sean McAloon — who led the team to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title in 2016 and was named the league’s coach of the year that same season — is leaving the program to take the head coaching job at IMG Academy in Florida.

“I am super happy with everything [at St. John’s],” McAloon said in an interview with The Current. “This job came out of the blue for me. I was contacted. It’s just an opportunity in which you have the chance to coach anywhere between six to 10 of the best players in the country. I thought I would be at St. John’s for the rest of my life.”

After he made the decision on June 2, he called two of his former assistant coaches to gauge their interest in taking over at St. John’s. One of those calls went to Patrick Behan, the head coach at WCAC foe St. Mary’s Ryken. After that initial contact, an agreement was quickly reached, and the school announced McAloon’s departure and Behan’s hiring as the team’s new coach last Wednesday.

“It was great to work with Pat,” said McAloon. “He was good as an assistant, and you really didn’t have to tell him to do things — he just got things done. I didn’t have to motivate him. He was open to bringing things to the table. As a head coach, he has done a heck of a job. Ryken is not traditionally the easiest place to win. He turned himself into the coach of the year last year in the league.”

Behan, who coached at Ryken for three years while compiling a .500 record, learned the ropes as an assistant for McAloon at St. John’s from 2012 to 2014 — and for him, the new job is a dream scenario.

“I was proud of the things we accomplished at St. Mary’s Ryken and building something there,” he said in an interview on Monday. “I gained a lot of great experience and a lot of great experience from Sean in my two years at St. John’s. I’m excited to be here, thrilled and just ready to keep it rolling. It has been a crazy last few days.”

Behan is McAloon’s second former assistant to become a head coach. Nick Jones at Archbishop Spalding was also on McAloon’s staff.

Sean McAloon has stepped down as the St. John’s boys basketball coach. (Brian Kapur/The Current/December 2013)

“His attention to detail is vital,” Behan said of McAloon. “He is very organized. He has a game plan on how he wants to do things — not just to win — but to recruit, scout, get ready for practice. He approaches every day with a strategy, and I think that’s important.”

Behan added that McAloon allows his assistants a real say in game plans and strategy. “You don’t feel like you are just another guy, and you have a say in things,” he said.

Behan, a native of Leesburg, Va., played high school basketball at Notre Dame Academy before advancing to the college level for Bucknell University. He had his first coaching job as an assistant at St. Mary’s College of Maryland before moving on to St. John’s.

“I’ve learned it from a lot of great coaches,” said Behan. “Sean was great in my two years here. It’s special to have worked for him, go off on my own for a few years and then come back to the place I started with my first high school job.”

The Cadets’ new coach shares many of the same philosophies as its departing one.

“A team that likes to play at a good pace is important,” said Behan. “Being able to play in the half-court when the game settles down is important in the WCAC, too. You have to be able to defend and execute in the half-court. I want a team that shares the ball, and we have a great group that has bought into that. There are things that I will do different from Sean, but I did learn a lot from him and some of our philosophies are similar to how we approach the game.”

Even so, Behan knows he will have to work to earn the trust of the players.

“There is still a transition,” Behan said. “Even though Sean and I do a lot of things similarly on the court and in our approach to win games, we are still two different human beings, so things are naturally going to be done differently. There will be a little bit of an adjustment phase. The best part is that I am here now and already getting to work. [The players] were excited to know that it was me coming in and having that familiarity.”

Behan has also coached several of the team’s rising senior class: Qwanzi Samuels, Richard Njoku and Tre Wood when he was an assistant at the school three years ago.

“I had a relationship with them coming in and the recruiting,” said Behan. “Having played against them the last couple of years, there’s familiarity. It’s nice on that first day of workouts to recognize the guys.”

The new coach also looks forward to being on the same side as the talented Cadets: “Instead of them draining threes against us or getting to the rim, they are helping us win.”
Behan’s familiarity with the ultra-competitive WCAC while competing in it over the last five years is also a major benefit as he assumes his new role.

“Being in the league the last five years and seeing the other great programs the league has and knowing what it takes and the effort it takes to be successful, I’m excited about that challenge,” he said. “It’s an advantage — being in the league and not being an outsider having to learn names or locations.”

Behan will look to build off his strong resume to bring the Cadets their third league title since 2000. But as he did during his time at Ryken, the coach is simply focused on making sure his team gets better today for a stronger tomorrow.

“It would be phenomenal. It would be a dream come true,” Behan said of a championship run. “Before we look ahead to playing [the WCAC title game] at American University, we have to get better today. We have a summer league game tonight, and I’m excited to watch our guys compete and see how we play together.”