MARK MCCLAM being offered the Hammond School boys basketball head coaching position triggered an immediate response. He called Sam Hare.
“I think I’m going to go after it,” Hare recalls McClam saying.
“Are you crazy? Really? Do you know how much time this is going to take?” Hare says he responded.
“I think so.”
“No, you don’t.”
“But I’m not going to do it unless you come with me.”
“Mark, I’m laying on the couch watching sports and you want me to come coach Hammond?”
Finally, McClam coaxed Hare off the couch and into joining him on the Hammond sideline.
“I’ll give you one year. One year,” Hare recalls saying.
That was three years ago.
The past three seasons at Hammond have further deepened an already deep-seated relationship founded 35 years ago by the two as teammates at the College of Charleston. Hare was a 6-foot-6 scoring forward out of Brookland-Cayce High by way of Spartanburg Methodist Junior College, and McClam was a 6-foot pass-first point guard out of Dreher High by way of Erskine College.
Upon graduation from College of Charleston, McClam entered the business world, where he has remained since. Hare first played professionally in Australia, served as an assistant coach for eight years of college basketball, then became a salesman.
Their friendship has endured – thrived, in fact – through one divorce, Hare’s two battles with cancer and McClam’s bout with a detached retina. It is to the point that when they stand next to each other at a Hammond practice, they can complete each other’s sentences much like they needed only a nod of the head during their playing days to finish an alley-oop pass with a dunk.
“There’s a bond here that you can’t break,” Hare says.
Hammond is reaping the rewards of that bond. McClam works with the team’s guards and Hare with the post players. McClam prepares practices plans. Hare guides the team’s extensive study of videotape, learned when he coached in college.
Inheriting a program that had won a dozen or so games over the previous two seasons, the two guided Hammond to a 14-12 record in 2012 before going 22-5 last season and falling in the state championship game. The Skyhawks enter the state playoffs next week with a 21-5 record.
Hammond’s style of play should look familiar to anyone who followed John Kresse’s highly successful teams at the College of Charleston. The two coaches consult with Kresse weekly about instilling the same principles and strategies he taught them: attention-to-detail preparation, pressure man-to-man defense and precision fast-break offense.
“It excites me very much to have former players come to talk basketball with me,” Kresse says. “It shows people respect their upbringing in basketball when they want to use some of the same basketball ideals that we used at the College of Charleston.”
Kresse credits the two with helping lay the foundation to his program. Hare eventually was inducted into the school’s athletics Hall of Fame, and McClam departed with single-game, single-season and career records for assists.
Hare was an assistant coach one year at Newberry, another at Coastal Carolina, three more at College of Charleston and his final three at Jacksonville. When the coaching staff was fired at Jacksonville, McClam immediately came to his side in Florida and helped Hare prepare a resume to get into a sales position.
Over the years, McClam has dabbled in medical equipment sales and real estate and now sells hospital beds for a company out of Charlotte. Since returning to the Columbia area, Hare has been in the business of selling medical imaging equipment.
McClam was a groomsman in both of Hare’s weddings. Hare was the same in McClam’s wedding. Their wives are close friends and sit next to each other at Hammond games. Their families often vacation together at the beach.
Hare coached on the AAU summer circuit and occasionally conducted shooting clinics in the area to keep his hand in the game, while McClam is a veteran coach of youth league and AAU basketball. Several years ago, McClam also coached the Hammond middle school team.
Because Hammond is a private school, McClam and Hare are permitted to coach without having to teach at the school. When McClam was hired, he immediately added a sixth- and seventh-grade team, giving Hammond five levels of teams – essentially building a feeder system.
Now, the coach at each level teaches the same offensive and defensive principles and strategies as McClam and Hare use at the varsity level. In effect, the two are passing along the gospel of John Kresse to every level of Hammond basketball.
In so doing, McClam and Hare also continue to extend their unbreakable bond.