Michael Litos Q&A with new VCU AD Ed McLaughlin
Our good friend Michael Litos of CAAHoops.com (not to mention a VCU alumn) sat down with Ed McLaughlin this morning for a little Q&A session. Seeing how VCU is no longer in the CAA however, Litos was kind enough to let us release the transcripts.
Litos: Bios are boring. What about your career arc and what drives you to accomplish a lot at a young age?
McLaughlin: It’s two things, really. First, it’s the ability to be with coaches and student athletes and their energy on an everyday basis. The passion and energy, the drive it gives me to be better. I have one of the coolest jobs on Earth. I know I sound like an 18-year old by saying that but it keeps you young in a lot of ways, certainly young in spirit. My ability to be around people that give me energy helps me get that drive to accomplish things at a younger age. I’ve always known since I was in college that I wanted to be an AD. To be inspired by people every day makes me want to be better every day. Second, I love to win. I mean win by (getting) a big donation, or a student athlete that has struggled graduates, or climbing a ladder to cut down the nets. To see that look in people’s eyes and see it come together…there’s nothing more inspiring.
Litos: Tell me about that moment when Dr. Rao called you and said “hey Ed, the ship is yours” What did you do?
McLaughlin: First I checked my cell phone to make sure it wasn’t one of my friends. Seriously, I was honored. The first thing I said to him was that this is an honor and that’s not idle chatter. It’s an honor to be part of this community. It was a wild moment type of thing. Humbling. Most times people want to take a night to think about it and all, but I didn’t need a night to think.
Litos: August 13 comes, you get organized in your office and figure out voice mail–what’s first on the agenda?
McLaughlin:We have to put together and complete our senior leadership team. That’s critical. There’s a huge void with the folks who left. I wish them all the success and they are super talented people, Mike, Norwood and Dave. I’m rooting for them as long as we’re not playing them. But getting a senior team filled out is critical. I need to make sure I have folks that complement me and complement the staff. Then I’ll dive in and meet with donors and corporate partners. A lot of my time in the first 6-8 weeks is meeting people. That’s critical as well.
Litos: I don’t mean this in a negative fashion, but are any of “your guys” coming with you?
McLaughlin: I have people in mind, not to say for one position or another, but there are talented people that want to be at VCU. I will talk to some folks that I’ve had relationships with because (I know) the things that attracted me to VCU are the same things that will attract them to VCU.
Litos: Not a specific job duty, per se, but what is the most important aspect of your job? Every single day on the job you need to do what?
McLaughlin: It’s a couple different things. One, as an AD you have to have point guard vision. Your staff members, if they are talented and good, they are locked in at what they do, be it media relations, clients, donor relations. But you have to see the whole field. It’s a really important skill. In fact when I (started at Niagara) I didn’t realize how much I needed to have that. It’s also important to be an idea guy but have a sense of how they fit together. That lets you give your staff leeway to go and reach their goals. You want to help them find things but not micromanage. That’s a big part of it.
Litos: ADs have varying roles in things like nonconference scheduling. How involved do you plan to be regarding things like that?
McLaughlin: With Shaka or any of our coaches we will sit down and talk about it but I won’t meddle. Shaka wants to play the best schedule he can and I’ll sit down and we’ll talk about it, but I’ll ask him how I can help. That’s the biggest deal. I may know people or have relationships with people that can help what he wants to do. (Nonconference scheduling) is a microcosm of how I approach it: what can I do to help but not coach your team.
Litos: Basketball is the biggest asset and of course first priority. How do you maintain the balance between hoops and the other sports?
McLaughlin: It’s priorities. Niagara is a little different in that it has two tier 1 sports, basketball and hockey. We had to balance those concurrently. But you have to know you can’t be all things to all people and it is about priorities. For us, it’s getting (coaches) to compare themselves not to basketball but to others in the conference (in their sport) and getting people to understand that the more money we (raise) the better it is for everyone.
Litos: Pretend money doesn’t matter. In fact you have no constraints. What’s the one thing you would do to move VCU athletics forward?
McLaughlin: Can I have two? We need a state-of-the-art practice facility for basketball; that’s very important. Critical. And as I look at other sports, we need some type of village–village may be a tough term–but some sort of center where our Olympic sports can be housed. A facility like that is important. Locker rooms in the same place, fields in the same place. You want that village to bring people to see it. Facilities are so important. It would help all our Olympic sports recruit athletes and win championships.
Litos: The F-word. Not football…facilities. Soccer and baseball play up on the Boulevard; Cary Street Field could use a facelift. I know it’s not fair to ask for specifics, but when you look at needed improvements in facilities, what stands out?
McLaughlin: You mentioned two right off the top. Soccer and baseball. All three programs–men’s and women’s soccer and baseball–can compete at high level so we have to make sure our facilities can meet what we’re trying to do. I’m not sure (our current) facilities meet that. I’m not sure because I haven’t been around but we’re going to work hard in a short period of time to assess those things. Tim Lampe has done an extraordinary job in his 15 or so years and we’re looking at taking the next step.
Litos: I do have a football question but it’s not the one you think. The Redskins training camp is coming to Richmond. Is that something you’d like to see VCU get involved with?
McLaughlin: I think we would love the opportunity to work with a first-class organization like the Redskins, especially if it helps us achieve our goal of a first class experience for our student athletes. If it makes sense from a financial and (strategic) fit standpoint. Does that mean we’re playing football at an NCAA level? I’m not sure. We need to take care of the student athletes we have now and their needs. Once we get those things set, then it becomes about doing the things Dr. Rao envisions, those things that will make us a premier research university.
Litos: What are the things you do when you get away from the office–hobbies, interests, things like that?
McLaughlin: I spend time with my family. I told the search committee and told the folks last week I don’t really have a lot of hobbies. I run but that’s more to spend a half hour or an hour to clear my head. I’d love to have a hobby–I hear hobbies are wonderful–but I like to be with my family. My daughter is 11 and my boys are eight and five. A driving force in this job search is that Richmond is a wonderful place to raise a family. That’s a really important part for me.