Less than a week after being named to direct UNCW’s men’s basketball program, new head coach C.B. McGrath began building his staff with the addition of veteran coach Doug Esleeck as an assistant coach on Wednesday.
“When I got the job, I knew Doug was going to be one of my first calls,” said McGrath. “He’s a hard worker who knows the area and the conference.
“He does a great job recruiting and knows about every player in the state and area. He has a great rapport with players, does a great job of working out the players, and know what it takes to be successful.”
Esleeck, 34, comes to Wilmington after serving on Coach Bob Hoffman’s staff at Mercer for the last seven years. The Winston-Salem native was promoted to Associate Head Coach in the summer of 2014 after spending four years in an assistant coaching capacity.
Esleeck is looking forward to keeping UNCW’s rich basketball tradition intact with McGrath at the helm.
“I’ve known Coach McGrath since college and I always thought he was going to be an amazing head coach one day,” said Esleeck. “I was excited to get his call and jumped at the chance to be part of his staff and part of the championship culture here at UNCW.
“UNCW has an outstanding basketball tradition with tremendous success through several different coaches. Winning is part of UNCW Athletics, and that’s something I’m excited to be a part of.”
With Esleeck on the sidelines, Mercer has racked up a 146-98 record in seven seasons and made five postseason appearances. The Bears accepted a bit to the CIT in 2015-16 after reaching the second round of the CBI one year earlier and placed third in the Southern Conference in 2014-15, despite replacing five starters.
In 2013-14, Esleeck helped the Bears roll to a 27-9 record, highlighted by the team’s landmark defeat of No. 6 Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Mercer’s upset of Duke sent shockwaves throughout the college basketball world and sent the team into the NCAA Round of 32, where the Bears fell to Tennessee.
The Bears achieved the program’s first Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship in nearly two decades and also finishing atop the A-Sun regular season standings for the second-straight year.
In 2012-13, Esleeck helped lead the Bears to a 14-4 record in conference play and the program’s first outright A-Sun regular season crown. The 24-12 season featured road wins at Florida State and Alabama as well as a victory over Tennessee in the team’s first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
During Mercer’s 2012 CIT Championship run, Esleeck teamed with fellow staff members to spearhead scouting efforts that helped the Bears’ hold an upper hand on their opponents. Mercer completed that season with five-straight wins en route to the league’s first postseason victory and closed with a 27-11 mark.
Esleeck spent four seasons on the staff at Gardner-Webb before moving to Mercer. As GW’s recruiting coordinator in 2009-10, he brought in three players ranked among ESPN’s top 150 players at their respective positions. Players signed by the Runnin’ Bulldogs during Esleeck’s tenure included 2007-08 A-Sun “Player of the Year” Thomas Sanders, A-Sun “All-Freshman selection Nate Blank, ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American Aaron Linn and Big South Conference All-Freshman player Joshua Henley (the nation’s top freshman rebounder in 2008-09).
Those recruits, along with other Esleeck-mentored players, helped lead Gardner-Webb raise its profile, including an upset of then-No. 20 ranked Kentucky during the 2007-08 season.
Prior to joining the Gardner-Webb staff, Esleeck was the director of men’s basketball operations at UNC Greensboro in 2005-06 and served as both a strength and conditioning intern (2004-05) and a junior varsity coach (2003-04) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His coaching roots at the high school level and as a camp coach/clinician date back to 2001.
Esleeck earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from UNC Chapel Hill in 2005, with a double major in Business Administration and American History. He also earned his MBA from Gardner-Webb in 2008.
Esleeck is married to the former Ashley Neighbors, a 1998 graduate of UNCW, and the couple has a newborn daughter, Grier.