UC Merced named John Sykes as the men’s basketball coach and Allen McCreary as women's volleyball coach, the school announced Tuesday. They are the first coaching hires in the NAIA era, which begins in the fall.
Both men have local ties. Sykes is a Merced native who played basketball at Merced High and coached the Golden Bobcats’ club team the past two years, while McCreary is from Atwater and a former assistant coach at Merced College and coach at Hughson High.
“We are excited to have John and Allen on our staff,” said David Dunham, the UC director of recreation and athletics, in a statement. “They bring a wealth of knowledge not only within their sports, but of the Merced and San Joaquin Valley. Our entire staff is looking forward to working with them in building our first varsity teams.”
Sykes brings with him 14 years of assistant and head coaching experience at the high school, junior college and university levels. He played under Vince Clemons at Merced High and then at the University of Texas (1985-86) and Cal State Fullerton (1987-90). After college, he played professionally in Peru, the Netherlands, Mexico and Canada.
Sykes began coaching in 1996 as an assistant at Golden Valley High in Merced and was an assistant coach at Merced College from 1999-2004. He spent one year each as an assistant at Modesto Junior College and Cal State Stanislaus. Most recently, he served as head coach of the Golden Valley freshman team and the UC Merced club team.
“I'm excited and looking forward to the journey we will take as a program and to working with everyone at UC Merced,” Sykes said. “The future is bright, and I'm looking for the team to be competitive in our first season in the NAIA.”
McCreary comes to UC Merced after spending last season at Towson University, an NCAA Division I school in Maryland, as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Before that, he was an assistant coach for two years at Angelo State, a Division II school in Texas, and the head coach for two years at Holy Names University.
At Holy Names — one of UC Merced's new rivals in the California Pacific Conference — McCreary led the Hawks to the NAIA Region II playoffs in 2007 and was named the conference’s coach of the year. As the coach at Hughson High from 1999-2004, McCreary compiled a 136-40 record and led the team to six consecutive playoff appearances. He was also an assistant coach at Merced College from 2004-06.
“I chose UC Merced because it is a new campus, and to be part of something that is starting from the ground up was exciting to me,” McCreary said. “I liked the challenge, plus it was a chance for me and my family to come home.”