From Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, Rob McClanaghan Shares Training Journey Over 10 Years
LOS ANGELES -- What do Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall all have in common? Aside from their NBA accolades and millions earned on and off the court, they've all trained with Rob McClanaghan.
But the native Rhode Islander doesn’t only train All-Stars and MVPs. From high school kids to draft lottery picks to injured veterans—including D-Rose, who’s having a resurgent year for the Minnesota Timberwolves—Rob will assist anyone who is willing to put in the work. His humble approach carries over to his private social media presence, in a day and age when many trainers are active with self-promotion.
CloseUp360 recently caught up with Rob in Los Angeles. The Syracuse basketball alum talked about his 10-year journey as a top trainer, the growth and evolution of his profession, and his efforts to help his clients get back in game shape.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
CloseUp360: How did you get into training NBA players?
Rob McClanaghan: I was interning at IMG Academy [in Bradenton, Florida], from ‘02 to ‘05 every summer while I was teaching [high school]. So I had summers off, and on the side after school in the summer, I was working out just kids. I saw IMG Academy doing it while I was interning and I was, like, “That's kinda cool. You can make money doing that.” It was just a training academy. It started out as tennis with [Andre] Agassi and those people, and then they started with basketball. But, you know, they didn't really have a court. They were using high school courts.
Then I met Ruben Garces who was a big-time European player. I worked him out. Then Ryan Gomes who was gonna be a junior at Providence. I worked him out all summer. He was first team All-American. Then he went pro and kept me on—my first pro, my own pro.
I worked with Sebastian Telfair a little bit. So I did my own clinics, mostly [in the] northeast. Then in '06, I just did [training] full-time on my own for a year with kids. I never thought it would be a career, but three years later in my third year teaching, I made more training than I was teaching.
The guy that ran IMG Academy opened a facility in Vegas, Impact Basketball. I was his right-hand man there for a year. Even before that, I was working ABCD Camps, probably the biggest high school camp ever. Sonny Vaccaro [the famous former executive at Nike, adidas and Reebok] ran it. I met D-Rose and K-Love there, and became kinda cool with them. I became close with Sonny and everyone was there: Lance Stephenson, O.J. [Mayo], D-Rose, K-Love. Back in the day, it was T-Mac [Tracy McGrady], Kobe [Bryant].
Then in Vegas, I met Arn Tellem, B.J. Armstrong and Bob Myers. Bob's obviously the GM of the Warriors now. And they hired me to work at Wasserman as a trainer full-time in July of '07. No one had ever done this before, so we just kind of created this job. Now, everyone's trying to do it, but then it was new to everyone, including us. That was it.
The following draft, I had seven of the top 15 picks—probably the most any agency ever had in lottery picks. I mean, it was Derrick [Rose], Russ [Westbrook], Brook [Lopez], Robin [Lopez], [Danilo] Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, D.J. Augustin. And on top of that, I had K-Love, but he was not with Wasserman. So basically I was training eight of the top 15 picks of the '08 draft. From there, obviously, those guys succeeded and that helped me.
CU360: What are your memories of pivotal moments in your career?
RM: When Derrick won Rookie of the Year [in 2009], [and] K-Love and Russ were [on the] All-Rookie team. Then Derrick's third year [in 2010-11], he won MVP and I was doing workouts at the gym at Saint Monica's [High School in Los Angeles]. I wasn't even watching his MVP speech, and he thanked his family and all that. Then he thanked me and he used my full name. So I went and checked my phone and I remember [reporter] David Aldridge texting me, like, "Wow. What a shout-out." I had no idea what he was talking about. I was, like, "What?" And then the next thing you know, I had like 20 more texts. From there, I figured it out. That was huge.
Then a week later, Kevin [Love] won Most Improved Player in the NBA and same thing: he thanked me, used my full name. That was a big week as far as my career went. From there, I picked up Wall, Durant, [Al] Horford, so Derrick winning MVP was huge. And Kevin Love and Russ succeeding early on helped me.
CU360: Why do you think players go to you and not other trainers?
RM: Probably a question for them. I don't know. I mean, a lot of my guys have done well so I guess, you know, credibility is a big thing. Reputation. But I think the main thing is, I treat them like just normal guys. I don't treat them like they’re stars, which I know a lot of people do. I hold them accountable. If I'm here at 9 a.m., you should be here at 9 a.m. If you were here at 9 a.m. and I was late, you'd probably fire me, so I think that they like that I treat them like normal guys, not NBA stars.
CU360: You’ve managed to build relationships with some of the biggest names in the NBA. How do you think you’ve been able to do that?
RM: Because, you know, after workouts, I'm the type of guy that's not gonna be, like, “See you tomorrow. See you next summer.” It's more, like, “Hey, let's grab dinner. Let's grab lunch. Let's grab a drink,” whatever it is. I think through that, we kind of build that trust off the court, so therefore they're gonna trust me on the court.
CU360: What do you tell your clients when you’re helping them come back from injuries, like D-Rose?
RM: I've been through it with Derrick and Russell and K-Love with freak injuries, so when I talk to these guys, it's more, “Hey, listen, this is what it is. This is part of playing a professional sport and it's a part of, you know, your career. Not many guys go injury-free, so it's a matter of how you approach it. You can hit the rehab hard and come back, and have a better year. Or you can kind of collect your money and once the contract's up, who knows?”
So I just try to be positive, try to be there for them. I've been through it with Derrick, Russell and these guys, K-Love, so at least I have some background where I can say, “Hey, listen, with Derrick we did this.” So I think they like that I've been through that with other guys.
CU360: A lot of trainers use Instagram and Twitter to build their brand and promote their training, but you’re not as heavy on the social media side. Why is that?
RM: Maybe I'm just the old guy here, but, you know, I know it's a new thing. I know it's a way guys are making money and getting themselves out there. I try to keep my workouts private. Get our work in and get out. You know, just because you don't see it, doesn't mean you're not working at it. A lot of my guys, like D-Rose and K-Love, they wouldn't put up with that anyway, so I'm good.
CU360: If your players were to say that you have a motto, what would Rob Mac's motto be?
RM: Probably everything we do is like game reps. I mean, you guys just saw the workout. It's pretty intense. It's pretty efficient. I think guys like coming in, getting an hour workout and getting out. But after an hour, they're pretty dead. We kind of just come in and it’s one drill after the other. It’s efficient, so I think game reps is a big thing. I try to do everything where, you know, it's at the speed or condition that it would be in a game. So once the game comes, it's easy.