Sleeping in Jim McElwain's garage 'not as bad as it sounds'

This post is just an excuse to run this old photo of Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, from his Eastern Washington days.
This post is just an excuse to run this old photo of Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, from his Eastern Washington days.
Published March 21, 2017

When Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain mentioned that the coaching staff from his alma mater (Eastern Washington) was visiting for spring practice last week, he dropped this intriguing nugget on reporters:

"We put them in the garage," McElwain said. "You might want to ask them about that."

So I did.

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best said from his office in Cheney, Wash. "Don't try to doll us up like we were some barbaric people and barely survived this 96-hour ordeal."

So here's what it was really like, according to Best.

Best and six of his staffers flew on United from Spokane (a short drive from campus) to Denver to Tampa, then piled in a station wagon to drive the two hours to Gainesville.

After they got to McElwain's house, they saw their lodging situation.

"It's not your prototypical garage," Best said.

There was no flickering light bulb swinging from the ceiling. No parked cars, either. They had running water, soap and a toilet.

"There's no bad oil filters," Best said. "There's no rakes. There's no shovels. It's basically a living quarters they've made out of the garage setting."

The McElwains set up eight beds - blow-up mattresses, technically. Eastern Washington's coaching staff used seven of them.

"I'd like to fib and act like we're tougher than most," Best said. "It was carpeted."

Best and his coaches spent a few days talking football. Best - who was just promoted in January - picked McElwain's brain on the jump from assistant to head coach. His defensive coaches talked schematics with the Gators' staff, and other staffers learned how UF structures recruiting.

Eastern Washington's staff felt welcome to explore any part of the Gators' operation. Best called it the best professional development trip he's done.

"We took back a lot of fruitful information," Best said.

Garage jokes aside, Best was sincerely grateful for the McElwain family's hospitality. One night, McElwain made one of his specialties - "very, very pristine hot dogs," Best said. The other night was Mexican lasagna Best called "out of this world."

"I'm not getting paid for all the adjectives and superlatives," Best said. "It was simply amazing. The company was amazing, and the food was right up there, too."

And apparently the garage wasn't too bad, either.