I consider Kevin McGuff and Mike Neighbors friends and colleagues in the business. My respect for them started with the incredible job they did at Xavier. It was the way that they played the game. It was also the amount of time they spent in growing the game by putting in extra hours to make their program accessible to the rest of us that we can learn our craft better. Mike has gone above and beyond with an amazing email newsletter that he puts out. If you are not on his email list you are missing out -- big time! If you want on, simply email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added -- it's that simple.
In his most recent newsletter, Mike once again opened their program up to share that they had some issues to deal with regarding student-athlete discipline. Now this is nothing new to any of us. I don't care where you coach, this is part of our job. But Mike was transparent with us to let us know how they handled it.
It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes and philosophical nuggets from Coach Don Meyer -- "When it comes down to the team or the individual, the decision was made long time ago." The bottom line is there are a lot of different ways to win -- even different levels of winning. But are you can't let winning cloud your vision -- especially if your vision is to create a culture in which your student-athletes become the best they can be on and off the court.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Gregg Bell. You can read the article in it's entirety (and I strongly suggest that you do) here. Here are the excerpts:
Winning - as in, right now, during the biggest week Washington women's basketball has had in a decade - isn't everything to Kevin McGuff.
Winning the right way, the way that will last far beyond this year or next, sure is.
Tuesday, two days before his rising but already thin Huskies (19-8, 11-5 Pac-12) host No. 4 Stanford (26-2, 15-1) with Washington's first NCAA tournament berth since 2007 in the balance, UW's second-year coach suspended three players for the game because they violated a team rule.
His team is trying to get to 12 conference wins for the first time since 2003. Yet he yanked Jazmine Davis, his leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and last season's all-Pac-12 guard and conference freshman of the year. He shelved 14-points, 8-rebounds-per game force Talia Walton, a three-time Pac-12 freshman of the week. And he took out redshirt freshman reserve Deborah Meeks. All will be in street clothes on the bench while their team scrambles to field a full lineup against a Cardinal power that has beaten UW 13 consecutive times and has reached five straight NCAA Final Fours.
He is in the second season of a five-year deal to turn the Huskies into what he turned Xavier into: a national power competing for Final Fours.
And he's bent on doing that the right way.
It's not just about winning games it's about how you run the program," he said. "We are still in year two, trying to establish a culture that I want, that I think will lead to even more winning in the future.
"It's a hard decision, obviously. This is a big week for us. It's tough, with the lack of depth that we have, to be down three people. But I think it's the right thing to do for them individually and for our program."
This is coaching at its finest and most fundamental.
Coaching at the college, high-school and youth levels is foremost about teaching. The best coaches teach, their players learn and grow.
Not just on the court, either.
"When you deal with young people it's more than, obviously, about just practices and trying to win games. It's about education and helping them grow," he said. "This is a moment, a really tough moment, but it's the right moment for what we need to be thinking long term. For what I need to be thinking long term."
That - even more so than winning -- is what a coach should be about. Even if it means your team is down to seven available players to take on the toughest test it's faced all season.
Lorenzo Romar admires McGuff for what he is doing now.
"If you are going be one that instills discipline, if you are going to be one that creates an environment of consistent learning - which is what discipline is, it's teaching - then you have to be sure that you stand by rules that you put in place," Romar said.
"Before you let your team know of the rules that you have for it, you have to go over in your mind: Am I willing to do this and enforce this, regardless of the circumstances? So when you do that, you've made that decision that even if the No. 4 team comes in you are going to do it. There are some that just talk about it, and there are others who enforce it.
"So Kevin didn't make that decision this week. He made that decision when he got the job and he told them, `This is how it's going to be.' You have to admire him for that."