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Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The following comes from "Winning Defense" by Del Harris:

1. To be an effective rebounder a player must make it a top priority. A player has to want to be a defender and a rebounder. They go hand in hand and the same dogged determination is required to become successful at each. Success in both begins in the mind, not in the size of the body.

2. Make the first contact when a shot goes up in the air. Hit a body and only then should a player look for and move toward the ball. The best method of blocking out is to step toward the nearest opponent and reverse pivot into him with a low, wide base. The object is to tie up the opponent’s lower legs with the tail end. Spread the upper arms out wide with the elbows bent and the hands pointing upward.

3. Keep the hand up for better rebounding.  Do not leave the hands down and do not reach back to hold the opponent as so many players do.  In position with a reasonably wide, low base with arms spread and the hands up, a rebounder can feel his opponent move.  He can move a step or two with him to keep him sealed behind him as he pursues the ball.

4. Determine to go after every ball.  If a player goes after twenty balls, he may get four or five.  If he goes after four or five, he won't get any.  Good rebounders go after more balls than average players do.  They aggressively pursue a ball after blocking out, not being content to get only the ones that come their direction.

5. Make space for yourself to rebound when the shot goes up.  The forward step into your man followed by a reverse pivot will help give more space between your body position and the goal.  It's easy to rebound a ball in front of the body, but very difficult to jump backwards to get one.

6. Be relentless. Good rebounders do not give up o n a ball because they get blocked out or seem to be out of position. They work to get themselves into the action by spinning around people or by going to the baseline under the blockout and knifing back up into the lane to battle for the ball. They jump the second and third time for the ball.

7. Get to the logical rebound angles. Go to the weak side for rebounds when possible. Seal off rebounders who have deep inside position. Push them deeper and lock them up so they can get out. Then chase down any long rebounds.

8. Guards should consider rebounding a challenge, especially the defensive rebound. On both ends of the court there are now more long rebounds than in previous years because of the proliferation of three-point shots. Long shots that are missed equal long rebounds. Guards who are alert and tough will claim a lot of these balls.

9. Plan for offensive rebounding by taking decent shots.  Shots that come within the framework of the offense should give the offense more of an opportunity to rebound because the shots are expected and a well-constructed offensive attack will take into consideration the positioning of rebounders.  

10. Study your teammates’ shooting habits and learn those of your opponents. This way, you’ll know whose shot rebounds softly and whose come off the board hard.


It is somewhat ironic that I have just finished an outstanding book by Jeff Janssen titled "How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture" before running into an outstanding article on culture on the web this morning.  The article appears in the Tallahassee Democrat and is well-written by Jim Henry.  You can, and should, read the entire article here.  It speaks of Jimbo Fisher and his challenge of maintaining his culture in the light of great success.  I've known Jimbo since my high school days in West Virginia where we occasionally played some pick up basketball and then watched him do an amazing job at LSU under Nick Saban before building a championship team at Florida State. 

Here are a few take aways I got from the piece.
While FSU is a prohibitive favorite to repeat as college football's national champion, it's not expected to be easy. That's why only three teams have repeated since 1980 in the Associated Press poll.
Looking to maintain that elusive level of greatness, Fisher spent a portion of his summer reading books on great coaches and players and studying their methods on how they were/are consistent winners.
"It's human nature to win and relax," Fisher said. "Our natural human nature is not to strive."
We both have a mutual friend in Don Yaeger, also a resident of Tallahassee, who knows a great deal about success and culture who shares his thoughts as well.
 Building that culture of greatness is also a passion of Tallahassee's Don Yaeger, a multiple New York Times best-seller who travels the country and works with some of the most successful coaches and franchises in sports.
"If you believe that success leaves clues, then Jimbo Fisher's out there looking for clues – I think that's very important," Yaeger said.
Yaeger has learned among the strongest links between teams and organizations that win consistently is their focus on building the culture that allows them to do so.
I thought it was also telling that on the heels of winning a National Championship that Jimbo spent the summer "learning."  He specifically wrapped himself into reading -- reading about those who has sustained excellence.
Looking to maintain that elusive level of greatness, Fisher spent a portion of his summer reading books on great coaches and players and studying their methods on how they were/are consistent winners.
"It's human nature to win and relax," Fisher said. "Our natural human nature is not to strive."
"You have to understand that everything has got to be committed to excellence," Fisher said.
"It's creating that culture that is much more important. You've got to get players, but then you've got to create culture and that takes time."
To find ways to keep his team motivated and learn from past champions, Fisher studied the likes of Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Larry Bird, coach Phil Jackson and others.
Again, these are just a few excerpts from a great article -- read it all here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I'm a big believer that part of being successful is studying and understand failure.  Certainly it is important to have knowledge of how to succeed.  We can learn so much from leaders, coaches, programs and organization that have achieved and maintained excellence.  But we should also find the time to understand those who have failed and more importantly why. 

One of the best books on this subject is "How The Mighty Fall" by Jim Collins.  As Collins notes:

Decline can be avoided.
Decline can be detected.
Decline can be reversed.

He also points out that "Great companies can stumble, badly and recover."

One of the key parts of Collins' book is outline the Five Stages of Decline:

Five Stages of Decline

·         The first line of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. It reads, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

·         Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

o   Great Enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow. Luck and chance play a role in many successful outcomes, and those who fail to acknowledge the role luck may have played in their success—and thereby overestimate their own merit and capabilities—have succumbed to hubris.

·         Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

o   Hubris from Stage 1 (We’re so great, we can do anything!”) leads right to Stage 2, the Undisciplined Pursuit of More—more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as “success.” Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence, or both. When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall. Although complacency and resistance to change remain dangers to any successful enterprise, overreaching better captures how the might fall.

·         Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

o   As companies move into Stage 3, internal warning signs begin to mount, yet external results remain strong enough to “explain away” disturbing data or to suggest the difficulties are “temporary” or “cyclic” or “not that bad,” and “nothing is fundamentally wrong.” In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setback rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether.

·         Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

o   The cumulative peril and/or risks-gone-bad of Stage 3 assert themselves, throwing the enterprise into a sharp decline visible to all. The critical question is, how does its leadership respond? By lurching for a quick salvation or by getting back to disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place? Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4. Common “saviors” include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product, a “game-changing” acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions. Initial results from taking dramatic action may appear positive, but they do not last.

·         Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

o   The longer a company remains in Stage 4, repeatedly grasping for silver bullets, the more likely it will spiral downward. In Stage 5, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. In some cases, their leaders just sell out; in other cases, the institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases, the enterprise simply dies outright.

·         It is possible to skip a stage, although our research suggests that companies are likely to move through them in sequence.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Yesterday I post a review on the last book by Jeff Janssen titled "How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture."  As I mentioned in the review, it's an outstanding book that would benefit any coach of any sport on any level.

Here are just a few quick takeaways from the book:

Jeff speaks to how when set, culture goes a long way in running your program:
Ultimately when your championship culture is in place, the culture leads, perpetuates, and even grows itself. Rather than you being the sole leader of the team who has to orchestrate everything, you have created an environment that is so entirely on the same page that it positively and productively leads itself. You have created a team of willing leaders rather than followers. It’s almost as if you could be away and the team could step up and do what needs to be done because they have taken ownership of the program.

Some great thoughts from Bill Walsh on the importance of standards:
“Ideally you want your standard of performance, your philosophy and methodology, to be so strong and solidly ingrained that in your absence the team performs as if you were present, on site. They’ve become so proficient, highly mobilized, and well prepared that in a sense you’re extraneous; everything you’ve preached and personified has been integrated and absorbed; roles have been established and people are able to function at a high level because they understand and believe in what you’ve taught them, that is, the most effective and productive way of doing things accompanied by the most productive attitude while doing them.” –Bill Walsh

On the importance of strong commitment towards a culture:
“For better and for worse, there’s really no quick way to achieve culture change. Rules can be modified with a quick memo, but reshaping a culture takes a commitment to teach what we want, write a coherent vision to define it, model and live that vision as best we can, measure our progress, and then recognize and reward people when we succeed in making it happen. All of which requires tons of communication, years of stubborn persistence, relentless follow up, and probably a little luck.” –Ari Weinzweig

Teach your leaders to teach your culture:
One of the critical systems of education is the development of your team leaders. Because these people are so critical to driving you culture within your program, you must invest the time to mold your leaders into the kind you need to be effective.

Coach Saban on the importance of defining your standards:
“It all starts with everyone buying into the same principles and values… If you don’t define the expectation for everybody in the organization and the standard, what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it, then how can you know whether someone is mediocre or a high achiever… We clearly define personally, academically, athletically what the expectation is for every player and they have to be accountable to it.” –Nick Saban

Jeff on the discipline to exercise your core values during adversity:
It is easy to profess and practice your core values when everything is going well-when you are winning games, everyone is healthy, chemistry is great, your athletes represent your program well, and you’re getting all the calls. However, your core values will be most revealed during the difficult times like losses, when talented athletes get in trouble, and your season and/or job are on the line.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


We often blog about books or share excerpts of books in hope that it is something that can help you, your team or your family.  On a rare occasion I will speak of a book in a "must-read" tone.  Today is such a day.

I'm not sure there is a more important word in successful teams and organizations today than "culture."  From Webster we see that culture is defined in this manner:

 noun \ˈkəl-chər\
: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
: a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
: a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)
I have blogged about culture in the past.  It is so important I made it part of our summer camp's expectation seminar titled "Creating A Culture of Personal Excellence."
In fact, here is link to 17 other posts in regard to culture.  It was what your program truly is -- what it stands for.   The key steps in creating culture include:
Step One: Defining what you want your culture to be, understanding that culture leads to legacy.
Step Two: Working to teach and emphasize those components necessary to create your culture to all involved in your team.
Step Three: Working each day to maintain your culture.
This week Jeff Janssen released a book "How To Build And Sustain A Championship Culture."  It is by far the best book I have seen on this subject and would benefit any coach in any sport on any level.
As Jeff says "Winners have a certain way of doing things."
The table of contents from Jeff's book gives great insight into how the book is written:
1. Culture is King
2. 8 Kind of Cultures
3. 6 Key Components of a Championship Culture
4. Credible Leaders
5. Clear and Compelling Vision
6. Core Values
7. Standard of Behavior
8. Committed and Unified Team
9. Aligned Systems
10. Your 10-Step Blueprint to Build a Championship Culture
I have seen nothing more complete on the subject of culture than Jeff's book.  I can also tell you from my relationship with Jeff that this has been a lengthy process because he understood the relevance of it towards the success of an organization and, as he does in all his books, wanted to do detailed research.  That research included looks into cultures created by Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Walsh, and Annson Dorrance just to name a few
One of the profound concepts that Jeff's book talks about is does your program have a culture?  The answer is yes -- whether you know it or not or know what it is or not.  As Jeff says:
"Whether you realize it or not, your program already has a culture. Even if you are a new coach coming into a different program, you will need to contend with a culture that is already in place. So the question is not, 'Do we have a culture?' You do."
The importance of this book is that not only does it help you to define your team's culture but goes to great length in giving your methods of examples of how to build it and maintain it.  One of may great quotes in the book comes from Coach Mike Krzyzewski:
“You cannot merely expect culture to be a natural occurrence; it has to be taught and made a part of your everyday routine.”
This weekend I will have a few blog posts from "How To Build And Sustain A Championship Culture" but I would highly recommend purchasing this book.  I purchased 10 copies today for some of my coaching friends  --  I think it's that good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


"Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has."
-Billy Graham

"Obstacles can't stop you. Problems can't stop you. Most of all other people can't stop you. Only you can stop you."

-Jeffrey Gitomer

"You may not realize it when it happens, but at kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

-Walt Disney

"Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings."

-Ralph Blum

"I would never have amounted to anything were it not for adversity. I was forced to come up the hard way."

-J. C. Penney

"The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration."


"There is no education like adversity."

-Benjamin Disraeli

"Adversity builds character and character makes us stronger."

-Mark Wilson

"When it gets dark enough you can see the stars."

-Lee Salk

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

-Michael Jordan



I purchased a copy of the book "Football Scouting Methods" by Steve Belichick.  And as expected, it was extremely detailed.  And while it had an obvious tilt to scouting football, there were some takeaways for anyone that scouts.

I got my start in coaching by scouting for Ron Chambers and Doug McElwain at Winfield High School while attending Marshall University.  The junior high coach Brad Hodges took me early to show me the ropes, how to best scout and what RC and Mac were looking for.  I also spend some time with my junior high coach Allen Osborne and picked his brain on the topic of scouting. 

I learned so much from scouting -- in part because I was taught what to look for and also because I loved doing it.  While at LSU on the staff of Dale Brown, in-person scouting was still a part of the game and I rarely was on the bench for an LSU game as I traveled the country as an advanced scout.  Again, I learned so much from observing others.

Here is a great list from Coach Belichick:

What is Expected of the Scout

·         A scout should be static in his methods, since the frequent changes in football should cause him to re-evaluate his methods as well as seek ways to improve them from time to time.

·         The kind of information that the scout seeks should not be left entirely to his discretion, but should be spelled out in detail by the head coach, or those assistants entrusted with formulating game plans. It is not enough for the head coach to say, “Scout the game and bring back all the information you can.” Each head coach should have definite items that he wants to know about. Often, what is of importance to one head coach is of little or no concern to another. It is to be expected that every head coach will want to know the basic offense and defense used, and on the basis of this, what can be anticipated. However, the degree to which the offense and defense is to be analyzed for tendencies varies among the head coaches. Some coaches will want every analysis possible, while others will be content with the basic alignments and adjustments. Each head coach has his own requirements; these are dictated by his philosophy of the game.

·         In order for a scout to do a satisfactory job, it is important that he know thoroughly the head coach’s philosophy, as well as have a complete understanding with him as to what is expected in the scouting report.

·         In order to enlighten the scout as to what will be expected of him, some head coaches, at times with the aid of the rest of the staff, will prepare a check list for the scout to follow. This will enable the scout to have a complete understanding of what is expected of him insofar as his search for information is concerned.

·         There are other head coaches who will have a final report form prepared for the scout to use in determining what knowledge he is to seek.

·         Regardless of what type forms are used, it is important that the scout know where to place the emphasis in his work. Some coaches will want a detailed report on the personnel, while others will stress as complete a picture as possible of the offense and defense, along with the tendencies in each phase of the game.


The third annual Gary Blair Coaching Academy has been set for October 4-5 at Reed Arena.

Last year’s academy attracted over 100 coaches from all levels to learn from the Texas A&M women’s basketball coaching staff.

“The Coaching Academy has created a wonderful platform for us to share how we play and teach basketball the Aggie Way,” said Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair. “Our staff takes great pride in putting the Academy together in such a way that we can benefit junior and high school coaches as much as possible during the weekend, and continue our commitment to grow the game.”

The academy includes sessions led by each of the Texas A&M women’s basketball coaches, focusing on wide-ranging topics on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Registration for the academy includes three meals, a Texas A&M highlight DVD, a DVD of the academy sessions and a notebook that includes tips on scouting, motivation, coaching philosophy, conditioning, and practice planning, in addition to a playbook.

Coaches that register in advance can pay online through the 12th Man Foundation website for only $50.

Interested coaches may register here.

For more information, email Coach Bob Starkey at



Tuesday, August 26, 2014


This is short and sweet but critically important -- more so than ever in today's world of social media and instant communication.  This actually came from an article written by Geoffrey James for Inc.  The title of the article was: "The 1 Personal Branding Rule Everyone Should Know."  You can read his entire article here -- but this is the most important part -- and one we will share with our team:

Every day, people screw up their personal brands by not following this absurdly simple rule:
Never go online if you're angry, upset or otherwise impaired.


"Practice is the best of all instructors, if the person running the practice knows what the hell he or she is doing. Improvement, especially toward perfection, comes only if the practice is demanding, well-thought-out, and constructive, by a coach who realizes that absolute perfection is unattainable-but is always the objective."

-Bob Knight