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Friday, March 10, 2017


We often thank of communication as what we say. Sometimes the art of coaching and teaching is learning when not to say anything.  I loved this piece from the book "The Difference You Make" by Pat Williams.  Williams talks about Chuck Daly sharing what he had learned as an assistant to Vic Bubas years earlier at Duke.

"Vic taught me to bite my tongue.  He said, 'You have to know when to talk to players and when to keep your peace.'  Vic taught me to always ask myself: 'Will this player benefit from what I say?  Or will he just become less coachable?'  Sometimes I would literally jam my knuckles in my mouth or look someplace else -- anything to keep from saying what I was thinking."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


One of my favorite concepts from Tom Izzo is "the best coached teams are player coached teams."  In other words, they are the custodians of their own program.  The police each other and hold each other accountable.  It creates a special culture of ownership that that great teams show.  And by great teams, I mean those teams that are consistently competitive year in and year out and are driving by their culture.  Here is a short piece on the New England Patriots.

"In the biggest games, in any situations and on a weekly basis, his production was phenomenal," Belichick wrote.  "Rodney Harrison embodies all the attributes coaches seek and appreciate: toughness, competitiveness, leadership, selflessness, hard work, intensity, professionalism -- and coming from Rodney, they are contagious.

After all, there were many "normal" things in the locker room that weren't necessarily normal in other places.  Harrison was among those who were there for the installation of things that were not taken for granted.  The players, for example, were coachable, maybe because some of their toughest coaches were their peers.  All of their competitions were based around improving team performance.

They gave out that mental error belt to prevent mistakes in the game.  They challenged one another to get to work early and interrogated players who tried to leave early.  They took the punitive nature of being late for meetings away from he coaches and handled it themselves; if you were the last one sitting down, no matter what time it was, you were late.  In fact, Harrison learned that lesson when he first arrived from San Diego. He and others became enforcers of that rule and many more.  They checked one another's plate for fatty foods.

Fried chicken again today, huh?  No wonder you're making so many mistakes in the game.

From the book "Belichick and Brady" by Michael Holley


The following comes from the book "Belichick and Brady" by Michael Holley and gives a glimpse at the drive to improve that makes Tom Brady great:

Ty Law's team had been miserable: the Jets were 2-10 after a 16-3 loss to the Patriots.  The two teams played again, the day after Christmas, and the Patriots walked away with a 10-point victory.  One fo the few highlights in the game for the Jets was Law picking off Brady and running seventy-four yards for a touchdown.  

A couple of days after the game, Law got a phone call.He recognized the number, the voice, and the question.

"Hey Ty," Brady said.  "What did you see on the interception?  What did I give away."

Three titles and two MVPs later, he was still searching the way he had when he was trying to take the job from Bledsoe.

"Tom, I played with you longer than anybody over there, right?"  Law explained.  "It's obvious what you do:   You do this exaggerated throwing motion and I knew you were coming back the other way.  I played with you long enough to know that.  As soon as I saw that motion, it's not a real throwing motion, I just stopped.  You threw it right there."

The flaw would be corrected for the play-offs.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


What men's basketball coach Chris Collins says he learned from Chicago Cubs manager Joe Madden:

“He was really helpful, especially (by saying) that when you are trying to build something, pretty much the last thing that comes are the wins. You have to build the winning culture and the winning environment. And sometimes you have to learn how to celebrate some of the small victories … guys coming in early (to practice), guys coming in at night doing extra work like strength and conditioning, how hard we practice, how the guys hold each other accountable.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017


The following come from some of my notes of listening to Pat Summitt speak at Don Meyer's 1998 Coaching Academy:

Love practice -- love to teach
Whole - Part - Whole Method
Practice Plan -- prepare and compete
Offense or Defense first? Whichever you want to emphasize
Not what we teach but what we emphasize
Prefer not to be predictable
Drills should be breakdown of your offense and defense
Explain purpose
Name drills
What a Coach rewards is key
Shoot free throws when you are tired
Keep stats in practice
     Record all shots
     Record all post feeds
     Record contested and uncontested shots
     Record box outs
Practice at game tempo
Practice game situations
Use officials, clocks, scores when possible

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


"I've never bought the idea that you learned much from losing.  In my experience, you learn far more from winning, which also makes your players more receptive to criticism.  All losing does is reinforce the things that cause you to lose, and I already know what they are.  When you're out-prepared, out-coached, out-motivated, out-conditioned, outsmarted -- can you tell me something positive you can get out of that?"

From "Finding A Way To Win" by Bill Parcells


I'm sorry to say I can't recall where I got this.  I found it in a stack of motivational passouts from my days as a men's assistant at LSU but it is certainly worth sharing.

In 1952, Ohio State pulled upset wins over Illinois and archrival Michigan by identical 27-6 scores.  

Woody Hayes, the head coach at Ohio State, bumped into a lady and had the following conversation:

"This nice lady came up to me," said Hayes, "and asked, 'What was the score of your Illinois game?'"

"I said, '27-7.'"

Then she asked, "What was the score of your Michigan game?"

"I replied, '27-7.'"

She responded, "You aren't making much improvement, are you?"

Sunday, January 22, 2017


It's been a while back, but I posted briefly about a concept that I hold dear to my coaching philosophy -- the ability to teach your players to figure things out on their own.

There are three things that I think coaches should stress, teach and demand on a daily basis regardless of what their philosophy is in regard to X & Os, discipline and team building.  I believe you should be teaching players to Talk, to be Tough, and to Think.  Figuring things out is a major component to thinking.

One of the most underrated things that the best coaches teach, in any sport on any level, is that of educating their players how to think on their own.  Few were better than Coach Newell.
“I wanted players with initiative, guys who could control a difficult situation on their own.  People may not realize that years ago, you couldn’t bring a player over to the sideline to talk to him.  Players had to stand out in the middle of the court during your timeout.  They changed that rule during my second year in coaching (1947) and I was madder than hell.  I felt my team could always interpret what I was teaching; we didn’t need all these damn meetings.  I didn’t want my players depending on me.  I figured I’d teach ‘em during the week, and when the game comes along, it’s up to them.  That’s one reason I didn’t like to call timeouts.  I didn’t want the players thinking that every time they got in a little jam, I’d bail them out.  I wanted to make them figure it out.”
-Pete Newell
Not surprisingly an article on Geno Auriemma written by Paul Doyle of the Hartford Currant points the same feature out in the UConn coach: 

It goes back to the practices. Yes, Auriemma and Dailey recruit mentally tough players. But Auriemma challenges them every day. He'll run "break the press" drills with six practice players facing his players and tell them to figure it out.

"He just tests your will, he tests your mind and your heart, every day in practice," Lobo said. "So you are prepared in moments to be able to make those shots because you've been in mentally challenging situations before."

LaChina Robinson noted: "When you talk to Sue [Bird] and Swin [Cash] and those guys, obviously they played on great teams, but they talk about how he would put them in situations where it was almost impossible to succeed. Every day in practice. So he made it impossible so that in the games it would be easy."

Saturday, December 24, 2016


This will be our last post until following Christmas -- and has become a tradition at Hoopthoughts. We come off of Christmas with three games in fives days so the next few days I will be breaking down tape and squeezing in some Christmas shopping. Below is a motivational passout that Coach Dale Brown would mail out each Christmas. It speaks to our ability to teach...not teaching subjects (or plays)...but teaching students (and players) -- and there is a big difference. Enjoy and may you all have a wonderful holiday season!

When Tony Campolo was in Chattanooga last week to speak at the annual “Gathering of Men” breakfast, the noted sociologist told a story that begs to be repeated, especially on this day:

It seems that there was a lady named Jean Thompson and when she stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall, she told the children a lie.

Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn’t play well with other children, that his clothes were unkept and that he constantly needed a bath. Add to it the fact Teddy was unpleasant.

It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold ‘X’s and then marking the ‘F’ at the top of the paper biggest of all.

Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, nobody else seemed to enjoy him, either.

Now at the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records and--because of things--put Teddy’s off until last. But when she opened his file, she was in for a surprise.

His first-grade teacher had written, “Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh. He does work neatly and has good manners … he is a joy to be around.”

His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student and is well-liked by his classmates--but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

The third-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard but his mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. His is tardy and could become a problem.”

By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem but Christmas was coming fast.

It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard on that last day before the vacation would begin.

Her children brought her presents, all in gay ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in heavy, brown paper of scissored grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents and some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet, with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of cologne.

But she stifled the laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and she dabbed some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

At the end of the day, as the other children joyously raced from the room, Teddy Stoddard stayed behind, just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to.”

As soon as Teddy left, Mrs. Thompson knelt at her desk and there, after the last day of school before Christmas, she cried for at least an hour.

And, on that very day, she quit teaching reading and writing and spelling. Instead she began to teach children. And Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called Teddy.

As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded and, on days that there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember the cologne.

By the end of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class and … well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. And then he wrote that as he finished high school, third in his class, she was still his favorite teacher of all time.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, that he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and graduated from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.

Then four more years passed and another letter came.

This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. That she was still his favorite teacher but now that his name was a little longer. And the letter was signed, “Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.”

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said that… well, that he’d met his girl and was to be married.

He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering … well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not she wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.

But I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like … well, just like she smelled many years before on the last day of school before the Christmas Holidays begin.


Here are just a few great quotes from Don Yaeger's book "Great Teams:"

"Motivation is short, but inspiration lasts a lifetime."
-Ganon Baker

"Great competitors focus on daily improvement, with the mind-set to win each and every day."
-Bruce Bowen

"I think every leader must have a heart of service."
-Aja Brown

"I believe in winning the day and looking for small victories for my players, whether a great play in practice, a passing grade on an exam, or a personal best in the weight room.  I use these opportunities to reinforce behavior that was consistent with the culture I wanted to build."
-Jim Calhoun

"Promising something like playing time, is setting up disappointment and a breakdown of trust."
-Jim Calipari

"How your team complements each other is just as important as their individual skill sets."
-Jerry Colangelo

"When communication breaks down, mistrust and bad attitudes begin to develop.  I remain in constant communication with my players and staff to ensure they are all on the same page."
-Tom Crean

"Great teams know how to listen in a meeting and understand when feedback is required."
-Randy Cross

"My practices are called the 'competitive cauldron' because of my focus on competition and punishing pace."
-Anson Dorrance

"A shared culture will quickly show the new team member how he is expected to act...Personal agendas are not tolerated within the standards of a strong organization."
-Kevin Eastman

"A talented team will gie its best work every day, no matter what."
-China Gorman