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Friday, October 20, 2017


Many years ago at a clinic, I heard Kelvin Sampson say "Most coaches are excited about practice the first couple of weeks.  Then they get tired or bored.  The best coaches know how to stay locked in."

I think this is just as true for players as it is coaches -- though often the players may take the lead from the coaching staff in terms of their energy and enthusiasm.  It is not enough to write up a practice plan and than go about executing it.  You need to give thought to the placement of drills, the length of a workout and the strategic (yes, I said strategic) schedule of off days.

What are you doing to keep your team inspired and excited about practice?  John Wooden was a huge believer in make sure practice ended on a positive note.  "Give them a reason to want to come back tomorrow," he once told me.

Don Meyer once talked about a 30 win season in which he could sleep because he'd lay away all night trying to figure out how he was going to his team "an edge the next day in practice."

Sometimes we think inspiration is about getting teams emotionally ready to play a game.  But you better find away to get that same result out of your practices.

Nick Saban is a master at keeping his players locked in. Here is an older post where Coach Saban came up with a plan of putting responsibility on key players.

In a press conference this week, Saban said he "created some tension" among his team in practice which is something he likes to do.

Are bringing someone in occasionally to speak to them?  Letting them here a different voice and even a different perspective can be incredibly beneficial.

Once again, an older post on Coach Saban and how he used speakers with his team.

My point is getting your team ready shouldn't just apply to games -- but importantly, apply to practices.


"The Mentor Leader" by Tony Dungy is an incredible book that will benefit any coach of any sport on any level. In fact, the book transcends coaching. But in regard to the world of athletics, it is a great book for a head coach looking to mentor assistant coaches and players as well as for assistant coaches looking to mentor players.


"Teamwork doesn't tolerate the inconvenience of distance."
-Author Unknown

I believe it is critical for mentor leaders to engage with those they lead. It's impossible to mentor from a distance. Without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. You cannot mentor with empathy. You cannot inspire people to new heights and lift them to a better place in their lives. If you do not engage with those you serve, you will never understand them or know enough about them to be able to have a positive effect in their lives.


"Good teachers help every student earn an A."
-Wilbur Dungy

Education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Workers who are new to a task cannot be empowered and elevated until they've been educated in what to to. First things first.


"Our job as a coaching staff is to show you what to do and how to do it. Your job as players is to do it consistently."
-Chuck Noll

Mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. They set the parameters and guidelines for the task, project and continually recast the vision, and then provide the tools and equipment needed for everyone to be successful in their assignment and to ultimately accomplish their mission. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually -- and to accomplish the mission.


"Correction does much, but encouragement does more."

Encouragement is the fuel that powers our efforts to engage, educate, and equip. Nothing does more to lubricate the rough spots than a good dose of encouragement. Mentor leaders care. Mentor leaders lift others up. Mentor leaders encourage.


"As we look ahead...leaders will be those who empower others."
-Bill Gates

Once the people you lead are ready, it's time to turn them loose. But not before they're ready. As a mentor leader, you have a responsibility to engage, educate, equip, and encourage them first -- and at every appropriate point thereafter, as well. You can't just walk in and empower them. If they're not ready, you're only setting them up to fail.


"Without inspiration, the best powers of the mind are dormant. There is a tinder in us which needs to be quickened with sparks."
-Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Great leaders energize and inspire those they lead. Even as they face their own daily struggles and stresses, mentor leaders look for ways to energize and motivate the people around them.


"Teamwork: Simply state, it is less me and more we."
-Author Unknown

Many leaders struggle with this essential concept. Elevating is difficult. It seems paradoxical to elevate someone who might end up taking your place. But raising up leaders is the truly self-less goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others. To elevate your followers means to help them reach their God-given potential, even it means preparing them to replace you. It may also mean that you prepare them to leave your organization for better opportunities elsewhere -- perhaps even with your competitors.


Thanks to Steve Smiley for pass along these notes with me about six years on Coach Buzz Williams

Success is found in your daily agenda

“The general is the only one that loves the killer.”
Your Head Coach needs the killers
Be a killer!
Be a killer every day
Be ready to grind and work
That must be your mentality if you want to be elite

You will have a lid on your success if you are not willing to sacrifice

What are you doing today?
What are you doing tomorrow?
Have you learned all the steps on your journey?
Or are you just going through the journey and not learning?

What separates you from everyone else?

Question to ask yourself: Can you sign the players on your team now?
You better be able to if you want your Head Coach to hire you as an assistant.

Do what you’re supposed to do, every day.

You conversations are your personal advertisers!
Don’t ever talk down to someone.

Always (ALWAYS) talk UP to people.
Introduce yourself, have confidence, and make an impression.
They are going to form an impression of you anyways, so control that impression!

You have 2 things you can change in your life:
1) The books you read
2) The people you meet

Study those books, and build those relationships!

Study both success and study failures!
At what point did they fail?
Why did they fail?

Walk around like you have a black eye every day!
Be humble

The game is pure inside the lines!
When the ball goes up, you can’t hide.
You better be ready, because the game is coming.

God blesses the intent of our heart.
Be a servant to the staff.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


1. Conditioning
You should never be beaten because your team was not in better condition than your opponent.

2. Drills
They should be fundamental, repetitive, and progressive

3. Balance
This refers to shooting balance, team balance (all five players included in system), floor balance, defensive balance and rebound balance.

4. Elements of offense
Simplicity (execution over surprise)
Flexibility (must have ability to adjust during the game)
Continuity (important when play does not lead to a shot)
Tempo (the team that controls the tempo of a game will most likely emerge as the victor)
Correlation to Defense (certain defenses lead into certain offenses better)


1. Attack: Whether it’s coming off the rim or out of the net, they are attacking and getting the ball down the floor as quickly as they can to put pressure on the defense. They want GREAT shots early in the clock. Few firmly believes that an open three early is often as good of a look as you’ll get all possession.

2. Get to the Free Throw Line: The most underrated aspect of offensive basketball as roughly 25% points scored in division 1 basketball are from the free throw stripe. They have 2 goals surrounding this: make more free throws than the other team attempts and to be in the bonus by the 2nd media timeout (8 minutes in)

3. Limit Turnovers: Worst thing you can do offensively is turn it over because it allows you no chance for an offensive rebound or a chance to go to the FT line.


You can’t be tired and you can’t be bored. It’s not easy getting better. It takes work and discipline. We have a choice of pain of discipline or pain of regret.

Workout discipline:
•Maximum intensity on every repetition.
•Machine like mechanics
•Focus on every repetition - we’re going to take one shot 500 times.

•Becoming a good shooter is lots of reps.
•Becoming a great shooter is lots of reps at game speed from game spots at a game angle.

Theory of two:
•It takes two minutes to show any skill.
•It takes two weeks doing it every single day to get comfortable with the skill.
•It takes two months working on a skill everyday to get good enough to execute in a game.

Shooting form:
•Be ready on the catch.
•Ten toes to the rim (if you have ten toes to the rim you will be square to the basket).
•Only change his form if the shot doesn’t go in. Make him the best worst form shooter.
•Two second rule: As soon as it’s 1 cm into our players fingers I’m counting one two. Players don’t have a great understanding of game speed when working out.
•The better the shooter you are, the better your shot fake needs to be. Definition of a shot fake is a real shot that you don’t shoot.

•Shoot free-throws until you miss, and count how many in a row.
•Players tend to fall forward rather than backward.
Give your players statistical feedback:
•When you chart your players’ shots give them percentages for free-throws, lay-ups, jump shots and three-point shots.
•Break it down so they know what to work on.
•Players can be receptive to stats.

Make time to practice shooting:
•You will be surprised how little your guys shoot during practice when you exclude shooting drills.
•We recorded how many shots our players took in a 2.5 hour practice:
•Paul Pierce – 16.
•Ricky Davis – 13.
•Al Jefferson – 7.
•During an hour pickup we shoot on average 12.8 shots per player.
•Average number of shots taken in a game is 16 per player.

My goal right now is to get everything you can teach in the game down to three bullet points. It makes it easier for players to take in:

For shooting:
•Perfect feet.
•Ready for catch.
•Perfect follow through.

Coaches must maintain their intensity everyday:
•A coach can never get bored.
•The intensity that a coach brings to the floor helps the player have a more intense workout.
•Coaches have body language too. Be careful of your body language, and how it could be interpreted by your players.

Three things skill development can do for you:
•It can create a career.
•It can improve a career.

•It can revitalize a career.


If you ever heard Coach Don Meyer speak, he would at some point ask you, “who’s running your locker room?”  It is in incredibly important question.  While coaches have an opportunity to lead their team during practice sessions, team meetings and games, it is all the time away from the coaches where leadership is most valuable.  I learned this at LSU while coaching Temeka Johnson who did an amazing job of leading our team the 21 hours out of the day when we weren’t around them.  

The locker room, or anyplace away from the court and the coaches, can be a place to strengthen and secure your culture, or it can be a toxic area that create cancers within your team. They key is being able to find the right team members, educating them on leadership, and then giving them a venue to which they positively effect their teammates.

We are not talking about "captains" necessarily.  As Coach Meyer would also point out, "you can pick captains, but you can't pick leaders."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski says, “The single most important ingredient after you get the talent is internal leadership. It’s not the coaches’ as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team would normally set itself.”

The key is getting the players to buy in to the culture and philosophy that you as a staff feel is essential for growth and success.  To do that, you need to create at atmosphere of ownership for the players.  As Tom Izzo says: “A player-coached team is always better than a coach-coached team.”

One of my staff responsibilities at Texas A&M is to head up our “Leadership Council.”  It is a group of our student-athletes that meet weekly to discuss the elements of leadership and how we can best apply them to improving our team.  Often we spend time working on basketball skills as coaches — shooting, passing, dribbling and rebounding — but not leadership.  I often hear coaches talk about how they lack leadership on their team and I always respond, “are you teaching it?”

I got the idea of having a Leadership Council watching and studying how Nick Saban, then the head football coach at LSU, created one and utilized in his program.  I'm a big believer that leadership is a best executed with a group of core leaders as opposed to a single person.

This biggest part of our Leadership Council is not me preaching but me listening a lot.  We have six members this year on our council and my number one goal is to create ownership of our culture with our team.  It’s their vehicle…they have the keys…now where and how are we going to drive it.  Their voice, thoughts and ideas are critical to developing successful leaders — not just for our basketball team but for later in life.
Our objectives with the council include:

#1 To develop and improve upon our leadership as individuals.

#2 To create a leadership culture that will positively impact our team.

“Leadership isn’t a difference maker, it’s THE difference maker.” -Urban Meyer

Last year’s council included Taylor Cooper, Alyssa Michalke, Curtyce Knox, Jasmine Lumpkin, Anriel Howard and Danni Williams.

And our council last year was been outstanding.  The previous year we had lost three starters — all who spent some time in the WNBA.  We lost the SEC 6th Person Player of the Year and our top post player off the bench.  Coaches and sportswriters alike pegged us to finish in the lower half of the SEC.  Terms like “rebuilding” were used often.  Yet there we were finishing in the top half of the SEC, winning two games in the SEC tournament, owner of 21 regular season victories and a dance ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

And a big reason had to be the job our council has done in communicating with our team and providing a great example.  The season can be a grind and the response of a team to the difficulty and adversity that is face is essential.  We talk about making sure that our leadership council wins the locker room.  The leadership is magnified significantly AWAY from practices and games.

We meet weekly in our conference room with the letters “Leadership Council” above us.  In the past, we have had individual photos of each member of the council.  This year, we exchanged that for a team photo with the quote “Life’s most urgent question is what are you doing for others,” by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Learning to lead is not an easy thing to do.  It takes time and understanding of what goes into it.  The reason most reject opportunities to lead is because of the great responsibility that comes with it.

We tell them to follow the words of Jim Rohn: “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.  Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills.  Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

The first thing we do each year is create a Mission Statement.  This year our council came up with the following:

By serving selflessly as leaders, setting an example worth following, and establishing a positive culture, we will develop strong, confident leaders capable of overcoming adversity and challenges in pursuit of their goals.

One of the things we do each we is discuss passages from “The Daily Reader” by John Maxwell.  I am always blown away with each our student-athletes and what they bring away from the daily reading that they choose to share.

Last year we asked our council to then go into detail about how we can put our mission statement to work and, lead by Alyssa, they came up with the following:

Serving Selflessly as Leaders

◄Listen and understand the needs of our teammates

◄Provide mentorship and guidance to underclassmen and new-comers

◄Praise our teammates in public, while saving criticism for private conversations

◄Always put others first, no matter the situation

◄Setting an Example Worth Following

◄Have a positive attitude at all times

◄Body language, tone, execution during practice, etc.

Take coaching and criticism well

◄Use it as an opportunity to grow and develop into a better person and player, not a chance to talk back to a coach or teammate

◄Exhibit a strong desire to improve with every rep, every drill, every practice

◄Encourage and support our teammates who are facing adversity

◄Behave appropriately, respectfully, and maturely at all times, including road trips, study hall, team dinners, etc.

◄Be respectful and appreciative to those people serving us (managers, practice players, coaches, waiters, staff, etc.)

◄Be a quiet professional, but know when to speak up to make a point
Establishing a Positive Culture

◄Hold each other accountable to high standards, knowing that our example and our choices carry considerable weight

◄Call each other out when we’re not practicing well, when we miss a team function (weights, study hall)

◄Challenge and push each other to become better individuals first, better athletes second

◄Be firm, fair, and consistent, both when praising and holding our teammates accountable

◄Don’t encourage, tolerate, enable, or cause behavior that is detrimental to our team

Developing Strong, Confident Leaders

◄Challenge others to step outside their comfort zone in pursuit of personal development and improvement

◄Set an example of strength, confidence, and maturity when faced with challenges

◄Provide opportunities for others to showcase their strengths and abilities

◄Of course, as in the game of basketball itself, game plans are important but they are insignificant if not followed by execution.

What an amazing document!  I’m proud of them for their vision but more importantly for their effort they’ve put forth in executing that vision and then following through with their execution.

Thank you Leadership Council for a job well done — and more importantly, leaving a legacy for this year's group.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Friday, September 22, 2017


The following comes from a lecture I gave at A Step Up Assistant Coaching Symposium several years ago.


GOAL #1: Improve and stretch the skill of the individual player
                  Technique: proper execution is critically important in all drills

“Be a skill coach, not a drill coach.”
-Coach Don Meyer

 Overload Drills: must take players out of their comfort zone to stretch them

GOAL #2: Improve skills related to offensive system of play for your team
1. What does your team need for your players to do well?
2. Don’t improve a skill you don’t need

CONCEPT #1: Don’t just work on your players’ weaknesses — stretch and further develop their strengths.

CONCEPT #2: Maximize individual workout time...don’t just work on fundamentals, work on relationships.

CONCEPT #3: Measure when you can...stats can help.

CONCEPT #4: Always utilize video when possible.

CONCEPT #5: Sometimes skill development needs to be in a team setting as opposed to individual.

CONCEPT #6: Singleness of purpose will create quicker improvement, confidence.

CONCEPT #7: “Catch them doing something right.” -Don Meyer

CONCEPT #8: Break down the whole and create a part-method drill.

In developing solid perimeter play, we want to first look for and then develop the following characteristics:

Vision is a very encompassing matter. A good perimeter player does more than just see her teammates, she also sees the defense. This particular type of vision allows the good perimeter player to make the proper decisions with the basketball.

A good perimeter player knows what she does well and works hard to get in position to take advantage of those skills and fundamentals. Just as important however, is the fact that a good perimeter player knows what her limitations are, her weaknesses, and stays away from them.

This is very difficult for the average perimeter player, and in fact, it is a rare quality usually found in the best perimeter players. That special type of perimeter player knows who the best shooters are on the team and tries to get them the ball when they are open. She knows who the best posters are and feeds them the ball. She knows who has trouble dribbling the ball and doesn’t pass them the ball when it might put them in a dribbling situation.

The good perimeter player knows when to push the ball up and when to hold it up. She knows when to attack the basket and when to reverse the ball. She is prepared to play at whatever speed is necessary for her team to be successful.

A good perimeter player is constantly working to get open and at the same time occupy her defender. She understands that she must move with a purpose, because she must never confuse “activity for achievement.”

Whether she is dribbling, passing, or holding the ball, she is going to be strong. She is not going to let the defender rush her into a mistake.

The best perimeter players never let anything upset them. They don’t let the crowd affect their play; they don’t let the other team affect their play; and they don’t let any breakdowns by their teammates affect their play.

We want players that are warriors in the weight room. This is an area that you as a coach must be committed to as much as the players.  Players know what is important to a coaching staff. Working hard in the weight room doesn’t mean that we are interested in huge muscle bound athletes. We are interested in developing upper body strength and explosiveness from the lower body.

We expect our perimeter players to be able to outrun the opposing perimeter players down the court for fast break opportunities. And, just as important, we expect our perimeter players to be able to outrun the opposing perimeter players and be in good defensive position in defensive transition. In our motion offense, our perimeter players are constantly moving. We are always telling them, “be hard to guard.” All of this demands a supremely physically conditioned athlete.

We expect our perimeter players to be able to “think” the game. Again, because of our motion offense, our perimeter players are expected to constantly make decisions while on the floor. When and who to screen, when to pass, and when to dribble are just some of the instant decisions we expect them to make. Equally, because we utilize scouting reports, they must know which particular player they are defending and how to defend them.

Obviously, to be a warrior in the weight room, a supremely physically conditioned athlete, and a mentally prepared basketball player, you must first possess a great work ethic. We demand a lot from a our perimeter players and the truly good ones are not afraid to work. To be a top-flight player, a good work ethic is a year round necessity.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I've enjoyed reading 4th And Goal Every Day by Phil Savage.  Savage isn't just a writer -- he is a former NFL assistant coach and general manager who has worked with some of the games best coaches.  Add to that his current position as radio color analyst for Alabama football and you have a very unique set of eyes on the Crimson Tide football program and the championship philosophy of Nick Saban.  Savage chose the title 4th And Goal Every Day because he felt it summed up the mindset in the Bama program -- a constant sense of urgency.

For me, I was especially drawn to the sections of the book that dealt with recruiting and player and team development.  Not surprisingly they go hand-in-hand:
Alabama does not care so much "what" a high school player is doing on the field.  It cares more about "how" a player is doing it.  There is a big difference.  What he is doing might look dominant against high school players, but how he is doing it -- athleticism, instinct, explosiveness -- might show his further potential.
Nick Saban would rather take a guy with "tools" in his body that have not yet bloomed over a high school player who is "an effort guy" making twenty-five tackles through willpower.  Saban thinks he can coach the player with tools so that his pure ability will allow him to far surpass the results of the overachiever with limited skills.
As for player development, it should surprise no one that a big key of Bama's success is the structure of their practice:
Recruiting is significant, but what they do best at Alabama is player development.  Talk to any NFL scout and he will tell you that the Alabama practice field resembles a pro camp more than any other college program in the country.  The drills and techniques being taught in Tuscaloosa are the same ones used during the week by NFL players who slip on the pads for the Sunday games.  The Crimson Tide soaks its players in film work, fundamentals, repetition, and patience.
If you love football, this is an outstanding book with Savage going into the details of teaching, coaching, evaluating and giving great stories to support those areas.  But it's also a great book for coaches who want an inside look at one of the best. 


Got this via an email from Greg Eubanks last week.  I know Greg through my relationship with Coach Don Meyer. Greg played for Coach Meyer from 1988-92 and as I told Greg, I know that Coach is looking down and smiling at his comparison of baseball to basketball fundamentals!

Breakdown drills - a starting infielder in MLB is working on fielding grounders and he starts from his knees. Crossover: do the shooting progression

at :42 - Line everything up - "once you cross your body you've got no control" (at 2:15). Crossover: Get your wrist, elbow, knee and toe all lined up on your shot

at 1:05 - Details matter - How he gets the ball out of his glove, where the ball sits in his glove makes the difference in getting an out or not. Crossover - Details matter - it's the difference in winning and losing

at 1:00 - Look at the intensity in which he practices, the exaggeration with his eyes and hands

at 4:12 - "It's a process. It doesn't happen in a couple of days."  Crossover - You don't become a great shooter or ballhandler overnight or by only doing it every few days. It's a process that takes work and you'll see results but it may not be for a while.

at 8:06 - Why do we do drills? We isolate skills and when we carry that over to the 5/5 is when the magic happen.

at 10:55 - If you practice the skills you'll be ready for the games and you can play aggressive and make plays. "Play wide open with our minds and wide open with our athletic ability"

You think Ozzie is in the MLB just by chance? He's talented but that's just one factor.
 There's lots of talented guys who never come close the MLB.  He's also coachable, pays attention to details, and works hard. 

What are your goals and what are you doing to achieve them? What's holding you back?