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Thursday, May 14, 2015


Over the next few weeks, will share some posts on what you can do during the off-season to improve your team.  I'm a big believer that championships are won in the off-season, as must would agree.  But many think this is only conducive to players.  In fact, what coaches do in the off-season is often more important in the improvement or decline of their program.

Thanks to Brooklyn Kohlheim's email newsletter (sign up for it here), we were able to read how important the off-season is even to NBA coaches with an inside look at Brad Stevens and last year's off-season did to support a 15 win improvement and how he is approaching this year's off-season.  The article was written by Adam Himmelsbach for the Boston Globe and you can read it in it's entirety here (Great Read).  But here are some of my take aways:

During an interview with the Globe last week, Stevens detailed how last summer laid the groundwork for the Celtics’ 15-win improvement and playoff appearance this season. Unsurprisingly, it was a thorough plan rooted in research. And as the Celtics enter another critical summer, clues could be gleaned from how Stevens handled the prior one.

“I just kind of think of things I’d like to know, and I embark on a project,” Stevens said. “Sometimes they end up being worthless, and sometimes they help you. But it’s important to analyze, work, and scrutinize. Be critical of yourself, and start there.”

Stevens keeps a pen and notepad next to his bed so he can scribble a new play or idea when it pops up. Most often, though, the concepts come during the long flights that can be both a blessing and a curse during a grueling NBA season.

When looking back at 2013-14, Stevens knew the Celtics had faltered late in close games. In the final five minutes of contests in which the score differential was 5 points or less, the Celtics had a net rating — offensive rating subtracted by defensive rating — of -25.4, 29th in the league. Furthermore, in those situations they were averaging 16.1 turnovers per 100 possessions, the 28th-worst mark in the NBA.

The Celtics had not executed down the stretch and Stevens wanted to know why. So he began analyzing every possession in the last five minutes of every Celtics game that year.

There are generally about 200 total possessions in an NBA game, and the rate typically increases in the last five minutes because of fouls, so Stevens probably analyzed well over 1,500 plays.

“I broke down every possession in the smallest of details,” he said. “It was the most arduous — well, maybe not arduous, because it’s not real work compared to what some people do for a living — but it was the most boring yet helpful thing I probably did last year. It helped me figure out a lot.

“When you’re not in the season, you detach emotionally and you can see what guys are and aren’t doing, what guys struggle with, what you could have done to help them be successful and how you can be better moving forward.”

At the start of this past season, Stevens presented his findings to his players. His message was simple: You’re closer than you might think.

“He put it to us in a way that gave us confidence, that if we do these few plays a little bit better, it could result in making the playoffs,” guard Evan Turner said. “It gave us an idea of how slim the difference is between having a successful season and not, and we realized they were fixable mistakes.”

This season, the Celtics improved their net rating in late-game clutch situations from -25.4 to -7.5, and they lowered their turnover ratio from 16.1 to 12.6.

Stevens’s offseason focus was not solely on his players. He also identified about 35 stars from around the league whose games he admired. Then he assigned groups of them to his staff — also taking five for himself — and asked his assistants to dig in.

“We studied them inside and out,” Stevens said. “What made them great? What were their flaws?”

Shrewsberry, for example, was tasked with analyzing guards Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Tony Parker, and Ty Lawson. He said the project helped identify traits that they could pass on, and it also gave the Celtics a head start on individual scouting heading into the regular season.

Monday, May 11, 2015


For the large majority of us, we are well into the beginning of the off-season.  A major part of the off-season for the best of coaches is a thorough review of their system of play.  As I view the NBA plays-offs, my question to us is this: WHAT'S YOUR PAINT GAME?

I'm a strong believer that championships are won in the paint.  This speaks to both offensive and defensive philosophies.

In 2011, the Miami Heat lost in six games to the Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavs dominated the paint and the Heat settled for jump shots far too many times.  In that off-season, LeBron James called up Hakeem Olaguwon and asked him if he would work with him that summer on his paint game.  You have to give great credit to LJ for first recognizing what he need to work on to improve his game and then for not hesitating to ask for help -- those are the two marks of a great player.

Too many coaches think that a "Paint Game" means isolating a  big post on the block and working the ball inside.  And if you have a big that certainly is a good thing to do.  But just because you don't have a big doesn't mean you don't have a paint game.  Here are some  ways to get the ball to the paint:

1. Low Post Play: develop your post players -- regardless of size -- to post, seal, move without the ball and to finish.

2. Transition Offense: beat the defense to the paint before they get there.

3. Dribble Penetration: being able to put the ball on the floor and drive it to the paint has become increasingly popular with so many teams utilizing the Dribble Drive Offense.

4. Flash Game: flash players into the paint for a touch...this can be post players or perimeter players.

5. Post Up Guards: you may not have a big but if your posts can step away and shoot you can post up your guards inside.

6. Offensive Rebounding: working and emphasizing offensive rebounding above and beyond what other teams might do is another way to create a paint game.

We are not suggesting that you abandon your offensive system but having a paint game allows you a chance to score and draw fouls on the opposition when the mid-range or 3-point shooting has gone cold.  Some people point to the fact that Duke and Mike Kryzewski has become great proponents of the 3-point shot.  Watch how many of them come off of a paint touch -- either dribble penetration or post feed to a fan pass.  The "Paint Touch 3" is a great way of setting up a good three point shooter while still pressuring the defense to play interior defense. 

Part of having a solid paint game on offense is understanding defenses and how they are played today.  We all know the Chuck Daly mantra of "Spacing if offense and offense is spacing."  Well, the same can be true of defense.  While offense is looking to spread the defense, defenses are now looking to shrink the floor -- getting and sitting in gaps.

Even the best low post players have a difficult time of getting a good look off of the same side entry pass in offensive play.  Two keys that will be beneficial include:

1. Reversing the basketball.  While at LSU, with Sylvia Fowles dominating the inside, we would tell her to start opposite the ball in our motion offense and reverse the ball to her side forcing the defense to go from help to ball and ball to help.

2. Occupy the helpside.  Movement away from where you want to enter the paint with the ball is critical.  Making defenders guard two things at once will help you to get the ball to the paint more efficiently.  Another one of our basic concepts is for players to "cut to create help."  If we are cutting hard and correctly, we have a chance to draw a helpside defender which creates more space for drives or post feeds.


Friday, May 8, 2015


Over the past year we have received a lot of requests for an email notification system for our blog posts.  We finally found some time (and some knowledge) to add a simple method in which you can type in your email address and then each time we add a new post you will receive an email on that post.  This will not include our Hoop Thoughts Flashback posts -- which can keep track of by following us on twitter.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Great thoughts on enthusiasm from John Maxwell via his book "The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player."

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People can succeed at almost anything for which they have enthusiasm.”
-Charles Schwab
1. Take Responsibility for Their Own Enthusiasm. Successful people understand that attitude is a choice—and that includes enthusiasm. People who wait for external forces to help them spark their enthusiasm are at other people’s mercy all the time. They are likely to run hot or cold based on what’s going on around them at any given moment. However, positive people are positive because they choose to be. If you want to be positive, upbeat, and passionate, you need to take responsibility for being that way.

2. You cannot win if you do not begin.

3. Spend Time with Other Enthusiastic People. Denis Waitley, says, “Enthusiasm is contagious. It’s difficult to remain neutral or indifferent in the presence of a positive thinker.”

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates remarked, "What I do best is share my enthusiasm."
Be willing to do more. One way to demonstrate enthusiasm with your teammates is to go the extra mile with others. This week when someone asks you to do something, do what’s required and then some. Then quietly observe its impact on the team’s atmosphere.

Elbert Hubbard said, “The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.”


The following comes form "How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture" by Jeff Janssen.  I'm not sure there is a more important word in leadership today than culture -- creating the identity and standards your want your program to live by.  Jeff's book is the best I've read on the subject and here is an abbreviated list of 4 steps in establishing a team's standards of behavior:
1, Include your leaders with a meeting before the standards meeting
Before your standards meeting with your entire team, I highly recommend you sit down with your key leaders to discuss their thoughts and insights on the process. You want to all be on the same page going into the meeting so that you understand each other.

2,  Involve Instead of Impose
As with your vision and core values, be sure to involve your team when establishing your standards of behavior. It will value their perspective and help garner their commitment. As leadership author Stephen Covey once said, “No involvement equals no commitment.”

Similarly, Coach K says, “In putting together your standards, remember that it is essential to involve your entire team. Standards are not rules issued by the boss; they are a collective identity.”

3, Create and clarify your standards in writing
It is important to put your Standards in writing to help clarify and codify them for the short and long term. Unwritten standards are easily forgotten and can become an easy excuse when someone breaks them because they can say they weren’t clear about them.

4. Sustaining Your Standards
While establishing your standards on the front end is a critical part of developing a Championship Culture, the key part is sustaining the standard throughout the course of the season. Many teams talk about the standard at the start of the season but don’t meticulously maintain them throughout the course of the season.

“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


The following comes from "The Compound Effect" written by Darren Hardy and reminds me of the importance routines in sports.  Whether it's a free throw shooter, a batter stepping into the batter's box or kicker lining up for a field goal attempt, the best take what they do seriously enough to leave nothing chance:

Golfer Jack Nicklaus was famous for his pre-shot routine. He was religious about the “dance” he would do before every shot, a series of routine mental and physical steps that got him fully focused and ready for the shot. Jack would start out between the ball and the target. As he walked around and approached the ball, the first thing he would do is line up his clubface to his intermediate target. He wouldn’t put his feet into position until he felt he had his clubface properly squared up. Then he would take his stance. From there, he would waggle the club and look out to his target, then back to his intermediate target and back to the golf club, with a repeat of the view. Then, and only then, would he strike the ball.
During one of the important Majors, a psychologist times Nicklaus from the moment he pulled the club out of the bag until the moment he hit the ball, and guess what? In each shot, from the first tee to the eighteenth green, the timing of Jack’s routine supposedly never varied more than one second. That is amazing! The same psychologist measured Greg Norman during his unfortunate collapse at the 1996 Masters. Lo and behold, his pre-shot routine got faster and faster as the round progressed. Varying his routine stunted his rhythm and consistency; he was never able to catch momentum. The moment Norman changed his routine, his performance became unpredictable and his results erratic.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015


"I don’t have a “system” that we run year after year at Kentucky. I’m not that guy walking around the rail yard, inspecting the machinery retreating into the office to look at spread sheets. Yep, everything is in working order. We’re leaving and arriving at the right times. It all looks good. The system is just how I want it. I’m all about the passengers, the people inside. What’s it like for them? We’re not a team that always runs the motion offense or the high-low offense. We don’t full-court press on every possession, and we don’t play zone defense all of the time or none of the time. We do what fits the players we have. Sometimes, I think a system is an extension of a coach’s ego—you know, like, This is what we have to do, no matter whom we’ve got, because I invented it and I perfected it."

John Calipari from "Players First: Coaching From The Inside Out"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Today I am spending some time working on my presentation for the annual A Step Up Assistant Coaching Symposium.  I have been honored to be a part of Felicia Hall Allen's vision to grow our game through educating our assistant coaches.  Each year Felicia and her husband Johnny, dedicate themselves to putting on a special event and this year is not different. It's interesting to note that these presenters are now head coaches.

Here are some links to just a few of my favorite presenters and the notes I took while they spoke:

Mike Rhodes, now the head coach at Rice, gave us a look inside the "VCU Havoc Press Defense."

Joni Crenshaw, now the head coach at Georgia, spoke about "Presenting Yourself and Thinking Like a Head Coach."

Karen Ashton, now the head coach at Texas, shared thoughts about "Positioning Yourself as a Valuable Part of the Program."


An article a year ago from The Washington Post deals with the topic of "helicopter parents"  --  parents who "hover" over the children working diligently to remove adversity and obstacles from their path, not allowing them to grow and mature. It is something that has become more relevant through the years.  One of the things that I firmly believe is that the two most important things that we as coaches should be teaching our student-athletes is the ability to communicate and to think.  And that process has become more difficult for those students who have parents do far too much of that for them. The article, written by Amy Joyce gives some specific examples but also data from some studies performed.  Here is an excerpt from that article:

A study published recently in the journal Education + Training found that there is an important line to draw between parental involvement and over-parenting. “While parental involvement might be the extra boost that students need to build their own confidence and abilities, over-parenting appears to do the converse in creating a sense that one cannot accomplish things socially or in general on one’s own,” wrote the authors, two professors from California State University Fresno. The authors of “Helicopter parents: An Examination of the Correlates of Over-parenting of College Students,” Jill C. Bradley-Geist and Julie B. Olson-Buchanan, go on to detail how over-parenting can actually ruin a child’s abilities to deal with the workplace.
Bradley-Geist and Olson-Buchanan, both management professors, surveyed more than 450 undergraduate students who were asked to “rate their level of self-efficacy, the frequency of parental involvement, how involved parents were in their daily lives and their response to certain workplace scenarios.”
The study showed that those college students with “helicopter parents” had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness throughout college, the authors found.
You can read the entire article in its entirety here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Yesterday evening I had the tremendous privilege of speaking at Muster for the Liberty County A&M Club.  It is one of the most sacred traditions for us Aggies and the responsibility of delivering a message worthy of Muster has occupied a lot of my time recently.  I am entering my fourth year as a member of the women's basketball staff at Texas A&M so without question I was the "youngest Aggie" in attendance last night.  I opted to speak of the great Aggie traditions and how they impact our basketball team -- or any other team, family or organization.  And today I thought I'd share the words I shared with my fellow Aggies last night:


First let me thank Jim Sterling and the Liberty County A&M Club for affording me the incredible honor of speaking at this year’s Muster.  Please know that I appreciate the magnitude of speaking before you today.  I am heading into my 4th year at Texas A&M and I have never felt more like an Aggie than I do today.

In 1988 a commemorative coin was designed by Randy Hester, Class of ‘74 to recognize the Muster tradition.  The coin was inscribed with the following:

“When I am finally alone
In the shadow of my days
I’ll hear a mustering of Aggies
And the echo of my name.”

 What an amazing thing to know that you are a part of something special — and that you will be a part of it forever.

Softly call the muster,
Let comrade answer, “Here!”

As a women’s basketball coach, my job is not so much to win championships as it is to “build champions.”  Building Champions is what Texas A&M is all about and I’m speaking beyond the athletic arena.  It is the “Building Champions” mantra that separates the Aggies from all others.

The most important word in building successful athletic teams is “culture.”  You don’t want to have a great team — you want to have a great program.  You want to build something that will sustain both success and failure.

“Culture” means a way of is an accepted and understood set of standards and core values.  In our women’s basketball program, we refer to it as “The Aggie Way.”

We constantly talk to them about their legacy.  Legacy and culture go hand in hand.  Legacy is about what you are leaving behind to those who follow you.

Legacy is what makes Texas A&M an amazing institution.

"There's a Spirit can ne'er be told..."  And it really true.  People constantly ask me what makes being an Aggie so special and I tell them it is so difficult to truly explain unless you are one.  By the same token, as someone who has worked at four other universities, I truly hope you know how different, how unique Texas A&M is.  Sometimes, being someplace for an entire lifetime can lead to a blurred vision as to its greatness.

When people ask me why our athletic teams are also so successful I tell them because our students our Aggies.  That they are part of an institutional culture of excellence

Texas A&M has the greatest of traditions because they honor all that is important in being an Aggie and what should be important as a human being that walks on the face of the earth.

The start of an outstanding program is recruiting...targeting the best players...get them on campus and then indoctrinating them with The Aggie Way...and for Aggie students, Fish Camp, serves the same purpose...think about it? 1,100 counselors willingly give up time and effort in order to welcome Texas A&M’s freshman to teach them greatest and most important traditions: Our Freshmen Class. No school goes to the extent to do this.

The Corp of Cadets — The men and women of the Corps form the largest uniformed body of students outside the service academies.  A time-honor group that has indeed changed the course of history.  As someone who has a father that served in the Army along with two grandfathers in World War II, one, a Marine that was wounded at Pearl Harbor and another in the Navy who served in the South Pacific, I have an appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice made for our Nation.

George Patton once said: “Give me an Army of West Point graduates and I'll win a battle... Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a war.”

 It is that type of courage and sacrifice that we want to instill in our teams.  Please don’t misunderstand me — we aren’t asking them to “hold Corregidor” — be we are asking them to understand those qualities displayed in the Corps.

Understanding your role is one thing, owning it is another.  Is there a greater role than the 12th Man.  We want the young ladies that sit out bench awaiting an opportunity to help their team to do so in the same spirit that Earl King Gill did in 1922.

We want our players to understand the value of selfless service...there is no better example than TheBig Event — the largest student-run service project in the nation.  Over 20,000 students giving up a day to and volunteering to do 2,500 jobs in the Bryan/College Station community.

Ring Day...we just had five of our Aggies women’s basketball players receiver their rings last Friday — what an amazing day. What an amazing symbol to be shared by Aggies everywhere.  The Aggie Ring itself represents what is important in coaching and teaching — attention to detail.  The 13 stripes, the 5 stars, the Seal of Texas.   The fact that the ring is specific in its design provides uniformity, a team symbol — “We are the Aggies, Aggies are we.”

No successful organization, team or society can survive that does not take the opportunity to remember it’s fallen...Silver Taps is another tradition at Texas A&M like no speaks to another quality of excellent teams — loyalty.

Muster    It is more than a ceremony; it is a responsibility that is handed down from one generation to the next. What an amazing day to marry the past with the present.  A chance to honor those who have made Texas A&M.  “The Roll Call for the Absent” not only allows us to pay homage to those we’ve lost but also to send a powerful message to those who will lead us into the future. 

Our team in many ways plays at a high level because of how they view the alumni that have worn the uniform down through the years.  We just celebrated our 40th anniversary of women’s basketball at Texas A&M with a year-long celebration of our past.  It included alums constantly stopping by and speaking to our team and sharing their own stories.  But every day are walls are plastered with photos and memorabilia of past teams, players and moments.

It’s about bridging the past with the future:

Corregidor! forever more a hallowed name
To countless sons of Texans yet unborn

Again, thanks Jim and The Liberty A&M Club for bestowing this honor upon me.  And I’d like to close with the word of Randy Matson, the keynote speaker at the 2000 campus Muster, vowed that "we're here tonight to pledge that none of you will be forgotten as long as there are two Aggies left in the world.”

Gig ‘em!