Sunday, December 13, 2020


Going into our game with Texas a week ago, I wasn't pleased with our defense.  We were missing the buy-in and the commitment needed to sustain a good defensive effort that makes up a good defensive team.  After a few days (and nights) of thought, I came to the conclusion that I'd fallen short in teaching the "why" -- concentrating only on the how and what of defensive play.  So a few days before heading to Austin we sat the team down and addressed them on "Why Defense Is Important."  Here are some notes from that talk:


Most will tell me what is important about defense

But why is defense important


DEFENSE REVEALS WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON (not a basketball player)

It speaks to your character

Who you are at your core



 We can see your strengths

Not physically...not your foot quickness...not your speed...not your length

We can see your weaknesses

Not how slow you are...not how small you are



Grit & Determination - “I’m going to own this possession.”

Mental Toughness - they have an ability succeed through failure

Lasor focus...they were where their feet are

“Clear the mechanism” — “What train?”

Physical Toughness -  they don’t rest or take plays off

Warrior Mentality - Inflict their will on their opponent

Heart of a Competitor

Finding a Way to Win - Stu Aberdeen: Surgeon, Lawyer

Weaknesses that are on display of a poor defensive player

Mentally Soft - can’t handle momentary failure and set back

            Not an NBA player - Living in the Past

Egg and a Tennis Ball

Unable or unwilling to concentrate

Lack of Physical Toughness - not tough enough to play minor pains

Fear - or work, or competition, of failure

Laziness - doesn’t like the work involved

Lack of Empathy - just doesn’t care


We also get a lot into you own SELF-DISCIPLINE

What you do when no one’s watching (helpside for example)

What you do when no one cares (fans, media, late game, etc.)

Preparation (scouting report, video)

Not talking about the minimum

Kobe (...everyone want’s to be the beast)

Understands Practice in regard to preparation & habits


We can see your INTERNAL VALUE SYSTEM...what’s truly important to you

Players that Defend care about WINNING

Players that Defend care about COMPETING

Players that Defend care about TRADITION - those before them

Players that Defend care about their TEAMMATES


No glory in defense — no headlines or awards


Defense is not just about what kind of basketball player you are but what kind of person you currently are and want to be.

Many will tell you defense starts with heart — it doesn’t.  It starts with your brain.  It’s your brain that makes all the decisions.  It’s your brain that transmit signals to your legs, your arms, your lungs and yes, your heart.  Bottom line?  Being a good defensive player is a choice — being a tough person is a choice — being a disciplined person is a choice. Being a successful person is a choice.

It’s never a matter of heart — it’s a matter or you want to? you want to bad enough?  It’s a’s a choice.


Who you are is who you are!  It’s not a part-time job...if you defend well part of the time you’re not a good defender...if you prepare part of the time, you’re not preparing at all.







Monday, October 5, 2020


This is Part III of a series of clinic notes.  During the past 6 months I have had the opportunity to attend 37 zoom clinics.  It has been an outstanding opportunity of growth for me -- learning and listening to coaches I great respect and many I had not gotten the opportunity to hear and what I'm d
oing over the next few days is to share a few quick hitters.

Buzz Williams: "Our team of coaches is the example of being a great teammate for our teams."

Chris Beard: Adapt to technology — big in sending clips to players on their phone.

 Mike Neighbors' recommendations:

            Podcasts: Michael Lewis — “Against the Rules”

            Book: “Thinking In Bets” — Annie Duke

            Website: “”

Eric Musselman: Worked for Chuck Daly who referred to everything as a meeting. 

     A timeout was a meeting 

     Pre game was a meeting 

     Halftime was a meeting 

     Post game was a meeting 

     You have to be prepared for meetings

Frank Martin: Our cornerstones:

     1. Honesty

     2. Trust

     3. Loyalty

     4. Love

Need love to withstand the storms.

Kevin Eastman: Control what you can control

     System you employ

     Players you choose

     Example you set

     Preparation you put in

Mike Lombardi: Must have a leader regardless of skill set

     Management of attention

     Command of process

     Command of self

     Management of trust

Tim Kight on discipline:

Discipline means "learning" not punishment" -- it's a learned skill 

Disciplined is not something done to you but chosen by you to do.

If you chose not to have a disciplined life, you will live by default.

Observations by Mike Lombardi:

1. Peyton Manning had an elite level of preparation — great note taker...would come to QB meeting on Tuesday and have 16-30 pages of notes from the game film he took himself before meeting with staff.

 2. Watched Tom Brady in Patriots meeting room — 2nd row...complete eye practice by himself working on nothing but footwork.

 3. Wade/LeBron working out together — level of work….level of detail in stretching.

Tom Cream: "Somebody’s greatness may be somebody else’s good."


Friday, September 25, 2020


This is Part II of a series of clinic notes.  During the past 6 months I have had the opportunity to attend 37 zoom clinics.  It has been an outstanding opportunity of growth for me -- learning and listening to coaches I greatly respect and many I had not gotten the opportunity to hear before.  Obviously 37 zoom clinics have created a mountain of notes and what I'm doing over the next few days is to share a few quick hitters.

Mike Lombardi on Bill Belichick and the message to his staff:  “this who we are — go find players that fit.”

Tom Cream on recruiting: "If a kid isn’t winning in the summer circuit you need to take a deeper look." 

Todd Henry: Be wise in assimilating information to everyone

     ◄Send necessary emails to necessary people

     ◄Have necessary meeting with necessary people

     ◄Give necessary information with necessary people

Todd Gongwer: With all the adversity, two things remain unchanged:

     ◄The amount of time we have each day

     ◄The ability to make choices

 Tim Kight: “Every team faces some kind of adversity.  Mediocre teams are destroyed by it.  Good teams survive it.  Great teams get better because of it.”

Stan Van Gundy: “It’s the worst feeling when opponent gets an easy bucked because we didn’t prepare.”

 Shaka Smart’s Non-Negotiable’s



     ◄1 second rule — time to bounce up after hitting the floor

Rod Olson on the Navy SEALS: Raised team standard means individual standards are raised.

Antonio Lang: Pat Riley would tape shoot around and walk thru.

Mike Wells: “A pro can be ready to play 30 minutes when they haven’t played in two weeks.”

Roland Nored: “Break bread with players.”

Mike Neighbors: Feedback must be immediate on shots early in practice and season.

Buzz Williams: Determine what space to fight for

     ◄How do I utilize my time?

     ◄Goal - efficiency


Monday, September 21, 2020


During the past 6 months I have had the opportunity to attend 37 zoom clinics.  It has been an outstanding opportunity of growth for me -- learning and listening to coaches I greatly respect and many I had not gotten the opportunity to hear before.  Obviously 37 zoom clinics have created a mountain of notes and what I'm going to do over the next few days is to share a few quick hitters.

Alan Stein: "You truly know the culture of a program when the head coach is not around."

Buzz Williams: "The three questions I constantly ask of myself...
     What do I know?
     What do I not know?
     What do I need to know?"

Carm Maciariello: "You have to be able to have honest conversations with players. Helps to unify the locker room."

Chris Beard: "We don't want a program of entitlement.  Street dog mentality — hunt our own meals."

What Damon West learned from Mr. Rogers: “We can’t reach everyone but we can all reach someone.”

Dave Anderson: "Biggest concern about a crisis is not wasting it…don’t go through all this just to get back where we were…not 'what it did to us' but 'what it did for us.'”

Trevor Woodruff: “Win the Wait.”

Joshua Medcalf: "The most important thing to understand about success -- knowing there is no finish line."

Frank Martin: "If you don’t properly take care of issues off the court it will cost you your job."

Johnny Jones: “I’ve had more success giving a kid a pat on the back then pointing a finger in the face.”

Kevin Eastman: "Hard to become good at something if you have to keep starting over."

Really solid advice from Lin Dun on inbounds players: "Have plays that work against both man and zone."

Lue Yaklichh: "Good things to tell your team:

            I screwed up
            I believe in you
            I haven’t taught you well enough
            I don’t know yet."

Monday, July 27, 2020


Having been blessed to have coached some of the best to play the game, I have been able to study their approach.  One of the most important attributes I've found is their ability to constantly look to improve -- even after big wins or great performances.  An example of that comes from "Thinking In Bets" by Annie Duke -- a fascinating take on the decisions we make.  Shoutout to Mike Neighbors for recommending this book.  The story as told by Duke is about Phil Ivey, one of the best poker players in the land:

"In 2004, my brother provided televised final-table commentary for a tournament in which Phil Ivey smoked a star-studded final table.  After his win, the two of them went to a restaurant for dinner, during which Ivey deconstructed every potential playing error he thought he might have made on his way to victory, asking my brother's opinion about each strategic decision.  A more run-of-the-mill player might have spent the time talking about how great they played, relishing the victory.  Not Ivey.  For him, the opportunity to learn from his mistakes was much more important than treating that dinner as a self-satisfying celebration.  He earned a half-million dollars and won a lengthy poker tournament over world-class competition, but all he wanted to do was discuss with a fellow pro where he might have made better decisions."

It is the champion's ability to take a quick but honest look in the rearview mirror to assess areas of improvement.  Bill Parcells once said he believed, "you learn far more from winning."  

The champion also takes responsibility for their improvement and growth when they practice self-accountability. As Navy SEAL Rorke Denver says, “Every SEAL must learn to run his own jump.  You pack your own chute.”

Friday, June 12, 2020


The following is the address given by Ciera Johnson at the Unity March for Black Lives Matter on the campus at Texas A&M, Thursday, June 11.  The event was sponsored by the A&M Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.  Ciera is a senior captain for the Aggie women's basketball team:

Howdy! I want to start off by saying thank you all for coming out and thank you to the group of people that put this together. 

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to process everything that has been going on. One thing I can conclude is that the level of ignorance and disrespect towards my people throughout this country is ridiculous. 

I would like for everyone to close their eyes as I make these statements: 

Imagine a teacher giving you a nickname because they're too lazy to pronounce or learn your ethnic name. 

Imagine your hair being a factor in whether or not you get a job.

Imagine your skin being viewed as a weapon but every summer people can’t wait to tan and get darker. 

Imagine parts of culture being viewed as ghetto or hood, but the moment the Kardashians endorse it, it becomes hip.

Imagine going anywhere in the world and people already hate you because of the color of your skin.

Imagine everything you built being taken from you...Tulsa, Rosewood.

Imagine being admired on game day, but being feared the moment the game is over.

And lastly, Imagine a police officer has his knee on the neck of your father for over eight minutes and your father yelling “I can’t breath,” while being suffocated to death.

You may open your eyes.

The death of George Floyd didn’t ignite a new movement. It just brought light to a fight that has been going on for a very long time. People like Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, James Baldwin, and others have been fighting for our humanity, justice, and equality. We must continue the fight that was started over hundreds of years ago. This is our chance to make a difference and stand for something bigger than ourselves and sport. We all have a voice and our voices must be heard. We are the future and what we do now will impact the lives of generations to come.

I want to end with these two quotes:

Former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall said, “Racism separates, but it never liberates. Hatred generates fear, and fear once given a foothold binds, consumes and imprisons. Nothing is gained from prejudice. No one benefits from racism.” 

Civil Rights Activist, Angela Davis said, You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And do it all the time.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


A few weeks ago our program was blessed to have the Dallas Wings head coach Brian Agler stop by to watch us practice.  Afterwards Coach Gary Blair asked Brian if he'd mind saying a few words to our team.  What followed was an amazing message that he left with us -- here are few of the nuggets he gave us:

"If you want to play at the next level, it's important to refine your skill work and that comes from your work ethic."

"Are you ready for the next thing to happen."

"Eliminate Distraction."

"Never forget that rest is a part of preparation."

He referenced Angela Duckworth's book "Grit" by reminding us that the #1 indicator of success is having grit. He also told our players to pull up youtube of Duckworth's TedTalk on grit.

He finished by giving us what he considered the 4 traits of champions:

#1 Preparation - not just about practice but studying film, knowing your scouting report, rest, sleep, and nutrition.

#2 Integrity - do the right thing and make the right choices when no one is watching.

#3 Grit - be resilient...welcome tough times -- they make your stronger.

#4 Gratitude - never miss an opportunity to show appreciation.

Friday, November 15, 2019


On this date today, 49 years and a day, I was sitting in my living room on a rainy Saturday evening in Teays Valley, West Virginia (approximately 40 miles from Huntington) when WSAZ sports broadcast Bos Johnson broke in local programming. Choking back tears, he reported that Marshall's football charter plane had crashed on approach into Huntington.

Over the next half of century, the story of Marshall football has been an amazing journey of overcoming the most difficult of adversities.  The rise from the ashes was long and painful but it showed the greatest of resiliency for a community and continues to inspire a nation today.  I could list wins, conference championships, a shining bowl record and even National titles since that tragic evening 49 years ago but the true testament is to the people who rebuilt not just a program but a community.

Yesterday was the annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony in which we turn off the Memorial Fountain on the Marshall campus.  I took time away from my work, which I do annually, to watch the ceremony on-line.  It is simply and without question one of the most moving and special traditions in college sport.  As a student at Marshall and later as a coach of the Thundering Herd women's basketball program, I was blessed to observed in person the wide range of emotions at this event.  To be there in person is to remember it at another level for the rest of your life.

Then this morning, as I read our local The Eagle newspaper, I am reminded that not everyone gets it -- or understands what sport can truly be about.  Each Friday, the sports department at The Eagle list "This Week's Games" and beside it they have people that predict the outcome of those games.  And each week, someone in their infinite wisdom chooses what they call "crummy game of the week."  I have never appreciated that category and can only assume that they have no idea what competing is about on the collegiate level despite level of play or records of teams or the hard work and sacrifice by the student-athletes and coaches involved.

Yet my disdain for the "crummy game of the week" went to a new level this morning when it listed the Louisiana Tech at Marshall game as their choice.  When the Marshall football team takes the field at Joan C. Edwards Stadium tonight there will be tears for will be represented of the loss we suffered nearly 50 years ago as well as the spirit and love that have helped us to move forward.  The Herd will wear special helmets with the number 75 representing each life lost that evening and they will play with a powerful "why."  It will be, as it is each season, an amazing day!

I can promise you, it will be the least crummy game played this weekend.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Our athletic department was blessed this opening week of school to have Tim Elmore speak to our student-athletes and then to our coaches and administrators.  While there was several great take-aways from Tim in our challenge to better communicate, teach and inspire a new generation of young people, one really resonated with me.

Tim held up a bottle of water and talked about the difference in "timeless" and "culture."  He explained that water is timeless -- it's been around forever.  Yet here we are today consuming water out of a bottle instead of a faucet -- that is the change in culture.

Water is the message we are trying to deliver to our student-athletes. The messages today are no different than the messages from yesterday -- commitment, work ethic, sacrifice, teamwork, etc.  But as teachers we have to change our "packaging."  We can't deliver water out of the faucet anymore and this needs to be an important consideration as we give thought to communicating and teaching our individuals and teams.

By the way, one of my favorite regular emails I get comes from Tim and you can sign up and get on the mailing list here.

Monday, July 15, 2019


I always like to pass on a good book when I run across one and "The Coach's Season" by Jason Fry is excellent.  My first thought is that a young coach just starting out in the business or a coach who just grabbed their first head coaching gig would find this an amazing resource.  But it's also invaluable for the veteran coach who is always looking to improve their program or take it to another level.  I would add that while this is a must-have for high school coaches, there is great information to benefit coaches at other levels from junior high school to college.

The structure of the book is unique in that Jason interviewed over 100 of the best high school coaches in the country to get an amazing variety of answers to key questions.

This is the first section of the book with Q&A's with 34 high school coaches. Here are just some of the sample questions that are asked of the coaches:

How do you balance family with team life during the season?

What advice do you have for a first- or second-year coach?

What did your pre-season preparation look like with your staff?

What are three responsibilities you have given your assistants?

What is one thing you do differently from others?

Again, the reader is getting answers to these questions from the best of the best.

The second section has a list of Q&A's from 30 outstanding high school coaches.  These questions have a lot to do with preparation and game organization:

How are you incorporating player development in the season?

What adjustments do you make at halftime? 

What are roles do your assistants have in practice as well as games?

What is one thing a coach can do to...
     ...learn each day? relationships?
     ...grow their feeder systems?

An example of a great question in this section is "What do you do during the month of January to improve team morale and keep spirits high?"  Legendary coach Don Showalter responded with these gems:

--Cut practice time to an hour and a half or even an hour as January progresses
--Take a practice or two and play whiffle ball or dodge ball for the last 30 minutes
--Allow your players to plan a practice session and have the coaches sit and watch practice
--Take the team bowling, to a college or NBA basketball game, or have a pizza party
--Work on skills only for a couple of practice. 

There are responses from 29 outstanding coaches in the third section which deals largely with how you are growing and improving your program in the off-season.  Some great Q&A's include:

What are your priorities during the off-season?

What are you seeking to learn in the off-season?

How do you prepare players for new roles?

What does your evaluation as a team/player at the end of the season look like?

There is also a brief section at the end of resources such as player evaluation forms for the off-season

One of the bonuses of the book I enjoyed is that all 117 coaches that were interviewed gave their favorite motivational quote -- that alone makes the book invaluable.  Click here for more information.