Monday, September 30, 2013


I often share the story of Herb Brooks from the movie "Miracle" in which his assistant is puzzled as to why Herb isn't keeping the "best" players for the USA hockey team.  Herb replies that he isn't looking for the best players, he's looking for the "right" players.  To me this is the secret of recruiting.  And it's why I enjoyed this article written by Pete DiPrimio of the News-Sentinel on Tom Crean and how Indiana University approaches recruiting.

Kenny Johnson knows all about it. He's Indiana's assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and Crean's right hand man in the never-ending quest for talent. He understands the truth behind the drama.

So what is the state of IU recruiting now that the program has regained national acclaim?

“It's a weeding out process,” Johnson says. “Coach Crean has always tried to recruit from a position of power. We can't talk specifics about recruiting, so people might not understand the method to the madness, but it has never been about the credential of the player. It's always been about the fit. Understanding what you need. What your vision is, and how you want to continue building the program.

“It's pretty obvious we want versatile players. We want intelligence and great character.”
He pauses. Smiles.

“The ability to shoot never hurts.”

Here is the article in it's entirety.


Here are excerpts from a nice article on Boston's Brad Stevens and how he handles success and failure, victory and defeat.  It was written by Jay King of   You can read the entire article here -- there's some good examples of how Coach Stevens has handled both sides of the ledger.      

Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of losses in general,” he said with a smile. After a brief pause, he continued, “Probably the same (as wins). I think you have to. The college season’s long, this is double. You have to have an even keel-ness about you. I think the NBA coaches do a great job of it generally. And I think – you know, one of my idols in coaching would have been Tony Dungy, the way he acted and the way that he moved on one way or the other. Losses and wins never affected who he was as a person, and I think that if you have that mindset, it’s easier to just do your job. That’s what I try to have.”

“I think one of the things that I’ve always tried to do is evaluate the game based on what happened in the game, not necessarily on the result,” Stevens added. “One of my favorite books was written by Bill Walsh: The Score Takes Care of Itself. And we try to do everything we can to help put our team in position to have the score take care of itself. And sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. And regardless, you have to respond the next day. Whether you have success or whether you failed, both of them are challenges to respond to.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013


A big thanks to my friend Joey Burton for passing this article on to me this morning.  It speaks of Peyton Manning who, like a great point guard knows how to spread the wealth and keep everyone involved.  The article comes from Lindsay Jones of USA Today Sports. You can read the entire article here -- below are some excerpts:

It wasn't by accident that Peyton Manning threw passes to five different Denver Broncos teammates in the opening drive of the Broncos' game Monday against Oakland.

Manning said Wednesday that spreading out his passes to his receivers, tight ends and running backs isn't just about trying to fool an opposing defense. It's also a motivational trick to keep each of his teammates engaged.

"I know it helps all the offensive players. When everybody on the offense on any given play thinks the ball might be coming to them, you just run better routes," Manning said. "On certain plays, if you're only throwing to the same guy every single time, there's four guys that might not be running full speed routes."

"Our distribution has been pretty good so far, in terms of spreading the ball around, so that's why we have guys getting open, because all five guys think they might get the ball on this play," Manning said. "That can put pressure on a defense, I would think."

Decker was the last of Manning's top targets to get hot, and that came Monday when he had eight catches, 133 yards and his first touchdown of the season.

"Any given play, it doesn't matter which read you may be on that play, [Manning] might come to you," Decker said. "You run every route to win, and you expect the ball in the play."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The following is one of our favorite "Disadvantage Drills" and will be one of the drills we take a look at during the Gary Blair Coaching Academy October 5-6.

DRILL SET UP: Drill is set up 4/4 with two additional offensive players in each corner (Diagram #1).  Early we can have the offense remain stationary .  We can add movement without screening and then add screening later.

EXECUTION: The offense is looking to score with either of their four players.  The “open players” may only receive a pass outside the arc.  When she receives, she is to drive the ball to the rim for a lay-up (Diagram#2).  If the defense stops her, we want her to hit a teammate on the offensive team and continue play.  The “open player” may go to the boards if she is outside the arc when it is shot.  Make it/Take it and keep score. 

VARIATIONS: Variations can obviously come by the offensive movement as mention above...we can also dictate early movement before going “live” such as down screening off the guard to guard pass to work on this phase of our game...we could start with a double-staggered before going life.  Variation can also come in the form of scoring.  We can keep points score but also penalize the offense for a turnover and the defense for allowing a paint touch.

We are looking to play a base man-to-man defense...we want active pressure on the ball looking for the passing lane a pass away ballside...good post defense...jump to the ball when passed.
We are also looking to work on our rotation with the “I” on all baseline drives.

Key emphasis is on “early help” — closest player to the ball helps (with the exception of ballside help) and we want to stop the ball before it gets to the paint.
We are looking to contest all perimeter shots and finish with a blockout.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Today marks the 5th anniversary of Hoopthoughts.  When I first started I was simply looking for a way to share a few ideas with other coaches and learn a little on the way as well.  I had no idea that it would grow at the rate that it has with well over 1,000 visitors per day and nearly 1,400,000 total.  I am so thankful for all the notes, email, texts and comments in regard to the blog and especially to all those who share info for me to use.  Per our tradition, today I will repeat my first blog post of 2008 -- which comes from my friend Don Yaeger.  It remains one of the most visited posts we have had -- and with good reason.  It was itself a blog post for Don that grew into a best-selling book.

Well this is my first entry (and first attempt at blogging) so I thought I would go over 16 CONSISTENT CHARACTERISTICS OF GREATNESS. These come from writer Don Yaeger and I received them via email from Dale Brown.

HOW THEY THINK1. IT’S PERSONAL...they hate to lose more than the love to win.
2. RUBBING ELBOWS...they understand the value of association.
3. BELIEVE...they have faith in a higher power.
4. CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM...they are positive thinkers...they are enthusiastic...and that enthusiasm rubs off.

5. HOPE FOR THE BEST BUT...they prepare for all possibilities before they step off the field.
6. WHAT OFF-SEASON?...they are always working towards the next game...the next season...the goal is what’s ahead and there is always something ahead.
7. VISUALIZE VICTORY...they see victory before the game begins.
8. INNER FIRE...they use adversity as fuel.

9. ICE IN THEIR VEINS...they are risk-takers and don’t fear making a mistake
10. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS...they know how and when to adjust their game plan.
11. ULTIMATE TEAMMATE...they will assume whatever role is necessary for the team to win.
12. NOT JUST ABOUT THE BENJAMINS...they don’t compete just for the money.


13. THEY DO UNTO OTHERS...they know character is defined by how they treat those who cannot help them.
14. WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING...they are comfortable in the mirror...they live their life with integrity.
15. WHEVER EVERYONE IS WATCHING...they embrace the idea of being a role model.
16. RECORDS ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN...they know their legacy isn’t what they did on the field...the are well-rounded.

Monday, September 23, 2013


The following comes from "Everyone Communicates, Few Connect" by John Maxwell.  It is one of the best books I've read that focuses solely on improving our communication -- and as the title suggests -- connecting with our target audience.  For the coach, this means improved teaching to our players, getting our message across to recruits, making our point to the media, expressing ourselves convincingly to our fans.  The ability to communicate is at the essence of teaching and leading.  Here is what Maxwell says regarding what makes people listen:

If you want to be a better communicator or a better leader, you can’t depend on dumb luck. You must learn to connect with others by making the most of whatever skills and experience you have. When I listen to great communicators, I notice that there are a handful of factors they seem to draw upon that cause people to listen to them.
Relationships—Who You Know
One of the quickest ways to gain credibility with an individual, a group, or an audience is to borrow it from someone who already has credibility with them. It’s the basis of sales referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. “Who” you know can open the door for you to connect with someone. Of course, once the door is open, you still have to deliver!

Insight—What You Know
Most people want to improve their situation in life. When they find someone who can communicate something of value, they will usually listen. If what they learn really helps, a sense of connection between them can often quickly develop.

Success—What You Have Done
America has a success culture. People want to be successful, and they seek out others who have accomplished something to get their advice. If you are successful in anything you do, there will be people who will want to listen to you.

Ability—What You Can Do
Individuals who perform at a high level in their profession often have instant credibility with others. People admire them, they want to be like them, and they feel connected to them. When they speak, others listen—even if the area of their skill has nothing to do with the advice they give.

Sacrifice—How You Have Lived
Mother Teresa had the respect and the ear of leaders around the world. People of all faiths seemed to admire her. Why was that? Why did they listen to her—a poor, diminutive schoolteacher who lived in the slums in India? Because of the life of sacrifice she lived.

Friday, September 20, 2013


One more set of notes from John Beilein thanks to Allen Osborne:

High and Hard
Talk 3 x’s (mine, mine, mine)
Practice every day!

4 on 3 stuff, 2 on 1, 5 on 4 (all w defense at a disadvantage)

Have more than 1 option


Sometimes it can create offense
You need the personnel


Do shell defense drill with the dribble.

Shooters just stand in the corner and space
Point and Bigs are always running3 guys can’t have a bad practice
Coach, Point, and best player
Bring the energy and correct frame of mind

Big Ten defense with arms up and chest into the shooter on the way up and hands pointing back


Had to start practicing lobs because we couldn’t do it in games. It was always “my bad” in the summer




The following comes from the book "Trust Works" by Ken Blanchard.  It is a passout that we will give to our team next week and talk about the qualities of trust and how it can impact a team.


"In a real sense, all of life is interrelated.  All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality."

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From "Eleven Rings" by Phil Jackson


Who Am I?

Good leadership begins with leaders knowing who they are.  Successful leaders work hard to know themselves.  They know their own strengths and weaknesses.  They understand their own temperament.  They know what personal experiences serve them well.  They know their work habits as well as their daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms.  They know which kinds of people they work well with and which kinds they have to try harder with to appreciate. They have a sense of where they are going and how they want to get there.  As a result, they know what they're capable of doing, and their leadership is steady. 

What Are My Values?
Your values are the soul of your leadership, and they drive your behavior.  Before you can grow and mature as a leader, you must have a clear understanding of your values and commit to living consistently with them -- since they will shape your behavior and influence the way you lead.  I believe you should settle what you believe in three key areas:

Ethical Values -- what does it mean to do the right thing for the right reason?
Relational Values -- How do you build an environment of trust and respect with others?
Success Values -- What goals are worth spending your life on?

What Leadership Practices Do I Want to Put into Place?
If you want to become a successful leader, you must not only know yourself and define your values, you must also live them out.  You will not grow as a leader unless you commit to getting out of your comfort zone and trying to be a better leader than you are today.

From "How Successful People Leader" by John Maxwell

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Thanks to my junior high coach and mentor Allen Osborne for passing along these clinic notes from John Beilein:
1. Skill Development

Develop drills and time them

Gives kids a sense of achievement when they improve.

2. Shooting

3. There are a lot of ways to win

Press, zone, man, half court, full court, guards, bigs, etc.

No magic formula

4. Culture is going to win

Teamwork, the importance of “The Team, The Team, The Team” - Bo Schembechler

Coaches need to have a relationship

Know mom, dad, brothers, sisters, names, etc.

Coach Beilein incorporates Cazzie Russell and Glen Rice “spots on the floor.” Helping to create the culture while recognizing the past players who have helped pave the way.  And it is strategically sound information. Glenn Rice is 28 feet from the rim on the wing, and Cazzie Russell is in the corner.

5. Stance, Talk, Balance

“Kids can’t Text or Tweet though a screen”

“Why can’t we be the best talking team in the country?”

6. Pivoting

Sweep, over head, Waffle

Practices a lot. National Runner Up and we do “grade school pivoting drills”

Fewest Turnovers in the country

7. Jump Stop

8. Passing out of the post

So tough to defend

Get the ball behind the defense

Opens up so much

9. Use of backdoor

Have a backdoor option



Thursday, September 12, 2013


The following piece on Coach Dale Brown was written by my friend Kent Lowe which is fitting as he is the long-time men's basketball SID at LSU and was with Coach Brown the large majority of his career with the Tigers.  It is one of the most well-written articles on Coach in terms capturing both who he is as well as what he has accomplished as a coach.  When you are done reading this -- I hope you are as amazed as I am why Coach Brown isn't in the Naismith Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.  Great job Kent!

Where does one begin in telling the story of a coach like Dale Brown?

Many parts of that story will be told Friday night when he becomes the latest in the Head Coach/Administrator category to be inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

This year he is the second inductee from the sport of basketball joining 1940s star Frank Brian. He becomes the 11th overall inductee at LSU from the sport of men’s basketball.

“I am truly humbled by this honor that LSU has bestowed upon me,” Brown said earlier this week. “I feel undeserving of such praise because there are many unsung teachers and coaches that have dedicated their lives to impacting the lives of their players and students. I am truly grateful that LSU gave me the platform to not only influence and inspire my players but also many other people along the way.”

To summarize Brown’s career it could be written as follows:

Brown took over a struggling LSU men’s basketball program in 1972 and built it into a consistent winner that played in front of sell-out crowds in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. He led the Tigers to Final Four appearances in 1981 and 1986, along with two other NCAA Elite Eight appearances (1980, 1987) and one more Sweet 16 berth (1979). He built a powerhouse program in the SEC, winning league titles four times (1979, 1981, 1986, 1989) while taking LSU to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Brown was named National Coach of the Year in 1981 when the Tigers won an SEC title and stormed to the Final Four in Philadelphia. In 1986 his Tigers stunned the college basketball world when he took a Cinderella team from an 11th seed in the NCAA Tournament to a Final Four berth in Dallas.

Brown earned SEC Coach of the Year honors four times (1973, 1979, 1981, 1989). By the time he retired from LSU in 1997, he compiled a 25-year mark of 448 wins and coached three first-team All-Americans – Rudy Macklin, Chris Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal.”

There you have the superficial story of Brown’s LSU career.

This native of Minot, N.D., born on of all days, Halloween in 1935, was a four-sport athlete at St. Leo’s High School that earned him a scholarship to Minot State. He was the only athlete at Minot State to earn 12 letters (4 each) in football, basketball and track.

Basketball playing led to basketball coaching but it would be a long and winding road for Dale Brown from his first head coaching job in 1957 at Columbus High School in Columbus, N.D., to head coach at LSU prior to the 1972-73 season.

Carl Maddox was the LSU AD when a coach was being searched to replace Press Maravich, who was relieved of his duties after the 1971-72 season. Maddox went after Bob Boyd, but after Boyd decided not to leave Southern Cal, he was one of the two people to recommend a young assistant named Dale Brown. The other was former LSU basketball player, television commentator and future LSU AD Joe Dean.

Joe Dean told Brown: “If you take the job, you will raise the flag, you will sing the national anthem, you will keep your own stats, and you will sweep the floor. They are totally uninterested in basketball.”

A local writer after Brown was hired wrote: “Dale Brown inherited a job that, if it’s not impossible, it’s as close to impossible as any college basketball job in the country.”

His first salary was $23,000. Brown wrote in one of his books that he never asked his salary until he signed a contract. He came to Baton Rouge with three suits, a Volkswagen and $800 in cash.

“From the moment my family arrived in Baton Rouge 41 years ago,” Brown said, “We felt a special connection to the sincere and fun loving people of Louisiana. I am proud to call Louisiana my home and that the people adopted this North Dakota boy as one of their own.”

Brown would show us all in Louisiana that he wasn’t going to just be a basketball coach and nothing more. He was determined to be a salesman and a promoter of LSU basketball. Coach Brown knew players were coming right away, but he knew he needed to promote the game of basketball in Louisiana.

Brown found a company that manufactured purple and gold nets. His assistant’s wife, Janet Drew, wrote a poem about LSU basketball: “This is a net from the purple and gold for a sport that will never grow old.” The LSU staff headed out to all parts of the state and anytime they saw a basket, the group would stop and make sure the owners got a package with a purple and gold net.

The first team Brown coached was expected to win two games in the SEC. One day in the post office Brown saw a wanted poster. From there came the idea of putting the team picture on a wanted poster that called the team “the Hustlers.” The team hustled and captured everyone’s heart. In the first home game, the Tigers beat Memphis, 94-81. Memphis would go on to play for the national championship at the end of the year. LSU would finish fifth in the league and 9-9 in the SEC. Brown received the honor as the SEC Coach of the Year.

LSU basketball was well on its way. Well, not so fast.

After winning 14 games the first year, the Tigers won no more than 12 games each of the next three years. Not only was Brown’s team struggling to win, but he was finding the recruiting world rather unseemly. He was having second doubts about his ability to recruit honorably and get athletes to LSU.

Brown was so frustrated he went to Athletic Director Carl Maddox and Chancellor Paul Murrill. He told them, “I’m just not sure I can get the job done with my philosophy.” Maddox told him that if he continued to do the job the same way and be disciplined in doing it, that Maddox would back him.

The next year the Tigers had a winning season, and the rest is history.

One of the first major wins for LSU came in Brown’s sixth season against Kentucky. The Wildcats were No. 1 that would go on to win the national championship. But it was the typical game where the underdog Tigers were prepared and fired up by their coach. All five starters had fouled out for LSU as the game went to overtime. But somehow, someway, the Tigers would win 95-94 and finished 18-9.

Suddenly, LSU was getting national recognition. In 1979, the team would win the school’s first SEC regular season title in 25 years. Now everyone knew who LSU was and the Tigers were playing some of the best teams in the country. After winning the SEC Tournament title in 1980, Rudy Macklin, Greg Cook, Leonard Mitchell, Howard Carter, Ethan Martin and Willie Sims in 1981 would win 26 consecutive games which included 17 straight in the conference. The team made LSU’s first trip to the NCAA Final Four since 1953, and Brown was the National Coach of the Year.

The Tigers of 1986 had one of the more remarkable rides of all the teams that have made it over the years to the NCAA Final Four. A team that started fast was struggling to win games in January and February while also forced to battle a chicken pox scare that forced LSU to play four games in five days. But LSU was given a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and was seeded 11th. But the advantage was still on LSU’s side as the Tigers hosted the first two rounds in the then LSU Assembly Center.

Higher ranked Purdue went down in double-overtime in the first round. Two days later, the Assembly Center went nuts when Anthony Wilson picked up a loose ball and shot as the clock was running out to advance LSU to the regional finals. The Deaf Dome Magic was at its peak.

But the run wasn’t over as LSU beat Georgia Tech to get to the regional semifinals. There waiting for Coach Brown and the Tigers was Kentucky, a team that had already knocked off LSU three times that year. Now there would be a fourth meeting for a spot in the NCAA Final Four.

The team led by John Williams found help from Don Redden and bulked-up Ricky Blanton, who had been forced to move to the center spot and defeated Kentucky, 59-57, to get to another Final Four, this time as the lowest seeded team at that point in tournament history to make the Final Four.

The numbers of Brown’s 25 years speak for themselves:
  • 448 wins (still to this day, second only to Adolph Rupp in the SEC).
  • Final Fours –1981, 1986
  • Elite Eight – 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987
  • Tournament appearances – 15 (13 NCAA—including 10 straight 1984-93, 2 NIT)
  • SEC Championships – 1979, 1981, 1986, 1991 (only 3 SEC coaches have won more).
  • SEC Tournament Championship – 1980
  • SEC Coach of the Year – 1973, 1979, 1981, 1989
  • National Coach of the Year – 1981
  • Member, Louisiana Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.
But the numbers don’t express the man himself. Brown is a person who once your friend, can and will be a friend for life. He has loved helping people. There have been times his style hasn’t pleased everyone, but it was just Dale being Dale. He was doing what he thought was best and letting his feeling find a spot on his sleeve.

In his 25th and final season, Brown offered two thoughts about his way of doing things:

“Our way of doing things will not prevent us from getting talented players … It never has, but the player who comes to LSU should be someone who believes that team goals are more important than individual goals. There are some players today who probably cannot relate to that, but I think there are still a special few who can and that is who we want to wear the uniform.”

Brown coaches some of those special people who earned special post-season honors – Al Green, Rudy Macklin, Ethan Martin, Howard Carter, Chris Jackson (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), Shaquille O’Neal – but there were so many others who could have had A-A by their names who sacrificed for the good of the team in following Coach Brown’s beliefs.

“I can’t coach everyone,” he also said prior to his 25th year (1996-97). “Someone quoted me as saying that I can only coach certain kinds of players … I think that’s true. Only certain types of players can reach their capacity under me. If a player is not committed to excellence … if he is not interested in being a part of a family concept … if he is only interested in himself … if all he cares about is polishing his skills so he can make a lot of money in the NBA, then he shouldn’t probably play for me.”

When Brown retired in 1997, he didn’t just fade away. It wouldn’t be his style. Today, he is at his happiest watching the young man he recruited to play at LSU who then became a loyal assistant for so many years, finally get his chance to shine as the head coach of the Tigers. There is no doubting Johnny Jones is his own man, but he learned well from one of the giants of the game.

Brown is still involved with many of the causes he has always put his heart and soul into and he is continually sought out for speaking engagements and clinics. But now he has more time to watch his grandchildren grow into young adults and to keep in touch with a boatload of players who passed through Baton Rouge in his 25 years.

The late John Wooden said of Brown: “I’ll always remember Dale for his natural enthusiasm. “There are those who say he’s a put-on, they just can’t believe that he can be what he professes … but I never questioned that. He amazes me because there is a lot more depth to this man. He’s much more than a basketball coach.”

In truth, LSU is inducting a basketball coach into the Athletic Hall of Fame. But the Hall is also inducting a man who has meant so much more to the growth of the game in Louisiana, in the Southeastern Conference and whose beliefs have led him to a colorful, compassionate and fascinating life that many of us have been fortunate to be a small part.

“There are many, many great memories of my 25 years as LSU’s head basketball coach,” Brown said in thinking back over his career. “However, the memories I cherish the most are the relationships and love that I have for my players, friends and family. Also, I can’t thank the LSU fans enough for their support that continues even today.”

The love Dale Brown has shown for LSU gets returned in full Friday night when he is inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.