Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Thanks to Lipscomb head coach Greg Brown for sending me an outstanding article in the Boston Globe written by Baxter Holmes on Brad Stevens -- find the time and read here in it's entirety.  Here are some of the excerpts that I pull that resonated with me:


A secret. There had to be one, some special ingredient behind a small Indianapolis private school’s improbable run to consecutive NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011.
Numbers! Yes, that was it.

“What two or three stats do you guys look at all the time?”

Former Butler assistant Matthew Graves remembered hearing that one a lot, from coaches and other sleuths.
Truth was, it all varied game to game, opponent to opponent. But that didn’t slow the inquiries.

“Everybody wants to break it down into this magical stat or formula,” said Graves, now the coach at the University of South Alabama.

Often overlooked was that A) Butler wasn’t a nobody out of nowhere and actually had reached four NCAA Tournaments in seven years (including two Sweet Sixteens) leading up to 2009-10; and that B) the program’s recent success could be traced back to a mid-1990s culture shift that created “The Butler Way.”

The turning point came in 1995 when Butler coach Barry Collier and another coach sat down with Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett, whose teams there and at Wisconsin-Green Bay were always a handful.

“I thought there was some kind of X’s-and-O’s secret I could learn,” said Collier, echoing what others would say years later when Brad Stevens coached Butler.

Instead, Bennett shared five Biblical-based principles that made up his philosophy: humility, passion, servanthood, thankfulness, and unity.

“ ‘Simple’ doesn’t seem like the right word,” said Collier. “But in some ways, I think it is. Because something is simple does not make it easy. It’s hard to follow these things.”


Among their key influences was a book Lickliter had given Stevens, a book by Celtics legend Bill Russell: “Russell Rules: 11 lessons on Leadership From the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner.”

Two of Russell’s ideals stuck with them, one about team ego (“My ego demands — for myself — the success of my team”); and the other about the culture of the Celtics: “ ‘Celtic Pride’ is a real concept, a culture, and a practice rather than an idea. We lived it and breathed it. But we were each responsible for it. It began with a collective determination never to embarrass ourselves.”

Today, on the front wall of the Butler men’s basketball room is a placard that reads: “The Butler Way begins with a ‘collective determination never to embarrass ourselves.’ And we agree that The Butler Way is not merely a concept, but a ‘culture and a practice — and we all are responsible for it.’ ”
The culture is the foundation.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Well, there’s got to be more, there’s got to be something else,’ ” Graves said. “There’s not. But try doing this every single moment, every single day, over and over and over.”

Stevens kept that copy of Russell’s book, filled it with notes, and was rereading it this July during his flight to Boston, where he was to be introduced as the Celtics new head coach. As he sat in the team’s practice facility beneath 11 title banners that Russell helped win in his 13 years in Boston, Stevens used the word “culture” in his first public remarks.

“I think culture,” he said later, “is the most important thing.”


A four-tier pyramid is fixed on a whiteboard in the Butler locker room. “Results” forms its peak. “Performance” is on the second level. “Character” makes up its base. The third tier is “Preparation.” And perhaps more than any other characteristic — more than toughness, execution, or defense — Stevens’s Butler teams were as prepared as any in the nation.

“You knew Butler was never going to beat themselves,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, a former Butler coach whose teams were beaten twice in three games by Stevens’s teams.

As Siena coach Fran McCaffery once said, “If you’re going to beat them, you almost have to play a perfect game.”

Stevens did his homework early. While he coached games, a staff member often uploaded edited video clips to his laptop — clips on each of the next opponent’s players, on the sets it runs the most, a couple of its most recent games, a couple of its games against teams that played a similar style to Butler. Afterward, Stevens devoured the footage, processing information at a pace his staff members called “amazing,” often on late-night flights, his face illuminated by the screen’s soft glow.

By noon the next day, Stevens said, he’d have in place the firm outlines of a game plan — no matter if the game was one day or one week away, because he didn’t want to have a single unprepared practice.
“I wasn’t going to do a day where it’s fluff and I can’t answer everything that I possibly can about the other team,” he said. “That’s how I’m wired.”

He’d study analytics and dig through books — books on leadership, on how the mind works, on successful businesses and the people who ran them — for a motivational quote or passage, because just as he told his players to “win the next possession,” Stevens believed it was his job to find any edge that could help win that possession.
“People always focus on the end of the game,” said former Butler forward Matt Howard, “but one thing I learned more than ever there, and just something we talked about all the time, was it’s not always about what happens at the end of the game. It’s about what happened leading up to that.”


As Lickliter had preached, Stevens and his staff spared no detail as they prepared a scouting report.
“By the end of the week, he’s got so much information on his hands that he can give out bits and pieces,” Shrewsberry said. “The players are like, ‘Whoa, he knows everything about these guys.’ ”

But, as Lickliter also preached, Stevens provided the players with only what they absolutely needed to know — nothing more.

Ronald Nored, a former Butler guard now in a player development role with the Celtics, said he realized the approach wasn’t common when speaking to players on other teams who received pages and pages of notes.

Lickliter said it is a talent to find only what will enable players to be successful, just as it’s a talent to teach it. These are traits, he said, that separate Stevens, whose background as a former star player (in high school) and role player (in college) helps him relate to every player on his teams. But Stevens also saw himself then (and today) as more of a teacher than a coach, curious about what each player wanted beyond the game and invested in a way to help them reach that goal.

The Bulldogs realized that the information they received would make them as game-ready as possible.

“I can’t remember one game where I felt less prepared than the other team,” Nored said. “Not one.”

Following Stevens’s axiom, “The game honors toughness,” regimented practices were “extremely physical,” according to Howard, who said they left him sore head to toe. However, they were short, lasting not a minute more than necessary — Nored remembers one lasting just 28 minutes — and Howard said few fouls were called. “But that’s just how they wanted us to play,” he said.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We often post about things that are important to our programs...things like fundamentals, leadership, team building, practice foundation, strategies of offense and defense.  But do you have a set philosophy on discipline? 

The best coaches I have worked with have had a set philosophy when it comes to holding student-athletes accountable for behavior and discipline.  But they were also flexible in working towards getting the best results.  There was no cookie-cutter you did this so we will do this for a penalty.  But your team needs to know that you stand for something and that  consequences will come about for those who fail to meet those standards.

I also believe it is important that the team understands that the discipline involved is for the team.  You are trying to help a student-athlete adjust or change their behavior.  When one player is disciplined, hopefully it sends a message to the team that will effect all of them in their ability to make good decisions.

The following is an excerpt from written by Michael Casagrande who did an article on Nick Saban and his thoughts on discipline:

There were players on the Alabama football team who weren't getting the message. By Monday, Saban said things were improving on that front.

"I think there was a lot of distractions early on with guys that haven't played that much that did not sorta do things the way we expected them to be done or those older players on the team expected them to be done," Saban said before speaking to the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham. "I think that's gradually changed for the better."

He also touched on the media coverage of disciplinary actions within the program.

"But suspensions are something that are no different than being a parent," Saban said. "I don't like to suspend anybody and I'm sure nobody out there likes to punish their children when they don't do the right things."

And he knows what will get their attention the most.

"But the one thing that we can do is if we are going to punish someone, it has to be something that's going to change their behavior and most of the guys want to play," Saban said. "So when they don't do the right things and they don't play, it seems to change their behavior for the best. 

"I think we should be focusing more on that then the numbers like there's some big issue because there's really not an issue. The issue is trying to get the players to be all they can be and make good choices and decisions so they can do that."

There have been six public suspensions since August. 


It was important to know how to treat each player because the players were not all alike.  If I was critical of one, he might go downhill for the rest of practice. After criticizing him, I tried to find a reason to praise him, although it wouldn't be false praise.  At best false praise results in short-term benefits.  How are work ethic and self-esteem enhanced through false praise?  They aren't.  I waited until he did something well, even if it mean waiting for days. It was wasn't good teaching to allow mistakes to go uncorrected.

Some players responded to my criticism by getting angry and playing better.  Each player responded differently.  It was up to me to find out the best way to deal with each on an individual basis.

During my one-o0n-one meetings with the players I asked each one if it would bother him if I criticized him in front of his teammates.  I told him that if it would, I could bring him to the office after practice and do it.  Waiting until after practice to criticize wouldn't have been as effective, of course, but it was an option.  I can't recall any player's choosing to do it that way.

We certainly didn't want our players to criticize a teammate for making a mistake.  One of the major elements of our team-building effort was an understanding that the players support one another.  This was part of our cast-the-first-stone theory.

Of course, it's just as important to praise as it is to criticize.  We were careful in practice to praise unselfish acts, good execution, and effort.  Praise behavior you want to see repeated.  Positive reinforcement is crucial to team building.

From "The Carolina Way" by Dean Smith

Monday, October 28, 2013


I posted the following in our Hoopboost for Players blog but it's just as important for coaches as well.  Two of the biggest influences of my coach career have been (and continue to be) Dale Brown and Sue Gunter.  Both had an amazing ability to make whoever they were with at the time feel like they were the most special person on the face of the earth.  The characteristic is called "sincerity."  We never had a banquet or team party that the custodians and all members of our support staff weren't invited.  The custodians were also on the team "gear list" -- sweats and shoes.  Managers were treat like invaluable team members because both Coach Brown and Coach Gunter knew that they indeed were just that.  They had the managers backs at all times.  Everyone from SIDs, Secretaries, Trainers and all student workers were treated with the utmost respect from those head coaches and with that came a trickle effect to the assistant coaches and the players.  It was part of the culture in the LSU men's and women's program during those years and it helped teach the student-athletes a life lesson that they will care to other jobs throughout the life. 

Everyone is important.  Everyone has a valuable role.  LSU baseball coach and AD Skip Bertman would always tell us, at any specific time, someone is the most valuable person in your program.  The day before a baseball game, the ground crew is the most important people in your baseball program.  If they don't get your yard mowed and marked you can't play.  On game day, you can't have a crowd without ticket takers.  Well before the jump ball is tossed, those ticket takers are the most valuable people in your program.   And on and on it goes. 

As a coach, how you making these people feel.  As Pat Williams says, are you impressing them or influencing them?

Here is what we posted at Hoopboost today:

The following "The Difference You Make" -- a great book by Pat Williams with Jim Denney:

"People are impressed by athletic ability but they are influenced by the way we treat other people.  It takes a lot more than athletic ability to be a hero and a role model.  You've got to have good character, good values, and a good heart in order to be someone worth admiring and emulating.  A 'hero' with great athletic talent but a small mind and a closed heart is unworthy of anyone's adulation."

As an athlete, you are working hard to develop your skill set.  But as a person, how are you working to develop those around you.   Do you know you gym janitors by name -- always greeting them will a "hello" and a smile?  When's the last time you've been by the office to speak to your team secretary and see how she's doing?  What is your relationship with your team's managers?  Do you truly treat them as team members or do you make their jobs more difficult?  The absolute great ones know that to achieve maximum success that they need everyone to be at their best.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Here's a really good passout that I got from Mike Neighbors most recent email newsletter.  If you haven't signed up for Mike's newsletter you are missing out on great stuff like this.  Email Mike at and have him add you.

1) A coach who is passionate about the drill: This will insure that the drill has positive energy and authentic enthusiasm. It will ensure that the skill is mastered and not just the drill. It will ensure the players remain engaged throughout the season has tweaks are made to distort the game through drills.

2) Has a winner/loser, score, time, or standard: This allows you to chart progress/regress, teach pressure situations, and learn decision making skills in under game chaos. We use the record boards to chart each teams success and also past team records. We also compete in drills with teams of our colleagues.

3) Directly helps you win a game(s): This is the real “secret sauce”… When you find a drill like STOP-SCORE-STOP that we will cover that has direct correlation to a game, then you use it as often as needed. You tweak it. You morph it. But whatever you do, put it on your practice schedule.

4) Where you place them in your practice: Was advised at an early age to plan each practice is if ______ (insert your mentor or coaching idol here) was coming to your practice. You don’t know what day or at what time. And they are only staying for 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, could they tell your style of play, your coaching style, and identify your team culture. Keeping that in mind keeps our practices competitive while preparing us for game situations.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


As the years pass by in my coaching career, the athlete dedicated to being the absolute best he/she can be is a little more difficult to find.  Too many of us, young coaches included, want to be the overnight success story.  Players want to excel without without preparing...position without persevering...acquire without acting...take a test without the test of time...control without concentration.

Coach Dale Brown called it "the instant gratification syndrome" -- some refer it to a "microwave society." 

I have been blessed beyond belief to work with some of the games greats -- players and coaches that achieved the maximum benefits of a dedicated lifetime.  In studying these people I have found one thing in common. 

It's not that they worked hard -- though they did.  It's not that they overcame adversity -- though they did.  It's not that they did the little things necessary -- thought they did.  It's not that they did the things they didn't enjoy -- thought they did.

It's the attitude in which they did it all. 

They truly great ones -- on a daily basis -- over the LONG HAUL -- not only do all the above but they actually ENJOY and EMBRACE the GRIND.

They no doubt groan when they roll out of bed at 5 AM in the off-season, but when they get to the gym, the track or the weight room, the adrenaline kicks in because of the incredible desire they have to excel and the knowledge they have of what it will take to get there. 

These thoughts came to me as I read "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn," by John Maxwell in a plane jetting across the Southeast this weekend.  There was a poem in the book titled "Climb the Steep" by James Casey:

"For every hill I've had to climb
For every rock that bruised my feet
For all the blood and sweat and grime
For blinding storms and burning heat
My heart sings but a grateful song
These were the things that made me strong."
If you coach, ENJOY and EMBRACE the GRIND.  Take the road less travelled. Push yourself beyond all limits.  Are you finding time to read -- blogs, books, magazines?  Not enough time?  Kevin Eastman is an assistant in the NBA and he finds an hour each day simply to read -- and GROW!  I can't even begin to imagine his time constraints -- which is why he reads at 5 AM each morning.
Are you watching video...not just on your team but other you have teaching DVDs to study and learn.  Are you attending clinics...working you have a circle of influence of coaches and people you respect that can take you to another level.
The other night I enjoyed a conversation with Jim Boone on various methods of defending ball screens.  Jim is head coach at Delta State and one of the best teachers in the game.  But we both took time out to discuss in detail what we both did defensively.  At the end of the conversation I told Jim he needs to call Brendan Suhr.  Brendan is one of the games great teachers having served under Chuck Daly in the NBA as well as with the Dream Team.  He is the master of the Pick and Roll -- offensively and defensively.  He is now an assistant at the University of Central Florida.  Jim wondered "will he have the time to talk with me."  I said, "Brendan will make time."  And he did!  Jim couldn't believe the amount of time Brendan gave him but we are talking about a guy that besides his full-time job at UCF works with Kevin Eastman the year around to put together Coaching U Live for all of us. 
Continual learners...continual teachers!
I am not a smart guy by any stretch but I do work extremely hard.  I have for over 30 years and I'm scared to slow down.  I'm reminded of the Steve Nash quote: "If every basketball player worked as hard as I did, I'd be out of a job."  I feel the same way as a coach.  If I stop working..It I stop studying the game...If I stop learning  --  then the smarter coaches will pass me up -- gotta keep working.
I heard Kelvin Sampson at a clinic about a decade ago when he was still at Oklahoma and he said, "All coaches have great energy at practice for the first two weeks.  But then a lot of 'em lose it.  They get a little tired or a bored.  The best know how to sustain the energy."
As a coach, we are more than two weeks in -- are you still humming along?  Still bringing the juice as practice?
Neil Young -- "better to burn than to fade away" -- it's served me well.  How hard are you working.  What kind of example are you giving to other coaches that work with you and student-athletes that you are leading?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Nothing really earth-shattering here but the basics and fundamentals rarely are -- but there's something I enjoy about watching Red teach and Larry execute!


The following our notes from Greg Brown, head coach at Lipscomb University on planning. It was part of his presentation our 2012 Gary Blair Coaching Academy.

1. Have a system, any system and make it work for you...Make sure you don't work for your system.

2. Needs Assessment--What Should Be minus What Is = Needs...Daily, Weekly, Monthly

3. Find a 3rd Place--where work and family can't get to you

4. Long season but it boils down to a 3 game season in March

5. Study Planner Pads--weekly planning system

6. Notes--500 richest people...take notes...Think Pad...Evernote...Hard Sheet for Daily

7. Plan, Prepare, Practice as if you just lost your last game

8. Evaluate every year as if it's your first year

9. Plan your week on Sunday...Plan next day the night before...Journal — what we learned vs. what we did.

10. Sit and Think for 10 minutes per day

11. Don't prioritize schedule/ schedule your priorities--Big Rocks--HVA's

12. Daily/ Weekly/ Monthly/ Yearly lists--Outlook, Task list reminder apps




Players dribble too much
3 second rule (move the ball)
Read the “Carolina Way”
Always get better (Have a plan, pick one thing to improve)
Teach guards how to post up, they are better passers
Run motion ending with pick n roll
Character and Chemistry are essential
If at all possible keep the middle of the floor empty for dribble penetration
Drag pick n rolls on the side are great in transition (Phoenix Suns - Steve Nash)
Be prepared for everything (being up. being down, foul trouble ect.)
Calmness as a coach on the bench filters down to the players
Team building off the court
Conditioning is very much team building, know when to push and when to pull back