Monday, August 31, 2015


It's Coach Pete Newell's birthday so in honor of this tremendous teacher, here are some of our posts from Coach:

Pete Newell: The Leadership Example

Motion Isn't For Everyone: Believe and Know What Your Teach

Taking The Other Team Out of Their Offense While You Still Have the Ball

Pete Newell: An Inside Look

Pete Newell on the Pros and Cons of a Changing Defensive System

Coach Newell: I Wanted to Make Them Figure it Out

Wise Words from Coach Newell

What You Do You've Got to Know

A great list of articles on Coach Newell that ran in papers across the country when he passed.


I love this quote by Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin.  Our Aggie football team will soon take play in the renovated Kyle Field -- arguably the nicest, most modern collegiate football facility in the nation.  But still, Coach Sumlin doesn't want his team and program to forget what their program is about:

“A sense of responsibility. Here, we consider ourselves a developmental program. We’ve got a lot of bells and whistles and a lot of TVs, a lot of flat screens — I don’t know how many TVs we’ve got in this place, but I don’t want to get that confused with what this program’s really about.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Big thanks to Lipscomb coach Greg Brown for forwarding me this article on Dansby Swanson that was written by Jason Quick for   I'm going to post a few big take aways from the article but I promise you'll want to click hear and read Quick's article in its entirety.  In fact, it will be an article that we will run and give to our team to read.

Here are some great parts of the article:

Quick talked about pushing Swanson with some tough questions but having no luck:

But through all my probing and pushing, and all his thoughtful answers, I couldn't find the hook to his story.

I sighed.

"You are tough,'' I told him.

He turned his head in confusion, then showed intrigue as I explained the basics of profile writing. The best profiles identify a protagonist and an antagonist, while developing the tug of war, or conflict, between the two. Sometimes, the story leads to a resolution, and other times it alludes to the clash ahead.

He nodded.

"You can't get the antagonist,'' Swanson surmised, before pausing. "Well ... I guess I feel life is too short to be negative.''

Then, it started to unfold. The protagonist, this great baseball player who has lived a charmed life, unknowingly started to reveal his antagonist.

His reveal wasn't what I expected from a 21-year-old, let alone a rising star who was hours from playing in his 11th professional game.

That antagonist pitted against Swanson? Life, and how the trends of society are threatening the way we treat each other, the way we interact. The challenge before him? Leading by example to initiate change.

He admits his life includes little else besides baseball, and the pursuit of greatness in the sport.

However, he knows the better he becomes, the greater stage he has to lead his charge for change.

"This is how I look at this,'' Swanson says. "Obviously, I've been blessed with a great platform. What I do with it is my gift back.''

Quick asked him about his what he wanted his platform to be about:

"Make this world a better place,'' Swanson said. "I've always thought about that question. Does what I'm involved in make everything better? Does me being on this team make the team better? Does me being here make this park better? Because I've lived in this world, is it better? I think that's important because it doesn't happen enough with people.''

He leans in and re-establishes eye contact, his deeper point about to arrive.

"Because, you see, people are so consumed with things that don't matter. In the grand scheme, what matters is how happy you are and how happy you make others. That's so lost these days. Everyone is so driven and they have their blinders on. So we end up living in a society where everything is me, me, me, me, me, me ... they don't worry about anything else around them. (Life) is more than a just-about- yourself type deal.''

And then he spoke about his love for his school:

Swanson says Vanderbilt is a life-shaping program, which is why he cried after the final out this season.

"I didn't cry because we had just lost,'' Swanson said. "I cried because I didn't want to leave. What has been built there is soooo incredible. You are surrounded with the best people you can imagine, and you know as well as I do that when you surround yourself with good people, it makes you better. And that's what we take pride in: making each other better. Not just baseball wise. In school, as a person, you name it. That's why I want to back to live in Nashville, so I can be around everyone.''

It was at Vanderbilt where the roots of his leadership skills took hold. When he was injured his freshman year, he observed the different types of leadership exhibited by various seniors. He found he gravitated toward the exuberant leadership of Tony Kemp.

"I found that the best leaders are the ones who are servant based first,'' Swanson said. "There is a difference between leadership and authority. Authority is more of a title, whereas a leader is the one who is always helping someone first. I think that gets lost in translation these days. Just because you have power doesn't make you a leader.''

Friday, August 28, 2015


Another classic Nick Saban lecture at his summer camp.  We posted one from Coach Saban's camp in 2011 and was one we shared with our own team.  This one comes from camp in 2014.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I've came across an amazing blog by Brian Kight. Brian is part of a leadership team titled Focus 3.  I came across Brian and Focus 3 reading a story about Urban Meyer and how he has utilized the Focus 3 program to develop leadership skills with his Ohio State Buckeyes.  This particular blog was titled "5 Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier in Life."  I've seen lists like these before but no effected me quite like this one.  They are each profound in their own right.  You can read the entire blog here:

1. Don't equate the delay of consequences with the absence of consequences.
My dad said this all the time. All. The. Time. As a kid & young adult it mostly annoyed me. Now I see how true it is. Just because you don't see the cause & effect of your actions in the moment doesn't mean they're not happening. You can't see gravity either. There are consequences for all of our decisions. Sometimes they take years to realize. 

2. You will work hard early in life or late in life, but you will have to work hard.
In general, most people avoid truly hard work. I don't mean staying busy or active. I'm talking about hard, uncomfortable work that creates explosive growth. Things like changing habits, launching your own business, addressing your fears, or practicing an unfamiliar skill. If you don't put in the work early it doesn't go away. It just comes later at an inconvenient time when you're more set in your ways. Do your hardest work early so you can reap the benefits later. 

3. Studying & practicing is about building skills.
Whether high school, college, or a job -- it's about developing your skills. It's not about what you know or memorize. It's about what you can do & how well you can do it. Devote less time time to showing what you know. Devote more time to building life skills & job skills. And understanding how those skills help you perform on the field or in the workplace.

4. Caring is a choice, not a feeling.
I learned this years ago & it changed my life. I can choose to care. Despite how I feel. It has transformed the way I interact with strangers, my family & my fiancĂ©. Here is the definition I use, "Find out what is important to the other person & make it important to you in a way they can feel it." What's the best part? It creates an emotional connection! People feel better when you choose to care. And so will you.

5. You can be "right" & ineffective.
This was a big one for me. Being right was important. And I often made the mistake of hammering people with facts, opinions, examples, & conclusions until they conceded the point. I failed to grasp that in the process of proving myself right, I annoyed people & made the situation much worse. It's better to focus on being productive. Focus on understanding the situation better or what it looks like from another person's perspective. Remember that the end result is far more important than whoever is "right". In today's world, being "right" is usually a combination of many inputs.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The following are excerpts from an article written by Lester Crafton for  You can read the entire article here

You are learning  to take joy in the dirty work.  If you’re playing on the O-Line, you may have a rock solid core under a little play-doh, but you probably don’t have a six pack. As O-Linemen, we weren’t put on earth to look pretty, we were put here to make other people look pretty by doing the dirty work and taking joy in their successes.  And in a world full of people with big ideas, it’s the people who are willing to not only do the dirty work, but to learn to enjoy it, who actually make those big ideas a reality.  

You are becoming keenly aware of how your decisions impact other people. If a quarterback and running back miss a handoff exchange, your team could lose a fumble and maybe lose a game because of it.  If you miss a block, one of your best friends could end up with a concussion or a broken body part. One of the attributes which separates an average leader from a stellar one is how well they are able to understand the impact their decisions have on other people. 

You are developing resiliency.  How many times have you completely taken your man out of the play with a great block only to have a running back cut the wrong way and be tackled by the guy you thought you’d just destroyed?  And whose fault is it? If you’re an offensive lineman, it’s always your fault.  No matter how well you execute your responsibility, your teammates will still screw up, and you’ll still get blamed. This is part of being an offensive lineman.  And it sucks, but it’s also a very powerful, long-term leadership lesson that your glory hound teammates aren’t learning. As an offensive linemen you are by definition a leader--you are at the very front of the offensive formation.  Without the hole you create, there is no glory for any other position.  The valuable lesson you’re learning is how to deal with the opinions of others about you while simultaneously maintaining your willingness to give your best effort on the next play. The best leaders are masters at resisting the temptation to reciprocate blame when someone first puts blame on them.

You are learning the ability to work for delayed gratification.  Offensive linemen do receive credit eventually, but it’s after the winning is done.  It’s not in the weight room. It’s not on the practice field.  It’s usually not even during the game.  But when the game is over, when the season is done, and when your glory-hound teammates aren’t walking around with a limp in a decade, they will be very grateful for the effort you put in.  Leaders are faced with the same difficulties.  While your backfield teammates are learning to do the best with what’s given to them and blame you when it doesn’t work out, you are learning to do your personal best. You must accept responsibility not just for your mistakes, but the mistakes other people blame on you while improving each step of the way.

You learn to listen well and react quickly.  Have you ever committed a false start? One of the loneliest feelings in the world is leaving your stance too quickly only to find yourself finally receiving the full attention of everyone in the stands while the ref twirls his hands like an old-fashioned lawn mower.  Your teammate may or may not give you a pat on the butt, a head nod, or say “good job” after you pancake a defensive end (who never saw the trap coming)...but you can count on feeling like everyone hates you when you jump the snap count. So what do you have to learn to do?  You have to learn to listen.  You have to listen to the snap count when the play comes in from the sideline.  You have to listen in case there is an audible.

This may have been the most important concept from Crafton's article:
You may not receive much immediate glory for what you're doing, but you must still commit to forming the habit of giving your 100% each day, and don’t blame others--including coaches--for not seeing your immediate value. Instead, focus on listening, learning and improving and your rewards for playing offensive line will continue to pay off far longer than the last time you ever take off your cleats.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I'm going a little off the beaten path this morning.  Everyone that knows me knows I love music...its always on in my my my home -- even outside near my old blue chair.  And I love all genres of music.  While jazz remains my favorite I also enjoy R&B, country and rock.  Last night I was listening to a little Kenny Chesney, "If This Bus Could Talk."

It reminded me that a lot of the best memories we have with our teams won't always be on game nights.  More importantly, it is places, like buses where relationships can be developed and strengthened.

Recently I wrote about "my favorite team" -- the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets.  Those teams rode through the snow covered roads of West Virginia on the bald tires of school vans...and they were great times.  The rides to the game -- listening to the players talk about what needed to be done to win (we almost always drove up the day of a game). There was nothing better than the road trip back after a win.  The laughter, the stories, the camaraderie. 

It is said that a lot of games are won and lost in the locker room and this is true.  But the confined dwellings of a van or a bus can go a long way in growing a family.

There was a road trip when I was at Marshall that took us via bus to Cullowhee, North Carolina then on to Chattanooga, Tennessee before heading back to Huntington. After a win at Western Carolina, we had a couple of days in Chattanooga.  As I stayed back and watched video one night, the team took the bus to the mall.  Later that night, I get a knock on the door and standing there is our 6-2 post player Lollie Shipp holding a fairly large bus.

She said, "Coach, I have a problem and I need your help."

"What is it Lollie," I said.

At which she spill the box open on my bed only for me to see a rabbit come hopping out!  It seams that the team walked past a pet store and Lollie felt the need to liberate the rabbit.  After purchasing it, it finally occurred that we were not in Huntington but a long way from home.  After meeting with our head coach and bus driver, our new Lady Herd family member stayed in the bus for our game against UTC before romping up and down the aisle of the bus on our way home.  We actually beat UTC in triple overtime and our beat writer, who rode in the bus with us mentioned some lucky rabbit feet in his story.

There was Marie Ferdinand who got tired of people on the bus talking about their dogs and made up an imaginary cat named Snow Ball.  Her escapades with Snow Ball were epic and entertained the bus always.

In 1998-99, our LSU team faced a four consecutive games on the road in the SEC with Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama.  At the time, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama were all ranked in the top 25.  Looking at the schedule, Ole Miss was our best chance to steal a road win.  After being behind to Ole Miss in double digits at half time, we fought back only to lose 66-59. It was a devastating loss with the prospect of three more ahead.

As we started home, Coach Sue Gunter asked if I had the VHS tape which I replied "yes ma'am."

She said "Pop it in." 

We place it in the bus video player and Coach Gunter began walking up and down the aisle of the bus as the tape played, critiquing each possession.  Letting players know they better not think about falling asleep.   When the game ended Coach Gunter said, "Bob, rewind it and play it again."

We watched that game three and a half times, all with Coach Gunter commentary, before our bus pulled into the campus on Baton Rouge.  We then upset Vanderbilt in Nashville, and Florida in Gainesville before a tired Lady Tiger team lost to #21 Alabama 71-66, despite a great effort.

Many years later I overhead Temeka Johnson telling our team on the bus as we again headed to Oxford to play the Rebels that there was no way we were going to lose this game.  She then repeated the story about Coach Gunter and the bus ride home.  It later occurred to me that Meek was not on that team and asked how she knew about it.

"Some things get passed down from team to team," she said with a smile.

For me, there is are hundreds of individual conversations on the bus, calling a player up to sit with me for a few minutes.  Talking basketball, talking school, talking life.  I've learned a lot about my players on bus rides and I'm sure they can say the same about me.

Now at Texas A&M, most everything is charter airplanes for our Aggies.  And don't get me wrong -- they are great and much appreciated.  They help get our team back and forth much quicker, allowing them to miss less class time.

But don't underestimate or underappreciate those times on the van or the bus.

"Many years of summers, and I hope it never ends
Been down so many highways, full of twists and turns and bends;
We caught lightning in a bottle, somehow we survived it all
All the stories he could tell, if this bus could talk."
-Kenny Chesney

Monday, August 17, 2015


As we approach the beginning of another school year, many of us are taking looks at what we do and how we do it in terms of our basketball philosophy.  Four years ago, I posted a three-part series titled "Thoughts on Half Court Offense."  It received many compliments at the time and thought it might be worth repeating. Simply click on the link to go back and read that particular one.

Thoughts on Half Court Offense (Part 1)
In the first part of our series we talked about why it is important to execute in your half-court offense.

Thoughts on Half Court Offense (Part II)
In the second part of our series we talked about the key components that go in to the making of a good half-court offense.

Thoughts on Half Court Offense (Part III)
In the third and final part of our series, we want to talk about how to teach good half-court offense

Friday, August 14, 2015


Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at some the thoughts, principles, and guidelines for our defense.  We'll start with some basic concepts (our why) that guide what and how we do what we do:


When the ball gets to the paint it creates easy shot opportunities in the paint

When the ball gets to the paint it creates easy perimeter shots

When the ball gets to the paint it creates help and recover situations

When the ball gets to the paint it creates closeout situations

When the ball gets to the paint it creates fouling situations

...taking away the paint starts with transition defense

...stance, head, eyes and footwork are critically important

team defense — having the ability to help early — is a necessity


When the ball handler has the ball and has not dribbled

...we want to have a hand on the ball — constantly mirroring the ball!

When the ball handler is dribbling

...we want the defender to have a hand on the ball as it is dribbled!

When the ball handler is attempting to pass

...we want a hand on the ball as it is passed with the goal of deflecting it!

When the ball handler is attempting to shoot

...we want a hand on the ball to block or alter the shot!


This will come from scouting and game preparation


We want to be constantly talking at all times

This will increase out concentration and execution


Do not give your opponent’s easy scores and free throws are easy scores

Don’t bail out bad shots or bad plays

Make our opponent’s make plays


Grabbing the rebound is like picking up your paycheck at the end of the work week.



I've blogged before on the opinion I have of successful recruiting coming from a staff's ability to "get the right ones, not necessarily the best ones."  That philosophy is so eloquently on display in the movie "Miracle" as Herb Brooks is piecing together the USA Olympic Hockey Team.

Another example of this is given in Jon Gordon's book, "Hard Hat" when he is talking to Cornell's head lacrosse coach, Jeff Tambroni, about resurrecting the school's program:

When I asked Jeff how he got Cornell back to its winning ways, he said, “We know and embrace who our people are. In years past we would recruit lacrosse players en masse, but now we are looking to recruit a specific ten who most appropriately fit our culture. In fact, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, we actually try to weed out the people who wouldn’t be a good fit. We highlight the reality of our culture; it’s really cold in Ithaca much of the time and if you don’t like the cold, this is probably not the right place for you. We let them know it snows a lot during the late fall and winter at Cornell, and if you don’t like the snow, this is not the right place for you. We tell them that if they come here, we will provide them with an opportunity to train hard and be one of the hardest-working teams in the country with no illusion of wins and losses. If you don’t like to work hard for others, this is not the right place for you. We tell them about the hard hat, and if it doesn’t resonate with them then we know it won’t be a good fit. The hard hat has become a big part of our culture and represents all that we stand for. By weeding out the wrong people, we are able to zero in on the right guys that fit our culture and then partner with them as they develop into great teammates and a great team.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


The following comes from the book "What Drives Winning" by Brett Ledbetter.  It is a great example of the amount of "mental time" that is out there between the tasks that we must execute:

College golf can teach us a great lesson. I was working with a high-level college team and I asked the team a few questions:

Me: How long does it take for you to complete a swing?

Team: One second.

Me: How many shots will you take in a normal round?

Team: 72.

Me: How long does a normal round take to play?

Team: 5 hours.

Me: Let me get this straight, you’re only swinging a golf club for one minute and twelve seconds out of 300 minutes?

Think about that for a second. The great golfers are the ones who can manage the other two hundred, ninety-eight minutes, and forty-eight seconds the best.

Monday, August 3, 2015


"Each player is an extension of his teammates. When Jerry Rice catches a ball, he is an extension of several players – those who are blocking the pass rushers, the receivers who are precisely coordinating their routes with his and the quarterback who is taking a hit after throwing the ball. When Roger Craig broke through with a big run, it embodied the fierce execution of the offensive line, the timing of their blocks and the execution of the down-field blocks by the receivers."

From "Finding The Winning Edge" by Bill Walsh