Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Those of those who followed and learned from the teachings of Coach Don Meyer are very familiar with the word "arête" -- it was one that Coach spoke of constantly and challenged is teams to aspire.

Arête is always framed in definition with the word "excellence."  It is also attached to moral virtue though in his incredible book, "Resilience," Eric Greitens offers us some outstanding views on the mindset of arête and it's relationship with results and intentions:

We are ultimately measured by our results, by the way our actions shape the world around us.  Without results, all the kind intentions in the world are just a way of entertaining ourselves.

It may be helpful to think about the difference between intentions and results by looking at how the Greeks through about right action.

The word that shows up again and again in their discussion of ethics is arête. As we've already discussed, arête doesn't really mean "virtue," though that's how it's often translated.  When the Greeks used the word arête, it referred to excellence.  They used the same word to describe a vase, the excellence of a great runner, and the excellence of a person.

To be excellent is to be someone who produces excellence.  There is no such things as an excellent shoemaker who regularly turns out flimsy shoes.  So think a big about what the Greeks must have believed about having an excellent character.  Your character was judged excellent not before you acted, but after.  The judgment was based not on your intentions, but on your results.

When we think of virtue as an excellence, we don't ask, "What did I intend?" We ask, "What did I do?"

Friday, March 25, 2016


Today we are sharing a small excerpt from the book "Attack The Zone Defenses" by Del Harris and Ken Shields.  It is simply the most thorough book I've read on Zone Offense and is a must read for all coaches.  It has great detail to simple concepts with over 300-pages that without question will improve you Zone Offense.

There are six positive functions for the dribble against the zone defenses.  The first three actions are fundamental and well recognized.  Dribble Rotation and its value as noted in points four and five are more advanced and lesser understood.

1. Drive the ball to the goal for a score, with four teammates moving into positions to complement the attack on the basket, according to our bailout rules.

2. Punching (penetrating) into a defensive gap to shoot or to create a shot for a teammate by drawing defenders to the ball, thereby creating more space for him to operate when receiving a pass.

3. Using the drag dribble to improve a passing angle by bouncing once or twice laterally for a post entry, or to shorten the angle and distance for a perimeter pass, and especially to key popping a high post player out for a catch as an entry into a potential high-low post action.

4. Dribble Rotating the defense down to stretch or distort the defense.  This is done by dribbling while guarded by a defender out of one zone into an adjacent one toward the sideline or baseline in a non-penetrating angle.  The ball handler dribbles the ball one slot over on the perimeter to pull the ball defender to the edge of his area or into the next primary zone area.  This intelligent use combined with reading the defense creates excellent open space options.

5. Dribbling Rotating the defense up or across the top.  Dribbling up away from the baseline, or near sideline, in a non-penetrating angle involves the same process as the Dribble Down, but offers different space openings.

6. Freeze dribbling a defender to make him engage the ball. This clever action Ken has specialized in serves to have the effort of helping to pull a low wing defender out of his preferred position.  It is also a tool used often at the top of the zone to allow better timing for cutters to get into place.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Turns out that Indiana and Coach Tom Crean took a page from baseball's Tony La Russa in utilizing your bench to prepare them for the post season.
“I learned something from Tony La Russa a long time ago.  He said he tried to get his back-ups, his subs, a game a week, whether an inning here on Monday or an inning on Tuesday. You know what? The same thing applies to basketball. You know when you get guys minutes, quality minutes in the duration of the season, when they get in pressure situations, it doesn’t feel like pressure."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


We showed this video to our team in our season closing meeting. Can't imagine a team or individual that wouldn't benefit from the message and passion of Inky Johnson.


There was an article that ran on Al.com written by Michael Casagrande regarding Coach Nick Saban and how he handled spring break with his team.  You can read the entire article here.  There were a few things that stood out to me in the article and they were related to the culture that Coach Saban has built.

I'm a big believer in the fact that great teams, championship teams are developed when the coaches aren't around -- the locker room, off-season workouts, in the community.  "Who's running your locker room" is always a key factor.  Can your leaders work in such a way that the young one's will follow?  This is where culture comes in.

In a meeting with his team before parting for spring break, Coach Saban told his team he wanted them to workout four times over the break. Saban commented:
"And we'll know the players who worked out four times and did not dissipate in terms of gaining weight and who took care of themselves, because you won't be able to respond in practice like you want to if you don't do those things. Now, we don't call and make sure they do it. We don't have a postcard that they fill out. We can't make them do it, so we encourage them to do it."

I believed this statement showed trust on Coach Saban's part as well as a standard of accountability that could be checked when they returned.

The other statements from this article that was impressive came from the players themselves that showed both leadership and commitment to their team:

When linebacker Ruben Foster was asked how his trip to Miami he said he didn't make it to the beach.  Instead he:
"Worked out. Studied. Tried to call the young guys, check up on them, them checking up on me."
Tight end O.J. Howard and quarterback David Cornwell travelled to Houston together to work on routes with each other.  As Howard stated:
"We both want to win for the team so whenever you've got a bunch of guys on the team who are dedicated like that it's going to help the team in the long run."

Culture and process makes the difference over the long haul.  One final statement from Coach Saban shows his trust in his players and the belief that culture is strong:
"I didn't ask anyone how much they worked out over spring, but it's a real indicator of how important football is to them, and how important that is for them to be a good player. If a guy just went and did nothing for the whole time, he's not very committed to improving himself and having a significant role on the team. I think it tells you a lot about a player's competitive character, how important football is to them, and how important the team is to them in how he does those things."


The following list comes from Coach Mike Deegan, the head baseball coach at Denison.  Coach Deegan came to Denison after being as assistant at Marietta College where he was part of a staff that won three National Championships.  Often as assistant coaches we assume the transition to head coach is not as difficult as it may seem -- Coach Deegan gives us some great insight.
The following list comes from an article that you can and should read hear.  Coach Deegan, in the article, gives some great advice for assistants wanting to make the move up.
1. Get ready to be unpopular: As an assistant, everyone likes you.  As the leader, that won’t be the case.  The happiness of our players, parents and coaches is really important to me, probably too important at times.  Let me be the first to tell you, not everyone will be happy and they will more than likely blame you.  Can you handle that?
2. Get ready to be questioned: As an assistant you make suggestions, as a leader you make decisions.  There is a huge difference.   And guess what, everyone knows more than you.  People with fractions of the information will tell you what you are doing wrong.  The questions will come from everywhere.  In my profession that means assistant coaches, players, parents, bus drivers, fans, administrators, faculty….the list goes on and on.  Can you be confident enough in yourself to make bold decisions?  Can you stay strong and not allow outside influences to affect your decision making process?
3. Get ready to have your character challenged:  I recently had dinner with a Federal judge.  We were discussing the coaching profession when I said, “you are never popular as a head coach.”  He responded by saying, “tell me about it, I’m the most hated man in America right now.”  If you decide to lead you will be attacked at some point.  People will take shots at you either directly or more often than not, behind your back.  How will you handle this? 
4. Get ready to have your family affected: Yes, your family will feel the impact of your leadership position.  Don’t let anyone fool you; this will be tough on your family.  The hours will be longer and you will never be completely “off” from the job.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve come home from a long day at work and tried to shift gears into dad and husband when I’ve received the “emergency” text or email.  This absolutely impacts the family.   Yes, dad is home but now dad is distracted. 
5. Get ready to be on an island:  There will only be a very, very select few people who know what you are going through.  Other people may think they know but they don’t.  You won’t have the ability to “vent” to many people.  You will have to find a core group of friends that will be there to support you, provide you with advice and help you through the difficult times. 
6. Get ready for a different type of relationship with your players: This may be the toughest challenge.  As an assistant, typically, you have a very close relationship with the players.  However, as an assistant, you are not making the final decision.  The leader needs to maintain a healthy distance.  You will have to guard against getting too close; you have to make sure it doesn’t appear that you are “playing favorites.” 
7. Get ready to deal with people who just don’t get it: You will work around the clock trying to provide growth and contribution for those you lead.  You will sacrifice your personal time for others.  And, there will still be some people who don’t get it.  In my profession, it all revolves around playing time.  You will strive to teach the life long lessons that sports provide.  It won’t matter to some.  This will hurt.  Can you stay the course? Can you continue to try to do what’s right despite of the criticism?

Sunday, March 20, 2016


"With us, film is short and directed -- very specific on certain items.  You can't do a coaching clinic every time you do a film session or you lose them all.  But if something is directed, like pick-and-roll defense, transition defense or how the ball was shared or not shared and you get after it and do it, it makes most sense to most players. That's our way."

-Coach Gregg Popovich

Sunday, March 13, 2016


While all the attention this time of the year centers around "March Madness" and the excitement of the NCAA tournament -- and with great reason -- there is yet another madness: the firing of coaches.  For us in the business it is a very difficult time because many of those coaches that are fired are friends -- we know them, and their families.  If you are in the business long enough, some of those being shown to the unemployment line are your former players.

Please know that I'm not saying there aren't situations where a change in leadership is needed.  It happens.  But we are in a microwave society where we want coaches fired in the middle of the season because they are in a three-game losing streak.  Coaches are getting fired with winning records...because they can't "win the big one."

To boosters, the majority of fans and even some in the media the bottom line is winning, winning now, and winning big.  There is never a consideration about the job the coach and their staff is doing in developing young people. Those aforementioned individuals would be shocked at the amount of time spent by coaches away from the X's & O's working in the community or spending time problem solving with their student-athletes.

This past weekend, it was reported that Tulane's men's basketball coach Ed Conroy was told during a game that he was being fired.  During!  The only problem is that Ed was in the middle of upsetting the University of Houston so the dismissal had to wait a day.  I know Ed.  He's a good coach and an even better person and has done a respectable job at a school that historically has a difficult time of "winning."  If this report is true, the administrators involved should be shown the door before Ed -- not for the dismissal but for its embarrassing execution.

There was a time when administrators dug in and supported their coaches because they could see the work and progress in front of them. 

Most people in listing the greatest of the greatest in men's basketball coaches would list Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Yet in his first three years at Duke, Coach K was 38-47.  The last home game in that third year Duke lost to rival North Carolina by 24 points.  The next week there was a 43-point loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament.

Would any coach in America survive this today?

But then Duke AD Tom Butters dug his heals in and fought off the boosters screaming for a change.  I once read an article where Butters talked about a particular wealthy booster that pressured him greatly to fire Coach K.  A few years later Butters spoke of the constant letters from that same booster urging him to pay what he has to pay to keep him!

And right down the road another legendary coach Dean Smith got off to a slow start.  After three years, Coach Smith was 35-27.  The fourth year got off to a rough start.  The Tar Heels returned to campus after a 107-85 loss to Wake Forest.  It was their fourth straight loss.  At the bus pulled up the gym on the Carolina campus, there, hanging in a tree, was a dummy dressed like Coach Smith.

In 1967, Coach Wooden took UCLA on an amazing post-season run that would see them capture seven straight National Championships. That string ended in 1974 when the Bruin again made it to the Final Four before losing.  The next year, Coach Wooden's final one as a coach, UCLA again advanced to the Final Four capturing the programs 10 national title in 12 years.

Coach Wooden tells the story that immediately after the game, while the team is still on the court celebrating, one of the team's most prominent boosters came up said, "Congratulations.  I'm glad you didn't blow it like last year."

One of my mentors, Sue Gunter, went through three losing seasons.  At the SEC tournament during her third losing season, an administrator was telling everyone that she would be fired when she got to campus.  Upon arrival, Coach Gunter went into the AD's office unannounced talked him to keeping her because she knew they were getting ready to turn the corner.

Coach Gunter coached nine more seasons at LSU where she averaged 23 wins a season, advanced to eight consecutive NCAA tournaments, including five Sweet 16's, three Elite 8's and the Lady Tiger's first Final Four appearance.

But what I've failed to mention -- what far to many people fail to understand -- is what the student-athletes would say about Coach K, Coach Smith, Coach Wooden and Coach Gunter.  It wouldn't be about how they developed their jump shots or improved their ball handling.  They would talk about the like lessons that came from being in those type of programs.

The same type of life lessons that are being taught at Division II and Division III schools under the leadership of good coaches.  The same type of lessons that are being taught at mid-major schools that aren't in the limelight of the national basketball scene.  The same type of lessons that are being taught at universities that may not be winning enough games to satisfy fans and administrators that have lost sight of the primary purpose of athletics.

Again, I'm not saying that coaches should never be fired.  Far from it.  But now we have too many administrators from ADs to school presidents who bow to the pressure of the boosters and alums making decisions to quickly for often the wrong reasons.

We have fans that start FireMyCoach.com not understanding that the coach and their staff have families.  I have from time to time wondered how they would feel if we showed up at their place of employment and yelled and screamed obscenities at them while they performed -- with their families sitting nearby.

I have the greatest respect for the coaches that do it the right way.  That come to work and grind each day to make a difference in the life of the people they coach, the staff they work with and the community they live in.  I respect the coaches that battle the pressure and work to win games so they can continue to do what they love.  I think love is the only word to describe why people stay in the business as long as they do -- at least those that are doing it for the right reason.  I have respect for the coach that take undue criticism from those not in the arena.  I have respect for those coaches that bounce back after being fired to find a job so they can continue doing what they love and impacting those within their reach. 

I have a constant reminder of the grind of our professions.  It comes from the book "The Coaches" by Bill Libby.  There is a passage in it that another of my mentors Dale Brown once had framed, handing in his office.  When he retired, he gave it to me and it has hung in every office I've had since.  It reads:

He’s called a coach and it’s a different job. There is no clear way to succeed. One cannot copy another who’s a winner, for there seems to be some subtle secret chemistry of personality that enables a person to lead successfully and no one really knows what it is. Those who have succeeded and those who have failed represent all kinds.
They are young, old, experienced, they are soft, tough, good natured, foul tempered, proud and profane. They are articulate and even inarticulate. Some are dedicated and some casual. Some are even more dedicated than others. Intelligence is not enough, and dedication is not enough.
They all want to win, but some want to win more than others and just wanting to win is not enough. Losers almost always get fired, but winners get fired also. He is out in the open being judged publicly for six or seven months out of the year by those who may or may not be qualified to judge him. Every victory and every defeat is recorded constantly in print. The coach, this strange breed has no place to hide. He cannot just let the job go for a while or do a bad job and hope no one will notice as most of us can. He cannot satisfy everyone, seldom can he even satisfy very many, and rarely does he even satisfy himself. If he wins once, he must win the next time also.
They plot victories-, they suffer defeats; they endure criticism from within and without; they neglect their families, they travel endlessly and they live alone in the spotlight surrounded by others. Theirs may be the worst profession in the world. It’s unreasonably demanding, poor pay, insecure, full of unrelenting pressures and I ask myself: Why do coaches put up with it? Why do they do it? I’ve seen them fired with pat phrases such as, “Fool”, “Incompetent”, or “He couldn’t get the job done”.
I've wondered about that, having seen them exalted by victory, and depressed by defeat.  I've sympathized with them having seen some broken by the job and others die from it. One is moved to admire them and to hope that someday the world will understand them; this strange breed they call coach.



This is the second part of a two-part series on Coach Pat Summitt and her thoughts on competing.  These thoughts come from Coach Greg Brown.  Greg is currently the head coach at Lipscomb University but served on Coach Summitt's staff and recently wrote an outstanding book, "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching."  The book is a collection of notes, thoughts and observations from working with Coach Summitt as well as Coach Don Meyer.

Compete in everything you do.

What do you see in great competitors?  Best everything they do.  Don't take possession off.  Push through being tired.

Competition isn't social.  It separates achievers from the average.

You can't always be the most talented person in the room but you can be the most competitive.

Influence your opponent:  by being competitive, you can affect how your adversary performs.

Competitors do not simply do things just to finish.

Competition should inspire you in all that you do.

It's fun to have someone to push you.

Competition allows you to set yourself apart.

Only by learning to compete can you discover just how much you are capable of achieving.

Competitiveness is the opposite of complacency.

Recruit competitors,  because they are winners.

You can always be better.

Play every possession like it's a game winner.

Must know who your most competitive players are.

People ask Pat who do you get them to play so hard?  The answer is they either go hard or they don't play.

This just a small sampling of Greg's observations in regard to competing as it was under Pat Summitt.  This is simply an outstanding book and would encourage anyone in coaching to purchase.  The proceeds from the book go to the foundations of both Pat Summitt and Don Meyer.

Click here to find out more and to order your copy.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


This is the first part of a two-part series on Coach Pat Summitt and her thoughts on competing.  These thoughts come from Coach Greg Brown.  Greg is currently the head coach at Lipscomb University but served on Coach Summitt's staff and recently wrote an outstanding book, "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching."  The book is a collection of notes, thoughts and observations from working with Coach Summitt as well as Coach Don Meyer.


Competition and being a competitor may be what has always separated the Lady Vols and Pat.

Competing is the vital element of the Lady Vol success because all the teams at the elite level have superior athletic ability and skills, but no team has had the success of the University of Tennessee.

What sets the standard of competition?

Competing against self, not the other team.  The standard isn't just the opponent.  The standard is much higher than any opponent on the schedule.  You want to leave here knowing you competed every possession.

What can you learn from watching players run sprints?

Are they simply trying not to be last?

Are they just trying to finish?

Are they mad because of having to run sprints?

Are they trying to win every sprint?

Are they encouraging others or only thinking of themselves.

This just a small sampling of Greg's observations in regard to competing as it was under Pat Summitt.  This is simply an outstanding book and would encourage anyone in coaching to purchase.  The proceeds from the book go to the foundations of both Pat Summitt and Don Meyer.

Click here to find out more and to order your copy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


As we await our NCAA tournament assignment, I've taken the opportunity to read a little more than normal.  This morning I was going over some notes from Coach Mike Dunlap.  He had two practice concepts that I thought were outstanding:

Teaching vs. Drilling
Establish a consistent time where you address such things as new material, view, adjustments, etc.  The reason is simple: your practice should have a rhythm to it; players and practices seem to go better when there is a steady flow, much like a drum roll.

Physical vs. Mental
There are certain aspects of practice that should rarely change when considering the physical aspects of practice.  For example, intensity must become a habit.  Without exception, certain times or drills should demand an all out effort (i.e. all drills should some for of competitive spirit - "you lose, you run, etc.").  The mental aspects of practice involves teaching concepts.  Hence, regardless of the drill or situation, players should know the game from your eyes (e.g. pressure release vs. trap, backcourt pressure, cut and replace vs. press.)

Monday, March 7, 2016


I've been rummaging through a box of items I've collected over the years from time spent with Coach Don Meyer (I have quite a few boxes) and I came across a letter from him that had a card in it that read:

"The greatest teacher makes a few simple points. The powerful teacher leaves one or two fundamental truths.  And the memorable teacher makes the point not by telling, but by helping their students discover on their own.  Learning takes place through discovery, not when you're told something, but when you figure it out for yourself.  All a really fine teacher does is to make suggestions, point out problems, above all, ask questions, and more questions and more questions...teaching encourages not only discovery but initiative."

From "Lend Me Your Ears" by William Safire

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I am obviously a huge Seimone Augustus fan -- was incredibly blessed to have coached her.  But there is a reason I'm a "fan" of Mone -- she gets it!  And she got it at an early age.  You can read here a blog post I wrote a few years ago about what made her one of the best to ever player the game.

Yesterday, in Instagram, I saw this post from Seimone and wanted to share it because I thought it was outstanding:

The most common questions I get asked as a professional basketball player is, ‘What drills do you do to get better? How many shots did you take a day? What all did you focus on to be a better player?  I HATE BEING ASKED THAT.  My answer is the same — I can’t count the number of shots I took, I can’t tell you what drills I did because I used everything from a lawn chair to a bowling ball glove to help with getting better, as well as watched a VHS tape of Pistol Pete until it didn’t work anymore.  An still when you reach what you think is your goal or dream, people will still DOUBT YOU and will be UNCERTAIN of your success at the next level.  HINT: Steph Curry in the photo below.  But all you can do is KEEP WORKING, BELIEVE in yourself, STAY FOCUSED and let the universe take you an amazing ride!