Tuesday, October 24, 2017


The following is my favorite passage from the book "The Last Arrow," by Edwin Raphael McManus.  The book is an emotion read as McManus and he was on his way to completing the book was diagnosed with cancer.  It is incredibly well written with the thesis of time and what we are doing with it.  It's about giving life your best, until you've used that "last arrow."

Here a just a sampling of takeaways from this book:

On Life
When you come to the end of your days, you will not measure your life based on success and failures. All of those will eventually blur together into a single memory called “life.” What will give you solace is a life with nothing left undone. One that’s been lived with relentless ambition, a heart on fire, and with no regrets. On the other hand, what will haunt you until your final breath is who you could have been but never became and what you could have done but never did.

On Time
Time seduces us into believing that it is the one friend who will never run out on us, but the cruel truth is that it always does.  It would not be unfair to say that time lies to us.  It tricks us into believing that we can wait until tomorrow to do the things we should have done yesterday.  And while I find an endless number of reasons why people leave things in life undone, I find one unifying characteristic of those who leave nothing for the next life: a sense of urgency.

On Success
Success is a tyrant that will enslave you just as quickly as failure.  If you let success own you, you will find yourself trapped by your success and terrified by the possibility of failure.  Success will lie to you and tell you that your future is just an extension of your past, when at its best, success is simply preparation for new challenges.  Every day you will have to choose between living in the past, staying in the present, or creating a future.  The great danger lies in that the easy path is to hold on to what you know, cling to what you have, and make the future an extension of the past.  Though there is no way to stop time, you have to choose the future.  Although you are grounded in the past, you must not be grounded by the past.  And while tomorrow is coming regardless of what you do, the future comes because of what you do.

On Greatness
Greatness is a gift given to individuals by those who choose to surround them with their own greatness. Let me repeat myself: no great endeavor has ever been accomplished alone. Yet this realization does not diminish the greatness of the individuals we hold up as inspirations to us all. The fact that personal greatness is never achieved alone, the fact that personal greatness is always the sum total of the hard work and deep commitment of an untold number of people, does not in any way diminish the grandeur of an individual’s accomplishments. In fact, it elevates it. It’s much easier to do something yourself. It takes so much more work, it demands so much of yourself, to create an environment where highly talented, skilled, and intelligent people can work together for a common goal. If anything, this is the true genius behind all greatness. It is most certainly true when we are dealing with sustained greatness. What I’ve observed over the years is that all of us can have moments of greatness and glimpses of greatness, but what seems so unattainable is sustaining the level of commitment, resolve, and quality that achieves sustained greatness. That is why I am always fascinated by those who not only accomplish something extraordinary once but do it over and over again. 

On Seizing Opportunity
Striking the last arrow is not only about seizing every opportunity; it is also about being the right person at the right moment.  The moment requires action or even reaction.  Those moments and actions are informed and fueled by who we are.  The best way to ensure that you will seize every action or even reaction.  Those moments and actions are informed and fueled by who we are.  The best way to ensure that you will seize every opportunity is to be the best expression of who you are. 


I've just finished read "Teammate" by David Ross and my friend Don Yaeger.  I've spoke to my friends who love baseball and they love this book -- with good reason.  You get a great insight into the career of Ross but more importantly a peak in the dugout and clubhouse of the Chicago Cubs World Series run.

For me, I was fascinated with the title of the book and some of the thoughts regarding being a good teammate.  

This first pass is one that I will be sharing with our Aggie Leadership Council -- the art of being aware.  Having a pulse for your team to help often solve problems before they become problems:
I think good teammates have a high level of self-awareness. If you are self-aware, you have a better chance of focusing on the moment, you have a better chance of processing information. If you know yourself and are able to make adjustments, you will improve as a player, or have the potential to help those around you improve, because you understand the. Self-awareness is tied to authenticity. People who lack self-awareness tend to be more narcissistic because they can’t truly read themselves.

The next point is often lost an players and even coaches.  Just because you not in the lineup doesn't mean you responsibilities of being a good teammate are minimized in any capacity. In fact, that when they grow in importance.  The player who is a great teammate when he's not on the field or the court is the best kind of teammate:
Whether I was scheduled to play on a given day or not, I always tried to bring my personality and my energy to the ballpark. That was a very important part of being a good teammate to me. If I didn’t have my energy that day, it was difficult to invest in the team. If I was dragging or not into that day, I hurt the team And my teammates expected it of me. As a veteran if I was not checked in at all times, it took away from my credibility. It would be hard to criticize a teammate and be respected. I think that’s important from a manager and as a professional baseball player—you’ve got to be the same guy every day. Everyone has good and bad days and mood swings. I did too. But I tried to be the same guy every day that I went to the field.

And again, teammates aren't great because they have an amazing stat line.  As Ross says below, it's not "about numbers."
Being a good teammate and leader, in the long run, wasn’t about numbers. It was about presence and how you were perceived by the rest of the group. That’s what mattered most. Talent is part of the equation, but when you combine talent with accountability and authenticity, it is tough to beat.

A lot more to this book on Ross' thought of being a great teammate and how he actually grew into that role.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Many years ago at a clinic, I heard Kelvin Sampson say "Most coaches are excited about practice the first couple of weeks.  Then they get tired or bored.  The best coaches know how to stay locked in."

I think this is just as true for players as it is coaches -- though often the players may take the lead from the coaching staff in terms of their energy and enthusiasm.  It is not enough to write up a practice plan and than go about executing it.  You need to give thought to the placement of drills, the length of a workout and the strategic (yes, I said strategic) schedule of off days.

What are you doing to keep your team inspired and excited about practice?  John Wooden was a huge believer in make sure practice ended on a positive note.  "Give them a reason to want to come back tomorrow," he once told me.

Don Meyer once talked about a 30 win season in which he could sleep because he'd lay away all night trying to figure out how he was going to his team "an edge the next day in practice."

Sometimes we think inspiration is about getting teams emotionally ready to play a game.  But you better find away to get that same result out of your practices.

Nick Saban is a master at keeping his players locked in. Here is an older post where Coach Saban came up with a plan of putting responsibility on key players.

In a press conference this week, Saban said he "created some tension" among his team in practice which is something he likes to do.

Are bringing someone in occasionally to speak to them?  Letting them here a different voice and even a different perspective can be incredibly beneficial.

Once again, an older post on Coach Saban and how he used speakers with his team.

My point is getting your team ready shouldn't just apply to games -- but importantly, apply to practices.


"The Mentor Leader" by Tony Dungy is an incredible book that will benefit any coach of any sport on any level. In fact, the book transcends coaching. But in regard to the world of athletics, it is a great book for a head coach looking to mentor assistant coaches and players as well as for assistant coaches looking to mentor players.


"Teamwork doesn't tolerate the inconvenience of distance."
-Author Unknown

I believe it is critical for mentor leaders to engage with those they lead. It's impossible to mentor from a distance. Without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. You cannot mentor with empathy. You cannot inspire people to new heights and lift them to a better place in their lives. If you do not engage with those you serve, you will never understand them or know enough about them to be able to have a positive effect in their lives.


"Good teachers help every student earn an A."
-Wilbur Dungy

Education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Workers who are new to a task cannot be empowered and elevated until they've been educated in what to to. First things first.


"Our job as a coaching staff is to show you what to do and how to do it. Your job as players is to do it consistently."
-Chuck Noll

Mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. They set the parameters and guidelines for the task, project and continually recast the vision, and then provide the tools and equipment needed for everyone to be successful in their assignment and to ultimately accomplish their mission. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually -- and to accomplish the mission.


"Correction does much, but encouragement does more."

Encouragement is the fuel that powers our efforts to engage, educate, and equip. Nothing does more to lubricate the rough spots than a good dose of encouragement. Mentor leaders care. Mentor leaders lift others up. Mentor leaders encourage.


"As we look ahead...leaders will be those who empower others."
-Bill Gates

Once the people you lead are ready, it's time to turn them loose. But not before they're ready. As a mentor leader, you have a responsibility to engage, educate, equip, and encourage them first -- and at every appropriate point thereafter, as well. You can't just walk in and empower them. If they're not ready, you're only setting them up to fail.


"Without inspiration, the best powers of the mind are dormant. There is a tinder in us which needs to be quickened with sparks."
-Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Great leaders energize and inspire those they lead. Even as they face their own daily struggles and stresses, mentor leaders look for ways to energize and motivate the people around them.


"Teamwork: Simply state, it is less me and more we."
-Author Unknown

Many leaders struggle with this essential concept. Elevating is difficult. It seems paradoxical to elevate someone who might end up taking your place. But raising up leaders is the truly self-less goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others. To elevate your followers means to help them reach their God-given potential, even it means preparing them to replace you. It may also mean that you prepare them to leave your organization for better opportunities elsewhere -- perhaps even with your competitors.


Thanks to Steve Smiley for pass along these notes with me about six years on Coach Buzz Williams

Success is found in your daily agenda

“The general is the only one that loves the killer.”
Your Head Coach needs the killers
Be a killer!
Be a killer every day
Be ready to grind and work
That must be your mentality if you want to be elite

You will have a lid on your success if you are not willing to sacrifice

What are you doing today?
What are you doing tomorrow?
Have you learned all the steps on your journey?
Or are you just going through the journey and not learning?

What separates you from everyone else?

Question to ask yourself: Can you sign the players on your team now?
You better be able to if you want your Head Coach to hire you as an assistant.

Do what you’re supposed to do, every day.

You conversations are your personal advertisers!
Don’t ever talk down to someone.

Always (ALWAYS) talk UP to people.
Introduce yourself, have confidence, and make an impression.
They are going to form an impression of you anyways, so control that impression!

You have 2 things you can change in your life:
1) The books you read
2) The people you meet

Study those books, and build those relationships!

Study both success and study failures!
At what point did they fail?
Why did they fail?

Walk around like you have a black eye every day!
Be humble

The game is pure inside the lines!
When the ball goes up, you can’t hide.
You better be ready, because the game is coming.

God blesses the intent of our heart.
Be a servant to the staff.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


1. Conditioning
You should never be beaten because your team was not in better condition than your opponent.

2. Drills
They should be fundamental, repetitive, and progressive

3. Balance
This refers to shooting balance, team balance (all five players included in system), floor balance, defensive balance and rebound balance.

4. Elements of offense
Simplicity (execution over surprise)
Flexibility (must have ability to adjust during the game)
Continuity (important when play does not lead to a shot)
Tempo (the team that controls the tempo of a game will most likely emerge as the victor)
Correlation to Defense (certain defenses lead into certain offenses better)


1. Attack: Whether it’s coming off the rim or out of the net, they are attacking and getting the ball down the floor as quickly as they can to put pressure on the defense. They want GREAT shots early in the clock. Few firmly believes that an open three early is often as good of a look as you’ll get all possession.

2. Get to the Free Throw Line: The most underrated aspect of offensive basketball as roughly 25% points scored in division 1 basketball are from the free throw stripe. They have 2 goals surrounding this: make more free throws than the other team attempts and to be in the bonus by the 2nd media timeout (8 minutes in)

3. Limit Turnovers: Worst thing you can do offensively is turn it over because it allows you no chance for an offensive rebound or a chance to go to the FT line.


You can’t be tired and you can’t be bored. It’s not easy getting better. It takes work and discipline. We have a choice of pain of discipline or pain of regret.

Workout discipline:
•Maximum intensity on every repetition.
•Machine like mechanics
•Focus on every repetition - we’re going to take one shot 500 times.

•Becoming a good shooter is lots of reps.
•Becoming a great shooter is lots of reps at game speed from game spots at a game angle.

Theory of two:
•It takes two minutes to show any skill.
•It takes two weeks doing it every single day to get comfortable with the skill.
•It takes two months working on a skill everyday to get good enough to execute in a game.

Shooting form:
•Be ready on the catch.
•Ten toes to the rim (if you have ten toes to the rim you will be square to the basket).
•Only change his form if the shot doesn’t go in. Make him the best worst form shooter.
•Two second rule: As soon as it’s 1 cm into our players fingers I’m counting one two. Players don’t have a great understanding of game speed when working out.
•The better the shooter you are, the better your shot fake needs to be. Definition of a shot fake is a real shot that you don’t shoot.

•Shoot free-throws until you miss, and count how many in a row.
•Players tend to fall forward rather than backward.
Give your players statistical feedback:
•When you chart your players’ shots give them percentages for free-throws, lay-ups, jump shots and three-point shots.
•Break it down so they know what to work on.
•Players can be receptive to stats.

Make time to practice shooting:
•You will be surprised how little your guys shoot during practice when you exclude shooting drills.
•We recorded how many shots our players took in a 2.5 hour practice:
•Paul Pierce – 16.
•Ricky Davis – 13.
•Al Jefferson – 7.
•During an hour pickup we shoot on average 12.8 shots per player.
•Average number of shots taken in a game is 16 per player.

My goal right now is to get everything you can teach in the game down to three bullet points. It makes it easier for players to take in:

For shooting:
•Perfect feet.
•Ready for catch.
•Perfect follow through.

Coaches must maintain their intensity everyday:
•A coach can never get bored.
•The intensity that a coach brings to the floor helps the player have a more intense workout.
•Coaches have body language too. Be careful of your body language, and how it could be interpreted by your players.

Three things skill development can do for you:
•It can create a career.
•It can improve a career.

•It can revitalize a career.


If you ever heard Coach Don Meyer speak, he would at some point ask you, “who’s running your locker room?”  It is in incredibly important question.  While coaches have an opportunity to lead their team during practice sessions, team meetings and games, it is all the time away from the coaches where leadership is most valuable.  I learned this at LSU while coaching Temeka Johnson who did an amazing job of leading our team the 21 hours out of the day when we weren’t around them.  

The locker room, or anyplace away from the court and the coaches, can be a place to strengthen and secure your culture, or it can be a toxic area that create cancers within your team. They key is being able to find the right team members, educating them on leadership, and then giving them a venue to which they positively effect their teammates.

We are not talking about "captains" necessarily.  As Coach Meyer would also point out, "you can pick captains, but you can't pick leaders."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski says, “The single most important ingredient after you get the talent is internal leadership. It’s not the coaches’ as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team would normally set itself.”

The key is getting the players to buy in to the culture and philosophy that you as a staff feel is essential for growth and success.  To do that, you need to create at atmosphere of ownership for the players.  As Tom Izzo says: “A player-coached team is always better than a coach-coached team.”

One of my staff responsibilities at Texas A&M is to head up our “Leadership Council.”  It is a group of our student-athletes that meet weekly to discuss the elements of leadership and how we can best apply them to improving our team.  Often we spend time working on basketball skills as coaches — shooting, passing, dribbling and rebounding — but not leadership.  I often hear coaches talk about how they lack leadership on their team and I always respond, “are you teaching it?”

I got the idea of having a Leadership Council watching and studying how Nick Saban, then the head football coach at LSU, created one and utilized in his program.  I'm a big believer that leadership is a best executed with a group of core leaders as opposed to a single person.

This biggest part of our Leadership Council is not me preaching but me listening a lot.  We have six members this year on our council and my number one goal is to create ownership of our culture with our team.  It’s their vehicle…they have the keys…now where and how are we going to drive it.  Their voice, thoughts and ideas are critical to developing successful leaders — not just for our basketball team but for later in life.
Our objectives with the council include:

#1 To develop and improve upon our leadership as individuals.

#2 To create a leadership culture that will positively impact our team.

“Leadership isn’t a difference maker, it’s THE difference maker.” -Urban Meyer

Last year’s council included Taylor Cooper, Alyssa Michalke, Curtyce Knox, Jasmine Lumpkin, Anriel Howard and Danni Williams.

And our council last year was been outstanding.  The previous year we had lost three starters — all who spent some time in the WNBA.  We lost the SEC 6th Person Player of the Year and our top post player off the bench.  Coaches and sportswriters alike pegged us to finish in the lower half of the SEC.  Terms like “rebuilding” were used often.  Yet there we were finishing in the top half of the SEC, winning two games in the SEC tournament, owner of 21 regular season victories and a dance ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

And a big reason had to be the job our council has done in communicating with our team and providing a great example.  The season can be a grind and the response of a team to the difficulty and adversity that is face is essential.  We talk about making sure that our leadership council wins the locker room.  The leadership is magnified significantly AWAY from practices and games.

We meet weekly in our conference room with the letters “Leadership Council” above us.  In the past, we have had individual photos of each member of the council.  This year, we exchanged that for a team photo with the quote “Life’s most urgent question is what are you doing for others,” by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Learning to lead is not an easy thing to do.  It takes time and understanding of what goes into it.  The reason most reject opportunities to lead is because of the great responsibility that comes with it.

We tell them to follow the words of Jim Rohn: “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.  Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills.  Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

The first thing we do each year is create a Mission Statement.  This year our council came up with the following:

By serving selflessly as leaders, setting an example worth following, and establishing a positive culture, we will develop strong, confident leaders capable of overcoming adversity and challenges in pursuit of their goals.

One of the things we do each we is discuss passages from “The Daily Reader” by John Maxwell.  I am always blown away with each our student-athletes and what they bring away from the daily reading that they choose to share.

Last year we asked our council to then go into detail about how we can put our mission statement to work and, lead by Alyssa, they came up with the following:

Serving Selflessly as Leaders

◄Listen and understand the needs of our teammates

◄Provide mentorship and guidance to underclassmen and new-comers

◄Praise our teammates in public, while saving criticism for private conversations

◄Always put others first, no matter the situation

◄Setting an Example Worth Following

◄Have a positive attitude at all times

◄Body language, tone, execution during practice, etc.

Take coaching and criticism well

◄Use it as an opportunity to grow and develop into a better person and player, not a chance to talk back to a coach or teammate

◄Exhibit a strong desire to improve with every rep, every drill, every practice

◄Encourage and support our teammates who are facing adversity

◄Behave appropriately, respectfully, and maturely at all times, including road trips, study hall, team dinners, etc.

◄Be respectful and appreciative to those people serving us (managers, practice players, coaches, waiters, staff, etc.)

◄Be a quiet professional, but know when to speak up to make a point
Establishing a Positive Culture

◄Hold each other accountable to high standards, knowing that our example and our choices carry considerable weight

◄Call each other out when we’re not practicing well, when we miss a team function (weights, study hall)

◄Challenge and push each other to become better individuals first, better athletes second

◄Be firm, fair, and consistent, both when praising and holding our teammates accountable

◄Don’t encourage, tolerate, enable, or cause behavior that is detrimental to our team

Developing Strong, Confident Leaders

◄Challenge others to step outside their comfort zone in pursuit of personal development and improvement

◄Set an example of strength, confidence, and maturity when faced with challenges

◄Provide opportunities for others to showcase their strengths and abilities

◄Of course, as in the game of basketball itself, game plans are important but they are insignificant if not followed by execution.

What an amazing document!  I’m proud of them for their vision but more importantly for their effort they’ve put forth in executing that vision and then following through with their execution.

Thank you Leadership Council for a job well done — and more importantly, leaving a legacy for this year's group.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”