Thursday, March 22, 2018


I don’t take lightly the responsibility of writing a book review — I know how valuable money and time is to us all.  But "Getting To Know Us” by Seth Davis is one of the best books I’ve read in the past several year for our profession.  Davis picks eight outstanding coaches and dedicated a chapter to their journey.  Each chapter alone is worth the price of the book.  We learn from these Hall of Fame coaches the struggles they went through, and in some cases still battle, to maintain a level of excellence.

You will learn that each coach is different in so many ways yet each successful -- which is one of the most important lessons we can learn in doing what we do.

There is insight into coaching, teaching, recruiting, motivating, leadership and overcoming adversity.  You read about the battle to balance your career and your family.  The stories from the coaches themselves, the players that played for them and assistants that worked for them are priceless.

Above all, the title "Getting To Us" implies, we learn the methods and philosophies of how they turn players into teams.

Below I’m listing a short take away from each chapter but I can say strongly enough that this is a book you need to purchase and when you do, break out the red pen or the highlighter.

Urban Meyer

The take away from this chapter was the importance of having a shared vision with everyone involved in your program.  As Tom Herman said:

“The message never deviates with him.  Everybody from the strength staff to the video staff to the equipment staff to academics and nutrition — everybody who toughes the players there at Ohio State gets the same message and the same expectations and the same goals.  I think that’s very rare.”

Tom Izzo

We often talk about the importance of communicating and connecting with our players and it was obviously a huge priority for Coach Izzo.

When Michigan State was building a new office and practice facility for its basketball teams in 2002, Izzo had a novel idea: He wanted his office to have no door. “I thought it would set a tone,” he says. “But I couldn’t do it because of fires codes.

“There were multiple times after a game when I would text him at one or two in the morning.  He would always text me right back,” said Denzel Valentine.  “From day one, he creates a family atmosphere and makes it known that he cares about you as in individual.”

Mike Krzyzewski

As a disciple of Don Meyer, we were taught to plan your week on Sunday and the next day the night before.  It was interesting to read Coach K’s view on this.

Davis wrote: To this day, before he goes to bed each night, he maps out his plan for the next day.

“I think it comes form West Point, where you lay you’re your uniform the night before.  It helps you make effective use of your time. It gets me excited because I’m going to do something I’ve planned to do, what I love to do, and it’s different every day.”

Jim Harbaugh

The very first paragraph of this chapter grabbed me and detailed how competitors want to be in the mix regardless of their role:

Davis writes: He couldn’t take not competing,  It killed him to stand still.  So what if he was a rookie quarterback with a bright future?  He needed to get into the game — now.  So Jim Harbaugh went to his head coach with a strange request: Put me in on special teams so I can cover punts and kickoffs.  “My first reaction was, ‘Are you crazy?” Mike Ditka told me.  “Be he was serious.  He just wanted to contribute."

And Ditka actually used him for a short time on his special teams.

Jim Boeheim

One of the things that Davis brought out about Boeheim was how he handled wins and losses:

“It’s all about losing.  When we win, I’m pretty happy for about an hour, and then I’m thinking about the next game.  When we lose, I’m thinking about that game until we get to the next one.”

Geno Auriemma

In this section, there was a fascinating insight about Geno on self-doubt that helps motivate him to be the best and in turn push his team to greatness.

“I live with self-doubt every day, so I can emphasize with the players I’m coaching,” Auriemma says.  “I know these guys are filled with self-doubt.  How can they not be?  You’re putting yourself out there in front of thousands of people.  You’re being judged and you’re eighteen, nineteen years old.  So you’re thinking, 'Am I good enough to do this?  What happens if I play shitty?'  So this is part of daily life.  I try to tell them, ‘It’s good for you to have self-doubt, because it forces you to look at yourself objectively.”

Doc Rivers

Something profound in this chapter was what his father would always tell him growing up:  “There will be no victims in this house.”

There was also a key portion of this section where Doc talked about what he had learned from Pat Riley including:

“I learned from Riley that the key to coaching is to get a group of players to believe there’s one agenda, and that you have the same agenda as them.  If you can do that, your players are going to do whatever they can for you.”

Brad Stevens

This may have been the best chapter in the book in terms of my take aways.  David detailed how Stevens and his philosophy evolved including a leadership seminar class he took his senior year that introduced him to the philosophy of Robert K. Greenleaf.

“I remember thinking, this makes sense. Do you want to be around somebody who lifts you up, or somebody that breaks you down?  That’s why whenever people ask me what’s your leadership style, my answer is ‘It should be you.’  There’s an authenticity that is needed for leadership.  If it’s not real, then it’s not going to work.”

Dabo Swinney

Dabo’s story is an amazing one — from his walking on at Alabama (he called it “crawling on) to his leaving football in a variety of jobs until finding his way back to the profession.

One good insight to his message is the utilization of repetition in story telling:
Davis wrote: He is a meticulous planner who tells the same stories, uses the same phrases, and harps on the same messages, even if his guys have heard it all a thousand times. 

“That’s something I learned from Coach Stallings,” says Swinney.  “I spent seven years with him, and every year I’d be like, ‘Here comes the Mama Don’t Fret  story.  Here come the Ben Hogan story.’ That’s how he protected his culture.  When you say it enough so your players can repeat it, that’s when you know they’re getting it.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Maybe one of the most unglamorous parts of basketball is rebounding yet there is a direct correlation between rebounding and winning. Rebounding is also a great way for a player to create a niche for herself on a team. Maybe you can’t dribble the ball exceptionally well or possibly you’re not a good shooter – but if you live on the boards, the coach will find playing time for you.

First and foremost, let’s understand what a rebound represents – a possession! That’s critically important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a defensive rebound or an offensive rebound, you have just given your team a possession that they may not have otherwise received.

Excellent rebounding teams often win because they usually have a greater number of possessions than their opponent. It means they have more opportunities to scores while their opponents have less.

Excellent rebounding teams usually win because they shoot a higher percentage. They shoot better because they rebound which leads to fast break opportunities. They shoot better because they get second chance opportunities on the offensive glass which often leads to a follow up shot from close in.

Excellent rebounding teams usually win because they hold their opponents to a lower field goal percentage. They do this by keeping them getting out and running consistently. They also take away the second chance points on the opponent’s offensive end.

Excellent rebounding teams usually win because they get to the free throw line more. They get to the free throw line more because of extra possessions they create for themselves as well as the ones they deny their opponent. How many times do you see a fouling situation occur on a offensive rebound put back?

Excellent rebound teams usually win because they have more heart. It is heart that is a primary ingredient in good rebounding and if you have a big heart on the glass, then it is probably going to spill over to the defensive end of the court as well as the offensive end.

A big part of rebounding is obviously technique and certainly we are going to talk about methods of rebounding – both individually as well as a team. We will delve into offensive and defensive rebounding and the various methods that are used for maximum results. But first and foremost, we should look at the make-up of a great rebounder. The individual that excels in rebounding has a special blend of physical and mental characteristics that allows her help her team on the boards.

A good rebounder is a well conditioned athlete.
Rebounding is one of the most tiring phases of basketball if a player is truly committed to rebounding. The pace of the game already makes is a demanding game but the good rebounder is going hard to the glass on every shot – and over the course of the game, that’s a lot of shots. So the good rebounder is going to understand the importance of conditioning. She is going to work hard with the team during conditioning and probably do a little on her own as well. She must be tireless in her approach.

A good rebounder is physically strong.
Because the good rebounder knows she must sometime move through people as well as over them, she can appreciate the work she must do in the weight room. This doesn’t mean she has to be big and muscle bound but she knows she must have the strength necessary to hold off her opponent when she is blocking out. She’s going to work hard in the weight room, more than the average player and she’s going to do the extra push-ups. Strength is important on the boards and there no reason in today’s game that she can’t improve in that area.

A good rebounder is mentally and physically tough.
Going to the boards is a very demanding job. It gets extremely physical inside with a lot of bumping and pushing. Some players don’t mind going to the boards occasionally, but the good rebounder is tough and not only does she not mind the contact, but she relishes it. She loves not only to receive the contact but likes to dish a little out as well. Mentally she knows the importance of rebounding and she blocks out any aches and pains. Mentally she also makes sure the contact doesn’t go too far. She wants to bang with her opponent but not to the extent that she draws a foul.

Good rebounders are smart players.
You have to be smart to read the where the shot may fall off…especially one shot by your opponent. The smart player can anticipate when and where her own team will shoot. She makes mental notes on opponents and understands their tendencies in terms of how she best get around them and get to the backboard.

Good rebounders have a rebounding mentality.
I’ve never seen a good rebounder that didn’t think every shot was a miss. When the ball is shot, they know that ball is not going in and they follow it’s path and try to make a read as to where it will come off. Part of that special rebounding mentality is they have a great hunger to rebound. The good rebounder loves to rebound more than she loves to score.

Good rebounders are relentless.
Good rebounders have a strong desire to rebound – they are relentless. They go to the boards to try and grab the rebound. If they can’t grab the rebound, they are going to work as hard as they can to try and get their hand on the ball where the can tip to themselves or to a teammate. If they get bumped, they recover and keep going. If they get knocked down, they hustle up. They are not going to let anyone or anything stop from going to the glass.

Good rebounders love rebounding.
I've learned this from having the blessing of coaching one of the best rebounders I've been around - Anriel Howard.  This past season, and it's not quite over, she set the Texas A&M single season rebounding record.  Despite only being a junior, she has become the all-time career rebounding here in Aggieland.  She also owns the NCAA Tournament record for rebounds in a game -- 27!  And, please pay close attention -- she is only 5 foot, 11 inches tall.  But if you watch her play and see her grab a rebound in traffic, or chase one down you will see the biggest smile on her face.  She genuinely loves rebounding.

Coach Don Meyer always had a saying, "It's not what you teach, it's what you emphasize."  All coaches will readily agree to the importance of rebounding.  But how strongly are you emphasizing it on a daily basis?

One year at LSU, to commit to emphasizing rebounding, we decided to take the games leading rebounding to the post-game press conference after every game whether the press requested them or not.  The player could've shot 2 for 10 from the field and turned it over 4 times but if she let the team with 13 rebounds that game she was going to the press room.  It was are way of letting our team (and the media and fans) know that rebounding matters in a big way.

Do you break it down in drill from every day?
Are you pointing it out and holding players accountable in practice every day?
Do you have rebounding stats that players can see on a daily basis?
Do you watch specific video clips on rebounding?

As a coaching staff, what are you doing every day to commit to improving your rebounding?