Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Is Winning Really Important?

I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I have been fortunate to talk at two coaching clinics and been the guest on 4 podcasts discussing what I've been doing the last 890 days. As most of you know or if this is your first time coming across this website, I was hired to be the first Head Coach in school history.
Fast Forward to today. We are entering our third year. We have had success that for most people probably is a surprise considering we opened without a senior class and with only 2 players that had been on a Varsity roster.

Understand this;

I know a lot of successful programs that don't win. I know a lot of programs that win that aren't really successful. Success can be defined a lot of ways.

My definition of success is this checklist: 

Which gets me to my question, is winning really important?
At any school across the nation, I often wonder how much emphasis is put on winning? If you are the Head Coach of any sport, is winning part of your job?

We all know of jobs where it doesn't matter who is coaching, for whatever reason they just can't win. We all know of jobs where as long as the bus arrives they are probably going to win, even if a toddler is in the first seat.

Here are some reasons that Winning is becoming harder and in one case a must for your job.
Coaches are getting out of Coaching for a three main reasons: Finances, Parent Problems & Unrealistic Expectations.

1. Team sports have become individualized
There are three words that get abused in sports. They are Coach, Exposure, and Elite. Two of those are easy to define. Not everyone is a Coach and not everyone is Elite. Exposure is the buzz word as to why your child isn't getting a scholarship offer. "They haven't got the exposure they need." Then that falls onto playing for the wrong Coach. blah blah blah...I could go on and on.  Here is the truest truth you'll hear about a Basketball Parent.
If you're a parent, read that and said "not me" you are lying. Parents are paying their child to score points. It happens on every level. Parents tweet their child's stat line and attach every team, scout they can to get a click. (weird how when they go scoreless in a game that doesn't get tweeted)
Parents want their kid to be a star. They want the pride that goes along with it. It's a tough situation for Coaches on every level. Coaches want winners. Helping your team win is a great way to gain exposure. Parents and Players have to be willing to sacrifice a little to gain a lot.

2. Did you just sign your last Coaching contract?
The top ten mistakes Coaches make is a list put together by Don Showalter. It came up as a topic at a 11pm Coaches Clinic at Snow Valley one summer. "Taking a bad job" is one of the ten mistakes and could be the biggest. 
DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look past the money. Is this your last job? Why did the previous Coach leave? I'm all for Coaches being confident but I know there are places you don't go if you're a basketball Coach in Arkansas. I know the football jobs you don't take either.
Taking a bad job can end your career. You have to understand the situation going in. Are there Administration problems? Parent Problems? Does this job come with a Principal, Athletic Director or Superintendent that interferes with your ability to work? How is the community support? School Board?
Some places expect you to compete for titles when you barely have enough talent to win an inner squad game. You aren't going to win the Kentucky Derby with a Donkey. EVER.

3. Winning with the right Players
Sometimes winning isn't enough. You have to win with the Right Players. You know, the School board member's kid, The parent that is the loudest in the stands. They are "happy" the team is winning but would be happier if the team was winning and their child was the star. 
 (maybe the reason the team is winning is their child doesn't play much or isn't the star?)
I know of a Coach who's team won the state title and when their contract came up the vote was 3-2 to rehire. Guess who the 2 No Votes came from? Board Members whose kids didn't play much. 
Side note: That Coach left and that team has only been to the State tourney once since.

4. Winning doesn't Pay
In a lot of districts, winning is expected but not appreciated. Appreciated monetarily that is. A lot of that is districts are financially unable to do it for a multitude of reasons. Education is the one profession where you are rewarded for longevity financially instead of current productivity. Think about the time spent, divide your salary....actually don't because it's going to depress you. 

What I'm getting at is use YOUR time wisely. Keyword is YOUR. Coaches are paid for days, not HOURS. The reason your team is losing has nothing to do with the fact you aren't working 22 hours a day. I know a lot of really good Xs and Os Coaches that lose to a Coach with better Johns and Joes who is posting pictures enjoying their weekend while you're in an office trying to figure it out.
Let me solve it for you: THEY HAVE BETTER PLAYERS.

So how do you find out the value of winning at your job? Be Truthful. Ask questions. Be prepared for tough answers and be prepared to give tough answers too.

For me, I can answer the question like this. 

My answer is yes. I believe you are expected to win games. My hope for you is that you have administrators that (1) help and not hinder you in your mission and (2) understand not overlook your situation.

 Winning is Really important to me as long as...
(1) I can win with good kids
(2) a clear conscience about our program 
(3) still enjoy my life outside the gym 
and the most important 
(4) not sacrificing my love for the game
     -meaning when this feels like a "job" it's time to either change locations or maybe professions. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Organizing Your Fast Draw Library

Ever come across a piece of paper that has a play or drill drawn and you have NO IDEA what it is? Just me, hmm, well then you're all better than me and can stop reading now. If in the slim chance you are like me and write down plays without writing descriptions and worry that you just wasted the greatest play ever you need Fast Draw. Want to know an even worse feeling? Losing a game because you didn't have a play and then finding it the next day in your Fast Draw Library.

I'm going to talk to you today about how to organize your Library. Granted, I'm passionate about this. That's a nice way of saying I'm obsessive about it.

Fast Draw already organizes by season which I love. My library is broken down like this. I have 31 Teams. Teams are the Coaches I've gotten things from. If I have multiple things from you like Don Showalter or Tates Locke you have your own category. If I have just a few things you are grouped into Various Coaches.

My Series are a little more detailed. I have 115 Series, with the plans for more. This is where you can really get control of your library. <WARNING> Do not start on this process unless you have time to complete. This is a great pre-season or post-season activity.  My series are broken down like this: 41 for drills, 64 for offense, 6 for scouting, 1 for clinic notes, 1 for miscellaneous and 2 for defense.

Here are the three things that I feel are important with your Fast Draw Library.

1. Talk to yourself
When you diagram a play, talk in out on each frame. Be detailed. Think about explaining to a 9 year old. Don't assume that you will remember it later. Better to type now than to try and figure it out later.

2. Copy Plays
If you open my library, you'd see something like this.
Offense- M2M Set- Ball Screen Wing

What I'm doing now is copying that play and adding a RESULTS series. Looking for a 3 point shot in the corner? Copy every play you have that finishes with that and put in that series. I will have a RESULT - Corner 3 - vs M2M, 1-3-1, 2-3, etc... This will eliminate so much time later and get me and you what you are looking for.

To save time you have to spend time.

3. Scout Your Opponents
I have 6 series set apart for scouting. I haven't found very many Coaches that scrap everything. Coaches are always adding but rarely do they not keep something, especially something that worked. If you watched the NBA playoffs, Coach Brad Stevens used a sideline play with the Celtics he ran at Butler.  Coaches change jobs, they don't change who they are that much.  I scout like this.

Team Name - Coach's Name - Name of Play (If I know it) or Description (Box Set)
Play Details - Game it came from , Film time, Result of play

We create a playbook for each opponent. We have a copy with us on the bench. Some Coaches I have multiple playbooks on. If they get us on a set play at halftime, our staff looks for it in the playbook and we try to not allow it to happen again.

If you have any questions about how I use Fast Draw and Fast Model please contact me at

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Anatomy of a Perfect Timeout

We all do it. We've all done it. We will all do it in the future. We waste a timeout. Waste in the fact that we don't get the information we need to get to our players. A lot of this can be because of various reasons. Would you believe me if I told you it could be avoided? You can actually script how a timeout should go? Let's breakdown a timeout from 30,000 feet and then take a closer look.

What's the purpose of a timeout? The simple answer is to stop the game. But what is the purpose? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to make a point to your players, the officials or even worse the crowd? Is it strictly for show?

Now ask yourself this. Are you a time out hoarder or a spender? Ever lose a close game and had 2 timeouts left? Ever lost a game because you were out of timeouts with 4:00 left?

There are 2 types of timeouts.
They are: Angry or Strategic. Inside those two types are subtopics.
Angry - At Players or At Officials
Strategic - Make a Change or Stop Momentum

Types of Timeouts:

The Angry Timeout
We've all seen it and some of us have done it. Something bad happens and the Coach calls timeout with no other intention except complaining. Heck, I've done it so I'm talking to myself too. I'm also not promising I will stop doing it. But really, what does it accomplish? Did it help? Sometimes anger is like vomit. It only helps the one doing it. Sometimes it makes it worse. Like pouring alcohol on a scrape.

When you're angry at a player, why not just substitute the next dead ball? I know someone of you just said to yourself "Because I want them out of the game right then!" Some of you are thinking "Yep, exactly what I was thinking." Now you're wondering how I'm in your thoughts. Wouldn't it be cool if Morgan Freeman's voice was the voice inside your head. After reading that, the voice you're reading this to yourself in now is Morgan Freeman's voice. HA!  Alright-back to basketball.  When we spend a timeout on removing a player we've got to make sure we get a positive out of it. That's the hard part.

When you use a timeout angry at an official, one of two things are going to happen. You're either going to get stuck with a technical or the next call is going against you because you tried to show them up. I'll address how to handle this later.

The Strategic Timeout
Make a Change
Rarely are we as Coaches successful with a whiteboard to court change that hasn't been addressed in practice. I can think of a handful of times it worked and hundreds of times it didn't. If you're fortunate enough to have a great staff working with you, have them be working on the plan while you're coaching the game. Then at a timeout or between quarters you can make your adjustments.

Momentum Swing
What is your stoppage point? Do you have one? We have a 6-0 play. Something we feel we can get a layup or fouled to stop a 6-0 run. If it goes past that we will call a timeout. I HATE calling timeouts here but I'm getting better about it. We all know it's a game of runs and they will happen. I'm trying to keep my stubbornness from letting a 8-0 run turn into a 14-0.

During those timeouts, You have to know what your team needs. Do they need an a@* chewing, do they need reassurance, maybe even a joke? Know your personnel (another topic) and what they need.

Alright, so now we've defined timeouts, lets breakdown a perfect timeout. In order to have a great timeout, I believe you have to have roles and spots defined. Who's doing what and where everyone is standing & sitting.

In a :30 second timeout, You have time for few precise instructions. Make a sub. Call a play. Not draw one up. You don't have time.
Here's a tip. In a :30 second timeout, the players on the bench can't come to the floor. It doesn't mean you can't bring your huddle to them. This way if you make a call for the next few possessions and know you might have to sub your subs know what is going on.

A :60 second timeout is a little different. I like a chair. I read something about being eye-level when speaking so this puts me eye level with the players.
Here we go...
Time out called
Chair placed.
Coaches talk 7:10 seconds AWAY from the huddle
Decisions made
First Horn

Depending on where you are I like Players in different areas. If there is room behind the bench. I want players or a buffer from the crowd for different reasons. Assistant Coaches on the ends of the huddle to keep eyes engaged and to have input.

Take some time to talk about timeouts with your staff and your team. Practice them before the season.

What I learned in August

I had a great month of August. It is my birthday month. It is the month Hayden moved into his dorm for his Freshman year. I got to speak at another USA Basketball Academy, this time in Cleveland, Ohio. Here are a few quick thoughts from the month...

  1. 41 was pretty easy. I had a great surprise dinner with friends and a pretty relaxing month.
  2. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must see. I was delayed leaving so I took an Uber over and spent 2.5 hours. I could have spent 8 hours in there. 
  3. Got to meet Pop Kwasniak and hang out with him and my buddy Babe. I love talking to older Coaches. Guys that paved the way for us. Tedd has coached 51 years. Seen a lot. Great time with them.
  4. Listened to some great speakers and saw some friends. The game has brought a lot of great people into my life.
  5. Leaving your son 4 hours away is a weird feeling. Sad, Proud, Excited. He's a good kid. Going to do great things.
  6. Professional Development is a lot like taking a shopping cart to the shin
  7. Trying to Change the way people think is exhausting.
  8. I fall in love with what USA Basketball is doing more everyday. 
  9. I've had more phone conversations with H since he left than we had in the previous 3 years.
  10. Focus your energy.