Here is an update on last week’s blog, which if you have been following for the past month, can probably agree it would make for an excellent PBS after school special… “The Roller Coaster Life of a High School Strength Coach: The Alan Stein Story.”
Our leading scorer, Terrence Ross, who withdrew from Montrose upon our arrival back from Florida, has re-enrolled in his old high school (Jefferson HS in Portland, OR). He is petitioning the state for an exemption to allow him to finish the season with them. If that goes through, he will be eligible to suit up early next week and help them pursue a state championship. Is it just me, or is there something monumentally wrong with this?
Due to the inclement weather, we did not make the trip to New Jersey for the Nike Primetime Shoot-out. It was very disappointing to not have the opportunity to play against legendary coach Bob Hurley and his high octane St. Anthony’s HS team. I had been looking forward to that game since our schedule was released. I have so much respect for Coach Hurley; it would have been an honor to play him.
So now my anticipation in seeing how our guys will respond to our back-to-back losses will have to wait until tomorrow when we play Ballou HS in College Park in the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland.
We have not played a game since January 30th. This past Monday marked only our third practice in the month of February! In hindsight, I firmly believe the extended time off from the snow has been both a gift and a curse. On one hand, it has given our guys some much needed time away… to reflect on (and hopefully mature from) our recent adversities. On the other hand, the only way you can get the taste of losing out of your mouth is to win… which means our back-to-back losses in Orlando have been lingering for nearly three weeks. We are ready to play!
All of that is behind us now. No sense in living in the past. It is time for a fresh a start.
Pause. Deep breath. Smile.
This blog is the first of a two part series on a subject that I hold near and dear to my heart:
“Traits and Habits of Successful Basketball Coaches”
I am a coach to the core. I just happen to coach the X’s and O’s of strength & conditioning instead of the X’s and O’s of basketball. I am passionate about coaching and have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to becoming the absolute best coach I can be. I have read hundreds of books, watched dozens of DVDs, and attended countless coaching clinics. I have subscribed to just about every basketball coaching resource available. I have filled binder after binder with hand scribbled notes. My commitment to my own professional development is at times, overwhelming. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it! Coaching is what makes me tick.
I have been extremely fortunate in my career to have had access to some of the best basketball coaches in history. I have spent 7 years under the direct tutelage of Coach Stu Vetter. I have had lengthy conversations with Coach K, Jay Wright, Rick Barnes, Tubby Smith, and Gary Williams. I have had dinner with Hubie Brown, Bob Hurley, and Rick Majerus. I have spoken at clinics with Don Meyer, Chuck Daly, Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, and Billy Donovan. I have attended camps run by Dean Smith and Morgan Wootten. I have assisted camps with Tates Locke and Kevin Eastman. I have worked alongside numerous coaches at the McDonalds All-American games, Jordan All-American Classic games, and the Nike Skills Academies. And I did my absolute best to soak up as much knowledge as possible from each of these iconic figures. And please know, I don’t mention these names to brag, but more to give thanks for the impact they have had on my development. And while I have mentioned several high profile names, I can’t even begin to compile a list of every coach who has helped me, taught me, inspired me… and left their mark on me. And don’t get it twisted; it’s not about the names. Some of the finest coaches I have ever been around are not necessarily famous… but are remarkable coaches, teachers, and motivators. I have built some incredible friendships along the way, and as I mentioned in last week’s blog, I am eternally grateful to be a part of the coaching fraternity.
With that said, I wanted to do a blog that highlighted some of the things I have learned in the past 10 years as well as share a handful of resources I have collected along the way. I will elaborate at the end of this post, but all you have to do is email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com and I will happily send you several powerful “coaching nuggets.”
This blog series will be structured a little different than my previous posts (change is good, right?). This past December I did a phone interview with my friend Andy Louder from Hoop Skills Academy (www.HoopSkills.com). The topic was “Traits and Habits of Successful Basketball Coaches.” What follows is an edited transcript from that interview. I will post the remainder of the interview next week in the second segment.
Andy Louder: The first question I have deals with a broad topic of coaching in general. When I look at exceptional, top notch, hall-of-fame caliber coaches, I generally see three things they possess. They’ve got exceptional leadership skills, they’re great motivators, and they’ve got immense basketball knowledge. Now for a beginning coach, obviously it’s very hard to acquire all three of these things at once. Which of these areas do you recommend newer, inexperienced coaches focus on the most?
Alan Stein: While coaches wear many hats, and their job is all encompassing, I completely agree with you as far as narrowing it down to those three areas. It is difficult to pick which one should ultimately take precedence, but I’d have to lean towards leadership. I think great coaching always begins with leadership. As a coach at any level, you’re basically the CEO of a small company (your team) and it all starts with you and the environment and culture you create. It starts with the habits you instill and the standards you establish with everyone in your program. All three of the areas you mentioned require distinctly different skill sets. I think especially for newer coaches, the Xs and Os will come over time and through experience. Growth in coaching is learning through trial and error and seeing which things work and which things don’t. The basketball portion can be learned. You can attend clinics and get DVDs to pick up the basketball drills, concepts, and sets. So I suggest focusing on the leadership aspect and developing a strong culture with your program. You also need to work hard to develop a quality relationship with your players and staff. You must build mutual trust and respect. You need to work hard to be the type of leader your players want to follow. Remember, as a coach, it all starts with you. Coach Don Meyer once said, “An army of asses led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by an ass.”
Andy Louder: Very good. I think the first thing most new coaches gravitate towards is the Xs and Os. They think they’ve got to be a wizard on the court and know all the right plays. I agree with you Alan, I think it’s more about taking control of your team, being a leader, and getting everybody to focus on the same goal. OK, next question. Basketball practices are obviously a very important component to success. How would you recommend maximizing practice time?
Alan Stein: From a coaching standpoint, whether you’re a new coach or you’ve been a coach for 30 years, it’s very important you develop your basketball coaching philosophy and you need to stick to your convictions. You need to be authentic to yourself and your personality. Learn from other coaches, but don’t ever try to be another coach. You need to have a priority list of what’s important to you and your program. You need to have a philosophy from a leadership standpoint point as well as an Xs and Os standpoint. What do you believe in? What are your values? You have to be consistent in what you preach. Every program is going to be a little bit different in what they prioritize. If you’re going to be a running team, constantly looking to press and fast break, then that needs to be a high priority during practice (as does your teams’ conditioning level). You get what you emphasize! I also recommend being as time efficient as possible. If you can efficiently get in everything you need in an hour and a half… then don’t drag the practice out to two hours. Focus more on the intensity of effort and the quality of effort as opposed to the quantity effort. This is really important towards the end of the season to alleviate both physical and mental burn-out. At Montrose we are very big in standardization and consistency. All of our practices follow a similar template and a pre-planned practice schedule. We work on different things every day, but the template is always the same. There is always a player led structured warm-up followed by “pre-practice,” which is 10 minutes of individual, position specific skill work where we divide the bigs and the guards. Then we have a 3-minute team meeting at the jump circle where we share a quote of the day, we have an offensive emphasis of the day (ex. “penetrate the gaps against a zone defense”), and a defensive emphasis of the day (ex. “close out on all shooters with a high hand”). Then we break in unison and usually start practice with one or two of our fast break drills. This gets the players running and communicating and sets the tone for the rest of practice. At Montrose, we hold our kids accountable for everything they do during practice. We chart missed layups, free throws, charges taken, and dives for loose balls. At the end of practice, there are rewards and penalties for those types of plays. Every detail is important in our program. Our goal is to create consistent work habits. Repetition is not a form of punishment!
Andy Louder: So you would say, rather than just bombard your players with all sorts of thoughts, ideas and drills and going from one idea to the next, get your few simple ideas in place for each practice and really stress on doing them well… so they can eventually master those things?
Alan Stein: Absolutely. And you need to find balance throughout the year. The off-season is a great time to do more individualized skill work, where players work on specific moves and address specific weaknesses. Once the season starts, more focus should be placed on the overall team concept during practice time (players should be encouraged to do their individual work on their own; outside of practice). But it is all about balance. We certainly do individual shooting drills during practice, because we want our players to get in quality reps; but those drills take up a much smaller percentage of time than they do in the off-season. We spend more time involving team concepts such as practicing different end of game situations (down 3, the other team has the ball, 1:24 left in the game, both teams in the bonus). We coach both offense and defense during these situations. We want every person on our team to develop… not just the starting 5. This is how you build a program, not just a team. We are also constantly trying to find ways to maximize our personnel and find who plays well together. It’s very rare that the five best players win a championship. It’s usually the five players that play the best together that win! A true team is made up of players who understand and accept their role and maximize each of their strengths… while minimizing each of their weaknesses. And figuring out that winning combination is one of the challenges of coaching! And establishing each player’s role… and getting them to accept it… is arguably the most difficult challenge.
Alright, that’s the end of “Traits and Habits of Successful Basketball Coaches Part I.” I will post the second segment next week, so please check back.
As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I have collected a variety of “coaching nuggets” over the years. I just recently sifted through them and pulled out my favorites… including some wisdom, advice, and stories from some brilliant basketball minds. If you would like them, please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I am happy to share them with you and encourage you to forward them (with a link to this blog) to all of your colleagues.
And as always, check out (and subscribe to) www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom. I just posted the Maryland Basketball Pre-game Warm-up. My friend and colleague, Paul Ricci, does an outstanding job as their strength & conditioning coach.
If you would like the two songs I have been using in all of my recent videos, “Game Time” by S.K. and “Hoop Connection” by Chip Da Ripper, send me an email and I will gladly send them to you. They are great for pre-game warm-ups or to listen to on your iPod during an individual workout.
As always, if you need anything else, or if I can be of service in any way, don’t hesitate to email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible.
Play hard. Have fun.