Archive for the ‘College Coaches’ Category

” Almost no one goes through life unscathed, and the ability to overcome obstacles is often what separates the haves from the have- nots.” – John Calipari Bounce Back

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(Excerpt taken from Nick Saban’s book, “How good do you want to be?“) 

Being a Great Leader

Lesson 1: Great leaders stand up when adversity arises
Times of adversity are when we need leaders the most.  In business, employees will look to you when a bad earnings report comes out or when there is a PR disaster.  When there is trouble at home, your children will look to you for strength and guidance.  It’s easy to lead in good times, but the difficult times present an opportunity to display true leadership.

Lesson 2: Great leaders allow the team to take ownership of the rules
Great leaders know how to follow.  They don’t follow the masses like sheep, certainly, but they listen and allow the workers or players a say in how things are done.  Players should understand that it is their team, and they are responsible for that team.  The great leaders encourage followers to take an active role and to take ownership in the organization.

Lesson 3: Great leaders embrace future leaders
I strongly believe that one of my responsibilities as head coach is to help those on my staff fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.  Over the years, I have had numerous assistants move on to better jobs in college or the NFL, and I take pride in the fact that I was a part of their growth.  I have an obligation to help them.  Some coaches and business leaders do everything they can to keep their staff intact, even if it means stifling the growth of their employees.  But that works against a leader.  He or she should be encouraging employees to grow, even if that means losing them.  Of course, there is another plus to having employees move on:  You have the opportunity to replace them with new folks who bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the job.  So don’t stifle growth of your team members or the opportunities for advancement.  Show your loyalty by encouraging them to follow their hearts and minds, and allow them to be rewarded for their efforts by supporting them.

Lesson 4: Great leaders lead the orchestra but let them play
Some orchestra conductors distract their musicians .  That’s right – in their enthusiasm and passion, some musical conductors flail their arms and move so violently that it actually distracts members of the orchestra, particularly those in the first few rows.  Of course, the conductor does not do it intentionally, but the effect is the same.  Musicians lose focus.  Coaches can do the same thing.  We can “overcoach,” commenting on or adjusting every single movement on every single play.  We can try to control every detail, but it will only end up smothering assistants and players.  

Lesson 5: Great leaders pick their battles
Our instinct is survival, and it rises to the surface when we face adversity. Our instinct is to fight back.  The desire to survive can mean a physical reaction, such as throwing punches or protecting your head with your arms, or an emotional one, such as standing your ground on principles.  But one thing champions understand is that you have to pick your battles. As a younger coach, I often picked battles with administrators and won – but in many cases being right was not worth the ill will it created.  Sometimes winning the battle means losing the war.

Lesson 6: Great leaders do not rush to make change because of failure
One of the biggest mistakes a football coach can make is to abruptly change plans because of a loss – but he would not be alone.  Coaches of many sports, business executives, and parents often make hast to make changes after failure.  But beware:  Many times, it is not the plan that failed but rather the implementation of it. Be patient after failure, and be prudent.  Evaluate, yes, but drastic measures are rarely called for. Make a thorough examination of what went wrong, how it happened, and who is responsible and then put in place a plan that the organization at large believes will improve the situation. 

Lesson 7: Great leaders hire good people
Surround yourself with good people!  Any good leader should have a strong supporting staff who may not be clones but add something to the organization.  A big mistake that managers with strong egos make is surrounding themselves with “yes men” simply to make themselves feel better.  Hire good people.  It is that simple. 

Lesson 8: Great leaders make tough decisions
Make the tough decisions by doing what is best for your organization – but always be fair and honest with those involved. 

Lesson 9: Great leaders accept responsibility
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”  Who you are and how you lead touches everyone in the organization. 

Lesson 10: Great leaders show compassion for those around them
Take the times everyday to do something, if only for a second, that lets those around you know you care.  It may be briefly encouraging an employee, inquiring about a player’s mother, or asking your child what she did in math class.  Sometimes that’s all we need. 

Lesson 11: Great leaders never force leadership
Rather then worrying about being a leader, it’s more important to take individual responsibility to fulfill your role without depending on someone else to lead you.  That individual responsibility will make the organization as a whole much stronger. 

Lesson 12: Great leaders must insist on excellence
Simply put, you must demand excellence.  A leader must demand excellence of him or herself, first and foremost.  How can a leader be effective and expect something of others that he or she is unwilling to do?  I can’t ask our players or coaches or staff to excel unless I am doing the same.  To begin with, I insist on excellence from myself. 

Lesson 13: Great leaders are not always popular
Good managers must understand that they are there to lead, to help the organization succeed, not to be popular. Some players or assistant coaches may not like my personality, or they may not like decisions I make about game plans or off the field issues. Heck, they may not like me because I don’t smile enough.  But I would hope that most of them respect me.  And that’s the difference.  Be respected for the principles and values that you believe in, as well as for the classy example you demonstrate in carrying out those same principles and values.

Lesson 14: Great leaders don’t have all the answers but they find them
Rely on your employees, your co-workers, your friends, your family, or strangers, and learn from those around you.  The best leaders know they don’t have all the answers, but they know where to find them. 


There are several AMAZING coaches in this business.  Everyone with his/her unique flavor.  I have enjoyed talking to and learning from several different coaches in my short seven years of coaching.   In each meeting, I have humbly taken away bits and pieces of their knowledge and have built my own coaching “style”.

This may seem a bit crazy, but I have a checklist of people I would like to meet, talk to, and take away knowledge from in the coaching business.  One of those coaches I fortunately had the opportunity to meet at Felicia Hall Allen’s Assistant Coaches Symposium.   That coach…is none other than Al Brown!

For those that don’t know him…MEET HIM!  He is amazing!  He was extremely warm and welcoming and answered the 100’s of questions that I fired off at him.  🙂 It did not take me long to realize why Al Brown is a winner!

Al has won three NCAA Championships and has been apart of four NCAA runner-up teams.  He went to eight NCAA Final Four squads and 19 NCAA Tournaments.  His record in women’s basketball speaks for itself as his squads have won 80 percent of their games, advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 14 of the 16 years, and won three NCAA titles.  Brown has led three teams to the NCAA Championship game a total of seven times and won 80 percent of league contests.  AL BROWN IS A WINNER!

During the symposium Al spoke about “DEVELOPING GAME CHANGERS”.  Below are some of the notes from his presentation.  Remember, there are as many philosophies as there are coaches…this segment is about developing game changers as he sees it.

1)  Identify talent for your program

– What is the level of your conference?
-What kind of players are playing for the conference champion team?
– What type of player fits your coaching style and system?
-Where is your recruiting base- regional – national?

2) Help the players adapt to the college game

– Players must be helped to understand the difference between their previous basketball game experiences and the college game.
– Players must be properly indoctrinated in the program philosophy and the coach’s style of play.

3) Role Identification

– Players must understand their status on the team and the role they are expected to perform.
– Coaches must clearly define roles and show each player how fulfilling their role will help the team be successful.

4) Coaching “STAR” players being a challenge

– A coach must recognize that i is not easy for the star player.  There is a lot of pressure on this player to perform on a consistent basis.
– The star player must be challenged and pushed to the max just like every other player on the team.
– Coaches who haven’t been star players or who haven’t played with tar players sometimes find it difficult to understand this player’s mind-set.
-Teammates while they may recognize the star player’s talent sometimes are jealous of the recognition this player receives.
– You can’t win championships without star players.  Coach Auriemma of Connecticut has said the difference between Connecticut and the other teams is that Connecticut has Maya Moore.  This is a very true statement.

5) Developing players
A. It is very difficult for some players to understand their potential and sometimes even harder for them to achieve it.

B. Confidence is a huge part of developing a player’s innate ability.

C. Motivating players is a very important part of the coach’s responsibility.
– Providing written information – Quotes –  Stats
– Showing players on tape what they are doing good and where they can improve

D. Written Evaluations
–  Give each player a written evaluation of the season and what needs to be developed in the off- season
– Have the player provide a post – season evaluation
– Compare the two

E. Provide inspiration for players
– Have them talk to other successful players who may have faced similar circumstances that they are facing.
– Have them watch WNBA players

F. Develop individual skills
– Play a lot of one-on-one
– Work on the roper footwork – offensively and defensively
– Do a lot of ball handling drills
– There are a lot of teaching tapes available on skill development

G. Practice organization
– Allot time in each practice throughout the season for individual teaching by position.
– Use a lot of break – down drills to teach specific skills needed to become a complete player.

H. Test scores
– The most important test score a coach can have on a player is the player’s IQ.  Have you ever become frustrated trying to teach a player something that you  believe they should learn and you don’t seem to be making any progress?
– Use psychological testing as well to determine the proper teaching approach for each player
– Use testing to determine group dynamics and measure how the group may fit together.

6) Player’s Note Books
– Players keep notes on team meetings.
– Players keep scouting reports in this book
– Players provide play diagrams and other written information
– Players do a post-game evaluation of their opponent for future reference.
– Give the players certain written assignments that are graded and kept in the notebook
– Written basketball exams given players can be kept in the notebook

I have had several encounters with John Margaritis over the three years I have coached at UC Santa Barbara.  He was always a man of many words! 🙂  But more then that, he was always humble, kind, and respectful.   Win or lose he ALWAYS had something positive to say to our staff.

(It reminded me of a quote Pat Summit said at a Final Four Convention.  “Handle your failures the same way you handle your success.”  (or vice versa) John Margaritis is the epitome of that…but I digress…)

This weekend at the Assistant Coaches Symposium in Chicago, Illinois I got to watch John Margaritis present on a panel titled “How to best support your head coach”  which turned into “How to become the best coach you can become while supporting your head coach.”

I am sure most of the 200 assistant coaches that were in attendance would agree that of the loads of valuable information we received during this panel…one line that stuck with us all…  “Loyalty above all except honor”.

Now, there are times in this profession where we hear the word “loyalty” but do we understand the core value of the word?  Margaritis/Grentz spoke about the “everyday instances” that we get to have in order to establish our loyalty.  Examples of this are:

1. When an athlete is talking to you without the head coach around, what are you saying?
2. When an administrator comes up  to you and says, “Man, your head coach should have called a timeout toward the end of the game.”  What do you say?

The things we do/say in those very moments will help us to gauge our loyalty.

At what point does being loyal get thrown out of the window?

According to Magaritis, when honor is in question.  When we (coaches) are retired or done with the profession, we don’t want to look in the mirror and not know the person that looks back at us.  We want to become someone who we will want our children and players to become.   Margaritis said  “The right choice is not always the most popular choice.”

(Again reminding me of a John Wooden Quote that reads: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”)

He followed up by telling us a number of stories where he was without a job because he chose the honorable path.  When asked if he could go back and face those same situations again, would he have chosen a different path… he said not for one minute.

Breathtaking…

After the panel discussion, I had the chance to sit down with Margaritis and talk about his life and coaching path. He talked about the highs and lows he endured during his career…but said the most valuable piece of advice a coach passed down him was...”KEEP GOING BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE THE STORY IS GOING TO END”.… and so he did…He was a “well” of information, and I kept filling up my cup.  Maragritis talked about the hard decisions and choices he still has to make at this point in his career.  He said through it all, he will ALWAYS remain a loyal person except before honor.  I felt his sincerity through our conversation.

Whether he knows it or not, Margaritis will be someone I reach out to during my tenure as a basketball coach.  I encourage all coaches to sit down and speak with him.  His coaching story is inspiring…but the character of John Margaritis is infectious and will undoubtably touch lives of many!

Below are notes taken during the “How to become a better coach, while supporting your head coach” panel.

  • Knowledge of the subject – Be a student of the game.  Learn as much as you can.  Keep learning all the time…Learn about things that you may never use.
  • Become a great teacher – Affect behavior. At the end it’s not what you know that matters but what your students know and can execute that will make a difference
  • Stay on task – Don’t confuse the issue.  There are as many philosophies as there are coaches.  Understand what the head coach wants and use your  knowledge to improve individual and team play.
  • Make coaching your #1 priority – Minor input will not yield major outcome.
  • Loyalty above all except honor – Always act as if your head coach is there to listen to what you hear and say.
  • Learn to evaluate talent – Know what you are looking for.
  • Be attune with today’s technology – Stay current.
  • Get involved with money – Budget
  • Get involved with the “student” in student-athlete – Know what it takes for your players to get a degree.
  • Be a head coach – Leadership