Sunday, April 19, 2009

Know Your Weaknesses

I was sitting in the Memphis Airport on Friday and came across a great article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about the new University of Memphis Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Josh Pastner. In it, Pastner speaks about the hiring of his two new assistant coaches: Willis Wilson (former head coach at Rice University) and Glynn Cyprien, who made stops at Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and UNLV.

In the article, Pastner says that the main reasons that went into the decisions for these hires were the abilities of these men to cover up for his weaknesses. Pastner had this to say regarding the hiring: "I did a lot of research and talked to other people about finding the best guys to fit me. I understand my weaknesses, so I was trying to find guys that picked up my weaknesses. I'm excited about it. They're both good guys, and that's important to me, being on the same page, having loyalty and caring about the players."

In a career field that is driven by egos, it is nice to see that someone truly understands what must be done to be successful. A coach can be good at many things, but it is very rare to be great at all. This is why it is vital that as a head coach, you hire a staff that complements you, bringing their strengths to shore up your weaknesses and who are loyal to your program.

Never Become Complacent

The Florida Gator’s Football team is coming off a 2008 National football title and many programs would be satisfied with this success; not the Gators. In a article on, Head Coach Urban Myers speaks about the importance for a team to stay hungry and not lose its edge. Myers also says that the three most important things for a team to maintain to repeat as national champions are: maintain your edge, remain a disciplined team, and keep players healthy.

Many times a team with such a great deal of talent will lose its work ethic and desire to improve. Linebacker Brandon Spikes had this to say about the number of players returning from last year's championships team, “Yeah, we've got a lot of returning starters, but we've just got to keep grinding, keep getting better, the success we had last year was last year. People aren't going to care about none of that this upcoming season. We're going to have the target on our backs, and we know that. It feels good to know you're returning all those starters. But if we don't do all the small things we did in the past, it can all go down the drain. The national championship's not going to win any games for us next year."

The Gators realize how difficult it is to repeat as national champion. In 2006, they defeated Ohio State 41-14 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl national championship game and then posted a disappointing 9-4 mark in 2007. One of the greatest advantages that Florida will have coming into this year is Tim Tebow's decision to return to school for his senior season in hopes to win another title. Tebow had this to say about achieving another national title in 2009, "If we see someone slacking off, we tell them we have to work harder. We lost a lot of leadership off that first team. We don't want to have it happen again. We're going to go out with the same edge and try to beat everybody."

"Our biggest thing is not getting complacent; when you've got two national championships already, it's easy to get satisfied. We've got All-Americans on this team, guys with All-SEC honors. It's easy, man. You say, 'What else can I do?' But nothing beats winning a championship." - Brandon Spikes-

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interview Tips

In today’s ultracompetitive job market due to the economic hard times we are currently facing, jobs and especially making it to the interview process are hard to come by. An article in The Wall Street Journal, shares do’s and don’ts with individuals in the search of a career opportunity. Here are some of the tips that the article enlightened me with:

-Stand out for the right reasons
-Show up 10 minutes prior to interview
-Firm handshake
-Do your homework on the job (research)
-Make sure you are a strong fit for the position
-Wait at least a week before checking on your candidacy

-Arrive 1 hour early for a interview
-Discuss your financial hardships
-Talk about projects you completed with previous employers
-Be over aggressive
-Let employer know that you are only looking to stay with the employer for a short time period
-Over enthusiastic
-Talk pay until you have been offered a job

In reading this article I realize that the information is targeted more for candidates looking to land a job in larger business in the cooperate world. With this said, many of the tips can be helpful for candidates pursuing and field of work. The take home message that I learned from the article is be a great self-promoter of yourself and don’t bring your outside anxieties and problems into a interview. Always remember when interviewing, "There's a fine line between enthusiasm and over enthusiasm."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Turnover in Division I Basketball Hits Record Low

USA Today reported that the number of division I institutes that will start the 2009-2010 college basketball season with a new head coach has tied an all time low. Next year if there is no more turnover there will be 24 new head coaches in division I. This ties the fewest turnover since 1966 when there was also 24 new head coaches. The problem with this is in 1966 there was only 182 division I basketball programs and going into the upcoming season there will be 330. One of the big reasons for the minimal turnover is in the last two years there have been 124 new coaches hired in these combined two years.

I can tell you in my small amount of time in coaching that the wait is definitely worth it. If you are someone that is looking to get into college coaching this might not be the best year. I would stay the course and keep pursuing your dream because it is a special game and there is no career more rewarding. Continue your climb on the ladder of success and don't let anything or anyone get in the way of your dream. It is always important to remember that if you, "love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Technology: Good or Bad?

Came across a very interesting article in the South Bend Tribune regarding technology and the ongoing battle the NCAA faces in keeping up with it. The issue that is discussed is college students using Facebook as a recruiting tool for perspective student athletes.

A North Carolina State Freshman created a Facebook group called “John Wall PLEASE come to NC STATE!!!!” According to the NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said the group considers its rules “technology neutral, a Facebook page is simply a high-tech way to try to influence recruits.” What Christianson is trying to keep away from high school athletes is the intrusion into their personal lives and the opportunity for the student-athlete to make a college choice on their own. In the past to keep up with technology coach’s opportunity to utilize text messaging was also taken away by the NCAA.

The problem that arises when looking at this monitoring of Facebook is the question; is a student losing their First Amendment rights from the contract that a university signs with the NCAA. This is still a very questionable topic that I’m sure the NCAA and many universities across the country with battle in the upcoming months. I am also sure that in the upcoming year their will be additional technology that will push the limits of the guidelines that the NCAA sets forth.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Silence is GOLDEN

The Atlanta Journal constitution had an article on the leadership skills of Georgia Tech’s junior safety Morgan Burnett. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack came into the season hoping that Burnett would embrace the role as the leader of his defensive and that’s exactly what he did. Said Womamck on setting the tone for the younger players, “He’s done it more by example, but I’ve heard him say a couple things. He’s not going to holler at anybody or anything like that. He’s got a quiet calm and the players watch him and I told him that.”

When a coach has leadership from the upperclassmen it makes it much easier for players to sell-out to the program and fully understand what you are trying to accomplish. It is extremely difficult if your upperclassmen don’t take this role and the younger players don’t have anyone to follow.

The one thing that Burnett does that is extremely important is that he leads by example. Many players believe it is the players that speaks the loudest who is the leader. This is a misconception in sports, actions speak much louder then words and I much rather have a player who leads by example. I never want a player that only gives “lip service” I much rather have a player that is able to gain the trust and respect of his teammates by what he does on the playing field.

Friday, April 10, 2009


In a article in Newsday, New York Knick Head Coach Mike D’Antoni talks about the lack of effort that his Knicks are exerting on the defensive end in there recent loss to the Detroit Pistons. The Knicks this year are giving up 108 point a game which is a near 3rd to Golden State and Sacramento. D’Antoni feels that there defense is one of the large reasons why they are not a playoff team and something that will be addressed in the off-season. D’Antoni had this to say on what it will take for the Knicks to be good defensively, “"It comes down to players taking pride in what they are doing and stopping their guy and everybody getting on the same page,” It comes down to players taking pride in what they are doing and stopping their guy and everybody getting on the same page."

In the NBA there are many talented defenders but, when it comes down to it, a player must dig in a truly want to guard. The level of basketball played in the NBA is the Mecca of the game and all the players in the league are truly skilled. A team and a player must take pride in making a defensive stop as a team and stopping their individual defensive match-up. If you want to be a good individual defender it takes pride and determination, to be a good team defender, it takes communication and the whole team on the same page.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"If you don't go hard, I can't play you"

Assistant Coach David Ivey at the University of Alabama in Huntsville emailed me an article from on Coach John Calipari and the new tone of the Wildcat program. Calipari is not one that is known as a strong disciplinarian but in all his college coaching stunts he has found great success. He is a coach that will rarely raise his voice but always has control over what is happening on the court. One thing that coach Calipari will not stand for is a player no playing hard. The punishment is quite simple; they just won’t play. Coach has a great deal of commitment to his players but if they are not producing on the court and giving complete effort he has to look in a different direction.
I have said in earlier posts, there are a million ways of doing things in any profession, and there is not a right and wrong way of doing them. Coach Calipari’s way of coaching will be very different from recently removed Head Coach Billy Gillispie. This doesn’t mean it will lead to greater success and only time will tell. I will say that the more I have watched press conferences of newly hired head coaches the more I hear the key to success is PLAYERS. A program is only as good as the players and quality of players that a program brings in. I strongly believe this statement but also believe that good coaching helps in the winning process and also helps with sustaining winning over a longer period of time. Calipari will be a great hire for the University of Kentucky because he is a proven recruiter and possesses great people’s skills, which is a must when dealing with the Wildcat faithful.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tiger’s Drive

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had a terrific article which speaks about Tiger Wood’s tireless work ethic and unorthodox practice habits. Tiger is looking to become the first golfer to win the modern day Grand Slam. In the article woods talks about both the mental and physical aspects of his training which has developed him into a “tougher golfer.”

Some of Wood’s strange practice habits included putting in a basketball gym with the lights half-dimmed and trying to get the ball to stop at half court or the free-throw line. This would prepare woods for some of the faster and more difficult greens he would face later in his career. He also spoke about the psychological tricks that his late father Earl Woods would play on him to make him mentally tougher in his early playing career. Mr. Woods would jingle his change or car keys while Tiger stood over a key putt. Many young players would fold under this type of pressure and added distraction but Tiger was different and thrived under these pressure situations.

Many people have a million ways to explain why some people are great athletes and are able to perform on the highest stages. Woods is a great example of an individual who just outworks the competition. Woods won’t let pressure, fame, injuries or any other distraction get in his way to greatness. In the end it comes down to outworking the competition and never settling for second best.

Woods speaking about why he embraced the added pressures:
"I asked my Dad to do that to me, to make me a tougher golfer, to make me a tougher person, so he did."

"He put me through the same stuff that he had to go through in Special Forces, all the psychology part of it"

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Key to Success: PREPARATION

I wanted to thank Head Coach Lennie Acuff of the University of Alabama in Huntsville for giving me the heads up on a great article. The article was on and talks about the fantastic job that Michigan’s State Head Coach Tom Izzo and his coaching staff do in game preparation on short turnarounds. Izzo has an impressive 14-2 records in rounds 2, 4, and 6. The Spartan’s video staff consists of a head video coordinator (Jordan Ott), two graduate assistants, and 11 student managers. According to the article the staff tapes almost 1’800 games and they are referred to as the “Peons” because of their amazing work ethic and commitment to Michigan State basketball. Izzo has preached to his Spartans in the past three weekends, "You get me through the first game; I'll get you through the second." It is amazing in reading the article how many people are involved and how much time and effort the Michigan State staff put into game preparation.

In the game of basketball I strongly believe that scouting reports are extremely important to a team’s success. Creating an in-depth scout will take the guessing game out of what you will see when the ball is thrown in the air. I have also learned that scouting reports also help players mentally prepare for a game, and the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical aspect. What a great scouting report coaching staff can do for a team is give players added confidence. Michigan State guard Travis Walton had this to say on Izzo’s game preparation, “We're confident he's going to come out with a game plan and have something ready for us. That's why he's coach Izzo, and why he's a Hall of Famer one day. With one preparation day, the things he does are amazing

Sunday, April 5, 2009

$64,000 Guarantee

4-Year All-American Courtney Paris of the Oklahoma Sooners women’s basketball team made a amazing promise to Sooner nation on Senior night. Paris promised the women’s basketball world that she would end her career with a national championship. What makes this guarantee so amazing is that Paris promised to repay her full 4-year athletic scholarship valued at over $64,000 if her lady Sooners did not accomplish the task. In an Oklahoma newspaper (NewsOK-click to watch promise\read article) Paris had this to say about the guarantee, "I have a passion for our fans and university, and I want to do something special. That’s why I put my scholarship on the table. I meant what I said.”

It is amazing to see someone make such a huge guarantee and most of all take accountability for their actions. Paris, on taking accountability and winning a championship, "So when you’re good enough and don’t do something, then you have to take accountability for that and that’s your own fault. We can win a national championship. If we don’t, I’ll feel like I didn’t earn my scholarship.”

When looking at many players that I have the opportunity to come into contact with, I strongly believe that very few would take blame for a loss after a game. This is what makes this statement so special by Paris. This statement will also take a lot of the pressure off of the younger Sooner players and put it all on the senior leader Paris. In the word of Sooner’s Head Coach Sherri Coale, "I love her passion, love her belief in what she thinks this team can do. The most important part of reaching a goal is believing you can.”

As I am finishing this blog post Oklahoma was just defeated by the Louisville Cardinals 61-59 in the national semifinals. Paris did a post-game interview in which she said she would make good on her guarantee. Watching the Interview Oklahoma athletics has not only lost a great student-athlete but a great ambassador and promoter of the University of Oklahoma.

Dealing with Youth

This year when the Oakland A’s throw out the first pitch, it will come from a starting rotation with a combined total of 63 major league starts. This comes from the same pitching staff that 5 years ago had the likes of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito all 20–game winners all peaking in their respected careers. I came across an article on that discusses A’s pitching Coach Curt Young and how he is dealing with this young and inexperienced staff. Young makes many good points in the article when he speaks about stressing the fundamentals with his young pitchers, something that does not have to be stressed with veterans.

The Things I like most about the article is when Young talks about having a good mind-set and his syllabus for his pitchers that include off-field demeanor. He also must get the point across that they must establish a strength and conditioning regiment which will help in their development and early success.

As a coach it is extremely important to not only teach young athletes important skills related to their sport but also skills on life. Many of the skills Young talks about in the article are not only physical but are mental. Teaching does not stop once we step off the playing surface but rather it must continue because young athletes need guidance. Coaches cannot take athletes and expect them to know everything; we must guide them in the right direction. We don’t want to just develop good players in the time an athlete spends within a program but rather we want to develop great people that reflect a great program.

Here are some of Young’s great points he made in the article:

"The fundamental things. Making sure our mind-set is [that] we're going to be good because we do pound the strike zone. And once we do get control of the strike zone, then we can start putting the ball in specific areas. If you get guys thinking the right way, then they start performing the right way."

"We pass along things such as how to act around the clubhouse, how to act after a game where you pitched well and a game where it didn't go too well.”

“Less-experienced pitchers must understand that establishing a daily strength and conditioning regimen to "keep them going in the right direction" is just as important as their throwing routine.”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This is Why We Play the Games!

What makes the sporting world so special is that on any given night if the chips fall in the right places, an underdog can upset a favorite. As I started reading about College Hockey’s Frozen Four I noticed that many of the lower seeds were coming up victorious in the early round of the tournament. No more surprising of these teams is Bemidji State out of Northern Minnesota. Their path to the National Semifinals has not been a easy one as they had to defeat the tournaments overall number two-seed (Notre Dame) and then defeat the tournaments overall number nine-seed (Cornell).
I came across a good article in the Boston Herald that talks about these amazing accomplishments of the Beavers and the great support they are receiving. The article goes on to talk about all the national recognition this team is receiving and how they have changed this small Minnesota town into a hockey town. It is always nice to see from a coaching stand point, the little guys getting the job done. In a school with an enrollment of 4,729, it is amazing they are able to compete and beat some of the high-major teams. It is also spectacular for the Bemidji hockey program, as it brings a sense of pride into the program as well as rallies the community around a real feel good story. The greatest thing about a story like this, is it is great for college hockey but most of all it is great for some of the smaller schools competing at the DI level.

Friday, April 3, 2009

No Love Stronger

This weekend in Detroit at the 2009 NCAA Final Four there will be many players with amazing journeys on how they ended up making it to the Mecca of college basketball. None of the stories could be as amazing as the story of Michigan State’s big man Goran Suton. What makes this story so special is the sacrifices that Goran’s mother (Zivana Suton) had to endure to make a better life for her kids. An article on ESPN, Zivana shows that there is no love stronger then a mother’s love.

As young people I don’t think we fully realize all the sacrifices and hardships that our parents endure to improve the lives of their children. The one most gratifying thing to see as a parent is the success of their kids. This Saturday there will be many proud eyes looking on in Detroit for many reason not known by the viewers on television. What will make the accomplishment so special is the hardships and journey that some of these families had to endure to get to the top. I am a strong believer that individual’s that have a hard road to the top have more of an appreciation when they get there. This post is for all the parents that sacrifice for the benefit of their kids …Thank You!

"I didn't have a choice,' she said.”The only thing I thought about was protecting my kids and somehow giving them a better life. It's a mother's instinct to protect her kids. That's what I did. One day, you lose everything you have, your normal life, but the only thing you know is you have to make them feel safe." (Zivana Suton)

"The reason I'm here is because of my parents," Goran said. "They sacrificed the last 15 years of their lives to make my life better. Everything they did was for me and my brother. Everything they did was right." (Goran Suton)

"What happened earlier in my life changed me as a person," Suton said. "It made me appreciate everything so much more, especially in a country like this." (Goran Suton)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Taking Accountability

Great article in the Connecticut Post Newspaper, on University of Connecticut’s Senior Guard Renee Montgomery. Last year’s season ended with a disappointing loss in the Final Four at the hands of the Stanford Cardinals (82 -73). That night Stanford’s Candice Wiggins showed the basketball world that she was the best point guard in the women’s game. Montgomery took that loss to heart and has lead her team to a undefeated season and trip to the final four. I really like some of the statement made by Coach Geno Auriemma and her teammates that Montgomery is taking complete accountability for this season, and getting her team to the nation semifinal. Here are some of the things that coaches and players had to say about Montgomery’s leadership and great will to win this season:

"It's one of those things, when you need a quick reminder of why you're doing what you're doing, you just look at Renee's face and you're ready to go.”

"Since I've been here, playing with her, she's always had that energy and that intensity. I don't think there's anyone on this team that wants it as much as her.”

"She's a great leader."

"Renee sees herself as the emotional and floor leader of our team, physically and mentally. In her mind, that's her responsibility. She's taken complete accountability to get this team to the Final Four."

In March point guard play is the most import component to winning a national championship. Great players will always take accountability for not only their success on the floor but also their failures.

Loyalty: A Two Way Street

On Wednesday night I figured that Gonzaga’s Head Coach Mark Few would be the next head coach at Arizona. Around eleven that same night it was announced that Southern California coach Tim Floyd would be the replacement for Hall of Famer Lute Olson. On Thursday evening just when you thought it was a done deal, Floyd announced he would be staying a Trojan. In a article on ESPN, Floyd had this to say about staying at USC:

"But there is something really special about building your own traditions, your own histories and doing it with a group of guys that you love. ... I have never been more excited to be a Trojan."

"I have three years left on my contract," he said. "No, there have not been any changes made that I am aware of. I would like another year or two. I think that would be great. I would like for this to be my last job."

In a profession in which so many coaches are always looking for the next best thing, it is nice to see a coach’s loyalty to his player and a true love for the program that he has built up. A coach that I have had the great pleasure to work for always says, “loyalty is a two way street between a player and a coach.” In this situation it is nice to see the loyalty on the part of the coach.

Team Player?

I find it very interesting that the Detroit Pistons went from being one of the NBA’s Eastern Conferences top team every year, to a team fighting for their playoff lives. I do realize that age has a lot to do with the Pistons decline but I also think the trade for Allen Iverson had a lot to do with it. Chauncey Billups may not be as flashy as Iverson but he does all the small things that win games for the Denver Nuggets. Currently the Nuggets are in 2nd place in the Western Conference and are peaking at the right time as they are (9-1) in their last ten games. This could be the first year during the Carmelo Anthony Era that they make it out of the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs. I don’t think this will have anything to do with Anthony but rather management getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off.

In an article in the Sporting News, Iverson spoke about how hard of a time he is having coming off the bench. After a loss to the Nets Iverson had this to say about accepting a role on another team as a reserve:

“No way. I wouldn't do that to myself or the team that I am playing for. I don't think I can give everything I have to give in that situation."

IF you are the Pistons and hear a statement like this, do you really think that he is giving your team 100% when he steps out on the floor? Great team players that win organizations championships are able to except their role and do whatever it takes to win games. This is also coming from the same person that had his infamous, we're talking about practice speech (clink on link to see it on YouTube) that to this day is still a coaches nightmare. The big things as a coach you always have to remember is talent does not always win you games. In Iverson's case to give a franchise the choice of playing him or retiring is ridiculous. It is those that sacrifice the most and put the team first that find a way to win games.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Read

A great way to gain knowledge as a coach is to read as much as possible. The books do not have to be related to sports and some of the best books that I have read have nothing to do with sports but have a great message that you can share with your athletes. As I navigate through the last few chapters of Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't” there are some teaching tools that not only can be applied to business but also an athletic program.
The main purpose of the book is quite simple it guides the reader through the process of how companies made the giant leap from being good companies to great companies, and how they went about doing this. One of the points Collin’s makes in the book is that a level 5 leader whatever he\she touches anything he takes pride in it even after they are long gone. He is saying that for whatever reason a level five leader leaves a company they always will leave it in good hands and with the greatest opportunity to succeed.
I really like this point because now that we are nearing the ending of the college basketball season there is a great deal of hiring and firing. I always think to myself how many coaches will regardless of the reason for leaving; will leave the program in good shape or at least help the new coach to have an easy transition. The great leaders according to Collins always want to be able to look back at their previous companies and see continued success. A person wants to be able to look back and say “I was a part of something great, and continues to be great after I’m gone.” The main point is not to set-up your successor for failure. If you have a chance I would definitely say to read this book cover to cover and enjoy all the great tips. Here are a few of the key points that I really liked from the book:

“Level 5 Leaders” - leaders who have both “personal humility” and “professional will. These are not rock-star leaders whose companies go into decline when they move on. They are diligent and hard working - more bite than bark. Celebrity leaders often work for a time, but appear to be damaging in the long run, because they don’t create sustained results.”

“level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. Its not that level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest, indeed, they are incredibly ambitious- but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”

“Nucor rejected the old adage that people are your most important asset. In a good-to-great transformation, people are not your most important asset. THE RIGHT PEOPLE ARE.”

“The good-to-great leaders began the transformation by first getting the right people on the bus (and wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”

“The good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.