I don’t mean this as a pile on for Pitino and company but it’s been a long time coming.  I myself would like a refund for all the Pitino books I’ve bought: Full Court Pressure, Success is a Choice, Lead to Succeed, Rebound Rules 2.0, the One-Day Contract.    That check’s not “walking through that door” though I’m sure. The optimistic side of me still believes that success in coaching is about work, preparation, chemistry, and togetherness.   We’ve learned with each year that passes that while that will separate those with comparable talent; the talent is less comparable at each level due to the illegally stacked deck.  The house usually wins and we know exactly how it’s been stacked.

It’s been said that the French Revolution consumed it’s own children.  Many leaders of the movement including Danton and Robespierre were all executed before it was all said and done. What gave them power is ultimately what took it away.  The arms race for talent has created a system where the incentives of cheating far outweigh the disincentives. As those only limited by the constraints of their own morality were marginalized because they “couldn’t win”, it’s left the game to those without any such boundaries.  Really, what “life lessons” are you going to pass on as leaders of young men when your relationship with those young men began with you breaking the rules?  Be on time??  Really?  Treat women with respect?  Because…why?

The coaches willing to dance with the devil will tell themselves that “everybody cheats”. It makes them feel justified for their own cheating.  The players tell themselves this as well.  It’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “how much?”.  All of this trickles down to the high school level with the recruiters masquerading as coaches, entitlement, and the cheaters clapping for each other. If you want to have a conversation about paying players legally, allowing them to go straight to the league, etc. there are legitimate arguments to be made but those aren’t the rules we’re supposed to be playing by.

They created the monster.  We’ll see how many the FBI have to chew up in order to kill it. I, for one, am glad to see the House of Cards fall.  May something better take it’s place.

cards 2

If the players in your program can consistently say what you are about as a program, you are ahead of most. In the face of the seemingly more urgent issues facing us like: how to break the press, installing our inbound series, monitoring grades, and lining up the ever-evolving calendar it is easy to fail in passing these things on daily.  We all wish to leave a legacy that lasts beyond a single game, season, and career.  We want our players to deeply internalize principles that will improve their lives and all of those that they touch. I believe that while the coaching community has had much more made available to them in the areas of culture and building young people, it is still a fight to teach the values we want to impart.  Most coaches could identify what they want their programs to value if given time and a pen and paper.  It’s another challenge altogether to pass those traits on to our players in a meaningful way.

While at a recent coaching round-table this past weekend a former assistant of mine, Luke Smith (currently at Norcross H.S.), made a comment that really stood out to me.  He discussed how it has been an off-season goal of his to really identify what the values in his program look like in a practical way.  When we say things like “honesty”, how does that come out in a practice or game?  “Unselfishness” is another buzzword that so many rightly want to teach but have you specifically thought of ways it can be modeled, celebrated, and measured in your program?  I have a ways to go in this department and believe that we can all get better at celebrating the right things.  Everyone is going to cheer when our guys put the ball in the hole.  What can we teach that will be of value over the course of a life?  The next step for me is clarify what core behaviors come from our core values along with how I teach and measure them.  Here’s to you having a great season where you leave no doubt that your impact will go far beyond the final buzzer.

If you’d like to reach out to Coach Smith his twitter is: @CoachSmithNHS


A full bucket collects no water. Pretty obvious right?  You can pour it but it will not and can not receive more.  I thought of this simple truth (not the first I know) while working with a player a couple weeks ago.  He thought he already had the move down, but it was missing something.  That little something that makes the difference between a good defender cutting you off or you getting by.  Ya know….the stuff that can decide a ball game?  Since he already knew how to do his version well, he didn’t want to take the extra effort and concentration it would take to do something new and perhaps not as well at first.

There are a few responses you can take here:

  • Keep pouring water in to the bucket hoping it will magically hold more.
  • Yell at/discipline the bucket for not having greater capacity.
  • Explain why what they’re currently doing is limited and how they can expand their bucket’s capacity.
  • Take your water to a different bucket i.e. use your limited energy elsewhere until the bucket is ready.

It’s important to understand why the learner is not learning in order to properly address the problem.  Is it pride, arrogance, fear of failure, they lack the physical ability to do what’s asked, they lack the understanding of how to perform the task, or is it a combination?  I believe this illustration can apply to our own capacity to learn as coaches and for our teams collectively.  Just a simple way to see a lot of issues and discuss them consistently.

Shooting free throws in the clutch is different than knocking them down at the end of the first quarter. Everyone knows that a usually reliable free throw shooter can suddenly psych themselves out and make something they’ve done thousands of times look like something they’re doing for the first. I was recently watching the 30 for 30 on the Orlando Magic. I remember watching Nick Anderson’s infamous trip to the line up 3 in game 1 of the finals. As you may recall he missed both, got the offensive rebound, was fouled, and missed both again. 
The 30 for 30 showed me a part of the game I didn’t understand at that time. Coach Brian Hill instructed Anderson to line up out of bounds defensively taking a delay of game so they could see Houston’s set. Penny said this was a common tactic used and one they’d prepare for. Anderson, still reeling from the misses, wasn’t clear enough in his intent and Houston inbounded to Kenny Smith on a cut across the top. Penny was not ready to defend and allowed their best 3 point shooter to catch the ball and then dribble in to a 3. The last few seconds of this game has a ton to teach on special situations and mental toughness. Here are a few I took:

1. Be “next play no matter the last play”. Orlando still had a great chance to win up 3.  

2. Penny could have been ready to defend had the delay of game not worked.

3. He could have pressured up on Smith forcing a drive or at least a kick to lesser shooter.

4. The whole #FoulOrDefend thing comes to mind.

5. Even in overtime they were tied on another sideline play. They said, we knew Clyde Drexler would get it, we knew he’d drive to the right, yet Clyde gets it and drives to the right. He causes Shaq to challenge the shot allowing Hakeem the tip in to win. Who was on Clyde? Anderson. Was he still in his head about the missed FT’s? No one knows and it would take an extremely strong player mentally to not go back to that moment during every dead ball of the overtime.

The documentary is great, especially if you remember watching those teams as I do. The rest of the story on Nick Anderson is tough. A great player who the next season was telling others to take technical free throws rather than shoot them himself. He needed grace; mostly from himself.

Here’s a youtube link of the game starting with the 1st missed FT

Here’s a good article following up with Anderson 20 years later. Yes it’s been that long…


Your opponent wants to win.  They have the same court, ball, humidity, lighting, refs, fan noise, and all the other factors that you do.  Our ability to avoid beating ourselves is more under our control than how hard our opponent plays, how they execute, and so many other bounces of the game.  Our #1 job is show up ready.  To leave all the extraneous junk that doesn’t affect winning out of bounds when we cross the line.  To make sure that our toughness, our execution, and our focus are good enough to beat the team on the other side all things being equal…and as much as possible, when unequal. As so many great coaches have reminded us; before you can win the game, you have to avoid losing it.

I think this is fairly obvious to all of who coach when we think about our teams.  I believe it’s less so when we think about ourselves.  What are the ways I can “lose” in: my faith, my family, my health, my relationships with my team, my dreams?  I think focusing on avoiding losing with our teams is one of the primary ways we can lose in our lives if we aren’t careful.  To walk in light of both is a balance few seem to attain.  May we all be exceptions.  Most of us have a “to do” list a mile long with our programs.  Don’t forget to have your own “to not do” list when it comes to our personal game in life.

Disclaimer: I’m not writing this because I’ve got it figured out.  I’m writing because I know I need to.

Man on a Wire


I know that you guys are probably like me.  Last week you were a little bit over all the talk of the eclipse.  It came, it went, it was cool.  This galactic alignment, however, got me thinking about more important things.  Basketball of course.  It caused an analogy to come to mind that may help our players understand what we’re after as coaches.  There are many players who shine bright in individual workouts, one on one games, and in pickup.  You see moments of what could be at different times in the game but they never are able to be consistent.  Their talent is like the sun in an eclipse.  You know it’s there.  You can still see it’s effects, but it’s not quite what it should be.

What are the things that can hold a player back from shining with all they’ve been given?

  1. Selfishness
  2. Unadressed weaknesses they can’t hide in competition
  3. Lack of chemistry with their teammates.
  4. Focusing on goals outside team success.
  5. Lack of confidence.
  6. Overconfidence.
  7. Lack of knowledge of role/scheme/tactics/philosophy.

There is no shortage of why potential remains unrealized.  There are a lot of books on this I’ve read that come to mind.  Talent is Overrated & Talent is Never Enough are a couple the immediately come to mind. It’s important to continue looking for ways to remove these obstacles from those we influence and of course in ourselves.eclipse

Have you ever been walking in to a building and someone holds the door for you and just before you can grab it they let it go? That’s what it’s like when a screener leaves before someone can actually use the screen.
These are the days of the early slip. Rolling before the offensive player has even gotten to the screen. You’re smart, you’re edgy, you’re tricky. You will not allow the defense to hedge the screen. How many times have we seen an early slip taking place when the screener’s defender is not even helping on the ball? When he’s playing flat under or ice defense it’s clear that the post player is not reading the defense he is just looking to slip as soon as possible.

It’s the same problem with off the ball screens. Guys refuse to hold a screen to take a good hit from the defender coming through and create space for teammates. We’re forever slipping to the basket before anyone else can create separation. Maybe we should tell guys to slip then they’ll screen?

When I’m playing pick up I am shocked at how long it takes some guys to get off of a screen. To make the point, challenge guys to hold their screen until the defender is completely off. Who knows, if the screener doesn’t sprint out of the way on first (or in some cases no) contact, the defenders may actually have to make a choice and a mistake.

Screening is a good test of your team’s selflessness and toughness. These days if you give a player a choice between being the primary or secondary receiver…you know where that’s going for most. Would you rather have neither of you guys get open or both of you?

Hold the screen please.