Thursday, July 31, 2008

In coaching, with specialization comes accountability

I read the other day where, in the SEC alone, there are 11 new offensive and defensive coordinators (and two new head coaches) this season.

In football, because of the different sides of the ball, coaches often specialize in one thing, e.g., linebackers, quarterbacks, special teams, etc. The idea is that these positions require specialized knowledge acquired over years of work.

Could a linebackers coach take over a team's passing game? It's possible, just as it's possible that an accountant or IT person could take over a company's marketing department. But I'd prefer that someone who specializes in the passing game, and who has a deep understanding of it, handle that.

Similarly, I'm certain the CEO of Pepsi or Coke prefers to have an experienced marketing professional handling the brand's marketing efforts. Let the experts in accounting or IT focus on those areas.

Consider USC's football staff. In addition to the head coach, director of operations, and strength and conditioning coach, there are coaches for:

  • Tight ends
  • Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
  • Running Backs/Special Teams Coordinator
  • Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers
  • Linebackers
  • Offensive Line
  • Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
  • Secondary
  • Defensive Line

And this list doesn't include the team's graduate assistants. This is at the college level, of course, but the NFL coaching rosters are almost identical. [Here's the Chargers' coaching roster, for example.]

But with this level of specialization comes a great deal of accountability, which is why so many assistant coaches/coordinators are fired even as the head coach survives.

It's the opposite in basketball, where if the head coach is fired, his assistants sometime stay. During his head coaching career, my Dad had a rule that he made sure his assistants understood from the start: "When I go, we all go."

For him, as for most coaches, loyalty was critical for his staff. There's nothing worse than an assistant coach waiting in the wings for the head coach to get fired.

Over the last several years, basketball staffs have begun to resemble those in football, with assistants focusing on (and responsible for) a particular area of the game. In Golden State, we took this approach, with Tom Sterner essentially serving as the team's defensive coordinator, Jim Boylen as the offensive coordinator, Keith Smart as a sort of "quality control" coach, and David Fizdale managing player development

Coaching staffs in basketball have grown, of course. I remember a few years ago, the Mavericks had a dozen or so coaches, including head coach Don Nelson, assistants Donnie Nelson, Del Harris, Charlie Parker, Larry Riley, and Sidney Moncrief; player development coaches Morlon Wiley, Paul Mokeski, Ro Blackman, Brad Davis, and Greg Dreiling; and a coach for free throw shooting, Gary Boren.

But it's not only a staff's size that's changing. More and more head coaches are assigning specific responsibilities to their assistants. Last August, for example, Tom Thibodeau was hired in Boston to help with the team's defense. No where in the team's official announcement of his hiring did it mention what exactly he'd be responsible for. However, it was clear based on its tone and content what Tom would be doing. ["Thibodeau has helped his team finish in the NBA's top 10 in team defense 14 times."]

But unlike football, where it's clear to everyone what a coach is responsible for (and posted front-and-center on the team's website and in its media guide), basketball teams prefer to keep it more general, though that's changing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Note for coaches: Xavier U. newsletter

Coaches, if you've not seen Coach Sean Miller's Xavier basketball newsletter, I can tell you it's worth checking out. You can get them all on the XU website. These are loaded with tips, drills, sets, practice plans, plays, diagrams, insight, and inspiration. Some highlights:

Great job by Coach Miller and his staff.

Artest's arrival in Houston puts Rockets in elite group

With Ron Artest now a Rocket, HOU will be one of the league's better defensive teams. Ron is incredibly powerful physically and has the ability to play both inside and outside.

Next to him is Shane Battier, one of the best team defenders I've ever been around. With Artest's skills as a one-on-one defender, the Rockets will be really tough on the defensive end.

The Rockets have a lot of versatility with their wing players and the 1-4 combo of McGrady, Battier, Artest, and Yao will defend and be able to put points on the board.

Battier's unselfish play will be a big key to HOU's on-court chemistry.

The Rockets won 55 games last year. With the addition of Artest and 3-point specialist Brent Barry, along with a healthy Yao, who opponents will now have to play more straight up, they'll be an elite team in the West.

The end of the multi-sport athlete

It's too bad that fewer college kids today are playing multiple sports. According to this article on ESPN recently:

"The multisport athlete is a dying breed. Throughout much of the 20th century, it was commonplace for major college athletes to participate in at least two sports. Nowadays, however, sports at their highest level have become such big moneymakers that high schoolers blessed with the ability and the desire to play two college sports are usually discouraged from doing so and thus forced to make a choice."

Two of my Dad's favorite players during his career were Tony Dungy (pictured above) and Dave Winfield, both of whom played for him at the University of Minnesota back in the '70s. Both were multi-sport athletes. As you might expect, Tony played football, while Dave was a baseball player.

I really believe that playing two or three sports helps athletes become better at their "primary" sport. With kids of my own, I've seen how soccer can help guys with their footwork and spacing in other sports.

As a coach/GM in the CBA, when drafting, we'd look for guys who'd played football in high school as they typically had some toughness to them. The football guys were also typically disciplined and didn't shy away from the weightroom.

A few years ago, while between jobs with the Warriors and the Grizzlies, an NFL team asked me to do background on college football players who had played basketball in high school. With the success that Antonio Gates has had with the Chargers, it makes sense.

Generally speaking, successful basketball players are athletic. They can run, in good condition,catch, etc. With even only high school experience, concepts like spacing, teamwork, footwork, catching the ball, anticipation, etc., -- all skills that can apply to football -- are already ingrained in the athlete.

I read once where Cal Ripken said his father encouraged him to play various sports. When baseball season ended, his Dad would put away Cal's glove and cap and bring out the football or basketball. As good as Ripken was, he wasn't a single-sport guy. Nor were guys like Danny Ainge, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, LeBron, Randy Moss, Michael Jordan -- the list goes on.

The ESPN article quotes Danny Farmer, UCLA's all-time leading receiver who also played volleyball for the Bruins:

"If I have a child, I will tell them to play as many sports as possible."

Biedrins does the dirty work

I couldn't be happier for Andris Biedrins, who re-upped with the Warriors for $60 million or so. He's one of my favorite NBA players to watch. In the words of Bill Duffy, his agent:

"He has the work ethic. He's compliant. He does the dirty work. He's unselfish. These are the guys who should be rewarded."

Most scouting reports on Biedrins go something like this:

Relentless on the glass...runs the floor...loves to slip on the pick-and-roll...rolls hard to the rim...scores off teammates' penetration dish and garbage in traffic...finds open offensive areas around the rim...has limited range...poor foul shooter.

Having given your team this report, it's hard to take many of Biedrins' strengths away. He's not a go-to guy, but he continually finds a way to help his team. And if you check the box score, on most nights, he finishes with a double-double. In fact, he posted double-doubles in the last seven games of the 2007-08 season.

On top of that, I have heard he's a genuinely nice person.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John Wooden's recruiting philosophy

Pulled the following directly from John Maxwell's online newsletter. It includes some good insight into John Wooden's recruiting philosophy.

Lessons from Basketball's Greatest Coach
by Dr. John C. Maxwell

At 97 years of age, John Wooden is a legend in the coaching profession. In 1999, ESPN named him The Greatest Coach of the 20th Century.

The list of honors garnered by Coach Wooden during his coaching career is unrivaled.

* Over the course of twelve years, his UCLA Bruins basketball teams won ten NCAA Championships, including an astonishing seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. For comparison's sake, no other men's coach has won more than 4 NCAA titles.
* He led his teams to four undefeated seasons; no other coach has had more than one undefeated season.
* His teams set a record by winning 88 games in a row, including 38 in a row in the NCAA Tournament.

Winning: More than the score

After glancing at Coach Wooden's record, a person may be misled into thinking Coach Wooden was a man preoccupied with winning. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For Coach Wooden, competition was never about comparing his team to the opposing squad. Despite all of the victories, trophies, and championships, Coach Wooden never spoke to his team about winning.

John Wooden was college basketball's greatest coach because he kept score differently than any other coach. Rather than measuring success in terms of wins and losses, he focused relentlessly on potential and improvement. Coach Wooden would grow livid if his players loafed when the team was ahead by 20 points, and he could be thrilled with his team's performance - even when they lost by 20 points.

Leadership Application: When businesses focus exclusively on market share or the bottom line, they run the risk of overlooking or undervaluing the people, processes, and systems that drive results.

Practice: Not perfection, but preparation

When questioned by reporters about missing team practices, current NBA star Allen Iverson gave a disdainful tirade on the pettiness of practice. "We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean, listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game... how silly is that?"

For many sports fans, Iverson's comments were emblematic of the arrogance and me-first attitude of an athlete in the National Basketball Association. If nothing else, his words revealed his underlying attitude: I'm an NBA superstar; I've arrived; I'm good enough to skip practice; practice doesn't matter, it's my performance on game day that counts.

To John Wooden, such an attitude would have been reprehensible. Coach Wooden's style was best noted for his keen attention to detail and the rigors of his practice regimen. In his words, "If you prepare properly, you may be outscored but you will never lose. You always win when you make the full effort to do the best of which you're capable."

For Coach Wooden, winning happened when the stands were empty and the spectators absent. He loved the day-by-day discipline of practice. By convincing his team to give their best effort at practice, he coached them to perform at a higher level than opponents. As a result, he enjoyed unprecedented success when games were played and championships were on the line.

Leadership Application: Challenge your people to give top effort every day, and prepare to the point of excess. If you don't tolerate sloppiness when the team prepares, then they will perform better in pressure situations.

Peak Performers: More than Talent

John Wooden gained an advantage over other coaches because he had a superior method of selecting players. While most recruiters scoured high school gyms solely in search of talent and athleticism, Coach Wooden began his search from a different vantage point.

When selecting players, Coach Wooden's primary consideration was the student's transcript. For him, a student's discipline in the classroom spoke volumes about the young man's priorities. Coach Wooden wanted players who recognized their primary responsibility was to earn a college degree rather than excel on the court.

When evaluating potential recruits, John Wooden's second criterion was the student's family life. Did the student respect his parents or guardians? Did the student treat his siblings kindly? By looking into a potential player's family life, Coach Wooden measured the player's ability to build healthy relationships. He knew relational skills were essential for establishing teamwork and camaraderie.

John Wooden's third consideration when selecting talent was the composite evaluation of six coaches. He was leery of basing his analysis on a single performance. By diligently consulting the opinion of six coaches, Coach Wooden measured consistency. He wanted to avoid selecting players who gave top effort one night only to withhold it on another evening.

Coach Wooden's final criteria for selecting players were quickness and talent. He wasn't naïve. He knew speed and natural ability were uncoachable and irreplaceable. Even so, he refused to select a player until he felt comfortable with the young man's priorities, relationships, and track record of consistent performance.

Leadership Application: By looking blindly at talent, leaders end up with malcontents who place personal gain above team spirit or talent-rich sluggards who rarely give their best effort. When hiring, consider an interviewee's life priorities, relational history, and career accomplishments. Don't discount talent, but never elevate it as the sole quality in a prospective teammate.

Losing the battle to win the war

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has two rules:

1. Hustle.
2. Be on time.

So when arguably his best player -- SS Jimmy Rollins -- was late to the ballpark recently, he had a tough decision. Manuel scratched him from the Phillies' lineup.

It wasn't the first time Rollins had violated one of Manuel's two rules. Last month, Rollins failed to hustle on a pop fly. Manuel pulled him from the game.

Here's what Rollins' teammate Jamie Moyer had to say about it:

"It's unfortunate, but rules are rules. I commend Charlie for standing up for the rules that he has. I think we all need to be accountable to that. Each team has their own rules, and they play not only for their managers and their coaching staff, but they play amongst their teammates. I think you create who you are in the clubhouse and on the field by the way you act and the way you carry yourself."

[Can you tell Moyer's a 22-season veteran who sees the big picture?]

The big key here is Manuel and Rollins sat down, face to face, and discussed the situation right away. They didn't let it drag out.

My thought here is if it's the first time a player is late to take him aside in private and speak with him about it. Let's win the game that night. If you choose to keep him out of the game, the owner and the GM have to be on same page with the decision.

I've been with a team where they didn't fine a player if he was late for practice. Showing up late to any meeting -- whether it's lunch with a friend, a business meeting, or a formal team practice -- is disrespectful to those you're meeting with. It's common courtesy.

In the context of a team, it demonstrates that you're not prepared. Put simply, it's not conducive to a winning environment.

This past season, my alma mater, the University of San Diego, played at St. Mary's. A big game. When the game tipped off, two of USD's best players weren't on the floor. Coach Bill Grier put then in several minutes into the game, but St. Mary's had the lead by then. USD lost the game.

Later on, I learned that both players had broken a team rule. But Coach Grier set the tone. He lost a battle that night, but won the war as this decision helped him the rest of year with his team.

How much did it help?

USD went on to win the conference tourney and earned a trip to the NCAA tourney where they upset UConn.

Talking the talk: Terminology

As free agents and rookies join a new team, one of the toughest adjustments is learning the staff's terminology.

Take Randall Gay, for example, who recently joined the Saints after four seasons in New England with the Patriots. According to this article, "learning the Saints defensive terminology has been the biggest challenge for Gay."

For some coaches, the more complex the terminology, the better, as it makes it harder for opponents to scout your team. On the other hand, if you have a big playbook, you need the play-call system to be easy to understand, with wording that's easy to remember so players can react instead of overthinking.

As a coach in the CBA, where rosters change frequently (in a 56-game season, we once had over 60 players on the roster) I learned quickly the importance of terminology and having sets correlate with terminology.

As a kid, I'd watch my Dad's teams and study their terminology. To learn it, I tried to put it in terms that were easy for me to understand and remember.

In college, I loved talking with guys on the football and baseball teams about terminology they used. Over time, I've borrowed terms from different sports that are easy to learn.

For example, our "no layup" rule was called "sack" as in "sack the QB." Terms for our presses all originated from NFL defensive terms. We had our late game or "2-minute offense." All pick-n-rolls, no matter where on floor or out of what set, were called "fist."

For all double-screens, we had one simple phrase: "Red." "50," "suicide squeeze," and "Hail Mary" -- all terms borrowed from other contexts.

This summer, I helped my son and his AAU team come up with easy-to-remember terms. I also had weekly lunches/dinners with some of the St. Mary's and local high school coaches. And I had the chance to sit down recently with Oakland Raiders QB coach John DeFilippo where we talked about about play-call names. QB coaches like John are a great resource, especially when they're dealing with a young QB who is learning a new system.

On a coaching staff, guys bring with them terms and phrases from their previous jobs and teams. On occasion, we'll create our own for the play or situation. Regardless, I feel the best terms are (1) short, (2) descriptive, and (3) memorable or associative.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Competitors seek out the best to improve, test their skills

Looks like Adam "Pac Man" Jones (at left chasing T.O.) and his teammate Terrell Owens are going at it pretty good at Cowboys training camp. Based on their quotes (and their on-field success), both are intense competitors.

Said Jones: "I'm here to compete. I'm not here to prove anything. I'm here to compete."

Said Owens: "It's all in the competition. That's part of it for the both of us to get each other better. I look forward to the competition every day. I know whatever I do is going to help them and whatever they do against me it's obviously going to help me. Obviously during the course of practice, it gets very, very competitive and during game time it makes everything easier."

Said head coach Wade Phillips: "The reason they're good is they're competitors. And so if they think someone is the best or someone is good, they're going to try to meet the challenge rather than dodge the challenge."

Gilbert Arenas is one player who, if he saw a guy having a good practice, would kick it up a few notches. Ron Artest had a similar mentality, both in practices and games. He always wants the challenge of guarding the opponent's best player. And when we'd play Cleveland, Miami, or the Lakers, Ron would make it clear that he wanted LeBron, Dwyane, or Kobe.

One reason we had so much success in our two seasons in the USBL was that we had 10 guys who really enjoyed going at each other in practice. Mark Boyd and Larry Lewis, in particular, had intense battles in practice. Both guys were undersized power forwards who, if two inches taller, would have been NBA players for a long time.

Unfortunately, not every player has that mentality. As talented as he was, Rumeal Robinson didn't like to compete. Pearl Washington, who like Rumeal was a very talented guard, was not a strong competitor. It's likely a reason why, despite excellent skills, neither had successful NBA careers.

But as I've discussed here previously, talent is never enough.

Bond-building through field trips and guest lectures

It's always interesting to see what teams are doing -- either directly or indirectly -- to help foster a sense of family and encourage a bond between their players.

The most recent issue of Sporting News lists several examples of what various NFL teams are doing (or have done) to bring the players together, from "Soul Train" lines to visiting an Army base, to skeet-shooting and ping-pong and bowling, to going to a waterpark.

I remember reading about how the Celtics came together during a trip to Rome last October as they visited historic sites like the Coliseum to riding around the city on rented mopeds. In the words of Ray Allen:

"You have to always use this as a foundation, a building block. We need to remember how we build this team and how we started it. We have to all remember the bond that we have from being in Rome. Remember Rome."

Here's what Kevin Garnett said at the time:

"We're trying to create continuity and cohesiveness here. We're trying to form some chemistry. We've been walking around, just being together, not force-fed. Usually, when you have situations like this, it comes off commercial, but this has been cool. It's just happened. My highlight of the trip is how well we've already jelled and connected early. You can't teach guys naturally bonding."

Great quote from KG. Chemistry, cohesiveness, connection: The three C's of team-building.

As I've posted about here before, our first season in Golden State, we opened training camp at a beautiful resort in Hawaii. The experience helped to bring the guys together and set the tone for the season.

Pete Babcock, the GM in ATL when I was an assistant with the Hawks, was the best I've been around as far as setting up team "field trips." During several road trips, he'd set up various educational outings.

I always liked taking the guys to movies when we're on the road, but moving forward I plan on trying out more active outings like paint ball, wiffle ball games, miniature golf, etc.

But it doesn't have to be going out, i.e., a field trip. Sometimes, bringing in a speaker to visit with the team right there at practice is a good way to focus the team.

In Golden State, we brought in former Navy SEAL Richard Machowicz, author of the book "The Warrior Within" to talk to the players. Bobby Knight also spoke to the team.

With the Kings, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the team before a game.

Just as a teacher or professor takes his class out to visit with executives or brings in "guest lecturers" to the classroom, coaches can tap into a guest's unique experience or knowledge while breaking up the daily grind. It helps to engage the players, stimulates them mentally, and provides a different voice or point of view.

Always in class: Learning from other coaches

I read with interest this story about a program in the UK where coaches from other sports are welcomed into the "inner sanctum" of one of the world's best rugby teams -- the All-Blacks in New Zealand-- to observe and exchange ideas.

[Some of the All-Blacks players are pictured above.]

"By tapping into such a rich vein of knowledge and experience as will be available to them during this week, they can only improve as coaches. This won’t be the sort of trip where they’ll be on the sidelines observing how people work, this will be a real opportunity for them to get inside the heads of top coaches and to discuss different aspects of the game and coaching."

If there's one thing I've enjoyed about not having a full-time job this past year (other than having lots of time to spend with my kids) it's having the opportunity to learn from other coaches.

Last season, I spent five days at the University of Kansas studying Coach Self's techniques with his staff. I spent another week with Coach Eustachy and his staff at Southern Miss, then four days at Western Illinois with Coach Derek Thomas.

I watched shoot-arounds with Arizona State with Coach Sendek, attended several of Coach Randy Bennett's practices at St. Mary's, and almost a game a night in the Bay area either at Cal, Stanford, St. Mary's, or USF .

But it wasn't just college teams. I met with high school teams all over Northern California, talking with their coaches and observing their practices.

Every stop was like a new classroom as I had the chance to learn from each group of coaches. There wasn't a single time that I didn't walk away with something valuable -- a nugget that I could apply down the line.

And that's in addition to all of the phone conversations I've had every day with other coaches from the D-League to the NFL to colleges from Seton Hall to Santa Clara.

Since I've been in coaching my entire life, I don't know how it is in other professions -- marketing, accounting, whatever -- but for me, one of the best things about coaching is sharing -- exchanging information, discussing what's worked and what hasn't, etc. It's the social aspect of coaching that makes it unique and it's one reason guys who leave coaching often come back.

Playing like you belong

I see where the Warriors' Anthony Morrow out of Georgia Tech earned MVP honors at the Rocky Mountain Revue.

Every year there are undrafted players who end up having solid NBA careers. Morrow (at left in red Heat jersey) could be one of them.

At the same time, there are guys who were selected in the draft who never make it. That's because drafting is an inexact science. As I've posted about here before, playing in the right system and for the right coach is a key.

But even more important is a player's mental toughness and his ability to "play like he belongs." It's one of those intangibles that can't be scouted unless the person doing the scouting goes really deep.

For those who didn't earn a contract through Summer League play, the next step is to win a spot during training camp and the exhibition season. And if that doesn't work out, the D-League is a good option for earning a call-up during the season.

[Here's a good recap of the Orlando Summer League from]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

European basketball links and video

Milan Gajic recently emailed me a list of several links to European coaching websites and videos. If you're a coach looking for good drills and video diagrams, these are worth looking at. Many thanks to Milan for passing them along:

Downloadable booklet: Basketball drills (France)

Coaches: Here's a 76-page illustrated PDF booklet packed with basketball drills from France. I've had this for quite some time and can't remember where it came from. I'd like to give credit for it, so if you know the source, please let me know. Thanks!

Finding the right schemes for your team

With college football gearing up, I came across an interesting article about what's going on down in Auburn, Alabama, where Auburn's head coach Tommy Tuberville has dumped his conservative offense in favor of a spread offense.

Keep in mind that the Tigers went 13-0 and won a National Title under Tuberville in 2004 using the "old" offense. In fact, in nine seasons at Auburn, Tuberville's teams have won five SEC division titles. And if you know anything about SEC football, that's not an easy task.

So why the drastic change? According to Coach Tuberville, he made the change for two reasons:

First, despite winning nine games last season, his old two-back offense wasn't scoring enough points. Second, the new spread offense is more attractive to high school kids he's recruiting.

Trying to determine what's best for your team is always a challenge for a coaching staff. In Golden State, we went into the 2002 training camp with the idea that we'd play a slow-tempo game. That's because in the couple of seasons prior to our arrival, the Warriors had pushed the ball, but with little success. In fact, the season before we arrived, the club had won just 21 games.

So we went through the first two weeks of camp talking about having patience offensively and the value of good shot selection. The idea was that we had to develop a different mind-set.

But one night after a low-scoring exhibition game against Seattle in Mizzoula, Montana, Hank Egan, one of our assistants, and I had a frank discussion about the team's make-up. The club, we decided, was simply better-suited to run.

So that night we wrote down a goal that we shared with the team the next morning: Lead the NBA in scoring. [We fell just short of the goal, finishing third in scoring, averaging 105.6 ppg.]

That team was young and not adept at executing a half-court offense. But they could really run and score in the open floor. So we implemented a new offense we called the "Open Offense." It was a version of a passing game with some basic "Princeton" elements, such as dribble-handoffs, dribble at back doors, on-post feeds, splits action, etc. It was designed to give the guys some structure while allowing them to play to their strengths.

For Coach Tuberville, it will be interesting to see if the players he recruited for his old offense are suited for his new one. But it's another example of a coach who is looking ahead and is willing to take a risk in order to reach a goal.

Talking to Mom about blogging

When I was back home in San Diego recently, I had lunch at my Mom's house and we got on the subject of the blog.

As we talked about it, I started trying to explain to her why I enjoyed it so much. I've gone my entire life either playing or coaching basketball. And, if you knew my Dad, you know it's not a leisurely pace either. He was a 90-mile-per-hour guy. No doubt I got it from him.

Well, after 40-plus years, all at once, I went from 90 mph to a dead stop. There were a lot of changes going on in my life, moving back to the Bay area and having more times with my sons. Other than my two sons, it was time to find some new projects.

The blog was almost like a re-birth. Thinking about basketball in different terms, reflecting on some of what I've seen and learned during my life and career, corresponding with other coaches, teaching, meeting new people -- it's been incredibly therapeutic for me.

I think my Mom understood, though I'm still not sure she's clear on what a blog is.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pressure defense, transition offense clicking as Team USA downs Canada by 55

Watched the entire USA v Canada game last night as the Americans cruised, 120-65.

The key was the pressure defense that the U.S. applied, holding Canada to a low FG percentage. Team USA's guards did a great job on-ball defensively.

The Americans also did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and causing deflections. The one area of concern is the defensive gambles and blow-bys off the dribble when they play teams than can really shoot off the drive-and-kick game.

I loved how Team USA ran their out of bounds and looked up-floor for quick-hitting passes (rules on side-out allows quick inbounds as opposed to the NBA where the ref slows every
inbound play).

Off of Canada's FT, Team USA's "Pistol" attack looked good.

Great pick-up by Team USA with 3-point specialist Michael Redd. They did a nice job finding Redd, who finds a way to run and get to the 3-point line in transition with the unselfish play of guards J. Kidd, C. Paul (photo below), and D. Williams. They will find the shooters and are such willing passers.

Team USA was all perimeter tonight. At some point in the Olympics they'll need to establish an inside game with a post player. In this game, though, it was all fast breaks and perimeter jumpers.

On the down side, Team USA must take better care of the ball. At times, their unselfishness or over-passing led to U.S. turnovers in the first and second quarters, though they executed better in the third quarter at the offensive end.

Team USA's guards totally dominated Canada's backcourt, which featured Carl English and veteran Rowan Barrett, who are solid, but not at the same level as the U.S. backcourt players. The Canadians missed Samuel Dalembert (76ers), who was waived by coach Leo Rautins.

This Canadian team was not as good as the Greek, German, Croatian, and Puerto Rican teams that I watched last week in FIBA action in Athens last week. In fact, Team USA's practice squad is quite a bit better than Team Canada, who looked out of condition tonight.

I'm not sure how this game helps prepare Team USA as the Americans were so much better than Canada, which displayed little resistance on the defensive end as Team USA did whatever they wanted. From a strategy perspective, Canada's scheme didn't take any one aspect of the game away from the U.S.

On the personnel side of things, Jason Kidd fits in perfectly with Team USA. With four scorers on the floor, Kidd has the ideal pass-first mentality that a point guard needs for this roster. He'll be a key for this team, though he may get overshadowed with so many spectacular scorers on the squad.

I loved how coach K subbed both of Jason Kidd's back-ups in at the same time so as not to declare a "winner" in the battle for the #2 point-guard spot. They played well together in the backcourt. No reason to declare who the backup is this early.

D-Wade looked phenomenal. A lot of bounce in his legs.

Carmelo Anthony showed his value to Team USA by playing both inside and outside.

And, as expected, Kobe had a nice all-around game.

As a side note, I thought Coach Fran Fraschilla did a nice job with the color for tonight's TV broadcast, providing terrific insight. He also had a good story about Coach K bringing in wounded U.S. soldiers to talk to the team last year about selfishness.

Jack Welch on "emotional mismanagement"

The most recent issue of Business Week magazine has a good column by management guru Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), titlted "Emotional Mismanagement."

Welch is counseling managers and executives, but his advice could easily apply to coaches.

So, I've pasted an edited version of his column below, substituting "manager" with "coach," "group(s)" with "team(s)," and "employee(s)" with "player(s)." The result is great advice for those in the coaching profession:

"If there's one thing that doesn't get enough blame for undermining's the mismanagement of emotion. Too many coaches let their players go, emotionally speaking, unmanaged.

Left unattended, teams can fall into some pretty dysfunctional behaviors. Maybe it's because gossip, ganging up, paranoia, and the like were hardwired into the human brain to ensure the survival of the species, as some scientists hypothesize.

But the reason teams can get so terribly caught up in negative feelings doesn't matter. What matters, from a coach's point of view, is that unhealthy emotions usually beget more unhealthy emotions.

That's why you have to manage them, which, fortunately, takes neither a degree in psychology nor more time than you already have. All it takes is an active commitment to remove uncertainty from your team and to instill a purpose-oriented approach to inspiration.

You simply do not have the right to call yourself a coach if you are not regularly telling your players what they are doing well and how they need to improve.

In fact, you should be so clear in your evaluations that, should the time come to let someone go, that a player won't need to ask why. He'll want only to discuss "the deal" and the logistics of the transition.

We realize that the kind of candor we advocate doesn't come naturally to many coaches. Some people would even say it's cruel. We'd say the opposite: that a lack of candor steals careers because it's usually too late for a player to start over by the time he learns he has to, via pink slip."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Team Defense vs the Pick-and-Roll

Coaches -- Milan Gajic was nice enough to send me NBA assistant Igor Kokoskov's 14 pages of coaching notes on team defense vs the pick-and-roll. I've posted them here for download.

How an "involuntary job change" can give you a different perspective

Came across a good story from the Associated Press yesterday about the New York Giants, last season's Super Bowl champions.

In the article, Giants coach Tom Coughlin says the team won because players put the "team over self." In the pro game, that's not easy. It's a credit to Coach Coughlin, his staff, and his players to be able to accomplish that.

But even more interesting was a quote by Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope (photo at left) about All-Pro TE Jeremy Shockey, who left the team to play in New Orleans. According to Pope, sometimes a player can be in one place too long.

What a true statement by Coach Pope (who, by the way, has coached in four Super Bowls).

So many times, GMs, coaches, and players have a hard time understanding this. It's also why people who have been fired or players who have been cut or waived appreciate things more. An "involuntary job change" gives them a different perspective.

Many young executives, even ones who've worked their way up, have never been fired. They've never gone through that in their career, so their perspective isn't always realistic. Now I'd never wish "getting fired" on anyone. What I'm saying is that it's enlightening. After growing up with a coach and going through it twice myself, I can vouch for just how illuminative it can be.

It's interesting, when you're fired and out of work, those who typically reach out are guys who've been fired. They've been through it. They understand what it's like, the intense and overwhelming disappointment. The sense of failure, of letting yourself and others down. That first conversation with your kids is gut-wrenching.

It's why a coach like Larry Brown is so willing to help others. He's been there.

Last year, a good friend mailed me a copy of a 2001 Fortune magazine article titled "A Manager For All Seasons" about Joe Torre. In it, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says this about Torre:

"If you look at Joe, as a manager he got fired three places....I think Joe appreciated that a chance was taken in hiring him, because usually you go with someone who's successful. I mean, a guy who had been fired three times! Including the Mets -- he was fired by them. He was fired by St. Louis. For a guy who was fired three times, he's done pretty well. He has had respect for me and the organization. Maybe that comes from getting fired three times."

Every coach should read it, regardless of whether you've ever been fired.

Conditioning tests set the tone

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton put his guys through a pretty intense conditioning test earlier this week to kick-off training camp.

Of course, conditioning tests aren't new. Pat Riley's test was legendary. If a player didn't meet the body-fat standard set by the training staff, he wasn't even allowed in the gym.

When I was with Doc Rivers in Orlando we had a tough one. I remember he called it "a rite of passage." It really set the tone and was a hint at what the team's identity would be.

And we did a pretty rigorous one when I was with Golden State. We also had a relatively tough one in SAC where the guys had to do four sets of 10 baseline-touches with a couple of minutes between each set. Looking back, I don't think it was tough enough.

The big question with the conditioning test is always the veteran players. With the Warriors, we sent a letter to each of the guys early in off-season outlining the conditioning test they'd be required to do on the opening day of camp. This gave them an idea of what was expected -- kind of a test review. It also set expectations.

If a player didn't pass, he had to run it again after each practice until he did pass. For some guys who didn't work out much during the off-season, it could take 3-4 times to pass it. Danny Fortson went almost a month before he passed it, but he ran it every day and gave a good effort.

As Payton did with the Saints, the time you were required to finish in varied depending on your position. Guards had less time to finish than forwards, who had less time than centers.

From a coaching perspective, the conditioning test is a good early indicator of what kind of season you may be in for and what kind of team you have. It tells you something about the goals guys set in the off-season, their level of commitment, and their focus.

It's evident that a player who shows up to camp in top physical condition has been thinking about basketball. He's making a statement.

On the flip side, a guy who comes in 20 pounds overweight, hasn't been lifting or running -- he's not committed. He's not taking his craft seriously. For a coach and his teammates who are taking it seriously, that's disappointing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talent is never enough

I read where Cal football coach Jeff Tedford and his assistants each took a chapter of John Maxwell's book "Talent is Never Enough," broke them down into lectures, and presented each section to their players in a classroom.

The gist of the book is this:

"Simple talent will never translate into success unless other factors related to character and attitude are strong as well. The more talented a team is, the more leadership is needed. Teams don't simply come together on their own; that they require leadership to do so."

According to Tedford:

"I started reading it and I found myself highlighting half of pages, or full pages. It was so relevant to what our situation was. I felt like we needed to spend time on a lot of the things in the book and go back and redefine who we are. There were a lot of things that we needed to hear as a football program."

It's a great example of going beyond the court or the field and focusing on intangible or "soft" issues. As I've discussed here previously, there are lots of coaches who know the "hard" stuff, i.e., X's and Q's. The difference is understanding the intangibles.

I posted recently about how the teams with the best players usually win. That's true. But in almost every case, there are strong leaders on those teams. As Maxwell points out in his book, talent enough is not alone. When building a team, it's important not to focus exclusively on finding good players. Instead, find good players who are also good leaders.

Cal's players -- at least many of them -- will carry the lessons from the book with them through life.

One off-season with the Warriors, we sent every player a copy of Maxwell's book "The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork." I actually quizzed Adonal Foyle about it (because I was betting that Adonal had read it from cover to cover, which he had).

You can't do the right thing and be effective without some courage

I wasn't in the Boys Scouts growing up. [Too busy with basketball and baseball. ]

But a story earlier this week in the business section of USA Today gave me a new appreciation of the Scouts organization and what it stands for.

It's a Q&A with Robert Mazzuca, head of the Boy Scouts. A couple of highlights:

- A Scout vows to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent (respectful). "The day that trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent become obsolete, I'll turn out the lights."

- "You can't do the right thing and be effective without some courage."

- "I don't care what fancy techniques you use, integrity is integrity. Loyalty is loyalty. Being trustworthy is a bedrock issue. You can put cosmetics on it, but either you are or you aren't."

- "If you're not proactive in defining yourself, somebody else will."

- "We accept any faith, but they have to embrace some faith. In the middle of faith are the principles of good and the kinds of things that are good lessons for business. Most good business leaders are men of faith. The idea that we live a life of faith and don't hide from a life of faith is an important part of who we are."

- "Personal responsibility. Taking responsibility for your actions is a hallmark of a good leader."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John Thompson: Some rookies need to understand they're audtioning for bench spots

Many thanks to Bob Rathbun for giving me a heads-up on this great post over on David Friedman's blog, 20 Second Timeout.

It's the transcript of an interview NBA TV did with legendary coach John Thompson during a recent NBA Summer League game. Some highlights:

-- "When you are trying out or working out for these [NBA] teams you are also showing people what you cannot do. Most people tend to think that they are showing what they can do but these scouts try to find out what you can't do and hopefully you have enough intelligence to understand what you can't do and try not to do it. You need to go to the man who is auditioning you and say, 'Sir, what are you looking for?' and then try to determine whether you can do that or add that to the team because what you may be doing best he may have six guys who can do that better than you."

-- "This summer in Orlando, [Patrick Ewing] had an opportunity to coach in the summer league. You've got to go through that experience because there is a total difference between possessing knowledge and motivating other people to do it."

-- "Most of these [NBA rookies, incoming freshmen, etc.] come in trying to convince you what they can do as opposed to finding out what you want done and then doing it. You see that here with all the big guys outside throwing up three point shots when their team may need a post guy. You have got to determine what these folks want or you are just fooling yourself. You may make 100 threes but if can't rebound and block shots you are going to get cut."

-- [Rookies who are] smart enough to know that if I defend, rebound and do the energy things for a coach then there will be a spot for me on the team. I can't come on every team and think that I am going to take the role of Kobe. Some of these guys better grow up and understand that they are auditioning for bench spots, not to be superstars."

--"A lot of times [trades and roster moves are] purely money decision(s) made by ownership and a not a decision being made by [coaches or GMs]. These guys are smart enough to know the game. 'Down the line,' 'potential' -- what that does is get the coach fired. All these guys who make these money decisions never factor that into the Ls and Ws that some poor coach has to sit there and work for. Those decisions don't relate to his judgment as far as a person being able to play or not being able to play."

Coaching clinic notes

Coaches, I came across a file full of coaching notes from a 2006 clinic, including these from Stan Van Gundy. It's a PDF file. Some great stuff from Coach Van Gundy.

The value of a veteran coach

Read a Q&A with Larry Brown recently that really interested me. A couple of highlights:

-- On the ability of veteran coaches to develop younger players: "I look around now and I think the older coaches are so important in this league because we've got all young kids. We have to teach these kids. The bottom line is, we've got to develop young players and these coaches that have paid their dues and learned their trade are the most qualified to do this. You have a responsibility to teach these kids and make them better."

-- On the role of a coach: "You try to build a guy's strength and eliminate the weaknesses."

-- On coaches paying their dues: "I do love the fact that we've got new young guys coming in here. Mo (Cheeks) worked his way up. Byron (Scott) worked his way up. Rick Carlisle worked his way up. There's so many of those great stories that I hope we recognize that."

-- On the pressure to perform: "They judge you on your body of work. Now the pressure on me is to try and make this team better, but I think I felt that way everywhere I've ever gone. I've felt that every day of my life. Every practice I feel that way."

-- On what he missed most when he was away from coaching: "I didn't miss the games when I was working with Philly. When I was coaching toward the end of my career, the games were sometimes painful because you're worried that maybe your team's not prepared. You have some anxiety in that regard. But I missed the practices and smelling the gym and being around the players and the coaches."

Coach Brown's point about veteran coaches as teachers is right on. In his last year of coaching, Chuck Daly was unbelievable in Orlando. A master of his trade.

One summer, I worked for Hubie Brown during a tournament in Limoges, France. He'd not coached for awhile, but it was like he'd never missed a beat. He was as good as any coach I've ever seen. He teaches "parts" of the game, then the whole, breaking it down piece by piece, just as a good teacher does in the classroom.

I couldn't believe that an NBA team hadn't hired him. [Of course, Jerry West did and Hubie earned Coach of the Year honors.]

Mike Fratello is another example of a veteran coach who could take over an NBA team today and have success. He's that organized and has that much knowledge of the game.

What these coaches have in common is that they've not stopped learning. They're always curious about the game and what they can learn. It's what separates them from other coaches their age.

Perception vs reality

Tonight, while going back and forth from the DAL v ATL Summer League game and the WNBA's LA v DET game, I caught the fight that broke out between the two women's teams.

As coaches and officials tried to separate the players, DET assistant Rick Mahorn was accused of pushing LA's Lisa Leslie to the ground.

Now, I don't know what happened. From the highlights I saw (during the broadcast and online), I couldn't see it. But according to the game's color commentator (who was just a few feet from the melee), "He truly was trying to play peacemaker."

The problem with fights in sports is separating fact from fiction. As is the case with most things in life, perceptions matter more than reality. Unfortunately, we base our opinions and actions on our perceptions.

Don't believe it? Have you ever seen a Harlem Globetrotters game? You know the part where one of the guys is running around with a bucket that you perceive to be filled with water? The reality is that it's only filled with confetti. But when he throws the "water" into the crowd, everyone ducks. Why? Because our actions are based on perceptions, not reality.

In the case of fights like this, it's not about what actually happened; it's about what people think happened.

Fights tend to follow people for years, sometimes for their entire careers. For outsiders, it's impossible to know what went on, what was said, or what led to the game that led to the fight. Of course, this leads to speculation and, reality aside, opinions are formed.

Watching the post-game coverage from the WNBA game, I only hope the fight doesn't follow Rick or Lisa. Rick and I were assistants together under Lon Kruger with the Hawks. Rick is a genuinely good guy who is loves the game of basketball. [He did a great job working with the ATL's big men, by the way.]

I got to know Lisa when she would visit a friend of hers, Lorenzo Orr, who played for us in the USBL. From what I know of her and what I've heard and read, she's a terrific person.

While on the subject of women's hoops, when I was an assistant with the Magic, I had the chance to scrimmage against the franchise's WNBA Miracle team at the request of Miracle coach Carolyn Peck, who would round up a few of us who had played college ball to work against their team.

What amazed me most was how physical the women's game is. They set screens on the defender, not in an area. They're not as quick as their male counterparts, but they really
execute well and they understand the finer points of the game. That always impressed me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Looking for an advantage -- even in socks

Yesterday, I mentioned the importance of focusing on details. I thought more about it last night and went to my bookshelf looking for Pat Williams' book "The Pursuit."

In it, he writes about a question he asks when speaking to an audience:

"How many of you have ever been bitten by a elephant?" Never has a hand gone up. So he asks, "How many here have ever been bitten by a mosquito?" Every hand goes up. "You see? The little things get you every time."

I've read where, on the first day of practice, UCLA's legendary Coach Wooden would demonstrate to his players the proper way to put on their shoes and socks. The players would roll their eyes and giggle, but he was focusing on the little things.

From his experience, guys who didn't put their socks on correctly would often develop blisters, which affected their game and, when serious enough, could lead to missed playing time as the sores healed.

Here's how Coach Wooden describes it:

"I think it's the little things that really count. The first thing I would show our players at our first meeting was how to take a little extra time putting on their shoes and socks properly. The most important part of your equipment is your shoes and socks.

You play on a hard floor. So you must have shoes that fit right. And you must not permit your socks to have wrinkles around the little toe -- where you generally get blisters -- or around the heels.

It took just a few minutes, but I did show my players how I wanted them to do it. Hold up the sock, work it around the little toe area and the heel area so that there are no wrinkles. Smooth it out good. Then hold the sock up while you put the shoe on. And the shoe must be spread apart -- not just pulled on the top laces.

You tighten it up snugly be each eyelet. Then you tie it. And then you double-tie it so it won't come undone --- because I don't want shoes coming untied during practice, or during the game. I don't want that to happen.

I'm sure that once I started teaching that many years ago, it did cut down on blisters. It definitely helped.

But that's just a little detail that coaches must take advantage of, because it's the little details that make the big things come about."

A coach of a different sort

There's a great article in the July 21 issue of Fortune magazine about former Columbia football head coach Bill Campbell ("The Secret Coach" by Jennifer Reingold).

He hasn't worked in sports in since the late 1970s, when he stepped down after five years as head coach at Columbia where "he motivated, inspired, and lost -- a lot."

In fact, in his last year of coaching he was hospitalized for exhaustion.

[Campbell also played football at Columbia. Despite being only 5-10, 165 pounds, he captained the 1961 Lion team to the Ivy League Championship game (where they tied Harvard).]

After leaving football, he worked at an New York ad agency for awhile before joining Apple, in 1983, as VP of sales. According to the guy who hired Campbell for that job:

"It would be pretty unusual today to hire a football coach to be your VP of sales. But what I was looking for was someone who could help develop Apple into an organization. We had a dealer network in those days, and he gained trust both inside the company and in the dealer channel. He was just a natural."

Campbell, who is still a member of Apple's board of directors, would go on to serve as CEO of Intuit. But he's still involved in coaching -- just not the coaching of athletes. He serves as a consultant and mentor to executives all over Silicon Valley.

According to the article:

An important element of Campbell's teachings is the system he's developed for reviewing employees, which many of the executives he mentors now use. Rather than simply focusing on whether a manager has achieved his financial goals - which can lead to short-term thinking - Campbell gives equal weight to four areas. The first is traditional: performing against expectations. But then he looks at management skills, working with peers, and innovating. If you aren't good at all those things, you aren't good.

Said one executive: "He loves people, and he loves growing people."

And he's still involved in football:

During nine of the past 15 years...he has spent an hour and a half each fall weekday and every Saturday coaching the eighth-graders at St. Joseph's School of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, Calif. His earlier failure to be tough enough is a mistake he seems determined not to repeat. "He's very demanding," says school athletic director Jeff Reynolds. "He'll get right in the face of kids if they're doing something he doesn't like. And kids respond." Campbell has won six championships.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Walk-throughs, dummy drills, and timing routes...

With NFL training camps opening this week, I was thinking about how football coaches run "dummy" offenses, working on the motion, mechanics, and careful timing of each play. If you've not played football or watched a practice before, teams run their skeleton offenses again and again and again.

Having spent time visiting and observing coaches like Jon Gruden, Norv Turner, and Jeff Tedford, I can tell you it's something they spend a lot of their practice time on.

Of course, basketball teams walk through their plays. Depending on the team's make-up and their offensive system, some coaches spend more time on it than others.

When he was with the Twolves, my father would, from time to time, dry-run the entire playbook (75-100 plays). Often, when there was a missed shot out of a particular set, he'd run it 5-6 times until the same player made the basket repeatedly.

I've read where the legendary Vince Lombardi would pay such close attention to detail that he'd run the same plays over hundreds of times so that his Packer players could run the plays automatically.

I love watching receivers and QBs connect on timing routes -- pass patterns when the QB releases the ball before his receiver has made his break.

What if passers in basketball focused on delivering the ball to a shooter off a screen the same way a QB does with his receivers? What if it's something a point guard practiced "timing routes" with his team's primary shooters/scorers the way a QB and receiver practice their timing? How much better would a shooter be if the ball was delivered at just the right moment? Is it worth an extra 2-3 points a game?

Insignificant? Maybe. But over the course of a long season, focusing on details like this could be the difference in a few games.

In the words of Bear Bryant:

"The little things make the difference. Everyone is well prepared in the big things, but only the winners perfect the little things."

Patience, positive attitude necessary when waiting for call from the Majors

Home (finally!) after almost a week in Greece. Really enjoyed our time in Athens, but it's good to be back in the USA...

I read where Francisco Liriano of the Twins is upset that he hasn't been called up yet from the minor leagues. I'm still laughing. Literally, I laughed out loud.

What an insult to all of the guys who have worked, battled, sacrificed, and -- on top of it all -- put up big numbers in the minor leagues (baseball and basketball) and never get called up.

I love what Twins GM Bill Smith said about it:

"Francisco Liriano got sent down because he wasn't ready to pitch here. We tried to bring him up in April, hoping like crazy that he would be healthy and able to succeed at this level. If that gains him salary arbitration status or whatever, so be it. We're just trying to win games."

Ron Gardenhire, the Twins manager, added this:

"His agent wants to tell me who's going to pitch here. No one is going to tell us who to put on our team, and no one on ESPN is going to tell us who should pitch for my team. They haven't been here all year. (Liriano) is pitching well, and he's trying to force the issue, and what should all minor leaguers try to do? Try to force the issue. That's the greatest thing in the world. We have depth now, we have somebody that's knocking on the door and trying to take somebody's job. What is wrong with that? ... I would love to have him pitching here, but right now it's a little more difficult than that."

I can't tell you how many players I coached in the minor leagues who deserved a shot at the NBA and never got it. [Guys like Tico Brown, the CBA's all-time leading scorer, who once dropped 51 on my Dad's Tampa Bay CBA team. He put up 60 in a CBA Championship game back in 1983.]

There are so many variables involved that the player has no control over. All they can do is continue to work hard, try to improve their game, remain patient, and keep a positive attitude.

Someone should tell Liriano that getting called up isn't something you're entitled to.

Giving some thought to training camp

Sitting on the tarmac in Philadelphia on the way home to Northern California from Greece...

We had a few minutes, so I picked up a copy of the Philly paper and came across this article about NFL training camps and the different approaches teams/coaches take.

According to Eagles RB Brian Westbrook:

"I honestly believe just from talking to my friends across the league that [Eagles head coach] Andy Reid runs one of the toughest training camps in the league. I talk to my brother [Byron], and he said [the Washington Redskins] don't hit at all. Every coach is different, and Coach Reid has had a lot of success doing it the way he's done it. But when I look at this team and the vets that we have and the guys in key positions, you wonder how much physical contact do they need? But you can't argue with success."

In the NBA, teams that have continuity with a large number of returning players and the same coaching staff have a genuine advantage. In any sport, it's hard for a staff in put in a new system -- from relatively simple things like new terminology to more complex issues such as a new philosophy -- in such a short period of time.

Then there's the issue of a staff getting the feel for its players (and vice versa). The saying, "You never know a player until you coach him" is absolutely true. Scouting or coaching against a player is one thing; coaching him is something different entirely as you learn things about him that won't see as an outsider.

From a coaching perspective, a big decsion is how much conditioning you'll put the guys through versus how much time you'll spend on the "mental" game (i.e., X's and O's). Finding the right balance depends on the team and the staff.

One key training camp consideration is whether to have the camp at your own facility or go to a neutral site. The NY Knicks, for example, have had their camp in Charleston, S.C., for 20 years or so (though that might be changing under Donnie Walsh).

From my experience, having the camp away from your home base can help with team bonding as the guys are forced to spend time with each other. The downside is, with such a long season, it's just more days away from home, which can lead to mental fatigue as the season wears on.

One year with Golden State we had our first two games of the exhibition season vs the Lakers in Hawaii so we opened camp over there and stayed through the first two games of preseason.

We stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort and practiced at BYU-Hawaii. It was a good way to start the season from a mental standpoint. If you're going to be away from home, it's nice to be in a tropical paradise.

One year when I was with Orlando we had a camp in Jacksonville at the University of North Florida. As I recall, this was a generally unmemorable experience -- not particularly good, though not bad either.

With the Hawks one year we had our camp at UT-Chattanooga. Again, in hindsight, I don't think this was particularly beneficial for us.

Maybe it's a matter of being in a place where the "vibe" or tone is right. In Hawaii, for lots of reasons, from the ideal climate to the natural beauty to the quality of the Turtle Bay staff, it felt right. In Jacksonville and Chattanooga, it was off a little bit. There's something to be said, however, for your environment and the setting.

In other seasons with the Warriors, Hawks, and Magic (as well as the Grizzlies), we stayed home and had camp in our own facilities. Unless you're at Turtle Bay in Hawaii, I think your own facility makes it easier on issues such as:

- Travel for coaches and players and their families;
- Training and weight equipment; and,
- Video and digital equipment for reviewing film.

I think it's worth putting some thought into where you have camp. In the long run, it's one of those often-overlooked variables that can have a significant impact on your season.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hubie Brown's coaching strategies and tactics

Thanks to Carl for passing along this link to Hubie Brown's basketball principles.  Several great coaching points.

Coaches and conditioning

Heading back from Greece today after almost a week in Athens...

Going through my email box this morning, I came across a story from one of my local papers about Jack LaLanne, the legendary workout king who is still going strong at age 93.

[That's Jack on the cover of a fitness magazine from the 1950s.]

When LaLanne was starting out back in the 1930s, to help promote his new gym, he went down to a local high school, and found two kids: The fattest kid in school and the skinniest one. He visited their homes and talked with their parents about letting their kids come to his gym to not only exercise, but get nutrition tips.

The parents agreed.

Four months later, the big boy had lost 40 pounds and the skinny kid had gained 40 pounds of muscle. That's when people began flocking to his gym.

I'm a big proponent of working out every day. It's my feeling that, as coaches, it's important to be physically fit. If you want your players to be in top condition, you -- as a coach -- need to set the example. But it's not just about your players seeing that you value conditioning. Being in great shape will give you the energy you need to be a better coach.

My father was a fitness fanatic. He'd work out tirelessly, lifting weights and running 5-10 miles a day. He also played full-court basketball with his friends a few times a week into his 50s.

One time with the Timberwolves, he challenged rookie Gerald Glass to a full-court sprint. Gerald literally had to dive across the baseline to beat him.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Home cooking make Greeks tough to beat

Greece is in Olympics after beating Puerto Rico tonight, 88-63. Should be a good game Sunday when Germany takes on PR. Winner goes to Beijing next month. From what I've seen, Germany has better team chemistry.

Greece is really playing on another level. The enthusiasm of its home crowd here in Athens is simply too much for these other teams.

Greece is well coached by Panagiotis Giannakis. Their team plays with a great pace and a winning tempo. They push it when its there and run a disciplined half-court offense. Unselfish team.

Greece's left-handed point guard -- Dimitris Diamantidis -- I love his game. He can play in the NBA. He's better than some NBA starters and better than most back-up point guards. He can defend and, tonight, he posted up Carlos Arroyo and scored on block.

He could post in a NBA game for short stretches as a "bait" man as he wants to draw the double team and pass out of it. He's so unselfish, but did not knock down enough shots with range.

Greece really goes to Sofoklis Schortisiantis with post ups. He's a real crowd favorite.

For Puerto Rico, NBAer Carlos Arroyo can really handle the ball.

His teammate, Elias Ayuso, has the worst shot selection imanginable.

Daniel Santiago and PJ Ramos, both backups in the NBA, are not as good as the Greek big men. In fact, at one point, 6-10 Kostas Tsartsaris put it on the floor and drove right by them to the basket.

Juan Jose Barea of the Dallas Mavs came off bench for Puerto Rico. He's playing behind Carlos Arroyo.

In my opinion, based on what I've seen here in Athens, Team USA will have by far more talent and better coaching with Coach K and his staff. There will be some strong teams at the Games, of course, but just from a week of closely observing these clubs, I think Team USA is the team to beat.

Speaking of Team USA, Todd Quinter (PHX) and Billy Branch (OKC), NBA personnel execs who are scouting for the Americans, were at the game tonight. Also, T.J. Zanin of the 76ers and Team China was in the crowd.

As a side note, my son Michael wore a blue #12 Greek Hellas jersey with his name on the back and was pumped he was on national TV in Greece. Fun night for all of us.