30 years coaching experience/Worked Camps/Clinics on 5 Continents

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Which State is THE Basketball State?

In the words of IU men's coach Tom Crean: "It's Indiana, It's Indiana".  Other states will argue that they are the holy land of hoops, but they are wrong.  California and Texas?  Sorry, too big, football rules, and no one shows up for high school games.

Kentucky?  They are the only state who can make a legitimate argument, in my opinion.  They have UK, U of L, Western Kentucky, and a high school history that is deep, rich culminating with one champion in their Sweet 16 tournament that ends in Lexington each March.'s Indiana.  I will argue that we have the Pacers, Butler, IU, Purdue, and other D1's, I will argue that our high school history is deeper and richer, and yes, many think class basketball has ruined it, but I will argue we still are better. 

Here's why.

How many high school players from Kentucky play at UK?  or U of L?  Not many.  It isn't like the best players from Kentucky high schools are good enough to attend their two premier universities.  What about Indiana?  The best high school players are being recruited by all of the major colleges including....UK and U of L.  Butler showed a few years back that a school with the second tier best players from Indiana can go to the Final Four and come within a hair of winning the whole dang thing.  In Kentucky, it all starts with UK and filters down.  In Indiana it starts in the driveways and the parks and filters up to all high schools and universities.

UK is by far the best college basketball program in the country right now.  You can't argue with their success (unless you're from Duke) especially since John Calipari has been there.  But many UK fans forget history.  They remember all the wins and they remember all of the banners, but they forget the Eddie Sutton years and the beginning of the Pitino years, it seems. 

Recently, IU has tried to dig itself out of the bottom of the elite pile due to NCAA infractions.  This past season in Crean's 5th year, IU won the Big Ten regular season title, in a season in which it wasn't that easy.  It was the first conference title for IU since 2002 and IU hung a banner.  UK fans have made light of this to show that the IU program isn't elite for doing so.  They forget that guys like Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods, John Pelphrey, and Richie Farmer got their numbers retired and they never played in a Final Four at UK.  Why did they get those numbers hanging from the rafters?  They helped Pitino bring UK back from the bottom of the elite college pile.  They deserve their numbers hanging in Rupp's rafters as does IU deserve that banner.

Finally, Kentucky people want to point to the superiority of their one class tournament.  I won't argue against that one champion is superior to multiple champions.  What I will argue against are these two things.  One, in Kentucky's high school tournament, you can lose and advance when playing in the District.  There is just something fundamentally wrong with losing in a tournment and advancing.  Unless it's double elimination, but those don't happen do they?  In real tournaments?  And also, consolidation hit Kentucky and there are fewer and fewer small schools.  Grayson County, North Bullitt, Oldham County and others compete with the city schools.  Often their smallest schools are private with really great players migrating there for their education (tongue in cheek).

And since Indiana has gone to four classes with four champions, the overall win/loss of the Indiana vs. Kentucky high school series is so one sided to Indiana that their argument can't be used to show superiority anymore.  Because they rarely win and I mean rarely.

Which state is THE basketball state?  It's Indiana.  Who is a close second and I will concede is better in some ways, it's our friends to the south in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  But overall, they are still second.  Because in 49 states it's just basketball, but this is Indiana.  Out of 50 states, being second isn't too bad.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Important?

I have had the discussion a few times with other coaches about what is most important in coaching high school basketball.  Some agree with me on certain issues, others not at all.  Many say "winning" is the most important thing, and it is, I guess, to some extent if you want to continue on as the head coach of your current school.  If you don't do enough of that in Indiana pertaining to basketball you will probably be looking for another job.  But in coaching high school basketball or high school sports what's most important?  What should we be doing as a coaches in our programs?

Here are five things that I think are important as a high school coach.

Teach to compete: Life is hard.  Many people want to quit when the proverbial going gets tough, but you can't, you just can't.  Quitting on life can never be an option.  Mental toughness is everything in basketball and in life.  Yes, there are serious issues that arise throughout life, but it is not important that these issues arise, it is how you deal with them.  Fight for your marriage, fight for your children and other things that are worth fighting for. 

Teach to give back: The basketball program was there before them and will continue on after they are gone, after you are gone.  It is important to teach them that they have been blessed with something that many others would love, playing high school basketball in Indiana, so they have a duty to give back.  Show them what it is like to be a servant leader and that there is something greater than themselves. 

Teach them that giving much could mean they don't get what they desire: Hard work does not guarantee success, but I know what guarantees failure; not working hard.  Life is hard, I said that before, I think, so they must learn that just because they put many hours in, life isn't fair and you may not get what you deserve.  Or, you just might get what you deserve.  It says a lot about how mentally tough you are in how you react to this situation.  Do you mope and whine because "it's not fair", or do you move on and make the best of the situation given to you?

Teach them how to deal with success and failure: Your players are watching you.  You must teach them how to handle success and failure with class that it isn't the end of the world.  Winning is important, but it isn't dealing with cancer and it isn't life threatening (maybe).  Teach them proper perspective.  Life is longer than just their high school years, if their greatest years of their lives is that four year window, how sad can that be?

Be their best teacher in the building: Students sometimes come back and thank me for what I did for them as a teacher.  Those, however, who played sports under me say the same things, but there is an emotion that is more sincere, something they feel to the inside of their core.  I am not patting myself on the back, because it happens to most if not all high school coaches.  Understand that you are the teacher in the building that they will remember the lessons they learned under you for much of their life.  Those lessons could be intentional or unintentional it just depends on what you, as a coach, thinks is important.

You can be intentional in doing these things and realize that it is going to happen whether you want them to or not, or you can not worry about those things.  Either way, your players are learning from you much more, probably, from your actions than from your words. 

With basketball starting up and watching fall sports ending with my two children watching the actions of athletes and immulating them, I was reminded of how important it is for the players be great examples.  If they are to be great examples, besides their parents, who should be the great example for them?  Us.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let Me Tell You a Thing or Two or Ten

The above picture is...well...yea, I have nothing.  It stands for itself.

You're Going to Make Mistakes

(We all make mistakes, like I paid $2 for water here in St. Augustine at the alleged Fountain of Youth...I'm still aging.)

I know I have...a lot.  You can do one of two things.  You can admit to it or you can deny it.  Too often in today's political society, independent of political party, you never see them admitting to mistakes.

As a leader, it is important to be willing to accept you don't know everything and even if you did, you probably will mess up from time to time.  As a coach, you don't have to publically admit to the mistake, some do, some don't, but it is important to know it yourself.

It's my belief that to be seen as an authentic leader today, you had to admit those mistakes...sometimes.  You can't do it all of the time or then those you are leading lose the belief that you are a true leader, so it's an equation that is dependent on many things.

Admit you were wrong, but don't do it enough that you lose credibility.  No one is perfect and we will all make mistakes, and sometimes, like me...too many.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shortcuts are for the Weak

It is amazing in over 20 years of coaching, a lot can be said for kids who are willing to not take shortcuts.  I think it is human nature to try and cheat and be easy on ourselves, but we are only cheating our own self in these situations. 

By not touching end lines when running, by going through the motions when working on fundamentals you can see if someone can be trusted in tough situations.  I don't know how much I trust kids who only show up for the games and go through the motions in practice.  I don't care if they have the talent of Allen Iverson, they have a responsibility to do what is asked.

Pre-season conditioning is one of the things I have always disliked as a player, but even as a coach.  However, it is a necessary evil if you want to be in shape to compete at a high level.  You can tell by how quickly a player sits down, bends over at the knees or complains loudly how mentally tough they are.  Mental toughness is sometimes natural for some guys, but for many (including myself) it has be taught or learned.

If you sit and watch players work, practice, or compete at anything, you can tell a lot from their body language and how often they talk to the coach or officials.  I can guarantee you that coaches and officials make mistakes, but they and us are not wrong every....single....time.  Some players put forth an exterior that makes it look like they are a victim all the time. 

Now with all I have written being said that players who are not willing to work extremely hard in practice are not successful isn't necessarily always true.  There are those rare ocassions when players can go through the motions in practice and be successful in games, but just imagine what they could accomplish if they didn't act like their time was being wasted.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feeling Blessed

Over the last three weeks, my family has undergone some major issues when it comes to surgery.  First and foremost, my 30 year old sister in law was double transplanted (heart and kidney) and is doing fine.  Her initial check showed moderate rejection, but her check up yesterday showed 0% rejection.  It is quite likely that should could be home in the next week or so, just a month after having a heart and kidney transplant.

On a much smaller scale, I had hernia surgery over our fall break.  Yes, I know I don't get the sympathy I probably would have gotten if I weren't competing against the walking miracle that is Megan, but I am ok with that.  However, any kind of surgery can make you evaluate your life, where it is and what's important.  Though my surgery was much smaller, I had the exact surgery about 15 years ago and had a reaction to a drug used in the anesthesia.  To make a long story short, I woke up after the surgery paralyzed, yet could hear everything going on.  So as I entered the small surgery I had, that was in the back of my mind.

Anesthesia is a funny thing.  When I was  younger, I thought it was cool or fun if you were put under, as I have gotten older and after my experience, I realize how serious going under can be.  The anesthesiologist holds your life in his hands.  When I woke up from the surgery, I can remember being so thankful.  Thankful for my wife, kids, the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, the attending nurse, breathing, smiling, just about everything.  I am sure that the anesthesia had something to do with that, but I was just joyful.

It was a weird feeling because we had prayed so much for Megan for myself that I wasn't quite sure what I actually wanted when it came to the outcomes of these surgeries.  I guess, more importantly, God's will.  Of course, I wanted her to be better and I wanted to come out of my surgery fine, but I had come to grips with the realistic idea that one of us might not make it.  Once she was awake and improving, I prayed for the strength to get through what we were dealing with, but also to handle God's will.  I have grown so much in my faith the last few years, it almost seemed like a natural progression for me to go home and my growth be used to help others, most importantly my family.

If you ask me, I want to live, watch my children grow up, become parents, and spend time with my wife.  If you ask me, I want to go on vacations, visit continents, all 50 states and be husband, dad, basketball coach, friend and mentor and whatever I am called to be.  But if you ask me if I am ready to die and go home, I wouldn't pick it as my first choice in the many things left to do in life, but I would be ok with long as it weren't painful.  So I guess I just may not be ready after all. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Open Gym vs. Actual Practice

I spoke with Coach Hoffman last night via text message and we had a back and forth about some of the players in open gym and their play.  Some of them looked pretty good, and some looked not as good as this past summer.  The conclusion we came up with is that there is a huge difference between open gym and actual practice.  It wasn't like it was some ground breaking truth we uncovered, but it is sometimes the most obvious thing that is missed.

What's the difference between the two?  Open gym is about players doing what they think they can do.  It is about them playing and trying to do the things they are capable of, or again, trying to do what they see on ESPN.  Actual practice is when the coaches step in and create structure.  Some players really struggle in the open gym setting with no rules, structure, or role to play and yet when they get into the season with practice and games, they play much better.  It is very similar to good basketball players that are stars on their local team, but struggle on an all star team.

It is a frustrating thing as coaches watch players struggle and not be able to figure it out for themselves, but that's why we get paid the big bucks.  It is amazing that players will continue to butt their head against a concrete wall to try and get through to the other side.  Why do they rarely just use the door?  Any..those decisions with basketball players often times restrict a player from what they think they can do and leads to frustration on their part.  It for sure causes stress on parents and others that love the player. 

But what is more selfish?  Allowing a player to continue to do things that they cannot do, they get frustrated with, and cannot be successful?  Or players recognizing on their own or with the help of the coaching staff that they must not try to do things they cannot do?  If they limit attempting what they cannot do, it will help them and ultimately the team be more successful...but is that why many play for today?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Aunt Megan is a Fighter

(Aunt Megan on the far left with our family a few years ago)
I cannot imagine what I might feel if the pediatrician came to me when my daughter was 2 years old and said "your child has a form of viral cardiomyopathy.  One side of the heart is growing and the other side is not.  We have two options; a heart transplant or death."  I don't know if that is how the actual conversation went with my mother and father in law about my sister in law, but it was something close to that.  My wife's sister was diagnosed at 2 years of age with this option.

My in laws chose to have her transplanted and what began with bad news started a rough journey that has led to many blessings.  My sis in law, Megan, was transplanted and lived in Pittsburgh, PA for many weeks at a young age after the transplant.  My wife who was in the first grade lived for much of that early life without her mother who was staying in Pittsuburgh, understandably so.

Megan was a pioneer in many ways.  In the mid 1980's there hadn't been too many 2 year old heart transplants.  So just about every day that she has lived has been a form of medical history.  As she grew up, she dealt with many issues from having to take 30+ medicines per day to the ocassional bout of rejection.  But as she grew up, she showed an academic ability higher than average and a love for working in a hospital...for children.

Megan went through high school, college, and became a Nurse Practictioner which is just one level below a doctor which means she is pretty smart.  She is a NP for children and has helped many children dealing with transplants and other illnesses.  She is able to draw from her experiences to help others and to allow the children to be blessed by her, but more importantly in many cases, for the parents to see that it can be "all right". 

Megan is known at Aunt Megan, May May, Aunt May May, etc by my two children.  They love her more than the usual relative and often, I think, many sort of consider them to be her children too.  My daughter is so much like her it is scary and they have a deep bond.  Again, she has been a blessing for so many people.  Her parents made the right choice when she was a child because she has helped so many people in her young 30 years.

Megan is a fighter and is fighting a huge fight now.  A few years ago, her heart started to be affected by the medication that she has taken for most of her life.  She has had multiple heart caths and stents put in.  She has had a pacemaker inserted and a swan (some type of medical thingy), but her heart in the last few months has gone downhill considerably.  The doctors didn't know what else to do other than transplant her...again.  All the years of medication has also hurt her kidneys, so they transplanted a new kidney also.

This past week, Aunt Megan, underwent a double transplant.  A new heart and a new kidney to try and give her a better quality of life and, well, to extend her life because without them, she would have died.  The surgeries were successful, but now is the hard part, really.  The healing.  The pain and mental turmoil she is in is considerable, but she will continue to fight as she always has, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with now.  My wife has been understandably upset, and I have been as well, but I told her that some of the things going on now will be things that we will laugh about in 5 years.  How do I know this?  Because I wasn't around for the first transplant, but I have heard many stories that bring smiles to the family now about that time then.

I believe in God and have zero doubts that everything happens for a reason.  We may not understand right now why, but eventually it will show itself.  Why did Megan get viral cardiomyopathy?  Because she was going to need to be help for others in the future.  Why did the family have to go through this?  To be strong to help others.  I have no doubt that God put Megan on this earth to help people and for my mother  and father in law to be great Christian examples in dealing with adversity.  To not see His hand in this is unbelievable for me.

Finally, I think it is important to thank the hundreds of people who have reached out to our family during this time.  It is amazing.  I can put an update on Facebook about her and just watch as the support rolls in.  But I think it is just as important to remember that for Megan to live there have been two deaths.  Is one death worse than the other?  Dependent on perspective, but the young child that died when Megan was 2...their family was dealing with a terrible death so that Megan could live.  The same could be said for recently.  It is a true blessing that in these people's deaths that they could save Megan.  Not just her, but others, too I am sure. 

For Megan's sake, for potentially my sake, your sake, my chidlren's sake and just because it is the right thing to do, be an organ donor.