Basketball Coaching Tips: What You Need to Know

Basketball Competition Drills for Coaches

Whether you are a first time coach or have been doing it for decades, these basketball coaching tips are for you! They will cover a wide range of topics and will help you become a more well-rounded basketball coach that is better equipped to handle anything that is thrown at you.


First Timer’s Guide to Head Coaching in Basketball


First Timer's Guide to Head Coaching in Basketball

Adam Parmenter contributed to this portion of the article. 

The initial concept for this basketball coaching article came from the request for advice from a close friend, an experienced and accomplished assistant coach who would be taking on a head coaching position at a small college. The content is geared toward the first-time head basketball coach at the small college level, hoping that it might also be helpful to any coach, either just starting a new position or continuing in any capacity.

Remember that every hire is made with a different scenario in terms of time prior to the upcoming season. The content of this article is derived from personal experience and observations of others’ experiences. Feel free to customize and prioritize the advice per your unique situation.



Your Basketball Coaching Network

First and foremost, you must lean on your network, which you more than likely have already done to get the job in the first place. It is vital that, as a basketball coach in any capacity, we are ready, willing, and able to accept advice and derive information from both the successes and failures of others in the industry. No single basketball coaching career is long enough to learn everything on your own.

No doubt, you have done your homework on the position you are stepping into and have a good idea of the general outside opinion of the school, athletics program, and competitive relation within the conference and level of play. If not, this is a good place to start. Often, the outside opinion of the school may not match the internal messaging you have been presented with. Be ready to put effort into either adjusting the external view or adapting your own internal view, or a combination.

After you are hired and before meeting with your basketball team for the first time, reach back out to those you know. In addition to gauging the external opinion of the school and program, you will want to gather any information possible about specific returning players and staff members.

Do not let your first meeting with someone in the program be exploratory. Having an understanding of their background and abilities will help in the conversation and also shows them your commitment, whether both sides choose to continue the relationship or not. This is also your first opportunity to lay the groundwork for recruiting, discussed more in-depth below.


Critical Decisions:

  • Who and how many contacts to reach out to?
  • How much time do you have to connect?
  • Which internal team members (players, staff, and administrators) have relationships with key external contacts, and what knowledge can you draw about them?



Your Basketball Staff and the Athletic Administration

Staffing can be a tricky proposition when beginning with a new basketball program. Who are the returning staff members, if any? If you are open to it, allow the returning staff to finish out their contract period (if they have one) and then re-post, re-interview, and make hires from there. They may or may not be interested.

You also might not want to keep guys around if there was turmoil previously, or you might inherit a talented assistant coach who could use a fresh start with a new head coach. You will never know if you do not take the time to get to know those involved in the program. Keep in mind that staff members may have a better idea of turnover from previous experience. Whether they do or not, be upfront, honest, and informative in your communication.

Obviously, if you are not retaining staff, only include them in initial team meetings if you are confident in their ability to assist with the transition to the new staff. Otherwise, no matter your opinion, holding exit interviews at a minimum is probably a good idea.

Even a disgruntled coach can sometimes shed some light on potential issues you may not have previously been aware of. However, most coaches will present good information and deserve to be shown some appreciation, even if on their way out.

During the initial weeks of your new job, you want to familiarize yourself with any athletic administrators and coaches you will interact with regularly. This goes beyond being courteous to coaches you may share facilities (offices, film room, court time, weight room, etc.) with. It extends to those tasked with administrative responsibilities (compliance, recruiting coordinator, business officer, sports information, SWA, etc.).

You probably have met many of the key staff members through the interview process but will now want to get their unabridged views of how you can best do your job, so they can best do theirs.

Think, if you have or had multiple roles, how can other coaches help you do your administrative job the best and quickest so that you can focus on the basketball program you are trying to build. Put yourself in each of their roles, and ask them how you can best prepare documents or take steps to make their life easier.

Also, if there are successful, long-term coaches on staff in any sport, seek them out as they can provide valuable insight into best practices for success specific to the school.

Scheduling is a final piece that may already have been completed, but you want to get a handle on scheduling before it becomes an issue that takes up valuable time and resources. This applies to both basketball games and practice.

If you have not dealt with sharing gym and other facility time with other programs and classes, you will want to familiarize yourself with the processes in place for scheduling. Be prepared to give and take, and definitely familiarize yourself with other coaches, administrators, and leaders of groups who have access.


Critical Decisions:

  • Will you keep anyone on staff?
  • How quickly do you need new assistants in house, and how long is the school’s hiring process?
  • Work with AD and Assistants to ensure you are completing tasks in ways that they need them completed.
  • Are you inheriting a summer camp? If not, do you have the time and resources to start one?
  • What work is needed on your upcoming schedule? When will you practice? Is there an opportunity to swap court time with other programs?



Meeting Your Basketball Team

Exactly how you first meet with your basketball team is a matter of personal preference. Some may feel better in a group setting, meeting first with all returning staff and any incoming staff if already decided upon, and then with all returning players. Others may choose to meet individually with all parties and then connect with the core group afterward, rooting out those who are not inclined to be a part of the program moving forward.

How you handle potential returning players is important. Some chose the school for the previous coach and may not even care to meet with you. Others may love the school and want to be a part of things moving forward. Either group may or may not fit your idea of what a player needs to bring to a team skill-wise.

You can use any of these scenarios in a positive manner by communicating clearly your expectations with each individual. What are their expectations? Make sure they are aware of yours!

If a player just does not fit, tell them as much. A committed student-athlete may surprise you if you lay out exactly why they do not fit your mold. Another may be looking for promises, playing time, captainship, or something else that you are not ready to commit to at this time.

There are many different approaches to handling requests to transfer, and your school may have a set policy, be sure to follow it. Regardless of the approach you choose, try to be impartial and fair.

The only promise you should feel any pressure to make is to ensure that existing team members get a fair shake, that they don’t feel unfairly rooted out, and that they have an opportunity to continue their academic and playing careers in a role they are comfortable with and capable of performing. This role will not always be with your basketball program, it may require a change, and that’s okay. Just do not make that decision without input from the individuals being impacted!

In all cases, recognizing the time and energy that players and staff have given to the basketball program’s development, regardless of the results, is important. Always keep your internal actions on par with your external messaging. Saying that you are “cleaning up the program” is not just about cutting players loose, just as “maintaining momentum” is not just about appeasing players to stay.

This is your first opportunity to establish the culture you want for your program.


Critical Decisions:

  • What is your external message?
  • How will you deal with transfer requests?
  • Are there players you would rather not have in the program? Are there reasons sufficient enough to no longer include them?
  • What can you provide returning players in terms of off-season guidance (classes/workouts/etc.)?



Getting to Know Your New Campus – Make Friends

One detail that is often overlooked in favor of basketball-related activity is the importance of building relationships across campus. Your ability to do this will be impacted to a certain extent by association, conference, and departmental regulations. There is no rule against making friends, and you will, at some point, find it beneficial to know individuals in administrative roles around campus.

Keep in mind, if your athletic department has a designated liaison, go through them to initiate relationships on campus, include them, and do not create opportunities for conflict. We are not talking about building relationships to impact administrative decisions in other offices. Still, there is a tremendous wealth of knowledge offered by contacts that work in these units daily. It also can be beneficial to have a network on campus to celebrate and commiserate with.

Admissions plays a pivotal role in recruiting. Set up a campus tour with a director or associate director of admissions. Shortly, you will probably be giving your own tours, so gathering as much info from a trained admissions guide is ideal.

Find out what the hot academic programs are on campus and if there are equal opportunity programs or admissions incentives for certain demographics, geographic, or other groups. Learn exactly how a recruit applies, start to finish, and what weight is given to letters of recommendation, test scores, and personal essays.

If an entrance interview is necessary or beneficial, find out who and how to help recruits set these meetings. These things can change annually, is there someone who might give you the update over lunch?

Financial Aid is also clearly key to recruiting. You must have a strong knowledge of the financial aid process at your school to best identify prospective student-athletes that will be able to manage financially for the duration of their career.

Depending upon the level, league, or school policy, you may not be able to discuss individual cases with any administrator, or you may be able to discuss only certain specifics. Even if you benefit from a fully-funded scholarship program, you will want to know what economic and academic profile tends to get the most aid at your school.

You also will want to be familiar with who, where, and when to send recruits for assistance and what deadlines recruits and returners need to meet to maintain their financial aid packages.


Critical Decisions:

  • How will you adapt your recruiting approach to the specific requirements of your school?
  • Who will you lean on to learn quickly what contact is and is not allowed?
  • What non-athletic related events are worth attending? Do you have the time to attend without overlooking other responsibilities?



Recruiting Your New Basketball Team

This step is very much dependent upon the timeline, as your ability to bring in new recruits will be directly impacted by the stage of the admissions process and the school’s willingness to make exceptions within that process. If the admission process has closed, you are limited to searching for current applicants recruited by the previous staff or who have sought out the school on their own.

While this is not ideal, make the most of the situation: request an admissions list with applicants who listed varsity participation in high school or junior college; either have yourself or an assistant coach be present at accepted student’s days to seek out potential athletes; discuss with returning athletes any fellow students who may be capable of helping the team as a practice and bench player for a season.

If the opportunity to get a late admit is available, use it with extreme caution. You may be looking at the immediate season, thinking that an additional body or two would be beneficial. But administrators do not, and should not, take these cases lightly and will be expecting a future graduate who excels in all areas. If you have a recruit who is a great fit for the school, by all means, push for late admission.

If the admissions process is still open, you have already adapted your recruiting plans to the profile of potential students and begin breaking down lists of potential student-athletes to find those that fit best. Ideally, you will have time to fully vet potential candidates to join the program. If you are up against an accelerated timeline, take as much time and extra care as you can to ensure you have identified the best fit.

Sometimes the pressure of time can cause a coach to accept a student that may not be a fit for the school simply because they will help on the court. This can be toxic. If you are feeling the heat of a short timeline for recruiting, spend extra time eliminating prospects that are not a fit, your program will benefit later.

This applies at the scholarship level as well. Do not offer a scholarship to a recruit just because you have a scholarship to give. Be certain of the player’s academic, athletic, social, and financial fit to your basketball program and school.

If you are lucky, you will have prospects in mind from your previous job, and they will fit the bill. Most likely, you are starting somewhere closer to square one. Either way, you want your first full class, whether in year one or two, to set the stage for future recruiting success.


Critical Decisions:

  • What are the critical needs of your roster?
  • How many student-athletes will you contact? Get to apply? Invite to visit campus? Offer roster spots? In order to fill out your roster.
  • Do you have a prospect worthy of requesting assistance with a late admissions application? If allowed by the school.



Getting to Know Student Life – aka Making More Friends

The most important relationships you will have on campus will probably have very little to do with basketball and everything to do with your players’ futures. The key is to realize early and often where there are pitfalls for your players and which ones you will need assistance with. One great way to meet other leaders on campus is to pick their brains as part of formulating your own program philosophy.

Residence life or, in the case of a commuter school, whichever office handles off-campus housing referrals, staff can assist you in understanding the deadlines for housing applications and deposits; the limitations, if any, for inter-session housing (believe it or not, this can be a major issue at some schools that close down yet still compete during the winter term); and, probably most importantly, offer alignment on behavioral guidelines as well as offer opportunities for team members to become campus leaders as residence life student staff or through volunteer opportunities.


The Office of Student Life may actually be the division that houses your athletic department. Regardless, partnering with student life can offer great opportunities for community service, student leadership, and volunteering, as well as ways to get students active in supporting your program.

Security (Public Safety) officials play an important role in keeping the campus safe. You will want to learn when buildings and classrooms are closed and how to best gain access, if permissible by department rules. They can be great resources when developing team rules or guidelines for campus behavior and will provide an overview of campus policies.

Academic Officials can be a great resource for non-academic purposes. Your department will have set in stone rules regarding what can be discussed, if anything with professors, or program administrators regarding academics. Follow these first and foremost. There is a clear difference between seeking out the best study opportunities and pushing for a better grade on a test.

There are tremendous opportunities for collaboration, which, of course, need to be cleared by the athletics administration first. Would students in the communications department benefit from broadcasting games? Maybe there are sport administration students who would benefit from being managers with the program?

Maybe there is a psychology professor who would offer sports psychology services as part of potential research? There are certainly other ideas, not pressing to the startup of your program, but not possible without socializing across campus.


Critical Decisions:

  • What campus events can you attend to meet individuals in each department and academic unit?
  • Can you offer support of an event even if unable to attend?
  • What responsibilities with residence life and academic monitoring will you and staff handle, and what will be handled by athletic department staff?



Plan to Coach the Game

Believe it or not, there will be actual basketball. You will have practice and games and should now have a clear idea of your roster so you can begin to plan.

You should already have a coaching portfolio ready, with your philosophy, basketball drills, defenses and offensive sets outlined. Now is the time to revisit it and determine what you can enact in year one, with an eye toward building the program over the long term.

You have already watched prior years’ film in evaluating returning players. Take another look back to see if there are team concepts that you can adopt into your plan. There may be things done previously that fit perfectly with what you wish to do, or there may be nothing.

Either way and especially if you have a number of returning players, you will want to see the overall strengths and weaknesses of prior seasons’ teams. Find out how soon you are allowed to be in the gym with returning players, and spend the maximum amount of time on the court with them.

Time spent in the gym helps establish trust in the player/coach relationship. If you cannot be on the court, you can always be informative by providing workouts, film cuts, and other material to aid in player development.

Most importantly, establish your culture, which is the subject of an entire series of thoughtful papers, posts, and studies. Without going too in-depth, make sure that the culture you wish to establish actually fits the boundaries of the school itself and that you plan specifically how to implement and reflect upon it with every stage of growth that your basketball program experiences.

Locating practice and game film of prior seasons can be helpful in your planning process. Don’t just look at your own personnel; also look at other basketball programs in your conference and how your team matches up to their ability and schemes. It can be beneficial to watch film with returning players to identify sets, actions, and drills that they enjoyed and were beneficial.

Keeping some things consistent may be a positive, or you may choose to depart altogether if you feel another approach may be more successful. Film is a great way to find out that what you wanted to do might not work as well as you hoped. It’s better to find out now than during a game.

Be ready to adapt. You might have plans to run and press for 40 minutes a game, but if you get hired after admissions closes, and you are replacing a coach who recruited to run pack line and a Princeton style offense, it may not work. You might think about gradually introducing your philosophy in year 1 and putting it in fully once you have time to bring in athletes who better fit the system.

This in particular with pressing and trapping defensive philosophies or offensive systems that take years to implement. Coaches are “establishing their style” even though they only have 2 or 3 recruits who actually fit the style. But it could also occur if you love post play and have no post players.

Do not just run a double post motion or flex post entry offense because that’s what you are comfortable with. Adjust and then gradually move toward your concepts as you recruit players to fit. Remember that your system is not your culture. You can establish culture no matter what style you play.


Critical Decisions

  • What is YOUR culture, and how will you establish it?
  • How will you adapt your overall plan to the current climate of your roster and campus?
  • Develop your practice and game plans around these decisions.
  • How soon can you work with your returning players?



Lastly… You Guessed it, Make More Friends

Alumni and other supporters can be extremely important, and the level of which depends on the school. Find out if there are prominent supporters you should get to know and let them know they are important to your program. Even a brief interaction early (when they know you are busy!) will go a long way.

Eventually, you will need their help in establishing or sustaining programs like alumni events, golf outings, booster clubs, or other important fundraising mechanisms. They also serve as key networking contacts, not only for you but also for your graduating student-athletes.

Most importantly, there are non-basketball reasons for making friends in any new situation. A workplace where you have more people to converse with is almost always more comfortable. Set up or participate in a weekly pickup game or an intramural team, or sign up to take professional development or graduate classes.

There is a benefit to being active on campus as long as it doesn’t take too much time from your program commitments. Sometimes, these relationships will outlast those you have built within basketball. Working in higher education allows you to meet some truly exceptional people, make sure you do it!




The 10 Commandments of Basketball Coaching Longevity


Dip Metress Article on The 10 Commandments of Basketball Coaching Longevity

Dip Metress contributed to this portion of the article.


Anyone can coach, but how many people can have a coaching career? I am considered one of the dinosaurs in my profession. Still, I wanted to give you some different perspectives on making coaching basketball a career and hopefully allow you to stay a part of this great game for as long as possible.

In this basketball coaching article, I will provide you with the ten commandments to basketball coaching longevity that have I have picked up over my years of coaching.


The 10 Commandments of Basketball Coaching Longevity


Observe Other Team’s Basketball Practices

When my wife and I went to buy our first house, the realtor said, “even though you don’t like the house from the outside, go in and look.” The same concept is true regarding watching other basketball teams practice. Watching another coach lead a practice will allow you to pick up different ideas and get your mind rolling. From there, you can implement anything that you like and come up with new variations that you may want to try with your basketball team. It is always good to be learning from other basketball coaches that you respect.



Read, Learn, Grow

When I first got into basketball coaching, this was a great piece of advice. Reading multiple books at one time is ok. Have a library card and use library services. You may not be able to pick the mind of one of your favorite coaches in person, but you can read their coaching book and learn from them that way. Books give you access to so much great information; if you don’t take advantage of them, you will stunt your coaching growth.



Become a Teacher of the Game

Find a new offense or team defense and research it and learn about it. I would agree with the adage that the game is over coached and under-taught. However, the more you can learn and master, the more you will be able to teach. Being a teacher of the game will not only help others around you, but it is also going to challenge you and hold you accountable to continue to learn yourself.



Evolve or Die

Times change, and the game changes, but that doesn’t mean the basketball fundamentals are not important. As we get older, the kids we coach stay the same age. There needs to be a balance of helping our kids master the basketball fundamentals and making sure that they are as successful as possible in the game’s current style. Just because a new system becomes popular doesn’t mean you need to throw out everything you previously knew, but the game will continue to evolve and morph, so make sure that you are evolving with it as it does.



Develop Real Relationships

The late great Al McGuire that coached at my alma mater Belmont Abbey said, “every day, you have to build your army.” You have to get to know the people that are stakeholders in your future. This happens by spending time cultivating real relationships and continuing to connect with other great people.



Empower Your Assistants

Let your assistants coach in practice. It is incredible to me how often assistant basketball coaches have no voice in practice. Not only will your assistant coaches help to fill in the gaps that maybe you are missing, but allowing them to coach is also going to allow them to grow as a basketball coach.



Learn From Other Basketball Coaches

Model your basketball career after coaches that have longevity in their program. It does not have to be in your sport either, but coaches that have done it for a long time have something figured out. Learn from those coaches, and do your best to emulate what they do regarding longevity.



Stay True to Who You Are

Never try to be something you are not. Lacking persistence doesn’t allow you to figure things out when adversity hits. If you are consistently trying to reinvent yourself or please someone, you will not be able to show and master who you are as a basketball coach. So stay true to what you believe the right way to do things is. This doesn’t mean you can’t evolve and grow, but your core values should be strong and uncompromising.



Quality Habits

Remember that it is easier to put good habits into place than it is to eliminate harmful practices. Any form of selfishness needs to be removed. At its core, coaching basketball is about serving and helping others, and selfishness is the antonym of serving.



Represent Yourself Well

You can’t have a bad practice as a head basketball coach. So much of leadership ability is about how other people experience themselves in your presence. A great leader has a presence that makes other people bigger. If you allow yourself to be up and down as a basketball coach, you will lose the respect of your players and those around you. You must represent yourself well daily and stay consistent.



The 10 Commandments of Basketball Coaching Longevity Conclusion

Coaching basketball is one of the most rewarding professions on the planet. You can impact lives regularly and make a lasting impact on those around you. If you are looking to make coaching a lifetime profession, these ten commandments of basketball coaching longevity will give you an excellent foundation to stand on as you go.



Basketball Coaches: Made in the Offseason


Basketball Coaches: Made in the Offseason

Ben Thompson contributed to this portion of the article.


As basketball coaches, we are constantly preaching to our team that players are “made in the offseason.” We say this because it is true, but also as motivation to inspire our student-athletes to grind and work harder at improving their game. I have used this comment several times with my guys and truly believe it rings true.

However, as basketball coaches, we are “made in the offseason” as well. What do you use your offseason for? We expect our student-athletes to put in the extra hours and early morning times in the gym or weight room; but, how much extra effort do we put in during the offseason to work on our craft?


Self Evaluation

Depending on your level, you might be able to work with your basketball team some in the offseason. This is a great thing, but how many of us also work on ourselves. The offseason in basketball is a time for you to invest in yourself and improve as a coach.

There are many forms of this, but self-evaluating how you performed this past season, as well as your staff, is crucial. Going back to watch film on games, practices, workouts, or whatever it is that helps you is essential. How much time do you spend trying to evaluate your own performance? This is a great time to review practice plans, does your practice flow, where would you tweak some things, do you need a complete overhaul?


Reach Out to Others

Do you reach out to boosters, alumni, parents? Getting with your own administration, picking their brains on things they see, areas you could improve.

Ask questions of those around you and those you trust; asking basketball coaches that you play against or that have seen you play but have a great rapport with or friendship with can be helpful as well. Meet with people in the community, run basketball camps, do things that will get you more involved in your area.


Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself and your own growth. Find basketball coaching clinics, roundtable discussions, and forums to attend to get different perspectives and give your own perspectives. Sometimes explaining things you do to other peers/coaches and what you believe in helps remind you why you do what you do.

Networking is another critical thing in the offseason; this can be done in many ways, but meet different coaches, meet with other administrators, meet others on your own campus that you do not know.



Lastly, do not forget to take some downtime. Do not use the ENTIRE offseason as downtime, but take some time with family/friends and refresh. Work on your health and your fitness; sometimes, during the grind of the basketball season, we lose sight of our own well-being and our health.

Make sure that you get back to your work/life balance. Take some trips, have some staycations, refill your tank, but then get back to work. We cannot tell our players that they are “made in the offseason” if we do not rebuild and re-tweak ourselves in the offseason.




Five Lessons I Have Learned from Coaching Basketball


Five Lessons I Have Learned from Coaching Basketball

Andrew Steele contributed to this portion of the article.


From my earliest memories, I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete when I grew up. Whether it was a basketball or football player, it didn’t matter, just as long as I was going to be able to play the game that I loved. However, for my first serious Career Day at school in 5th grade, I dressed up as a coach.

Not an NBA or NFL player, but a coach, football coach to be exact, wearing a Clemson hat; it will always be Roll Tide, though. I guess I got it honestly because my dad was a longtime high school basketball and football coach. Throughout this story, I will talk about the five lessons I have learned in coaching. Discussed in no particular order, these are lessons that I feel will help anyone aspiring to get into the coaching business:

  • Have Faith
  • Take a Risk on Yourself
  • Work Extremely Hard
  • Love Your Players
  • Find Good People to Work For and With


Fast forward to my redshirt sophomore season playing college basketball at the University of Alabama in 2010-11. After missing a majority of the previous season due to a stress fracture in my ankle and the first 13 games of that 2010-11 season, I had a lot of time to view the game differently. It killed me not to play for over a full year, but what happened during that timeframe has changed my life forever.

It was during that period, one of the hardest of my life, that I discovered my true passion in life: coaching. I was typically a leader on all the teams that I played for, not because I was always the most talented, but because of my ability to connect seamlessly with my coaches and teammates. I considered myself a coach on the court, and I took tremendous pride in that role. So, it came as no surprise that once my college eligibility was up, the natural step would be to transition into basketball coaching.

After I finished playing in 2013, I planned to stay on at Alabama as a Graduate Assistant. I had constant conversations with my coach, Anthony Grant, about my future after basketball because we thought that day had come a lot earlier than it actually did. The short story is that I had a concussion near the end of the 2010-11 season, and after constant monitoring throughout that following offseason and summer, the symptoms never got better.

Thus, I decided to move into coaching, getting invaluable experience as a student assistant to start the 2011-12 season. In January 2012, I finally healed well enough to return to playing, but the coaching seed was already planted in me. So, when my eligibility was done, I knew what the next step was. At least I thought I knew.

Instead of becoming a GA, I took a job as a marketer with a nonprofit dental company. I traveled throughout the state of Alabama, talking to kids about the importance of doing the right things. Part of my talk would be for me to incorporate my basketball experiences. The conversations would end with me playing basketball with the kids and signing pictures from when I played at Alabama.

I was never far away from basketball, even when I thought I wanted to be. The biggest blessing that happened was that my boss decided to keep me stationed in Birmingham at the last minute instead of moving me to Huntsville as initially planned. That decision allowed me to be an assistant basketball coach at my alma mater, John Carroll Catholic High School, and that experience as a coach furthered my conviction that coaching is what God was calling me to do.

I planned to go back to UA as a grad assistant, but the head coach I worked under at JC retired, and I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered my first basketball head coaching job at the age of 23, and it was at my alma mater of all places. The same place that helped mold me into the man I am today would be the same place that launched my basketball coaching career.

In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to coach in college, but the opportunity to be a head coach was simply too good to pass up. There are times that I question if I made the right decision, wondering if those two years at John Carroll slowed my progression through the college basketball ranks. But, those two seasons as a head coach will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The lessons that I learned, both good and bad, both easy and hard, will undoubtedly help when I am someday a college head basketball coach. It will surely help me when I am promoted to Assistant Coach, and it has helped me in my current role as a GA. As painful as it was to leave John Carroll, I knew it had to be done if I were ever to fulfill my dream.

As excited as I was to start a new chapter, I was equally sad about leaving my old one behind. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would get so attached to my high school kids, but I truly love each of them like the little brothers I never had. From coaching those kids, I learned firsthand that they do not care how much you know until they know how you care.

I know it is a coaching cliché, but kids can tell when you are genuine and when you are not. That group gave me everything they had, and I believe that a coach can ask for nothing more of his team. No matter how far I hopefully go in my career, that group will always hold a special place in my heart.

In taking this job at South Alabama, I have grown even more as a coach and person than I could have ever hoped to in such a short period. A significant part of that is because of my wife, Brittany, who has been so supportive that words cannot do it justice. Without her, I would not have a great shot to be successful in life, much less coaching basketball, so I can never fully repay her for what she has done.

My time here at the University of South Alabama has shown me so many things that go into running a college basketball program that it even shocked me, and I considered myself an insider. Again, I would not trade these experiences, as I know all the things I have learned and the truly wonderful people that I have worked with will stay will remain relevant factors in my life going forward.

My advice to aspiring basketball coaches would be to take a risk on yourselves and follow your dreams. No one on this earth can see into the future, so faith is extremely important. I cannot quote Bible verses at the drop of a dime, but my relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in life.

That belief in His promise is what drives me every day, so I know that I am in good hands all the time. So, while faith is important, faith without work is dead. If you want to be successful in this business, you cannot be afraid to take risks. And if you are blessed enough to land a job, work as hard as you can at the job you have.

Your work in the job you have is the best indicator of your potential in a future job, and you only get one chance to make a first impression. I believe that “luck” is when hard work meets opportunity, and there is so much beauty in that concept. We can control the hard work, but we cannot control who opens the doors of opportunity. The good thing for me is I know who does control those doors of opportunity, and He has yet to let me down.



Preparing to be a Head Coach in Basketball


Preparing to be a Head Coach in Basketball

Mark Vanderslice contributed to this portion of the article.


Are you ready to be a head basketball coach? That’s the overriding question I had to ask myself when the time came for me to take on this new role. If the answer is yes, how organized will you be to communicate your vision effectively to the players, staff, and those involved with the program?

In the years leading up to my first head basketball coaching opportunity, I was constantly being shaped and molded through the different experiences and philosophies I was exposed to. When the time came, I decided to transfer my thoughts onto paper as a reference point. This enabled me to clearly define my own objectives in each area of coaching.

Although each head coaching position brings its own set of circumstances and challenges, one must again ask themselves, “Am I ready?” If so, “Am I prepared to communicate my vision?”

This basketball coaching article will focus on a few primary categories I would encourage you to keep in mind (but not limited to) when analyzing your own personal basketball coaching style.



Basketball Program’s Culture

One of the first things any new basketball coaching staff that has been hired should do is to introduce the culture and the expectations of how things will be operated. It is the defining personality and makeup of any team and should be communicated clearly and regularly to instill habitual reminders.

The results from these practices will cultivate a certain level of confidence so that each individual will know that they deserve success.



Basketball Team Goals

To know how to get somewhere, you must first know where you are going! Having a vision and goals set for your basketball program is a crucial element to its success. Goals must be clear and concise to the entire program on a consistent basis. There is no cookie-cutter image that says you must have a certain type of vision in mind. Yet, they should be set accordingly with the understanding that there are positives and negatives that go along with setting them too high or too low.

Each year you should set new ones for yourselves personally and as a basketball team. Make no mistake, your visions should be elevated, and expectations great! As a basketball team, you should set the bar to a level of excellence that can only be achieved through a team effort.



Basketball Team Identity

Along with setting goals, you must also clearly define what it will make your basketball team special. What are you going to be good at? What are you going to hold your hat on? Every team needs to believe in something. It is what gives that team a swagger and confidence.

When things are going good or bad, you should not stray from your identity because it makes you who you are. It might not clearly be seen right away. It will take time to instill, and this is why everyone must understand the importance of your team goals. Consistency and persistence will stand the test of time. Keep your team identity down to 3 or 4 concepts.



Offensive and Defensive Basketball Philosophy

Your basketball coaching philosophy should be consistent with your overall team identity. What are you going to run offensively? What about defensively? Are you going to have the surprise and change school of thought, or are you of the simplicity and execution mindset? Whatever it might be, BE SPECIFIC! Above all, be prepared to communicate your ideals clearly and with confidence!



Simple Adjustments for Postseason Success in Basketball


Simple Adjustments for Postseason Success in Basketball

Jason Allison contributed to this portion of the article.

The month of March is the most exciting time for basketball fans, players, and coaches. The whole month takes our breath away with buzzer-beaters and Cinderella teams that come out of obscurity to capture our attention for a brief week or two. It is what we work and (most of us) live for!

Regardless of the classification your basketball team competes in, everyone wants to enjoy the ride; principals, athletic directors, fundraisers, chancellors, boosters, alumni, and even the local fan all want a piece of the pie. As a basketball coach, it is a round-the-clock grind getting the team prepared for its next opponent. Getting the proper match up or bracket draw that favors your team is like winning a small lottery scratch game.

We came up with a few ideas as to what may help a team during the tournament stretch and have postseason success in basketball.


Eliminate Distractions

Tickets for games, family members of players, media requests, etc. The key is the players need to be focused and ready to play. Some high school teams I watch have more assistants than most college teams. Designate someone to handle such requests. Focus.



Most basketball teams during a tournament on a neutral court tend to get tight. As a spectator, you can sometimes feel a team struggling to make shots, and the pressure mounts. Keep your team loose! “Relax and play” is a quote my boss, Duggar Baucom, always says. Once the ball is thrown in the air, it’s just hoops – dribbling, passing, shooting, and defense. Even if your basketball team didn’t have the best regular season, the tournament is a new beginning. Fresh Start.



When playing back-to-back games with no days off to practice, and coaching against a more talented team, make the other teams 4th, 5th, 6th option beat you instead of the star players. Whether it’s a triangle and 2 or a box in 1, if a team didn’t have time to practice against it, they may have difficulty adjusting. Make them take tough shots! And always REBOUND! Remember the pressure mounts to the favored team. Compete.



By this time in the year, your team has been scouted so much by every opponent they will know almost everything you do. Come up with a new basketball play or two; a different alignment on out of bounds plays will throw them off. Push the ball in transition to get an easy basket. The basketball team that gets to the line and offensive rebounds to gain extra positions will ultimately win the game. Execute.



Suppose your team is struggling during a game. You never know when a seldom-used player/reserve can make an energy play or open shot to spark that one run to send your team to victory. Trust your players – believe in them. There is NO tomorrow. Don’t be hard-headed. Give your basketball team the best chance to win the game! Know your team! Advance.



Simple Adjustments for Postseason Success in Basketball Conclusion

In closing, I hope something in this basketball coaching article will trigger an idea to help your squad advance. Obviously, being healthy, having great chemistry, and most importantly, being talented gives you confidence as a coach. Remember to have Focus as a basketball team and staff because you have a Fresh Start to do something special. If your team will Compete on every play, Execute the plan, they will survive and Advance! Good luck going forward and enjoy the “Madness!”




5 Keys To Building Relationships With Your Players


5 Keys to Building Relationships With Your Players

Brian Benator contributed to this portion of the article.

Many important people go into building a successful basketball program. The amount of stakeholders that put their effort into a program is endless. However, I believe that the most critical component is the basketball players themselves. High school and college basketball players put all their efforts into going to class, studying, practicing, conditioning, weight training, and every other function required of them during their time playing basketball.

Not to mention, they are trying to have some semblance of a social life as well. Our job as basketball coaches is to make sure we pour our heart and soul into helping them achieve their dreams and goals while they suit up for us. Before we can get them to participate in any basketball drill or run any play, we have to make sure that we establish a relationship that is built on trust, honesty, and understanding.

A basketball player can tell if you are genuine or not when you speak to them. One of my favorite quotes regarding relationship building is from Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Virginia Tech, Buzz Williams. Coach Buzz said about his players, “He is not an X; he is not an O. He is a person. Pour your soul into him. It doesn’t matter where he’s going on your whiteboard if he doesn’t trust you”.

That is perfect! The basketball players on your team have to feel comfortable with you before going to battle in practice and games. If they do not feel comfortable and do not trust you, the opportunity for success is not nearly as high. Here are five keys to building quality relationships with your basketball players.



Open Door Policy

This might be a little more challenging for high school basketball coaches because the players have a full day of classes and a structured academic schedule. College players have a little more flexibility with sometimes only having one or two classes per day. However, no matter what level you coach at, this should be a must for your basketball program.

Our policy at West Florida has always been my personal policy that our players come first before anything else. If I’m in my office working on something, and a player comes to the office, I immediately stop what I’m doing and focus on them. Sometimes it may just be a quick hello, and how is your day.

Sometimes it may be they have a 20-minute break in between classes and want to just relax on your office couch. Maybe they have a personal problem or something else on their mind and need your guidance. Regardless of the situation, our players come first and are our primary focus.

I do understand that sometimes you might have a time-sensitive task. If that is the case, I usually pause what I’m doing and let the player know that it will be just a minute, and then they have my full attention. Sometimes things happen in a basketball office that require immediate action.

Additionally, we also tell our players that even if our door is closed, the open door policy still is in effect. We tell them always to knock and see if we are there. If we don’t answer right away, we tell them to text or call us and see if we are in the office. The Open Door Policy is a must in the basketball coaching profession.



Get to Know Your Basketball Players Families and Background

For college basketball programs, this begins before the players even arrive on campus because of the recruiting process. For high school programs, this can begin by starting to cultivate relationships with the middle school programs in your area. It is so important to have a baseline understanding and knowledge of your players’ background and family.

What cannot happen is a player thinks you are only using them for their talents to help you get wins. Everyone knows the famous quote, “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” As basketball coaches, your players have to feel that you care more about who they are than their talents as an athlete.

Sometimes, players have a more difficult time opening up to their coaches about their life and their families. It’s our job as a coach to do the best job we can of making sure that each player feels a sense of comfort in being able to speak with you about any and everything.

Every time I interact with a player off the court, I try to talk about something regarding their family or their life that is non-basketball related. Even if it’s as simple as “how are your mom and dad doing” or “how was your brother’s football game last night?” Something that shows the players you are in it for more than just their talent can go a long way in building a healthy and positive relationship.



Have Daily Communication

With technology the way it is today, it is so easy to communicate with your players. Personally, I would love to have face-to-face interaction with each player every day. Sometimes though, that may not be able to happen realistically. Even at the collegiate level, when you can set the player’s schedule, sometimes there are days when you don’t have any human interaction. There are two things that I make an effort to do every day.

The first is something that, no matter what time of year, you can always do. I send our basketball players a text message that contains something motivational or prevalent to our team at that given moment. It can be words, it can be a picture, or it can be a video. While it may not be catered to each individual, I send something that I think they can all relate to in some way and something that shows that I care about them and their future. There are, of course, certain moments when you know that a player needs a pick-me-up.

That is when you can send a personalized text message, call them on the phone, or have them come in the office to chat. As a basketball coach, it is important to know not only the pulse of your whole team but also the pulse of each player.

The second thing is during practice. I always make a concentrated effort to speak with each player before the start of practice. Sometimes this is in pre-practice while getting shots up, or sometimes this is during stretching before practice. I do this before practice because I want to get a feel for how each player is doing that day. This helps me figure out their mentality at practice. Do I need to push them a little harder? Should I pull back a little? Do I go as I normally would?

That daily communication in practice will help me get a feel for how to make sure I’m coaching them the best way so I can help them succeed. One other thing I do during practice is always have some sort of physical contact with each player. Whether it’s a high five, a fist bump, or a pat on the back, I always want my players to know that I recognize their efforts and commitment to the team.



Call Basketball Players by Their First Name

When we are born, we are given first names for a reason. That name is who we are to be addressed as for the rest of our lives. Sure, nicknames and abbreviations will be created throughout the different stages of our lives, but those still aren’t our given names.

I have always felt that players respond when you look them in the eye and call them by their given names. As I mentioned before, sometimes they may have a nickname or initials that they like to be addressed by. Usually, when that is the case, I like to double-check and make sure the player is OK with me addressing him that way.

One thing that I will never do is address a player by his last name. While a surname is extremely important to a player and is a family name, it’s not their first name. To me, it is a sign of disrespect when you address a player by his last name. Often when we are mad at a player for not doing something right, we call him by his last name while using a raised voice.

You can still have the same effect by using their first name and looking them in the eye while getting across the message you are trying to convey. While this may seem to be a little thing, it ends up being an important thing because you show that player that no matter what happens in a situation, you are addressing him with respect and showing him that you care.



Do Things Outside of Basketball

This is the most obvious and easy thing to do for a basketball program. Many coaches and programs are now doing things away from the court to help their teams bond and build relationships. Depending on the level you coach at, there are some financial and time-oriented limitations. However, you can still find ways to make sure you are doing things to build relationships with your basketball players when you aren’t on the practice floor.

The possibilities of these activities are endless. Some programs may be located in a small community where there aren’t many extracurricular activities, while some may be in larger, metropolitan cities with a number of different activities. Nonetheless, there are always ways you can bond with your players and not have to make exorbitant plans.

For example, one thing I have always done is to have our current seniors over at my house for a home-cooked meal with my family. I do this at the beginning of the year because your seniors are traditionally the leaders of your basketball program, and their actions will permeate down to the rest of the team.

With that said, I want our seniors to feel comfortable with me because those are the guys usually a coach goes to when they need help sending a message or communicating with the team. Some of the things we have done at the different programs I’ve been with are team dinners, bowling nights, escape rooms, and team paintball. Of course, there are so many other things that you can do as a coaching staff to build quality relationships with your players and team.

As you learn your players’ personalities, you have to determine what activities will make the most positive impact on your players. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to reach your players. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. At the end of the day, we as basketball coaches need to do whatever is necessary to have a strong, positive relationship with our players.



5 Keys To Building Relationships With Your Players Conclusion

Championships will come and go. Each year there is a new champion crowned. However, relationships last a lifetime. As a basketball coach, it is so rewarding to me when former players call me after they are done playing and say things such as “coach, I want you to come to my wedding” or “coach, I have this job offer, what do you think I should do” or even as simple as “coach, I just want to thank you for everything.”

When I see that a former player has had success in their life, it gives me a sense of accomplishment because I made an impact on them while they played for me.

I hope that you were able to get a nugget or two from this basketball coaching article. Our practices are always open if you are in Pensacola, Florida area. Please feel free to reach out if we can help you out at all. My email is, and my office number is (850) 474-3320.





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