Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear College Coach, Lead Us!!


“Coaches have to be better,” said Geno Auriemma..... “We have to teach the game better. We have a lot of coaches in this country, but we don’t have a lot of teachers. The players we’re getting need a lot of teaching. We have to work hard to make sure we can do that.”


This is an excerpt from the highly publicized "White Paper Summit", a gathering of the leaders of the women's game in response to the Ackerman Report.


Coach Auriemma did not specify what level of coaches he was speaking of but the implication seemed to point at the usual suspects in grassroots basketball. The immediate paragraph after his statement went on to say the following.


"One of the critiques of the current format in summer basketball is that too much attention is being paid to game competition and not enough on skill development."


I agree with both Auriemma and the idea of potentially certifying skill development clinics to emphasize what is needed in the game. If anyone can make this statement, it is Geno.


Last year around this time, my child went on her unofficial visit to Connecticut. To keep the story brief, we walked through the trophy case showing off seven national trophies(now eight).  It was very impressive to her but what stuck out most to me besides the extraordinarily  intense and detailed practice was what sat on Geno's desk. As he invited us in his office, I could not help but to notice a encyclopedia thick binder with the NBA logo on the side. After talking recruitment stuff, I finally got around to asking what the binder contained. Coach Auriemma went on to open up the binder and explain that he obtained it from a NBA associated friend. The binder contained the main sets from every NBA team. Again, the seven time national champion, a guy who turned a small farming community into a basketball juggernaut, apparently continues to improve his craft by studying the intricacies of the highest level of the game. Seven titles and gold medals and the guy still is getting better! He is right. We need better teachers. What we also need is college coaches to keep it real, be 100%, with every level of the game.


As a club coach, I cannot count how many times a college coach has complained to me about how remedial some high school practices are for the athletes they are recruiting. I rubbed some the wrong way with this blog about that subject.


Conversely, I can count how many times I have heard high school coaches exclaim that college coaches complain about how unorganized and lacking in skill set development club basketball can be for recruits. I have addressed  "rolling the ball out" and "chasing trophies" in club ball on numerous occasions as well.


What club and high school basketball coaches need, is for college coaches to LEAD us! Complaining about the product you receive without assisting those that produce the product is dishonest and counterproductive. And yes, I said product. These young women help generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for college coaches every year in salaries, fuel a lucrative grassroots tournament market and provide stipends and prestige to high school coaches. We should all be honest in this as well and stop making villains of one or more parties claiming that they are "in it for the wrong reasons". How many women's programs generate revenue and run in the black without being subsidized by men's football or basketball? Yet, college coaches are compensated handsomely. To an accountant, examining the bottom line, highly paid college coaches in a business that seldom produces a return is bad business. Are they in it for the wrong reasons? No, they and the players are the reason for the business and as business leaders, college coaches should lead their manufacturers in producing better quality! How? Who really knows?


Fundamentals are easy but philosophy is where it gets tricky. Do you teach two handed passing as a traditionalist or do you observe every elite guard in the NBA and WNBA and teach what they do at times, which is throw one handed passes versus aggressive defenses. Do you certify coaches to force ball handlers baseline or funnel to the middle help. Dick Bennett's Pack Line man to man defense or ear in the chest deny the next pass man defense. Matchup or traditional zone? Cross step or open step? Jump stop or stride stop. I-2 pull up or bunny hop jump shot? Two feet catch in order to determine pivot foot or permanent pivot. The contrasts are endless and what certification program will address this? I begged for USA intervention before. That ticked some people off as well.


Whatever change is implemented to teach coaches to be better, at every level of the game, it must start with honesty and stopping the fear mongering. High school coaches need to use their 3 hours a day to develop better players. Club coaches need to learn to behave more like" traditional coaches" in practice planning and stop yelling so much! And college coaches should be investing constructive criticism and knowledge into both of the these areas, instead of ridiculing both behind their back in fear of alienating them in the pursuit of recruits. Many college coaches are lamenting the lack of respect the current crop of players are exhibiting. Every generation seems to have this argument with the youngsters of the day but maybe the current disdain that these kids have is that adults are not "being 100 " with them. As my man Bunny Colvin says when addressing education and crime on the hit series 'The Wire' , " Whatever it is(in dealing with students), it can't be a lie"!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shining Pennies!

Stan Smith is a legend to us. We are a tribe of Stan Smith followers. He was our coach. He is our coach! From all walks of life, from many different endings and professions, we all still hold Coach Smitty in high regard.


Our city was tough, populated by the haves and the have-nots. Both sides learned the ways of each other since all went to school together. On one side of town, many single mothers  dragged their sons and daughters to very emotionally charged worship services every Sunday. On the other side of town, a good number of mothers and fathers made sure their kids attended worship services as well, though the services were a little more subdued. Both sides had faith in a higher power, but the religion that unified all was Basketball. During the Tuesday and Friday nights of winter, standing room only crowds filled the gym without exception. Losing was not an option, almost a crime or sin to some. The elders were the former players, local legends that held every current baller to an impossible standard. The city's identity, pride and collective togetherness rested upon how "the boys" played. The fans were fanatical and Coach Smitty led the flock.


Smitty had a habit of walking around high school with his head down. You never saw the man's eyes as he approached you, yet he always seemed to see everything. Smitty kept his eyes on his prize, the loose change that others had dropped. Smitty would walk the entire high school multiple times a day, especially after lunch period, searching for fallen coins. The 6'4 old school former basketball star would pick up dozens of coins a day, most of them pennies. He would gather the penny, rub it between his fingers to remove excess dirt and put it in his pocket along with the others. To the unindoctrinated, it may have appeared that he was cheap or hard up for money. The truth was and is that, Coach Smitty owned many investment properties, free and clear of mortgages. He was relatively wealthy. He was and is an investor. He invests his time in shining the fallen pennies of the city and helping them, helping  us, understand our worth and value. He was and is a COACH.   


Coach Smitty would take that suburban kid, gamed honed by a doting father in a back yard court that ensured his son had a lethal jump shot, and married him to a style that challenged his toughness. Smitty pressed all over the court, non-stop physical ball pressure. That suburban spot up shooter was demanded to run faster than he could, be stronger than his body enabled. That non-confrontational boy was programmed to learn when to confront and disrupt on the court.


Coach Smitty would take that rebellious athlete, raised by a single mother, and demand discipline. The free flowing street ball impresarios were shown and obligated to understand changing pace, offensive spacing and exploiting match ups. The confrontational boy was programmed to learn when to use guile and passivity in order to outsmart the opposition. Using force and brashness enabled many to thrive but unchecked, can become counterproductive. Smitty knew and instilled this knowledge.   


Where have all the Smitty's gone? Where is that Coach that will pick up the fallen and shine them? Put them is his/her pocket and value them. Teach the weak to be strong and the tough to be compassionate. Many feel that a title or designation makes them a coach. Not true! Ability makes you an able coach. Smitty and his ilk thrive because they ARE the part! Many feel that since they are named coach, they are qualified to be so. A certification program, background check, degree and friends in hiring positions don't make the coach. The productivity and progress of the STUDENTS proves how great the TEACHER IS! Thanks to all the real COACHES that are investors that shine pennies, adding value and increasing worth, not just using them for personal  glory, status or position.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sit and Win or Sit and Lose?!!!

Every player wants to play. This time of year, so many prospects will make their college decisions based on many factors, potential playing time factoring in almost all of them. In a small sample size of 2012 players, I have averaged the minutes of McDonald All-Americans and the last ten players in the Top 300 according the reputable Dan Olsen's Collegiate Report.

Many of the Top 300 players in the country have both major and mid-major college opportunities. In my quest to see if the 290th ranked player played more than the 9th ranked prospect during their freshman year, I was surprised to learn the following.

2012 McDonald Americans averages:
Minutes played- 18.9 min
Points per game- 6.6 pts
Team Wins - 28 wins

(Imani McGee-Stafford stats were unavailable online. Her significant minutes would have help push the average minutes played to over 19.  Jordan Adams and Katie Collier were not included due to being injured the majority of the season. Also, by not including USC(Adams) Washington(Collier), and Texas(Stafford) in the win total, the win average is higher. Factoring in Stafford's win total of 12 at UT, the MDAA teams won average 27 games)

Now averaging the numbers of players ranked in the bottom of the Top 300, here's how they stack up.

2012 players ranked 290-300 on Dan Olsen Collegiate Report:
Minutes played: 17.34
Points per game: 4.71pts
Team Wins- 16.3

Comparing the two groups, here are some things that standout:

- Both groups played less than half a game on average.

- All- Americans played an average of 2 min more per game. They also averaged approximately 2 more points a game.

- The biggest difference between groups was in the win total. All- Americans played for teams that won 11 more games on average.

- Only two players on both groups averaged at least 30 minutes a game as freshman: Notre Dame's Jewell Lloyd earned 31.1 minutes for the All-Americans and Maryland's Chloe Pavlech led the other group with 30.2 minutes. Duke's Alexis Jones fell a few minutes short and finished with an average of 29.5 minutes.

- The top two scorers for both groups averaged 13 points a game. UConn's Breanna Stewart led the All-Americans with a 13.8 average. ULL's Ke'Alana Veal led the other group with an average of 13.1 a game.

- The 3 players from the non-All American group that chose BCS schools averaged 18.3 minutes a game, or about the same as the All-Americans. Everyone of the All-Americans chose BCS schools.

Using the average of these two groups, the rule of thumb seems to be that freshman, regardless of grouping, sit more often than not!The question then becomes, do you sit and win or do you sit and lose?

Undoubtedly, the reason that many of the All-Americans played so sparingly was due to the fact that they chose schools with past All-Americans already on the roster. Using that same logic, did players 290-300 do the same? More thoughts on this soon to follow.......