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"!