Do The Right Thing

Recently the higher education system has come into crisis. With soaring costs, falling enrollment and many higher education options, small colleges/universities across the country are facing tough decisions whether to keep their doors open or shut.

Newbury College, a small private college located outside of Boston, Massachusetts, faced this dilemma and made the tough decision to shut down.

“We are providing this notice, before we are legally required to do so, because it is the right thing to do,” Joseph Chillo, Newbury College President said. “Our people, the dignity of our mission, and the legacy of the institution are our most important concerns of today.” (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/12/17/newbury-college-provides-early-notice-closing-announcement)

Again, Newbury made the decision BEFORE it was required to do so, giving its students, faculty/staff and administrators the opportunity to plan their respective futures — that is find a new school or employment.

From an athletics standpoint, this means Newbury College student-athletes, who competed at the NCAA Division III level, must weigh their options of remaining at an comparable athletic institution where they can still compete athletically or transfer to other institutions where athletics may not be in their future.

These are tough, life altering decisions that will change the student-athletes’ college experience forever.

Coaches, similarly, find themselves out of work scrambling for a comparable position. At the NCAA Division III level, some head and assistant coaches are part-time so it does not necessarily mean that they will not be able to pay bills and provide for their families. However, the monetary consideration does not minimize the hurt and emptiness that they may feel without athletics in their lives.

Having the opportunity to lead young men and women in the sport that you love is a great honor and a life’s dream for most. I cannot stress enough that these coaching or administration jobs are difficult to come by and are not easily replaced.

With all that said, I was most impressed with was how former Newbury College Athletic Director, Jonathan Harper advocated for his former staff. On July 15th, 2019, Mr. Harper wrote on his Twitter account, “To former AD colleagues: Since Newbury closed, 4 coaches are available for head coach positions. In all, they won 3 NECC titles last year, 2 regular season titles & 4 Coach of the Year honors. DM for info. #MissMyStaff “. 

Furthermore, Mr. Harper has also “reached out to athletic members of the athletic administration staffs at the schools and municipalities that the coaches have applied to, (has) written letter and email recommendations for all of the coaches that he mentioned in his tweet plus the ones that did get jobs.” He also helped his former staff by “networking with other AD’s and their staffs…at the NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics) Convention in June with the company that he currently works for and spoke with many decision makers there as well.”

Normally in college athletics coaches get hired to get fired. If coaches are lucky, they leave on their own terms. In other instances, “life happens” and coaches move on to more stable vocations or positions that allow for more family time. The closing of an institution, however, is unique to say the least,  but may be more of a trend as the landscape of higher education continues to change.

Despite the usual and unfortunate circumstances for the coaches involved, Mr. Harper should be recognized and commended for the empathy he has shown for his coaches during this difficult time and the lengths at which he has advocated for them to find another coaching position.

He did not have to do this. It was not part of his contract. He most likely will never work with these individuals ever again.

Merely,  he was being a true leader in every sense of the word, just doing what he would want his athletic director to do for him if he was a coach under similar circumstances.

Let us not forget, with the closing of Newbury College, Mr. Harper lost his job as well. Hopefully his supervisor reached out on behalf of Mr. Harper just as he did for his coaches.

I applaud you Mr. Jonathan Harper for leading your staff even after your tenure with them has ended. You are probably the same person who holds the door open for people, gets up at the barber shop if an elderly man walks in and all the seats in the waiting room are taken, help a woman to the car with her groceries and addresses employees at the counter with “hello, please and thank you.”

I do not know you but I truly appreciate you.

Thank you for doing the right thing. If we ever meet, I will buy you a cup of coffee and leave the tip.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

 

 

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Coaching Situation: Stopping the Snowball Effect

This past week, Duke staged an historic 23 point comeback to upend Louisville and left the college basketball world shaking its head.

Of course Duke’s freshmen sensations, Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones, all had a part in the comeback which was the largest of Coach Krzyzewski’s hall of fame career.

Duke was down 23 points with 9:13 remaining and then the “Snowball Effect” began. The snowball effect is defined as “a situation in which something increases in size or importance at a faster and faster rate“, until it seemingly is out of control.

Louisville Head Coach, Chris Mack tried to stop the momentum – namely by using all of his timeouts early. However, Cardinal turnovers, coupled with Duke’s shot making, turned the tides and Louisville could never regain its poise.

I once had the “Snowball Effect” get one of my teams as well.

Our coaching staff could see it coming, but we could not do anything to stop the collapse. We called timeouts, extended our defensive pressure, tried to run clock on offense, and remained poised on the sidelines to create a calming effect for our student-athletes. None of these strategies worked unfortunately.

In addition, another major factor of us not being able to hold on to our lead was that we missed free throws, including the front end of 1-and-1’s.

ESPN’s Dan Dakich spoke on his podcast “Courtside with Greenberg and Dakich” (Episode “Mount Zion” 2-13-19, 33:05-35:27) about what do when the “Snowball Effect” is occurring. Dakich was adamant that coaches must address the following (in no particular order):

  1. How do I set something up to get us a bucket?
  2. Who can I lean on right here? Who can calm us down? (Dakich recommends that coaches talk to the calmest person in the timeout and talk to the team through that player)
  3. Where can I go to get fouled? – “The great elixir is throwing the ball on to the block and having a player get fouled.”
  4. Coaches should remind players during timeouts, “If all else fails against pressure, ‘pass fake before you dribble'”

Coaches, please share the most forgettable “snowball” moment in your career (the more details the better) and also provide some tactics that you have used to stop it. Did it work? What would you have done different?

Thank you for your comments!

Follow Bert DeSalvo on twitter @CoachDeSalvo #SEIZE

 

 

 

“Necessary Roughness” Gruden Article October 2002

GrudenThis is an article titled “Necessary Roughness” I have kept on hand since late 2002. It was from Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine, which I borrowed from one of my flights when I was doing camp.

With Coach Jon Gruden back with the Raiders, it a perfect time to re-evaluate his approach to the game.

The first question and answer from the interview portion of the article is all you need to know about Coach Gruden.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Way More Than 1000

bentley-bigTonight, Bentley University Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Barbara Stevens reached a tremendous milestone becoming just the fifth women’s basketball coach earn 1000 victories. Like the women’s basketball coaches before her to reach the mark (Sylvia Hatchell, Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer and Pat Summit) Coach Stevens is a basketball legend.

Coach Stevens is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer. Coach Stevens led Bentley to a National Championship during the 2013-2014 season. Coach Stevens boasts twelve, yes twelve, 30 win seasons and more than likely, pending the selection committee, Coach Stevens will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame come September 2018.

In Coach Stevens’ amazing 31 year tenure as the Head Coach at powerhouse Bentley University (DII – NE-10), the Falcons have averaged a mind-boggling 26+ wins a season. Her only sub .500 season was during the 14-15 season when her squad was hit hard by the injury bug.

Ironically, during the 2014-15 season I was the Head Coach at Southern Connecticut State University and our regular season conference game was the lone time I was fortunate enough to matchup against Coach Stevens. Despite her squad being hampered by injuries, the Falcons were up on us by nine points with about 5 minutes to go in the contest and looked as if Bentley was going to seal the win. However, we made one last push and went on a 13-0 run of our own to take a four point lead, only to have Bentley tie it up, 62-62, with under a minute to play. Fortunately, we executed Chop EOG set in the closing seconds of the game and held on for a 65-62 win.

Quite an accomplishment for me. 1-0 against the legend.

However, that win is not the story I tell my family, friends and coaching colleagues about Coach Stevens.

I tell them this one.

When I first came into the conference, I was the only male head coach at the time. With many veteran coaches in the league, I was feeling a bit ostracized at recruiting events and league meetings. Everyone knew everyone and then there was me. Sure I became friends with some of the coaches — Monique LeBlanc from Merrimack and Ty Grace from New Haven (now Head Coach at Howard University) come to mind, but I didn’t get paid too much attention from the veteran coaches.

Then one Saturday afternoon, I found myself near Coach Stevens. We began to chit-chat for about 30 minutes during a recruiting event at CCRI-Warwick campus. We got to know each other a bit during our talk. I asked Coach Stevens about her career, recruiting philosophy, the landscape of recruiting and the future of the game. I showed her a picture of my only daughter at the time, spoke about my program and the direction I was leading it. Coach Stevens told me that she respected how I was building the program at SCSU, which meant so much to me.

It still does.

I left that meaningful conversation realizing that Coach Stevens is an ego-free, down-to-earth person, who is not only a great coach but cares about the game enough to allow a young coach to pick her brain. More importantly though, I thought I may have made a new friend.

Fast forward to June 2015, I was not rehired at Southern Connecticut State University and spent the 2015-16 season networking, viewing practices and games in order to get back on the sidelines. It was a tough time in my coaching career and there were many moments of despair.

Then in March 2016 after Bentley made their Elite 8 run, I received an email from Coach Stevens saying that she heard of an opening that she thought I may be interested in and immediately forwarded me the application materials. During my campus interview, the athletic director reiterated that “Barbara Stevens recommended Coach DeSalvo” which instantly made the administration, student-athletes and president of the University consider me a serious candidate.

Why did Coach Stevens do this? Lord knows, she did not have to. I was an out-of-work basketball coach and she was about 950 wins into her Hall of Fame career. She would be no worse off if she was not thinking of Bert DeSalvo. I’ll tell you why because she is a good person who stuck her neck out for me when I needed some help. She had nothing to gain. She merely did it to help a young coach.

She did it to help me and wanted nothing in return. Isn’t that the definition of selflessness, charity and being a good person?

If I didn’t share this story, nobody would ever know. I’m sure Coach Stevens barely recalls her large act of kindness towards me and my family. However, I will never forget that Coach Stevens took time for me and thought of me enough as a coach to recommend me to a colleague of hers.

The wins are a staggering milestone but the it’s the relationships that last. I can only imagine the countless acts of kindness that Coach Stevens has displayed throughout her tenure as a head coach. I hope others will share their interactions with Coach Stevens so we can put some substance to the 1000 victories.

I’m sure Coach Stevens, a living legend, would agree that those moments are worth way more than her 1000 wins.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

 

 

Basketball Coach Weekly Article – Issue 220

Please enjoy this recent publication from Basketball Coach Weekly titled “Adjusting Your Coaching Approach.”

I hope this article may help others in the coaching profession as they attmept to balance coaching and their personal lives.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Deserving of Each Other

Last evening, it was made public that West Liberty University Associate Head Coach, Kyle Cooper, was elevated to the position of Head Coach.

I have known Coach Cooper for several years now since he has been an assistant coach in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference turned Mountain East Conference when I was a head coach at Penn State – Beaver and an assistant at Clarion University.

From my interaction with Kyle, he has always been the consummate professional as women’s college basketball coach. Whether it was staying for the late AAU game at tournaments when he was trying to land the big recruit, breaking down just a little more film, or working with female student-athletes on the court, Kyle was always willing to do whatever it took to be a great assistant.

Put simply, he always tried to do what great assistants do: make the head coach’s life easier and always put the team before his ego.

Kyle made a somewhat controverisal move in 2013 when he left Wheeling Jesuit University for cross-town rival West Liberty University. By making the jump across town, he not only got to work with legendary coach Lynn Ullom, but he had the opportunity to observe and be mentored how to run an elite NCAA Division II program, make quality contacts with some of the best in the business and take the lead role in recruiting, game planning and many other facets of program planning. It was only an 11 mile move, but it made all the difference.

For an assistant (and head coach for that matter), to work in an environment that allows room to grow while continuing to be able pursuit ones professional goals and dreams IS EVERYTHING.

Unfortunately, not every coach has great mentors, support from their administration or even the personal resolve to allow them to persevere until a situation arises which allows for a vertical move. Sometimes assistants get antsy and jump at any chance to become a head coach, even if it is a subpar situation. This is all in an effort not to get labeled as an “assistant” forever. Other coaches may get out of the game completely because the assistant coaching salary, especially at the DII or DIII levels, may not be enough to support themselves or their families. When you weigh the time requirements along with the modest financial compensation at most institutions, these factors can really be the deciding reasons for assistant coaches looking for an opportunity to be a head coach to make a tough decision about their vocation and leave the professional altogether.

Since head coaching jobs are so far and few between, coaches should celebrate West Liberty’s decision to promote Coach Cooper for the following reasons.

First, the administration didn’t open the position to a lengthy national search. Instead, they looked at Coach Cooper’s entire body of work since he has been at West Liberty and made a value judgment on his ability to lead the women’s basketball program. Kyle’s approach to his position over the past four seasons proved he was worthy of the title “head coach”. By not opening a search, yes it may not have given others the ability to interview and show their competence, but it also didn’t waste potential applicants time or money by putting on a “dog and pony show” when they knew who their hire was going to be. We all know that the hiring process is brutal, filled with emotional rollercoaster moments throughout, so to spare this anxiety for everyone involved, especially the Cooper family, is tremendous.

In addition, the decision to promote Coach Cooper keeps the program running seamlessly and will most likely not make for a wave of transfers, something plaguing college basketball at all levels, because Coach Cooper not only recruited all of them but he has a personal relationship with them as well. I am sure that most if not all of the student-athletes are excited about continuing to have Coach Cooper as their coach and leader.

Moreover, the process was not some “political move” or “inside job” made by administration to satisfy an alum base or booster. It was not some new administration or current administrator putting “their guy/girl” in the job who was not qualified but rather a figurehead or personal friend. It was not the administration opening the job up to find a an ex-professional player or alum to make a “splash” hire. It was not the administration hiring a “big name” who has coached basketball but never (maybe) women’s basketball before, or worse yet, never been a coach at all. The hire was also not an administrator hiring someone to fill a quota.

No the hire of Coach Cooper was none of that. Rather, West Liberty had no agenda. Instead they evaluated Coach Cooper’s four years on the Hill and took that four year job interview at face value. West Liberty rewarded Coach Cooper with a promotion because he EARNED THE POSITION. Period.

This hire has helped restore some of my faith in the hiring process in women’s basketball. Kudos to West Liberty University President Dr. Stephen Greiner and the athletic administration for how they handled this entire process. Coaches everywhere would be lucky to be treated with this type of loyalty and respect that Coach Cooper experienced.

Hopefully other administrations will look carefully at their upcoming open positions, and whether it is opening the position up for a national search or promoting from within, they must do the what is right from both the program and its current and future student-athletes. It must be noted that depending upon the situation, either option can be the right decision. It just has to be made with the student-athletes and the program in mind and nothing else. No agendas please.

With all of that in mind, most importantly, a coach who has paid his dues now gets an opportunity to play out his adulthood dream while his wife and son get to cheer him on from the stands.

Congrats West Liberty University and Coach Cooper. All the best in the future.

You deserve each other.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

 

 

 

 

Sideline Stories – Basketball Coach Weekly 185

Here is a recent interview that was published in the most recent Basketball Coach Weekly – Issue 185

I appreciate Basketball Coach Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief, Mike Austin, interest in my perspective and decision to step away from the game temporarily due to family obligations.

I am looking forward to getting back to the sidelines very soon.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo