Morning Discussion on a Company’s Culture

I had conversation with a VP of Sales for an prestigious New England company this morning.

The individual cited the following reasons for not retaining or hiring individuals in the company:

  1. Didn’t have the right personality
  2. Not mature enough
  3. Didn’t fit the company’s culture
  4. Were not able to get the job done without daily supervision/Different mindset

This is something to think about when hiring an assistant or if you are looking for your next coaching position/career…do you fit the culture?

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: More Than Just Championships

Thunder Road – Sports Illustrated – Lee Jenkins – May 30, 2016

This article by Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated show’s why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may stay in Oklahoma City no matter what their fate is this season in their quest to the NBA Championship.

It just goes to show that despite the yearly coaching carousel, the mass exodus by transfers every year in college basketball and NBA free agents bolting for the money, maybe, just maybe, Durant and Westbrook are mature beyond their years.

Sometimes the grass is not always greener and quality of life and building a lasting legacy will mean more down the road.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo




The Case for…Chip Kelly – Melissa Jacobs

This recent Sports Illustrated article by Melissa Jacobs, makes a case for Chip Kelly being the right hire for the San Francisco 49ers. I think it is at least a logical argument for hiring a coach who seemed to not have the necessary personality to connect with his players during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Although having the necessary tactical skills are very important, nothing is as important as treating players with respect and getting to know them on a personal level, in my opinion. X’s and O’s can be learned, personality and caring can not.

Although the 49ers do need a whole system transformation in order to get the necessary production out of Colin Kaepernick, it will be interesting to see if Kelly can make the changes necessary or if the 49ers should have went with an “Unusual Hire” (see “Taking a (Calculated) Risk in Hiring”) to fill its head coaching vacancy

The Case for…Chip Kelly- Sports Illustrated – Jan. 25, 2016 – Melissa Jacobs

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


Confessions of a Coach

This confession by former University of Cincinnati Graduate Assistant, Al Hmiel, is sure to grab your attention.

Here Tim Sullivan gets a candid interview from the ex-coach and provides the audience with an eye opening piece for those not involved in college athletics at its highest level.

Having coached at the D1 Men’s Basketball level, I have heard stories like this, which I why I would tend to believe Hmiel’s account.


I would like to thank Joe Ticotsky, CT Starters AAU Girls Basketball Director, for sharing this article with me.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

“After Further Review…” – USC (Finally) Makes the Right Call & What Their Decision Can Teach Others in College Athletics

Yesterday, the University of Southern California announced that  Clay Helton was being named the permanent head coach, removing the interim tag he has assumed since replacing former head coach Steve Sarkisian on October 12th.

Helton went 5-2 since replacing Sarkisian as the interim head coach, and will play in the PAC-12 Championship game vs. Stanford this weekend.

Nevertheless, USC’s decision to keep Helton has raised some eyebrows. Many media members and alumni have said that USC needed a “big name” for a job this prestigious and that Helton was not a worthy hire.

However, based upon the student-athletes’ reactions I would beg to differ. Did you see the reaction of the USC player’s when USC Director of Athletics, Pat Haden, told them that Helton was being retained? (USC Player’s Reaction to Helton Being Named Head Coach)

Haden noted that, “after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searcing for in a coach was reight here in front of us.”

This hire is a risky one for Haden, who himself is on the hot seat for the hiring of Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin and how both of those tenures ended. Haden also hired former Florida Gulf Coast University Men’s Basketball Coach, Andy Enfield, who has not produced since his arrival in April of 2013.

Nevertheless, I believe that Haden observed Helton, listened to the student-athletes and saw immediate results, on and off the field.

Let us not forget that Haden had the chance to hire another interim head coach in Ed Orgeron, back in 2013. Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin just five games into the 2013 season. Orgeron went 6-2 during his interim stint, bringing life back to the USC football program and was widely supported by his players.

Despite Orgeron’s efforts and popularity, Haden went with Sarkisian. Sarkisian was one of the key members of the staff during the Pete Carroll era, an era Haden desperately wanted to rekindle.

However, for USC that era was long gone. Haden was essentially hiring an alum thinking that would be a quick fix to get back to the glory days. He was wrong. Very wrong. Just like the Carroll era that ended with shame, so did Sarkisian’s short tenure.

Plain and simple, Haden learned from his mistake. Haden clearly hired the person who EARNED the job. It was not about politics or personal agendas or getting a “big name.” It was about hiring the best fit for the program at that particular point in the program’s history.

Helton PROVED that he can run a program by getting the student-athletes to buy in to his coaching philosophy, by recruiting at a high level and by winning games the right way.

Kudos to Pat Haden for making the right choice. Maybe his decision to listen to what he observed will influence other athletic directors to make decisions with their head versus media hype, political/personal  agendas or alumni/booster pressure.

Give ’em hell, Coach Helton!

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


Learning What ‘Not To Do’ Is Priceless

Having a great mentor in your professional or personal life is a luxury that some of us just do not have the opportunity to experience.

In this case, learning what “not to do” can be just as important as knowing what “to do”.

“Not learning” from co-workers, supervisors, the media, etc. just takes a keen eye, lots of patience and great instincts.

The recent Bank of America Twitter debacle (see link) is a perfect example of how attempting to give great customer service turned very wrong. Bank of America’s lack of caring and personal touch shows that even huge corporations can make giant mistakes.

Depending upon your line of work and/or your professional goals, the “Golden Rule” is usually a great place to start when it comes to learning what to do and how to treat people. Common sense is also vastly underrated too. Be sure to use them, as the two go hand-in-hand.

Moreover, if there is nobody to help guide you along to where you envision yourself, do not wallow in self pity, instead take control and self-educate as best you can. Professional books, clinics/course and online forums can help enlighten your horizons on your profession and get you to engage in professional organizations and career development opportunities.

In addition, networking with others in your profession may also shed some light on what you may be missing from the lack of mentorship/leadership that you have coped with.

Likewise, if you can’t see how your job is supposed to be carried out, consider observing and taking notes of what you will not do as you move along in your professional career.

These notes will serve as a reference point for you to look back on if a situation arises in the future. Lastly, you may also be able to share this valuable information with others when the day comes along, so you can help others who are in a similar situation to you.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye…

Recently several college football coaches have made decisions to leave their current programs to move on to better opportunities for their professional careers.

Notable coaches on the move include former Wisconsin Head Coach, Bret Bielema, who left his Badgers for the University of Arkansas. As a football decision I can understand why Bielema made this choice. Arkansas is in the nation’s premier football conference (SEC), has more resources than its Big 10 counterpart and more importantly, even if you lose one game, you can still play for the BCS National Championship. In most other conferences a one loss season means that a National Title is out of the question, but not in the SEC. Alabama’s current scenario is just this when they face undefeated Notre Dame in the coming weeks.

Arkansas Athletic director, Jeff Long, had Bielema on the radar even before this season ended though because Bielema sent Long a letter last year to congratulate him on his handling of the Bobby Petrino scandal.

Some might say that Bielema was recruiting Arkansas’ brass last April and that may be fair.

However, I always think, “what about Bielema’s current players?” Did he tell them the right way? This of course is a question that should be asked of any coaching departing for another program.

We all have heard the story of Todd Graham, current Arizona State Head Coach, who left the University of Pittsburgh after less than a year. It wasn’t that he left which necessarily bothered people. How can any of us say we wouldn’t take our “dream job” which also happens to be closer to family? I don’t think we could.

However, for Graham to contact his players via text message is simply unprofessional. How can a coach (a.k.a. teacher) conduct himself like this? Quite frankly it is irresponsible and pitiful. He is supposed to be responsible for teaching the college students on his team how to act as men. Not how to take the easy road out of town.


I recall when I had to tell my team at Penn State Beaver when I decided to make the move to Clarion University in October of 2011. I interviewed in late September and revisited with my wife the following day to see what she thought of the school and people there. After accepting the position, I told my Athletic Director and Director of Student Affairs at Penn State that same day. I had a resignation letter ready for them, which I handed in person to them later that day. Then I called a meeting in our locker room which I told all of the players at Penn State that I was taking this position to better myself and my family. Although it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, it was the right way to tell them. The student-athletes deserved to be told the right way.

There is never a good time to leave a program, which I understand. In my case it was at the end of September, just a few weeks before the season began. However, I had two trusted assistants and a manager in place and felt comfortable in leaving the program I had built in their hands.


Even more recently, I had to tell my team at Clarion in November of 2012 that I was relocating with my wife to New Haven, Connecticut where she pursued her career in higher education at Yale University. In addition, we were expecting our first newborn and also sold our house. These factors were a blessing, but also complicated matters.

Although I was only afforded to notify my team two days before my last day of work by my administration and head coach, I was at least able to bring the team together after practice and tell them face-to-face. I saw many tears shed that day, but again it was the right thing to do.


Which brings me to Head Coach Gary Andersen. He recently took the Head Coaching job which was vacant at Wisconsin once Bielema left for Arkansas, despite reiterating to his administration and players that he was going to stay at Utah State. Since Utah State had already played its bowl game the players were already home for their holiday break when Andersen accepted at Wisconsin. Nevertheless, Andersen valued the student-athletes he recruited at Utah State enough as players and people to personally make a phone call to each of them to tell them of his decision to leave. His reported 106 phone calls that took him until 2:30 a.m. to complete should be praised.

Although it was not face-to-face, it was the best Andersen could do given his circumstances and for that I applaud him. Having spent some time in Logan, I have a feel for their basketball program a little bit. I know the level of dedication that the Aggie faithful feel for Coach Stew Morrill due to all of the success that Utah State Men’s Basketball program has had during his tenure. Likewise, I am sure it was difficult for the Aggies fans to see Andersen leave after such a successful season on the gridiron.

It is easy to run and hide under the cover of a new job, new responsibilites and a busy schedule. Moving your family, finding a new home, and jumping into your new program are all musts when taking over a new coaching job. Still, Andersen obviously learned from the previous mishandlings of his colleagues’ departures.

Or maybe he didn’t learn anything. Maybe he just did what was right because that is who he is and that is what he stands for.

Kudos, Coach Andersen! I will be cheering for you and your Wisconsin Badgers and I hope when the coaching carousel begins for college basketball coaches this spring they can learn from you.

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