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






Giant Mistake? Be Careful What You Wish For

It is clear that the NY Giants feel that Tom Coughlin, 2x Super Bowl Champion, was the problem for the organization (see Gary Myers’ article), as everyone else in 6-10 organization was retained while Coughlin was basically forced to resign.

From all reports, it looks as though Coughlin was the scapegoat and now his offensive coordinator makes the jump from calling the plays to setting the course for the franchise.

It also get me thinking of franchises that let coaches go and then long for that coach…Do the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tom Coughlin come to mind? (See Conor Orr’s article)

Sometimes owners/GMs/ADs and the athletes think the grass is greener, but that is not always the case.

Be careful what you wish for

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


Happy New Year’s Eve Message from Coach DeSalvo

Happy New Year’s Eve!

To thank all of you who read my blog, I will be posting all sorts of articles/pictures/cartoon, etc. every hour all the way until the clock strikes Midnight!

Hopefully your clicks will break our all-time record so come back often all day long!

Please share/RT with your coaching friends as well.

I’ll start you with this motivational email from one of my favorite college professors that I have shared with my teams:

Drive On!

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

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12 Essentials for Effective Assistant Coaches

Attached is an article from Coach & Athletic Director in Jeff Janssen, from the Janssen Sports Leadership Center.

Janssen’s article focuses on Getting the Most from Your Assistants ( Getting the Most from Your Assistants – Jeff Janssen ) and he ranks his top categories.

The categories are as follows (in order of importance):

  1. Loyalty
  2. Knowledge of the Game
  3. People Skills & Communication
  4. Hard Worker
  5. Enthusiastic Positive Attitude
  6. Organized & Dependable
  7. Initiative
  8. Great Teacher
  9. Honesty
  10. Ethical & Professional
  11. Willingness to Learn
  12. Compatible Philosophy

Are there any categories that need to be added, subtracted or revised?

The only thing I would mention is that assistant must be able to cross between all of these categories. For instance, having a compatible philosophy (#12) and having people skills/communicator are important when recruiting because assistant must be able to get the head coach’s vision for the program out to families, etc.

Head coaches should remember that their program will only be as strong as your assistants. While assistant must remember to make the head coaches life easier.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Because He(lton) Can

On December 1st, I wrote a piece about Clay Helton, the newly appointed USC Head Football Coach, and how Pat Haden, USC Athletic Director, chose to retain the interim head coach. (See previous Blog post: “After Further Review…”)

Now less than 24 hours after USC’s embarrassing 41-22 loss to Stanford, it is reported by ESPN Staff Writer, Kyle Bonagura, that Helton has “fired defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, defensive line coach Chris Wilson, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and offensive line coach Bob Connelly. They will not remain with the program in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin on Dec. 30.”(See Bonagura article)

Although this is devastating news for the fired coaches and their families, this was the right move for Helton and for USC Football.

I say this was the right move for Helton because he did not merely “clean house”. Instead, Helton did it the right way by making value judgments based on who and what was best for his program.

As Helton makes the program his, one of his top priorities is to build a coaching staff that he feels will help USC get back to a championship level. Therefore, Helton retained four of the coaches from former head coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff and fired the four previously mentioned coaches as well.

One can only speculate, but the coaches that Helton fired most likely were Sarkisian loyalists and/or had philosophical conflicts with Helton and/or X’s and O’s differences so therefore Helton needed to act quickly make the change. Communication, listening and decisiveness are key leadership qualities that coaches going through this sort of chaos must exhibit.

As Helton noted, “You get the opportunity to be the coach at USC one time, and I’m going to bring in the coaches that I feel can help us toward a championship.”

Helton added, “This was entirely my decision and one thing I appreciate about Mr. Haden is he’s given me the right to run this football team exactly with the vision that I see, and I really appreciate that as a head coach. This is my decision as we move forward.”

Haden’s support is crucial to Helton’s success. All any coach can ask for is the support of his/her athletic director and to have the ability to build their program in the manner in which they see fit.

Anything less than full support will surely lead to a compromised execution of the head coach’s vision.

With full support of their administration, head coaches have a greater chance of long-term success and can truly build a program where trust, family values and accountability are core values instead of deception, gossip and cliques.

If Haden and USC truly believe in Helton, this was the only way to move forward with the football program: Do it Helton’s way.

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