“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



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

Art of Playing Point Guard

Here are 5 musts for point guards according to ESPN’s Monday, Feb 20th telecast of the Iowa State/Texas Tech game:

1.Eliminate emotional fogs

2. Decision maker vs. Risk taker

3. Don’t be shot happy but make open shots and timely shots

4. Defend your position

5. Make your team and teammates better

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Running Out of Time: Clock Management

Here is Michael McKnight’s article from the August 29th, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated regarding clock management in the NFL.

Article link: Second Nature

Even at the highest level, mistakes are made in critical junctures of the game. It is our responsibility as coaches to ensure that our players are comfortable playing in a multitude of scenarios in the critical moments of competition, no matter what your sport is.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Quotes from the Jungle: Tigers, Huskies and Cougars

Here are some insights from some of the best college football coaches in the game today:

On the experience of the coaching profession: “You have to enjoy the whole journey. Enjoy all it. You have to enjoy the bad, you have to enjoy the good.” – Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers Head Football Coach (August 23, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On defining yourself in regards to your coaching career: “My identity is not tied up in being a football coach or being the coach at Clemson. My identity is tied up to who I am as a man, and being a father to three sons, and being a husband and being a good citizen, you know, trying to serve my community. That’s what my identity is tied up in. I love coaching football, I’m passionate about it, that’s what I do. But I’m so much more than that.” – Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers Head Football Coach (August 23, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On building a program and the patience it requires: “I think the results are probably slower to come than we had hoped for and expected. You know, it’s been an awesome, and a hard, and a frustrating, and a rewarding two and a half years. And what I mean by that is that, this just a tough process. And I think a lot of times when you come in from the outside and your trying to establish your way of doing things it just takes some darn time to get things done. After two and a half years, we feel like the process is in place and we feel really good about it.” Chris Petersen, Washington Huskies Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On keeping players focused despite social media: “It’s hard because they’re bombarded with messages each and every day. The social media is a blessing and a curse. It allows us to get our message out to our fans and recruits but it also bombards our players.I think our culture is so insulating though that I’d be a fool to think that our guys didn’t hear it but, the thing I’m probably most proud of is that they don’t listen to it. They understand that our goals internally are the only ones that matter and that our goals will never change. It doesn’t matter what last years team did or how good last years team was. What matters is this is the 2016 team and quite frankly we haven’t done anything yet.” – Tom Herman, Houston Cougars Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

“You can win as many games as you want but if the culture is not there it’s not sustainable.” – Tom Herman, Houston Cougars Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo