Basketball Coach Weekly – Issue #125 – DeSalvo Article

Here is my article that was just published in this week’s Basketball Coach Weekly – Issue 125 – DeSalvo Contribution.

Specifically I want to touch on my second point “Don’t Be Afraid to Change”. Here is the story behind this important point.

Last season, as the Head Coach of Southern Connecticut State University, our team was struggling due to an injury to Mariah Hankton, the team’s senior co-captain, 2nd leading scorer and end of shot clock shotmaker.

The loss of Mariah not only hurt us from an X and O’s standpoint, but our players were demoralized and emotionally void. Before Mariah’s injury we were an impressive 10-5 in the NE-10, with five games to go.

Predictably, we struggled without her, but needed just one win to secure the three seed and a first round bye in the conference tournament.

I told our team “we will not lose the same way” which is one of my philosophies as a coach. It is my responsibility to figure out a way to not keep repeating the same mistakes and do whatever is necessary to help our team be successful.

With that in mind, we played zone defense again the College of Saint Rose, something we had not done all season long. This bold strategy kept Saint Rose off balance for the entire first half and without Mariah, we won a buzzer beater (who had 26 points in our first meeting in a 78-75 road win at Saint Rose) against the Golden Knights, 65-63 (see buzzer beater), on senior day. This strategy coupled with expanding our bench, specifically with contributions from Abby Hurlbert, was really the difference in the outcome of the game

This philosophy held to one our team’ standards of “Flexibility”. I think it is very important to be flexible with your players in all aspects. I think our staff did a nice job of being flexible with players who were late arriving from class, allowing some to miss community service if they had a nursing test to study for, and listening to them as a whole regarding practice intensity/duration.

I hope this personally story helps some coaches have some confidence in being willing to change.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

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Communication Lessons for Coaches

Minda Zetlin recently published an article on Inc.com titled “5 Small Changes that Will Make You a Much Better Communicator” in which she outlined some tips for those looking to improve their communication skills.

Here is my interpretation of each key factor for coaches and how they can apply that to their program:

1. Identify (and make peace with) your own communications style: Coaches have to be themselves. Too many times I see coaches trying to emulate a favorite coach of theirs and/or taking something they learn at a clinic and trying to implement it THE EXACT SAME WAY as they presenter. This usually never works. Of course coaches should be learning new techniques and strategies, however, coaches must coach what they are comfortable with.

2. Learn to be a really good listener: Everyone knows a person who does not really listen to them but is just planning their next response to the conversation. DON’T BE THAT GUY! Really take pride in your listening, just as you would to your thoughts and responses. Without listening, there really is no communication. If coaches are a true listeners, players will see that and will be more apt to take the coaching  staff up on that “open door policy” that they preach.

3. Know what you want to achieve with every communication: Every communication is an opportunity for coaches to get to know their players better and build personal relationships. Coaches should approach this as such. EVERY EXCHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY A CHANCE TO IMPROVE.

4. Find a role model: Most coaches have a role model or someone they admire in the coaching ranks. Do you have a communicator who you admire? It doesn’t have to be a coach. Some coaches honestly are not very good communicators. Consider former professors/teachers, authors, etc. whose job it is to communicate. If not, maybe a friend or relative that makes others feel special and important is a good strategy.

5. Get personal: THE MORE COACHES SHOW THEIR HUMAN SIDE THE MORE ADMINISTRATORS AND PLAYERS WILL BE ABLE TO RELATE TO THEM. College football coaches, such as Nick Saban, have often been criticized for not enjoying the victories and are seen to be robotic for their “on to the next one approach.” Again, the more coaches that open up and are honest and vulnerable to those they communicate with, the more others will see the “off the court” side and can make them more likeable and easier to communicate with.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Thoughts on Making Coaches Game Plan for Your Team

I have been fortunate to be able to get out and visit lots of different coaches at practices and games this season.

I am always interested to see how D1/D2/D3 coaches construct their practice, relate to their players and teach their players.

Here was a recent exchange that I had with a coach regarding a defensive tactic that they had recently implement:

—————————

Coach,

I tried to take your general rotations/principles and apply it to a variety of offenses you may see. Would need to see it operate against a cutting/motion zone offense (especially one with some great pace).

My general philosophy is that the more teams have to game plan for you two things happen:

1. It takes time away from the opponent from working on their fundamentals (shooting, ballhandling, passing, etc.)
2. It makes the opponents players see the coaches concern…IT SHAKES THEIR CONFIDENCE!

These are PRICELESS!

Just my thoughts,

~Bert

———————————————————————————
Subject: Re: 1-3-1 Amoeba Zone Playbook
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2016 03:00:18 +0000

I like that!  To be honest my thought process at this point with the amoeba vs 5 out was that we would get out of it. Only because I just started playing with it and hadn’t gotten there yet. Saturday’s game is against a 5 out team so I was aiming to play it for next weeks games, but this could change that.
One reason I wanted to look into this amoeba was that our 1-3-1 has been so good for us the last couple years and teams in our league are game planning the heck out it. This looks a bit like it to start and then different rotations. What do you think of that thought process
 ——————————————————————————
On Feb 11, 2016, at 9:46 PM, Bert DeSalvo <desalvo99@hotmail.com> wrote:
Email 1:

Coach,

Check the 1-4 high rotation and 5-Out rotations…I know you didn’t get to this last night and I was just toying with these rotations.

~Bert

Email 1 Response:
 —————————————————————————–

Coach DeSalvo,

I like that!  To be honest my thought process at this point with the amoeba vs 5 out was that we would get out of it. Only because I just started playing with it and hadn’t gotten there yet. Saturday’s game is against a 5 out team so I was aiming to play it for next weeks games, but this could change that.
One reason I wanted to look into this amoeba was that our 1-3-1 has been so good for us the last couple years and teams in our league are game planning the heck out it. This looks a bit like it to start and then different rotations. What do you think of that thought process?
Coach
 —————————————————————————————

On Feb 11, 2016, at 10:09 PM, Bert DeSalvo <desalvo99@hotmail.com> wrote:

Email 2:

Coach,

I tried to take your general rotations/principles and apply it to a variety of offenses you may see. I would need to see it operate against a cutting/motion zone offense (especially one with some great pace).

My general philosophy is that the more teams have to game plan for you two things happen:

1. It takes time away from the opponent from working on their fundamentals (shooting, ballhandling, passing, etc.)
2. It makes the opponents players see the coaches concern…IT SHAKES THEIR CONFIDENCE!

These are PRICELESS!

Just my thoughts,

~Bert

Email 2 Response:
 ———————————————————————————-
Coach DeSalvo,
Good thoughts.  Especially the shaking of confidence, I so agree. I’ll tinker and let you know.
Thanks!
Coach
———————————————————————————–
 I have always thought that the more unique you can make your offense/defense/BLOB/Press Defense, etc. the more other teams will tend to prepare for you, which means that they will not be able to allocate as much time on themselves.
I also feel that the “pulse of the team” is a factor that cannot be understated. I have seen players not only get so much information regarding scouts and on-court sets, but also the way that coaches present it on the court or during film session can really shake a team’s confidence and make players second guess everything.
Coaches must be certain not to over prepare and build their opponents up too much. My guess is that the coach I was helping will run into this a bit, which may help them even more than the adjustment itself.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Death By Entitlement

 No matter if you are involved with business, education or athletics, you must surround yourself and your organization with hard workers who have a realistic view on their strengths and weaknesses and those who understand that entitlement is root of failure an organizations demise.

I was thinking about this as I watched last night’s episode of “The Profit” which involved an entrepreneur’s son who felt that he was owed a 10% equity stake in the company for no particular reason. It reminded me of a similar situation that occurred in my coaching career.

I once had a player come in to speak with my coaching staff about how they “deserved to play”. Keep in mind, that this was a freshman who had no real recourse for this statement and in the coaches eyes was uncoachable, lacked certain on the court skills and was not invested in their teammates (or the program’s) ultimate success.

What was the thought process behind this statement? 

I have an idea although it is most likely a mixture of factors and not just one lone piece. I imagine it is that this individual was spoiled/coddled by their parents (cruises, new car, etc.) and were never told “no” in any real sense. If I were to guess, they probably got “things” when the got an A on a paper or if they merely cleaned their room. 

The expectation was that they got something, instead of just doing something their best or the right way because that’s how it should be done 100% of the time. Their reward was a material item, not self pride in knowing they did the job the right way.

I don’t want to make this solely about parenting, because I still believe that each individual has a choice to make regarding if they will have an elitist/entitled attitude or not. However, this type of parenting, surely doesn’t help the child.

Moreover, in athletics especially when players are used to winning, either because they play in small high school leagues with minimal competition or AAU teams that play in low brackets and simply are more talented, constant success creates a climate where hard work and constant improvement is not really that important. The mentality of “if I work hard we will win by 25 and if I don’t we will win by 15” eventually catches up to the student-athletes in athletics, education and life.

As one can imagine, I chuckled (on the inside) when I heard “I deserved to play” thought process. I was quick to point out that “nobody deserves to play and that this program is a meritocracy and I play those players who can help our team be successful. Not one minute more or one minute less.”

Coaches must be weary of having ANY players in their program that “deserve” minutes, to start, be the leading scored, etc. One leads to two, and two leads to three, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

As the head coach, I try to instill that nobody is bigger than the program by doing ALL OF THE LITTLE THINGS to show (not say!) that not even I am above the program. Carrying uniforms, gear, sweeping the gym floor, etc. are all “menial” tasks for some head coaches, but to me it shows my players that if I can do the daily tasks and pay attention to the details, they can too.

It’s about work and success not image and attitude.

Leaders must address this behavior immediately, especially if coaches are taking over a new program and did not get to build relationships with player(s) during the recruiting process. If the player(s) cannot change their mindset coaches will be doomed to DEATH BY ENTITLEMENT or coaches will have to remove them from the program.

This is the only way to lay the foundation for building a true championship culture.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

 

Thanks for the Reminder, Wade

With the Super Bowl just hours away, it is clear that the two questions that everyone is focusing on is:
1. Will Peyton Manning be effective?
2. How will Wade Phillips, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, stop NFL MVP, Cam Newton?

Phillips, the recently named AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year, is an integral piece to the outcome of the game. Phillips leads the NFL’s best defense and has a chance to do what most think is impossible, stop the one loss Carolina Panthers.

Phillips is the son of NFL legend Bum Phillips, and was an NFL head coach for both the Bills and Cowboys, but was written off as not having the moxie to be a head coach due to his lack of playoff success. Phillips and NFL-lifer was given another chance to show is prowess as a defensive coordinator with the Broncos this season and the rest is history.

It is remarkable to think that as Phillips himself stated on his twitter account ” @sonofbum: Good year for me from unemployed to the Super Bowl!”.

Good luck Coach Phillips. I am glad you got another chance to do what you love. All the best today and thank you for inspiring other coaches who, like you, just need a chance to thrive.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @Coach DeSalvo

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

 

Taking a (Calculated) Risk in Hiring

“The Unusual Hire” is a recent piece by Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers, concerning the Cleveland Browns hiring of Paul DePodesta, of the New York Mets, as the Chief Strategy Officer (see article: The Unusual Hire – Sports Illustrated – 1-18-16 – L. Jon Wertheim )

The premise is that franchises usually don’t think outside the box when hiring coaches and upper management.

Why? Wertheim and Sommers believe that “conformity feels safer. Stick within the parameters of generally expected behavior, and the consequences of falling short are mitigated.”

Basically, if owner’s/administrators hire the safe person, they don’t risk as much professionally and personally. The “CYB” (Cover Your Butt) leadership style, allows so-called leaders to say “they looked good on paper,” “they were an alumni, I figured they could get everyone on board,” and “they came highly recommended from a good friend.” They essentially have built in excuses and can retain their job in the process.

These are all convenient (and maybe lazy) but surely safe reasons for hiring a candidate. None of these practices however, ensure future success or mean the candidate selected was actually the best fit or most qualified.

I know as a young head coach, I regularly scratched my head when recycled coaches had the benefit of earning their 3rd or 4th jobs with only marginal records and I could barely eek out an interview despite my resume. It can be a very disheartening and frustrating experience for coaches and drives many of them away from pursuing their career goals.

Maybe hires like DePodesta, if successful, will spark some renewed creativity in the interview/hiring process, where hires are based solely on merit and leadership skills.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo