Category Archives: NCAA

Dean Smith – Loyalty Above Everything Else

Loyalty By now most basketball fans have heard that legendary UNC coach Dean Smith passed away
last night at the age of 83.

Throughout the day today former North Carolina players have been interviewed on television to share some of their experiences with Coach Smith.

Every single one of them mentioned their off court relationship with their coach and how loyal they were to each other.

Several years ago former UNC player David Chadwick interviewed Coach Smith and asked him why it seemed that he valued loyalty over success.

I loved to win and hated to lose. Yet for years I struggled with something internally. We would play poorly and win and I’d feel great. We’d play well and lose and I’d feel terrible. That didn’t make sense to me.

If two of your children were playing tennis against each other, would you really care who won? Is winning all that important in the scheme of things? No. That’s why I have ultimately placed compassion above competition. I want to win but caring for people is much more important to me. I finally concluded that success is not defined by winning or losing but in doing the best you can, where you are, with what you have.

Coach Smith was a teacher, an innovator, a winner, and a champion. But he will long be remembered as much for his loyalty and compassion and friendship as anything else. That would be a great goal for the rest of us too!

Social Media “Don’ts”

Social Media and AthletesSeveral times a year I’m still amazed at some of the things that college and high school athletes share on their social media accounts despite the troubles that others have experienced by posting without thinking.

Here are some guidelines that the University of Michigan give its student athletes to prevent potential problems.

While a couple of these guidelines are geared more to college athletes the majority of them apply to athletes of all ages.

Don’t accept friends or follow requests if you are not sure who they are coming from.

Don’t put anything on social media tat you would not want your family, your future employers, those reading the front page of the newspaper, or the whole world to see.

Don’t post offensive comments, personal attacks, or racial comments.

Don’t post when you’re emotional, like right after a game. You are most likely to say something you will regret later.

Don’t post anything about a recruit, even if it is someone you know, as this will result in an NCAA rules violation.

Don’t post or tweet anything during class.

Don’t publicize information about your team, the athletic department, or the university that is not considered public knowledge.

Every college coach I know can tell you about at least one player that they either refused to recruit or quit recruiting because of something they read on a social media account. Don’t add your own name to that list of players!


Fred Litzenberger – a Coach’s Coach

Lessons LearnedLast week I had the opportunity to talk to one of the best basketball minds I’ve ever met – Fred Litzenberger, who is currently helping Luke Jackson put the Northwest Christian University men’s team on the map.

Coach “Litz” has been teaching and coaching basketball for over 40 years and has coached at Northern Colorado, Hamline University, Northwestern State, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Colorado State, the University of Miami, Oregon (both men and women) and Vanguard University.

He has also worked with the United States Basketball Academy and the Chinese Junior National team. His teams have been in 18 NCAA Tournaments and have lead the country in scoring defense four times.

Several years ago he produced some defensive instructional tapes that were nothing short of awesome. Unfortunately, those tapes aren’t being sold anymore and so even a bootleg copy is considered by many to be coaching “gold,”

The thing that has always impressed me about Litz is his accessibility to other coaches. I first met him at a basketball camp over 20 years ago and was immediately in awe of his ability to enthusiastically and passionately teach a gym full of campers how to front pivot and reverse pivot for nearly an hour.

The time flew by and the kids were genuinely disappointed when the session ended. Ever since then when I’ve been lucky enough to bump into him in a gym somewhere, Litz has greeted me like a long lost friend instead of just a coaching colleague.

During the last 20 years I’ve called or emailed Litz four or five times with a question or strategy that I’ve wanted his opinion on and he’s never been too busy to help.

No one answers his phone for him or screens his emails and if you don’t realize how rare that is these days then you probably haven’t been coaching very long yet.

If you ever have a chance to see one of Coach Litzenberger’s instructional tapes or better yet, see him teach in person, then by all means do yourself a favor and do it. You’ll be a better coach because of it!

Herb Brown’s Keys to Victory

HerbLongtime NBA coach Herb Brown was recently named as an assistant coach at the University of

Years ago Coach Brown wrote a book called “Preparing for Special Situations” that is sure to give coaches at all levels lots to think about.

Near the beginning of the book he gives the reader several keys to victory which include:

  1. Out-rebound opponents
  2. Don’t give up second shots
  3. Stop all transition layups and easy baskets
  4. Limit your turnovers
  5. Take away what your opponent does best. Force them to use their second option.
  6. Penetrate – get to the basket.
  7. Have all 5 players quickly transition from offense to defense.
  8. Keep their offense in front of you. Don’t let anyone get behind you.
  9. Run for layups
  10. Shoot a high free throw percentage
  11. Be in great physical condition
  12. Take advantage of the rules and make them work for you

You might be thinking that some of these keys sound really simple – well they are! But it’s a simple game and those players and coaches who master the simple things usually end up being extremely successful.

Paul Evans’ Offensive Philosophy

Paul Evans OffenseYears ago, before taking over at UMASS, Kentucky’s John Calipari was a young assistant coach to Paul Evans at the University of Pittsburgh and insiders can still see Evans’ influence on Calipari and his teams today.

Coach Evans believed in running a set offense while still giving his players the freedom to attack the defense whenever they thought they had an advantage,

Evans offense at Pittsburgh was based on the following philosophy:

  • You need an offense that gets you high percentage shots
  • You need an offense that forces the defense to defend everyone
  • You need an offense that can score with your best defensive team on the floor
  • You need an offense that can get you to the foul line more than your opponent
  • You want an offense that’s flexible enough to allow for individual initiative
  • You want an offense that’s simplistic

If you happened to TiVo any of the recent NCAA Tournament go back and watch Kentucky’s run to the finals and you will notice that the Wildcats offense follows the above philosophy point by point, even though it’s over 25 years old.

Sometimes newest doesn’t mean the best.

Academic Final Four Has Some Surprises

Basketball ScholarshipJust found this post on the Yahoo Sports page and thought it was interesting enough to pass along.

I think there are two important points here:

1) You can be a good basketball player and play on a good team and still be a good student. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

2) Reputation is not extremely important when it comes to education. If you apply yourself academically you can get a great education nearly everywhere but if you don’t apply yourself you will get a less than stellar education even at a very prestigious university.

Here’s the post:

We’re about to find out just how well the 68 teams in the 2014 NCAA tournament perform on the court. Let’s just say it’s likely to be very different from how they’ve performed in the classroom.

Once again, Inside Higher Ed has offered up its own version of the NCAA tournament, playing out the matchups with a set of criteria designed to measure academic rather than athletic performance. The tournament uses the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate to determine a winner, meaning that this is an academic battle between teams, not universities as a whole. A tiebreaker is the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate, measuring how many players graduated within six years. The secondary tie-breaker, if necessary, is the Federal Graduation Rate.

So who’s your winner? None other than … Kansas!

Yep, the Kansas Jayhawks win this tournament, which featured a Final Four that also included Memphis, BYU and Texas. Expected academic powerhouse Harvard got knocked out early, as did other notables such as Duke and UVA. Strange, huh?

3 Bits of Advice from Virginia’s Tony Bennett

TBWith Virginia’s win over Duke last weekend it marked the first time the Cavalier’s captured the ACC Tournament title in 38 years and also secured them a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

When Virginia hired Tony Bennett as its head coach a few years ago there were many critics who openly criticized the move. Where are those critics now?

Here are three nuggets of coaching advice from Tony Bennett that was published in the book The Ultimate Coaches Career Manual by Pat Williams when Bennett was coaching at Washington State.

    • Don’t take on too much at once. You can’t master all of it. Have a philosophy and some core beliefs and then team them. Simplicity is important. Have a system and stick to it.
    • Surround yourself with people of integrity an loyalty, but it helps if they have some different ideas than you. It’s not good if the entire staff has the exact same approach to everything.
    • Recruit players with talent, character, and skill. The character issue id non negotiable.

It’s interesting to note that Coach Bennett has followed his own advice through thick and thin and through good seasons and not as good seasons and it certainly looks like it has paid off for him.

Image Source: (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Mack Brown – A Class Act We Can All Learn From

Win With ClassAfter 16 highly successful seasons leading the University of Texas football program, Mack Brown coached his last game yesterday.

Known as much for being a “class act” as he is for winning a National Championship, Coach Brown shared some advice that can help coaches everywhere.

These ideas are printed in “The Ultimate Coaches’ Career Manual,” by Pat Williams.

  1. Get your players to join “your team” energetically. Have fun. Smile. Have a great attitude. Use a lot of positive self talk.
  2. Build loyalty throughout the ranks.
  3. Hire people on your staff according to their strengths. Have defined job descriptions laid out and clear cut goals and responsibilities. Hold people accountable.
  4. Communicate with your players and vice versa. After you learn to talk with each other, you can trust. And after you trust, you have respect for each other.

Mack Brown would be the first to tell you that winning is important – that’s why they keep score in the first place.

But winning the right way and with class and integrity and on your terms is even more important.



Team + Trust = Success

Make Every Day Labor DayAlmost 20 years ago Orlando Magic executive Pat Williams was writing s book on teamwork and asked Duke’s Coach K to review his outline.

The following quote came from a letter that Coach K had written in response.

It is as relevant today (maybe more relevant) than it was 20 years ago when it was first written:

People must be able to understand that if they identify with the team goal their individual goals will be achieved. Most people who are involved with teams try to achieve individual goals and say that they will lead the team to success.

My belief is that you must throw yourself completely into the team and then your individual goals will be accomplished. In fact, it may be at an even higher level.

It is amazing at what can be accomplished when all individuals involved trust one another. The best way to turn a crisis into a success is to have a group of people who trust one another.

Have you thrown yourself completely into your team? Are you all in or in just when it’s to your benefit? Do you trust the members of your team? More importantly, do they trust you?


Pistol Pete & Pass and Pick

Pass and PickMany basketball purists remember Gene Bartow as the coach who “replaced” John Wooden when he retired at UCLA or as the highly successful coach and athletic director at the University of Alabama – Birmingham or from his involvement with the Memphis Grizzlies.

However, there are many people who don’t realize that Coach Bartow had a great sense of humor which is revealed in this quote from a coaching clinic:

I really enjoyed playing for Press Maravich at LSU as well as playing with Pete. Pete and I averaged 50 points a game when we were at LSU together – he averaged 45 and I averaged 5. One game we even combined for 70 points – 69 from Pete and 1 from me. He did things so well and could get any shot he wanted. he was known as “Pistol Pete” and I was known as “Pass and Pick.”

I did learn from Pete that you should always concentrate on what you do best. In college they said Pete Maravich couldn’t go to his left – but he averaged 45 points a game going to his right so he wasn’t worried about changing too much!

Another interesting side note is that many UCLA fans considered Coach Bartow to be a “failure” because he only went 52-9 in his two seasons in Westwood  and got beat in the Final Four.

I don’t know if I have ever heard anything so ridiculous and I know that most UCLA fans would take that kind of record and season in a heartbeat now!

Image Credit