Talking Hoops with My Former Coach Mike McVeigh

I sat down with coach Mike McVeigh recently to pick his brain on many hoops topics. Coach McVeigh played at Merrimack College and has been a coach since the fall of 1970. He began as an assistant at Merrimack College, did  a couple of years as a high school varsity assistant at Lawrence in the mid 70’s, and then spent the majority of his career at North Andover High School as a teacher/coach.   Most recently, in retirement, he  has been an assistant coach on his son’s team at Brooks High School. He will be the first to admit he has not seen it all, but he’s definitely seen more than me. I did not record our conversation (though maybe I should have), so I’m paraphrasing his answers. And one final note: I was lucky to call him my coach in high school.

One Strength you’ve always had as a coach

While his strengths and weaknesses and his perceptions of coaching have changed in over four decades of coaching, one thing that stood out for Coach McVeigh was the importance of open and truthful communication.

“You can change your style of offensive and defensive schemes, change the way you teach closing out, and so many other things, but hopefully, you will always try to be straightforward with your dealing with each player on your team.  And most often, I would hope your players appreciate that candid approach, and try to do the same in their dealings with you.“

“Unfortunately, sometimes a parent may be upset when their son, after talking to the coach, informs them that his role on the roster will most likely be as a supporting player, and not as an all league player.  A phone call will be waiting for you. Accept the call, and explain your intent.  It often, if not always, makes things clearer moving forward.  You should try to understand and respect the parents perspective, but deceiving your players or their parents is never the answer. ”

From my own perspective, honesty goes a long way toward longevity. Coach McVeigh spent three decades at one school and survived the many pitfalls that coaches still face today because he was willing to endure the short term pain of honesty to avoid the long-term problem of comfort.

This is the first of a five part series with Coach McVeigh. Tomorrow I will post Part II. 

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