Coach Jim Dziadosz on Player Psychology and Making the Game Pure Again

I spoke with Coach Jim Dziadosz the other day about playing time and player psychology, making basketball a pure game again, and the role of high school coaches in recruiting.

Player Psychology

Coach Jim is an advocate to use the entire bench in a game. This policy accomplishes three things. First, it will improve player psychology. Everyone is more motivated and likelier to stay engaged in practices. Second, each player made the team for a reason. As a coach, if there was no intention to play that kid, why take him or her in the first place? Third, a player can have an impact on the game in short spurts. Coach Jim never said anything about equal playing time, but for two or three minutes, players can impact the game. Quinnipiac associate head coach and current La Salle head coach Mount MacGillivray partially impacted Coach Jim’s thinking last spring when he spoke about the Gold Rush. A player that is fresh is can do things that a more skilled but tired player cannot do is MacGiillivray’s basic point.

Coach Jim argued that Coach Krzyzewski, Coach Wooden, and other masters of the game never coach two players the same way. They customize their coaching style.

Coach to Player Communication

He values communicating with positivity. In his words, “Use sugar not salt.” Players should feel like they can play loose on the court. When a player comes off the floor, the coach or an assistant should communicate with that player immediately. Tell them why they are out. In his experience as an assistant, many times players are confused. Sometimes simply saying you need a breather is all it takes. Other times, the player might be committing a mistake repeatedly. For these types of situations, clarify the mistake and how many times it occurred objectively. Then remind the player that the mistake can be corrected with proper effort and reflection. Players want to succeed. Help them by giving objective feedback instead of taking out your emotions and yelling at them.

Less One on One & More Five on Five

Coach Jim was a big proponent for what he called “making the game pure again.” Essentially, he wants to see players be more instinctual. In today’s game, there is too much emphasis on running set plays. Referring to the eras of Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, Coach Jim said it used to be a much simpler game. They played with their instincts, something that he believes players today are lacking. A simple give and go or pick and roll is underutilized.

In addition to getting away from instincts, the game is increasingly a one on one game and less of a five on five game he argued. The issue starts at the professional level and trickles down the other levels as younger players emulate the flashy professionals. And while it is encouraging that the NBA’s best offense, Golden State, led the league in seconds per touch the last three seasons, good luck getting a young player to recognize that.

How to Get Away from One on One

In order to get individual players and teams to play with better instincts, Coach Jim suggested drills that restrict players from dribbling in practice. Coach Jim even advocated that teams follow through with this concept in games.

On top of the ball movement epidemic, he has a problem with players missing lay-ups. He told me if he had the choice to run a single drill in any practice it would be getting players to do full court lay-ups with a pass ahead at full speed. He would not switch drills until the team had made thirty in a row from each side. In his words, “I’ll have a seat and watch before anything else gets done.” He is not alone in this school of thought. Geno Auriemma starts practice in a similar way.

The Role of High School Coaches & Recruiting

Increasingly, college coaches are turning to the AAU circuit to recruit players. Here they can cast a larger net than they would have at a high school game. As a high school, I wonder what my role is on helping players that want to play in college.

Coach Jim, acknowledged that AAU coaches are definitely more involved than high school coaches in recruiting. Not only that, but the players themselves are self-advocating through services such as SportsRecruits. Coach Jim said high school coaches owe it to their players to reach out to coaches at the college level. It is one more person that can advocate for the player.

How to Help

My next question was naturally centered on which college coaches to reach out to. Coach Jim said ask your player what schools interest them. Then take it one step further. Ask the players if the school did not have a basketball program, would they still be interested in going there. That answer would also be of service in the process to reaching out to a potential school of interest to that player.

The NCAA has been in the news recently for new rules that attempt to clean up college basketball. One result of the rules involves limiting the number of AAU tournaments that players can attend and increasing the high school involvement. This from an ESPN Article:

“The NCAA will now have multiple June events hosted by high school associations and limit the July recruiting period to one weekend for major apparel companies to host tournaments… Part of the rationale in adding more high school-sanctioned events in June is to take the power away from AAU coaches and put it back into the hands of high school coaches. But what makes the NCAA think a high school science teacher making a few thousand dollars a year to coach a basketball team is less likely to succumb to the temptations of illegal benefits from apparel companies than an AAU coach would be?”

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