Bilas, Calipari, and Brey Share Lessons from Mentors

The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) has an incredible lineup of coaches sharing information the next couple weeks. It is all free and available on their website. Geno Auriemma is speaking on man ton man offense tomorrow at noon, Sherri Coale is speaking Wednesday about transition at 11:00 A.M., and Steve Prohm is discussing offense on Friday at 5:00 P.M. That only scratches the surface. Here is the full lineup of coaches and topics for the next couple weeks. Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to some of Jay Bilas, John Calipari, and Mike Brey. Here are the notes that I wrote from each.

Jay Bilas 3 Thoughts on Culture

Jay Bilas recounted a story in which he and his high school teammates recently had a reunion. On the ride home his wife made a comment that they all need to go to therapy. Every player on the team had something negative to say about the coach. Bilas’ high school coach has passed away, but the lesson to Bilas is simple. If you are a coach, ask how you want to be remembered by your players thirty years from now.

Kevin Eastman is one of the greatest minds in basketball according to Bilas. Based on the anecdotes from Eastman’s book I would agree. Bilas said that coaches are great at trying to reshape a player’s game and tell them what is wrong. What he learned from Eastman is to remember that you need to occasionally catch players doing something right.

For coaches that fear their team might not be connected, this story is worth sharing. Bilas was talking about two of his college teammates. I think it may have been Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker, but it’s beside the point. The two teammates were late for a team commitment. They also happened to be roommates. Mike Krzyzewski got mad at the whole team. He said that collective responsibility is where great teams need to be. Individual responsibility is how mediocre and good teams function.

Coach Calipari Stole from Larry Brown

Coach Calipari credits Larry Brown for being the greatest basketball coach he knows. Here are some of the “LarryBrownisms” as Coach Cal referred to them:

  • Be consistent with fundamentals. Do not take shortcuts. The same five to seven drills should be in every practice to teach whatever skill you find essential.
  • Coach your best player harder than anyone. It will make that player better and let the other players know the bar is high.
  • Reinvent your system every year. The team is different, why shouldn’t you coach them different?
  • Coach every player like they are a starter.
  • If you are down on a guy, you tend to stay down on the guy. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. To get him out of this funk, make this player your personal project. Talk them up. That way you start rooting for them and change your mindset to help the player change his or her mindset.
  • If a team is beating you with a certain action or system, copy them.

Coach Calipari Stole from Vance Walberg

The Spanish artist Salvador Dali once said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Coach Calipari continuously cited Vance Walberg and Coach Brown for the hour that he shared out. And while he has modified the dribble drive offense since Walberg showed it to him while at Memphis, the basics remain.

One note I found interesting is that Cal claims he runs way more sets against zone than he does against man. Where Walberg would prefer to say in the dribble drive and shoot 40 three’s, Cal tries to post and screen the zone.

Another point worth mentioning is that when he coached players like Derek Rose and John Wall, Coach Cal would run what he called pointless motion. Players would cut opposite the ball until either Rose or Wall got it back on the wing and had a bigger gap to drive. In this way teams were in worse help position and Rose or Wall could attack out of triple threat position so their acceleration was a little more effective.

 Mike Brey on Lessons from Duke & Coach K

Here were three notes from Mike Brey on his experience with Mike Krzyzewski:

  • When he initially left Morgan Wooten to coach at Duke, Coach K told him he did not want an assistant that did not aspire to be a head coach.
  • When Kentucky went up by 1 point in one of the greatest games ever played, Christian Laettner demonstrated his I.Q. The moment that Kentucky scored the basket to go up one, he immediately called timeout. At a time when the clock did not stop on made baskets in the college game.
  • One final interesting note from his time with Coach K that Mike Brey shared was that they had notebook time. Players would watch the opponent’s personnel on film and write down tendencies as they saw them. Duke did not formally write up scouting reports for players. They only did it for coaching staff because they did not want players to be overwhelmed with information.

Coach Brey on Culture

Of course Mike Brey is not just some dude who used to work with Coach K. He has made a nice name for himself in 20 years at Notre Dame. Here were three culture anecdotes I found insightful:

  • You can’t get anything done unless you can get players to take ownership of themselves.
  • Who is selling your stuff when you are not around? And no, it should not be just the assistant coaches. Head coaches need to have players policing each other so that most issues never get to them.
  • A couple years ago, he made players call instead of text. He is a self-proclaimed texter, but recognizes the value in more formal communication.

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