Two seasons ago I attended Villanova basketball practice. They had just won their second national championship in three seasons, and I was curious to see their practice routines. The person who guided me along the way was Dwayne Anderson. He recently was gracious enough to answer some questions I had about the role that he plays for their program. Here is the summary of our conversation about what a director of basketball operations does and how Villanova tries to keep everything simple.
The Role of a Director of Basketball Operations
In a single word the most important skill that a director of basketball operations can have is organization. Coach Anderson told me he tries to focus on being a couple moves ahead of Head Coach Jay Wright. Specifically, this requires him to lay out plans for travel. The expectations for meals, the layout of hotel rooms, and departure times each step of the way. Occasionally there are curve balls when it comes to all of the logistics. Recently the team had a delayed flight of five hours. The team weighed their options as to how to optimally use that time. Coach Anderson made the split-second decision to book a hotel close to the airport.
In addition to the travel and day of game organization, Coach Anderson consistently needs to lay out practice and daily plans on campus. He coordinates practice time around all the players class schedules. Coach Anderson also allocates time for lifting also gets built in with the strength and conditioning coach. And then there is relaying these schedules and any potential changes with the graduate assistants, managers, players and coaches. Coach Anderson is the point of contact with all of these people.
In the bigger picture, Coach Anderson is responsible for hiring graduate assistants. As any athletic director will likely relate, one bad hiring can ruin your year. Although the graduate assistant is not the same as hiring the head coach for a program, putting the wrong person on the team will derail the team.
Forging Outside Relationships
When I initially reached out to Villanova, I was immediately given the contact information for Coach Anderson. He was cordial and helpful throughout the process. I originally set out to attend a practice on a Saturday in October, but predictably that was attended by many coaches and filled up. He then gave me a list of other dates and times and I picked a Friday. From there, he helped me get on campus, gave me an outline of what to expect, and even checked in after the practice to make sure everything went well.
Relative to the Villanova basketball program, I am not important. The way that Coach Anderson treated me and gave me his time, demonstrated exactly why their program is as good as it is. My impression of them is that they treat every person they come in contact with with respect.
Coach Wright’s Motto: Simple Things Better
I asked Coach Anderson how much things have changed with what the program emphasizes from a basketball standpoint. Many times when Coach Wright delivers a point, Coach Anderson (who played for Coach Wright) knows exactly where he is going. Coach Wright is very simple in how he teaches. Everything starts with attitude which was the title of Coach Wright’s book. In addition, Coach Anderson told me that Coach Wright has a motto that he repeats. “Simple is better.” Villanova basketball prides itself on doing the simple things better than the competition.
Coach Wright teaches the game in a very competitive way. There are many coaches out there that will do fun drills and keep things loose with players, but not at Villanova. They have a business approach with everything they do. A couple specific examples that Coach Anderson cited were that Coach Wright likes to start drills where players come to complete jump-stops and then play the drill live from that moment. He also never uses cones or does drills in which game-like approaches are ignored.
Coach Anderson told me he would eventually like to be a head coach. As the Director of Basketball Operations, he is gaining experience that people on the outside never really consider.