Transitioning from Being a First Year Head Coach

I spoke with Winthrop High School girls basketball coach Joe Lowe this past week. I have known Coach Lowe for many years since he used to coach the boys JV team at the school I coach. Two things always stood out about Coach Lowe. First, his positive demeanor. The way he spoke to players at practice was exactly how he spoke to them in games. Players generally react the same way as their coach, and when games got close, Coach Lowe’s teams always remain calm. Second, he wants to grow as a coach. He spent time at my practices and the boys varsity practices even though he did not have to. I asked him what went well in his first year, new ideas for year two, and balancing family life as a young parent.

What Did the Team Do that Surpassed Expectations?

Coach Lowe was surprised and appreciative of the players buy-in from top to bottom. Given the amount of time it takes to gain trust in a relationship, not many coaches get players to believe in their vision in the first year. Defensively all players saw the vision that Coach Lowe laid out and did what they were asked enthusiastically. The relationships were solid. Coach Lowe believes this stems from putting person ahead of player. He only got the job as coach last spring, but focused on asking players questions that had nothing to do with basketball. How was your day? How was school? Temptations existed to talk about basketball. He saw their film from the previous season, but that could wait.

Something to Implement Next Year

Coach Lowe would like to delegate the X’s and O’s to his staff more next season. He stressed the need for coaches to buy in as well and giving them the freedom to make decisions will help. One issue that he will need to uncover is determining what he gives up. It is something that he plans to spend some more time considering this offseason, but he mentioned that BLOBs could be considered. The assistant coaches are receptive to helping him in anyway. The enthusiasm and demeanor of the staff that he has put together in year one gel well with him.

Additionally, Coach Lowe wants to give the players more freedom on offense. The team consistently utilized a flex offense, which helped them get shots. Coach Lowe thinks the structure can be even looser than it was this past season. He cited Golden State as being a team that seems to play on instincts. Obviously, there is a caveat of their shooters being historically great when healthy, but he was referring to the decision-making process they use. Players know their roles, when to set screens and have the IQ to make a good decision after a screen is set.

Being a First Year Coach and Young Father

Coach Lowe’s wife gave birth to their second child during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. I asked him about the balance of being a young father with the commitment and emotional swings of coaching. I came away with three takeaways.

The first thing he mentioned is that he is lucky to have a wife who understands his passion. She comes from a basketball family. As a result, she has a caring perspective that transcends wins and losses. She recognizes the emotions that are part of it and is extremely supportive.

Next, he told me that consolidating time is a challenge. Exchanging game films on HUDL and getting games tagged by HUDL assist made life much more efficient for Coach Lowe. Ten years ago no one would have these luxuries. Of course, scouting in person really helps to see how big or fast the personnel of the opponent is, but there are some things that need to be sacrificed.

Finally, there is a huge benefit to having babies and toddlers around the team. Coach Lowe would bring his oldest daughter to practices and games, and the players loved to interact with her. His daughter relished the attention. Coach Lowe called the girls in the program 25 big sisters. When he had his second daughter during the season, it helped the players move on quicker from an emotional game when he showed the team her picture.

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