Last season ESPN’s Jay Bilas wrote a great piece on ‘toughness’. I thought it was a great read; one of the greatest pieces of advice on the game ever! Everyone raved about it; coaches all across America printed it and posted it in their locker rooms. They also passed it around as a hand-out.

Bilas did a great job breaking it down on what it took to get things done on the court, especially on a toughness level.

The game of basketball, especially at the highest level, is not for the weak.  The higher in level you go, the tougher you need to be. (When I say tough, I don’t mean fist-fighting)

Here’s my take on toughness. The next few days I will break down different aspects of the game and where toughness factors in.


We all know about Allen Iverson’s ‘practice’ rant, one of the most played video clips of all-time; regardless of what A.I. said, practice is the backbone to a player’s success.  It’s where you get your extra shooting in, you work on conditioning, and most of all, you get to spend time with your teammates running the offense and working together on the defensive end.  It’s where you learn defensive principles, concepts and where you see who can help you on game day.

I once read a great quote about Michael Jordan being the greatest practice player in the history of basketball. I also found this from Adrian W. of Yahoo Sports on Jerry Krause.

“Michael absolutely killed Scottie in practice every day for his first two years. Mike just tore Pip up. He made Pip learn how to compete and forced him into playing hard. Had there not been someone to challenge Scottie like that, I’m not sure what would’ve happened to him.”

What if Jordan had not went after Scottie Pippen hard in practice every day? Would Scottie have been as great as he turned out?

You need to compete every day in practice; regardless if your best friend or roommate is guarding you in a scrimmage game or even if you are competing against them in a drill.

Here’s a piece on Jordan from ESPN’s Melissa Isaacson.

“We’d run a three-man shooting drill in practice,” longtime assistant Johnny Bach recalled. “And Michael always made sure he had the threesome he wanted. Not Trent Tucker, not Johnny Paxson, not Craig Hodges [among the best 3-point shooters in the league].

“He’d say, ‘I’m calling my pigeons up to shoot.’ They were shooting for some remuneration. He’d force himself to shoot under pressure. He needed a challenge to beat [Scottie] Pippen. He knew Horace [Grant] had a nice shot. He’d also throw some wicked passes to [his shooters]. You’re supposed to honor the code to throw a good pass to the shooter, but he had a way of throwing screwballs and sinkers. Not that he would have tolerated that. That was imperial Michael at his best.”

“Run it back, run it back,” is what Michael yelled when his team lost. It is what he said whenever he had lost.

Run it back, run it back is something that needs to be said over and over in practice if you expect to improve. Is it any wonder the greatest player in the history of basketball was arguably the greatest practice player of all-time?

Here are a couple of practice tips that all players can use:

Come prepared to practice hard every day. (Focus)

Arrive early

Stretch out

Take meaningful shots to warm up

Run the floor hard




Pay attention to the coaching staff

Challenge your teammates

Stay after practice and work on your offensive moves.

Get in extra shooting


-Coach Finamore


I love discussing the state of sports in today’s society with friends; especially basketball, regardless the level.  Everyone has an interesting take; we’re all entitled to our opinions.

Lately there’s been a few situations where coaches have been accused of unnecessary treatment of their athletes…mostly accused by the the athletes themselves. A couple of guys have lost their jobs.

Here’s an article I came across yesterday on this very topic via the Lansing State Journal written by Antonio Gonzalez of the A.P.

If nothing else, it should make you stop and think,” Riley said. “Your style, your habits, your relationships with people. I think you just have to be very, very aware and smart about things.”

Physical abuse should not be tolerated by the athlete or administration; there’s no place for it in sports.  But yelling or screaming at an athlete isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. Sure no one likes getting yelled at, especially in front of others. You can raise your voice at an athlete as long as it is done in a constructive manner.

Last week I read a great quote from Bill Parcells, “The kids from the 70’s and 80’s until now have not changed, the people around them have changed.”

As soon as an athlete gets yelled at, everyone is quick to judge. It’s interesting because many coaches today love reading material from the late, great Vince Lombardi. They quote him like he’s gospel.  We all can agree that Lombardi wasn’t a choir boy type coach.

Frank Martin, the men’s head basketball coach at Kansas State via the Fanhouse NCAABB

“It’s sensitive times across the country, not because a couple of coaches have gotten into trouble for whatever the perception is out there right now. It’s sensitive times,” said Martin, who has become known around the Big 12 for his passion on the sidelines. “It’s a different era that we live in now than what we lived in 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

“There is a lot of phoniness, everyone is a politician these days where you’re supposed to act a certain way in front of the public eye and be completely different than what reality is every day behind closed doors. That’s what I meant by sensitive. It’s a different era right now than the era I grew up in or the era my generation is used to.

Martin is correct; it’s a different era. Player complaints about coaches being out of hand seem to be coming out more and more. Is it because of the social media, Twitter, Facebook and Blogging? Athletes disgruntled over lack of playing time?  But that shouldn’t stop guys from coaching their hearts out, displaying passion and being enthusiastic.

Many of the top coaches in all sports tend to raise their voice at their athletes; the common theme is they are all in their 40’s and 50’s; they grew up during a time when coaches had a tendency to raise their voice (See Vince Lombardi).  Guys like Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Greg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, Nick Saban and many more can be seen shouting at players. It goes for the women’s side too; Pat Summit is also a screamer.

Sure you have coaches who don’t scream much, but that’s the way they’ve been raised and that’s their philosophy.

What I find odd is that people in sports (media, fans and even owners) tolerate deviant athletes; they’ll get second and third chances after committing heinous acts or even being disruptive to the team. But when it comes to a coach raising his voice, all hell breaks loose.

Let’s face it, a coach is hardly the most popular person.  They have to discipline certain individuals so someone will always be upset; not to mention distribute playing time.  And God forbid if they aren’t winning… But keep in mind these coaches brought these players in. They have given them scholarships-they want them there.  Athletes need to grow thicker skin, take the criticism and just bounce back.

“Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.”

-Source unknown

-Coach Finamore

HOOPS in 2010

Happy New Year!

Here are a few resolutions basketball players should really think about to start the new year off on the right track…

1-Become a better teammate (share the ball, be happy for your teammates success, encourage others, lift teammates up, don’t be late and go hard in practice)

2-Play with energy (this should be a given but there are still some guys who don’t go as hard as they should at both ends. Be active, be alert, be enthusiastic)

3-Spend more time in the gym (before and after practice; get up your shots! Work on your shooting. Lift weights, run and embrace the presence of being in the gym)

4-Defend (get down in your stance, pressure the ball, help-side, help and recover, close out and rebound! Talk, get over/under screens, sprint back in transition)

5-Appreciate the opportunity to suit up (it’s an honor to step on the court and play the greatest game in the world. It’s not who you’re playing against or where you’re playing, most important is that YOU’RE PLAYING!)

“The less motivated and the less determined weed themselves out.”

-Chuck Daly

-Coach Finamore