Often times I am asked how to get into college basketball coaching.
To me, there are a few ways like I have written about in the past on this blog. (And from this article written back in 2007 by Andy Katz of ESPN.com, playing the game at the college doesn’t matter)
One way to get in the coaching profession, in which I haven’t touched on is the student-manager angle.
I worked at Michigan State University for two years in the student-assistant capacity. I have also travelled the country the past nine years observing schools practice and the one thing I always take notice of is the managers at practice. Many former managers at the collegiate level have gone on to become coaches. Lawrence Frank, former NBA and college coach was once a manager at Indiana University. Speaking of which, Coach Knight has put out a few others too; Two of Coach Knight’s former managers are head coaches as well: Matt Bowen (Bemidji State) and Joe Pasternack (New Orleans). Not to mention a good friend Dave Owens who is now a high school head coach. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention a guy I met this past year, Chuck Swenson, who also was a manager at Indiana before heading into coaching.
A student manager is very important. To me, if you don’t have solid ones in the program, it can mean trouble. (At times, I don’t think managers; a-understand how important they are and b-how grateful they should be to be able to help contribute to a program’s success.) While at Michigan State I was able to work with a good guy, Keith Stephens. Here’s what he had to say about his time at MSU.
“Coach Izzo treated me the same as he did any of the players there during my time. He coached me to be better and more importantly stood with me when I made mistakes. His Loyalty to every member of the Spartan family is what make my memories of being on staff great.”
Here are some areas in which I feel are important for a student-manager:
Assist in Practice: One of the toughest areas for a manager. First of all you need to know, during practice, NEVER SIT DOWN! You need to be hands on; ready to do whatever needs to be done. Pass to players during drills, rebound, put out cones for drills, get water and wipe up sweat. You need to hustle, be vocal and never complain. You also may have to help the trainer in some capacity. Keeping stats, the scoreboard are also two areas you need to be ready for. Pre-season conditioning you will be required to be on the track with the team. Water, cups, towels will be needed. Be prepared.
Film Exchange: This is an area that takes a lot of planning. You need to make sure you are getting film out to the opponent when requested. Then you have the conference agreement where your future opponent gets ‘x’ amount of films. As an assistant coach at Saint Peter’s during the 2005 season I was in charge of film exchange and let me tell you, it gets crazy if you don’t stay ahead.
Film: Videotaping practice and games. Very important. Need to get it right. Coaching staff relies on film. If you forget to record, you can be in big trouble. And never, ever comment on the action (unless you have the camera on mute). Coaches hear your voice in film session. You will also be needed to break down film (differs from school to school)
Mailouts: A lot of coaches like to sign the mail-out for recruits but at times you’ll be finding ways to come up with creative and motivating ones. I was able to put together a few mail-out at MSU and I had a lot of fun with it.
Tech-Savy: (I hate this term but as of late, I have heard it often) Hopefully you have some sort of computer skills because everything is going in that direction. (Actually, it already is…)
Summer Camp: You will probably will be asked to help with camp. You’ll help organize it, run it and of course coach at it. Great way to learn what makes a camp successful. Doug Herner at Michigan State taught me a lot on the ins and outs of camp.
Open Gym: Some schools have the managers run open gyms. So you need to be available for that too.
To conclude, demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to the program. Promote positive energy throughout. Look for something so do; ask a coach if they need anything. Ask a coach if they need a ride to the airport or if they need to be picked up. Ask a player if they want to get some shots up, let them know you are available to rebound for them.
Don’t take your position as student-manager for granted; you can make some great contacts. If you really want to enter the coaching ranks, it’s a great way to get in like my main man from Twitter @Matt Grahn who is currently an assistant coach at Concordia University in Texas. Grahn was at Washington State with Kelvin Sampson in 1992-93 and with Kevin Eastman from 94-99.
Always keep in mind; the current coaching staff you work with will see you every day and someday one of those guys may get a head job and he’ll have to put a staff together. So you never know…
You can follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore