“You want to be a championship team, there’s a price to pay. And that’s what you have to do. There’s no shortcuts. You can’t shortcut your way to success. … I’m going to give everything I have each and every day, and I have no regrets.”
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Scott Brooks on Fisher:
“He’s as consistent a worker as I’ve ever been around as a player, and I’m sure he has the same type of work ethic as a coach. He’s steady. He understands that every season it’s about the process of getting better. I know this is not the season he would have liked, but he’s not changing his attitude toward the game he loves.”
On what Steve Kerr, his head coach has done for his overall game:
“They’re running me in the high post a lot more and utilising my passing and it’s been great so far. Steve Kerr’s turned around my career and getting me back involved offensively, too, helps. He’s a very fair coach, he’s not a negative guy, he’s just got a positive vibe about him to be around every day and I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far and I think it will only get better.”
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
I began my coaching career when I was 16 years old. The local parish in Brooklyn, New York where I was born and raised put me in charge of the 7th grade boys basketball team. I had a blast. A couple of years later I became the head coach of the boys freshmen basketball team at Bishop Ford High School. Again, I had a blast. Our first year we didn’t win a single game.
While coaching high school basketball I was working full-time as an Ironworker making decent money. During basketball season I’d knock off work, hop on the train to school and change into my sweats. I was single, had my own place and didn’t have a care in the world.
It all changed on a cold, damp morning in January. I was sipping a cup of hot coffee right before 8AM; about to start another day of work when I realized I didn’t want to walk across steel beams 25 stories high any longer. I didn’t want to work outdoors when the temps were in the high teens. (A Jamaican Welder, Gerry Darlington, who happened to be a great guy asked me if I wanted to do this for 40 more winters) It was right there I was looking for a new career.
A decision was made. I fell in love with a wonderful woman who later became my wife and we moved to Michigan in 1996; I discovered my life’s calling…coaching basketball at the collegiate level.
Following the move from New York to Michigan, while attending Michigan State University as a non-traditional student, I was introduced to Tom Crean who at the time was an assistant coach under Tom Izzo. Crean and Izzo allowed me to observe practice that first year. The following year I signed on as a student-assistant coach.
I had a great time while learning so much about the craft. (My original goal was to get my degree and go back to coaching high school basketball) I thought I knew everything about basketball until I met the Michigan State coaching staff which included Brian Gregory (Dayton), Stan Heath (USF) and Mike Garland. I never imagined in my wildest dreams what hard work was until I saw these guys in action every single day. And I thought Ironworkers put in a hard day on the high iron!
After some academic and financial difficulties, I transferred to Central Michigan University. The work ethic I learned from MSU’s coaching staff helped me through the next two years of school which saw me travel 120 miles a day, three times per week for 5 straight semesters. In 2003, upon graduation from Central Michigan University with a B.A. in Sports Studies I began to apply for college assistant coaching positions. It was a tough stretch. I was turned down many times. My confidence was shaken. I had doubts whether I had made the right move, leaving New York for Michigan. Leaving a good paying job for this…
The following year I applied for a coaching position at Portland High School in Portland, Michigan. I was nervous going in, I promised myself I wasn’t going back to college high school. A week after the interview I was hired by a great athletic director Kevin Veale (he gave me an awesome opportunity) to coach the boys varsity basketball team. All the while I was conducting a lot of one-on-one and small group basketball training with boys and girls of all ages. During the summer I would travel around the country and work summer basketball camps. I loved the game…
One full season at Portland and then a move back to the East Coast alone (wife and daughter stayed in Michigan) at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, New Jersey as an assistant coach under Bob Leckie (Leckie gave me my first opportunity at the D-1 level) and for the past four seasons head coach at Jackson Community College. It’s been a great ride. The one thing I am thankful for is the men who gave me my chance at each stop. (You need someone to take a chance on you)
Each morning I wake up I wonder where this profession will take me? I ask myself “where do I want to be in five years” ? Oftentimes I’m asked about the coaching profession from younger guys. I’m asked how to get in, how to move up and of course, why do I coach? The answers are not as simple as you think. There’s no secret to moving up the ladder. Sure we all aspire to be a head coach, some want to go to the highest level, some are content at the high school level. I will tell you this, there is a HUGE difference in being the guy in charge and the assistant coach.
Here are 5 areas necessary to coach at the collegiate level: (This is just 5, not the complete list)
Have a passion for teaching and recruiting: If you don’t like teaching, you will not be any good. No make that, if you don’t love teaching, you will not make it. You need to know how to teach a skill. If you don’t like hoping in your car, driving two hours, watching a kid play then driving back, this job is not for you.
Strong Work Ethic: You need to do everything that needs to be done for the program from A to Z. Working players out, recruiting, practice/game preparation, etc. There’s more to coaching than drawing up plays. Being organized each day helps. Do what others will not do. Look for things to do. Always be busy when you are at work.
Self-Esteem: You will not get many pats on the back. You will not be told how good of a job you are doing as much as you’d like. Learn to feel good about yourself throughout the journey.
Loyalty: Whomever you work for, be loyal. Never bad mouth them, no matter how much you disagree with them. Never be jealous nor be envious of others. Help staff members get things done. Don’t care who gets credit.
Build Relationships: 50% of coaching at the college level is relationships. It’s the most important way to have a chance of getting hired. It’s the way you get players when you recruit. It’s the way you get along with others within the program/school. Managers, office personnel, and of course school administration.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore