For the up and coming coaches that haven’t quite made it to the spot that you want to this is a great time for developing your value as a coach. I don’t care if you are a manager, low level assistant on a college staff, video intern or some type of low level assistant for an NBA/NBDL Team there is always things to do to get better. First off you have to engage in your position and not just enjoy the ride. For all of my interns or coaches that I mentor the first thing that I tell them is make a name for yourself and never just be happy to be there. You know what happens to people that slow down and enjoy the flowers? They get overlooked and bumped off of their spot.
I’ve been involved with many young coaches and scouts at the college and NBA level that were just excited about being at that particular level. I understand especially for someone that is just starting out it’s great to be a grad assistant or DOB at a college or intern for professional team, but the understanding is that your clock is ticking. You only have so much time to make an impression and you can’t expect to make it in the last 2-3 weeks of your job.
Now before we start with this you must understand something very important. Developing value is the most important thing that a young person can do. You aren’t going to get better this summer retweeting a bunch of inspirational quotes and automatically good things are going to happen to you. That is a waste of time, you must make your own destiny and not just live off someone else’s path to success. Developing value is mostly developing your craft in whatever profession that you are in. Yes networking is important, but if you have nothing to offer a future employer except telling them you’ll work hard, you might as well save us both a lot of time and quit the basketball business and work for Bank of America because this isn’t for you. It’s already expected that you’ll work hard that’s what everyone in your shoes should be doing anyway. What you need to do is develop a niche, something that you can hang your hat on that you do better than most people in your age group and profession.
To me there are three different types of people that intern for me. The ones that get it, the ones that will never get it, and ones that are out of the box. It’s important that you know what all three are.
The first is easy, the ones that get it to me are the ones that can take responsibility and that can be trusted. They’ll work hard and never come to you with excuses if something that can’t get done. They don’t necessarily have to be the best at first, but you can see that they are willing to learn and work hard. At the end of the day if I can trust them it is all that matters to me. If they can’t get something they will tell me and I will explain it to them. They ask questions and aren’t afraid not only to engage in conversation, but also can argue their point to me even if it’s not the same that I have. It usually takes me as quick as a week or as long as a month to figure out if an intern has what it takes. They come in early and they’ll leave late never complaining about grinding out a work day. That is the kind of employee that every young person in basketball should be. Eager, humble, hard working, and wanting to learn.
The ones that don’t have it you can spot from a mile away. They are the ones that come in either right at the time they were asked to or pushing the envelope with their tardiness. When they are on the floor either passing or rebounding they show very little effort, bad body language, and low energy. To be in basketball energy is important but you don’t have to be the energizer bunny, but effort is the key. I’ve had very bad interns that just wanted to hang around pro basketball players because they thought that was the key to getting a job. They learned quickly that that particular path wasn’t the way to success. It’s not to say that someone that doesn’t have it is a bad person or has evil intentions, it just means that they aren’t in the right profession for them. Usually another trait is that they always point fingers or make excuses. In this business you either get the job done or you don’t. There’s no time for excuses as we are all in the fox hole together and excuses won’t get it done. Excuses are for losers, don’t forget that.
The third and final type of employee is the out of the box employee. This is a very dangerous person to have on staff, because for the most part they have all of the qualities of a good employee. They usually are always early and leave late. They work extremely hard and have great energy. The biggest issue that they have is that they are on their page and not mine. There’s nothing that frustrates me more as a boss when I give my interns instructions on how to do something and they do it their own way. The first thing that you have to understand as a young person in any profession is that rule one is you always do what your superior tells you to exactly the way they want it. If you have any issues with that you can always go to rule two and that is to refer to rule one. It may make sense to you or not, but never take it upon yourself to do something your way unless you talk to your supervisor. I have no issue with an employee coming up to me and asking if they can change protocol on an assignment, especially if their way makes sense. So what are some examples of an out of the box employee? Ok so in my world there will be an NBA player on the court and I may be in the middle of something. I tell the intern just get the player shots but under no circumstances do they start the workout without an instructor on the court. Twenty minutes passes I come on the court and the player is working out. Regardless of if that may be the right thing to do or not, the intern disobeyed an order. If it happens once or twice I can handle it, but if someone continues to be out of the box and on their own page it will be an issue and that employee will continue to have issues. There is a different between eagerness and out of the box.
Ok so I’m going to make some suggestions to people in different fields in basketball. Not everyone’s situation is the same. You may work for someone that appreciates their employees working hard to move up and get better. SOme may just want you to do one thing and that’s it so if you are in that situation then it will be tougher for you to improve your situation their, but you can still develop your value.
This is something that I have a lot of experience in because I was a manager of a division 3 basketball team at Suffolk University and it was one of the most educational basketball experience that I’ve ever been in. First off as a manager you either do this by yourself or have a team. Rule one here is that you are never above any task as a manager.
There may be some tasks that your head coach has you doing throughout this time of year. It could be working camp, hanging out with players, or office work. Whatever is expected of you obviously you have to do the best of your ability. The key here is to maximize your time to get a better basketball IQ by diving right in.
If you already spent at least a season with your head coach you should already have taken pages of notes throughout the season. Diagram plays, drills, and philosophies. You should always have a notebook with you and taking as many notes as you can. If you are new to the job then ask your upperclassmen managers if they have any of that written down.
If there are any coaches around throughout the summer take some time to ask them some questions about the offense/defense that they run and take notes on what they are telling you. If there is a video room available dive right in there and start watching film. It doesn’t even matter what exactly that you do watch just try to absorb as much as you can. Notice what offenses your team is running and diagram the sets to understand it more. Pay attention of how your team sets screens and what your wings do to get open. Take notes on how you defend pin downs and ball screens so you have an understanding. Not only should you pay attention to whats happening on the ball, but also the weak side of the floor is equally if not more important.
When I was 18-19 years old I would just record every game that was on television. I would diagram offenses and defenses and fill notebook after notebook. What I would do is start getting rid of some things that I felt as though wasn’t something that I needed to learn, but I still wanted to have an idea of it. This helped me to then identify what I liked and didn’t like, but it also helped be develop discussions with other coaches and basketball people. You need to be able to engage in conversations with others as if you can’t do that you’ll have a tough time making it in basketball.
Once you watch tape and take enough notes start talking to your coaches and others about certain topics. Do more listening than talking make them do most of the talking as its a great chance you can learn something. Too many young people want to do more talking than listening. That is a very bad trait to have and if you are one of those people try to change ASAP. Start cataloging your notes, diagrams, and video as you may reference it in the near or distant future.
Last thing that you can do as a manager is if you have players on campus start engaging in conversation with them. If they are shooting around in your gym start rebounding for them. The more time on the floor that you can spend with players the better that things will be for you. Being around players is the lifeblood of any coach aspiring to be a head coach some day. If you aren’t comfortable around players it will be very tough for you to make it as a coach. Once they are comfortable around you when rebounding for them they will start possibly trusting you more as a basketball person. If your head coach is ok with it maybe start putting them through drills. It doesn’t have to be a teaching situation, but more like just having them work up a little bit of a sweat. Again, check with your coach as you don’t want to step on any toes with your staff. This will help your relationship with the players but also show your coaches that you wan to be a coach one day.
You are a manager and as much as you want to be respected and coach at some point making sure your responsibilities are met is your top priority. No one likes filling up water bottles but if that is what’s asked of you then you do it with a smile. Once those things are done then you can engage in conversations about X’s and O’s. Sometimes managers get confused and expect to be treated like coaches and that’s not something that happens in every situation. So remember do what you are told and then try to increase your value on your spare time.
LOW LEVEL ASSISTANT COLLEGE COACH
The NCAA does not make it easy for division one assistant coaches to do much on the floor coaching when you get past the recruiting assistants. There are plenty of graduate assistants, director of basketball operations, and film guys that are left twiddling their thumbs not only during the season but in the off season as well. This is still no excuse to stop developing value for yourself.
First off same as a manager you need to get whatever your superiors want you to get done first. That is your first priority and don’t forget that. The last thing you want to do is start having bad relationships with coaches on your staff because you didn’t get something done that needed to be done.
First off you should know your team inside and out. You should know what you run on offense, your defensive principles, and you should know your personnel. Get film on your incoming players so you can start studying their game and you can get an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. To have value to your head coach you must know your team better than they do. Sharpen your knowledge on the drills that you run. If you don’t have a great understanding of some of them the off season is a great way to straighten it out.
Once you get our team down, start to dabble in your opponents strengths and weaknesses. If you have access to your film room start breaking down tape of what your opponents run offensively as well as defensively. Start studying their personnel and tendencies that is very important. Take notes and keep files on them as it will help you get ahead coming into the season instead of trying to learn it on the fly. Watching tape can do nothing but help you and you can’t be afraid of it. Presence with players is your number one asset as a coach, getting in the film room probably is close to number two. Getting ahead is always good and doing this will help you believe me. Start a player and team database so you can quickly access this information to make it available for your head coach.
In college coaching unfortunately not just on the court basketball that is important , but recruiting takes a big chunk out of your time. Develop your networks in recruiting. Start calling high school and AAU coaches in for region especially the ones that you steadily pull kids from. Even though you may not be asked to recruit it always helps to develop these relationships. Develop packets of drills and plays to send to these coaches. Invite them to campus and start a dialogue with them. Starting these relationships as early as possible may not pay off right away, but when you eventually move up on your staff or move on to another situation those relationships will be important to your success.
You never want to be the last one to the party, develop this work ethic and traits as early as possible. The earlier you can start making connections to difference makers in the high school and AAU world the more value you bring to your team. Ask them to send you tape on some of their best players and start watching. You may make a connection that has a kid that can help your coach. Spend time developing these relationships and make the relationship a two way street. Don’t just talk to them if they have players, develop the relationship so that you are planting a seed. I’m going to mention this a lot if someone doesn’t have your number in their rolodex when its time to make a decision you’ll probably get shut out. Don’t just be around people when times are good develop your bond through the good and the bad. They’ll remember you for it.
There are a lot of rules as far as what a low level assistant on a staff can and can’t do on the floor with their players. Even if you aren’t allowed you should develop a good routine when working out players. Obviously learn what your staff does and their philosophy first, but also seek out other people’s drills to get as much info as you can. It always helps to be able to be good at working with players and developing them. Networking and recruiting is important, but if you aren’t comfortable getting on the court with players it will be tough for you to make it. It shows your boss that you are good in multiple things, but it also shows the players that you want to roll your sleeves up and coach. Watch tape on other coaches and player development people to be able to workout not only 1 player and/or one position at a time, but also multiple players and mixed positions. Never allow yourself to get caught off guard in a workout situation. There is nothing worse then having your name called to do something on the court by your boss and can’t get it done. You will lose credibility ASAP with not only your bosses, but your players as well. Always be prepared and expect the unexpected.
In coaching you never know what level you’ll end up at. Everyone wants to coach at Kentucky or division one but you never know what level you’ll end up at. In college as you all know it is such an unknown where you’ll be year to year. So it is important to keep your networks up on all levels. Never dismiss anyone in your profession as you’ll never know when you’ll cross paths again and if they will be in a position to help you.
Remember when someone is going to hire their staff they most likely will hire people that will be in their rolodex. I’ve had so many people that worked for me that tried to reach out to newly hired head coaches the second they got hired without ever speaking to them in the past. I tell them to stop wasting 5 seconds of their life emailing them a resume as they won’t choose an outsider that they don’t have trust with. You have to find a way to network to other coaches so that when they are in position to hire people that they will already have a relationship with you. One of they ways I tell my interns to do it is by starting a coaching newsletter.
Before you start this get your boss’s permission first as they may not want you to send information to to other schools. Send out to every division 1,2,3 and high school coach in your region if not country. Send out a newsletter of some offensive sets, drills, and other concepts. Maybe 5-7 pages in length something simple, but explains that you are trying to share information. You may send out 1,000 emails and get 150 responses. Send out another newsletter out two weeks later and see how many response you get. If its 150 then start only sending to them. Exchange cell phone numbers with them and see if your number of responses decreases. By the end of the year you may only have 50 people replying to you which is fine. Now you have 50 more coaches at all levels starting to get to know you. This builds your credibility up with them and now if anyone form this list gets a job, when you reach out to them they will already would have had an ongoing relationship with you.
I strongly believe that in networking it’s a two way street. Don’t be one of “those people” who just wants to take and take. Show the people that you are networking with that you are willing to give and not just using them to move on wit yourself.
Being the low man on the totem pole is tough, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t rely on your head coach to just hand you a job. Develop value on your staff by developing your game preparation, player development, and recruiting networking skills. Don’t try to develop these skills when you are given a job, get to the party first. Just like anything else, make sure your responsibilities are met before you dive into these projects. Develop your value.
NBA/NBDL INTERN/LOW LEVEL OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
Just like anything else make sure your job requirements are filed before you start trying to develop your skills in other areas. If you are interning on the coaching side, probably video side then you won half the battle.
You should know what your team is running inside and out. What plays you run in what situations, how you defend screens, what types of ATOS that your team runs. It’s important that you take notes if given the opportunity to attend practice. Understand the terminology of the coaches, and what types of drills they use in practice. Most importantly when they make a correction understand not only the mistake that was made but how they corrected the problem.
Obviously it shouldn’t even be mentioned but you should get to work before anyone and leave after everyone as well. If you aren’t an early riser than you are in the wrong business. Let the coaches know when they get in at 6AM you should be waiting for them in your work space. When they call you at 10PM and ask what you are doing you should be in that office breaking down film. Again you are on borrowed time as an intern as you only have a semester/year to impress so anything that can help you must take advantage of.
Like any other staff, your coaches may or may not want you to do extra things so get the lay of the land before you start trying to help in different areas. Just like the college staffs some may like it and some may take it the wrong way. The las thing you want is your assistants or head coach to think they can’t trust you and are out of the box.
If players are ever in your practice facility alone or an assistant is with them if your work is done always get down to the floor and be a rebounder or passer. It’s always good to be on the court with players. I can’t stress enough if you want to coach how important it is to be comfortable around players. Being able to pass the ball to them believe it or not is a skill that not all coaches know how to do. Be a good passer and a fly on the wall. If a coach isn’t there with you they may just want to get spots up and it’s not your place to do anything but pass the ball and let them shoot. If a coach is with you and they start going through a routine have a notebook there and take notes on the drills, terminology, and corrections that the coach makes with the player.
Once the coaches and players notice you on the court a lot with the players they will look for you in time and that’s a great thing. You want to be the guy that they trust to help with drills by rebounding and passing. That is such a great impression to make that you have no idea the impact it can have going forward.
While you are in the film room make edits of some of the best players in the league on what makes them so good. It could be pick and roll offense, coming off screens, or rolling hard on pick and roll. Understand what makes a player good and make small edits on just those skills. Not only what they do individually, but how do they help their team. Know their strengths and weaknesses and what their teams run. You should always have a database to record notes on players and teams this is so important and can’t be ignored.
On the scouting side again make sure your responsibilities are met before you move on to anything else. I know I repeated this many times, but you have to make sure that whatever your bosses have you do is completed 100%. Find time to ask some of the scouts questions on how they evaluate. If you don’t know much on the players in the draft as you just make edits for the front office first understand what a scout is looking for. If your scouts and front office people are comfortable talking to you then take advantage of that. The draft just happened and summer league is happening soon so everyone may be scattered so this is something that you may do during the season. I think it is so important to understand how to evaluate before you just start taking a million notes on players. Get some information if your scouts are willing to share how to evaluate players in games.
Just like anything else take things from people, but don’t automatically take everything and run with it. Take what you are comfortable using meaning as you start to learn more develop your own type of strategy and style. Once you know what to look for start taking down notes on the players that you are making edits of. Start drawing conclusions on players and keep up with their games throughout the year. Share your notes and findings if anyone is willing to talk to you about it. Study past drafts and why players failed or not. Are their any trends that made them successful?
As long as your superiors are comfortable talking it’s always good to engage in conversation. Not only do you learn more in the long run, they start realizing that you are interested in the field and that you aren’t a robot just doing one task. Be careful of talking too much and always listen 95% of the time and only speak when asked an opinion. There is noting worse than a young intern that thinks they know everything.
On the scouting side of interns most likely you won’t ever be asked to go to a game to evaluate, but it doesn’t matter as you have so much exposure to tapes and television. Continue to take notes on players and continue to research. Show your superiors that you are organized, hard working, and willing to learn.
When interning in professional basketball understand that perception is key. Like I stated before hard work isn’t impressive to people as it is expected of you. So what you work 12 hours a day, anyone can do that. It is what you get done in your time there is what is key not just the hours spent. If your superiors perceive you as someone who can’t be trusted for one reason or another you are dead in the water. Show them that you are organized and up to any challenge that they throw out to you. Show them you aren’t afraid to engage in conversation when asked. Now again, there isn’t much opportunity for interns to talk to people in an organization as mostly they want you to be seen and not heard. Develop your value and ask questions when you can.
NOT CURRENTLY IN BASKETBALL BUT TRYING
This is the last group I will speak of. There are thousands of people begging to get into basketball at one level or another. Many will try but some will never get the opportunity. You can send your resume like many do, but that is a 1/10,000 chance of happening. There were so many times when I was with the Celtics, or Attack Athletics, or even now where I just get all of these resumes form people wanting to get into basketball. Many want to quit their regular paying jobs just for the chance.
Just like anything else you need to develop value for yourself and that is a tough thing. Most people want to be in division 1 or the NBA, mostly the NBA. The one thing that you must understand is you can send a million resumes to people, but if you don’t catch the eye of a decision maker you have almost no chance of getting hired into the NBA. The worst part about people that are trying to get in basketball is that they have no job at any level, but ONLY want to get in the NBA. That boggles my mind the most. I tell those people to get into coaching college basketball at a low level and work your way up.
Have something to put on your resume besides you are a fan or you’ll work hard. Develop a reason why someone wants to hire you. Bring something to the table. Work as a volunteer at a college basketball program and then move your way up. If you are expecting to get a job in the NBA without any experience, not knowing a decision maker, or not interning already for a team please on’t waste your time.
Do something in basketball and develop a niche. Learn how to train players and then start working with college players in the summer when schools are limited with the time they can spend with their own players. Start having people see your work and value it. This will develop value and eventually down the road lead to something.
When you aren’t in basketball the best way to do things is keep your head above water and start very low. Work your way up and eventually something will hit, but you need to develop a niche and then network that niche to people. Being a professional resume writer or email marketer won’t get you a job if there is nothing on your resume to contribute. Develop a skill.
In closing all I can say is having a consistent job in basketball is tough and not many people get to do it for a long time. I’ve been blessed to have done it for as long as I have. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without so many great mentors in my life. People that not only taught me to be better as a teacher/evaluator in basketball, but also in life.
I’ve had to impress people not by my playing career, or who I know, but what I can bring to the table. That is a very tough thing that many people don’t have the skill or patience to do. There are many relationships that I’ve had in basketball that it took 8,9,10 years to prove to people that I can be trusted with responsibility. Not every relationship but a few, especially the ones that I thought that were well worth the wait. The firs thing I do when starting a business relationship is to make sure that person knows that I can be trusted. I want them to know that I am a person of high integrity that they can rely on not only when things are good but also when things get tough.
Your relationships in any field must be a lot more give than take. Don’t be a taker, be someone that wants to contribute to a situation not just someone that wants to take for themselves. We are living in a society of smoke and mirrors today in basketball. A lot of people think they can make it on all self promotion and very little substance. Working hard and marketing yourself is very important, but develop a skill. There are too many young people that just think by marketing themselves and networking is the way to get ahead in basketball. That is only a small piece of it as you need to develop a niche to make it in this game. Not only should you develop your value in basketball, but also your character. Your basketball skill in coaching can take you pretty far, but your character is what people value much more. Be a good person, a foxhole person, and a team player.
Good luck this summer, I hope everyone gets an opportunity to work at the level that they dream of. If you work hard and are patient you will deserve it.