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PREAMBLE: Grumpyhoops noticed that a lot of criticism of coaching in the CIS revolves around over-coaching. As an objective observer, he too has noticed this trend at various levels in Canadian basketball. Since this retired old coach has time on his hands, he decided to research this topic in order to shed some light on the possible ramifications of this approach.

Here’s what he discovered.

Globetrotting coach, Brian McCormick, recently wrote:

“The greatest insult (for a coach) is to be characterized as over-coaching. Old school coaches chafe at the notion that there is such a thing as too much coaching, but its pervasiveness shapes basketball today in several ways.”


(Brian McCormick: Basketball Entrepreneur, Professional Coach and Globetrotter. Performance Director for and Creator of

McCormick lists two observations that lead him to the conclusion that there is too much OVERCOACHING in today’s game.

ONE: “What do players learn when coaches strip players of all decision-making? Running set play after set play or running a continuity offense may be the best approach to win a game, but what do the players learn? It is possible to run set plays and still teach players to play basketball, and not to be robots following a script, but often the set plays/continuity is practiced instead of teaching players to read the defense, to use screens properly, to set-up moves and cuts, etc.”

TWO: “Coaches over-coach when they call timeouts on every possession late in the game. Every level is inundated with coaches calling an incessant number of timeouts and eliminating all decision-making from the players, thus incapacitating the next generation of players and making the timeouts all the more necessary.”

Or, in my own experience, he sees coaches that call out to their players constantly, directing (micro-managing) everything that happens on the floor and who at the same time distract players from read/react options that present themselves with regularity. These coaches “hamstring” the thinking/decision making of their players and then wonder why their preferred tactics don’t work.

McCormick concludes, “Over-coaching inhibits players’ development.”


Players don’t think for themselves, coaches do it for them!

As I’ve stated before, here in Canada the fast-paced FIBA shot-clock-game NECCESITATES having players that can think on their feet, read and react, play independently and play smart. Twenty-four seconds demand that. And, I’ll stick to my guns and state further, “You can have all the athleticism in the world but if your players don’t play with HEART and SMARTS your chances of on court success are greatly diminished.”

I had the privilege of watching two young coaches who, over the past three years, instituted a READ-REACT offense into their game with much success. These players were exposed to drills that allowed them to recognize options (choices) and develop quick decision making skill based on these “reads”.  This approach empowered this team to play with heart and smarts and more particularly with confidence. These coaches were “teachers” – they imparted thinking skills to their players!

Again, I’ll refer to Dave Smart’s reaction to my blog about him. He said he was a coach who, “tries to stay out of the way of his players as much as possible.”

If you’ve ever listened to Dave’s sideline rants you’d notice that he often questions the players thinking and decision making – first – not their ability, skill nor their application.

“Why did you do that?”

“What were you thinking?”

“Tell me what you were thinking when you did that?”

I believe that the Carleton Ravens thrive because their entire team has heart and smarts.

Soccer Coach, Jeff Pill, describes over coaching this way.

Excessive input from the coach while the players are playing in such a way that the coach’s input becomes debilitating to the player’s ability to perform to the best of their ability and stifles their development. In short, the coach is playing instead of the player, making all of their decisions for them.

He goes on to answer the question- WHY DO COACHES OVERCOACH with one succinct statement.

It’s all about Pressure to win, or an ego that is tied in with the success of their team. (This, of course, falls within the realm of what I have written about here – COACHING NOT TO LOSE!)

He uses the following example to illustrate his point.

During the game: Coaches sub a player whenever he or she makes a mistake and lectures them on the sidelines how to fix the problem, instead of having the player work through some of their mistakes on the field, learning as they go. The coach constantly yells out to the players what to do during the game, before they do it. Such as “shoot”, “hit it to the corner”, “take her to the corner”. Instead of coaching “after the fact” such as, “hey, do you remember the last time that you had the ball in the box, and there was only one defender between you and the goal?? Well, next time you see that, try beating that defender and getting a shot on goal”. Sometimes, comments are very appropriate, but if the coach finds himself chatting constantly, they should force themselves to sit back and relax.

QUOTE: Coaches, less is more – Talk less and say more, structure less and play more, hear less and listen more, criticize less and praise more.

So, who are these coaches that over coach?

Wayne Goldsmith lists 5 scenarios that denote over coaching. He also details the problems brought about by over coaching and gives some suggestions regarding how to avoid this behavior.

THE ENTIRE ARTICLE – IMPROVE YOUR COACHING BY NOT COACHING can be found here. It says here that it is a must read. Take a look, these concepts are worthy of your attention.


Finally, Dave Simeone lists some questions to ask yourself in order to determine if you are over coaching.


Do you find that you are hoarse and your voice is strained following a game?

Is the information that you give your players during half – time emotional but non-specific in terms of assisting them solve the problems they encounter?

Do you utilize catch phrases such as “suck it up, boys” or “no pain, no gain” in attempting to motivate youngsters?

Do you find that you are sweating and running just as much during the game as the players?

Are your pre-game, half time or post-game speeches similar to the president’s state of the union address? In addressing the players do you ramble and cause the players to wonder “What’s his/her point”?

Are your remarks and instructions made during the game and to players repetitive and redundant?

Is this information general, non-specific jargon and cheerleading altering the player’s performance?

Are you reluctant to allow players to make their own decisions during a game? Are you constantly barraging players with instructions during the game?

Do you coach in absolutes such as always or never?

Do you choreograph and arrange players into strict positions with instructions such as “never go out of your zone” or “defenders never cross midfield”?

Have you instructed players to refrain from passing the ball to certain teammates because their present level of ability is, from your adult perspective, inadequate?

Do you spend an excessive amount of time in practice on throw-ins, kick-offs, corner kicks or penalty kicks?

Are you utilizing methods of training that do not allow for players to acquire and improve technical skill, tactical decision making, physical stamina and confidence? (i.e. – dribbling through cones, standing in lines awaiting a turn)

Do your practices resemble games or activities that produce the same degree of movement/stimulation as a soccer game?

Are you attempting to improve the team’s level of fitness by minimizing the time the players have contact with the ball?

Do you view the game as a contest based only on fitness that leads to a preoccupation with running?

Are you openly emotional or upset when addressing the players to the point that they stare at you while thinking “what is he/she so disturbed about”?

As the coach do you have difficulty accepting a realistic approach to winning and losing? Do you believe that winning is synonymous with player development?

Do enjoy and have fun coaching youngsters?

Are you consistently aggravated and apprehensive about coaching?

Do the players seem to enjoy playing because of the input and involvement of you, the coach?

(Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.)


The bottom line is that over coaching kills creativity, thinking skills, player development and sound decision making from the players you coach. If you preach that there is no “ME” in “TEAM”, shouldn’t you be following the same practice?


Coaching and Playing to WIN Rather Than Not To LOSE!


PREAMBLE: I wish I could cite the source for these ideas but they exist on an old wrinkled paper I printed out from some website years ago. I will say this: once I incorporated these concepts into my coaching, team preparation and game management became a whole lot more productive. Coaching to win is a dynamic no lose approach.

I have mentioned many times that one of the problems with inexperienced coaches is that they coach NOT TO LOSE rather than coach to WIN. The fear of losing and the pressure of winning mold their entire strategic decision making.

Maybe this is because it’s a pissing contest among fellow coaches or school rivalries, perhaps it’s because the job is a paid position, or possibly it is a lack of confidence or a lack of knowledge that brings this about.

Often, I believe coaches are on some kind of personal quest, believing that everything that happens is a reflection of their coaching acumen and that they are under a microscope.

Whatever the motivation, coaching not to lose becomes all about the coach, the program, the school and, for all intents and purposes, evaluation and perception.

If we could rest in this type of coaches’ mind (Coach Not to Lose) during a game he/she’d be thinking along these lines.

I can’t play Bobby or Tim because I don’t trust that they can do it. I’m sticking with my starters even if they burn out.

Billy is shooting well. I’ll ignore his turnovers and lack of defence. The kid can score.

The darned referee is against us. The crowd is too loud. The gym is too hot.

I’m afraid to run that play. The kids just aren’t ready.

I know there’s a mismatch with Kenny, but the kid can shoot. We need points in this game.

Johnny missed that defensive assignment. Better pull him off the floor.

My starters are tired but I can’t win without them.

I’ll stick with my game plan. I can’t win if I take risks.

You catch my drift.

Every coaching decision is based upon the premise: “I must do everything in my power to NOT lose this game!”

This mindset includes:

Focusing on factors you have no control over. Blaming!

Attempting to focus on the past, the present and the future – all at once and all at the same time.

Fearing the worst performance from your team and managing accordingly.

Being too conservative or afraid of what might happen even when an opportunity presents itself.

Hating the anxiety and tensions associated with close competition.

Reacting to the dread you feel and the worry you have over the possibility of losing a contest. Feeling that all eyes are upon YOU!

Starting to think about “margin management” without giving proper attention to clock and floor management. If we’re up by this much at this time we’re still OK.

Project what the final outcome is going to be or get so far ahead of yourself that you forget to continue to coach in the NOW!

Being scattered mentally or lacking confidence so that you cannot let yourself focus on appropriate cues (no substitution plan, no consistent floor rotation, no decisive decisions, missing mismatches, failing to adjust to game conditions, trial and error coaching, overthinking everything, coaching only with your heart and not your head, coaching as if it’s all about you, focusing on the negative etc.)

Basically, this type of coaching is coaching from fear – the fear of the loss, the fear of personal failure or the fear of rejection/criticism.

I like this quote in the article I’m drawing from.

“The key to remember however is that no matter how much you want to protect (i.e. not lose) what it is you are about to accomplish, 99% of the time you must go out and play to win in order to actually achieve it.”

So, how do you coach and get your players to play to “WIN”?

Consider these suggestions:

Focus on what you can control: plays, strategies, adjustments, rotation, match-ups, clock management, time outs) Forget about and block out all of the distractions you have no control over.

Stick with what you’ve coached your team to execute – as if it were the first day, first quarter, first game. Making panic decisions, gut reactions (emotional) and trying to apply new ideas on the fly might just be counterintuitive.

Continue to take appropriate risks or chances – don’t underplay with the fear of the loss restricting your approach.

Set new goals prior to or during stoppages in play. Make adjustments on what you perceive NOW – not on the ultimate outcome. Adjust your plan as necessary.

Make a conscious effort to joke, laugh, or stay light hearted (even if this is within yourself). Remember that the team and the players often reflect the demeanor of their coach. If you become overly critical or negative, your players will likely adopt that personality into their style. You might even cause your players to play with the fear of failure – they too then play NOT TO LOSE – don’t take chances, fear personal outcomes and the like.


Most importantly – FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND – THE MOMENT -THE NOW – one free throw, one possession, one play. DO NOT start thinking about what those single tasks can afford you (wins, championships).

Coaching (and playing) “not to lose” creates fear, encourages negativity and in the worst case scenario – promotes blame and excuses. Some have described this approach to the game as a “Loss Aversion Strategy”. We’re going to do everything in our power not to lose the game. We won’t take chances; we’ll stick with the so-called starters, and we’ll take a conservative approach to game strategy. Heck, we might even overlook the player that “freelances” if that what it takes NOT TO LOSE. Putting team play aside we might even allow the “Star” player to take over the game. Oh, and you guys at the end of the bench; enjoy the show, because you ain’t about to become part of it.

“That’s what we’re here for – TO WATCH YOU COACH AND BE CHEERLEADERS!” those bench players might proclaim.

The best example (and most extreme) I could find of the “playing to win” strategy involved Steve Spurrier and the Florida State football team he took over in 1990. This was not a great team but they played in a Division where most of the other teams adopted a loss aversion strategy. Simply stated, “He brought charisma, team rapport and new player talent, but his most important move was to identify a weak spot in the strategy employed by his opponents; the aversion of loss strategy. Rather than focusing on maximizing their gains, the opponents concentrated on avoiding losses.”

Spurrier introduced what he called the “Fun-n-Gun” approach – the Gators passed more often, took more chances, played more aggressively and tried to score more touchdowns. The “Fun-n-Gun” approach unearthed two hidden forces or sways.

1. Spurrier gained an advantage because the other coaches were focused on trying to avoid a potential loss.

2. The competing coaches also fell victim to another sway called commitment: – They were so committed to continuing down the road they had always walked that it was virtually impossible for them to take a different path – it made them unable to react to Spurrier’s strategy.

Here’s how one life coach describes this approach. When you’re playing not to lose, the best you can hope for is “not losing.” There is no way to win when you’re playing not to lose. When you’re playing to win, there is no such thing as “losing”; the worst that can happen is that you keep playing. Playing “not to lose” is tentative, static and full of worry and doubt. Innovation and risk taking are minimized because doing so might make the team lose.

Coaches and players dwell on the negative and take their mistakes to heart, creating fear and apprehension in their game. Players think too much in this approach, worrying that they might make a mistake and ultimately they leave their “A” game behind.

Isn’t it about time you reflected upon your coaching style and started to “coach to win”? You just might be pleasantly surprised by the results.


One of the key principles for any coach trying to implement an up tempo style in basketball is that of making effective substitutions. In the previous blog we suggested the following motives for doing just that.


SUBSTITUTIONS/PLAYING TIME: This style of play is ideal for a team with lots of quick, athletic players and a deep bench, allowing for lots of substituting. It is often liked by players, and fans because it lets players “play the game” and more players get playing time, helping maintain team harmony. 

How to substitute is the key. Because of the fast pace, more players normally get to play and that builds team unity. Teams will practice harder because everyone will anticipate getting on the floor in games and sound substitutions patterns  will keep fresh legs in the game at all times.

The key principle here is a sound substitution pattern. You need a game plan for that.

Realistically, there are many reasons for making an effective substitution in a game. The times and situations where substitution is necessary include:

1. To replace a tired player

2. To replace a player who is playing poorly

3. To replace a player who is in foul trouble

4. To convey information

5. To maintain morale

6. To make a defensive or offensive substitution

7. To set up a press

8. Because of an injury.

9. To maintain discipline.

10. Replacing players who are mentally not ready to play.

SOURCE: (Each type of substitution is explained in detail)

You can probably think of many more.

The point is that the very notion of effective substitution suggests sound organization and the creation of a sound substitution pattern. Only the most experienced coaches can handle this in a “feel for the game approach”.  There are just too many variables to juggle in the heat of the game. Chaos theory does not apply here, friends, nor does coaching by the seat of your pants.

It’s just common sense that you need to develop a plan or, at the very least, have a substitution philosophy!


You must plan ahead because you have to consider many variables in advance, all based upon your player personnel, their preparation to play and your scouting reports. You also must make effective judgements/adjustments based on the flow of the game and the talent/tactics of the opposing team. Without a well thought out plan you might be up the creek, coach, or even over your head when it comes to player personnel decisions.

Most importantly, this basic rule must be used as a guiding principle.

Substitutions should be made to strengthen the team’s chances of victory! Whether the substitution is to relieve a tired regular or to withdraw a player who is performing poorly, the replacement should be made with this basic rule in mind.

This would include hold situations, matchups, special teams/defences and defensive coverage, among others because offense and scoring is not the only key to victory.


•Not having the proper personnel on the floor in crunch time can result in lost games.

•Subbing properly can boost your players moral and confidence.

•Subbing keeps key players fresh and out of foul trouble when you really need them.

•Subbing can change the momentum and pace of the game.

• Subbing helps a coach manage for as well as prevent mismatches.

All of these can be key factors leading to victory. A random approach to substitution might not cut it because there is just too much information for a head coach to process “on the run.”  Setting up and designing a sound “substitution pattern” makes perfect sense.

This old coach always prepared a substitution plan on paper prior to games and tournaments. (This often took many hours.)This plan was a template for the game but never written in stone. It was malleable and could be modified on the run.

Developing a consistent rotation allows players to get comfortable playing at certain times of the game and they know what to expect. If you KNOW you’re coming out of the game and will get your 8 minutes every night, then it’s not as frustrating when you get pulled. Knowing ahead of time certainly helps.

Grumpy’s substitution plan diagramed a pattern of substitutions the players would soon identify and become comfortable with. This plan also included situational units such as:



THE KILLER BEES: A go-small unit of players that could boost the pace of the game on a short sift – both offensively and defensively.


A TEAM – Zone Defence

A TEAM– Man Defence

Other specialty plans might be included such as a two man tag team (with 10 fouls to give) as a defensive “Shadow” to shut down a particularly good player. The key personnel for junk defenses were also planned in advance.

The bottom line is that this coach had a sound substitutions pattern planned in advance! It was on paper and hand held. He used it as a guideline.

Also, this old coach put a lot of trust in his assistants. They were both competent and knowledgeable. In this regard, the game time roles for each were as follows.


HEAD COACH (GRUMPY): Handled all of the substitutions – special units – mismatch control – fatigue management etc. – entry instructions to players -in a focused approach.

ASSISSTANT #1:  My lead assistant coach handled all tactical decisions on both offense and defense. He was the main voice communicating to the players on the floor. This was a skill my assistant was very good at –analyzing game situations on the run and making quick effective adjustments etc. Both of us continued to have input into each other’s role –he could make personnel suggestions – I could make tactical suggestions. It was give-and-take all the way. However, as head coach, I maintained ultimate veto power.

Most teams have these roles reversed but, in our case, this management style matched our skill set perfectly.

ASSISTANT #2: My other assistant handled debriefing when players left the floor, communicating suggestions to the players and working on the mental/emotional side of their game. This coach kept a line of communication going with those players on the bench, working on game focus and situational analysis. This was an important role as it kept player’s minds on the game even while sitting. It also helped keep players on an even keel such that their emotions didn’t detract from their game play.

Given this set up – making sound substitutions, based on a plan was my prime focus. By delegating these additional coaching roles, each of us could concentrate on our coaching strengths which, in turn, made our jobs a whole lot more efficient. This worked very well for us because we became a “coaching team”, each with defined roles. In our case, the head coach was not trying to manage everything – otherwise known as micromanaged coaching. I believe micromanaging is impossible in today’s high paced game!

Another coach describes his style this way:

“Before the game, I will discuss with my assistant who the starters will be for that game. We will then also talk about which substitutions to bring in for certain players and at what intervals… that is, our “substitution pattern”. Once the game starts, I have my assistant make most of the substitutions based on that pattern. He can see when certain players are getting tired and need a break. If we have a “hot” player on offense, we will ride that horse for a while and not substitute until things “cool off”. I will over-ride the assistant at any time, if I see a certain situation where I feel we need to have a certain player or two on the floor at that time.”

Your substitution plan must also fit your basic coaching philosophy. A plan that is not grounded on a sound base will surely falter. Again, I’d recommend reading Ray Lokar’s articles on this very topic – COACHING PHILOSOPHY.

RAY LOKAR: Part I: Development of a Coaching Philosophy – “Beginnings”

Again, “coaching not to lose” can really mess up any attempt to prepare a sound substitution pattern. You are coaching “not to lose” if your substitutions follow this kind of reasoning.

  1. One mistake and your off the floor. In order for players to learn, they will make mistakes. They need to play out of their comfort zone and learn things they can and can’t do. If you take them out whenever they make a mistake, you get a scared, timid player the next time they hit the floor.
  2. Sticking with a “hot” player too long. These coaches burn their best players thinking that without them on the floor. They extend their minutes, burn them out and lose their intensity and focus at crunch time.
  3. Giving the end of the bench garbage minutes. You know the drill. These players only hit the floor in non-threatening situations for very limited shifts.
  4. Running with a star player. That player, of course, will put the team on his/her back and garner the victory. The problem is that the team concept goes out the window and a lot of players are stuck to the bench as observers.
  5. Fear of Putting Players on the Floor: We can’t play them too much or we’ll never win. Of course, item number one is applied to these players with abandoned. “See, we can’t play Jimmy, he always messes up!”

A liberal substitution pattern allows everyone on the team to get meaningful minutes. In an earlier Blog I outlined why this is so very important.

Here are a few good reasons why providing your entire team meaningful minutes is a wise coaching strategy and much better for your players on the whole.

1. Injuries/Absences: You encounter injuries almost every game, some that might require a player to miss some contests. At other times players might be absent for any number of reasons. Having a deep bench with floor time experience will make your job so much easier.

2. Foul Trouble: Suppose your team has a number of players in foul trouble, some of whom foul out. You might not be quite so concerned when even your 12th man has the confidence gleaned from meaningful minutes.

3. Discipline: Occasionally a star/skilled player may require disciplinary action. You may want him/her to sit. Knowing you have bench strength makes this much easier.

4. Team Building: When everyone is playing regular minutes players tend to support one another more fully. They each can take ownership for the responsibility for floor times, giving you far more match up options. They practice harder.

5. Avoiding the Star Syndrome: Relying on a few players to get you those wins creates a Star Syndrome Atmosphere. This can create all kinds of problems for you in terms of team dynamics. Suddenly you may find that you have a team of “haves” and “have nots” which can create conflict and derision.

6. Depth: The deepest teams win championships because you are only a strong as your twelfth man.

7. Common Sense: If a player is on your team shouldn’t they be playing? Why not put the “play” in every player?

8. Valued Contribution: When everyone plays meaningful minutes every one feels that they are making a contribution. There is nothing more positive than that.

9. Development: By developing every player on your team you develop a broader base of basketball talent in your community.

10. Developing Roll Players: Using every player and giving them meaningful floor time allows you to identify particular skills that translate into roll player applications. (“The Digger” – “The defender” – “The Specialist” etc.) You can imagine the possibilities because now you can apply these roll players using situational tactics. In doing so, you have developed your team’s overall diversity. A team with diversity can match up more completely with other teams.

11. Late Bloomers: In my experience not all players develop at the same rate. That kid you sit could be a late bloomer and actually turn out to be one of your better players. Didn’t Michael Jordan get cut in his first high school tryout?

12. Recruiters: Recruiters come to see players play. They come to evaluate skill. They really don’t care how well you coached or whether you won the game. So, let all the players play.

Grumpy sees too many win-at-all cost, coaching not to lose approaches to substitutions these days. It’s as if it’s all about the coach and not at all about the players.

You can change all of this this and put a smile on Grumpy’s face.


  1. Develop a sound substitution pattern and plan this well in advance of your competition. Put it on paper. Put it on your clipboard or hold it in your hand.
  2. Give all players on your team meaningful minutes by using defined roles and by applying situational tactics matched to the skill level of your player personnel.
  3. Give your main players adequate and frequent rest. Never burn them out such that they lose their legs in crunch time. Have them play full out on their shift, knowing well that they will be RESTED when required.
  4. Have every player feel valued. Have every player feel that they are contributing to game results. Develop depth on your bench. Team spirit will multiply like frisky rabbits in a hutch.
  5. Don’t coach with fear – the fear of losing (coaching not to lose). Coach to win and have the confidence to rotate your personnel frequently and regularly.
  6. Delegate to your assistant such that you are not micromanaging your team in a game. Many head coaches hand over the substitution role to their assistants so they can concentrate more fully on tactics, game flow and just plain coaching.

Here’s your homework. If you have never drawn up a substitution pattern for your team do it now and give every player on your team meaningful minutes. Then take that paper with you to your next game and give it a whirl. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

I know Grumpy will.

ATHLETIC TEAM? Here’s How to Get it Done

Ask yourself this: Is it more important for you to have an athletic player dominate his defender and/or situation and take over a game, or to have an entire team dominate the opposition and win the game?

When you consider this, remember what Ray Lokar had to say.

“Value maximum effort, intelligent play, and teamwork,” and “Get players to play hard, smart, and together.”

In the Grumpy Coach’s last little ditty he attempted to sell coaches on the idea that, while athleticism is at the base of developing an all-round basketball player, it is NOT the be-all-and-end-all for team success. On top of that base must be built – A FULLY DEVELOPED SKILL SET, AS WELL AS A SOLID BASKETBALL IQ AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS, ALL DRIVEN BY A MOTOR OF DETERMINATION, GRIT AND PASSION (Stein). Relying solely upon athleticism to carry a team to a championship is a slippery slope which just might lead to mediocre play and inconsistent results.

If a basketball coach finds that their roster is loaded with natural athletes, the usual course is to develop that team into an in-your-face, aggressive, fast break run- and-gun kind of squad. The onus is on ball pressure, steals, and quick transition, along with athletic players who run the floor and who can razzle-dazzle the ball to the basket. It doesn’t take a lot of coaching effort or technical savvy to institute this style because, as I’m seeing more and more, the coach simply release the gazelles and let them run amok.

The Coach’s Clipboard would describe the GO-COACH style this way.

“(These Coaches) . . . like the fast-break, full-court press, gambling, trapping (game), and like the game to be a track meet.”

This is certainly an exciting game to watch, but if it is the biggest or only tool in your tool box, your overall results might be painfully disappointing. I’ll remind you of what one CIS coach said to me this past April, “I’ve been told I’ve got the most athletic team in the league but, game-to-game, I never know if this athleticism will show up”.” (This team was middle of the pack, and an under .500 achiever.) He added that, “When I recruit now, I’m more in tune with players that have HEART AND SMARTS!

What this coach wants is, “THE COMPLETE PLAYER PACKAGE!”

Without reiterating, this is the starting point coaches must begin with when applying this GO-GO athletic player strategy. (READ: WE NEED MORE HEART AND SMARTS AND LESS OF AN EMPHASIS ON ATHLETICISM IN BASKETBALL)

First and foremost, player development must build upon the base of athleticism in order to create a complete basketball player with applicable skills which, in turn, are applied on the floor with HEART AND SMARTS.

You must avoid at all costs the one dimensional team, and player, by developing “valued-added” aspects to your game plan that will take you to the next level. You must understand that the naturally athletic team might just require MORE DIRECT COACHING than teams that are a lot less athletic all because of their lack of basketball “IQ!”

For the purpose of this rant, Grumpy looks at it this way.

Natural athletes survive and thrive on their mechanics, speed, agility, flexibility, quick reaction time and their body control.

Smart athletes survive and thrive on their, court sense, their vision, basketball IQ, confidence, control and decision making.

It says that there is a place for both kinds of players in the game. And, if you are willing to put forth the effort and design the proper training regimen, combining the two gives you the Complete Player Package. Undeniably, this combination can be lethal.

After watching several of these OBA, AAU, PREP and CIS teams that are overly athletic, I searched the coaching literature for some concepts/approaches that are important for this style to be a success. Here’s a few that might assist that athletic team become more of a championship contender and less of a, dare I say, “Street ball circus act” which always includes, of course, “A Clown Show.”

This may be a harsh observation, but this is exactly how Grumpyhoops feels when he watches some of these teams play.


Because, when you first instill this offense, the key is to limit turnovers – ‘Play fast, but not out of control.’ Grumpy has been seeing too much out of control and overplayed basketball lately.

You see, he’d like to see coaches adopt a little more of the following:

HEART AND SMARTS: The Function Basketball Coaching site suggests that, “Fast break basketball, at least at some level is an instinctive exploit. What should be drilled and hopefully refined is the ability for your players to make the right read more often and increase the efficiency of scoring. Fast break basketball is all about automated responses from your players. To be really successful at the fast break phase of any offense, your players must be drilled to the point where they feel they can play intuitively (In the Zone, Centred) and instinctively (Read React) by making decisions on the run.”

Pace is a key to success. If your players can’t think the game at the speed they’re playing, then what’s the use of trumping all that athleticism? If players overplay – mistakes and turnovers usually mount.

So, first and foremost, make player “freelancing” the last option in your offense – not the first. Without a team concept/strategy and the proper pace, five athletes running around trying to carry the team on their back leads nowhere. Refer to Stein’s pyramid and work on all of those dynamics.  You must expose your players to read-react situations in practice in order that they apply these “smarts” in games. In other words, direct the athleticism; don’t let the athleticism direct you.

Function Basketball Coaching:

SUBSTITUTIONS/PLAYING TIME: This style of play is ideal for a team with lots of quick, athletic players and a deep bench, allowing for lots of substituting. It is often liked by players, and fans because it lets players “play the game” and more players get playing time, helping maintain team harmony.

How to substitute is the key. Because of the fast pace, more players normally get to play and that builds team unity. Teams will practice harder because everyone will anticipate getting on the floor in games and sound substitutions patterns will keep fresh legs in the game at all times. (In Grumpy’s next BLOG we’ll look at setting up a more effective player substitution rotation.)

DEFENCE: Defence remains your #1 priority. “Up tempo” basketball does not mean you don’t play defense. If anything it means you play a lot harder on “D” because, in essence, the key tool in your arsenal revolves around the fast break, and you create fast break offensive opportunities through high-pressure defense. You can’t maintain this pressure without adequate substitutions, short “hockey style shifts, and hard on-the-ball pressure. Burning your players on the break may create poor defenders on the back side of your game. You can’t have it both ways without giving adequate rest!

CONDITIONING: I believe that you must be aggressive at both ends of the floor. Your team must be in fantastic shape because of this style of play – especially if you also run an aggressive defense because this will cause players to get tired quickly. If the other team lacks depth or is not in good shape, you will run them out of the gym especially late in games. Players need to know that if they are to go all out – you will sub them at appropriate times, allowing for rest. Otherwise your players will temper their effort based on the knowledge that you might just extend them too far. A deep bench and lots of substitutions can exacerbate this situation.

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS: You must have alternative offenses that fit game situations. These offensive strategies need to be practiced and drilled just as hard as the GO STYLE fast break basketball you prefer. For example, late in games you should look to slow the tempo to half court if you’re winning. (or after developing a lead) Also, if you want to “go-big” with less athletic forwards you have to have a specific approach tailored for them. Otherwise, you might just have those much needed assets “riding the pines” far too often. A GO OFFENSE can GO SLOW when the game dictates that kind of adjustment. Don’t put all your eggs in the athleticism basket.

TAPERING: Tapering before a competition is becoming a lost art. If you are a run-and-gun team and you’re practicing exceedingly hard right up to a competition (Say a three Game weekend tournament.) your players may not have a full tank going in. If you don’t know what tapering is then I would question your coaching credentials and your qualifications to coach young athletes?

Recently I had a player tell me that their pre-game morning shoot around was as extreme as their most intense practices. Think about that? An hour before the game you’re what – playing with game energy for longer than a game in terms of minutes?

PRACTICE LIKE YOU PLAY: This is one of Grumpy’s big bugbears. You must practice at the intensity you are going to play if your team is going to make headway. You also must practice using game situation mock ups/shells that simulate game circumstances. Otherwise, how are your players going to learn to read and react? FUNCTIONAL BASKETBALL COACHING: “Even though fast break basketball happens in any number different scenarios and situations there is still a wide range of drills which can be implemented.” These drills/situations need to be set up at game pace and in “a competitive environment.”

INSIST ON FUNDEMENTAL LAYUPS:  Fast break/up tempo basketball usually gives your team lots of layup opportunities. Stats show that the team that gets the most layups win the game. “Go up hard” should be in your coaching lexicon. Discourage finger rolls – I’ve seen too many swatted or roll off the rim. If it’s a layup situation – do a layup. I’ve seen too many dunkers lately ram the rim creating a projectile that just might go into orbit. USE THE BACKBOARD – NUFF SAID. And, if there’s a clear path to the hole – don’t throw up a runner – do a LAYUP! Tell your players that you do not need highlight reel baskets – you need the “gimmie” baskets made EVERY SINGLE TIME

MAINTAIN VISION ON THE BALL: Players must at all times “see the ball” in this up tempo system of play. Vision creates options not only for the player with the ball but, as well, the player without the ball. Being able to read and react on the run is crucial. However, if you haven’t developed means for better court vision or upped the basketball “IQ” of your athletic players, be prepared for some missed opportunities. You need to find methods for enhancing these skills.

DEMAND STRUCTURE: As stated earlier, “Natural athletes survive and thrive on their mechanics, speed, agility, flexibility, quick reaction time and their body control.” They tend to distain structure because it is counterintuitive to them. It is the freedom of their athleticism that drives them. That said, you are up the creek if you have a number of players that constantly resist your game plan or the structured part of the team game you implement. Demand the structures you implement but design parts of your plan to allow for and encourage creative spontaneous play. This is probably the hardest job you will have. “Reign in or let lose?”  You must demand control over that!

COACHING TO WIN AS OPPOSED TO COACHING “NOT TO LOSE”: You cannot run an up-tempo fast break game using great athletes if you approach the game in a coach “not-to-lose” style.

“Billy’s hot. I gotta run with him. He’s scoring! We can’t win without him.”

Too bad Billy is pooched and can’t maintain his defensive intensity. Too bad athletic Billy thinks he has to carry the team on his shoulders and makes poor choices and throws up low percentage field goal attempts! Too bad Billy has no legs and can’t get his shot to fall.

“I’ll only sub one player at a time in my rotation because I can’t have Donny and David off the floor that long. We’ll lose!”

Too bad Billy and David’s game erodes because of the fatigue. They’re last off but you can be sure they’ll be first on.

“Damn, Peter turned it over – Bobby take him off!

Too many coaches have a one and out view of mistakes. Meanwhile, every time Peter hits the floor he adjusts his game accordingly, plays soft, trying to avoid the mistake that will put him on the bench, which in turn, is a little bit self-fulfilling, don’t you think.

On the other hand, “Willy keeps screwing up, but he’s getting buckets, I can’t take him off, or we’ll lose this game.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

“I can’t put big Mike out there. He can’t run the floor.”

Too bad big Mike’s banging with their big guy might take a toll on the oppositions post offense. Too bad Mike isn’t there to grab those defensive rebounds. Too bad this team’s half-court offense sucks!

“I can’t play those players because they’ll hurt our chances to win.”

Meanwhile the gap between the players that play widens, practice intensity falters and in a pinch (foul trouble, injury) you put those players on the floor with little or no court experience and expect results.

“We can’t slow our pace and take off the pressure or they’ll get back into the game!”

Coach, it’s too bad that you are doing just that – wearing your players down and affecting their defensive intensity.

“I’ve got to do everything I can to win this game.”

And, that’s the problem. Coaches that base their decisions solely on their desire “not to lose” or “not to look bad” are not at all playing to win.

If you have a highly athletic team and you want to play this GO COACH style then you must observe and implement the suggestions above or you are not doing your job and you are effectively “playing not to lose.” Too many inexperienced coaches fall into this trap. And, it’s a shame that I’m starting to see this at even higher levels of basketball.

So, there you have it.

Your job is to go out and find the best methods to implement these suggestions, especially if you decide to play the up-tempo game. Nothing about this is easy. But, taking the easy way too often is the biggest problem in coaching, isn’t it?

I’m hoping I see the results out on the hardwood soon. That, in turn, will take a lot of the grumps out of Grumpy!









The Grumpy Coach sees his role as a synergist, seeker of truth and a dispenser of knowledge. When he is concerned with what he sees on the basketball court he reads and writes about it. His purpose as an Old Dog is to assist other Coaches in a positive proactive way. His goal is to see better basketball and better basketball coaching displayed on the courts of Canada. These “food-for-thought” rants are open for discussion. Leave a comment if you wish to discuss this further with GRUMPYHOOPS. He’ll get back to you!


The more I watch amateur basketball the more I wonder about this conundrum.

Can the supremely athletic player fit within the team concept emphasis of taking the “me” out of team?

And, can a very athletic team that plays up-tempo, fast-break, in your face basketball find success without a lot of structure and discipline?

You see, on my travels through AAU Tournament play, OBA basketball and now CIS competition; I see the greater emphasis on athleticism in basketball growing by leaps and bounds. More and more teams approach the game by using athletic guards to dipsy-doodle dribble to the hole, or set up others through constant and consistent a pick-and-roll attack. We also have the high flyers – the dunkers – getting rave reviews from the basketball community.

Indeed, most of the on court play by AAU teams seems like a combination of frenetic athletic acrobatics and street ball prestidigitation. These showcase teams; showcase just that – the razzle-dazzle and the shake-and-bake style of one-on-one basketball. Most of this emphasis, of course, is to attract the scout’s attention and ultimately garner that athletic scholarship.  Most of this play is individualistic.

Too many coaches give these high profile players carte blanche – allowing them to take over games in a sometimes selfish way just to win. Worse than that is the situation where two or three athletic players dominate an entire team.

But, once these supererb athletic players get to the next level how will they cope?

I ask you this:

Which player better suits the team concept of winning basketball at a very elite level, like college?




This question became clear to me when a CIS coach remarked, “I’ve been told I’ve got the most athletic team in the league but, game-to-game, I never know if this athleticism will show up”.” This team was middle of the pack, and an under .500 achiever. He added that, “When I recruit now, I’m more in tune with players that have HEART AND SMARTS!”

At a basketball workshop at the University of Windsor a few years back, Dave Smart, Carleton’s renowned coach stated, “I can’t believe how dumb the current crop of players can be!” He was frustrated trying to get a group of CIS player-demonstrators through some structured drills he was showcasing. They had tons of skill but very limited basketball IQ! These poor kids were fumbling and stumbling all over themselves. Unfortunately, Dave didn’t have much hair left on his head that he could pull out!

The bottom line seems to be that a lot of the current crop of players can play an individual game (breaking down a defender one-one-one, for example) but when it comes to solid team play, they just can’t consistently develop a basketball IQ that fits that mold. Players fail to “see the floor” because their game, after a lifetime of developing their one-on-one razzle-dazzle skill, is so individualistic. Too often, their coaches look at individual athleticism as their ace in the hole when times get tough or the game is on the line. On their high school/Rep/AAU teams these players carried their teams on their back – so to speak.

Also, when I look at some of the gurus of basketball (The Trainers, The Developmental Coaches and the High Performance Instructors), most of them preach hard work, being in the gym and maximum effort for a player to take his skill to the next level. But, how many of these workouts are strictly individual or involve very small groups, for that matter? How are team play, court vision, “reads” and basketball IQ developed through these skill-drill sessions?

By the time these players get to their elite team coach, they are so in tune with their athleticism and their individual skill that the poor coach has to find a way to either reprogram that player into a team concept role, or just give them carte-blanche because, indeed, these kids can “score.”

Given this, just this weekend, I saw less athletic and less skilled teams handle athletic teams simply through disciplined structure, solid effort and incredible ball movement and spacing. Too me this both reflects the “heart and smarts” concept as well as demonstrates that sound coaching principles are just as important in this equation.

Coach Thomas Cory, ALGOMA, recently reiterated this theme when talking about his upstart CIS team.

“The goal this season is to be competitive every night. When teams take to the hardwood against AU they will know “our guys are prepared, our players play hard and smart, and play together.” (Source:

When considering coaching philosophy, Ray Lokar, Lead Trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance, sets out these goals for the teams he coaches, “Play Hard – Play Smart – Play Together.” He goes on to say a team needs, “to Care about each other and Play Together, Think about what they need to do, and Try to Play Hard.”

Furthermore, Lokar emphatically states, “I also realized along the way that what was really important to me was who the players became, far more than what they did. The three qualities I felt were most important all fell into the “Attitude” bucket rather than the “Skill” category.”

This philosophy falls in line with what one observer had to say about freshman Henry Tan’s performance (Lakehead) in a recent game versus Bishop’s University. He was describing how a third year athletic guard was replaced by Tan because that athletic guard’s performance “was a disaster, out of control, continually turning it over and making some really bad decisions.”

He had this to say this about Henry Tan.

“He plays within his abilities which are not nearly as limited as you seem to believe. On one particular play, Tan put up a 3pt shot that was missed and Bishop’s  looked to score quickly on the transition but Tan got back on a 2 on 1 break and managed to disrupt what looked like a sure basket for the Gaiters.  He is a good distributor of the ball, he hustles, plays intelligently and has surprising quickness and on top of it all, he is a winner.”

This being said, I am not saying that athleticism should be ignored. What I’m advocating for is that athleticism MUST be integrated into this Play Hard – Play Smart – Play Together dynamic Ray Lokar describes. Athleticism must be incorporated into “TEAM PLAY” –period. We need athleticism that also carries with it “HEART” and “SMARTS”. Too often, in today’s game athleticism trumps everything else in a win-at-all-cost approach to team management.

Author Daniel Coyle sums it up perfectly, “Talent is determined far less by our genes (ATHLETIC ABILITY) and far more by our actions (HEART AND SMARTS).”

See more at:

In one game I observed recently the supremely athletic team lost to a less athletic but more disciplined team in overtime. It didn’t help that athletes dished a mere 5 assists (4 of the five assists were from the forwards), while turning the ball over 21 times in the game. (Assist to Turnover Ratio:  0.38 ) This athletic team also gave up 16 offensive rebounds to the opposition (many of which turned into a score) and fouled 29 times, putting the opposition at the charity stripe 38 times. For most of the game, these supremely athletic players overplayed, forced the action and made poor decisions.

How did they stay in the game?

ATHLETICISM (Individual razzle dazzle, ball pressure, fast breaks, pure athletic attacks)

The athletic team stole the ball 15 times in the game.

However, the leading scorer, a guard, (28 points) also turned over the ball 6 times and had a mere one assist in the game.

On paper, the losing (ATHLETIC) team should have dominated this game from tipoff to final buzzer. They did not because they relied too much on their athleticism. They showed little court sense, vision or basketball IQ – playing a brand of street ball for the most part. All the while the winning team showed discipline and control, and moved the ball well. The athletic players tried to take over the game like they would have in high school, Rep, or AAU ball. It says here that that approach is likely to be unsuccessful at the college level, each and every time out and particularly over a season of play.

Ray Lokar refines his approach to developing players with heart and smarts this way.

“I use the acronym W.I.N. to emphasize what a player needs to focus their mind on, and it’s not the scoreboard or that kind of “win.” The acronym W.I.N. stands for “What’s Important Now!” The players who have the ability to focus on that W.I.N. exhibit the mental toughness (SMARTS) to try doing the one thing they need to do (HEART) at any given time – regardless of situations and/or distractions (SMARTS). Those are the players who really are thinking (SMARTS) and trying (HEART).”

Again, this has nothing to do with skill or athleticism but it does have everything to do with developing the ATHLETE as a COMPLETE PLAYER, A TEAMMATE AND A PERSON.

Alan Stein has created a player development graphic to illustrate all of which has been discussed here. He calls it the complete player pyramid.


Describing this pyramid Stein suggests that, “It doesn’t matter how athletic a player is, if they aren’t skilled, they won’t be very good. It doesn’t matter how athletic or skilled a player is, if they have a low I.Q., they won’t be very good. It doesn’t matter how athletic, skilled or smart a player is, if they have no heart, they won’t be very good. The only way you can build this pyramid successfully, and so it will last, is brick by brick.”

Finally, I had personal contact with two coaches that understood these concepts. They had several athletic players that could take over games. However, their approach to developing their “READ-REACT OFFENSE” involved constant “read and react” drills. These drills developed better floor sense and raised the basketball IQ for every player on the team. Low and behold, as these athletic players became more adapt at the mental/technical part of the game and then applied their athleticism to it, the result was that the team had one of their most successful seasons ever.

If you’d like to follow up this blog post with some additional reading, I suggest you follow these links. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.


RAY LOKAR: Part I: Development of a Coaching Philosophy – “Beginnings”

RAY LOKAR: Part II: Development of a Coaching Philosophy – “Manifesto to Mantra”

RAY LOKAR: Part III: Development of a Coaching Philosophy – “Achieving the Vision”





It’s a Whole New Ball Game

When you enter the next level of basketball, in this case the CIS, you might find things a little different. Josh has experienced this first hand in his first season with the Brock Badgers men’s Basketball team.


Now that the team has been selected the practice training schedule is in full force. Josh as workouts every morning from 7 am-9am. This includes what he calls “Shooting Class” as well as a “Physical Workout” session. Then in the evening the team has a regular two our full team practice. By Friday, a few of the players were “feeling the pain” of all of this activity.

The team has a full time STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACH to take care of that part of this intense program. The weight room is definitely a big part of this training regimen. Players have free access to the workout centre.


zzzzzzzzicebathThe players at Brock have full access to a training room, where student trainers ply their trade. Brock being a big Kinesiology school affords this luxury. Student trainers will stretch you out, rub you down, or give you a message, if you require it. Josh has found the ice water bath particularly invigorating after practice, soaking his legs to ease the pain. The training room is just next door to the team’s locker room.

Players also have front-of-the-line service for professional physiotherapy through Brocks on Campus Medical Centre.

The team itself has a Head Athletic Therapist plus two student trainers at every practice.

The team has also been doing regular Yoga as part of their stretching and core development programs.


Coach Kissi believes that individual and small group development of skill, fitness and performance will be a key to this team’s success. In that regard he has hired a Director of Player Development. Mihau Radacanu, a former D1 Basketball player at Coastal Carolina, fills this roll. Mihau has his own basketball training business in the Niagara Region. You can take a look at his businesses Website here (No Limit Performance).

ZZZZZZZintensityYou will see from this site the intensity Mihau demands and the kind of workout the Brock players are taking part in.

So, Josh’s first two weeks as Brock basketball player have been a little more than intense. But, as time marches forward, he reports he is feeling stronger and he is better able to recover after a difficult workout.


Another sign that you’ve reached the next level is that Badgers will have a Director of Basketball Operations, otherwise known as a VIDEO COORDINATOR.

The Badgers first game isn’t until September 27th, so they’ll have two more weeks of this intensity leading up to competition. From what I’ve witnessed, this team will be incredibly fit and athletic.





I thought I’d update you on Josh’s CIS journey as a freshman recruit for the Brock University Badgers basketball team.

I think this perspective will show you how intense and competitive CIS Basketball has become. All schools are aiming to dethrone Dave Smart’s Carlton Raven juggernaut. All of them know this will be a monumental task. Their preparation is incredibly intense.

Here’s Josh’s experience.

Josh was recruited on Aril 15, 2013 and has spent the last five months intensely involved with Brock basketball. His first experience as a recruit was an all-expenses paid weekend in St. Catherine’s in May – being a buddy/roommate to a recruit Bock had flown in from Newfoundland. Several workouts were held over that weekend.

You might recall that Josh was going to move to St. Catherine’s during the summer to attend workouts. That fell through when Coach Rootes resigned. Assistant Coach, Joel Whitty, took over the summer program, and although Josh didn’t move there, he was all-in for a whole whack of summer involvements.

First of all, he committed to the Brock summer league playing on two teams: The Brock Varsity Men’s Team that played in the Men’s League, and the Brock Recruit/Prospects Team that played in the Summer St.Kitt’s High School League.

This involved two or three games in succession every Wednesday evening at Brock. Josh formed some good initial relationships with Brock players, gaining their confidence in him and their acceptance as a teammate.

Josh also participated in Brock varsity team” small group” workouts with Coach Whitty at least once and sometimes twice a week. These were intense two hour sessions which included many competitive shooting drills. He participated in a workout program provided for an AAU team from Midland Ontario as well, partaking in several scrimmages and team practices with them.

As it turned out, Josh ended up living in St. Catherine’s for three weeks. First, he was hired as a councillor for the Brock Basketball Camp and worked there for a week. Brock’s new head coach, Charles Kissi, used this opportunity to work out those players participating in the camp in the evening. He spent a second week living with Brock Point Guard, C.J. Smith, attending several workouts over the course of four days in August.

Then, the last week in August, Josh attended Brock Basketball’s official training camp, living this time with the Team Manager. This was an intense camp with two a day workouts. The players practiced from 8 am – 10:30 am, then participated in Yoga for 40 minutes, only to return to the gym at 3:00 pm for another two hour practice.

Coach Kissi told all of the players attending that none of the 24 participants had a roster guarantee; because he was a new coach and didn’t know them, everyone was on a tryout.

Then, the first week of school (Orientation Week) two intense open tryouts were held. The first practice included 10 sessions of the 17 conditioning drill. That’s 17 trips across half court at full speed that has to be completed in less than 1:05 minutes. 50 players attended these workouts with a list of 20 players being selected last Friday to move on with the varsity team.

Finally, Josh learned last night, Monday Sept. 9th that he had been officially selected as a member of the Brock Varsity Men’s Basketball team. He texted me a simple, “Made ‘er!” after last nights practice.

Now the real fun begins.

As Coach Rootes told us at his recruiting session in April, “Playing varsity basketball is like having a full time job!” Here’s Josh’s initial commitment to the program moving forward.

  1. Daily, five mornings a week, 7 am – 9 am workouts.
  2. Three full 2-3 hour team practices a week.
  3. A mandatory 2 hour study hall each week. Brock University and Coach Kissi are big on tracking player’s academic progress and helping them to be successful. Last year they hired a paid academic advisor for the team.
  4. Players must maintain a 70-75% average in order to play.
  5. EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: 2 early games vs. Niagara College and the University of Quebec (Montreal) and two tournaments in October: The Naismith Classic (Waterloo) as well the Brock Home Tournament)
  6. He was to prepare and submit by 12 noon today a list of his athletic, academic and volunteer involvements so that the team managers could apply, on the player’s behalf, for all the available scholarships at Brock.
  7. Once the schedule starts – two games each week and loads of travel.

Of course, this kind of schedule is right up Josh’s alley, being a gym rat such as he is. Josh actually has more time scheduled in the gym for basketball than he has scheduled for classes. That’s why he has decided to work on his four year degree over five years. (He has 5 years basketball eligibility)

Sherrie and I have met Coach Kissi and feel that he will be a great coach at Brock.  He is a young up-and-coming coach whose background was as a Metro Toronto Police Detective. He was a player at Macmaster back in the day. He coached the Ryerson Women’s team for two years, as well. Last year he was mentored for the entire season by Raptors head coach, Dwayne Casey.

Josh has told us that the players really like him for both his style and his depth of knowledge. Josh also really likes his teammates. When I dropped Josh off at res one player remarked, “Don’t worry, Mr. Johnson, I’ll take good care, my boy!” –meaning Josh, of course!

Being a recruit Josh has enjoyed a few perks such as front of the line course selection and class scheduling, residence placement, and the like. Coach Whitty has mentored Josh through all of the registration process.

One bonus for the team and for Josh has been that Wildhawk teammate Dani Elgadi became a late Brock recruit and a part of the team. He and Josh are close buddies and have great court chemistry when they play together. Coach Kissi said to me he’d, “Like to build on that!”

So, as Josh moves forward with this basketball adventure, I’ll try to keep you up-to-date regarding the journey. As you might expect, it’s been quite a ride for all of us thus far.


Canadian schools have had their best run ever in competition with NCAA Schools this August.

NCAA teams are allowed one foreign trip every 4 years. They get 10 practices to prepare. These teams played to win, using starters, but did play prospects/recruits, as well. No, matter, this is probably the CIS’s best showing ever, against the highest level of competition ever.

Of course, the Carleton Ravens led the way. Here are some of the big wins recorded by CIS Schools.


Sun Sep 1, 2013 Winnipeg, MB   Winnipeg 68 Minot State 46

Sun Aug 25, 2013 Montreal, QC   McGill 74 Siena 72

Wed Aug 21, 2013  Ottawa, ON   Carleton 95 Wisconsin 82

Tue Aug 20, 2013 Windsor, ON   Windsor 83 The Citadel 73 OT

Mon Aug 19, 2013   Windsor, ON   Windsor 64 The Citadel 63

Sat Aug 17, 2013  Calgary, AB   Alberta 86 Arkansas State 78

Fri Aug 16, 2013 Calgary, AB   Alberta 80 Arkansas Little Rock 67

Thu Aug 15, 2013 Calgary, AB   Calgary 71 Arkansas Little Rock 68

Sun Aug 11, 2013 Ottawa, ON   Carleton 77 Texas Christian 51

Fri Aug 9, 2013 Ottawa, ON   Ottawa 90 Texas Christian 74

Wed Aug 7, 2013 Ottawa, ON   Carleton 67 Towson 41

Wed Jul 31, 2013   Quebec City, QC   Laval 86 Scranton 81  


Fri Aug 23,  Ottawa, ON   Syracuse 69 Carleton 65 OT

Tue Aug 20,  Montreal, QC   Sacred Heart 83 McGill 77

Sat Aug 17, 2013 Windsor, ON  Marshall 84 Windsor 80

Thu Aug 15,  Calgary, AB  Arkansas State 88 Alberta 84

Thu Aug 15,   London, ON   Southern University 72 Western 66

Wed Aug 14, 2013 Windsor, ON   Southern University 76 Windsor 71 

Sat Aug 31, 2013 Winnipeg, MB   Minot State 86 Winnipeg 78 OT



IMG-20130526-00090 (2) just posted a list of those players from CWOSSA Region who have committed at the next level to play CIS Basketball in 2013-2014. For those of you who have followed Josh over the past several years and especially those of you who have attended games, 6 of 9 (66%) of these recruits are teammates of Josh on the Waterloo Wildhawk OBA u19 team. This team won the Bronze in Division One (U19) of the last OBA Provincial Championships in May. They also finished second at the Pittsburgh Jamfest this year, defeating 5 straight US teams before losing the championship to another Canadian team, the Brampton Warriors.

The Wildhawk Program is making a name for itself in terms of developing next level basketball players. Indeed, Wildhawk Basketball is a great program for developing young basketball players. Their recruiting record speaks for itself. Dave McNeil and his crew of dedicated coaches deserve a lot of credit for this success.

Josh’s three years under the direction of Aaron Tomlin and Scotty Reynolds certainly made a big difference when he was being recruited.

Here’s the list:

CIS Commitments 2013-2014

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU/OBA)  Dani Elgadi (6’6″ PF) – Brock University via Waterloo Collegiate.

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU Summer) Mike Friesen (6’3″ SG) – McGill University via John F. Ross (Guelph).

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU/OBA) Josh Johnson (6’1″ PG) – Brock University via Holy Trinity CSS (Simcoe).

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU/OBA) Javon Masters (6’1″ PG) – University of New Brunswick via SJK Prep and St. Mary’s (Kitchener).

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU/OBA) Jacob Ranton (6’7″ SF) – Memorial University via Waterloo Collegiate.

Waterloo Wildhawk (AAU/OBA) Adam Voll (6’8 PF) – Ryerson University via SJK Prep and St. Mary’s (Kitchener).

Vlad Matovic (6’6″ PF) – Wilfrid Laurier University via Cameron Heights (Kitchener).

Jack Simmons (6’8″ PF) – Wilfrid Laurier University via Galt CI (Cambridge).

Erik Sterne (6’2″ SG) – University of Guelph via Centennial (Guelph)


(Going further with our sport theme -here’s a quick hitter!)

Last night at the Brock University men’s summer league game Grumpy saw something he just had to share with you. The youngest son is playing in this league as a 2013-2014 Brock Badger recruit.

After the game Grumpy asked the Phenom, “Do you know what high profile player you were playing against tonight?”

To which Josh responded, “You mean that big guy that was really, really good?”

The Brock Men’s Varsity team were playing the Niagara Old Timers. Most of these guys were late thirties – early forties in age. There were touches of grey and a few rollovers. Most of the Niagara guys looked like middle-aged accountants.

Well that big guy the Phenom described was none other than 39 year old Greg Newton (6’ 10”) who at one time served as the Captain of the Duke Blue Devils.


Ya, that Duke!

He also was a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic team that finished 7th in the world after making a good run toward the medal round.

And, guess what, Greg Newton can still play.

Indeed, he was the best player on the floor, making the Brock Varsity big men look, well – just ordinary.

And yes, the old guy can still dunk.

In one signature slam he swung one handed from the hoop like a monkey on a bar – all 245 pounds of him. Grumpy suspects that he was the leading scorer for the Niagara team. He also hit several deep threes in the game.

The Brock youngsters only beat these oldsters by a score of 80-70. The old guys came within 4 points a couple of times during the game. Grumpy wishes he knew who some of the other old guys were. One grey haired big guy owned the key posting up and over players probably 20 years his junior. These oldsters played with savvy and class, which in turn means, they played with SMARTS.

The Brock’ boys were really up for this game and played full out. A lot of good natured chirping went on and you could see by the smiles that everyone was having a blast. But, really it was the can of whoop-ass the old guys opened that really made that game so competitive.

The fire in their eyes read, “Bring it on kiddies!”

Anyway, it was probably a bigger thrill for Grumpy than Josh to witness this. You see, Newton played at Duke when Josh was a baby in diapers. To the Phenom he was just that, “Big guy that played really really good.”

For him it’s all about respect, you see!

Nonetheless, the Phenom had another cool basketball experience this week. (Two in one week must be a good omen.)

While visiting Toronto for the huge Maclemore concert, the boys stayed overnight in a pretty classy hotel. None other than the Canadian National Basketball Team was staying there as well.

The boy noticed a familiar face and decided to approach him to talk a little round ball. The player in question was none other than NBA #1 2013 Draft Pick, Anthony Bennett; he of the Cleveland Cavaliers.


So, now we have a picture to add to our basketball memorabilia – the PHENOM alongside the next NBA gazillionaire, looking like they’re teammates or buddies or something.

BTW the Phenom is 6’1′, while Anthony is 6’8″ tall.


ONTARIO CUP D1 U19 to be Played at Wilfred Laurier University this Weekend

Hang on to your hats, the U19 Men’ D1 Ontario Cup (OBA) Championships will be held at Wilfred Laurier University on May 24th, 25th and 26th. Our Waterloo Wildhawks are the #3 seed in Ontario and will play the Etobicoke Thunder (#7), Waterloo Wolverines (#2) and the London Ramblers (#6) in Pool Play.

The other pool includes the #1 ranked Blessed Sacrament Yellow Jackets (undefeated in 2013) as well as the #4 – Mississauga Monarchs, #5 – Oakville Vytis and the #8 – Kingston Impact.

The Wildhawk schedule is as follows:

Friday -9:00 pm Wildhawks vs. Etobicoke Thunder

Saturday – 1:30 P.M. Wildhawks vs. London Ramblers

Saturday – 6:00 P.M Waterloo Wildhawks vs. Waterloo Wolverines (The signature game –the top KW, Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge players facing off –big rivalry between kids, coaches and programs.)

All of the games will be played in Wilfred Laurier’s main gym in Waterloo.

If you love basketball this will be a good tournament to attend. Every team has several top CIS or NCAA prospect. This is the “crème de la crème” of U19 basketball.

The full schedule can be found here.

Below you will find a short team-by-team list of the players you might see and who are committed to the next level in the fall of 2013.  Close to 40 players from the 8 teams are listed below. Remember that U19 is a two year division so a lot of players not mentioned are being recruited for 2014.


Head Coach Manny Furtado was an assistant coach at Carleton under Dave Smart this year. He has also done a lot of Coaching for Basketball Ontario (MDP, JDP). He has coached many Blessed Sacrament teams to Provincial Championships. Victor Raso, his assistant coach, transfers next year to play basketball for Carleton University and he is the son of Joe Raso former Mac head coach.


Abendigo Lufile – Sheridan Wyoming NJCAA – built like LeBron (Brother Plays at Wichita State) Kids almost unstoppable.



Joe Rocca –Windsor Lancer’s commit – Brother of MACS Mike Rocca

Mitchell Wood – REDA PREP (Brother Connor plays for Carleton)

Dmitri Rakas –Guelph Griffins commit

Phillip Cunningham-Gillen –York University commit

Colin Corrigan – Guelph commit

Waterloo Wolverines #2

A lot of REDA Waterloo Campus players on this team. REDA had a team based in Waterloo this season. The players were from all over Canada and attended Waterloo Collegiate as their home school.

Juwan Miller –Team Ontario, CIA Bounce NIKE EBL League -2014 NCAA prospect. Juwan is a former Wildhawk.

Kevin Bercy – St. Francis Xavier commit

Henry Bankazo –former Wildhawk, REDA PREP

Jermaine Lyle – NPH #55 Ranked HS player in Canada

Waterloo Wildhawks #3

The team is coached by Aaron Tomlin and Scott Reynolds. These long-time friends are a great team, both are high school teachers who develop skill and tactics and coach players to get them to the next level. These two coached Bryson Johnson NCAA D1 Bucknell States all-time three point shooter when he was a Wildhawk. Most of this year’s Wildhawk team will be playing CIS basketball next season.

Adam Voll –Ryerson Rams commit

Josh Johnson – Brock Badgers commit

Javon Masters – University of New Brunswick commit

Danny Egladi – uncommitted but highly recruited by Algoma University

Malcolm Piazza – is highly recruited by York University and Algoma U.

Jesse Kendall – 2014 recruit, highly sought shooter with some D1 interest

Mississauga Monarchs #4

Miles Charvis – University of Waterloo commit

Peter Rusic – US prep and NCAA D1 prospect

Tryrell Rogers –Niagara College –St. Catherines commit

Jaiden Magnaye –REDA Prep (uncommitted)

Oakville Vytis #5

The team is coached by Terri Coulthard wife of Dave from the famed Coulthard family from Tillsonburg (Brothers Chris- Laurier, Bruce –Buffalo/Windsor and Dave –York). The father of the boys, Bill, played for the Tillsonburg Livingston’s that represented Canada in the 1952 and 1960 Olympics. David was named all-Canadian five times and twice won the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as most valuable player in Canada, and twice was selected York’s male athlete of the year. Terri was a CIS standout at Mc Master.

Nolan Mackenzie – Lakehead University commit.

Connor Gilmour – CIA Bounce, Team Ontario, 2014 prospect

Owen Couthard -Laurier University commit.

Jake Babic –Canadian National U16 team, NCAA 2014 prospect

London Ramblers – #6

Head Coach Matt Tweedie has been an assistant basketball Coach at Western University for the past five years. Matt is a former Mustangs-great, having played from 1997-2001. A former Bob Gage Purple Heart Award winner, Matt brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience to the coaching staff.

Cam Morris – Western commit

Connor Therrien -2014 CIS Prospect

Jason Hawke (London, Ont.) – signed National Letters of Intent to join the Michigan Tech men’s basketball program for the 2013-14 season.

Khoi Pham –NPH #147 rank HS in Canada

Etobicoke Thunder -#7

Head Coach, Jordan Paolucci, is the founder of high profile BOLT basketball training program, Coordinator of Etobicoke Thunder Elite Basketball, and Member of the U19 OBA ranking and seeding committee. He also is a certified IAABO basketball referee and a Coach at the Raptors Basketball Academy.


Reilly Reid – Assumption Greyhounds, an NCAA DII school, in Worcester, MA

Jack Simmons –Laurier commit

Regis Ivaniukas – NPH #58 ranked player in Canada –uncommitted

James Agyeman – Laurier commit

Mike Friesen – McGill commit

Nick Ernest – #30 ranked in Canada by NPH – uncommitted -2014 Grad

Sebastain Beckett -#119 ranked player in Canada by NPH- McGill commit

Nerquaye Nettey – Laurier commit

Gianmarco Luciani – NPH #116 in Canada (Etobicoke’s big scorer) committed to Acadia Axemen

Kingston Impact #8

The team is coached by former Boston College player Nate Doornekamp (brother of former Carleton star Aaron). He was a Team Canada member for 2003 World University Games (Bronze Medal).

Brody Maracle – Carleton commit

Taylor Boers – Guelph commit

So there you have it, the top 8 U19 rep teams in Ontario, loaded with future CIS stars, prepared and directed by high profile coaches and all to take place in the venue of the Laurier University main gym.

Admission –FREE and, a chance to sit courtside!

What could be a better basketball experience than that?

Why not take a run up to Waterloo and take in some of the action.




We watched game one of the Hamilton Spectator All Star Classic at Cardinal Newman in Stoney Creek last night. As is the case in most All Star games defence was put on the backburner and offense and athleticism was on full display. In the first game the Hamilton Public Stars upset a loaded Halton team in a literal shoot-out (86-81). The gym was a rainstorm of three pointers right from the get-go. Slam dunks were also the order of the day!

The Brant/ Norfolk All Stars tipped off the second game, playing the Hamilton Catholic All Star team, which, in turn, was a very talented bunch.  There were many players from Cardinal Newman’s Bronze Medal OFFSSA Quad A team and also from ACMT, a perennial powerhouse in the Hammer. Josh was the starting Point Guard for the Brantford team.

In the beginning it looked like the game was going to be close. With five minutes to go in the second quarter the Brantford Stars were actually up 26-19. However, the Catholic squad turned up the heat and quickly got back into the game. At half time, the Hamilton boys held a 37 to 27 lead.  That 18-1 run included a basket full of three pointers.

jj7The Brantford squad fought back hard but with three minutes to go in the third The Hammer were still up 41 to 34. Another big run from the Catholic All Stars (11-0) put the game on ice with the score hitting 52 to 34 with less than 4 to go in the fourth. With two minutes to go the Hamilton team had upped the score to 62 to 37. A huge alley-oop slammer by ACMT’s Junior Moku-Natia closed the door on the game.  The final score was 70 to 43 for the Hamilton Catholic boys.

Josh was tied for the Brant team lead in scoring with Andre Toic (Assumption) with 10 points. His stats included 2 three pointers, a 43% shooting percentage, 3 steals, 1 rebound and a block. He was also 2/3 from the charity stripe.

Coach, Todd Andrews, did a great job getting all of the Brant boy’s exposure, running out five man shifts throughout the game. There were a few CIS Coaches in attendance as well as a couple of Western New York, NCAA Coaches.

You can read a full game report here:

The Brant Stars will play the Halton squad in the consolation game at 5 pm today. In my view, the Halton squad is the most talented here. Many players on their roster were seen in Vaughan at the Etobicoke Thunder Classic playing on rep teams in the AAA Division. Take a look at this lineup.

Owen Coulthard –Oakville Vytis (Son of Laurier Legend and a with shooters skill in his genes)

Dan Dooley – University of Guelph Commit (Holy Trinity)

Jake Babic – Canadian JR. U17 National Team (Last year played prep at Long Island Lutheran in New York)5d3eda6f44aa87bc61ab0da5137f

Regis Ivaniukas – Etobicoke Thunder – highly recruited

Malik Richards – #31 ranked player in Canada –NORTHPOLE HOOPS

Nick Ernest – Etobicoke Thunder – NPH #30 ranked player in Canada 6’8”

Mike Mullins: NCAA D1’s Grant’s little bro.

And, a whole batch of other good players from Oakville’s Holy Trinity, Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas and Notre Dame SS.

This will be a big challenge for the Brant Stars but I know Josh will be pumped. He savors these moments and personal challenges.

I’ll fill you in tomorrow regarding the details of today’s game. The Brant boys will have to limit their turnovers and try to ignite some chemistry.

All the Best,



The Waterloo Wildhawk (Juniors-U19) team kicked of their 2013 schedule with a dominant 84 to 40 win over the Cambridge Centaurs last night. Leading at the half by a 53 to 16 score, the juniors easily cruised to victory.

Josh played well in his role as backup point guard, hitting the floor for 14 minutes and managing 3 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal, and one point on a foul shot.

His role on this team is as quarterback who sets up others and as a defensive specialist. Josh missed three practices while away in Florida so his shot was a little rusty as he went 0 for 3 from the floor. Missing from last night’s game was 6’ 9”, Cory Kenning, who plays for a Basketball Academy in Orangeville (Finishing up their AAU Schedule). Really, the Wildhawks have a nice balance of “bigs”, outside shooters and ball handlers. As Coach Reynolds said to me, “This team is very deep.”

And, for pure entertainment, this is a team that RUNS and looks to score in transition.

The addition of Filip Music (Toronto), Jesse Kendell (Guelph) and Sean Samuels (Waterloo) will make the team a D1 OBA contender once again. The team will most likely be ranked in the Top five in Ontario come Ontario Cup time in May.

The Hawls feature four players in the NORTHPOLE HOOPS 100 Top Canadian HS basketbal player’s ranking.





The Wildhawks are scheduled to play in these six tournaments between March and May.

Etobicoke Thunder Jam (York University), Wildhawk Home Tournament (Waterloo) , Pittsburgh Jamfest AAU (Pittsburgh, PA), Hoopdome Classic (Toronto), Blessed Sacrament Tournament (Hamilton) and the OBA Championships (KW).

I will provide you with some player profiles in the near future. This is a big recruiting year for the boys so I expect by OBA time many commitments will have been made. (Adam Voll committed to Roy Rana’s Ryerson Rams last week) ACTUALLY I WAS ABLE TO POST THOSE PROFILES AFTER THE THUNDERJAM SCHEDULE IS LISTED.  SCROLL DOWN BELOW AND YOU WILL FIND THEM. THESE PROFILES INCLUDE SOME PLAYER VIDEOS, AS WELL. JUST CLICK THE LINKS.

Listed below is the Wildhawk schedule from this weekend at York University as well as some tournament promotion material.

Etobicoke Thunder Jam U19 Tournament, presented by Nike Team Canada

March 23rd-24th, 2012

York University (Toronto, ON)

The Etobicoke Basketball Association (EBA) and Etobicoke Thunder Elite (ETE) are proud to host the 2013 Etobicoke Thunder Jam U19 Tournament, presented by Nike Team Canada, and sponsored by Mantella Corporation and GP8 Sportwater.

The tournament will take place this weekend, March 23rd-24th, at York University in Toronto, ON (Tait McKenzie Centre- 4700 Keele St.).

Some current and former Wildhawks are listed in bold.

The tournament will see 20 of the top OBA Junior (U19) teams in the province take part in a high-level tournament to kick off the 2013 season. These teams will feature some of the top players in the province, including: Jack Simmons, Adam Voll (current), Reilly Reid, Jake Babic, Connor Gilmore, Christopher McComber, Nick Ernest, Regis Ivaniukas, Javon Masters (current),, James Sylvester, James Agyeman, Nolan Mackenzie, Erik Sterne, Pat Pilato, Nikola Medacovic, Mike Friesen (former), Zach Shaban, Dele Ogundokun, Mike Shoveller, Rayon Miller, Gianmarco Luciani, Matt Ravida, Petar Rusic, Nerquaye Nettey, Brian Hryski, Jake Hagen, Sage Usher, Filip Music (current),  , Matt Bukovec, Alex Petronis, Owen Coulthard, Marco Zanette, Jonah Fogg, Zack Van Zeumeren, Drew Walford, Owen Coulthard, Josh Frazer, Marcos Clennon, Michael Peterkin, Kristian Vande Kemp, Myles Charvis, Oneal Halstead, Jesse Kendall (current),, Sebastian Beckett, Philip Moloughney, and Mike Simonetta, among many others.

Special thanks is extended to all tournament volunteers, Coach Tom Oliveri and the York Lions Men’s Basketball Program, as well as to UPS, Synergy Sports Medicine, Nike, DJ SouthPaw Brown, and the numerous local business sponsors.

Admission is FREE (subject to capacity). In addition to the competitive games and atmosphere, there will be live entertainment, snacks/ drinks/ hot foods for sale, free tournament programs, and much more! Rogers TV will also be covering the two Championship games.

Please see the schedule below. Results will be updated at the end of each day of play on this thread. For live results, follow the tournament on Twitter through Etobicoke Elite (@EtobicokeElite) and North Pole Hoops (@NorthPoleHoops), or search the hashtag #2013ThunderJam.


AAA Division

POOL A: Etobicoke Thunder Elite, Toronto Triple Threat- Kate, Whitby Wildcats

POOL B: Waterloo Wildhawks, Blessed Sacrament- Doornick, York North Avengers

POOL C: Mississauga Monarchs, Brampton Warriors- Bassaragh, Northern Kings

POOL D: Blessed Sacrament- Ravida, Oakville Vytis, Ottawa Next Level

Saturday, March 23rd

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre MAIN COURT

Game 3- 11:20am (AAA): Waterloo Wildhawks vs. Blessed Sacrament- Doornick

Game 9- 7:50pm (AAA): York North Avengers vs. Waterloo Wildhawks

Sunday, March 24th

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre MAIN COURT—–QUARTER FINALS

Game 21- 9:00am (AAA): Quarter Final #1–1st Pool B vs. 2nd Pool A

Game 22- 10:25am (AAA): Quarter Final #2–1st Pool C vs. 2nd Pool D

Game 23- 11:50am (AAA): Quarter Final #3–1st Pool A vs. 2nd Pool B

Game 24- 1:15pm (AAA): Quarter Final #4– 1st Pool D vs. 2nd Pool C

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre UPPER GYM—–AAA Consolation Games

Game 29- 2:40pm (AAA): 3rd Pool A vs. 3rd Pool B

Game 30- 4:05pm (AAA): 3rd Pool C vs. 3rd Pool D

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre MAIN COURT—–SEMI FINALS

Game 32- 2:40pm (AAA): Semi Final #1–Winner Quarter Final #1 vs. Winner Quarter Final #2

Game 33- 4:05pm (AAA): Semi Final #2–Winner Quarter Final #3 vs. Winner Quarter Final #4

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre MAIN COURT—–AAA Bronze Medal Game

Game 35- 7:00pm (AAA): Loser Semi Final #1 vs. Loser Semi Final #2

York University: Tait McKenzie Centre MAIN COURT—–AAA Gold Medal Game

Game 36- 8:30pm (AAA): Winner Semi Final #1 vs. Winner Semi Final #2.


Here’s a rundown detailing the players on the 2013 U19 Waterloo Wildhawks. I’ve provided video links for you “Basketball Junkies”.


FILIP MUSIC (Toronto) (6’3” PG):

Last year he played Prep in Florida for the IMG Academy. He also returned to Serbia for half a season to get European coaching and exposure.  Music has received interest from Tennessee Tech, Boston U, Canisius, Liberty, and Siena, New Mexico State and Tulane. He played at the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Connecticut in November. Filip averaged 14 points and 6.3 assists per game. This year he returned to Canada to play REDA PREP based in Waterloo.


ADAM VOLL (Waterloo) (6’7” PF):

A high flyer dunk machine with incredible length. Adam is also a skilled shot blocker. He has developed an outside shot that makes his game more dynamic – he can play inside out. He was heavily recruited by James Madison but chose to stay in Canada and play for Roy Rana’s Ryserson Rams. He will travel to Italy (one week) and China (one week) with the Rams between his Wildhawk tournaments this spring.



JAVON MASTERS (Kitchener) (6 ft. PG/SG):

Javon is a combo guard who has great speed and tremendous hops. He has game changing ability. He has had visits to both Cornell and Bucknell but may be leaning to stay in Canada. He is being heavily recruited by the Ryerson Rams. (Also Cape Breton and Memorial) Last year he was the Mike Moser MVP in KW High School Basketball. He moved on to play Prep Basketball for St. John’s Kilmarnock, a private school near Guelph this season, avoiding the public school boycott of extracurricular activities. Javon was the Thunder JAM tournament MVP last year.


DANNY ELGADI (Waterloo)(6’6” SF/PF)

 Danny is a late bloomer who only started playing basketball in high school. Last year he played REP for the KW Vipers but was recruited to play Wildhawk ball this year. (Travelled and played for the Wildhawks during last summer’s AAU Tour)He has developed his skill quickly and was one of the leading scorers on the Waterloo Collegiate team that went to OFSSAA Quad “A” the past two years. WCI also ventured to Arizona this past Christmas for a high school tournament there. Danny is starting to get a lot of interest from OUA programs, given his ability to get the rim and score.

VEDRAN DEMITROVIC (Kitchener) (6 ft. SG)

Vedran is the “pit-bull” of basketball players. He’s a terrific on the ball defender and pest who can take a player out of his game with shutdown defense. He’s a three point specialist, who when hot, can knock them down from anywhere. He is particularly adept coming off screens. Vedran plans to stay in KW next year and play for either Laurier or Waterloo.

CWOSSA.COM: “Aside from his individual accolades, he’s also accumulated a lot of team hardware as well, having led Cameron to four tournament championships last season, and he also helped his squad to the WCSSAA and CWOSSA “AAAA” titles during the 2010-11 campaign.”




New recruit who plays high school ball in Guelph. Jesse is a pure shooter who can hit the jumper from anywhere. Great 3 pt. range. He was the 2011 All Guelph Junior Basketball MVP. He plays for the Bishop Mac High School team that went to OFFSSAA this year. One of the team’s leading scorers. Jesse was also (2007-2010) a Member of Canada Basketball Centralized Performance Program for identified athletes (Basketball).

2012 Bishop Macdonnel Senior Male Athlete of the Year, 2011 Bishop Macdonnel Junior Male Athlete of the Year. 2012 Guelph High School League All-Star, 2012 Bishop Macdonnell High School MVP, 2011 Guelph High School League MVP, 2011 Guelph High School League All-Star, 2011 Guelph High School Championship Game MVP.

Jesse will be a great Wildhawk addition this year. He is a sharpshooter.

COREY KENNING: (Waterloo) (6’ 8” P)

Item from CWOSSA.COM:

Former Resurrection forward (6’8″/235) Cory Kenning’s recruitment trail is certainly heating up, as a quick stroll around the internet will tell you.

Kenning, who moved down to attend Golden Gate HS in Naples, FL, along with Rez teammate Adam Schneider, recently participated in the 7th edition of THE Workout presented by Nike Team Florida; this event featured over 90 college prospects in attendance displaying their talents to college coaches and over a dozen national and regional scouts.

Kenning was noted as one of the “top performers” during the camp:

Cory Kenning (Golden Gate HS)

6’8 – PF – 2013

The Canadian big man was very successful scoring in the post on Saturday.  Kenning shows patience on the block and is a willing passer from the post to go along with his scoring ability.  The senior can also step out and knock down an open jumper and with big man always at a premium; Kenning should draw plenty of traffic to Golden Gate HS this season.

According to his Max Preps Profile, his current list of schools that have shown interest includes South Florida (USF), Arizona State, USC, Nebraska, Rutgers, La Salle, Buffalo, Old Dominion, Brown, Western Kentucky, Montana, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, and Rice University.



SEAN SAMUELS (G) (Kitchener):

Has played Wildhawk ball on and off for years. Played basketball for Huron Heights (Kitchener) Explosive speed and can steal a ball like a magician. He will be sort of an X-factor player. He can be an effective scorer. He put up these big games last year during the 2011-2012 High School Season.

35 – vs. John McGregor, 1/13, 29 – vs. PHS, 2/9, 28 – vs. WODSS, 2/14, 27 – vs. SMHS, 12/9, 26 – vs. St James, 12/9, 25 – vs. CHCI, 12/15, 25 – vs. BMAC, 1/13, 24 – vs. GPSS, 12/13, 24 – vs. GCI, 1/17, 23 – vs. FHCI, 2/17, 23 – vs. KCI, 12/8, 22 – vs. JHSS, 12/20

MALCOLM PIAZZA: (6’7” P) (Waterloo)

Malcolm is a big guy who plays a tough game in the paint. He will take a charge while giving help – fearlessly. He can bump with the other teams big man and fight for position. He’s developing a scoring touch under the basket and snatches up rebounds with thebest of them. Malcolm played, and started,  for the Waterloo Collegiate team that had a trip to Quad “A” OFSSAA this March.

From HOOPLA.COM: “Up front, teams are going to be hard pressed to deal with the towering trio of fourth year forwards Jacob Ranton (6’7”), Dani Elgadi (6’6”) and Malcolm Piazza (6’7”) who are all drawing attention from CIS coaches.”

Looks like Malcolm will be playing at York in the near future.

JOSH JOHNSON (6’1” PG) (Norfolk County)

No need to introduce you to Josh. You know him well.

Josh is likely going to Brock next year and has worked out for Coach Rootes, attended a recruiting day there and has been viewed by the coaching staff. They told him they are definitely interested in him playing there as they will turn over their entire team after next season. (5 seniors done this year – 5 next year)

He is in constant contact with Coach Rootes and just completed a recruiting questionnaire before the March Break. He’ll continue workouts there in April.

Josh has been accepted for admission at both Brock and Guelph, the two teams he has worked out for. He’s waiting to hear from Western and Laurier.

So, there they are –your 2012-2013 U19 Wildhawks – a very talented team, indeed.

Here’s a couple of JJ highlight videos:



Josh Basketball Blog: 2013 #2    WHY IS JJ SO MOTIVATED?

I’d like to explore what motivates Josh to become the best that he can be in basketball? Who or what gives him these lofty goals he works so hard to attain?

Stated simply, it’s the players he plays with and against that drive his engine to succeed!

Here are several examples detailing exactly what I mean.


We dragged Josh all over the place following our other two children in basketball. First off, it was Matt that he emulated when he was a toddler. Matt played for a very good Delhi Raider team that went off to OFSSAA. He’d bring his little ball and dribble and shoot between quarters, trying to be just like his big brother. He’d also shoot baskets in to a pail that I cut the bottom out of and hung in the toy room.jj4

Then as Sherrie and I spent 7 years Coaching Meghan on our Norfolk Net Rep Team, he was our extra player in practice drills and defensive shells, always challenging his Point Guard sister in one on one situations. All of that extra practice and court time surely paid off for him.

He was born into a basketball family and could dribble behind his back when he was 6. He wanted to play basketball like his big brother and sister. You might say he was born into the game.


Paul was a teammate that Josh began playing rep ball with in his Norfolk Net days. Being two years younger, Josh looked up to Paul and copy-catted his every move.

You see, Paul is one of the best point guards Norfolk has ever produced. He had such great court vision and a quick first step that had him blowing to the basket with ease. He made his team better with his pinpoint passing and he often carried the entire team on his back in close games. Waterford High School had some great runs at OFSSAA “A” under Paul’s leadership.

I remember when Josh was 7 and Paul was 9; Paul often tied Josh’s shoes on the court when they came undone.

Then, years later, when Josh was playing his first year of senior ball at HT, Paul and Josh went head to head in a season long battle. I remember the game in Waterford when Josh crashed into Paul as he did a layup, and the two of them lay crumpled on the floor. Block or charge? I don’t remember. All I know is that it was an all-out battle tip off to final buzzer. It was a great contest between two very good point guards. I believe both of them put up 20+ points in that game.

Josh aimed high when he pushed himself to be like Paul.


Josh was in Grade 8 when the CWOSSAA AAA Championships came to Simcoe High School for a two year run. At that tournament he was introduced to Bryson Johnson, a Point Guard from Pictou, Nova Scotia who played for Dave McNeil’s St. David’s High School (Waterloo).

Josh was enthralled with the skill Bryson showed on the court and his amazing three point shooting accuracy. He also found out that Dave McNeil was the head of Waterloo Wildhawk basketball and that Bryson also played on the Wildhawk OBA/AAU team.

It was about that time that Josh said, “I want to play for the Waterloo Wildhawks!” with a be-like Bryson kind of motivation.

That year, Doug Ranton, a Coach for the Tri-County BDP team also had said, “Why don’t you come up and play for the Wildhawks?” You see, Josh was the last cut on his BDP team that spring. (Doug is the father of Jacob, a teammate of Josh on the current Wildhawk team) How ironic is that?

We weren’t prepared to make that kind of commitment at that time but I did sign Josh up for the Elite Laurier High School Camp and the Wildhawk Point Guard Camp that spring. We made about 6 trips to Waterloo in a two week period that June.

Bryson Johnson was Josh’s coach at that Wildhawk camp adding to Josh’s motivation to-be-like Bryson. Seeing Josh’s skill, Dave McNeil invited Josh to his Invitation Only Elite high School Camp that summer. Josh has gone to that camp three years in succession now. Josh also played MDP at Humber College that summer, playing for the Toronto West Team, no less.

The rest is history. He became a Wildhawk the fall following these involvements and will play for them again for his third and final year next spring and summer (U19 OBA/AAU).

Incidentally, we just went to Niagara University to watch Bryson Johnson, a senior, play for Bucknell State in NCAA D1 action. Bryson is one of the top three point shooters in NCAA basketball, the team’s second leading scorer and captain of his team. Bucknell is hoping to win the Patriot League and get back to the March Madness Tournament this year. They’ve started the season 5-1 with victories over Purdue, New Mexico State, Niagara, West Alabama and George Mason. Last year in the NIT they upset Arizona in the first round.

Bryson Johnson became Josh’s raise-the- bar influence and got him motivated to take his game to the next level and go on to play Wildhawk ball –D1 OBA Basketball and AAU US Competition.


jj7Through four years of coaching our Norfolk Nets boys’ team, Andy Craig (Mohawk College Basketball) was our assistant coach. The 6’ 10” Andy was like Josh’s surrogate big brother. He pushed Josh and his teammates to be the best that they could be. A classic line from Andy was, “Put down your purses and play basketball!”

He and Josh would go one-on-one before and after practice, in a Mighty Mouse vs. the Giant kind of battle. One time Andy swatted one of Josh’s shots and hit me square in the face with the basketball. As blood trickled down my face, Andy pointed at another player and said, “It was him, Jim.”

Andy would not accept anything but Josh’s best effort and pushed him to be a leader. The calm leadership Josh shows on the court now has a lot to do with Andy’s coaching influence. And, Josh’s no fear style of play, has a lot to do with those David and Goliath battles with Andy.

FIFTH INFLUENCE: Playing on the same court with some very good basketball players.

The first of these would be his teammates with the Wildhawks, many of whom are being looked at by coaches stateside. He even said this weekend that he finds his High School defence on the opposing point guard much easier since he’s had to guard players like Javon Masters, Juwan Miller and Vedran Dimitrovic at Wildhawk practices and Wildhawk camps.

With the Wildhawks he’s played against some top notch players like Grant Mullins (Columbia University), Trey Lyles (Canadian National Junior Team, NIKE Elite League USA Player), Henry Tan (Vaughn SS point guard, OFSSAA Quad A Champs), Troy Reid Knight (CIA Bounce Nike Elite League Runners Up 2012, a Top Ranked Canadian HS player),Rohan Boney (Star Freshman at McMaster), most of the Quad A Champion Vaughn SS team in the York University Showcase Game and many more CIS and NCAA commits.

Competition drives him, as does his motivation to prove that he is capable of playing at such a high level. Don’t ever say to Josh “you can’t do that” because he will only work harder to prove you wrong.

So, in my mind, these are the influences that drive Josh to be the best that he can be. He has always been a student of the game and a student of what makes a player effective.1297365312726_ORIGINAL (2)

But, it also has been all of the good coaching he has received along the way; coaching that has given him the tool kit to reach his personal goals. Thankfully, Josh has always had coaches whose first priority was skill and personal development, ahead of a win-at-all-cost coaching style. He has greatly benefited from coaches who “teach” and don’t “preach”.

We’re looking forward to this final season of High School and REP OBA/AAU ball. He has set his goal at playing CIS basketball next year either at Brock, Guelph, Laurier or Western. We’ve just completed the QUAC online applications for each of these schools. (Kinesiology)

Believe me, it’s been a great ride so far.

 Why is Dave Smart the Smartest Coach is CIS Basketball?

After so many CIS Canadian Championships in the past 10 years it is obvious Dave Smart is doing something right with the Carleton Ravens Men’s basketball program. Cocky and abrasive, Dave casually announced at a basketball clinic I attended that, “Basically, I’m an asshole.”

Is Coach Dave proclaiming that “assholes” finish first?

To be sure, Coach Smart yells and screams prances and dances and often seems as if he is going to enter the court to challenge an official’s call. We’ve seen Dave’s stare of death and we’ve all heard him call out a player when that player’s performance is somewhat less than perfect. When I attended the JDP program at Humber College with my son in 2010, one of the head game officials there pointed Coach Smart out saying, “We hate refereeing in that guy’s game. He’s such an asshole!”

So, if that is Dave’s personal perception of himself as well as that of others, why do his players give him 200% effort? Why do so many players stick with Dave’s program? How can an “asshole” be so successful?

Dave Smart leads by example. I’ve heard his players tell how Dave puts so much time and effort into his coaching. During the OUAA playoffs one of them described how the players got after Dave to head home and spend some time with his newborn child. This player added that. “We players are willing to sacrifice for Coach because he sacrifices for us.”

I believe his success with his players has a lot to do about winning championships, but more importantly it is about how Coach Smart approaches the game itself. Coach Smart coaches to win rather than accepting a style of coaching where the objective is “not to lose”. Consequently, his players respond to him and “play to win”, giving all that they have.

To a man, these players reject failure as an option. Coaching to win as opposed to coaching not to lose is a philosophy of life just not a requirement for basketball success.

Here’s how one life coach describes this approach. When you’re playing not to lose, the best you can hope for is “not losing.” There is no way to win when you’re playing not to lose. When you’re playing to win, there is no such thing as “losing”; the worst that can happen is that you keep playing. Playing “not to lose” is tentative, static and full of worry and doubt. Innovation and risk taking are minimized because doing so might make the team lose.

Coaches and players dwell on the negative and take their mistakes to heart, creating fear and apprehension in their game. Players think too much in this approach, worrying that they might make a mistake and ultimately they leave their “A” game behind.

Playing “not to lose” creates fear, encourages negativity and in the worst case scenario – promotes blame and excuses. Some have described this approach to the game as a “Loss Aversion Strategy”. We’re going to do everything in our power not to lose the game. We won’t take chances; we’ll stick with the so-called starters, and we’ll take a conservative approach to game strategy. Heck, we might even overlook the player that “freelances” if that what it takes NOT TO LOSE. Putting team play aside we might even allow the “Star” player to take over the game. Oh, and you guys at the end of the bench; enjoy the show, because you ain’t about to become part of it.

The best example I could find of the “playing to win” strategy involved Steve Spurrier and the Florida State football team he took over in 1990. This was not a great team but they played in a Division where most of the other teams adopted a loss aversion strategy. Simply stated, “He brought charisma, team rapport and new player talent, but his most important move was to identify a weak spot in the strategy employed by his opponents; the aversion of loss strategy. Rather than focusing on maximizing their gains, the opponents concentrated on avoiding losses.”

Spurrier introduced what he called the “Fun-n-Gun” approach – the Gators passed more often, took more chances, played more aggressively and tried to score more touchdowns. The “Fun-n-Gun” approach unearthed two hidden forces or sways.

1. Spurrier gained an advantage because the other coaches were focused on trying to avoid a potential loss

2. The competing coaches also fell victim to another sway called commitment: – They were so committed to continuing down the road they had always walked that it was virtually impossible for them to take a different path – it made them unable to react to Spurrier’s strategy.

I believe that, in a lot of respects, this is what Coach Smart does with his team –minus, of course, the observable “fun”. For Dave’s players, the fun is in the winning of championships. For Dave, being innovative, taking chances and demanding a winning attitude are part and parcel of his team’s success. Dave Smart “demands” perfection because he expects “perfection” from himself.

His players are given definitive expectations, they play as a team even though they have star players and it’s the name on the front, not the name on the back that motivates that effort. It’s an all-for-one and one-for-all approach. Dave’s players play hard for every second of their floor time.


Because each of them know they will play in the game and each of them know they will get rest when it’s required. When watching the Ravens play it’s like watching hockey shifts. Players play hard all the time for their entire “shift”. No one paces themselves and no one floats.

Watch a Carleton game and it’s none stop frenetic action. The Raven players outwork their opposition for the entire game. When their opponent “fades”, Carleton pours it on. Look at the CIS website and you’ll notice this in Carleton’s team stats. Ten of Carleton’s players average 10 minutes-plus playing time per game. The other three players average 8 minutes. Carleton’s main players average just over half of a game playing time.

Look at this chart and note the names. P

layer Minutes Per Game Avr.

Thompson 23 minutes/g Manigat 23 minutes/g Hobin 19 minutes/g Phil Scrubb 23 minutes/6 Tyson Hinz 22 minutes/g That’s in a 40 minute game. With 200 (5X40 min) minutes to allot in a game,

Coach Smart gives his main players 110 minutes, leaving 90 minutes for his other 8 players. No wonder they play hard – no one sits on this team. Everyone is given the chance to contribute.

No wonder players want to play for the Carleton Ravens.

Why not?

Everyone contributes to the game. Everyone feels as if they are part of the “team”. Every on “sees” the floor. Try and find scoring stats on the Carleton Website and you won’t find them.

Individual stats mean nothing to Coach Dave, only the “W’s” and team effort and execution are important. Dave Smart’s teams play to win not to showcase individuals or create basketball stars. Some might say, “Well, Carleton has all the good players, and that’s why they all play?”

I challenge you to look the Raven’s roster and the roster of other CIS teams. You’ll find that many of the “name” players – play for and have been recruited by other CIS teams. Most of the “big-name” recruits are not heading to Carleton.

Dave Smart creates great players that buy into his approach and play a “team” game. That is why he is successful. His players are unselfish, seek that extra pass and play with discipline and commitment. Smart coaches to win just as his players play to win.

Smart is innovative, he takes chances and coaches to get the best from everyone under his charge. When I watch High School basketball, OBA rep and AAU games I wish these coaches could follow Coach Smart’s lead. Too often I see the star player getting all the minutes, teams sacrificing a technically sound offense for individual play, freelancing by players who wouldn’t know “team” from “me, myself and I”, and, most disconcerting, players that could be challenged and developed rotting on the bench.

Coaches are so into “not losing” that they forget that everyone “wins” when a team approach is emphasized and all players are committed and involved. Instead of showcasing players these coaches should be showcasing their team.

Dave Smart understands this, totally and completely. He knows that, “When you’re playing to win, there is no such thing as ‘losing’.” And so, though many observers, critics and, at times, even Raven players may view Dave Smart as an “asshole”, I say that “asshole” is a genius. Sly as a fox and as innovative as any coach in Canada, Dave Smart “coaches to win” and believe me, he and his players have the record to prove it.

I sent this to Dave and here’s how he responded. A humble, Dave, I didn’t expect.

That’s a very kind description of a coach who tries to stay out of the way of his players as much as possible. If you would like to sit down and talk basketball some time, feel free to contact me Take care Good luck with everything Dave



The Difference Between Playing Time and Meaningful Playing Time


Elite Basketball

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

Quote by Michael Jordan

One of the most controversial and volatile issues for an elite basketball coach is managing floor time for players. There are so many pressures involved in making substitutions; the greatest of which just might be parent perception.

One can minimize a parent’s view and think that a parent is not being objective, but it goes without saying that the cost and commitment for these parents often drives the agenda. They also want the best for their child and probably feel that, if Johnny is good enough to be on the team, he is good enough to play.

We’d all agree that at an elite level equal playing time just isn’t practical given the highly competitive nature of games. In this atmosphere, coaches need to plan their rotations accordingly. Those same parents also put a lot of pressure toward winning and exposing their child to recruiters. This almost makes it a “lose-lose” situation for a coach because winning games and getting everyone playing time just might not be compatible.

Coaches that apply a “winning at all cost” or coaching “not to lose” style will have the most difficult time because winning is the only objective and the fear of losing drives their agenda.

You know the scene.

We’re going to do everything in our power not to lose the game. We won’t take chances; we’ll stick with the so-called starters, and we’ll take a conservative approach to game strategy. Heck, we might even overlook the player that “freelances” if that what it takes NOT TO LOSE. Putting team play aside we might even allow the “Star” player to take over the game. Oh, and you guys at the end of the bench; enjoy the show, because you ain’t about to become part of it. But wear those medals proudly.

Many have called this coaching focus a “Loss Aversion Strategy”; a model where you likely find a lot of players riding the bench and seeing little or no playing time. “I can’t play Johnny because he’ll screw up and we’ll lose the game.”

Playing and coaching “not to lose” means a coach bases all of his/her decisions on not losing the game. Usually in this scenario there is no room for playing time much beyond the starters and a few others.

Here are two statements a coach offered to me after a tournament.

“I needed to do everything I could to secure victories” and “When we have a chance to win, I need to do everything I can, to do so – right, wrong or indifferent.”

You be the judge about how playing time might have been handled.

Both Canada’s Long Term Development Model and the Positive Coaching Alliance came about because kids were dropping out of sport at an earlier age. The prime reason for this drop off was the winning at all cost mentality and the adult directed mindset focused on kids. The guidelines stated in both instances are there to promote a lifelong love of the game and an active lifestyle into adulthood. It’s all about honoring the game and developing the person. It’s all about participating and making the athlete the first priority. And, it’s about winning and developing elite athletes to be the best that they can be.

The LTAD model for Canada emphatically states that: “The competition system interferes with athletic development.” I think this is what we have here –the winning at all cost mentality over meeting the needs of every single athlete on this team. This is a dark place as far as I’m concerned.

In my view, there is a big difference between “playing time” and “meaningful playing time”. There also is a huge difference between equal playing time models and coaching to manage the score or the result.

Nevertheless, I believe that players on a basketball team of from 10 to12 can receive meaningful minutes in every game, especially on REP and AAU teams, because these teams usually have a bench loaded with talent.

All that is needed is coaches who apply a “playing to win” style in their coaching methods and drop that “at all cost” and “not to lose” focus.

I can give you two examples from very high profile and successful basketball programs where giving meaningful minutes to all the players works. I’m speaking about Carleton’s, Dave Smart, and Duke’s Coach K.

Dave Smart is also one of the most despised coaches because of his arrogance and self-admitted “asshole” approach to coaching. Yet his players love him, play hard and sacrifice their personal goals for the good of the Raven team.

Why, because, Dave Smart plays to “win” and never coaches “not to lose”. All of his players are treated equally, by both getting his wrath and his positive support. They play hard for him because every player on his team gets meaningful minutes. That’s with 13 players on his roster.

Look at the floor time of the Carlton team and you will see that 10 players get more than 10 minutes playing time, three others get 8. Tyson Hinz and Phil Scrubb, two of the best players in Canada, average 23 minutes of playing time in a 40 minute game.

None of the starters get more than that; 23 out of 40 minutes!!!! Not one of them.

Every single player on that team can feel that they contributed to the championship. Indeed, nobody sits; nobody gets garbage time on the Carleton Ravens. They have won 8 CIS titles in the past 10 years.

Now let’s look at Duke’s Coach K.

Coach K is an example of a coach that subs deep into his bench and uses most of his players?

9 of 11 Duke Players get more than 10 minutes each and every game, only Curry and Rivers get more than 30.0.

Curry actually gets 10 minutes on the bench every game, believe it or not. That’s one quarter of the game that he sits. There is no star system when you play for Coach K.

In both examples someone might say, “Well these coaches have a lot of good players. No wonder they can play them all.” I’d say that most rep teams and AAU teams have a lot of good players, too. So, why wouldn’t this work for them?

I say it can be done and should be done.

The Positive Coaching Alliance believes in double goal coaching where winning can be emphasized but the player’s development as a person is just as important. Double goal coaching promotes winning with dignity, class, and respect, where you honor the game and put player development first. The PCA came up with an alternate list of team goals. I wonder if coaching to “win at all cost” or coaching “not to lose” would bring about these outcomes.



Every athlete will love the sport at least as much and the end of the season as the beginning.

Every athlete’s skill and tactical knowledge of the sport will improve.

Every athlete will get a chance to test himself in game situations.

Every athlete will want to play again next year.

The parents will enjoy the season as much as the athletes.

Some clubs actually legislate playing time guidelines, in an obvious attempt to curb this winning at all cost style of coaching. Plainly stated the Guelph CYO club says: Simply put, if you are good enough to make the team, you are good enough to play!”

They give more detailed guidelines that even apply to high school aged players.

“Guelph CYO Knights coaches will do their best to have all athletes play almost equally for every quarter of the game; however, in order to continue sharing almost equal playing time, the athlete must attend all practices and display an appropriate amount of effort at practice and during games. If these conditions are not met to the satisfaction of the coaching staff, a reduction in playing time is possible. Also, during the Provincial Championships, the entire second half is at the coach’s discretion.”

Another Club has followed suit with these expectations. The Dundas’ Dynamo girl’s program requests that coaches and players follow these guidelines for substitutions. Again, they are promoting meaningful playing time for all players and are trying to discourage the win at all cost model.

“All players will play equally if all players attend practices, attitude is positive and the skill levels are the same. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some players are stronger than others, and because of this we at Dynamo have tried to create a balance between equal play and win at all costs philosophy.

This is not equal playing time but the goal, nonetheless, is to give everyone meaningful playing time.

Brian McCormick, Director of Playmakers Basketball Development says it best when he observes, “If development is the coach’s goal, every player should receive an opportunity to play meaningful minutes, provided that the player earns the minutes during practice through his effort and concentration. There is no reason to punish a player for not being good enough; that’s why he is playing: to improve!”

I would add that if development is not one of the coaches’ main goals then perhaps “winning” is.

McCormick goes on to give four good reasons why everyone on the team must get meaningful minutes.

  1. Development. If you have12 players on the team and if you used a nine-man rotation, three players would have seen little to no playing time. During the season, the gap between the nine and the three would widen. (I would add that many teams have a six or seven player rotation, which makes the situation even worse.)
  2. Inconsistency. You never know who will perform well in any given game. With 12 players ready to play, you have a better chance that someone would be on their game. Sometimes players who play the majority of the minutes at the end of the season are not the same as those who played at the beginning of the season.
  3. Practice Intensity. Because every player receives meaningful minutes, every player is engaged in practice. Because every player plays, each player continues to improve throughout the season, meaning more balance is achieved. In the win at all cost models, as a season progresses, the starters improve more than the bench and the disparity between the two grow bigger.
  4. Team Morale. Giving meaningful minutes to everyone means you won’t create any of the usual petty jealousy that happens when some players sit on the bench and others play all the time. You won’t have the bench players feel they deserve more time, because they are getting meaningful minutes. Instead, players support each other. Furthermore, you are more likely to have parents that are supportive and appreciative of your efforts.

McCormick nails it when he concludes, “How is the worst player supposed to have a chance if everything is slanted to favor the best players? The coach creates the self-fulfilling prophesy: he expects more and more from the favored players and less and less from the benchwarmer. Often, the difference between best and worst is a small gap at the beginning of the season, but widens through the season because of the opportunities afforded the chosen players.”

Former professional player, renowned coach and clinician Bob Bigalow puts it this way, “Simply put, playing time is the number one reason children play sports, and by a wide margin. They sign up to play! They don’t sign up to watch other kids play, they don’t sign up to watch adults coach, and they don’t sign up to watch referees ref.”

He goes on to say, “I constantly remind coaches that if playing their less-developed players ends up costing them the game, and if that hurts them too much, they should get out of coaching youth athletes and do something else.”

The very worst case scenario is the coach that throws a few players out once a game to give the appearance that he/she plays all of the players. This is what most coaches and fans would call giving out “garbage time. “ The visual of that type of substitution is very disturbing.

Coach Bigalow recognizes the disrespect this shows to a player when he says, “If you think you’re doing your players a favor, especially your weaker kids, by playing them just a few minutes in the game, and you’re also patting yourself on the backing by saying, “Hey I finally got everyone in the game,” you are actually doing those kids a great disservice. A few minutes is simply a cameo appearance that actually does almost nothing for the child to help him or her learn how to play basketball.”

Often this type of subbing sets the players up for failure because they might overplay those minutes and makes mistakes. After all, they know this is their one shift in the game, their big opportunity.

Coach Bigalow adds, “. . . the coach will be saying “See, I proved it, that kid can’t do anything.” Yes the coach put the kid in for just 2, 3, 4 or 5 minutes, and he/she knew you were going to put him/her in for just that little time, and got nervous, and messed up.”

It surely makes it easy for the coach to say, “Hey, that’s why I don’t play this kid”. Really, the only thing these cameo minutes promote is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Realistically, all players need meaningful and quality minutes to better their game and strengthen a team. Marginalizing a player on a team is outright wrong.

I’ll give you few other reasons why providing your entire team meaningful minutes is a wise coaching strategy and much better for your players on the whole.

  1. Injuries/Absences: You encounter injuries almost every game, some that might require a player to miss some contests. At other times players might be absent for any number of reasons. Having a deep bench with floor time experience will make your job so much easier.
  2. Foul Trouble: Suppose your team has a number of players in foul trouble, some of whom foul out. You might not be quite so concerned when even your 12th man has the confidence gleaned from meaningful minutes.
  3. Discipline: Occasionally a star/skilled player may require disciplinary action. You may want him/her to sit. Knowing you have bench strength makes this much easier.
  4. Team Building: When everyone is playing regular minutes players tend to support one another more fully. They each can take ownership for the responsibility for floor times, giving you far more match up options.
  5. Avoiding the Star Syndrome: Relying on a few players to get you those wins creates a Star Syndrome Atmosphere. This can create all kinds of problems for you in terms of team dynamics. Suddenly you may find that you have a team of “haves” and “have nots” which can create conflict and derision.
  6. Depth: The deepest teams win championships because you are only a strong as your twelfth man.
  7. Common Sense: If a player is on your team shouldn’t they be playing? Why not put the “play” in every player?
  8. Valued Contribution: When everyone plays meaningful minutes every one feels that they are making a contribution. There is nothing more positive than that.
  9. Development: By developing every player on your team you develop a broader base of basketball talent in your community.
  10. Developing Roll Players: Using every player and giving them meaningful floor time allows you to identify particular skills that translate into roll player applications. (“The Digger”- “The defender” -“The Specialist” etc.) You can imagine the possibilities because now you can apply these roll players using situational tactics. In doing so, you have developed your team’s overall diversity. A team with diversity can match up more completely with other teams.
  11. Late Bloomers: In my experience not all players develop at the same rate. That kid you sit could be a late bloomer and actually turn out to be one of your better players. Didn’t Michael Jordan get cut in his first high school tryout?
  12. Recruiters: Recruiters come to see players play. They come to evaluate skill. They really don’t care how well you coached or whether you won the game. So, let all the players play.

For all of the reasons stated and for the good of the game, I feel this goal of playing all players on a basketball team and allotting meaningful minutes to everyone is of prime importance in Canada.

After visiting the US and attending AAU basketball tournaments there, it was obvious how many more good players are playing basketball and how many good teams are playing stateside. The American system is a “cream-rises-to-the top model”; the sheer numbers of players playing basketball provides significant numbers at the top of their pyramid.

The American system honors athleticism, dominance and individuality.

Canada, having one tenth of the population, can’t possibly get similar results (numbers) from the top of our hierarchy. We must concentrate on developing more players from our base, if we are to continue to emerge as a basketball power in the North America and the world.

Raptor commentator, Eric Smith, said it best during his interview on the FAN590 on April 3, 2012. Paraphrasing Eric’s words, he said that the US. System showcases athletic skill and downplays fundamentals, tactics and team play. He says that’s why so many Rep/AAU teams emphasize winning at all cost approaches in their showcase style of basketball. The US system creates dynamic athletic players as opposed to fundamental team players.

On the very next day (April 4th,2012) former Raptor Coach, Sam Mitchell lamented that North American players lack the fundamental skill that European players all bring to the table. He mentioned the AAU’s emphasis on games and winning and the lack of focus on practice and skill development.

His personal analysis of Kentucky’s, Anthony Davis, was that this Phenom really only shows one good scoring move to the basket.

Jack Armstrong (former Niagara U. Coach) suggested that College recruiters are finding it more difficult to find point guards that can actually run an offense or who might be “pass-first” players who create for others.  Too many young point guards are athletic, look for themselves first, freelancers.

I believe Ontario is going “gung-ho” towards emulating that American model. I believe this is a step in the wrong direction.

That is why developing an entire team of basketball players (skill development/team play and meaningful minutes for all) is so very important if Canada is to continue to make inroads in the sport. If we can develop more than one or two stars per team, just imagine the impact. Isn’t that one of the reasons Basketball Canada has adopted the FIBA Model for basketball development?

Young European players are taught all of the skills –dribble, pass, shoot- from an early age. Players are not pigeon-holed into specific positions or skill sets. All players are exposed to all the skills of basketball.

Skill development is a focus even at the oldest age levels. The emphasis is towards developing the complete player with a full skill set who can play a team game at a high level. Those skills are challenged in competitive situations then they are further refined in practice.

What could be better than that?

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”

                                                               Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


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