The pivot has been a process for me over the last four plus years. The pivot started on a cool March 2014 morning when I was released from my duties as head coach at Kennesaw State University (KSU). I knew that we had come to this point, but the raw emotions of being told you were no longer good enough to lead your team was too much for me to bear.
The Atlanta Hawks Emory Healthcare practice facility was abuzz as the first clinic involving Coach Lloyd Pierce and staff was about to begin. It was a who’s who of local collegiate, high school men’s and women’s coaches and other VIP guests who were in attendance to learn more about the new Hawks staff that has been assembled.
The clinic kicked off with Coach Pierce congratulating Nicki Collen (Head Coach of the Atlanta Dream), Darius Taylor (Assistant Coach) and the team for their accomplishments in the 2018 season. After his remarks, Coach Pierce and staff divided the coaches and VIP’s into four groups to speak on offense, defense, player development and game management (analytics, metrics and film). Each station, sixteen minutes in length, allowed for an in-depth look at the responsibilities that each staff will have in the upcoming season. The coaching staff owned their roles and gave all of us an understanding of how it all ties together in helping to prepare the young Hawks team for training camp in a couple of weeks.
I was most impressed with how the players interacted and engaged in the different segments. It was great to see former college standouts such as Alex Poythress and Thomas Robinson discuss the necessity of understanding plays and making proper reads. It was great to see exactly how to read defenses in certain situations to make the correct decisions in late clock situations.
Finally, as the coaches and VIP’s all reconvened for the final Q&A, the words “Sweat Equity” and “Trust” continued to be the theme echoed by Coach Pierce and staff. With a young team, you have to be willing to get on the court and put the work in with them. Whether its with the defense helping to understand footwork and positioning, or the offense understanding the reads of the defense. All of this happens through a commitment of Sweat Equity and Trust. The Sweat Equity and Trust that has developed since Coach Pierce’s hiring in May, will hopefully be evident through the continued development of this young team on and off the court. As fans, we look forward to seeing all of this come together as training camp kicks off in a couple of weeks.
On Thursday morning in Alpharetta, Georgia, I walked into Milton High School hearing the familiar sounds of balls bouncing, shots swishing through the nets, and the monotonous sound of the shooting machine launching balls at timed intervals, to help players improve their individual games. These sounds brought back memories of my days as a Head Coach and Division I assistant and the time invested in making sure we were evaluating the right young men to be a part of our program not just for four years, but a LIFETIME.
After my introduction to the group by Coach Allen Whitehart, who created Life After Basketball (LAB) Academy, I proceeded to talk about my background and to discuss the three types of players that are in most, if not, all locker rooms.
The first is Uncommitted. These players, in my opinion, are distractions. They find a way to disrupt and downplay the significance of everything going on in your program. These players are chemistry killers and have a way of chipping away and destroying your culture. If these players are not identified and addressed immediately, by the leader, your tenure will be short-lived. In most cases, leaders see these players and ask them to leave or help them move on. If you gamble and keep an uncommitted player, you risk your culture in the locker room as well as your tenure as the leader.
The second is Interested. These players do exactly what you put down on paper or the board and rarely, if ever, do anything more than what is asked of them. These players can easily be swayed either way and can be a positive or a negative in your locker room as well. As a leader, you need to find these players and like the Uncommitted, you need to plan on whether to keep them or help them move on. In my experiences, most Interested players wanted to know that a leader and staff cared for them and wanted to make a mutual investment in the players overall development on and off the court.
The third is Committed. These players are always seeking, discovering, studying and developing their talents. They are always wanting to learn and find more ways to do everything possible to make themselves successful on and off the court. Committed players are actively seeking out other players to help them be successful. Finally, the Committed players protect the culture and values in the locker room, lead by example and help to be a catalyst in championship programs.
As you prepare for the upcoming season, I hope you have already determined which types of players are a part of your program. If so, you are well on your way to creating the team, program and culture that you desire to coach.
I had a chance to spend the day watching Grassroots United Elite Wings workout at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia on Saturday, August 18, 2018. The entire event was broadcast on www.theSUvTv.com. As a contributor of the Georgia Hoop Circle (@GAHoopCircle), we were able to see how the skills and the wills of players were put to the test through various drills and coaching moments during the event. Here are some of my observations from the event:
This picture was sent to me a few days ago when I was the guest of a former collegiate player, Mihai Raducanu. He is the owner of No Limit Performance Basketball, Inc outside Ontario, Canada. Numerous times Mihai invited me to come and spend time with him to see the work that his organization was doing with the young people in Ontario. He wanted to show me how the young people in the area are gravitating to the game of basketball. As I reflect on this experience, this picture has so many fond memories of the time spent engaging and teaching young people the fundamentals and nuances of the game. More importantly, it allowed me to continue my pursuit of helping young men and women find the passion inside of them.
As the press conference got started today, I looked at the body language and eye movement of the new Atlanta Hawks Head Coach. I looked to see if he would be overwhelmed by the moment, or just take it all in stride. The latter took place and it seemed as if Coach Lloyd Pierce has been patiently waiting for this moment for years.
This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration
By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden
Lewis Preston, Financial Solutions Consultant for ABM Industries
Lewis Preston has been coaching collegiate basketball for more than 17 years, but it wasn’t until he transitioned out of basketball that he realized how much of an impact the game had on his life. His life in basketball started as a senior in high school at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, Virginia. The new coach, Ed Holstrom, spotted Lewis on the marching band practice field and asked him to try out. Lewis continued his playing career at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). After graduating from VMI with a degree in history, Lewis played professional basketball overseas for four years. He played in Luxembourg, Ireland and Finland.
Lewis Preston is in his sixth year as an assistant coach at Notre Dame and his eighth in the collegiate ranks. Since joining the Irish staff, he has worked with the Irish post players and been an instrumental part of the development in this area. Preston also is a key part of Notre Dame’s national recruiting efforts.
Preston has had the opportunity to work with two former players currently in the NBA –Troy Murphy (Golden State Warriors) and Ryan Humphrey (Memphis Grizzlies). Both were first-round draft picks in back-to-back seasons as Murphy was the 14th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, while Humphrey was a 19th selection in 2002. Under his guidance, current junior Torin Francis has led the Irish in rebounding in successive seasons and been a member of the BIG EAST all-rookie team in 2003 and honorable mention all-conference team in 2004.
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