Monday, November 29, 2010

Exclusive Q&A with coach Eric Musselman: from the NBA to the Dominican Republic NT, now in the D-League with the Reno Bighorns! "In 7th grade, I knew I wanted to be a basketball coach"

Eric Musselman (born November 19, 1964 in Ashland, Ohio) is the head coach of the Reno Bighorns in the NBA Development League. The son of legendary coach Bill Musselman, Eric is the former head coach of the NBA's Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. He was a head coach in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) before becoming an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies. At the 2010 Men's Centro Basketball Championship in July 2010, FIBA America's top regional tournament, Musselman guided the Dominican Republic team to the Gold Medal game, losing to Puerto Rico 89-80. By finishing second, the Dominican Republic qualifies for the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship, a qualifying tournament for the FIBA World Championships and the Olympic Games.

Coach, when did you first know what you wanted to do for a career? You grew up in a basketball family, so how much was your Dad Bill influential and important in your decision?

In 7th grade, I knew I wanted to be a basketball coach. I always idolized my dad growing up I would travel with him on road trips and when most kids were watching cartoons and eating cereal I was watching game tape with my dad.

You are young but you have had great experiences in the NBA as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings and now you are coaching the Reno Bighorns in the NBA Development League. But you also know very well the international basketball being the head coach of the Dominican Republic National team. Can you tell our readers what are the musts for such a successful career?

I’ve been very lucky at a young age to be getting different coaching opportunities. As a coach you always try to get better and improve and learn from your past mistakes. With each year experience you should become a better coach.

You've been here with the Reno Bighorns for a few weeks, what are your impressions of the team and the level of the League?

We love our team and our coaching staff. The coaching staff here at Reno is as good as any NBA staff I’ve been with. As far as the players go, the attitude, energy, effort and enthusiasm they bring on a daily basis has been a real pleasure to coach. The level of talent in the D-League is the 2nd best in the world outside the NBA.

Speaking of this new group, what do you see as some of their strengths, some of their potential?

Our starting 5 has great length and size, we need to continue to develop as individual players and as a team. We feel like we have 4 to 5 players that have the potential to get called up this year and another 3 players with experience at some point should be in the NBA at some point in their career.

You know international basketball. How do you hope to translate your experiences to the squad?

Number one the new goaltending rule has helped us as we have used it in practice. Something we also did with the Dominican Republic national team.

Eric, in the NBA there are more and more non-American players and some of them are big-time players. Do you think American coaches can learn from the top European colleagues?

American coaches can learn a lot from some of their top European colleagues. For instance when I was in the Dominican Republic, a lot of Dominican Republic coaches helped implement things for our system. I have great respect for the professional coaches coaching outside the NBA.

Switching to off the court, what do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to spend time with my family with my two sons Michael and Matt, daughter Mariah, and my wife Danyelle. The last few years I have been able to coach and work with my sons individually and I loved being able to do that.

Coach, we just want to know what's your challenge for the future? NBA or a Euroleague organization?

I’m very happy coaching in the NBDL. I have always had interest in coaching in Europe and maybe if the right opportunity will present itself in the future. In the NBA, they are the hardest jobs to come by and the NBA is where everybody in the NBDL strives to get to whether it is players, coaches and referees.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Q&A with Kapfenberg Bulls swingman LeVonn Jordan: pushing my game to the next level

LeVonn Jordan is a 6-5 athletic forward/guard with an incredible wingspan and many skills and abilities. He led Elon University his senior year (2006/2007) in virtually every category and now, after a couple of seasons in Spain and Japan, is a valuable piece of Austrian powerhouse Kapfenberg Bulls' roster (ABL Austrian Bundesliga). LeVonn talked to Basketball Telegraph columnist Dr FingerRoll about his career so far and the future.

LeVonn, you were born and raised in a State, North Carolina, where your family name has a special meaning. Was MJ your basketball role model while growing up? And who were the other players you looked up to back in the days?

Yeah I was very big MJ fan during the Bulls 1st 3peat, but after he retired for the 1st time I didn’t fully understand the circumstances around his retirement so I fell out of favor with him, I became a fan of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. But as I got older Jordan still remained my favorite player.

Speaking about your early years as a baller, tell our readers how and when you fell in love with the game.

My mom tells me I’ve always had a love for basketball, which probably came from her because she played in High School and College before having to stop due to reoccurring knee injuries. As a little kid I always had baskets in the house both upstairs and downstairs, I would always watch games and try to do what I saw on tv.

When did you first realize that basketball was going to be more than just a game for you?

I would say leaving middle school and entering high school, it was just something about the game of basketball I couldn’t resist and I wanted to take it further than anybody expected me to.

After Elon University in NC what were your expectations? And can you tell us how did you end up playing in Spain for La Rioja, your first experience overseas? Was it a tough decision to make? Were there other opportunities and what made you decide for Spain?

Of course most players that play on the collegiate level have ambitions of playing in the NBA, myself included, but I always knew if I wasn’t able to make it to the League I’d play overseas. I made the transition from Elon to Spain with the help of an agent, who I signed with after I graduated from college. The decision to go to Spain wasn’t tough, but the experience of being that far from home was tough. The 1st offer I received was from a Spanish club and I didn’t hesitate in accepting.

Was it difficult to adapt from College ball to European style of play and can you tell us the aspects, both on and off the court, that you had to adapt to?

Yes it was a struggle adapting to the European style of play and culture. Looking back I wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be, with that said I struggled on and off the court. It was very hard to focus on basketball because I spent so much time and energy missing home.

After the year in Spain you played in Japan in the BJ-League and this year you're playing in Austria. It's like two different worlds. Again, can you make a comparison between Japanese basketball and European one and which is the one that fits your style of play the most and why?

Yeah two very different styles of play, in Japan its more of a up and down game, as opposed to here in Europe where you see more half court offense. I’ve always been a good player in the open court so the Japanese style of play suited me, but as I’ve gotten older my game has grown and I’m becoming a more well rounded player. So my 1st year out in Spain I really struggled because I rarely got out in transition and wasn’t able to be effective in the half court.

At 25 you are still learning the game or do you feel you're ready to take your game to the next level?

I think I’m very close to showing a lot people how well I can play, I actually sat out all last year. That was a good and bad thing because I hated not playing but I had a year to prepare myself to comeback stronger than ever. But I think within the next couple of years I’ll be playing at a very high level.

Tell us a bit about yourself, who's LeVonn Jordan off the court? What do you do during the season in places like Japan or Austria and how's your summer like when you're at home.

I’m pretty low key off the court, while im overseas I usually just play xbox, watch movies, and talk too family and friends on skype. When we have off days I usually try to get out and explore, just viewing the culture and scenery. Summers are usually hectic because you're gone for so long you wanna get as much as possible done before it's time to head back cross the water. So I try to spend time with my mom and grandmother and just enjoying being home.

Thank you so much, LeVonn and best of luck for you and your season with the Bulls!

Monday, November 22, 2010

University of Dayton Head Coach Brian Gregory is the rising star in the NCAA. He has a motto: "What does not kill me, makes me stronger!"

Brian Gregory (born December 15, 1966 in Mount Prospect, Illinois) is the Head coach of the University of Dayton. He was an assistant at Michigan State before coaching the Dayton Flyers. He capped off the 2009-2010 season by leading the Flyers to the NIT Trophy over North Carolina 79-68 at Madison Square Garden. The University of Dayton took home their first title in 42 years. Gregory is the rising coach in the NCAA and his system is pretty energetic and needs great athletes. They are furious and intense.

Coach Brian Gregory: "There is no ceiling"

University of Dayton: Lab for Ironmen

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ricky Rubio: is the Spanish sensation the new Pete "Pistol" Maravich? The Minnesota Timberwolves are waiting for his coming...

Tom Farrey reports for ESPN's Outside The Lines on Ricky Rubio, the #5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft at age 18. Now at age 20, he has not played an NBA game, raising questions as to whether he really is a future NBA star.
Seeing the court like the great ones Rubio's ability to process thousands of data points make him basketball "genius".
... but... Ricky Rubio can't jump high, doesn't move fast and isn't especially tall. His shot is mechanical, and his scoring stats remain underwhelming - usually just a few points a game for his Spanish professional and National teams. But he possesses one talent in abundance that gives him a chance to one day make a splash, and perhaps star, in the NBA. Then? Next Maravich or just an average overrated pick of the Draft by the Timberwolves?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Exclusive interview with Serbian forward Milan Vucicevic, first european ever to play for The Philippines National team in the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Cup!

Milan Vucicevic is a 25 years old power forward.
The 6-10 serbian native grew up in the famous basketball school of Kraljevo (the same youth program of Vlade Divac) and was teammate with the NBA center Nenad Krstic. Milan has collected dozens of caps for the Serbia Cadet and Junior National teams. Vucicevic has played in Poland (Unia Tarnow), Ukraine (BC Budivelnik Kiev) and Greece (Age Halkidas) in Europe, in Cyprus (AEK Larnaca) before being a legit pioneer in the Middle East and Asia: Lebanon, Iran (Bond Shiraz), Oman (Al Nizwa), Qatar (Al Sadd) some of the countries where Milan signed before the last stop in Syria with Al Karameh team.
In 2010 he also played first european ever with Smart Gilas, the National team of Philippines in the 21st FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Doha, Qatar.

Hey Milan, your story is pretty interesting. As a product of the serbian basketball school you decided early to play abroad. Tell us a little bit about you and your career so far. We are very curious about your experiences: maybe you are the only european ever who played for an asian National team (the Philippines).

As a young player I had a chance to go and play abroad. I love challenges so I took the opportunity and left Serbia very early. After Serbia I played in Poland, Greece, Ukraine... after few years in Europe I was offered to play in Asia. It was an intriguing chance for me to discover new basketball world and start to write the second chapter of my basketball story. From my first contact with Middle East and Asian I was fascinated with different lifestyle, culture, people and history so I never regretted that decision. I played on Arabic Club Championship in Beirut, Lebanon so that was my first and successful exposure in Middle East. Next year I went to Iran and played Iranian Superleague which is one of the strongest in Asia. After Iran I had many offers so I continued in Qatar. I got a call last spring from Rajko Toroman, the head coach of Smart Gilas, the development National team of Philippines to play the 21st Fiba Asia Champions Cup in May 2010 in Doha, Qatar. It was a great honor to be the first European ever to make the team and represent such an important Asian country in the strongest competition in Asia. Playing for Philippines and working with coach Rajko Toroman was an unbelievable experience for me. Currently I am in Syria and I'm really excited to play this league.

You have played in so many countries, from Eastern Europe to Asia. We can say you are like a pioneer. What are the main differences of the game from these different areas? And we all know the serbian fans are crazy for basketball, what about the Middle-East and asian fans in general?

Playing basketball in all those countries and experienced different basketball and cultures made me the person I am today. I really think I am a better person and a player. I feel very  blessed and thankful for my basketball experiences. Lot of people lately are telling me the same thing like you that I am pioneer but I really don’t think about that so much. I’m focused on working hard, make fans happy and enjoy basketball. I'm a basketball player who's trying to get better and better, this is my challenge and my job. About your question and the differences between basketball here in Asia and Europe, we can say that the game here is more of motion offense kind of play, not so organized in a system like the euopean game. People here love and watch NBA games more than Euroleague basketball so coaches and teams prefer to play uptempo basketball, the game is very fast, more attractive. Maybe it's a bit more of  individual talents play and individual skills and athleticism of the players. I really love it. Basketball is growing fast in Asia, media are covering the games, so popularity is huge and fans are great. Fans are different than Europe but they support their team with big passion and what it's very nice is that you can see whole families come to the gyms. In the Phillipines basketball is like a religion, fans are fantastic like nowhere else in the world.

We can imagine you had to be flexible adjusting your lifestyle to the local cultures. Do you have funny stories about that?

Having my career brought me in so many countries, experiencing cultures and different mentalities and stuff attracted me since always so I look at it as a privilege to learn more about the world we live in. Adjusting is not always easy of course and there is lot of funny situations happening every time. People in Middle East and Asia are not as tall as in Europe so it’s always funny walking along the streets every day and you can just meet people asking you to take a picture with you and talk: it's amazing. Basketball players get lot of attention here and people are friendly and nice. Sometimes it’s funny when they keep on talking to you in foreign language even if you can’t understand them. There is always to adjuste your habits with food so when I go somewhere for the first time I stick to chicken and rice until I get to know food of that country. Culture and lifestyle in Middle East are different so it’s always good to do little research before you go to some of Arabic countries. If all people start to look at you in a weird way in the street or yell loud it’s a sign you are making fool of yourself or doing something wrong: so it's better stop it because you might finish in prison! You have to respect and know each culture, no doubt. Driving in Middle East is always ‘fun’ but I leave it to professionals because for people who are not from here it’s more of an extreme sport.

Switching to off the court, have a favourite music artist, group? Who is Milan Vucicevic in the everyday life?

In everyday life beside basketball I have interest in many different subjects. As my friends sometimes say I am a technology addict, I mean... I like to know what is happening in the world so I follow politics, economy, even the stocks market. I like to read about history but I can say music is my big passion. I grew up on my fathers LP’s of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who…so I got infected by guitar heors of the 70's hard rock. I can listen to different music but metal is my love and my favourite artists are Tool, In Flames, Slayer, Type O Negative just to name few. In the summer I travel alla around Europe for Music Festivals or see concerts of my favorite bands. Basketball is my life but off the court I think it’s good to have some hobbies and different interests... learn, read, meet people who are not involved in the basketball business. It helps me relax and keep focus and motivation for basketball court.

What's your next challenge as a player? Is Europe still an option?

I wanna win championship with my team in Syria, just push my team as far as we can go and lift our game to the next level. I’m oly 25 years old, I’m hungry for basketball and want to win every game. I wanna play as long as have fun and I like challenges. I’m pretty happy where I’m right now but Europe is always the option. I'm definitely open to come back, stronger than ever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Legendary Coach K outstanding Clinic: Attacking the Zone defense

Mike Krzyzewski is the men's college basketball coach of the Duke Blue Devils. He is also the head coach of the United States men's National basketball team, whom he led to a Gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
Nicknamed "Coach K", Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to 4 NCAA Championships, 11 Final Fours and several Conference titles. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame following the 2001 season.

Coach K teaches in this clip with unmatchable evidence the principles how to attack the Zone defense. Great tips.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Q&A with emerging Finnish coach Pieti Poikola (Pyrinto Tampere): Rannikko, Koponen and the next talents for the NBA Lottery!

Pieti Poikola is the head coach of Finnish team Pyrinto Tampere and the assistant coach of the U18 National Team. At 33, Pieti has already won a Korisliiga title and has a bright future ahead. Pieti was very kind to talk to Basketball Telegraph columnist Fulvio Floreani about his career thus far and Finnish basketball.

Coach, first off congratulations for the Korisliiga title last year! Tell our readers a bit about yourself, you're only 33 but already a successful coach. How did you fall in love with the game and how did your career as a coach start and develop so brightly and so quickly?

Thanks a lot. I used to play until I was 20 and in the meantime I started coaching in the youth programs. I was quite a successful junior coach and got an opportunity to coach women's and men's team in Second division pretty quickly. Of course I've been really lucky to have had chance to coach good players because without top level players you can’t achieve any goals, no matter how good as a coach you are. That time talented players and above all veterans helped me a lot to improve as a coach. Besides that, one of the main reasons for my professional success is that I've always worked hard without any time limits.

Generally, when people think about Finland top sports, ice-hockey and racing come to mind. Looking closely, however, basketball has produced big-time talents (Hanno Möttölä made the team in the NBA, Teemu Rannikko is a European Leagues veteran, Petteri Koponen and Gerald Lee have a bright future ahead, just to name a few). How's basketball going in Finland and what do you expect for the future?

The level of Finnish basketball is increasing slowly. We have some great coaches like Henrik Dettman and Ari Tammivaara who have taught younger coaches and players the work ethic. Möttölä's achievements (NBA, Euroleague) prove that a Finnish player can play and have a great career in the biggest leagues. Now we have very good U18 National team program and we all are very proud for the successes of our National team who has been able to win against Serbia, Italy, Israel, France. I like to tell all of you that even before Möttölä other players played abroad. Kari Liimo, for instance, was drafted by an NBA franchise in the early 70's. We have some interesting youngsters like Sasu Salin who's 19 and playing in Slovenia with powerhouse Olympia Ljubljana, and many others: I do believe we have the next Koponen and Rannikko.

As for the Korisliiga, your team has 3 American born players in its roster, the other players are Finnish and they have a lot of playing time and chances to grow.

I think 3 Americans is a good number because it's the right balance to have a good level in the League but the Finnish players can take the lights and responsibility on their teams. There are some excellent American players in our League. For example, on our roster there is the Italy 4th best scorer in 2006 and also the Brazil 4th best in 2008. Moreover, half of the National team players are playing in the league and having only three imports even kids can have lot of playing-time.

You are member of the U18 National team coaching staff. What are the expectations of the Finnish Basketball Federation and yours from this team.
There are many talented guys on our U18 team. We have some tall big-guards who can play at any level of competition. The biggest talent though is maybe Joonas Caven, a 6-10 who's been grinding in the last couple of  years. This is the first time that a Finnish junior team joined the A-group of the FIBA competitions: the goal is to keep staying with the best European National teams. It's a pretty big success for us. Hopefully new generations will be even better. As a coach,  it's a great honor to be part of Gordon Herbert's staff: he is really a great coach. I have learnt a lot by his methods.

Coach, let's talk a bit of Korisliiga, the Finnish professional league. How are the fans over there? There are many other aspects we want to know: the arenas, the media coverage, how's the league working with marketing?

Basketball is still a minor sport compared to ice hockey and football in Finland. We register about one thousand people in the gym but the numbers are going up. Gyms are relatively small, we don't have great arenas and this is maybe good, because they are packed and the atmposhere is great. Last season the finals were sold-out, and for great games and for playoffs some teams opt to play in the ice hockey arenas where the capacities are up to 5,000.

Pieti, where do you see yourself in 5 years? Still in Finland or maybe you would like to try and experience coaching basketball in top leagues?

I really never thought this play. I don't have a plan for my career. I just want to do my job in the best way possible, trying to help my team and players win and improve as individuals. It'd be great to have such a chance to coach abroad maybe being hired as an assistant first. But it's impossible to guess where I'll be in 5 years. We will see what it will come to happen.

Coach, thank you for your time and best of luck for your career and this year's campaign with Pyrinto Tampere!

Thank you. Thank you very much for your interest to our League!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Exclusive Q&A with Kuwait National team Head coach, Faisal Buressli. A true legend in his country

Faisal Buressli, 49, is the Head Coach of Kuwait and even Director of Youth national teams. Faisal has been a legendary player in his country and not only: in 1980 he received offers of scholarships from many schools of the NCAA. In Kuwait and at international level in whole Gulf area leagues, Buressli wrote the history of basketball as an unguardable player. When he retired after playing professional 22 years, he decided  immediately to begin his new career as a coach. In 2008/2009 he won the Gulf championships with the Kuwaity youth teams and he is building a great project for basketball in Kuwait.

Coach, tell us a little bit about you. We know you have been a great player in your country and you had the chance to play in the NCAA.

I started playing when I was eight years old. My first senior and professional team was Qadsiya. I became a starter in 1976 while I retired in 1998, it was a pretty long and successful career. I played 29 international tournaments as a player, I received the Most Valuable Player and leading scorer champion awards in Kuwait and in the Gulf leagues several times. I am also proud to be named twice as one of the best twelve players in Asia and I received six offers for scholarships from American colleges to play in the NCAA in 1980 but, unfortunately for family reasons, I kept playing in Kuwait. I am the only player from Kuwait that I could have played in the NCAA.

When did you decide to become a coach?

I started coaching when I retired as a player. I began teaching basketball to kids in the youth programs. I won the league championship and the cup in the first years coaching Al Arabi and, after those seuccess our Basketball Federation asked me to become the assistant coach for Kuwaity National teams. I kept coaching some clubs and I've been successful with Aljahra: we missed to win the title in the finals but I still remember that season. The Federation after these good results named me head coach of Kuwait youth national teams and they awarded me 2 times as best coach of the year in my country.

Most of Basketball Telegraph readers have never seen your team play. Could you tell us about your coaching style and phylosophies?

Like every coach has his own phylosophy, I have mine. I was a player so I understand the mentality of the ballers. I graduated in psycholagy so I think I'm good in managing the different personalities of each player and how to relate with youngsters. I really love to feel myself  very close to the players psychologically, and sometimes you can say I'm behaving like an elder brother for them. About my basketball philosophy, I really like to change and experiement different styles, even during the same season. But uptempo basketball is my favourite, as well as switching defenses to surprise the opposing teams.

We are very interested to know more about the game in your leagues. How is basketball in the Gulf area, how many countries are involved and how is the league structured. Do you have american players or any import per team?

Basketball in Kuwait is ok but unfortunately we don't have many bigmen, tall guys. Our domestic players are pretty skilled, but you can find many guards and forwards, not true inside players. So teams need to sign import players, especially 5-men. Each team in Kuwait can sign two imports, the majority are Americans. The rules allow teams to let one player on the court though, so it means when one is in the other is out. Our domestic players are not professional, who knows maybe in the future we will develop a professional league: that is my hope. Regarding the countries of the region, in the Gulf area teams are from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia. All the teams are very competitive and on the same level, maybe just the teams from Oman are a bit weaker.  I want to tell you that one important event is the Gulf championship that it takes place every two years. The best two teams gain the right to play the Asian Camphionships.

Speaking of the next few years, what do you have for goals for the coming seasons as a coach?

I try to read as much as I can about basketball and I watch and attend lots of  games. And I want to be updated about basketball news, being in touch with colleagues and trying to steal  from legendary coaches. You can always learn and improve as a coach. I have many goals in my mind and I would like to make a big change in my future. Just I need time to make it. I hope my country can raise in basketball. Hopefully to make it as the head coach of the National teams and with the great help of the Kuwaity Basketball Federation. That's my dream.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Team chemistry and Basketball IQ are the winning keys to pursue excellence!

Basketball Telegraph columnist, veteran pointguard Donte Mathis, talks about what "chemistry" is being a player and depending on a team sport.

A few years back, skimming throughout the leagues of the basketball world, if you were familiar with a certain league it was pretty predictable knowing who would probably win or lose. Favorites were more clear cut and underdogs remained just that... under. You could look at a team in warmups and understand who had the advantage, who was worried, and who wasn't prepared. The development of team chemistry has elevated the game and we are witnessing more upsets because teams are getting their players to accept their roles as well as play for each other and sharing more responsibility.

Teams have an idea of how important chemistry is and throughout the years the first thing they would do at the beginning of a season would be to isolate the players in a training camp (usually away from their home city)  to develop a bond between each other and let them get to know everyone on and off the court better. You are personally forced to get out of your comfort zone and rely and coexist with teammates. It's a good thing when you have high ambitions because the individual goals of each player can be molded into the team goals. Normally in Europe you can have 2-3 American players per team, and their talent has been relied on for years to get teams over the hump. Talent was dominant for so long and it was the determining factor in the direction most organizations based their teams around... everybody had to have it. Looking at where the game is going and how teams are trying to achieve a consistency with winning... club are spreading more responsibility throughout the team in a clear-cut (stars, role players, rookies) fashion.

In order for this to work the unit has to work together efficiently while respecting each other's strengths/roles. The "lone" star who will individually save a franchise has almost turned into fools gold. It's interesting how chemistry affects a team as well as players... they both need the right fit to flourish. I've seen guys play on last place teams one year to heavily contributing on a championship team the next: same player, same role, same style of individual player. In professional sports there should be a more constant equilibrium because everybody is a pro; team budget can be a factor but it's really who's light bulb turns on first and understands what they have to do to win. Sacrifice is a huge factor in a team being successful. On the teams I've played on that have been successful, the internal talk was always, "set him up and I'll screen him", "if he beats you, I'll be there to help" where as the teams I've played for that were unsuccessful or that underachieved, I always heard "hey hey hey, I'm open" or saw body language and facial expressions that speak harsher and give away more negative energy than words.

Forty minutes isn't a lot of time to make and recover from errors against good ball clubs. Teams that have developed good chemistry recover but limit making the same mistakes often, they are predictable for each other, usually personally ambitious and have the same goals. I've witnessed the habits of good teams and their traits are contagious: the majority is usually focused, committed to sacrifice, skilled in their role and have a consistent basketball IQ. I try to be a good teammate cause it will force other members of my team to respond to me in a certain way. My actions off the court with them have to coincide with my actions on the court, cause if I laugh and converse with them off, then never pass them the ball or help them, I personally risk getting the best out of them. If I was a swimmer, a golfer, or a sprinter, I wouldn't have to rely on anyone but myself, but my well being and livelihood being dependent on a team sport requires me to cultivate the relationships I have with the guys on it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Exclusive interview with coach Ozell Wells. His unbelievable World Record: his career has taken him over 47 countries, from China to Brunei!!

Ozell Wells is the coach of the Brunei Barracudas playing the ASEAN Basketball League (aka ABL). But the story of the Detroit native is unbelievable!
He grew up on the North-East side of the city (Ozell also holds a Dominican passport though) and spent a considerable portion of his youth involved in competitive sports. Ozell's high school years were spent at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan. As a direct result of Ozell's academic interests, and proficiency, he was offered academic scholarships to nearly every school in the United States: Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, University of Michigan, UCLA and North Carolina. During Ozell's freshman year, he met and befriended Charles Turner, Head men's basketball coach at University of Michigan-Dearborn. After close discussion with former Michigan and NBA player Mark Hughes, Ozell decided to assist the Grand Rapids Hoops of the CBA, where Hughes was coaching the team. It was with the experience gained there, and after receiving his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in 1999, he embarked on what soon became a professional basketball coach. Ozell Wells career has taken him over 47 countries to date, ranging from China to Yemen, from Estonia to Brunei.

Ozell, your story is amazing. Maybe you have a world record that it's worth to be told. Tell our readers how was it possible you have visited and worked in 47 countries so far as a basketball coach.

Not sure if they have such a record. I do however know of a few other coaches who would rank higher on the totem pole if there was such a record in existence. Terry Layton, Scott Fields and Rajko Toroman are a few of them. My last stop is with Barracudas in Brunei, where I am one of the coaches and I am really comfortable over here experiencing the competitive ASEAN Basketball League.

Now we are really curious. In your incredible journey with basketball, tell us about your experiences, from the funniest to the scariest you had in so many different areas of the planet.

WOW! Well the scariest would definitely be the beheading in Saudi Arabia, the hanging in Syria or being in Tijuana Mexico when the Drug War with the USA began. I was on the streets in my car the day that they arrested over 1,000 people and then also for the ensuing war on the city streets that carried on for weeks afterward and is still unresolved.
Funniest experiences would have to be when I was home in Dominican Republic, coaching in Santiago and was approached by 3 different females who claimed to be the mothers of 3 different baby boys all bearing the same name, due to the fact that they claimed to be impregnated by him, the same player! Now all three of the women, with babies in hand, were standing in a practice that was in session, all yelling and imploring me to provide the contact info for this player.

No one can witness but you how basketball and sports in general are a real language between different races and cultures: what are the most interesting stories off the court thus far and where. Moreover which are the places you liked the most?

Well, my return to the Middle East, as coach of the National Team of Yemen was something that I will never forget. We were participating in the Arab Championships, and I was greeted by basketball official after official and referee after referee whom I remembered from when I started coaching internationally way back in 2000. I was even named "Altruistic Basketball Missionary Teaching the game to the Basketball Underpriveleged" by my friends at ART Television, who broadcasted the games across the Asian Region. I can say that I love so many places, but none more than my home of Dominican Republic. I have become partial to Estonia, in Eastern Europe, but it is always the ties that bind ..being the DR because I have a basketball school there, and am partnering with 3 of the best coaches on the island to create another academy in the coming year.

What's your next challenge as a coach?

The next challenge for me is to be in Estonia, as I have founded a Sport Club in the country and we are currently playing in the Estonian Kossulliga. It has always been a dream of mine to run a club, but this is a bit different, as we are founded to be a culturally benefitting organization and have many things in place to benefit the community, the youth, the elderly and effect an overall change in the way of living for those in Estonia. I will rejoin my club once the season has concluded here in Brunei.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weekend Grind for a Coach with Sam Waniewski

The following is a guest blog with an emerging American Graduate Assistant Coach, Sam Waniewski.
Sam enters his first year at Concordia University in 2010-11 after a short stint on Coach James Giacomazzi’s staff at Consumnes River College in Sacramento, California. Waniewski will be in charge of scouting, video editing and recruiting for the Bulldog men’s basketball program.
Waniewski began his coaching career at Division II Chico State University, Chico, California where he worked under head coaches Puck Smith and Greg Clink as a student assistant. Waniewski’s duties included coaching the red-shirt team, on-court coaching, and day to day operations within the basketball program. Chico State doubled their win total during Waniewski’s time on the staff.
Waniewski also has experience working high profile individual camps at UCLA under Ben Howland, Stanford University under Johnny Dawkins and Slypark under Steve Williams. He also coached the Chico Blazin Heat program. Waniewski graduated from Woodland Christian High School in Woodland, California in 2005. He currently holds the single game three point record with 9. Sam graduated from Chico State in 2009 with a degree in Kinesiology. He currently resides in Seward, Nebraska.

Originally, I was going to talk more about the past and then get to what was going on presently. However, I have decided to slightly change this. Today I felt was a good day to talk about, so I didn’t want to be obligated to talk about past irrelevant events and forget what today was about. Other days when I don’t have a very eventful, significant day, then I reserve my right to go back, talk about the past and talk about different aspects. Stay flexible with me here!

It’s 12:30 a.m. right now. About 30 minutes ago I finally got home. Certainly this isn’t the norm in the profession, but by no means is it something uncommon. I am tired right now, both mentally and physically. However it has been a very productive and educational day. When I talk about educational, I’m not exactly talking about reading English books, writing papers, and listening to course instructors. For me, basketball is what I’m learning about and educating myself about. Basketball and coaching aspects is what I’m seeing, being around, and learning from experiences. It’s kind of like my assistant and head coach are my course instructors, and the basketball court is my classroom. However as I’m starting to realize, my “classroom” goes beyond just the court. Just as a student needs to learn in more ways than just being in a classroom (they must do projects, go on field trips, interview people, etc.), the same is true with an aspiring basketball coach. Being on the road in a car for many hours while recruiting and scouting is such a critical part of it. Everyone wishes they could just stay on their home court and have success, but true success is in the preparation that’s done away from the court in many instances. That is what I had to do today.
“BUZZZZ, BUZZZZZ, BUZZZZ”, my alarm clock goes off at 7:45 in the morning. I usually keep my phone on vibrate because a louder alarm clock sound sometimes rattles me a bit and makes me angry to have to wake up so abruptly. A nice, consistent vibrating sound can slowly and usually happily wake me up. I got up, showered, and put some peanut butter on a piece of bread that I folded up to take with me for breakfast. If it wasn’t for occasionally getting sick from having low blood sugar, then I probably would skip breakfast most of the time. We had practice at 8:30, and I made sure to be there a half an hour early. I had to make sure the court was set up, with all of the baskets down, lights on, and the ball rack out.
One time, we had a 6 am practice when I was at Chico State. I showed up at 5:50, figuring I was there before practice, I would be okay. I’d have enough time to get the balls out before the clock hit 6. The problem was that the players got there even earlier. The guys got there earlier to get dressed, stretch, and shoot around prior to practice. As I got there, I noticed the balls were already out, and the hoops were down. “COOL!” I thought, less work for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong with that mentality. As the guys started coming in, my head coach came up to me and had a stern talk with me. “You really want to be a head coach!?” He asked rhetorically. “Why do I have to be the one to get the balls out!? Why do I have to be the one to set up the court?” His point was apparent. He was the head coach, he had paid his dues. It was my job, and I had failed to show up early enough to get it done. It forced him to do it. Such a thing may seem like a small thing, but I realized exactly what my coach was trying to tell me. It was a matter of being disciplined, sacrificing yourself and your time to make your coaches life easier, representing a willingness to do whatever it took, and showing respect to your head coach by NOT making him have to do your job. From that day on, I made sure to have the court ready well ahead of time, especially when we had an early a.m. practice. I would take this same approach with me when I got the graduate assistant position.

So we practiced for a few hours. It was a pretty good practice. For some reason I usually feel like guys work pretty hard and have good practices on Saturdays. I have certain responsibilities during every practice. I have a practice schedule with me that I look over to know when we are going to do different things. It’s my job to be in front of the ball rack, so that as we switch from drill to drill, the players can just throw the ball to me or I can throw balls to them depending on what we are doing. While we aren’t in a transition phase, I am on the court helping coach. On rare occasions, if I really notice something that the players are doing wrong, I will stop what is happening and instruct or coach the players about a certain aspect. However, I try to not do this much because obviously the Head coach and main assistant are doing this frequently, and we want to still allow the players to get into a flow without having them stop every second to hear a different coach instruct. What I focus on is coaching and teaching while the players are sitting out of the drill and that is what my coach prefers me to do. As players are doing the drill, I take mental notes about what certain guys are doing wrong, so that when they come out, I can have a talk with them one on one. Players will often lose balls that go into the bleachers or just anywhere on the outside of the court during drills or when we go live 5 on 5. I have a ball with me at ALL times during practice so that incase they lose it, I can just throw them a new ball, and we are able to save time. Many possessions are gained everyday at practice just by having a spare ball ready to throw to the players. Throughout an entire year, the more possessions and repetitions we are able to gain, the more beneficial it will be. We also have a JV squad. Sometimes we will break off into 3 baskets, groups of 5, to work on plays, and I will be in charge of them. When they start playing games, I will be the head coach of them during that time, which I am extremely excited about. I really try to focus on them during drills, especially because they need more help than everyone else. I frequently will grab the team as a whole when they are sitting out and talk to them about what they can do better and motivate them to compete harder than the varsity guys. By getting more out of the JV guys, not only will they get better, but it will also make the varsity team better! Only positives will come out of it! As practice ended the assistant coach spoke to me – “I got good news and bad news. The bad news is you’re going to have to miss the Giants game tonight. The good news is you get to go with me to go scout a game three hours away.” Not exactly the great news I was looking for, but I told him “I’d miss a Giants game any day to go scouting”, and I meant that.

When I got back from practice, I took a brief nap, and then I went to get a haircut. We have our first preseason game tomorrow, and I knew I needed to look sharp to start the season. Plus, a coach should try to look sharp at all times anyways. At 3:30, I went to the laundry room. I had to make sure to switch all of the players’ laundry bags to the dryer. This is another aspect of the job that isn’t fun, but yet it’s necessary. And it’s certainly something the head coach shouldn’t have to be doing. I then went to the assistant’s house in order to head out on our scouting trip. We drove 3 hours to go watch an alumni game of the team that we’d be playing second game in our season. It was officially the longest I’d ever gone to scout an opponent. (Obviously, I had never scouted for a college team before. My AAU scouting consisted of looking on a different court in the same gym for the team we’d be matched up against next). Despite the drive being long, it was very good to be able to talk with my assistant coach. We talked about lots of basketball. It was an opportunity for me to pick his brain apart, and also talk about different aspects or strategies I felt strong about and believed in. We also talked about our futures, and he gave me some very helpful advice about mine.
As we got to the gym, and sat down, I became very excited. I was officially scouting an opponent for a COLLEGE team! My input could potentially influence the outcome of a college game. It was an exciting feeling, and I loved being able to sit down and analyze the game. We were fortunate that the coach called out a lot more plays and sets than we were expecting, especially for an alumni game. We were also fortunate that the old, lazy alumni didn’t decide to just stay in a 2-3 zone the entire game and we saw lots of sets against a man to man defense. We were very pleased with the scouting report we got, and we even left with about 8 minutes left in the game to get an early start home. I was so excited that we were able to find the San Francisco- Philadelphia Phillies game on the radio for the ride home! It certainly made the ride a lot better. I was able to finish my night with “GIANTS are going to the world SERIES!” Coming from California, and being a Giants fan, it was a nice thing to hear. The overall trip really gave me a feel for what college coaching was about. Driving for 6 hours overall to scout a team for 30 minutes was stuff that a lot of people don’t really think about when it comes to coaching. However, I knew it would help our team and any advantage I could give our players, I would be doing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What a pass by Steve Nash!! And Hakim Warrick drops the Sledgehammer

Pick & Roll...this is how it should be taught. Steve Nash makes the right read, Skinny (Warrick) reads the defense and makes the slip, Nash makes a pretty incredible dime and Hakim Warrick finishes the play (the Happy Ending). Maybe this isn't your ordinary on-ball pick play? Nicely done!