Coach With A Purpose

Coach With A Purpose is now available for purchase online!

32 topical chapters of insight based on 25 yrs as Head Basketball Coach as well as features on White Oak’s 2012 & 2013 State Championship teams & individual profiles of all 111 alumni from 1992-2016!

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The following is a list of the topics on the Coach With A Purpose Blog:

Defining The Process                    

Coaching Your Coaches                

Developing An Offensive Philosophy

10 Principles Of Effective Leadership


Know The Enemy                          

Tough & Competitive                      


Tournament Time                            

Prepare To Win                                

Outside The Lines                            

C’mon Ref!                                        

Raising Expectations                        

There’s No Place Like Home            

Measure Up                                      

They Call You Coach

Summer Program                      

C’mon Coach!                                    

9th Man                                              

Selling Your Program                          

Coach/Parent Relationship                  

Coach/Player Relationship                  

Program Progression: Part 6               

Program Progression: Part 5                

Program Progression: Part 4                

Program Progression: Part 3                

Program Progression: Part 2                

Program Progression: Part 1                

Building A Small School Program: Part 6

Building A Small School Program: Part 5

Building A Small School Program: Part 4

Building A Small School Program: Part 3

Building A Small School Program: Part 2

Building A Small School Program: Part 1

When Is It Time To Step Down?            

Coach With A Purpose                          

Stand Up                                                

Boys To Men                                         

What’s Your Plan For Losing?              

What’s Your Plan For Losing?

Well, I guess a better way for stating it would be, “What’s your plan for dealing with losing?”.  

Winning is never a certainty.  For every Goliath on the field or court, there is always a David out there slinging stones.  The day will come when the stone finds its target. 

For some, winning is much less certain.  Anyone that believes winning is easy hasn’t played long enough or faced enough adverse conditions.  If you stay in the game long enough, one thing is for certain, you are going to lose.  Some more than others, but no one escapes.

Everyone in a competitive situation is going to devote time and effort toward winning.  However, in this entry of the Coach With A Purpose blog, I would like to suggest having a formula for dealing with losing.  And the more competitive you are, the better your plan should be.  If you don’t, you risk putting your emotional, mental, and physical health at risk as well as your relationships.

This is not a theory, it’s a testimony.

From 2011-2013, our boys basketball teams at White Oak compiled a 104-6 overall record, we won 2 Class 2A State Championships, won 49 consecutive games, and 13 consecutive playoff games.  We were blessed to win….a lot.

From 2014-2016 (my last 3 yrs as Head Basketball Coach), we still had very competitive teams, made the playoffs each year, and advanced to the Area round 2 of the 3 years.  However, emotionally and physically, I could feel each season starting to take a toll on me.  I attribute some of this to my coaching style.  It was very physically demanding in practice and games.  Some I attribute to the amount of time I put into our program over 25 years, especially outside of the season.  But I also believe, over a 3 year span, that some of it was due to becoming accustomed to winning at a very high level.  A much higher level than was the norm for our basketball teams and, to a degree, I don’t think I handled losing as well my last 3 years.  I lost some of my perspective and, consequently, coaching became much more stressful.

I never slept much after games…wins or losses.  Still don’t now that I coach Junior High.  Without a doubt, my hatred for losing was what drove my desire to win.  That’s just how I’m wired.  It is my greatest strength.  In some ways, I believe I let it become my greatest weakness.

So, as I share with you what I believe are 5 ways to help deal with losing, please understand this was (and is) never easy for me to do.  I’m speaking as much to myself as anyone.    

  1. Preparation

This was always my favorite part of being a head coach.  I believe this was one of my strengths as a coach and was driven by my competitiveness.  Doing all that I could to have our teams prepared to maximize our potential extended from 3rd grade Little Dribblers throughout every facet and level of our program.  I loved it and felt it was the only way we would succeed at White Oak.

One of the things I was most proud of with our program was that I felt we rarely lost to teams that were less talented than us.  We beat the teams we were supposed to beat the vast majority of the time and competed against most others.

As much as I believe this helped us win, I also believe it helped me to handle losing.  Though investment increases the pain of defeat, I usually had a peaceful feeling of knowing we had done everything we could possibly do to give ourselves the best chance to win.  Sometimes the other team is just better or plays better that night.  When you have the solace of knowing your team was prepared, it is much more likely that you didn’t lose, you got beat.  Getting beat rests better at night than losing.

                2. People

I once heard the great Dick Bennett say in reference to culture, “As a coach, you have to surround yourself with people you can lose with.” To me, that’s a very unique (and truthful) way to look at culture.  

When we have standards for our program and we surround ourselves with people who share those standards, are willing to sacrifice for those standards, and, ultimately, win or lose with those standards, I believe we are on our way toward developing a Championship Culture.  

Unfortunately, this could mean that players (or anyone else associated with your program) who consistently refuse to meet these standards must be eliminated.  For this reason, I never used “family” in reference to people currently in our program.  We were a team or program not a family.  In my mind, you can’t be eliminated from the family.  You can be eliminated from the team or program.

I only referenced “family” once players graduated from our program.  At this point, they became members of our basketball family and, as the leader of that family, I did my best to give them my unconditional loyalty.  To the best of my ability, I would do all I could to help (not enable) them in any way possible.  At this point, they had met at least the minimum standard for our program and I believe this meant something.

Along those same lines, dealing with losing is much more tolerable when it involves people with common goals and standards.  They aren’t all going to be pleasant or exactly like we want them to be but if we will hold them to a standard and we have common goals, they will usually conform their behavior.

Too many times as coaches, we allow talent to tempt us to lower the standard and I believe, more times than not, this is a recipe for demise. To me, there is a lot of truth in the saying,  “Lower the bar and you lose the winners.  Raise the bar and you lose the losers.”  

Now, does this mean remove every kid that doesn’t measure up?  Of course not!  It does mean, however, that players understand two things.  First, there must be growth.  It might be minimal at times but it must be present.  Secondly, there is a line.  You don’t get to consistently tread water or go backwards without consequences.

In our program, most of the kids who weren’t going to meet our standards eliminated themselves before they became varsity players.  I rarely had to remove a player.  Did this cost us some talent?  Without a doubt.  Did it hurt our program?  Maybe at times because no situation is perfect but over the long haul upholding our standards was never a detriment to our success.

When the culture of your team or program is to the point that defeat is shared pain, then losing can be handled in a much more constructive way.  Everyone loses from time to time but it’s much less miserable when you don’t have to share it with losers.

                     3. Prayer

For me, my faith has always been my rock.  Prior to every game I was going to seek to spend time in solitude with my God.  On road games, I would pray as I sat at my desk in my office before we departed.  On home games, at some point I would venture up to my classroom (the officials dressed in my office) and spend time with the Lord.

My prayer was never for victory.  Sometimes there were specifics about players who I knew were struggling in different areas of their lives.  I would pray that we would play in a way that was pleasing to God, that He would protect us and the other team, and finally, that He would help me deal with whatever result we got that evening in a positive way.

Over the years, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it has been my faith and prayer life that has helped me the most when it came to dealing with the 242 times my team met defeat.  The prayers of my mom and many others helped as well!

                      4. Purpose

In coaching, it’s easy to say, “It’s not about wins and losses.  It’s about making a difference in the lives of our players.”  Many (hopefully most) coaches subscribe to this philosophy but there are places in high school coaching that losing will eliminate your opportunity to make a difference at that school!  Let’s not be naive.  Winning is a factor in job security for many coaches.  

With this being understood, I believe few professions offer the opportunity to make a lasting positive impression on young lives than coaching.  To me, basketball (or whatever sport I was coaching) was just my platform for making that difference and as driven as I was to win, I wanted to do it in the right way and within the grand scheme of having a higher purpose.  

I believe one of the best ways to do this is to come up with a method or constant reminder to keep the game within the priorities of your life.  For me, that reminder was not keeping up with my career record.  Now, I knew I was not looking to ever leave White Oak.  It was my home and my “dream” job so I knew I would not need this information for applications or such.  Whenever I would get the yearly newspaper information form to fill out, have someone ask me, or just wonder what my overall record was, I would immediately be reminded of my purpose.  It was a little thing but very effective for me.

Along those same lines, my prayer life and quiet times each morning were also useful in keeping me focused on where my priorities needed to be. Ultimately, there will only be one scoreboard in my coaching career that counts and that’s the one that is measured much more in “Thank you, coach” than wins and losses.  

Purpose leads to peace and peace is our ally in a profession that can be as stressful as coaching.  Losing may still cost us some sleep but it only takes our peace if we allow it to.  We all have to find ways to keep our purpose at the forefront of our lives and when we do, peace will be there as well.         

                             5. Perspective

The final piece to the puzzle is keeping things in perspective.  Few things are more valuable to someone in a competitive leadership position than perspective and self awareness.  Being able to objectively assess our situation, put a plan in place, and then work our way through the process of executing this plan is crucial but we must also factor in the level of difficulty.

My first season as the head coach at White Oak, we had graduated 10 of 11 players from the previous season.  The JV I had coached was fair and so was the freshman team.  After being hired, the coach I was replacing (Glynn Hughes, who was my JV coach at WO and the guy who made out the schedule) told me point blank, “You may not win a game next year”.  My dream job had just been put into perspective! 

We went 9-19 my first year, didn’t have a winning record until my 3rd season, and didn’t make the playoffs until my 7th season so I quickly learned not to accept losing but I would have to learn to deal with it or lose my sanity.

To me, won/loss records (especially non-district) never tell the complete story.  All jobs and situations are different.  Winning is definitely never easy but it’s much more likely in some situations than others.  As the saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy” so resist the temptation to either be envious of others or be too hard on yourself.  High expectations are good but must be kept in perspective.  We all have people who will make our jobs harder, don’t let that person be you. 

In conclusion, losing is as much a part of life as winning and probably moreso.  I never wanted to lose (who does) but I always tried to go into any game knowing it was a possibility and that for my sake and my team’s sake I needed to have a plan to deal with it if it happened.  I encourage you to have one as well…then do all you can to not have to use it.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!           



Boys to Men

As a coach, there are few things that rival the thrill of victory.  It’s humbling, satisfying,  and rewarding…it’s fun!

Losing?  It just plain sucks.

The scoreboard will always be a part of coaching and oftentimes the most visible part.  For many coaches, it is the judge and jury and it holds the fate of their family in its hands.  When we sign our contracts, we accept this as the world we have chosen to live in.  And most wouldn’t choose to do anything else!

So, what draws one to coach?

I’m sure the reasons vary and it’s most likely a combination of things but I believe in the vast majority of cases, somewhere in the equation, is the burning desire to make a positive difference.  The reverend Billy Graham once quipped, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in a lifetime.”

Now, I’m not sure where he gets his data but far be it for me to question Reverend Graham…that man had friends in high places!  So I’m going to take his word for it.  Plus I believe he is right.

For coaches, what a great opportunity.

What a great responsibility.

During my quiet time each morning, I thank God for the opportunity to impact the lives of those I encounter that day.  For most of my coaching career, this has been young men.  Seventh graders to seniors….thousands of them.  Along with thanking Him for the opportunity, I also ask to be mindful of the responsibility that accompanies this opportunity.  In my position, my words will influence.  My actions will speak volumes.

Like many of my brothers in the coaching profession, my purpose is to take the game (that’s the dangling carrot) and use it to help boys learn about life.  Along the way, hopefully, I will have a positive impact on their journey toward becoming a man….and most likely a husband and father.  

It’s being a father that has my attention today.  Because the world needs good fathers…and a lot more of them.

We all know the statistics.

For the most part, kids that come from a household with both biological parents have a decided advantage in life.  That’s a blessing.  These kids didn’t do anything to earn this situation any more than the kids who come from single parent homes, blended families, or any other situation deserved theirs.  Sometimes kids are the victim of adult decisions.  Sometimes we are all a victim of life in a fallen world.

As a coach of primarily male athletes, I also know that boys who grow up without a father in the picture are at a decided disadvantage.  Life has put them behind the eight ball and the only thing worse than this is they are now much more likely to put their children in the same situation.  That’s why male coaches have to show up.  We have to do more to put value on being a good father.  Our kids need it.  Our families need it.  Our society needs it.

Well, how can we do this?

First of all, we can talk about the value of fathers.  We can talk about the attributes, responsibilities, difficulties, and rewards of fatherhood.  Sure, this may not mean much at the time to a seventh grader who thinks his jock strap is a head band but it starts to plant seeds.  For high school coaches, fatherhood may already be a part of some of their athletes’ lives or in their very near future.  Whatever the situation, we can’t waste our opportunity to address the importance of a father’s role in the life of his children.

One of the points I always try to make is that for the most part their present family situation is outside of their control.  They have a role to play just like they do on the team but a lot of their circumstances, especially when they are young, are determined by the choices of their parents.  Whatever these decisions are, they can be learned from.  They’ll eventually do some things in their own families because it had a positive impact on them as kids.  Unfortunately, they may also be experiencing things that negatively impact their life.  They may have little influence over this now but the day will most likely come when they can choose to do better in their family.  They can break the cycle.  They have the power to turn a negative into a positive but we may be the influence they need to realize this.  Words carry weight and it’s up to us to speak hope into situations that may presently look hopeless.

Secondly, if we are fathers, we need to model and be examples of what a good father should be. Whatever our marital status may be, we never stop being a father.  I was divorced when my daughter was 2 so I know this can be difficult but I also know the one it was hardest on was my daughter and she deserved to have her father in her life regardless of the decisions made by her parents.  Though I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone, it did give me a greater understanding of what many of my players were dealing with themselves and I needed to model for them (as well as my own daughter) the importance of using a negative situation in my own life to help someone else.  It was meaningful for them.  It was invaluable for me.

One way I tried to model for my players the importance of being a good father was on the Wednesdays during basketball season when I would have my daughter from 6:00-8:00.  *I would usually have to leave practice a little early on these days so I explained to my players early in the season what I was doing and why I was doing it.  They knew if I was missing practice it was important and I was always blessed to have many gracious, understanding, and high character young men that understood the situation.  Some of them all too well.  They were easy to pick out.  They were usually the one’s nodding their head with understanding or lowering their head to hide their tears.

It never failed that I would usually leave while the players were finishing up their free throws so as I walked around the gym giving each player a “fist” I would get comments such as, “Have a good time with your daughter, coach.”  As much as I was trying to show them the importance of being a good dad more often than not they showed me I had little to worry about.

Finally, one of the most rewarding parts of coaching for me is having the opportunity to tell the children of my former players how blessed they are to have such good fathers.  Whether it’s crossing paths in the grocery store, at a local restaurant, or around the school I always love being able to say, “You are one lucky kid! You must have won the dad lottery because you got one of the best one’s!”

It’s important to me that my former players know how I think of them as well as taking the opportunity to remind them of the responsibilities of being a dad.  Whether they can still stroke the 3 or play in the passing lane doesn’t mean much now but if they learned something about the value of being a good dad then I’ve done my job…no matter what the scoreboard says.


*I was very blessed to have assistants that would graciously finish up practice, monitor the dressing room, start the wash, and lockup when I would need to leave early to pick up my daughter.

Stand Up

I was 22 years old when I surrendered my life to my Lord Jesus Christ and from that day forward my life has never been the same.  As I have matured in my Christian walk, one of the things I have learned to do is act when I feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit.  Usually, it is an uneasiness during the day or not being able to sleep at night due to thoughts running through my mind that need to be organized and expounded upon.

Tonight is one of those nights.  So, at 12:35 a.m., I am going to share with you what God has placed on my heart because I have learned if I don’t take the gentle nudge, He’ll turn up the heat until I finally come on with it.  Thank God for maturity!

For 11 years (2006-16), I taught U.S. History to most of the juniors at White Oak High School.  I say most because some elected to take Dual Credit College History instead, which usually assured two things: 1) my class sizes would be fairly small 2) All the History Channel nerds were probably in college history so I was most likely the smartest history dude in the room.  That was good for my confidence.

As we embarked on our study of the history of the United States, I would always start off by mentioning how blessed we were to live in the greatest country in the world.  I would illustrate this point by pointing out the fact that every day people risked their lives in order to get to our country and that most people in the world would trade places with us even on our worst day.  I could say this with conviction because I believed it.  And I still believe it today.

The second thing I would point out was my belief that, historically, the United States had failed greatly in two areas: 1) our treatment of women 2) our treatment of black Americans.  In my opinion, these were the two biggest black eyes on America.

As we moved forward in our course, I always looked forward to the units on World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II but without a doubt my favorite unit for us to study was the Civil Rights Movement.  For many of my students, this was a topic that hit home and for me, I loved the stories of courage, determination, and the fight for the greater good.  I was passionate about the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., the transformation of Malcolm X, and the courage of Rosa Parks.  I loved the fight and determination of Thurgood Marshall to end segregation in our public schools and the courage displayed by the Little Rock Nine.

There were a lot of things I was not as a history teacher but there was one thing I could do…tell stories.  With meaning and with passion. And these people had a story worth telling!  I can still recall the looks of shock, anguish, and oftentimes embarrassment of the mostly white kids who sat in my class as they heard the stories of what it was like to be black in America during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  They were white kids but the vast majority of them (though there were a few exceptions) were good kids, kids of character, and they knew it was wrong.  It was not uncommon to see tears being wiped from cheeks as they imagined to the best of their ability what that treatment must have felt like.

Then there were the few black kids I would have in class.  Many times only one per class.  Kids like Joseph Young, Kris Anderson, Levi Yancy, and Hayden Nichols who were not only my students but they were also some of my basketball players.  Their faces would show anger and pain as they identified with those who were treated unjustly due to the color of their skin but eventually those looks would be replaced by appreciation, adoration, and pride as they heard the stories of those before them who carried the torch of change.  

As much as I loved telling these stories, by far the thing I looked forward to the most was doing our project on the movie Remember The Titans.  This was for 2 reasons: 1) this meant TAKS, STAAR or whatever was the acronym of the year was over 2) Football, great music, and overcoming prejudice was now on the agenda!

As most of you know, the movie centers around the integration of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971.  The two best players on the team are Julius Campbell (black) and Gary Bertier (white) and my favorite scene in the movie takes place during their preseason camp at Gettysburg College.  The team is struggling immensely with the color barrier so Coach Boone (black) takes them on a midnight run to where the battle of Gettysburg was fought during the Civil War.

As a last ditch effort to bring the team together, Coach Boone tells them “Listen to their souls men:’I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.’ You listen and take a lesson from the dead.  If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed – just like they were.  I don’t care if you like each other or not.  But you will respect each other.”

After returning to camp and during the 3rd practice of the day (must not have been a UIL in Virginia), something happens for the first time.  Gary chews out his best friend Ray (white) for missing a block.  Ray gets pissed but Julius takes notice that Gary jumped his butt and on the next play instead of just forming up on the ball carrier (Petey – black guy), Julius lowers the boom on him and cleans his clock.  Gary and Julius proceed to start the renowned “Left side, Strong side” chant thus signifying the breaking down of the racial barriers between the two leaders of the team.

It never failed that so many of the kids had seen this movie but never understood that the chant “Left side, strong side” illustrated how saying something, with the same meaning, a different way relates to looking different but being the same.

I believe this scene is the most powerful lesson of the show because it illustrates that true change will never come through blame, finger pointing, or calling out the other guy.  Lasting change must start with getting our own house in order first.  

Until we are willing to call out the people who look like us and empathize with those who don’t , we will continue to fight the same battles over and over.  As long as we only point out the inequities of the other race, our words will fall on deaf ears.  

Integrity, honesty, respectfulness, fairness, kindness, and forgiveness know no color any more than dishonesty, disrespectfulness, greed, cruelty, and selfishness.  These are not color traits.  They are character traits!

If as a society, we are determined to lump groups of people together and paint them all with broad strokes, then let’s do it by character and not by color, location, occupation, etc.  There are good people of all colors, people of character, and we must stand together to fight against the inequities that still exist in our society today.

As a Christian, I know there is evil in this fallen world we live in and until the day comes when Good will eternally overcome evil, we must fight.  Evil will always seek to divide and conquer.  Evil will seek to devour.

It’s now 3:20 a.m. and I am at peace with the words I feel God has laid on my heart.  They are not words that haven’t been uttered before but sometimes they bear repeating. That feeling of uneasiness has subsided now and I will soon call it a night.  I will leave you with the words that I would always write on the dry erase board at the front of my room as we would begin our Civil Rights unit each year.

Racism is not a color issue, it’s a character issue.  

Defining The Process

Defining The Process


The Process.  These 2 words have become the key to success in the eyes of many coaches and others who find themselves in the position of trying to achieve a desired goal.  Few, if any, have epitomized and mastered the meaning of The Process more than the man credited with coining this phrase, Coach Nick Saban of Alabama. Simply put, The Process is focusing on all the elements that lead to a desired result rather than focusing on the result itself.  

In this entry of Coach With A Purpose I will give my understanding and explanation of The Process.  Like many things, The Process is not a guarantee for getting our desired result…it does not guarantee victory or championships.  One thing for sure can trump The Process…talent. A vastly less talented team who has mastered The Process will almost always lose to an exceptionally talented team who may only exhibit certain qualities of The Process.  However, that’s the beauty of The Process. Though we may not get the desired result, we never fall victim to the one thing more painful to a competitor than defeat…regret. The Process will give our team a chance to maximize its potential and in a competitive environment that’s all we can ask.  Furthermore, as a coach, focusing on The Process will ease the frustration and disappointment associated with factors beyond our control that make winning more difficult. To extremely competitive people, losing hurts and focusing on The Process instead of the result not only increases the chances of avoiding this pain altogether (by winning) but it also helps to cope with losing and to keep life in perspective.

Finally, before I began giving my thoughts on “Defining The Process”, I want to emphasize I believe there is much more to coaching than winning championships.  However, when done with life and eternal goals in mind, the value of The Process can and should be related to purposes outside the athletic realm.

By nature, I have always been intrigued by what makes people the best at what they do.  I enjoy studying these people either by talking and listening to them in person, by reading their books, or listening to them through various forms of media.  As I have moved into a different phase of my coaching career now, I have a stronger desire to give back to the coaching profession and sharing my thoughts on topics I have studied is a way to do this.  So with that being said, I will share my thoughts on the meaning and benefits of The Process and I hope it will inspire you to do the same!

I believe there are 5 pillars to “The Process” and I will define my understanding of them as well as vertically aligning these 5 steps.  Also, I have put many of my beliefs in written form either in my Coach With A Purpose blog or handouts for my coaches and players. I have included a link to each of those at the end of this entry.


I believe that every successful program or organization must be strongest at the top.  There must be someone with a vision of how The Process fits together, someone who establishes and drives the culture, and someone who can identify potential problems along with providing or recognizing solutions.  Finally, the leader must hold himself/herself to the highest standard and be willing to accept responsibility for the result derived from their version of The Process. In a previous entry of Coach With A Purpose, I gave my thoughts on leadership so I won’t delve further into this initial portion of The Process.


As stated above, the leader drives the culture.  Consequently, I believe the culture drives the program.  Simply put, a program’s culture is the vertical alignment of all aspects of the program.  It is the standards a program is built upon which are exemplified in the program’s core values.  These attributes should shape those within the program long after they leave and be recognizable by those who encounter your program.  Personally, I believe these core values should be generic in nature in order to encompass values that not only apply to your program but also provide a pathway for life after athletics.  During my tenure at White Oak, our culture was defined and driven by 3 things: The White Oak Way, our I Believe philosophy, and our core values. Links to these are provided at the end of the entry.


Leaders can have a vision for their program and an idea of the culture they want to create but it’s not going to happen unless others can be convinced the vision is attainable and the culture they are creating is desirable.  For this reason, I believe it is at this third pillar that some programs fall to the wayside…there is not enough buy in. I believe this is especially true in an instant gratification society. It is challenging and difficult to change the culture of program because winning is hard and sustained success is even harder.  It’s at this point where changing expectations toward commitment, work ethic, behavior, etc. will either make or break some of those involved…coaches, players, parents, administrators,etc. Everyone wants to win until it comes time to do what winners do.

At this point of The Process, the leaders must not give into the temptation of lowering the bar and must acknowledge and celebrate any and all aspects of The Process that are being met or exceeded.  The focus must continue to be long term and not short sighted. Unfortunately, but necessarily, in order to get the level of “buy in” required to win it will require some to tap out. Our locker room always had multiple signs and sayings posted that I felt were important and one of those said, “If everyone can do it, the bar ain’t high enough.”

For some programs, The Process will bog down at this point.  Players will decide they don’t want to make the effort to be a part of this process and many times coaches will decide to move on.  Without a doubt, this is a part of The Process that will start to separate successful programs from average-at-best programs. I have attached links at the end of this entry that describe ways I tried to get “buy in”.


Once the culture has been established and those involved believe in this culture and buy into it, I believe a program is now at the point where it can compete at a high level. It’s at this point where I believe 2 elements now will go the furthest in determining who wins and who loses.  Those 2 elements are talent and preparation.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement but I also believe “Talent that works hard can be beat by less talented that works harder.”  Without a doubt, great conditioning, competitiveness, fundamentals, execution, team work, leadership, chemistry, strategy, and coaching can allow lesser talented teams the opportunity to compete with more talented teams that may not be as strong in these areas. It’s at this point where most programs will level out because in the words of Coach Saban, “It takes what it takes to be successful.”  There are no tricks or secrets, it’s merely just a matter of being willing to do what others are not willing to do to a degree in which they are not willing to do it. Preparation creates separation. It’s really hard and some will never get to that point much less beyond it but for those who do, The Process now becomes very rewarding.

So, I believe the best way to evaluate this point in The Process is by using the following rubric.  Teams that are at Pillar 4 of The Process rarely, if ever, lose to teams that are less talented than them, they regularly and routinely defeat teams that are on their talent level, and finally, they often defeat teams that are more talented than they are.            


It’s at the highest level of sport, where I believe we see many of those who have mastered The Process.  On the professional level, coaches such as Bill Belichick, Pat Riley, and Tony La Russa. On the collegiate level coaches such as Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Coach K. What do these guys all have in common? They have been able to take The Process to a level where they are the best of the best. Sure, they all have talented teams and many times they have the best talent.  Why? Because the most talented and competitive are drawn to their level of The Process.

So, on whatever level, when the best of the best meet up, both teams are talented and prepared, who has the best chance to win?  Notice, I didn’t say who wins because there are definitely extenuating circumstances (injuries, illness, officiating, etc) that come into play but who is able to tilt the scales ever so slightly in their team’s favor when the best of the best square up?  

To me, it’s the team that has compartmentalized to the greatest detail in the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds leading up to game time and then is capable of unifying all those individualized, detailed parts back together again with a singleness of purpose…winning. Their attention to detail is second to done, they value everyone and the role they play, and they inspire every individual part to do what is best for the whole.

The degree (legally) to which the top professional, collegiate, and even high school programs go to gain the slightest advantage is a constant battle of one-upmanship and thus guarantees two things about The Process…it’s always evolving and it ain’t waiting for anyone!    

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!







Coaching Your Coaches

One of the greatest challenges for a head coach, especially at small schools where coaches are assigned 2 or 3 sports, is the art of coaching your coaches.  It would be nice if all coaches were knowledgeable in all sports but that is just not the case…I was a prime example when I was hired at White Oak.

As fate would have it, I was hired very late in the summer (in fact, 2-a-days had already began) when one of our coaches left for an administrative position.  I was hired and assigned to 9th grade football. Though I had been around football and liked the game, I had very little knowledge of X’s and O’s from a coaching perspective.  Fortunately, I was hired by one of the greatest football minds in the history of Texas High School football, Coach Andy Griffin and we had a great staff at White Oak that I could learn under.  I can remember many days just trying to be able to know my assignment for the next practice and feeling very overwhelmed. When I became the head basketball coach, I promised myself that I would remember those days when I had assistants who were new to the game or to our system.  This was just one of the ways I felt God had prepared me for His mission.

In this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I would like to discuss different ideas and concepts I used as the head coach at White Oak to give our assistants the opportunity to grow as a coach.  

To begin, I believe all coaches should feel an obligation to be the best coach they can be for each sport they are assigned.  As the head basketball coach, I wanted to work as hard during football season as I did during basketball for several reasons…I was paid to coach football, I owed it to our kids, I owed it to our football staff, and above all, I’m accountable to my God and I believe He expects me to do my best at whatever I’m doing. As the head coach, I would do all I was capable of doing to prepare my assistants to be the best they could be. However, I also expected them to do their part even if basketball wasn’t their first love. As long as I had set the proper example, then I could justify holding my assistants to the same level of accountability. However, I couldn’t expect them to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.

1) Put It On Paper

Shortly after I was named the head basketball coach at White Oak, my first undertaking that summer was to put together a coaches manual. Ironically, for some of the younger readers, this was just about the time that computers were becoming popular so being able to type a manual up on a word processor, save it, and print it was a very cool thing! This manual became the bible of White Oak basketball over the years.  It included philosophy, explanation of all drills, how to teach the drills, all offenses, defenses, staff duties, etc. As far as White Oak basketball went, it had it all. Part of the reason for creating this manual was to have a resource when new coaches came into our program.

However, as much as anything, it was for me.  It made sure I had a philosophy and a road map for our program.  By putting it on paper, you know it’s important, been thought about and organized.  If not, it may just be speculation. Finally, a coaches manual is a way of helping your assistants prepare to be head coaches later in their career should they choose to take that path.  

2) Coaches Video

With the advancement in video over the past couple of years, so much can be done through this medium to help coach your coaches. Another endeavor I undertook shortly after becoming a head coach was to create a shooting video (VHS back in the day) for our coaches that included a break down of how we wanted to teach shooting.  I also used some of our former players to make a video of our drills that we would use in the Junior High since this would many times be some of our more inexperienced coaches.

Later, I would use our off-season players to film our offenses, inbound plays, press breaks, drills, etc.  We would normally do this on the first Saturday after basketball practice had started so we could knock it out in 1 day.  With the use of Hudl, we were able to break this down into clips which corresponded to the script. As much as I could, I would make separate videos for our Junior High and High School staffs in order to concentrate on the areas of emphasis in our program progression.  

The videos allowed our coaches to watch at their convenience and pace as well as freeing me up from constantly going over the same drills. Also, if we hired a new coach late in the year or summer, the video would give them an opportunity to get a jump start on things before the season began if they chose to.

3) Work Basketball Camp

The way our camp was designed (see basketball camp entry) it was a great opportunity for our 7th, 8th, & 9th grade coaches to spend a week working with their kids as well as listening to me teach our skills, drills, and offenses.  I was very fortunate that most of our assistant coaches were always willing to work our camps but I believe it was also important to pay them for their time spent in the summer.

4) Preseason Coaches Meeting

Each year, I would meet with our junior high staff on the Saturday after our football season to go over team selections, practice format, etc. prior to their first practice.  Our high school staff would always meet on the Sunday after the completion of our football season, whenever that happened to be. As long as our coaches were still in football, I didn’t expect them to do anything related to basketball until our football season was over.

Most years, my main assistant in high school basketball would be one of our 9th grade football coaches so that he could come to basketball at the conclusion of the regular season and this was always crucial to allowing basketball to get started even if football was fortunate enough to be in the playoffs.  Being at a school that is successful in multiple sports is truly a blessing but it requires sacrifice by all involved to not allow one sports’ success to hamper another sports’ opportunity for success (I’ll discuss this in a later entry).

In summary, as the head coach at a small school that shares coaches as well as athletes, it was important for me to do all I could to prepare our coaches for basketball season as well as respecting the time they have committed to their other sports.  As many resources as I could give them to use on their own time that didn’t require us to meet as a staff, the better that I believed it was for all involved.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!


Developing An Offensive Philosophy

When I became the head basketball coach at White Oak my first order of business was to change our philosophy of play but not necessarily how we played.  Under my mentor and coach, Coach Dan Noll, White Oak had primarily used a patterned man offense along with zone sets. We played at a moderately fast pace against weaker teams but tended to slow the game down against teams more talented than we were.  Defensively, we would utilize a full court press back to a 2-3 zone against weaker teams and exclusively a 2-3 zone against better teams.

Being one of the smaller schools in our classification, this was a very common philosophy to use and a solid approach to the game.  Our teams at White Oak under Coach Noll were known for playing with great effort. He was one of the best at motivating his teams to compete at a high level and we all would have run through a wall for him and it was this element that I wanted to maximize when I became the head coach at White Oak.  I just wanted to skin the cat a different way.

In this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I’ll be sharing 10 thoughts on building an overall offensive philosophy.  With that being said, I believe it is critical to understand that the most important factor will never be what you do but rather how you do it.  There are very few offensive schemes today that have not already been utilized in some form or fashion.  We may call them something else but I believe there are very few new concepts being developed today…they just may be new to us.  Finally, I heard Paul Westhead speak at a clinic when he was coaching a Loyola Marymount (and his philosophy of fast tempo was becoming popular) and he said “Only 1 thing is for sure about your philosophy…The opposite has worked just as well.”  I thought this was a great way to express that successful offense has a lot more to do with fitting personnel and execution than a particular scheme.

1) Evaluate The Big Picture

Before choosing an offensive philosophy, these are some of the things I considered:


1) What type of athlete will I have most often?  Is our greatest physical attribute size, quickness, strength, or effort?

2) How much time do I get with my players? How many gyms do we have access to?

3) In general, how knowledgeable are my assistants?

4) How many players will I share with other sports?

5) How much control do I have over the Jr. High programs and youth programs?

6)  Are my players basketball savvy?

At White Oak, though we obviously had exceptions in our best years, I knew we wouldn’t normally be very tall or exceptionally quick but I felt we had one attribute that we had to take advantage of…our kids would play with extreme effort.  I believed we would play as hard as anyone and harder than most and we would base our entire overall basketball philosophy around this one aspect.

I knew we had access to 4 gyms, I would have my straight basketball players in fall and spring offseason, and I would normally get about half my team from football.  I also ran our Little Dribbler program (3rd-6th grade) so I could pound them with fundamentals before they got to Jr. High and I also had total control of our Jr. High program.  For the most part, my assistant coaches did their role and our players were very coachable and had a good knowledge of the game.

2)  How Fast Do You Want To Play?

Tempo may be one of the most stereotypical aspects of basketball….”athletic” teams press and play fast, “non-athletic” teams play zone and play deliberate.  Obviously, a fast tempo usually favors speed and quickness…until someone gets tired. At this point, I believe a fast tempo favors the toughest team. Depth is also a factor to consider along with conditioning.  Most people also believe it is easier to slow down than speed up. From an offensive perspective, this decision will go a long way in determining your team’s offensive identity and will have a major influence on your practice format.

Obviously, the style of play of the opposition can factor into the tempo of the game as well, but I wanted our teams to play fast in order to make effort and conditioning major factors in the outcome of the game.  This would be one way we would attempt to get high percentage shots. Though I knew in East Texas we would play teams faster and more athletic than us, I felt we would run harder for longer and that slowing the game down negated our greatest asset…great effort.

I also feel that fast tempo teams are much less likely to lose to less talented teams because of the increased number of possessions in a game.  However, much of the overall outcome of these types of upsets is determined on the defensive end of the court.

3)  Teach Shooting      

In East Texas, we played a lot of teams that were quick and fast.  For sure, to consistently compete for district championships and to advance in the playoffs, we had to have an equalizer.  Along with exceptional effort, shooting was that equalizer. Without a doubt, we spent more time on shooting than any other skill.  I began teaching shooting to most of our players in 5th grade Little Dribblers and we continued to work on shooting for at least 20-30 minutes per day at every level of our program.

Good shooting makes the defense cover more of the court thus creating more driving lanes and farther rotations, it makes the 3 pt shot a factor along with covering up for a variety of mistakes or other shortcomings.

Because of our shooting ability, it forced teams that played zone to extend farther than they were accustomed or abandon the zone for man defense.  Consequently, we were able to spend more preparation time on our man offenses.

4) How Will You Get “Easy” Baskets?

In most cases, I believe the team that gets the ball to the paint the most wins.  In a world of analytics and every stat imaginable, I believe paint touches is the most influential statistic in the outcome of most games.  Get’em touches on offense and stop’em on defense!

Whether it is through post up, dribble drive, transition offense, offensive rebounding, or forcing turnovers, I believe all championship teams create ways to get the ball to the paint.  It creates high percentage shots in the paint, high percentage 3 pt shots through drive & kick action or kick outs from offensive rebounding, and increases the opportunity to get to the free throw line as well as creating foul trouble for the opponent.  

At White Oak, our philosophy was to create “easy” opportunities through pressure defense and transition offense which capitalized on our kids effort and through attacking the basket via the dribble since we normally were guard heavy teams.

5) How Will You Get To The FT Line?

One of the common statistics associated with most championship teams is making more free throws than the opponent attempts.  When formulating an offensive philosophy, this will usually center around how you attempt to get the ball in the paint (see above).  For my teams, we often had to make sure we did not become too reliant on the 3 pt shot. I didn’t mind taking 25-30 a game but I wanted them to be the result of inside/out action as much as possible.  

6)  Have A 5 on 5 Plan

At some point and time, all teams have to be able to execute in the half court.  Normally, teams that play at a slower pace see this as an advantage situation over faster paced teams and many times they are correct.  Some of the greatest games played at the State Tournament are the classic chess matches between the transition based teams and the half court based teams where each team tries to force their will upon the other.  With no shot clock, it is usually more common to see a team being slowed down than forced to speed up so having a half court plan of attack is crucial for all.

I believe the answers to the questions in “Evaluate The Big Picture” go the farthest in determining a team’s half court plan.  Whether you choose sets, continuity or motion offenses, ball screen action, or isolation as your preferred half court action it must fit the type of player you have most often and what you and your coaches can teach.  Tweaks will be made each year but I believe the best programs have a general plan of attack in mind.

Initially, I wanted us to be a motion offense team similar to the Coach Knight teams at Indiana.  For my first 15 years or so, we ran a version of this but I scrapped it for a modified version of the flex offense my last 10 years or so.  I determined that the amount of time involved in teaching the motion offense was counterproductive to the shots we were getting. The offseason kids I had year around could run it and I could teach it but it was difficult for my assistants who didn’t spend near as much time with it as I did and was also tougher on our kids that came from football.

Consequently, as much as I would have preferred to run a less restrictive motion offense, our general plan was to use a modified version of the flex offense which still had some “read the defense” components of our motion offense but was simpler to teach.  We used this offense to force our opponents to defend movement, screening, and post play. Our other base half court man offense was our version of the dribble drive offense which we used against pressure. This was more of a spacing offense that incorporated dribble drive opportunities, drive and kick action, and post up opportunities. On dead ball situations we would usually have about 4-5 man sets along with a ball screen series and we mainly used sets against zone defense along with a few set plays.

Because transition offense was such a big part of our offensive attack, we almost exclusively ran our sideline break into our secondary break in transition.  I always wanted our first option to be to score in transition so I felt it needed to be kept as simple as possible to allow for maximum pace. If no shot was available, we would then initiate our half court sets.

7) How Much Is Too Much?

At this point of creating an offensive philosophy, I believe it is critical to be able to discern how much is too much.  Again, seeing the big picture is crucial to answering this question along with considering the experience of your team. I’ve always been a proponent of the “simplicity and execution” philosophy so I always preferred to have carryover from year to year and didn’t worry about surprising or tricking our opponents.  Again, with great effort being a staple of our overall philosophy, I felt the simpler I kept the system, the more intense and aggressive we would play. And above all else I wanted intense and aggressive!

8) When Is Winning Time?

With our style of play, one of the factors that I always had to consider was when it was time to take the foot off the gas when we had a lead and play a more conservative style.  With fast tempo teams, taking the foot off the gas too soon can lead to a “playing not to lose” mentality if you’re not careful. I don’t think more deliberate style teams face this dilemma near as much.  For us, I usually used the 2:00 mark of the 4th quarter as gauge for when we would go into our spread offense. If we had a 6 pt or more lead and we were in the bonus, we would definitely go into our spread offense at 2:00.  If the lead was smaller or the opponent was strong on defense then I might wait closer to the 1:30 mark but by this point, our kids knew if we had the ball and the lead it was winning time.

Besides deciding when to go into your delay game, I would also advise the following: 1) practice these situations at least weekly and have a consistent plan of attack that your kids feel confident in 2) Preach being aggressive in the delay game in order to not play passive.  My selling point was even if we screwed up, the other team still had to score against our defense and that wouldn’t be easy 3) Be confident and in control with your words and body language during these situations as well as timeouts because the players will take their cue from you.  Instead of “Don’t panic” say “Play with poise”. Remind them you’ve prepared for situations like this and for them to do what you’ve practiced.

9)  Have A Catch Up Plan

Just as more deliberate teams may have an advantage when it’s time to slow the game down, fast tempo teams have the advantage when playing catch up.  My “catch up” plan normally involved ball screen action or set plays. I rarely tried to do things that we had not practiced so we tried to have baseline, sideline, half court, and full court plays for situations that could arise.  These situations were a staple during our athletic period shoot around on game days and we also tried to practice these situations in practice. We didn’t practice some of the more rare situations but once or twice but I at least wanted us to be able to line up and have a chance to execute if needed, especially if we did not have a timeout.

Obviously, defense has a lot to do with overcoming a disadvantage situation also so practicing scenarios of being behind in late game situations is paramount.  Knowing when to call timeout, having a code word for “foul”, and practicing fouling should all be a part of the plan.

10) Timeout or No Timeout?

I was always a strong believer in preparation.  Some of my favorite parts of coaching were practice planning, scouting, and practice itself.  I think for this reason I always preferred to “play it out” rather than call timeout with the game on the line and the ball in our hands.  To me, this situation favors the team that is most prepared (and has the best players) and that’s who we set out to be. It’s also much harder for the opponent to change defenses and often removes the element of surprise.

So….with :54 seconds remaining, scored tied, and the 2013 Class 2A State Championship on the line, the White Oak Roughnecks decided to play it out and as the clock approached :08 with thousands of fans rising to their feet in the Frank Erwin Special Events Center, Kris Anderson went to work and the ball dropped cleanly through the net…just like we had practiced.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!

10 Principles of Effective Leadership

In general, people want and need to be led.  I know there are isolated (no pun intended) examples of people who prefer to be loners and be one with the Earth and such, but for the most part we spend a large portion of our lives in some type of group or team setting.  Whether it be as a family member, as part of a team or other organization, or at work, most of us will find ourselves spending a substantial amount of our time in a group setting of some sort.  And where there are groups, leadership is needed.  

For some, leadership comes to them naturally…it comes to them as a gift from God.  Not earned, just a gift.  In Luke 12:48, the word of God states “to whom much is given, much will be expected” and I believe God was speaking to leaders as much as anyone in this passage of scripture.  Without a doubt, I believe the best leaders, the cream of the crop if you will, have a gift.  But like any other gift, leaders must choose how they are going to use it.  Will it be used positively or negatively?  Will it be used for selfish gain or the good of the whole?  There is a difference between effective leadership and destructive leadership.

Also, I don’t believe leadership is restricted to those whom it may come to more naturally.  You can lead by being a good follower.  For example, everyone can lead by way of being a positive example…being on time, working hard, being respectful, embracing your role, being selfless, etc.  All of these are positive qualities and for many this is their most effective means of leadership.  Where some error is when they try to lead in ways in which they are not effective.  Many times this comes from being placed in position of authority or simply from being told “You have to be a leader!”  We have all witnessed (or been a victim of) fake leadership and simply put…nobody is buying what they’re selling.  It’s much better to be a good follower than a fake leader.               

As the head basketball coach at White Oak High School for 25 years, I was responsible for leading our basketball program. As a teacher for 29 years, I have been responsible for leading the students in which I have been entrusted and, as a faculty member, I hope I have been a positive influence on my colleagues.  In this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I would like to share my 10 Principles of Effective Leadership from the perspective of being the decision maker.  However, many of these leadership principles apply to leading in any capacity.  

PRINCIPLE #1: The leader drives the culture

Leaders drive the culture of any team or organization by setting the standard for what is acceptable or unacceptable.  They are also responsible for establishing the priorities (Core Values) and modeling the expected behavior for everyone under their leadership. Effective leaders are always the primary example of what is expected and should be willing to invest the most.  Their list of duties is always the longest and they never asks those under their leadership to do more than they are willing to do themselves.  Delegating is a necessity for those in charge but it is not a synonym for lazy.  Culture is defined at the top.

PRINCIPLE #2: Heed the advice of others but have the courage to make your own decisions

Leaders have the courage to do what they believe is right regardless of the circumstances.  They have a set of standards that they measure those decisions against while seeking the advice of those they know have a common goal in mind and will tell them the truth as they see it.  Leaders don’t surround themselves with “yes” men or puppets…only the insecure do that.  Leaders surround themselves with people who bring something valuable to the table and can provide wise suggestions for the good of the whole.  Ultimately, a decision must be made and I believe the leader, after consultation with those he trusts, makes that decision…the buck stops with him.

For this reason, I’ve never been a fan of “committees” making decisions.  I believe committees are fine for providing expertise in various areas and input or suggestions but ultimately the leader should make the call.  If the decision turns out to be a good one, the leader credits all involved in the process.  If the decision turns out to be a bad one, the leader takes responsibility.  This style of leadership makes it known where the leader stands while also holding the leader accountable.

PRINCIPLE #3: Value every role on the team or within the organization

Value leads to buy in and everyone wants to know they are valuable.  Leaders understand that everyone with a role in the process has value and they make it a point to make this value known.  Some positions within the team or organization have value that is obvious to everyone and they receive recognition for their accomplishments within the grand scheme of things. Effective leaders go out of their way to make sure those in less obvious positions know they are valuable to the whole.  They take every opportunity to point how their role was instrumental in a positive outcome…as insignificant as some might perceive.  Leaders know there is no such thing as insignificant roles, they value every role, and they establish a culture where everyone respects the role of each contributor.  By establishing this as a priority, people want to buy in to their role because they see the significance and buy in leads to accountability.

PRINCIPLE #4: Leaders build relationships by serving and showing gratitude

Effective leaders look for ways to make it more efficient for others to do their job.  Part of this goes back to driving the culture.  The leader never ask others to do more than they are willing to do themselves.  Leaders are never too good to pick up the mop, wash the jock straps, or drive the bus.  Leaders make the time to show appreciation and gratitude and by seeking ways to serve instead of being served.

In the event the leader has to “call in”, “write up”, or discipline someone, hopefully, this comes after they have taken the opportunity to point out a positive attribute or contribution that person has made to the team or organization.  Sometimes this is very difficult but effective leaders are very creative in finding ways to magnify the value of someone and take it as a challenge to make them feel appreciated. With today’s technology, it is so much easier to show gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.  Shout Outs on twitter, text messages, and believe it or not, old fashioned “tell it to their face” are great ways to express gratitude.

By using this type of leadership style, holding people accountable becomes so much easier because people want to buy in. They know they are valuable and respected and in most cases, if they must be called into account and have any pride at all, they feel guilty for letting down the leader as well as everyone else involved with the team or organization

PRINCIPLE #5: Leaders should inspire

Ultimately, I believe we are each responsible for inspiring ourselves.  However, effective leaders live to inspire others…it’s their gift, it’s what they do.  Seeing the excitement in a kids eyes when he is acknowledged for a job well done, seeing a mentored colleague succeed, or the surprise on the face of a stranger from a random act of kindness, if you live to inspire…THAT FIRES YOUR BUTT UP!!!!

A simple but very effective means of inspiration is personal touch.  Whether it is fist bumps when crossing paths, embracing arms on the bench, or a high five after a great play, there is power in physical touch.  There is also a personal touch to notes or letters.  The written word can be very powerful and can be referred to on numerous occasion or displayed in a prominent area for the purpose of daily inspiration.  Effective leaders understand the inspirational power of personal touch.

Good leaders spend a lot of time working on the perfect plan.  Great leaders spend most of their time inspiring the people who will execute the plan.  Inspired people have accomplished things that mercenaries never even dream about.

PRINCIPLE #6: At times, it has to be lonely at the top

Effective leaders know there has to be a degree of separation between themselves and the people they are responsible for leading.  Relationships have to be built but it can never be at the expense of objectivity, consistency, or accountability.  The culture of a program or organization must reflect a healthy respect for people in positions of authority which makes effective leadership vital to success.  

One of the greatest blessings I had as a head coach was having 3 of my former players be assistants on our staff.  In fact, two of them, Billy Terry (2012 & 2013) and Brett Cloud (2013) were on the bench as assistant coaches when we won our 2 State Championships and words can’t express how much it meant to me to have 2 of my boys there to experience an achievement very few ever get to experience.  As thrilled as I was to have them with me every day, I also had to make a conscience effort to not let my loyalty to them as my former players cloud (again, no pun intended) my objectivity as the head coach.  Ultimately, as far as a basketball staff, my loyalty had to be what was best for our program.  Whereas, outside of those doors, my loyalty would always be to them as 2 of my former players as well as best friends.  Conversely, I know it was difficult or awkward for them at times, as well, but they respected that I had to do what I felt was best for our program.

PRINCIPLE #7: Leaders must believe in accountability

I believe accountability is the deciding factor in determining the success of a program or organization of any type.  All the other elements that lead to a championship or elite culture can be in place but, without accountability, potential cannot be maximized.  

I have saved “accountability” for Principle #7 because I believe effective leadership makes a program or organization much more conducive to accountability when principles 1-6 have been established.  Why is accountability tough?  Because at times, it leads to adversity or confrontation.  That’s why I believe principles 1-6 help with accountability because if these steps have been taken, effective leaders know they have done their part and more. With that being the case, accountability becomes a positive…the leader is just expecting the standard that the culture demands to be met and it’s consistent for everyone.          

However, there are occasions when people refuse to meet the minimum requirements and leaders must be willing to invoke consequences if this becomes a consistent issue.  Not holding someone accountable, many times, is just a way of telling them, “I don’t think you can do it.”  If the expectations are not being met, a leader owes it to that person and the rest of the team members to address the situation and impose consequences if necessary.  Even to the point of having to let someone go.  If a leader is not willing to take these steps, if necessary, there will always be people looking to take advantage of the lack of accountability.  In most cases, once accountability has been established, those types of individuals eliminate themselves.    

PRINCIPLE #8: Leaders must know the pulse of the group they are leading

Without a doubt, it is impossible to reach a high level of success without high expectations.  A select few people are highly motivated and leading them is just a matter of not stymying their creativity or getting in their way. An elite or championship culture is something they will thrive in.  On the other hand, some people have about as much get-up-and-go as a bassett hound and you won’t have to worry about getting out of their way because they ain’t going no where anyway!  

Most people, however, are like a wheel barrow…they are going to go only as far as they are pushed.  That’s where effective leadership comes into play…getting people to do more than they believe they are capable of doing.  In order to do this, leaders have to push, they have to be driven, and they must be demanding…AND IT AIN’T EASY!  As the leader does this, at times, the one’s being led will be getting pushed closer and closer to the breaking point.  It sounds insane but that’s what the best do.  It’s at this crucial point when leaders must feel the pulse for how hard they can push. Push too hard and they break.  Don’t push hard enough and they live in mediocrity.         

To me, the key to knowing the pulse of the team was to watch my toughest kids and see how they were responding.  If they were dragging, we might need to back off a little bit or change things up some way.  The best teams I had would always stay around for a while after practice to work on their skills, play a shooting game, or some NBA style 1 on 1.  On occasion, some would try to dunk but it didn’t take long to figure out that was a waste of time.  As long as they stayed after on their own, I knew they were good to go.  Like I said, our best teams did this.  A few years, not many, the players were straight out the door after workout…it didn’t take long to take that pulse.  

PRINCIPLE #9: Effective leaders accept responsibility for mistakes and deflect the credit for success

As I referenced in principle #2, I believe it is the responsibility of the leader to be the decision maker in order to have accountability throughout the team or organization.  For this reason, I believe two of the most important ingredients in being an effective leader are taking responsibility when the results don’t go your way and deflecting the credit when they do.

As a decision maker, effective leaders exhaust every option for making the best decision possible then pull the trigger.  Once this is done, a leader has to be at peace with the result of that decision…good or bad.  

I’ve been asked many times what it was like to be in the Frank Erwin Center in Austin coaching in the State Championship games.  The most common question refers to our last possession in the 2013 Class 2A State Championship game against Brock when we held the ball for about the last minute of the game before Kris Anderson hit a short floater in the lane to win the game.  People ask, “Wasn’t it risky holding the ball that long?”, “What if Kris had missed?”, and all sorts of questions. Eventually, it usually gets down to this, “Were you nervous? Did you think about calling time out?” and my answer is always “No, I was at peace with the decision and our team trusted Kris to make the right play”.  Now that might sound like the cool answer but it was the truth.  We had practiced that set many times, executed it in games, and we were focused on the task at hand.  When you have prepared to the best of your ability, you trust the process and live with the result.  Had Brock stolen the ball or we turned it over, I’m sure there would have been many people questioning our strategy but I’m confident I would have taken responsibility for that decision.  Rest assured though, I’m thankful I didn’t have to put that theory to the test!

In the postgame press conference, I was asked a question about “my” team and I was quick to point out that it was not Ron Boyett’s team, it was White Oak’s team then I preceded to talk about all the different hands that played a part in our team’s success.  I knew what the reporter meant by “my” team, but as the leader of our team, I wanted everyone to know that I understood the investment that it took by so many to achieve that level of success.  Leaders should always give credit to those who toted the load.


I saved the best for last but it should definitely be done first.  As a Christian, I believe God has a purpose for each and every life.  I believe He grants gifts and talents to all His children and that our job is to unwrap those gifts, use them to benefit others, and, ultimately, bring honor and glory to His kingdom.  Like I stated in Principle #1, I believe to a large degree, that leadership is a gift.  But like any gift, it must be put to use to be effective.  That’s where I believe prayer comes into the picture.  

During my tenure as the Head Basketball Coach at White Oak, my conference period was always the period before athletics and this was very beneficial in many ways.  One of those benefits was that it gave me time to pray when I needed to and there was never a time before a meeting with a parent, meeting with my coaches or administration, or meeting with our team that I didn’t go to the Lord in prayer prior to that meeting.  Most of the time it was a simple prayer similar to this, “Father, I humble myself before you and acknowledge that you are the one and only true God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I ask you now to guide my words and actions, to give me clarity of thought, and that all that is said and done here today will be in accordance to your will.  I’ve come to you in situations like this many times before and you have never let me down and I know you won’t now.  Help me to have peace of mind as I do my best to serve your purpose for my life.  Amen.”

Thanks for reading and Lead With A Purpose!


“Don’t do anything to embarrass yourself, your family, or the team.”

These types of statements are used by many athletic programs as the basis for their standards of behavior.  Though there can be a strong case for these type of generic standards being superior to a list of rules, it would be naive to believe that some coaches also favor the ambiguity of these types of standards for behavior.  The advantage (at least to some coaches) to these types of general statements is the broad range of interpretation and the broad range of enforcement.  They follow the old adage of “don’t back yourself into a corner” or “always leave yourself some wiggle room” when it comes to standards of behavior.  The coaches that subscribe solely to this type of philosophy are attracted to the subjectivity of these types of standards for behavior instead of the the draw the line in the sand type of philosophy of more concrete standards.  

Personally, I always felt these general types of statements were beneficial as long as they were also backed up by a specific set of standards for behavior…your non-negotiables.  Without the inclusion of these non-negotiables, I believe these general types of statements can often be used by coaches who prefer a lower level of accountability…Coaches who don’t want to have to apply rules equally to everyone for whatever reason.  Unfortunately, some coaches are afraid they may be forced to discipline their best player, the school board or administrators son/daughter, or the son/daughter of a booster club member if they have a set of specific behavior standards because if it’s in writing, you may have to enforce it.  Though you probably will not find many coaches who would admit to this type of thinking, I believe we would all be very naive to believe this isn’t the motivation for some generic, subjective standards for behavior.  In my opinion, you can’t build a championship culture without a set of non-negotiable standards.  By non-negotiable, I mean there will be consequences if these standards are violated.

With this being said, because of the lack of flexibility in these standards, they must be well thought out and of the utmost importance to a coach’s belief in what it takes to build the culture the coach wants.  Once these standards are established, it is crucial that all involved with the program understand the expectations and that all will be held accountable.  At White Oak, once football season was complete, our teams never took the court until I had covered our standards of expectations with everyone involved.  Even in years when we had extended football seasons, and we were already feeling squeezed on time, I never made an exception to covering these standards on the first day that we had all of our high school players together for the first time.  Consequently, once I had covered these standards, we would all be held accountable.  Without a doubt, it is the accountability and enforcement of the standards for behavior that create the culture.  Once your non-negotiables are established and all involved know there will be accountability, the decision making becomes much easier…your standards make the decision for you, regardless of circumstances or people involved.  Initially, the enforcement of these standards can lead to confrontational situations until a pattern of consistency and fairness is established and for this reason, coaches must understand they may lose players who do not want to meet the standards.  For this reason, as I stated earlier, a coach must make sure the non-negotiables are well thought out and worth you putting your cleats in the ground.  

At White Oak, our non-negotiables were centered around our 5 program standards of being accountable, responsible, trustworthy, disciplined, and respectful.  These were explained in detail in the blog entry entitled “Measure Up”.  Any violation of the standards are deemed to be unacceptable and subject to consequences.  Below, I have included some of the specific non-negotiables that are incorporated into these standards.  Obviously, these examples do not cover every scenario that may have occurred within our program but they eliminate the subjectivity to many of the most common situations that come up.

                                                                                      White Oak Basketball

                                                                                        Program Standards

  1. BE ACCOUNTABLE – Players are expected to attend all practices and games unless excused.  SAC or school suspension is an unexcused absence.  Repeated unexcused absences or tardies are grounds for suspension and possible dismissal from the team. At minimum,  all athletes are expected to meet the academic requirements of the UIL. Habitual grade problems are grounds for suspension or dismissal from the team.  All players are expected to do their best.
  2. BE RESPONSIBLE –  In order to be considered excused, the coach must be notified of the absence in advance.  Players will be required to make up all practices missed with a maximum of 3 practices for extended illness or injury.  Excused absences will require the player to make up the conditioning missed with a minimum of 3 mavericks.  Unexcused absences will demand the following:  15 Mavericks under time.  Players will not dress for games until unexcused absences are cleared.  Unexcused tardies will depend on circumstances and time missed with a minimum of 3 mavericks.  After school detention is an unexcused tardy and carries a penalty of 5 mavericks.
  3.  BE TRUSTWORTHY – Players are responsible for their school issued equipment.  Non-school issued equipment should not be worn except for undershirts which may be White Oak basketball shirts or a plain white, grey, or maroon t-shirt.  Violations of equipment standards carry a penalty of 3 mavericks.  The locker code is as follows:  (1) all cloth should be hung up  (2) Only shoes in the bottom of locker.  Shoes should be flat.  (3) Personal items , notebooks, ankle braces, etc. should be kept in the top of lockers. Players should maintain the locker code after each practice or game.
  4. BE DISCIPLINED – Discipline problems in the classroom, community, or within the team will not be tolerated.  The first offense will carry a penalty of extra conditioning.  The second offense will be extra conditioning and a one game suspension.  The third offense will be an indefinite suspension or possible dismissal from the team. The student handbook and athletic code of conduct must be adhered to at all times.  Any flagrant technical foul carries a penalty of 8 mavericks for the team.  The coach is the only person that says anything to the officials.
  5. BE RESPECTFUL:  Players should not enter the equipment room or coaches’ office without permission.  All players are required to see their coach after games and workouts before leaving.

STUDENT SIGNATURE  _____________ PARENT SIGNATURE ________________

All practices are “closed” for the purpose of eliminating distractions and securing a teachable atmosphere.  During practice hours, parents should only enter the gym or dressing area in emergency situations.


There is no doubt in my mind that during my 25 year tenure at White Oak, there were kids walking the halls that could have helped our team on the court but they did not want to meet the standards for our program.  In fact, I can recall the following words of advice from one of the coaches on our staff (in regards to 2 players who were definitely varsity players as far as talent but were being required to play on the JV for a year) as he passed by me in the hall one day during my 1st year, “If you’d just relax a few of your rules, you’d improve your team.”  I knew what he meant and I’d be lying if I said I was not tempted and questioned whether or not I was doing it the right way.  

Ironically, I was single at the time and spent a lot of time at my parents house.  While describing this scenario with my parents one night, I can remember the words of my mom, “Be who you are and do what you know is right.”  I learned something that night…only consider advice from those that have your best interest at heart.  Her words stay with me to this day.  

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!



Know The Enemy

As it relates to the game, my job as coach was to help put my players in the best position possible to win.  There are so many factors that ultimately contribute to whether games and championships are won or lost and, as a coach, some of those factors are within our control.  For our program at White Oak, an area that I believe benefitted us greatly was scouting and in this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I will give my thoughts on the benefits of scouting, the things we looked for when scouting, and an example of a scouting report we would give our players during district play and the playoffs.

First of all, I rarely scouted our non-district opponents unless it was during a tournament or close by.  Like most coaches, I would contact coaches who had played these teams for some information or possibly get film on them but we rarely ever did a formal scouting report for a non-district game and this was by design.  

For one reason, in non-district, I wanted to see how our team and players would respond to schemes or situations that we had not prepared for in order to see how we could adapt.  Secondly, once we got to district play, I wanted our players to feel much more prepared than they did during non-district. This was all part of the plan of making non-district as challenging or more challenging than district play.  

Prior to district, I wanted to put our team under duress to see how we would respond and train our team on how to respond.  During district, I wanted our team to have a feeling of knowing they were prepared but if something came up we had not anticipated, they would have the security of knowing they had been trained to adjust on the move during non-district.  

However, when it came to district play and the playoffs, my goal was to leave no stone unturned.  As much as I could, I did the scouting for district on my own because I wanted to see our opponents for myself.  Regardless of the district team, I tried to see each one in person at least once prior to the start of district play if possible.  If not, I would try to acquire film on them.

With the advent of Hudl and Krossover, film swap has become so much more convenient, that I can’t think of a reason to not see an opponent before competing against them.  However, I always preferred to see each team in person if I could because so many more things could be observed. One of the most important advantages of being at the game in person was being able to watch pregame.  During this time, I would watch each player’s shooting stroke, check out their range, and look for any other shooting tendencies such as how well a player shot off the dribble or in a catch & shoot situation.

Another aspect that could be observed better in person was how players interacted amongst themselves, how they interacted with their coach and officials, and their body language on the bench.  So much could be learned about a player’s mental makeup by observing them in pregame, during the game, and after the game. I think it’s much harder to read these types of intangibles when watching a game on film.

Once the playoffs started, I was always fortunate to have assistants who were capable of scouting as well as having coaching colleagues who were willing to help.  An area in which as I was also extremely blessed was to have former players who knew what we looked for in scouting reports and they were always willing to help if I needed them.  During our 2 year run to the State Tournament, several of my former players who either lived in different parts of the state or were attending college around the state scouted for us at various regional tournaments.  Guys like Clay Copeland, Trevor Wait, Ian Story, and Colby Carr all scouted for us during the playoffs and I knew I could always trust their input.

Finally, each coach has to develop a philosophy on who he is going to trade film with and who he is not.  I know some districts have it in their rules to not trade game film of district opponents but I also know not everyone adheres to those rules.  Personally, I was pretty much willing to trade film with anyone as long as I felt like they would return the favor. Rarely did I refuse to help another coach but if I did it was most likely because they had burned me in the past.  

Also, I always felt it was unethical to pass on a film of a game I had received to someone else without permission from the coach who had given me the film.  Personally, I have felt basketball should be more like football once we entered district play and the playoffs and just swap a couple of games. I know some coaches believe this rewards some coaches who are too lazy to scout but in most cases, your opponent is going to get film of your games from someone.  I was always willing to agree to this arrangement if the other coach wanted to swap.

The following is a list of things I would look for myself or when someone was scouting for us.




*List starters – note height, position, strengths/weaknesses, any individual

tendencies (favors strong hand, etc.)

*List substitutes that are in the regular rotation – same info as starters

*Draw baseline and sideline inbound plays

*Try to pick up offensive patterns or plays if the opponent is playing man


*Draw press break and denote the type of press used against

*If they play zone defense, denote type of zone and where each player

is positioned, denote how post is defended along with strengths

and weaknesses observed

*If they play man defense, denote degree of aggressiveness and whether

or not they deny one pass away, denote how post is defended along

with screens on and off the ball

*If they press, denote man or zone – if zone, put players in position –

look for strengths/weaknesses

*If game is close – denote end of game tendencies – set plays, do they guard

inbound man on last second situation, etc.

The following is an example of a scouting report (names changed or omitted and diagrams omitted) we would give to our players during district and the playoffs.  I would normally allow 30 minutes for each scouting report and during this time our JV would be learning some of our opponents sets and defenses in order to simulate these during practice.





#1 – Name – 5’11” – Sr. – Guard – average athlete, scrappy – solid defender – will use him to shadow the best wing player – will try to get into your head with physical and disciplined play – solid ball handler – solid shooter but only shoots if left wide open.

Game plan:  1) regular rules 2) must challenge his outside shot

#2 – Name – 5’10” – Sr. – Guard – plays the point and the wing – intense competitor – emotional leader of team – solid ball handler – drives to pass – very good spot up 3 pt. shooter – excellent on ball defender – moves feet well and plays with a lot of intensity – plays physical.

Game plan: 1) run him off 3 pt. line 2) be ready to help on drive then recover quickly

#3 – Name – 5’9” – Sr. – Guard – average athlete – solid ball handler – good shooter if given open look – will attack basket if given an advantage – solid defender but not as intense as other starters.

Game plan 1) regular rules

#4 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Forward – good quickness, explosive jumper, intense competitor – main post up threat – likes to attack the basket – almost always shot fakes when facing the basket – capable mid range shooter and will attack basket from perimeter – solid on both boards – tends to get in foul trouble.

Game plan:  1) deny ball in the post 2) don’t bite on shot fake 3) play drive from perimeter 4) must block him off boards 4) must always think he will shoot it

#5 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Guard – good length, solid quickness – best perimeter player – LOVES TO SHOOT – will shoot anytime and from 3 to 4 steps behind the line – solid off the dribble but wants to take jump shots – run a lot of set plays for him – solid defender – very good on boards.

Game plan:  1) no ball side perimeter help off him 2) chase him off all perimeter screens – try to beat him to the spot 3) make him dribble the ball 4) must block him off the boards

#6 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Forward – good strength, average quickness – best perimeter shooter of forwards – 2nd best 3 pt. shooter and will look to take 3 pt. shot – will attack basket from perimeter – solid ball handler – solid defender and on both boards.

Game plan:  1) run him off 3 pt. line while keeping leverage 2) must block him off boards.

#7 – Name – 5’11” – Sr. – Guard – LEFT handed – average athlete – solid ball handler but will prefer to drive left – solid 3 pt. shooter.

Game plan:  1) play his left hand

#8 – Name – 5’8” – Sr. – Point Guard – not strong, average quickness – solid ball handler – uses body well – mainly looks to distribute

Game plan:  1) regular rules

The Ficts have a season’s record of ______.  The strength of their team is solid overall fundamentals, offensive execution, great defensive intensity and technique, and playing physical.  Their weaknesses are a heavy dependency on #4 and #5 to score and the ability to create off the dribble with complimentary players, lack of a post game besides #4.


The Ficts will play at a medium pace in the full court and be very patient in the half court except when #4 and #5 have the ball.  The Ficts will run numerous set plays mainly for #4 and #5 and the rest of the team will play off of those 2 players.  They execute their plays with great precision – full speed and with physical screens.


Game plan:  1)  recognition of set plays

                      2)  stop ball reversal – dribble and pass

                      3)  know individual strengths

                      4)  make #4 and #5 work to catch the ball and shoot contested shots

                     5)  PHYSICAL BLOCKOUTS and FIGHT FOR THE BALL!

                     6)  Regular ball screen rules


Set Play Recognition:


                    1) Maryland – pass to #5 on perimeter (off down screen) or flex action

                                            (usually #1 on flex cut)

                    2) Double –  dribble handoff or double post on elbow

                    3) Box 1 –  fake handoff

                    4) Post Screen – switch big/big


*When #5 is away from the ball, he will be running off a single screen or stagger.  Screener defenders must protect against the curl and help on lob!



The Ficts play a very physical brand of half court man defense.  They are solid individual defenders and play excellent team defense.   They will most likely double the post.  They will use a hard hedge on the ball screens and be very physical with cutters.


Game Plan:  1) must not play the entire game 5 on 5

                     2) select good shots – have patience if quick shot is not there.

                     3) must hold our ground on screens

                     4) use “hold” on right block in dead ball situations

Face Guard:  1) use 4 man or spread (move 3 to corner)

                       2)  use “44” (must attack rim)

                       3)  103


In summary, I believe scouting can give a team a great advantage especially on the defensive end of the court.  By knowing player tendencies and how an offense is initiated, I always felt we would have a great chance to take away what a player or team liked to do best.  If we could make the opponent play to their weaknesses individually and make them run their counters or take them out of their sets completely on offense, then I felt we always had a good chance to win.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!