Skill Building in the Preseason

CUW FloorThis week our basketball players are returning to campus for the Fall semester, and like players at colleges and high schools throughout the country, they’re anxious to get in the gym.  While many of them had good intentions, it’s a safe assumption that far too many did not spend as much time as they had planned in the gym over the summer. Continue reading


From the Book Pile: Players First by Coach Cal

John Calipari & Michael Sokolove. Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out. New York. Penguin Press, 2014. 288 pp., $21.56

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.

BASKETBALL – Treat players like you treat your own kids.

In today’s basketball world, I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is to discern the true character beyond the images of today’s coaches.  What we see in the public realm, even in coaches at lower levels, is often a carefully crafted veneer to shape a successful career. I do not know John Calipari, but my perception of him has evolved over the years from utter disdain for what appeared to be a cut-throat, ladder climbing con-man, to appreciation for an offensive philosophy I have incorporated into my own philosophy, to a respect for his handling of the issues that face college athletics and his sincere quest to make a Players Firstdifference in the lives of young people.  I haven’t always liked his style and it has been easy to question his motives, but Coach Cal has a lot to say about working with young people.  In his book, Calipari details much of his career, but focuses on the issue of coaching at tradition-rich Kentucky in the era of One and Done. While that may not apply to all of us, it certainly reveals a philosophy of caring for players in the high-priced, pressure-filled world of big-time basketball.  I recorded Book Notes for Players First as he discusses the highs and lows at Kentucky, relationships with players, his thoughts on the NCAA and the uniqueness of recruiting at UK, but found the underlying theme in his mission of Players First is the simple question “How would I want a coach to treat my kid?”  Push everything else aside and that one question gives me a new found respect for Coach Cal!

LIFE – The Golden Rule

Cal and Randle

Calipari’s goal to treat players as he would want coaches to treat his own children is a spin-off of what many of us have been taught, The Golden Rule – to treat other people as you would want them to treat you. So, is Calipari able to maintain that attitude as a result of his success or did that attitude truly help him achieve success?  The Golden Rule is an ideal for most of us, but when it comes to achieving what we want in life, don’t many of us consider it to be simply a nice idea?  Success in our society too often is defined by wealth, fame, and achievement and many of us will do whatever it takes to obtain that.  How we treat people is often the last consideration.  The cynical side of me thinks that Coach Cal is in an easy position to profess a desire to follow the Golden Rule, but the optimistic side of me hears him pointing to a different side of success; happiness.  I found his thoughts about his career success to be fascinating and inspirational, but appreciate more his sincere sense of how he treats people, at least in this stage of his career. He seems to understand that success and happiness are not necessarily linked.

Too many of us, including me, often live by much lower standards than Gold.  The Iron Rule – do unto others BEFORE they do it to you and the Silver Rule – do unto others as they do to you, seem to be the best way to get ahead and are far too common in our world today.  Taking care of yourself and only helping people when they help you may help you find success, but will leave you far short of happiness.  I challenge you to examine your life right now.  How often do you settle for iron and silver, when the real standard is gold?

FAITH – A Better Rule

You don’t have to follow Jesus to know that the Golden Rule is a good idea.  Jesus taught his followers that during the early days of His ministry:

 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law . . . ” (Matthew 7:12)

and kindergarten teachers everywhere have followed suit, but being the master teacher that He is, Jesus turned it up a notch.  What He presented as the Golden Rule He used as a starting point in His ministry to begin teaching us all to set higher expectations in how we treat each other.  He was dealing with a world of people who experienced the Iron rule of Rome and the Silver rules of Jewish law.  By the end of His ministry, as He approached His death, Jesus laid down his true expectation for those of us who follow Him.  Let’s call it the Titanium Rule . . .

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:12-13)

John Calipari lays down a terrific standard for coaches, treat your players like you want a coach to treat your own kids, but Jesus teaches all of us that even that is a low standard.  Jesus laid down His life for all of us in act of love as rare as titanium.  I pray that as a coach I can go beyond the Calipari rule, as noble as it is, and truly love players and anyone else I deal with in a manner that approaches titanium.

Thanks Randy Raasch!



The Question Behind Paul George’s Injury?

As basketball has grown into an international passion, following USA Basketball has become an off-season focus for many of us.  In the middle of summer last week, I found myself abandoning the Boys of Summer playing baseball and tuned in to watch the nationally aired “scrimmage” to form my opinion on which NBA superstars should represent the U.S. in this year’s World Cup.  The evening was cut short, though, as Indiana Pacer Paul George crashed to the floor and suffered a horrific leg fracture. Suddenly the questions I had as the evening began were surpassed by one nagging question for all of us – was it preventable? Continue reading