I shared the notes from the Coaching U LIVE clinic here last week and hope to share the notes from this one as they become available. Sadly, I did not attend. I truly hope to one day. Invite only clinics and clinics that have the focus this one does are the best. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s a group of us used to hand out assignments: BOB’s, P & R Defense, Specialty Plays, Late Game, etc…, convene at the Final Four, meet in an empty room and go. It was truly awesome. Each person was responsible for bringing in enough copies of written material for the group. Each coach had about an hour, with time for Q & A after. Sadly, that disintegrated.
The “recruiting” aspect of the Final Four… college guys hanging with AAU guys to solidify the relationship for X player took over and the time for X’s & O’s was prioritized out of the equation. Everyone said, “We have to do that again.” It never happens.
Kudos to Coach Shyatt and the Florida staff for keeping it alive and growing the game in a way outside of recruiting. As they said, the reason why many of us got into it in the first place.
This was a good article on what the clinic is truly all about.
First thing Monday morning, and Larry Shyatt is standing on the men’s court inside the Florida basketball practice facility, welcoming those who have assembled on this SEC campus to talk hoops in what feels like a genuine and pure environment. There is nothing glamorous here. A white board on the court, folding chairs lining a baseline and sideline, and little more. The room is filled with everybody from future Hall of Famers to junior college coaches, and Shyatt, Billy Donovan’s associate head coach at Florida, has just one instruction before turning things over to Butler’s Brad Stevens.
“No holding back,” Shyatt said. “If you’re not willing to share, this is not for you.”
What happened next was nice to witness.
The subsequent 14 hours featured one speaker after another — Stevens, NBA icon Del Harris, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, Boston Celtics assistant Kevin Eastman, etc., — talking about a variety of subjects, exchanging ideas, discussing, debating and thoroughly enjoying a two-day clinic Shyatt created years ago that continues today thanks to the support of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and the willingness of those invited to make time to attend. They talked about transition defense and motion offense, about mental toughness and proper shooting techniques. They talked about how to deal with certain situations in the media, how to handle players who won’t work, what to do with student-athletes’ sometimes embarrassing addiction to Facebook and Twitter, and then they went to bed, awoke early Tuesday, and did it all again.
This was not about getting an all-expense paid trip to Florida to visit the beach, enjoy Disney World, play golf, gamble in a casino, or hit the hottest nightspot. Time (and energy) permitting, maybe some enjoyed a couple of beers with colleagues at the Ale House near the hotel one night, but that’s it. This invitation-only event was and always has been exclusively about basketball for guys who describe themselves as basketball junkies. There is no recruiting or public relations advantage to be gained. Just knowledge, if you’re willing to take it.
“A lot of the coaching clinics have you talking to high school coaches and junior college coaches, and even though you’re teaching the game and giving something back to the game, what you’re really doing is recruiting and public relations,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, who spent nearly two hours Tuesday talking about the motion offense he learned as a kid growing up in Indiana and has darn-near perfected as a rising star in the Big Ten. “But this clinic is different. It’s just an exchange of ideas — coaches passing knowledge back and forth and trying to help each other, and I think that’s what’s great. This is what you get in it for, to coach and have fun and get better and help other guys get better.”
Sadly, there are a diminishing number of opportunities for such. Like Painter pointed out, many coaching clinics these days are run — either officially or unofficially — by summer coaches or other figures connected to prospects as a money-making endeavor. (I (Parrish) wrote about one such event last year.) They’re mostly built around a guy who invites every college coach recruiting his top prospect to speak at his clinic, then turns around and charges high school coaches — and anybody else who wants to watch stars of the sport in an intimate setting — hundreds of dollars to attend the clinic.
Will accepting an invitation to speak guarantee you the prospect?
Of course not.
But passing on the invitation will almost certainly eliminate you.
So coaches fly into various cities and stand in small gyms or meeting rooms and talk about whatever, and the person or people in charge get a nice little payday. That’s a typical coaching clinic in the year 2010 (though, it should be noted, the NCAA is trying to eliminate the practice, and the Basketball Focus Group actually caused the cancellation of at least one such clinic this spring.)
I tell you all that to tell you this: Shyatt’s clinic is different.
In fact, he actually invited NCAA enforcement director LuAnn Humphrey to speak.
She did so Monday night.
“The opportunities to do this are rare, but the interest and intent is not,” said former Georgia coach Dennis Felton, a longtime attendee. “People would be surprised to know that this is what basketball coaches are really like. Our image gets so skewed because of all the nonsense that goes on. But when it gets down to it, if we had our way we would just like to be basketball coaches and leaders and mentors.”
How frustrating is it that the sport no longer allows that at the highest level?
“Very frustrating,” Felton answered. “I’ve always estimated that the time we really spend on coaching is 10 percent. We get to spend such a tiny fraction of our time on actual basketball, and we spend all our other time trying to control all the other stuff, and that’s the stuff that’s the hardest to control.
“[College basketball] is in a bad state, but that’s why this clinic is good,” Felton added. “We all cherish the opportunity to spend all these hours over two days on development and on getting better. It’s a great time. It’s the best.”