Doug Saylor Basketball The Points View

The Points View

Make it a Great Day

  We are all familiar with the phrase, "Have a great day." We hear it multiple times per day, and we most likely say it multiple times per day. It feels right and good to say. Our intentions are sound. However, if we really think about it this phrase falls a bit short of the mark.

  Coach Jerry Krause passed away on Wednesday, May 24th after a three year battle with cancer. He was a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. According to the statement released by NABC Executive Director Craig Robinson, "Coach Krause was a longtime basketball coach, leader, and educator. Though he often operated behind the scenes, he was a giant in our game." Amen to that. There is, however much more to the story of Coach Jerry Krause.

  To me, Coach Krause was a mentor, colleague, and most importantly a dear friend. He was credited with authoring the #1 Best Selling Basketball Fundamentals book of all time, Basketball Skills and Drills. That book is, for me, transformational. Coach Krause had studied legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden, in fact Coach Wooden had taken a then-young Coach Krause under his wing, mentored him, and then years later, in a great act of respect, he invited Coach Krause to sit in on every UCLA practice in Coach Wooden's final season, and to make extensive notes regarding every detail of how he taught the game. Passing the torch of teaching. Mentoring a younger coach. Sharing the knowledge and wisdom borne of a lifetime in the game with a willing student become teacher. A teacher yearning to grow into a Master Teacher, sitting and learning from a Master. Making notes. Observing. Learning. Growing. Reading between the lines as well. Finding the pearls of wisdom that transfer off the court, the life lessons. Coach Krause then, in turn, used these notes to form a framework for the progressive, sequential masterpiece that became Basketball Skills and Drills. This insured that the wisdom wouldn't be lost. It was recorded, codified, and then shared. Passed on.

  I read that book, studied that book, memorized its passages and wisdom, and then as I studied I had questions that I wanted clarified. I knew that it was a masterpiece of teaching basketball, and of course, life lessons. I reached out to Coach Krause, and asked him a very specific question about the footwork necessary to shoot effectively from the dribble. Jerry and I discussed the question, dove deeply into the nuances, and then he said something that changed my coaching life, "Coach Saylor, anytime that you have a question, feel free to call me to discuss it. You ask very insightful questions. I can tell that you are a true student of the game." Boom! A door opened, and I stepped through it. Thus began a relationship that deepened as time grew, and we became friends, and eventually colleagues. He invited me to work with him on a national initiative designed to improve youth sports through improved youth sports coaching education. That project led to other projects, and I made a trip to meet with Coach Krause. I showed him the notes that I had made based upon his NABC endorsed Youth Basketball Coaching Education package. I had taken his concepts and extended them, and I was nervous and apprehensive to see what his reaction would be. I need not have worried. He smiled as he looked through it. "Excellent, Doug. Great job. You've built upon my work and took it a few steps further."   A rush of pride coursed through me. Wow, he likes it! Coach Krause demonstrated no ego, no pushback, no possessive aggression to protect his work. He demonstrated the exact opposite and highly unusual behavior. Encouragement. Praise. Humility. A willingness to take the time to give back, to mentor others, to use his platform and reach as a vehicle to motivate and to develop younger coaches. Just as Coach Wooden had done for him, he now did for others. Countless others. I wasn't alone. Coach Krause touched many, many lives in this exact same manner.

  People hear the word leadership, and I believe that the image that forms in the mind's eye of someone who is an effective leader, is of the loud, aggressive, verbose extrovert banging his own drum and espousing his supposed wisdom. It is actually the exact opposite. The quiet person who thinks deeply and is empathetic. Helps others. Puts others ahead of self. Serves others. Leads through the example of his consistent, principled behavior. Just as Coach Wooden did, Coach Krause followed suit. Those of us fortunate to have come into contact with Coach Krause, to have worked with him, learned with and from him, we know. Oh, and back to that trite, throw-away phrase, "Have a great day." Coach Krause, in perhaps his most important yet beautifully understated lesson, Always ended every phone call, email, text message, and in-person conversation with the same, intentionally simple yet powerful phrase, "Make it a great day." Yes, Make it a great day.

  Coach Krause was teaching us to make the conscious choice to take whatever life threw our way, fairly or unfairly, a cold or cancer, and to Make it a great day. Teaching the mindset of a champion. Don't let the weather, or another person, or disease, or whatever challenge comes at you determine your attitude and thus your reaction to it. Choose to make it a great day. This is how he choose to fight cancer. This is how he led and served, using the example of his life, and his behavior, for himself, and especially for others. Honor Coach Krause and his teaching and coaching legacy. Make it a great day. 

Posted 06/30/2023

Attack or Be Attacked

Part of my overall philosophy of life and hoops is to decide if you want to be attacked or if you want to be the attacker. Attack the goal. Attack the game. Attack life. Choose to be on the attack rather than to be attacked. Don’t sit back on your heels and let life come after you.

Some of the teams that I have coached have started out games in a very tentative way, with a passive demeanor. Players that come to me for player development can demonstrate a similar deportment and I point out that they need to drop the cool act and go to work. Referees always give the benefit of the doubt to the more aggressive team, which can seem counterintuitive to players and fans. “Hey, they’re attacking us. They initiated the contact!” Exactly, so they’re going to get the calls. That’s how it works. Referees respect aggressiveness. As do coaches. 

I have found that sometimes the cool act is a cover for a lack of confidence. Players don’t want to expose their fragile ego so they act cool, that way if they make a mistake, they can tell themselves, “Well, I wasn’t really trying so it doesn’t matter that he stole the ball from me, or that I missed that lay-up.” I must gently, or not so gently, coach them towards the attitude of “I am going to attack, go all out, and if I make a mistake (well, when you make a mistake because we all do) it will be made as I go all out.” Learn from the mistake and move on to the next play. 



Posted 07/06/2022

Einstein's Three Rules of Work

Albert Einstein once provided his three rules of work: 1. Out of clutter find simplicity. 2. From discord find harmony. 3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. Wow. These are, to me, Biblical in their simplicity yet depth and wisdom.

I can think of many situations on the court, as well as many off court as well, when these three rules apply. One is in transition, when the defense is scrambling back trying to get organized, find men, or perhaps get into a zone. Regardless, this is a great time to attack and look for the advantage. There is clutter, there are bodies flying around, and there is often discord. Hunt the simplicity and the harmony, maybe a mismatch where you have an advantage of a big on a small, or quick on a slow, or a defender with back turned to the ball, and get the ball directly to your teammate so that they can attack.

The second situation is attacking a press. Again, there is clutter, they are trying to trap or double team and there is discord. Attack. Look for openings, get the ball to the middle and go! Take this as an opportunity to turn the tables on the other team, not as something to be feared.

On the flip side, the same rules can be applied as the defending team. In transition maybe the offense is not organized or balanced and you can attack as a defender. Do you see clutter? Simply get in there and disrupt the other team, look for a steal, a deflection, look for a player not used to handling the ball out away from the goal and take it from him. Maybe a small is inside and you can block his shot or strip the ball.

You are pressing and you see the offensive team is unorganized, in discord. They don’t know where to line up, they don’t know how to attack, and you can double them or step into a passing lane and steal the ball. They are panicked, they see difficulty and you see opportunity. 

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. You are losing the game, badly. You are playing poorly or just plain outmatched. Difficult? Absolutely. This is a great opportunity to keep working, to give effort, to stay true to the process and let the product, the outcome, go. Learn from the mistakes, move on. Use this moment to feed your work ethic. Develop your mental toughness. Play on.

Now, off court? Oh, absolutely these three rules apply to life. We allow our lives to become cluttered with unimportant stuff. Simplify. Get rid of the clutter, whether it is actual material goods or clutter within our minds. Most of it is not important.

Discord? I think of times when I have been in uncomfortable situations, when people are arguing or become emotionally overinvolved and/or overwhelmed, and how in these moments harmony is waiting to be found. Harmony is sitting there, it is right there, it just needs to be acknowledged. “What are we really arguing about? Is it that important? Is there something bothering you that has triggered this outburst? Can I help you with something?” Perhaps we can find harmony here, within this discord. It is waiting. 

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity! This speaks to me on a deeply personal level. Cancer. Surgery. Pain. Uncertainty. Treatment. Sickness. Difficulty. A great growth opportunity. A chance to learn lessons that only difficulty can teach. A chance to show humility. An opportunity to thank others for their compassion and care. An opportunity to thank God for each breath, for each moment, for each prayer. Face difficulty. Opportunity is there. It may be hidden. It may not be obvious. It may seem counterintuitive. As in all three rules, it is not the situation that we are presented with, it is our reaction to it, our interpretation of it that makes it a plus or a minus. 

Clutter? Discord? Difficulty? Simplicity. Harmony. Opportunity. Einstein left us with three rules for work, for basketball, and for life. 

Posted 07/06/2022

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