Switching from Bobby Knight to John Wooden...

  • Everyone in here knows me. I’m the first one to be critical about a player’s performance.

    This time, I’m not going to lay down blame on any players… and I’m not going to lay down blame for coaching either.

    I will, however, point out general issues with this team.

    I don’t think anyone will disagree with the following:

    1. This team lacks confidence.

    2. This team plays with stiffness.

    3. This team isn’t having fun.

    4. This team isn’t executing.

    5. This team lacks leadership.

    6. This team seems to be going backwards.

    7. This team has no identity.

    I’m a college basketball junkie. I admit it. I DVR every Jayhawk game and I typically watch each game a minimum of 3 times… often 4 to 6 times. I’ve now watched the Duke game 6 times. I watched the Duke game 2 hours before watching our live game with SDSU. Sometimes bunching material together like that exposes several things. For the most part, this team has gone backwards.

    Going backwards is not uncommon for teams. It seems like sometimes teams have to go backwards in order to fix some things that were not exposed while moving forwards, and later will be rewarded for having the patience and fortitude for investing in moving backwards.

    All 7 of the points I made above… we’ve gone backwards in when comparing the SDSU game with the Duke game.

    I guess the important question moving forward is, “will we right this ship?”

    I think the right person to ask that question to is Coach Self.

    I want to look at a couple of things here in this post and talk about coaching style, but I don’t want to jump aboard the blame game and target any players or Coach Self.

    All of us fans can only guess what happens in practice, in dorm rooms, on the team bus and every place and situation Jayhawk players are put in. We can only guess about that aspect, but we can see with our own eyes what happens on the basketball court, and the game shows us a lot more than hot and cold shooting or turnovers.

    When I consider coaching styles, I draw a line, and at one end of the line I write the name “Bobby Knight” and at the other end of the line I write the name “John Wooden.” Both of these guys are Hall of Fame coaches, and both deserve a lot of credit and respect for the accomplishments they helped create, not only for themselves, but also for the institutions they represented and for the hundreds of players they directly coached, and perhaps the millions of players they impacted indirectly.

    Bobby Knight taught discipline. Bobby Knight taught accountability. Bobby Knight taught the game his way and players had to learn his way. Bobby Knight communicated with a loud voice and used confrontation as his teaching tool. Bobby Knight was a bundle of serious emotion. Bobby Knight’s players feared him.

    John Wooden taught respect. John Wooden taught empathy. John Wooden taught the principle of winning through whatever creative ways a team could find to win. John Wooden communicated with a soft voice and used harmony as his teaching tool. John Wooden was a bundle of philosophical principles. John Wooden’s players loved him.

    Where does Coach Self’s style fit between these two greats? I think he clearly fits towards the Bobby Knight style. In recent years, Bill has even projected some of Bobby’s violent behavior by damaging the scorer’s table at the B12 Tournament.

    I believe Coach Self’s style of coaching works best with 4-yr players. His style mimics that of Marine Boot Camp, he even starts the year with something called, “Boot Camp.” The Marine way is to tear down the soldier, and build them back as a Marine, and to do it together, as a team, under the motto “Semper Fidelis” or “Always Faithful”… starting within the ranks and on duty, and following a Marine through his entire life until death.

    The Jayhawk team that showed up against Duke would have crushed SDSU at AFH. These players, this team, has been torn down since the Duke game. This team has fallen off the college basketball radar because it has reached it’s low (hopefully).

    The Bill Self strategy is the Bobby Knight strategy is the US Marine strategy. But will it work this time? Will these kids jump into being men and respond with optimism, energy and pride?

    From the example of two different coaching styles, it is hard to guarantee one style will work and another one fail. I guess we’ll decide that sometime in March or April, depending on the results of the basketball season.

    I have my doubts of using a coaching style that can work well with 4-yr players and applying it to a team with several OADs and TADs. These players are a different breed than the typical 4-yr player. These players are the highest achievers coming into college basketball. Obviously, they had their own system that brought them to their status level before entering college. Is it right to tear all that down and start over for the sake of being forced into one coach’s basketball philosophy? Can we expect positive results all within just one basketball season? We are only talking about a few months of basketball.

    What would have happened after the Duke game had Coach Self taught the Wooden way? What if this team of individual overachievers had been fed a plate full of encouragement along with directional toppings on how to improve their games together as a team? What if we had made a list of all the gifts these guys brought with them, and then tried to find a strategy to use what they already have?

    We’ll never know that answer because that isn’t what happened. We aren’t watching games where players are being praised during games, claps from coaches, pats on rears… We are seeing “Bobby ball” and lots of screaming at players and players playing scared.

    When you have a team that is mixed well with experienced and young 4-yr players, the young players can get in for a few minutes then pulled and tortured as a method to season them for future years. But when you have a team full of star freshmen and you use this style, you can pretty much count on a pile of losses and struggles for perhaps the entire season.

    I don’t think I have an easy solution for this team. They may still get it together and go HOT HOT HOT down the stretch (or not). The Bobby Knight way may still pay off and maybe even outperform the John Wooden way. We can only watch and then decide afterwards. I just feel comfortable in saying the suffering now is worse for this team and the fans because of it. We are a long ways backwards from being the team we were when playing Duke.

    We seem to have a ways to go before completing the Crucible. Meanwhile… I think we should look for ways to stay positive and to encourage these players to improve and feel confidence again! I don’t think we can keep criticizing this team in “tear down mode.” When we toss around the blame game we are just helping keep these guys down. Every player on this team brought success with them to KU, that’s how they landed a spot on this team.

    The expectations are over. This is not going to be a perfect team in a perfect season. Let’s all let it go and just look for some positive areas to focus on. It’s the Wooden way, and it worked so well no coach or school will ever catch Wooden’s golden years of coaching at UCLA. So from now on this team should loosen up and bring a smile back on their faces during games. We’ll still be standing and clapping for them!

    We can bring John Wooden’s philosophy and spirit to our sidelines!

    I know I’m doing my best to put my Wooden gameface on! It’s time to look for positives and accentuate where our real opportunities are. I’m holding on to faith that Coach Self will find a way to have another successful season.

    This team can go ahead and lose another 7 games… and then win another National Championship, and follow the path of “Danny and the Miracles!”

    Rock Chalk and Semper Fi!

  • drgnslayr, magnificent post from beginning to end. One positive already!

  • @drgnslayr stay positive and encourage, thank you! Have you worked w/kids?

  • @drgnslayr Very thought provoking!.. I’ve always thought of hcbs as right in the middle between them… his sideline demeanor may suggest more Knight but off the court more Wooden… i forget who the player was but a few years ago someone mentioned that Self required every player to check in every day even out of season… That player said that often times he wouldn’t even talk hoops but ask about the kids girlfriend, school or whatever. i know you’re not suggesting Self doesn’t care about the kids but I think he’s a little more empathetic than Knight… And Knight’s former players are for the most part very supportive of him…

    If this team turns it around and experiences the success we all expect then I think Self should be applauded and praised for one of his best coaching jobs to date. I’m sure he has sleepless nights trying to figure out how to teach and motivate this team. We need to run our stuff but he needs to make changes in order to for that to happen. The biggest hurdle I see is EFFORT!. This isn’t friggin AAU ball, this is the UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 - before moving abroad 25 years ago I coached some kids in basketball. I now have a young son and am back on US soil, will probably coach him.

    On January 23rd I have my all-time favorite coach visiting me for a few days. He was the best and taught Wooden-style basketball. He had a record of 10 years without a loss, but then, me and a few other rejects played for him and I think we dropped 8 games the first year! Years later I told him the lessons in life went both ways. We still laugh about it. We’ve been close friends for over 40 years now and he turned my entire life around in my teens. I went from police role to honor role, all because he mentored me.

    I think I’m a bigger fan of Wooden-style coaching, but I had a nice run of success with a Knight-style coach, too. It seems that players all react differently. I’m not sure this year’s team is reacting well to Bill Self’s method. I don’t think that says anything negative for Bill or his players… I just hope both sides get it figured out for everyone’s benefit!

    @VailHawk - I’m definitely not suggesting Bill Self doesn’t care about his guys. It’s just a different style of coaching, and the Knight-style clicks in big with players when they finally figure out that the coach cares immensely for them and has his guts poured out into trying to help them become successful. At that point, it’s time to say the players really “get it!”

    Bill Self cares about his guys… that’s why Mario returns every year for his tourney… that’s why so many players come back over summer… that’s why Sherron returns to try and get in shape… All those guys feel the love, but it is a kind of tough love.

    I’ve been complaining for quite some time about the appearance of poor effort. I’m now convinced it is just the fact that all the guys are playing so tightly strung. They need to loosen up and then the reflexes will work better because they won’t play so rigid and over-think everything. Everyone on the team seems to be trying to not mess up. You can’t play that way, the game simply will not flow. Confidence is an issue, too.

    If you have a chance, watch that Duke game again. We flowed like a team… we didn’t have that look like there was an effort problem. You’ll definitely notice a huge difference in their play. SDSU is a quality team, but so is Duke (especially on a neutral court and not in AFH).

  • @drgnslayr it’s pretty amazing how sports and coaches can affect kids lives, some not so positive. I always try to find positives, some men in my kids lives were pretty ugly, my kids never griped and I’m sure they are mentally tougher in spite of it. On the other hand, there were some pretty special guys, like your coach.

  • @drgnslayr, both coaches you mention faced a crisis at the mid points of their career that determined the trajectory of the rest of their careers.

    Wooden coached one way until that first championship season. Wooden did not recruit. Wooden did not press. Wooden coached the same way he had for ten seasons at UCLA and at Indiana State. In short he coached just like his coach, Ward “Piggie” Lambert at Purdue. Brawny rebounders that got the ball to fast breaking guards. Man to man defense. High post offense to keep the lanes clear for cutters getting to the basket. And late in that first phase he reputedly began to be strongly influenced by Hank Iba’s defense first philosophy. Defense starts offense and searching for the highest percentage shot are the coins of the realm, whether running, or in half court. Everything starts with defense. Also, you are trying to create mismatches. Wooden himself added the following: he did statistical analyses of which shots where on the floor offered the highest percentage. It was during this time that he introduced the requirement of players to shoot bank shots on any wing jump shot. Wooden also studied cutting systematically. He studied whether arced cutting was more or less harder to guard than straight line, angular cuts. Angular cuts were harder to guard. Thus he did not run the weave that Iba advocated. By the end of that first phase he had systematically determined how to move on a court and how to shoot on one. But his defense was not creating a great edge for him and other better known coaches at USC, CAL and Oregon State were getting all the best players. Wooden kept finishing second. His career was stalled and he knew the writing was on the wall. He either had to get better, or UCLA would look for another coach. He knew his opportunity was coming because the old coach at USC and Newell at CAL were nearing the end of their careers. But he was considered by then a fine coach that was too slow to adapt and refused to recruit.

    Wooden responded to the crisis by hiring an assistant, Jerry Norman, who reputedly did two things: 1) he began recruiting; and 2) he persuaded Wooden to adopt the 2-2-1 zone press full time. Wooden tested the press on the freshman team one season, then adopted it and never quit using it. Wooden kept everything else: Iba defense, high post, straight line/angular cutting, bank shooting, and one more thing. His teams were the best conditioned teams in college basketball. His practices were run on 3x5 note cards. Every practice was a set length that never varied, usually shorter than other coaches practices. But his practices were planned and executed down to the minute. There was zero down time and everything was aimed at organization and maximum effort and maximum focus and maximum conditioning from beginning to end of the practice. There were no practices that ran on. No practices had heart to heart talks. Everything was quick, not fast, and changing constantly from clearly defined task to the next. Film was not a part of practice. There were no two a days if I recall correctly. But every player that played for him said without reservation that he could cram more into an hour and a half than any other coach could fit into three hours. Everything had to be done the UCLA way. Basketball was not a game of personal expression. It was a game of organization and conditioning. They scouted but did not tailor game plans to opponents. They decided who needed defensive help and who might hurt them. But the offense was set and run the same regardless of whom they played. They focused one hundred percent on doing what they did. They came out and executed. Wooden was absolutely savage on the refs. He was criticizing them on almost every play. The players were to stay completely neutral, so that the refs had only to focus on Wooden and on the other team crying and emoting. Wooden said, “Once we figured out how to win championships, we got pretty good at it” is what I recall him telling me with a wink.

    But there is the other truth. They started recruiting and were very effective in LA from the moment they started. Talent was at a high level even if not all of the slots could be filled the first year or two of trying. They won at least two rings without booster Sam Gilbert anywhere in sight. Wooden’s critics always leave that part out. But then the Gilbert years came (Wooden claiming not to know anything was awry and allegations never leading to Wooden, or in the end penalties by the NCAA) and UCLAs first two rings set in motion a tidal wave of talent showing up at UCLA. Wooden probably never had as many great players on any of his great teams as Calipari had on his great UK team, nor as many great players as on Ohio State’s great Jerry Lucas teams, i…e, guys that went on to great and long NBA careers, but Wooden got both great big men of the era. In short, to going from almost being a footnote in basketball history, Wooden had to fundamentally change his philosophy about half court defense to full court zone pressing and he had go from not recruiting to recruiting.

    Now consider Bob Knight. A youthful coaching giant (some sad enfant terrible) by 1976, when his greatest team went undefeated and won the ring. At that moment, the defiant Knight who had been blowing the whistle on all of the rising tide of player payments and corruption in the game found himself at the top of the heap using the very players that he was increasingly unable to sign, because though he would not cheat, so much of the rest of college basketball did succumb to cheating and the rising Shoeco/summergame/media complex that Knight could not longer sign a large share of the greatest talent available. Knight also achieved his early awesome success with unapologetically abusive discipline and player treatment at a time when societal roles of authority were changing in life and the media. Knights early career saws the twilight of the old autocratic coach/teacher years and the beginnings of the coach/CEO era of college basketball, inc. pioneered by among others Dean Smith. The athletic department and its sports were a business first, and a college activity and sport second. Knight saw coaches go in the first half of his career from low paid employees with lesser stature than tenured professors, to high paid persons that tenured professors resented for their wealth and fame. Knight saw his militarization of basketball not inconsistent with its discipline and structure at West Point. It was amateurism seeking excellence at great sacrifice. Knight saw media change in that first half of his career from print journalists loyal locally and mixed up in big cities with promoting all sorts of professionalism and unholy gambling activities into a local media stooping to ambush interviews and questioning to stay competitive with the rising power of national and regional sports television broadcasting then surging forward. Knight went from a environment where he could be a rough and tumble guy with a bunch of good old boy journalists that could be trusted to edit out your vulgarities to a guy who saw his coarseness as a means to sensationalize and sell papers and build audiences by reporting on it and even encouraging it. After Knight’s great '76 team, he has reputedly said that he had already climbed the highest mountain and so he created the next challenge for himself. He decided to see if he could win honestly in an era when everyone else was cheating. He turned from ferocious competitor with better players into driven man simultaneously trying to clean up the game by talking openly of who cheated and by trying to drive mostly inferior young athletes recruited reputedly without cheating into in effect a Hoosier Green Beret outfit. Every player was drilled relentlessly into being a universal basketball soldier skilled at every facet of the game that could be taught and learned with, or without, great athleticism. One great talent was sought to be surrounded by a bunch of role players that could and would sacrifice themselves, pay any price, follow any order, to push the under talented team to a ring. Knight appeared to become an obsessed maniac at times in his zeal to prove honesty could prevail over cheating and corruption. Like a kind of John Brown of basketball, Knight felt justified in doing almost anything to prove that a team honestly recruited could still win. Like John Brown, he crossed the lines of decorum (calling reporters expletives and bullying almost anyone he perceived to be standing in his way) and even of legal behavior (reputedly in Puerto Rico) and university codes of conduct (reputedly getting physical with players). Knights second half of his career, maybe even last 2/3s of his career was a one man war waged apparently by almost any means he could think of against the hypocrisy and corruption of his time–a tide he argued was at flood stage and in danger of ruining the facets of the game and of the university world that he respected and believed in. His excesses converged with changing social standards of acceptable public and private conduct, and of the rising institutionalization of college sports, inc., as Indiana University professor Murray Sperber’s College Sports, Inc. made so clear way back in 1990. And in the end, though Knight won three more rings, and over 900 games, he was forced out of Indiana University and marginalized by the system to a kind of basketball Siberia–Texas Tech, where Knight’s once heroic efforts to expose corruption, prove winning could occur the honest way, and so hopefully shame the ADs and Presidents of universities into cleaning up the game instead resulted in him becoming a kind of Knight Errant Coach trying to prove amidst Texas windmills that he could even win in Texas. Finally, after setting up his son for a head coaching job, Knight appeared to screw Texas Tech and took a powder mid season so his son would for sure get the job.

    My point here is that in a corrupt world, the nearest thing society has to a role model and mentor for young men–a college basketball coach–has in these two cases shown there is no totally honorable and effective way, no clear model for, operating the second half of a head basketball coach’s career. Things change so fast that the conditions that enabled his virtues and strengths to lead him to be able to flourish, or even to great success by the midpoint of his career, have ceased to exist. A great coach must adapt to great change,often not to his liking, often offensive to his standards, in the second half of his career. Often he must sharply change his method of coaching, or his method of acquiring players, or his method of playing the game.

    It is said that time waits for no man.

    For a college basketball coach, especially one good enough to have two halves of a long career, instead of just a short bitter first half with no second act, time not only does not wait for him, it flees by him like a fast break into a dark tunnel full of looming unforeseen consequences sewn in the first half of his career, and by choices made when he realizes everything has changed since he first formalized his approach to the first half of his career.

    Self has always had role models up to this point for how to win, because coaches all admit that the purpose of the game is either to win, or to be the best you can be, and preferably both, if you want to have a first and second half to your career.

    But he has no role model now for how to do the second half right, except maybe Coach Consonants, and as has been increasingly apparent the compromises Consonants has made in the second half of his career, though they have yielded him the most wins of all time, Self does not appear to want to go the way of Dean Smith and become an unofficial CEO type. Self, despite his diverse and remarkable political gifts, appears to want to coach basketball and be with his son. He appears to thrive off the competition. At the same time, he has always forecasted a rather shorter career than many older coaches in the game.

    I really can’t say what Self will choose, because it will be a creative act on his part, but I can say that he is going to have to do this second half in a rapidly changing global shoe and petrochemical and central banking world where globalization 2.0 has nonlinearly balkanized into a regionalization 2.0 that is fraught with tremendous political economic uncertainties and rising complexities that are going to filter down through all aspects of public and private organizations and their people. It is going to fascinating to watch, if he just doesn’t resign and move to Tahiti, as I suspect part of him is ready to do. And I can add that the longer he stays in the game, the more change is going to throw him curve balls.

    Rock Chalk, Coach Self and…

    Go, Bill, go!

  • Okay, @jaybate …

    You are in for a treat!


    Be prepared… The Big Red Head wins the award as the Biggest, Greatest Dead Head of all times!

    PS: Make sure you have your audio on so you can hear 10 minutes of Big Red blurbing on about Wooden. Priceless!

    How could I forget… he started every year by showing his players how to put on their socks and shoes!

  • @drgnslayr and @jaybate - Holy cr*p … I’m already to watch the football game, and you guys write some epic novels here. Good thing for the DVR. I can’t avoid reading this stuff.

    Though I’m not sure jb is buying the positivity here … are you?

    I just posted on another thread that I really think Self is learning how much this team needs to be coached. He may have underestimated it a bit. And perhaps he underestimated how much this team needs to be inspired. Not by the whip, so to speak, but by the passion, and by the word.

    @moonwalkmafia posted an interesting tidbit back when Tyler Roberson was visiting. He saw him at a restaurant and said he looked disinterested and projected that he wasn’t coming to KU. Our guys have that disinterested look sometimes now. They are passive, they stare into space, they don’t seem passionate, and they certainly aren’t vocal.

    They don’t play as if they are better than the other team, and they don’t act like it. It is swagger (I don’t say swag).

    Self wonders who the leader is, who will step up.

    I would say unequivocally that this team needs Self to lead. He needs to inspire the swagger. Not an easy task …

  • @jaybate 1.0 Incredible post. Riveting. Loved what you had to say, except for the Coach Consonants part. BLEH. Hasn’t he taught the art of flopping forever? Maybe he has only recently made compromises off the court, but the historical combination of abuse of technicalities on the court (rampant flopping, mysterious time added to clocks, uncalled travels, etc), and ESPN’s insane obsession with Duke has made my stomach lurch for a long time.

    @drgnslayr great topic. I believe success will come if these kids can feel useful, purposeful, appreciated for the things they and their teammates do well. Last year when Self laid into his team after the Ok St loss, I think it directly resulted in our TCU loss, which them snowballed into the Oklahoma loss. I pin those two squarely on Bill. Did “I don’t have a point guard” help Naadir in the long run? I don’t really think so. But who knows. I also think his impatience and intolerance for falling short of excellence is preventing him from developing viable 3 point shooters on this team. But it’s easy for me to say.

    If I’m a pessimist, this team could be reminding me a little of UConn’s squad in 2005-2006, a few years before Calipari was assembling his perennial lottery balls in KY. I wasn’t going to mention the failed Kentucky teams. I guess the novelty of the loaded recruiting classes had worn off and I didn’t really expect much success from them until MKG, Davis and Jones got it done. Anyway, that UConn team had a lot of talent, but I was sure they were going to lose even before they got to George Mason; they were 30 and 4 and looked like they didn’t want to be there. Surprising, given that a lot of them were upperclassmen. When its not your team, it’s definitely easy on the eyes watching a team like that lose.


    Imagine if they had Andrew Bynum, who entered the draft instead of going to UConn that season. Maybe they would have lost to GMU by more.

    Or maybe we resemble the 2005-2006 Michigan State Spartans, who also lost to GMU. I believe that was the year that Izzo scheduled a brutal pre-conference with a youngish team, and his team got in the tournament with 12 losses as an at large bid. The brutal schedule didn’t appear to help them in tournament.


    Recently watched Groundhog Day again. Maybe we’re trying in all the wrong ways. Maybe we can stop trying to romance more 5-stars, stop finding new ways to commit basketball suicide on the hardwood, and appreciate the simple joys of working hard and improving our ability to play basketball, for the love of life and the love of the game. Does every day feel a lot like the last one right now?

  • Right on, HEM!

    I know a lot of people in here don’t have the respect for Wooden that I have… The Sam Gilbert issue is kind of a lame duck attempt to lower the achievements of Wooden.

    The Walton link I posted says plenty… mixing Walton and the Vietnam War made for one tough cocktail. I remember those years vividly. I will never be able to express the difficulty of winning college basketball championships in Southern California during those years. Nowhere in the country were kids more rebellious and Walton (as an example) was an expressive kid who beat to his own drum. He knew how to push Wooden’s button. I heard he once showed up to practice in his pajamas. I remember watching Walton interviews back then and I really thought Wooden was crazy for taking him on. Sure, the Big Red Head was a monster in the post, but the sideshow was almost too much to handle! Imagine Coach Self showing up for practice and seeing one or more of his guys out there in their pajamas? The audio rap on Walton’s website is a true taste of Walton and his relationship with Wooden. When I heard it I had an immediate flashback to early 70s.

    It was a difficult time in US history, and college kids had a hard time focusing on education and any form of authoritarianism. It was easy to throw Wooden in with Nixon and the police. I think it all impacted Wooden and helped him realize his philosophical side (and connect it to basketball). Pretty hard to compare Kansas and Southern California during that time period. A big part of the “movement” was in Cal.

  • @drgnslayr First off, this is 100% top dog writing & analysis, and nail on the head, Walton was a 1960’s head case supreme-from Patty Hearst, to the minuteman underground, to the Symbianse Liberation Army, to Haight Asbury, he fringed them all. As may of us recall, he was quite commonly included on Walter Cronkite’s cbs evening news cast back in the day. Many who read these comments will have no clue whatsoever. Let em’ use google & Wikipedia. And Wooden was more of a players coach than Knight 100% agreed. But there is also a more intricate aspect of coaching that should be recognized with the BK or BS or the Vince Lombardi approach. To these blood & guts guys, fear is ultimately the greatest motivator hands down. To the Wooden type guys, it’s mainly a cerebral approach, with fatherly type reasoning, The first has very little to do with immediate troop morale & the second, everything. Rationale, assertion & deduction are what the Wooden pyramid of success was all encompassing. I never played for a guy Like Wooden but I did play for a man like Knight, & he retired with many state champs, & pro football players from small towns as well as LHS. Both styles have their merits, but with the Wooden style intrinsic talent is so much more important than the other. The Marines do build character, heartbreakers, & life takers, whence character is not the immediate objection, but more of a desired result created from the process. IMO the main objective of Wooden ball was to become as one, sacrifice for the group as a whole, & use superior intelligence & judgement to achieve the main goal for the group & not the individual, but be the best individually you could possible become. While both styles have worked well & both styles continue to garner great results, the OAD’s & younger, more talented kids of this day & age, are far less responsive to the drill instructor style guys we played for & the impetuous fear factor that may only go so far with them. Bill’s MO may not be that successful with a group of talent so young as he has at present. I thought at first we may have encountered a kinder, gentler Bill when boot camp was cut to 1 week last fall, but I’m not sure that is now the complete account with todays players of privilege, advantage, & self entitlement. At least is sure seems that way to me the old fart, that they just don’t seem to have the urgency that has been the trademark of Self’s Jayhawk squads, & that was the evasive element created by his BK, pi$$ & vinegar, kick a$$ & take no prisoners method of coaching here in Lawrence for the past 10 years. As always, JMO.

  • Great thread. Learning a lot from everyone here.

    A lot of the emphasis here is on the head coach who certainly sets the tone for the team and is the lightening rod for all that happens. But I wonder about the coaching staff’s role as well… because it stands to reason that a head coach could build a staff of folks that have expertise in certain areas at the expense of other areas.

    So, a coach could choose an assistant with great recruiting chops, or one that excels in developing certain skills – bigs, defense, guard play… or even in soft skills like opponent analysis or leadership…

    I mention this because the coaching staff is pretty green as well this year. Just wondering if some of the issues we see could be attributed to the coaching staff still getting acclimated. Or maybe even gaps in skills or new personalities.

    Perhaps in the staff turnover, Self lost someone that had a ‘hidden’ strength and now has to find a way to compensate. Or maybe someone was the ying to Self’s yang…

    Anyway, the two areas that seem different this year are guard play and the loose ‘fun’… The ‘team/chemistry’ thing.

    Maybe those are strictly personnel issues. But my feeling is that great point guards are created as much as they are born. And chemistry is nurtured and fermented… not drilled and injected.

    By the way, that’s the difference I saw between Wooden and Knight – Wooden’s teams had a natural chemistry and Knight’s teams were meticulously orchestrated. Both can achieve the highest level of success – but they look quite different getting there.

  • @bskeet-Good points. Maybe the most insightful of any. I do know Danny was real calm & collected most always, & yes the assistants who are the main recruit for a specific guy, or a position coach who works with a particular player(S) can have a tighter connection. And Danny, Hinson, & Dooley are both HC’s now so the turnover factor may be against this team. Is certainly a thought that one can ponder.

  • Having played for both types of coaches, I think it is hard to respect and understand one without playing for both. Clearly, they both have paths to winning.

    In many ways I like and prefer the Wooden way… but I have a natural inclination to go towards Knight. I grew up in the Midwest and I think our overall lifestyle fits more into the Knight category. I know the parenting I received as a kid was totally Knight-style!

  • Lots can be learned from coaches, both good and bad.

    I can honestly say that I learned a lot from my high school basketball coach. I can also say that I had a very shaky relationship with him in high school, and have not spoken to him since I was a freshman in college. That isn’t to say that he was a bad coach. Not at all. We won a state title and I learned some invaluable lessons both about basketball and about life.

    The most valuable thing I learned, though, was that coaches have to be very open with their players about their expectations, and how those expectations can and should be met. My coach constantly jerked several players minutes around, mine included. As a result, during one season we went into an enormous teamwide swoon because almost no one knew what they were expected to do on a nightly basis.

    I think this is the danger that Coach Self is flirting with right now. I don’t know what his relationship is with Andrew White, or Brannen Greene, or Landen Lucas, or Tarik Black or, Jamari Traylor. I do know that those guys play some nights, don’t play others, play sporadically others.

    The key is communication, which is something that we won’t see from where we are. If he goes to those guys and says, for instance, Tarik, this team plays small so you probably won’t get many minutes tonight because we are going to play more perimeter guys, that helps Black understand that he isn’t doing something wrong, but that its a bad matchup. Or say to Greene, you need to contribute more in the ball handling department so that we can get you some minutes, so he knows what he needs to do to get into the rotation consistently.

    What he can’t do is just play his core 6 guys (Wiggins, Embiid, Ellis, Selden, Tharpe, Mason) and then not tell those other five what’s going on because they will play their butt off one night, not play at all the next and get frustrated. I know because that is what happened to me.

    Communication may be what changes this season, for better or for worse.

  • @justanotherfan, copy and paste on communication of expectation.

    Most Great coaches start out great communicators speaking word, dress and body language very close to the youthful players they coach. Over time, however knowledge of and close age proximity to youth culture diminishes. At a certain point, you are not really a cool, savvy jock coaching. You are a middle aged man with a lot of knowledge to share. Wooden had to become the wizard/mentor because he could no longer persuasively be the Indiana Rubber Man coaching. Self has clearly long relied on cool and jockness and contemporary language to attract and lead. But he hit middle age and it quit seeming so natural. Every man has to adapt to this phase change, no mAtter how much FU money they have. A small few can hang onto their charisma, but most cannot. I wrote last season about his middle age issues not related to personal life, which I know nothing of, but because of the impact it will have on his coaching. He still struggling to find his middle age style and will for a few seasons.

  • @jaybate 1.0 That’s a great point about how things change as coaches age and get more experience, but also get further from the world that their players live in. I would add that as coaches become more and more successful, the gap between the world that the most successful coaches live in and the world of the players they recruit is enormously different.

    Successful coaches are incredibly wealthy. Top 2% of the US wealthy. Most of their players come from households in the lower to middle income brackets. Once you have lived on the hilltop, it’s much more difficult to relate to what’s happening down in the dell, even if you visit all the time, because when you visit, you also get to leave.

    The best conquer that gap as you so correctly stated. And this is where communication is key. Can Bill Self communicate clearly to someone that is half his age, from a lifestyle that he hasn’t lived in 20-25 years what he expects of them and how they can meet (and exceed) those expectations?

    Communicating and relating to people depends on what you say, of course. But more than that, it depends on how you say it, as well as the non-verbal communication that goes along with it. I have discovered in working with people from different backgrounds (financial, ethnic, cultural, education, etc.) that what I may think your understanding of a situation is given my background may be completely different from your understanding given your background. That is the real gap that Bill Self (and any other coach) has to conquer to reach his players.

  • @justanotherfan really great point! 2 of my kids played college fb, the words that came out of their coaches mouths (2 different coaches) were unimaginable. A lot of people wouldn’t bring young kids to games. My sons told me that those words were they only way some of those kids could “get it”. Bill Self “gets it”. He knows how to relate to kids and their parents.

  • @drgnslayr, thank you so very much for that link, slayr. You and I and globaljay have the years on us to remember Wooden the coach and not Wooden the historical legend. But even for us it helps to hear guys from his teams lay it all out again. What I wish is that more of his assistant coaches would write at length about what he did and how he did it. Not in an expose sense, or in a hero worship kind of thing, but just in a nuts and bolts coaching sense. So much of success is in the details. Starting a season teaching the UCLA way to wear socks and tie tennis shoes is so revealing of his approach. I recall reading that in one of his books, but I had forgotten it until you recalled it for me again. Wooden was an amazing thinker and doer for any era and any field, at any size tournament, given any level of talent, coaching at any school; this is what young persons must be taught perpetually. The game can be understood. The game, no matter how they change the rules, can be thought about, broken down, put back together, and mastered. It was not the time that he lived in that enabled him to do what he did; that is the thinking of small minds unwilling to rise to the challenge of excellence. If you have ever met Wooden, you know that had he thought that way, he could never have accomplished what he did. Persons said another Henry Ford and Thomas Edison could never come along. Then Bill Gates and Steve Jobs came along. Great human beings find solutions to problems. No one will ever duplicate Ford, Edison, Gates, Jobs and Wooden, exactly, because the circumstances each man worked in changed. But those that simplistically talk about the size of the tournament, or the number of D1 teams competing for talent, necessarily preclude another great run in coaching don’t get how these great men function. Great men don’t look at circumstances and say things cannot be done. They look at circumstances, which are endlessly unique, and find a way–a unique path they are able to discover and get incredibly good at repeating.

    My one concern about Bill Self is that his philosophy, of one third good games, one third bad games, and one third middling games, while statistically accurate, becomes an alibi that creates the kind of self fulfilling prophecy that perhaps precludes sustained excellence at a tournament level. Self does not even seem to entertain the notion that one could play six straight great games and so this makes his teams less likely ever to do so. True, his teams can often beat you on a bad night, but they also seem less inclined to play well for long stretches, as Wooden’s teams routinely did during the seasons I was old enough to understand what I was watching, roughly from '66 to his last title.

    Wooden was a product of the last great age of American belief in sustainable excellence. He was a product of the last great age of American belief that problems could be solved, not just managed. It was an age of inductive reasoning and scientific solutions and empirical facts and the confidence their logics inspired. It was not yet widely eroded by the implications of uncertainty in the quantum theory that then rippled (often unsoundly) through so much of the rest of the soft sciences.

    Self in contrast is an early product of the new age of the simulation model, of the non parametric statistic, of the prevalent acceptance of managing the unsolvable, of coping with, rather than curing uncertainty. Hence, Self’s philosophy that psychology research and his common sense tell him one third good games, one third bad games, and one third middling games. He assumes a normal distribution to human performance that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. This is the ideological drift of human science and reason in our era; this and the embrace of paradoxes at not just sub atomic levels, but at every level of society.

    It is not that one era is superior to another. It is simply the differences in the two eras world views, their paradigms if you will.

    It makes us better today at certain things and them in their days better at other things.

    You and I happen to be old enough to have one foot in each era. We cannot, therefore, help but have some nostalgia for the way it was, while at the same time plowing forward confidently into the future based on the towering accomplishments we know to be possible having witnessed Wooden.

    Times change. Paradigms shift. But great men always find a way to use the circumstances of their times and their visions, abilities, and furious work ethics to accomplish what was assumed impossible in every era.

    Which is why I repeat T.E. Lawrences line so often: nothing is written. Nothing.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    I too grew up watching Coach Wooden’s teams since 1970, so I witnessed a good part of his success. It was not until later that I found out about Sam Gilbert.

    Once you find out about what went on at UCLA that Wooden turned a blind eye to, it puts his legacy in a different perspective. Saint John was not quite the saint he is portrayed as being.

    Google “Sam Gilbert UCLA” and form you own opinion.

  • @jaybate 1.0-I’m not sure I ever heard John Wooden even called a Christian, let alone a saint. But the former is more than likely considering his Indiana childhood & upbringing, so enriched with the Aimish, Menonite, & Quaker heritage. And hoops is really a pretty simple, 5 on 5 contest, on a much smaller geometrical surface than football, or even soccer, so it’s mathematical complexity is not nearly as great as let’s say, billiards or snooker. But John Wooden was factually one helluva basketball coach & that’s for for sure. True Gilbert had a tremendous influence on UCLA recruiting as those at SMU, USC & countless other boosters for decades. And yet so tremendously understated in his, or any walk of life, competion, or sales, or supervision, or mentoring or virtually anything, is that in order to get someone, anyone, ultimately to do what you want him or them to do, you must make them really & totally want to do it. Sound familiar? Correct, ala Andrew Carnegie. So the approach that best befriends any person, in any walk of life is that which endears him unto himself…the sound of his own voice, feelings, & name. You let him talk about himself or enter & include himself into the conversation/situation/successes & bingo…we have a winner. Not always 100% of the time, but statistically proven, 90% plus. You speak of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, & Bill Gates but Carnegie was the one who authored the book “How to Win Friends & INFLUENCE People.” He knew what made his clientele & fellow man tick, right down to the very heartbeat. That is the way Wooden connected with his players-different as day & night from the authoritartian management styles of Iba, Rupp, Knight, or Self. And a moderation & combination between styles is ultimately a very fine line to tread, which Wooden supremely mastered. With todays’ kids of privilege it is likely even more treacherous to traverse than just 5 years past. Wooden was quite simply at the right place at the right time, as was Lombardi, Valvano, John Glenn, W. M. Deming & countless others who enjoyed ultimate successes at different junctures in history. Mark Mangino was great for a few years; then-bam, out the door overnight. Political correctness abounds jb, & I for one do not envy the tasks & endless challenges coaches face now at any level-even YMCA biddy ball. Old guy, our time has passed, & we’re witnessing the dawning of the technical era of coaching-complete with twitter, facebook, linkedin, & totally unlimited data. I’d be willing to bet that one: Kelvin Sampson is reeeeeaaaaaly super Pi$$ed, ya think? Been thinking he’d ultimately catch on with espn with other great qualifiers like Bruce Pearl, but alas, the crew is full. Maybe next year Kev, but please keep phoning in anyway!

  • @globaljaybird PHOF. ABSOLUTE PHOF!!!

  • @jaybate 1.0-Thank you for the compliment, an Andrew C technique if there ever was one! True success is not measured by what we accomplish or gain on the material level in this life, in wins & losses or championships & accolades. But rather the legacy of the ones we ultimately leave behind, & their ideals, ethics & morality are the testaments. Everyman does & says many things throughout the course of life’s journey that they (we) are certainly not proud of, & even ashamed of. But the character deeply buried in one’s heart & soul is that which his epitaph is finally scribed. Lao Tzu said, “Knowledge without being means nothing.” In other words, the ability & skills to assimilate that knowledge is ultimately the key. What is the true value of the scientist who’s contributions save the world from cancer, if when he goes home at night he beats his wife & children? Wooden was a man of great genius, complexity, & reserve. Quite simply the qualities created by his education, his Christian upbringing, & his perseverance to the drudgery & labor of rural life in the 1920’s & 30’s. He was a brilliant combination of the factors that equate, quite simply, to one’s glass either being half full or half empty, along with the fierce & intensive drive to push himself & those around him to competitive greatness through the efforts of persistence, stamina, & endurance. It also is worth great discernment that he was a clever genius of phycology as well as a student of the game created by the great Dr Naismith. Again, thanks.

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