Articles & Resources

Offensive Analysis - Peeling Layers Away For Deeper Understanding

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Jun 3, 2012 4:20:00 PM

by Steve Scalzi


Coaching the game of basketball simply by “feel” is obsolete.  Across today’s coaching landscape, there are numerous resources available to shape your methods of attack for personnel, developmental and strategic decisions.  Whether utilizing free resources such as or subscription services such as Synergy, it is reasonable to expect various coaching decisions be backed by one of three justifications: numbers (the old fashioned points per game, win/loss records, streaks etc.), statistics (analytics such as floor percentage, plus/minus, points per possession etc.) and video (game and/or practice film spliced appropriately).  Making a point in a coaching meeting without one of these three is modern day basketball blasphemy.  The evidence and resources that are mere clicks away can cut through varying opinions on the coaching staff and move closer to a consensus, provide a player an honest portrait of themselves, and spark innovation to play to your strengths and address weaknesses. 

This off-season, I took it upon myself to re-watch every single offensive possession from the 2011-2012 season.  The reason was two-fold.  From an X and O’s perspective – 1.are we using the best parts of each other through our designed offensive schemes?  And 2. in what areas of each player’s game do there exist development opportunities? 

After watching 2,293 offensive possessions, opinions are formed or revised.  If what you see is contrary to prior perceptions, then presenting a suggestion to the coaching staff, designing on-court or strength training programs for a player requires the evidence from which they’re devised.  But asking players, coaches, or strength coaches to sit through 31 games is unrealistic. In order to deliver your findings, they must be clear, concise, and cogent in an easily understood format. 

For our coaches, I resorted to radar graphs.  I created visual representations of offensive actions - their success rates and their frequency.  Synergy identifies every offensive possession outcome.  I focused on each action/possession outcome that occurred a minimum of 20 times through our 31 games.

NOTE: by offensive outcome I mean both possession result (i.e. pull up jumper, scoring off a pick and roll) and the specific player who ultimately used that possession. Focusing on deliberate offensive choices, I left out transition possessions and offensive rebounds, whose frequency may have more to do with opportunity than deliberate design.

The radar graphs attached show two different pieces of information for each outcome – points per possession (the scoring outcome Northeastern netted on average) and the total number of times it occurred this season.

scoring frequency


Points per  


Coaching by "feel" originally had me believing that Player 3 was not a great isolation player.  He wasn't used very frequently in isolations – meaning we didn't resort to them often, and we didn't do it by design either.  But his ratio of frequency to effectiveness was surprisingly good.  He was far better than Player 2 in a ball screen and Player 4 taking a short jump shot (things we DID have in our offense deliberately and by design). 

This doesn’t necessarily require we suddenly use him in all isolation scenarios and clear out his teammates.  Watching our practices with minimal basketball experience will tell you Player 3 can get out of control and thereby less effective.  He would even admit so himself.  But it’s on us as coaches to review the Synergy clips associated with his isolations that result in positive and negative outcomes.

The moves in which he failed, he failed convincingly – validating our “feel.”  Yes, if Player 3 tries to take you off the dribble from the top down, with no ball movement or player movement, things could get dicey.

However, in what Synergy defined as successful isolations, themes emerged. His moves were compact with economy of motion to his footwork and his attack.  When the ball was swung side to side and his defender was forced into a closeout, he looked like a pro! One and two dribble moves that were both high level and mature. 

From a strength and conditioning perspective, Player 3 was simply at a stage in his career where his foot speed, core strength, elevation, and quick release combined to create a surprisingly efficient athletic move when the game called for it.  More of these designed into our offense is more responsible (a wiser investment if you will) than designing post-ups for Player 2 (a tall and talented freshman) at this juncture in their respective development.

Taking a deeper look at Player 2 revealed its own world of information and images as well.  As a freshman, he simply was not physically defined enough to establish a post-up game and not yet great at aggressively slashing to the rim in isolations.  Here is where "feel" comes into play. What was missing in his game?  What moves would you add? How much increased explosiveness can combine with an improved skill set in his next three years? Reviewing his clips I would say he lacked the ability to get low and explosive. He can cover ground with length, but where is the first step?  It’s time to collaborate with our strength coach.  It is clear he has got work to do in the weight room. 

I’m always intrigued by the science of the game.  Using modern resources at our disposal provide avenues for us to creatively relay what we’ve learned and to maximize efficiency.  Often times, conflicts arise with what our initial “feel” for the game may say.  Numbers, statistics, and video are getting easier and easier to find.  Interpreting what they reveal and collaborating with coaches, players, and strength coaches to address what’s been discovered is the responsibility of today’s modern coach. 

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

March Madness by Steve Scalzi

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Apr 2, 2011 8:25:00 AM

basketball resources


March Madness offers some of the best unscripted drama in the entertainment industry.  Movies and literature would be critically chastised for overdoing the amount of plot twists and surprise endings the real life theatrics of our nation’s NCAA Tournament produces nightly.

The Cinderella stories are compelling.  America is a sucker for the rising underdog.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t note my tremendous respect for our conference rival VCU.  Excuse the tangent, but their run has been fantastic for the Colonial Athletic Association.  And are CAA teams really underdogs at this point?

Stew on these numbers for a moment.  Since the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the CAA is 4-2 vs. the Big East, 3-0 vs. ACC, 2-1 vs. the Big Ten, and a combined 2-2 against the Pac 10 and Big 12.  The CAA is a combined 11-5 vs. BCS conference foes over the past five seasons.  News flash to
prideful “expert” analysts… when the CAA has more than twice as many wins as losses against powerful high-majors its not twice as impressive they’re capable, you’re twice as wrong when you continue to devalue this league and question a CAA at-large bid.  If we’re pointing to numbers and figures such as SOS and RPI to keep VCU out of the tournament, can we instead point to the numbers above to keep the mid-major at large bids coming?

College basketball is not governed by algebraic logic.  That A is greater than B, and B is greater than C has no bearing in a match-up of A vs. C.
University of Richmond defeating VCU 72-60 in December, and Kansas vanquishing Richmond 77-57 meant nothing in a match-up of Kansas and VCU with a trip to the Final Four on the line.  RPI and SOS are completely irrelevant when the moment demands you rise to the occasion and play. The CAA has done that, time and time again.

What makes the tournament so memorable, Cinderella and heavy favorite alike, is the fantastic moments of delivering under so much pressure.  Few people will ever dare to test themselves the way these kids are tested. To hone in, feel the fear of failure, ignore it and produce on a national stage is awe inspiring.  While I’m passionate about the CAA’s tournament success, perhaps the greatest performance of the entire month of March took place without you even realizing.

In the Division II national semifinals between BYU-Hawaii and undefeated West Liberty, BYU-H guard Jet Chang put on one of the greatest performances you can imagine.  West Liberty came in 35-0 and it was going to take a special effort from BYU-H to overcome the multiple weapons the WLU Hilltoppers boasted.

How impressive was Jet’s performance?  Forty-three points on 14-17 shooting 7-9 from downtown and 8-9 from the line.  Those are videogame numbers. (Enjoy it here – just simply sign up and access it via Internet Explorer - ).

He followed it up with 35 points in a three point loss in the National Championship game. When the moment demanded he rise, his focus was other-worldly.  In the Final Four he averaged 39 points and shot 73% from three.  Just ridiculous.

What kind of zone was Jet in? The experience, its definition and its conditions, vary slightly for everyone.  Simply put, you know when you're there.  And you don't arrive there accidentally. The zone is a mental state, often credited first to Mihaly Csikszentmihayi, of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.  It seems to involve a measure of proper pre-game preparation, determination, and proper game circumstances. Feeling like your jump shot is working is useless if coach has you sitting next to him.  The experience of being in the zone begins to snowball with each game possession and suddenly the rhythm of the game is easily tuned to. You make the right pass, the proper box out, the defensive rotation the team needed and everyone’s favorite part, you feel like you can't miss. Watching Jet in the zone was compelling drama, perhaps the most compelling of the entire NCAA Tournament. So many players have raised their level to provide special performances. Arizona's Derrick Williams may have skyrocketed himself into the top overall draft pick and Kemba Walker has exemplified leadership, big plays and fight. But Jet rose to the moment in the national championship game. The biggest moment his level can offer. As we watch the Division I Final Four this weekend, we'll see other great players raise their game to the moment as well. Just know, it's not by accident. Preparation, potential, and focus mesh to create special performances under heated circumstances few people will ever face.  Enjoy the moments and unscripted drama.

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

Pick Up Your Game...

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 21, 2010 7:08:00 AM

everything basketball

by Steve Scalzi

Dean Smith had a philosophy that a basketball program's
responsibility in the off-season is to the individual, and in season, every member's collective responsibility is to the team.  Clearly, working on one's body and skill set, or having a player-centered focus in the off-season, ultimately is an expression that helps the larger whole actualize it's potential when it matters most.  But, Dean Smith believed so deeply in his responsibility to the individual that he had a reputation for selflessly advising and aiding his players through the NBA Draft process.  Standing to benefit if an All-American were to return to school, Smith would instead send twenty-five first rounders to the NBA, five of which would be Rookie of the Year. 

This philosophy brings to mind the plethora of ways a player can improve himself through the off-season.  Much of what BSMPG
offers are cutting edge philosophies and dialogue to jump start a player's physical and mental maturation albeit through nutrition, treatment, or training both on and off the court.  In earlier articles we spoke about the need to train with the game in mind, and Art Horne spoke at length of The Talent Code and the lessons one can take away when engaging in deep and mindful practice.

Horne raises an interesting argument acknowledging the shortcomings of summer pick-up games on collegiate campuses.  As
college coaches must maintain a hands-off approach in the summer time, the quality of games can suffer, poor habits can be instilled, selfish play can rule the day, and a risk of injury always exists.  I, on the other hand, place high value on summer pick-up games recognizing, much like Dean Smith, the off-season is for the good of the player, in-season all is for the team.

In my initial article Training with the game in mind, I argued for a clear understanding of how a particular exercise in the weight
room relates to improving your overall game. In the case of summer pick-up, I see no difference.  There needs to a clear understanding of its actual value to the development of the player. Can pick-up reinforce bad habits? Of course.  If players were always fundamentally sound, college coaches would be out of a job.  Risk of injury?  Well, that risk exists in every corner of life.  Does it promote selfish play? Perhaps.  With maturity, a veteran group can grow out of the cattiness. 

It's greatest value lies in what it reveals.  Plato's famous quote
says it all, "you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." This speaks volumes about the opportunity pick-up presents.  Players learn a little something about each other.  Who can they attack?  Who can they trust to make a play? Who will be competitive enough, despite the summer heat, a questionable foul call, a previous argument about the score, plans later in the evening, or any other "obstacle" under the sun to make game changing plays.  In the end, if a player is expected to make a game winning shot in-season, he needs to have made dozens of game winning shots in the summer time. You can't tell me there isn't some form of a correlation.  What happens in the instance where a player is picked last?  Does that not resonate
with them? Perhaps drive them and shape their latter workouts, training, and desire?

There are intrinsic elements of pick-up that have value.  First off, players love to play.  Its simple, but cannot be overlooked.  Whether coming out of your ideal offensive system, or the mosh pit possessions that pick-up can be, players love to go at each other.  Allow them to embrace this and take some pride in merely competing. Second, its a chance to put them in positions of pressure all year long.

At Northeastern University, our senior class instilled a rule in which the player who scores on game point must follow the game-winner
with a made free throw whether fouled or not. Step to the line and follow your game winner with another one. If you miss- play on. Lastly, defense calls fouls. I've discovered no better way to clean up the quality of pick-up games than to put accountability into
the defense's hands. Sounds counterintuitive, but the game regulates itself. Drive to the hoop and your hacked? Big deal. Be physical on the other end and you're even. There are no opportunities to alpha-dog a freshman with mysterious foul calls. The intensity of competition instantly picks up.

Are the game conditions, efficiency and team play less than ideal in summer pick-up? No question. But a lot can be learned from
playing with your teammates. Like any training or practice players can't simply talk about it, they have to be about it. They can't go through the motions. Do it right and recognize it's value. Allow teammates to challenge each other and enjoy doing something they might not be able to do forever- merely play the game.

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

Every Single Day Of Your Life

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 4:55:00 PM

by Steve Scalzi

everything basketball

Close your eyes.  Envision the dreams and aspirations you've held inside of you.  Is it completing a degree?  Sitting on the porch of your dream home?  Leaving the green room to be greeted by David Stern on draft night?  Picture your end goal.  Dwell in the satisfaction of achieving what you've always pushed toward - knowing that the work you've put in has culminated in something truly special. 

Now go backwards.  Envision the previous steps in the process of this ultimate achievement.  Did you complete your degree because of academic diligence?  Was the dream house achieved through sound investing?  How about draft night?  What did you do to separate yourself in the scouting process?  Perform on a big stage?  Compose yourself as Charlie Weingroff, Keith D'Amelio and Mike Curtis suggest? 

Continue to go backwards.  How were you admitted into that academic institution?  What jobs did you hold as you built credit for that mortgage?  How did you build your body and your skill set to be considered an NBA prospect?

Never was this exercise so eloquently narrated and executed than in the Jordan Brand's 2008 Commercial.  Beginning with a glimpse of Michael Jordan's iconic "jumpman" statue outside the United Center, with the Chicago skyline graciously paying homage to its own, Nike takes us on a journey through Michael's life.  Set to the voice of the G.O.A.T., we see recreations of MJ's childhood home, his college dorm room, the legendary Hoops the Gym in Chicago's West Loop, a quiet Laney High School, and lastly Michael's very own trophy room in his home - adorned with the center court Chicago Bulls logo he purchased after the destruction of his beloved Chicago Stadium. 

Through it all, Michael presents us with a series of "maybe's." 

"Maybe it's my fault," he ponders.

"Maybe I led you to believe it was easy, when it wasn't.  Maybe I led you to believe that my game was built on flash, and not fire.  Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a god given gift, and not something I worked for, every single day of my life." 

Michael challenges the viewer, implying, maybe, just maybe, you're failing to reach my level, because you've failed to recognize the necessary steps... "or maybe, you're just making excuses." 

Too often people have a lofty end goal in mind - clouded by the visions of grandeur, they confuse that goal as the single outcome they're driving toward, failing to recognize that after a degree comes the real world.  Even dream homes have a mortgage, and making an NBA roster doesn't guarantee you stay.  The real daunting task isn't the end goal, its recognizing the world as it truly is.  Knowing your limitations, assessing where you're beginning and understanding what you'll have to do to get to that next step every single day of your life.

When I arrived at Northeastern University at twenty-two years old, I felt so fortunate to be given an opportunity at the Division I level.  After being a student assistant with Boston College basketball, enjoying time in both the Big East and their transition to the ACC, I thought it possible, like many young coaches, I would chase a return to that level for years.  Never did I envision being given an immediate chance upon graduation to build a program in one of the nation's premier mid-major conferences.  I didn't invent the game, I likely won't revolutionize it, I just wanted to be a young coach who soaks up his chance.  Carry no ego and enjoy the ride.  While this may have been a gracious mental approach, at times I was almost apologetic.  Sheepishly wondering how I could be so lucky. 

"Stop wondering how you got here.  Stop feeling lucky to be here. Start figuring out how you'll stay here.  How are we going to build this thing?"

Spoken in my first meeting with our Head Coach, Bill Coen, those words have resonated with me from day one.  I foolishly confused Division I basketball with flash and not fire.  Basketball is not a god given gift.  It's something you have to work for every single day of your life.  As coaches, athletic trainers, and students of the game, we at BSMPG are in a unique position where it is our job to help others arrive at their lofty end goals.  Next time a player says he wants to play in the league, we're in no position to tell him he's naive. That's not for us to decide whether he can.  But we can help him see the reality of the challenge.  Paint the picture as it truly is.  Put him in position to be successful by making sure that when he envisions the end goal, the necessary steps are clearly illuminated. 

Help your players create their own cinematic commercial in their mind, filled with scenes from their lives, the habits, people and places that have influenced their rise to success.  Become a fixture in their images and enjoy where their ride takes them.  Michael challenges us to "become legendary" - this won't happen without a vision.  Not without a sense of where you're going and how to get there.       

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

The Ever-Changing Game Face

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 4:53:00 PM

by Steve Scalzi

It seems that due to the circus surrounding his recruitment, his departure, and his destination, LeBron James has become one of the most divisive figures in sports.  In April of last season LeBron was one of the most revered personalities in the game, earning himself his first MVP award and seemingly on a collision course to match-up against Kobe Bryant in a classic NBA Finals.

That was never to be.  And my how things can change in one year.  James' 2009 Cavaliers were eliminated by the Orlando Magic starting one of the most interesting downward spirals in recent memory.  Cleveland rebounded from their unceremonious exit to once again seize the best record in the NBA in 2010 and LeBron James had a dominant regular season earning himself his second MVP trophy.  However, as the season wore on, and the media hype surrounding his impending free agency came on strong, all was not well for King James and his Witnesses.  Running into a motivated and healthy Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers were eliminated in the second round despite 61 regular season wins and the uncertainty hovering over LBJ's free agency options loomed.

How he handled the free agency process in July 2010 has put an awfully sour taste in the mouth of most American sports fans.  If you ask me, I jumped off the LeBron James train a year prior and for vastly different reasons.  My qualms have little to do with how he handles himself off the court.  If anything, my biggest qualm with LeBron James is his pre-game behavior.  Every team has its own camaraderie, chemistry, rituals and so forth.  On the surface, the Cleveland Cavaliers of the past two seasons appeared as a tight knit group living their dream scenario - playing with a transcendent player in a city that adores them.  Announcement of the starting lineups was a show in and of itself - players pretending to pose for pictures, go bowling, play charades you name it. 

everything basketball

At first, I loved that an NBA team unabashedly showed their enjoyment of the moment.  They were grown men playing a game, flat out admitting their love for the opportunity.  They would bounce back after tough road trips, pick each other up when knocked to the floor, leave their seat on the bench to cheer highlight plays.  The Cavs seemed like a lovable group and LeBron was the ring leader stamping his seal of approval on the endearing antics.

But when the Cavaliers ran into opponents they couldn't handle, particularly the '09 Magic and the '10 Celtics, those antics changed.  Their demeanor looked almost fearful, sheepish in big moments.  And LeBron, a man who tattooed "Chosen 1" on his own back, ducked from the big moments.  Did he play poorly?  At times.  All teams amidst elimination aren't playing up to their best.  Worse than his performance was the change in his act.  Little pregame goofiness.  Few smiles and encouragement.  The loosest team in the NBA became tight, afraid of clutch spots, and well, virtually leaderless.

The issue isn't that LeBron engaged in goofy pre-game antics or presented himself and the team as loose, yet focused.  The issue I have is that in big moments he completely veered away from this.  An NBA team can win with a multitude of leadership styles.  Can an NBA team be successful with a fun-loving leader?  Let's not forget Magic Johnson.  Can they win with a stone cold killer? 

everything basketball

Kobe Bryant has done a decent job.  A leader who barely spoke?  Hakeem Olajuwon won two NBA titles as such.  An ultra-competitive dictator?  MJ's teammates would say he did ok.

Changing one's leadership style, more specifically, changing one's game face from moment to moment is poisonous to a team's success.  Whether it be a regular season game in December or a playoff match-up in May, LeBron James should not be a chameleon catering his reactions to the intensity of each moment.  Of course, a seven game playoff series brings an entirely different demand on a player's focus and the organization as a whole over a preseason game.  But, I argue the face of a franchise should take ownership of his leadership style, stand firm in his personality, and show the rest of teammates that no matter the moment, they have the same captain at the helm, ready to lead.

This consistency is so key in fact, I believe it should carry over to practice and training sessions.  A player's demeanor and approach should remain the same in virtually all scenarios.  You can't own an ever-changing game face.  Can a leader be the class clown in practice, yet turn serious only in games?  Can a player be rambunctious during competition, yet quietly go through the motions in a weight room?  The inconsistencies create too much uncertainty and in big moments teammates and coaches aren't sure what type of player will show up.  Coaches have a responsibility to harbor and embrace the personalities of their players, to understand the core characters that are coming together to form a team, and create environments where there is consistency in their approach albeit in the weight room, at practice, or in the final minutes of a playoff game.  Consistency in this way is a challenge that only championship teams generally reach.  Miami may offer a loaded roster that trumps his Cleveland team.  But I'm not sure they'll be successful there until LeBron realizes in the past he failed his teammates as much as his teammates failed him.

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

Training With The Game In Mind

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 4:51:00 PM

by Steve Scalzi

It's 6:00am on a summer day.  The air outside is already humid and another scorching hot day is on tap.  Still, the devoted players rise, beat the hustle of the campus life, and arrive at the gym to put their work in.  Dribbling through cones, coming off fictitious screens, going to the foul line with the game hanging in the balance - if only in their mind. 

Coaches and trainers stress the need to practice as one would play.  "Recreate moves at game speed, envision competing and improving under game conditions" they preach.  Operating as though they're in the moment, so when their chance arises, they've already been successful in that very spot. 

But what about while training?  When the court beneath a player is replaced with turf, or their familiar high tops are traded out for Nike Frees, are they still in the arena in their mind?  Counting down the final seconds for a desperation game winner is easy.  But when they're running stairs do they see the value of each rep?  Does each movement on the slide board register as having an important impact in their ability to stunt and recover on the defensive end?  Is it clear to your athletes that an asymmetrical kettle bell lunge is directly related to their ability to gather themselves in transition, take a bump and finish with contact for that game changing basket? 

From a college coach's perspective, when you can't work directly with a student-athlete in the summer time, and technically cannot make workouts a mandatory occurrence, a major concern is not simply that they get in the gym, but that while in the gym players maximize their time.  With summer training occurring 3-4 times a week as a major focus of improving one's game for the fall, I say the notion of game pace and visualizing basketball success is equally important in the weight room as it is on the court.  As a strength and conditioning coach, are your workouts consistent with what will be physically required for their position?  Does each exercise combine as pieces of a puzzle to create a more complete player?  No question the readers of Everything Basketball have well planned workouts and philosophies that prepare a player for success.  However, do the players recognize and understand that running “17’s” leads to the ability to provide one inch of improvement in their chase for a loose ball?  More importantly, are strength coaches consistent with the basketball staff in their terminology and nomenclature inciting visual images of how their training session relates to the game?  Players can go through motions in any workout, meet any bench mark or time required, but doing so and understanding the connections the training has to their overall game, relating specific exercises to intricacies or facets of the game, is priceless. 

This can be simple, or this can be done at a high level.  In our second season at Northeastern University, we took on perhaps the toughest non-conference schedule in the country.  We had merely one non-conference home game and ventured into hostile arenas such as Illinois's Assembly Hall, Maryland's Comcast Center, the Carrier Dome, and Gampel Pavilion.  The summer before, only days after our schedule was released our strength coach, Art Horne already had the images instilled in their minds during tough workouts. 

"Don't stop! Give me three more reps, Maryland's Sea of Red wants to see you fail." 

"Get your hands off your knees.  Don't show the Carrier Dome that you're tired." 

It can be as simple as helping them step into the arena in their mind or it can go further by implementing the coaching staff's terminology. 

"We close out with high hands on their strong hand gentlemen.  Take shot out of their mind as you closeout in this defensive conditioning drill.”

Simply put, some players want to win a sprint our put in max effort out of competitive pride.  Some will complete training sessions just so they're merely finished.  But when a player's mind set shifts from simply completing a sprint, and changes to envisioning success on the court within the context of the game, that's when true improvement is achieved.  As a college coach who has to be quite hands off in the summer, there's nothing greater than trusting a strength coach to drive these elements home.

Topics: Basketball Related, Steve Scalzi

Steve Scalzi

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 3:39:00 PM

everything basketball


Steve Scalzi

How and why did you get into the field of coaching?

The game is an impossible puzzle, a metaphor for life, my career choice, and a refuge.  If it were a person I’d have to thank it as though it were a mentor.  It’s taken me across the world, given me a style, a vision, and chance to hopefully impact the lives of others.  The head coach I work under took a chance on me when I was a 22 year old kid, just trying to honor his commitment to me.
Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most? Influenced your philosophy? What have you learned from them that you can you share?

Two people have had the deepest impact: the first is my high school coach John Martino.  He was a true teacher of the game.  I was merely a decent high school player, but came away with such a thorough understanding of the game when I left for college.
Since college and my first position out of school, Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen has been my mentor.  He’s influenced my philosophy on the technical side of the game, but even more from the standpoint of running a program, treating those around me with respect, relationship building and most importantly – preaching patience. 

Name 3-5 books every basketball coach should have in their library.

Stuff Good Players Should Know: Intelligent Basketball from A-Z, by Dick DiVenzio.  One of the better books highlighting tricks of the trade and nuances of the game.
My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey, by John Wooden.  The game’s most respected gentlemen sharing his story.
Basketball FundaMENTALS, by Jay Mikes.  A great read for the player interested in preparing for competition through mental exercises and visualization.

What is the last book you read and why?

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.  I rarely find myself reading fiction, but this book teaches you how to listen, pay attention, and support unconditionally – good lessons for a young coach.

What are the top three (3) training tips you would give to a basketball athlete beginning a strength and conditioning program?

1) I think it’s very important that incoming freshmen understand the role that programs play in addressing deficiencies and preparing the body for the rigors of a season.  It’s not merely about being stronger or adding to your vertical.  No player can be effective when injured or tired.  Bad habits creep in with fatigue and team play suffers when focus and efficiency is compromised. 
2) From a coach’s perspective, it boggles my mind to see a kid make a leap in athleticism over his four year college career.  That only happens with a commitment to every level of conditioning - including rehab and nutrition. 
3) Don’t be so caught up in numbers.  Kevin Durant couldn’t bench press to the NBA standard, but, he can get you 30 points a night.  Engage in open discussion with your strength coach to match your aspirations with your potential, then put in the work to meet those reasonable goals you’ve both set. 

What are some of the challenges you experience when training a red-shirt player?

My boss has an interesting philosophy on this matter that I’ve adopted.  Red shirts, freshmen, walk-ons, really any player who does not play big minutes in game situations must recognize one thing:  The head coach is simply a mirror.  What you put into practice is reflected in what you receive in games.  There are certain intangibles that differs from player to player – experience and potential for example.  But for the most part, your productivity, effort, focus, and intensity in practice is how a coach decides your level of preparedness for a game. 
Any player fighting for playing time, especially red shirts, who are new to a program, must recognize that practice is their game day.  Treat it with respect and be ready to work, the coach’s decision to call your number will be a direct reflection of what you bring to the table in practice. 

Topics: Steve Scalzi, Q&A