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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jason Shay- Thanks For Your Help

I found when I first starting coaching, the most effective way to learn was to talk to other coaches. Some coaches are very open and very sharing, other coaches can be very secretive. In coaching girls basketball, some coaches could be very condescending and would not give me the time of day. Fortunately I have had many coaches who have patiently listened to my questions.

I have really appreciated Jason Shay’s willingness to listen to my questions, and his willingness to share his expertise. Jason has been a tremendous resource to me. Not only is he willing to field my questions, he is one of the most knowledgeable basketball coaches I have been around. There are a lot of things pretty impressive about Jason as a coach.

X/O Knowledge- He can watch a team play and even if the team runs a set only one time, he can sit down and draw out exactly what they are doing. Spatially he sees the game at a different level.

Understands Execution- Even more important than his x/o knowledge, he can break the plays done and understand why they are not being executed. Three summers ago, he sat on our bench during a Tennessee Camp game. By half time, he took the girls out and went thru 2-3 of our plays, broke them down, and showed them the details needed to make the play work.

Great With Individual Skill Development- Jason is incredible in his willingness to work  individually with players for hours. Two years ago, he was up at 7:00am doing individual workouts with CJ Watson in June. Think about it, a pro is willing to get up in June to work with Jason- it says something about CJ’s work ethic but it also says something about Jason’s ability.
During the basketball seasons, when I have called wanting advice, it seems like whenever I am talking to Jason he is in the gym.

Willing to Share- When I got to go down during the season to watch Tennessee practice, there were probably 50 high school coaches watching practice. After the practice was over, Jason took any of the coaches who wanted to talk into a room and spent the next hour and half answering questions and drawing plays on the board.
            I can text or call Jason, and he always gets back to me. I know a lot of my questions are stupid but he is patient and always tries to help.

Jason has been nice enough to answer some questions for me.

Not to start out insulting, there were more athletically gifted players in the WB6 when you were in high school. Yet you consistently were one of the top guards in the WB6. Now you are a coach. As a coach, how would you evaluate why you were able to be successful as a high school player?

I would have to say a couple of reasons why I was successful as a high player are passion for the game and coachable. I loved to play basketball. I was constantly at the fire station on Maple Ave, whether by myself or playing against others. I remember numerous Thanksgiving and Christmas days calling Coach Bob to open up Churchill to play.  More importantly, I was a sponge when it came to learning the game. The more I watched or played the game, the more eager I was to learn about the game. I wasn’t the quickest player or didn’t jump the highest, so I had to be the best at technique, positioning, and understanding to win on the court.

If a high school girl or boy came to you and said they wanted to become a great high school player. What would you tell them to do in the off-season? I am not looking for specific drills, but what kind of general things should they do, and if they are serious, what kind of time commitment should they make?

If high school girl or boy really want to change your role as a high school player, they would need to commit to 15-20 hours per week for four months to see significant improvement in their game. That includes basketball skill workouts and strength and conditioning workouts. I wouldn’t say I am an avid reader, but I read more than ever. In the book, “Outliers,” to be an expert in any particular field, you must complete 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to master a skill. So if 10,000 is the number, that’s a lot of time shooting the ball, dribbling the ball, passing the ball, and sliding your feet.

Maybe it is the same question, but when I interviewed Beau about his high school playing, he said after his freshmen year he wanted to make the varsity. He described you working him out in the summer. What kind of commitment did he make?

Beau and I, just the two of us, worked out three times a week on top of his responsibilities with the high school as far as camps, open gyms, summer league games, and weights.

You decided to walk on at Iowa. Can you describe how Coach Davis ran that?

As a walk-on, I was on the scout or the taxi team like the NFL. We had to get to practice early to go over our opponents offensive and defensive schemes. We had to emulate the players on those teams to the best of our ability, but that didn’t always work to perfection. As a competitor, you have to go to your strengths and not those of someone else. During practice, however, we played defense for most of time, 70% of the time.

In some ways, I would argue Coach Davis ran his own version of the "system." What were the unique things you did and what were you trying to achieve at Iowa with your style?

I picked up a lot of strategies from Coach Davis that we still implement today such as subbing on the second foul shot to set-up pressure, defensively pressing all out-of-bounds situations, particularly under-out-of-bounds situations, using your bench to create depth, opponent fatigue, and chemistry, offensively sprinting three players to the baseline in transition, primarily running a point guard fastbreak, and last but not least is feeding the post with a bowling ball motion.  I think the biggest philosophical strategy I took from playing for Coach Davis was that fatigue is a major factoring in deciding ball games down the stretch.

How would you describe Coach Davis? He always seemed like a low ego guy. Probably his small town Wisconsin root helped. (It should be noted Tom Davis grew up in little Ridgeway, Wisconsin- across the street from my Aunt, who referred to him as “Little Tommy”)

Coach Davis is very low-key, quiet, calculating, sarcastic, funny, and intelligent. I don’t think his Wisconsin roots had anything to do with that, because I know plenty of Wisconsin people that are loud, obnoxious, and uninformed about their beloved sports teams.

When you first went to Tennessee, were you surprised by Coach Summitt's personality?

I was surprised by Coach Summitt’s personality when I first got to Tennessee. I thought she would be tough to approach because of her legacy as a tough disciplinarian, strict principles, status among the great college coaches, and of course her mean stare and swagger. But Coach Summitt is very easy to approach and talk to. She is very adaptable, meaning she has changed with the times as far as her approach to teaching her sacred principles. She wasn’t as rigid and stern as she was earlier in her career. As accomplished as she was, she was still willing to learn and gather ideas from others.

At Tennessee, you got to work next door to Pat Summitt. There are obviously many, many things that make Coach Summitt successful, if you had to pick out 2-3 things, what would they be?

From observing Coach Summitt’s teams for six years, the things that I have taken away from her program are accountability, organization and preparation. She always said there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. Things/decisions are black and white, don’t live in the gray. Keep things as they should. She said we are constantly working with a clock. We have X number of hours in the day to watch film, plan practice, meet with your staff, and meet with your players. We have to allow for time to prepare for all of these meetings to communicate clearly our objectives. If you are not aware of time, then you’re not very prepared.

I remember calling you one winter with urgent need for advice. It was the day of a game, and you were in the gym working with Lofton. Can you describe his workout routine before practices and games.

Always stayed after practice to get in more shots.  Before practice workouts were a challenge because of his class schedule.  He always arrived two and half hours before the game to get ready, and then workout for an hour individually prior to the time that we began team workouts for the game. We generally started off making stationary shots, make 10 at five or seven spots. To make it harder, we would say that he had to make the last three in-a-row to move on. Then we would make between 50-75 shots from spots within our offense that he would get during the game. Then we would work on moves to the basket and finishing different shots, floaters, runners, euro-step, pro-hop and reverses 30-50 makes. Finally we would finish with pick-and-roll shots and make another 50-75 shots. So he was MAKING more than 250 shots before each game. That is why he is the fourth all-time on the NCAA Division I career 3-point scoring leaders.

The summer we were down for camp, you were working out Lofton and CJ Watson. I was blown away with Watson, an NBA player being in the gym at 7:00am to basic ball handling skills. What is your impressions of CJ Watson?

CJ is a tremendous worker and has willed himself to be a productive player in the NBA. CJ was undrafted, played overseas, came back and played in the NBDL for a couple of years. But he stuck with his plan and plays important minutes for a team with the best record in the NBA right now, Da Bulls. There really isn’t any special drills that I do with our guys that makes them so much better. It is the time, the focus, the intensity, and the purpose that they put into every workout they do that makes them better than the rest.

You have had the opportunity to go to many NBA camps and practices. You always hear people critical of the NBA. What would you say to people who are critical of NBA basketball?

The NBA is the greatest basketball in the world. It has the tallest, fastest, strongest, and most skilled basketball players. Many observers think that the NBA doesn’t play any defense. They probably do take possessions off because of the length of the season. However, I have always said  and compared defending in basketball to a race. There isn’t a single person that could win a race going backwards while the competition ran forward. NBA players are too agile, fast, and strong to consistently stay in front of without them getting an angle on their defender, which creates a lot of problems. Now the NBA has rules to make the game more entertaining and not clog up the lane, but basketball is a game of match-ups. The NBA isolates those match-ups to take advantage of.

As a college coach, you have observed many high school practices and games. What would be your advice to high school coaches? What do you see in successful high school programs and in unsuccessful high school programs?

I think there are two significant differences in successful high school programs and unsuccessful high school programs, when the talent is equal because talent beats all, basketball IQ and accountability. As a coach, take a look at your system of play. Do you create enough advantages for your players to be successful offensively and defensively? Is your flooring spacing great to take advantage of close-out situations? Are your players screening the defense well enough to get others open? Is the timing of your plays/sets correct so that the ball can be delivered on-time, on-target for a score? Are your players moving with long, fast strides or cutting with short, choppy steps? Do your players shrink the court defensively by jumping to the ball and getting to the mid-line to help one another? Do they move when their player moves or are they late? Do they get screened or get through the screen? Do they know how to rotate or are they just scrambling trying to catch up with the ball? Do your players play with greater energy than your opponent and have fun? Those are just a few questions to ask yourself if you players know and are doing. It’s not what you know as a coach, it is what your players know and can execute on the floor. As a coach, we MUST hold our players accountable as soon as they make a mistake, no matter who they are and how often they make a mistake. Because when the game is in the balance and you’ve let things slide, you will be burned by those players mistakes. Accountability takes a ton of effort and discipline, but are the differences between success and failure.

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