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Monday, March 17, 2014


Often coaches walk a fine line between trying to make their players accountable for their actions and performance, and of making them "over-accountable" for their actions and performance.

Bob Knight always said the greatest motivator was the bench. And coaches often use the bench to get a point across to their players. When a player makes a mistake or error in a game, a coach can make a point by taking them out. Sometimes the player is brought over and is given a chance to "reflect" on their play. Other times, the coach may bring them out to give them quick instruction and send them back into the game.

We as coaches are sometimes criticized because observers may feel we don't hold our players, or at least don't hold all of our players accountable. It is tough as a coach. Sometimes we may get caught up in the action of the game and not fully be aware a player is having a bad game until much later. But often, we may have a player who has shown in practice how they compete and we are willing to give them more rope. The fans have not seen the practices to understand the intangibles some players bring to the game.

Sometimes as coaches, we can be criticized for being making our players "over-accountable." It may seem to the fan that we are yanking a kid out for every mistake. As a result it may not seem a player can ever relax and just play.

So as coaches, we are always trying to walk the line of making our players accountable but not making them over-accountable.

This topic came to my mind after watching Wisconsin this past weekend. There are a lot of lessons which can be learned from watching Bo Ryan. His teams win because they don't foul, they don't turn the ball over, they don't give up easy shots, and they don't take bad shots. How does Bo Ryan get the players to have such discipline? I am sure it starts in practice, but it is clear in how he subs that he is making the point over and over to his players. He does not yank a player out everytime they make a mistake, but when it comes to his basic style- a player will come out if they don't do the basics.

On Saturday, if a player was guilty of not getting back on defense so Michigan State got an open shot, there was immediately someone headed to the scorers table. If someone took an off balance turn around jumper with a defender guarding them, someone went to the scorers table. If a player tried a pass that might get through, a sub went up. And in most cases if a player fouled, a sub went up.

It didn't matter who the offending player was, they came out if they violated one of Bo's basics. Some things cannot be negotiable- that is who we are. With 1:38 gone in the Michigan State game, out came Jackson (forced a drive into three men that resulted in a turnover) and Dekker (forced shot). It is not unusual on any level of play for players to think they need to do something special in the "big game." Early in the game Bo was sending his team a message- "we do what we do and we are going to do it all the time."

The lesson from Bo is that as a coach you have to figure out what you want to emphasize-- and players definitely need to be accountable in those areas. It can't be a sometimes kind of thing.

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