- South Carolina Gamecocks - January 21, 2017 - Rupp Arena - 6:00 PM EST - ESPN
As I tweeted a few days ago, I had plenty of time last week to think about this upcoming season as I was traveling to and from Spain. The biggest question I kept asking myself was: How do we continue to grow and stay ahead of the curve?
With that in mind, we’re going to try some things this season that, in my mind, will make us even better. Normally, I’m pretty specific in what I’m doing, what I’m thinking and what I’m sharing, but that’s not going to be the case this time other than to say that you’re going to see new things in our approach and how we do it.
Our foundation and our approach towards being a players-first program and doing everything we can to help these kids is not changing. We are just trying to figure out different ways to continue to achieve the goals of our kids and make it even more successful for them. We always want to be the program that’s being chased. Never the one doing the chasing.
When the season ended, I asked each member of my staff to come up with three good ideas about how we can improve our recruiting, as well as three ideas on how we develop and train. I’m not afraid to try new stuff, to change or overhaul everything – even if we’re having success.
At the time I made the decision to go to the Dribble-Drive Offense we were winning 75 percent of our games. People looked at me like I was nuts. Well, we started winning 90 percent of our games when we went to the Dribble-Drive. It gave us more of an opportunity to win and was something people had to adjust to, and most importantly it helped our kids.
Now, I look at this season and I ask myself, “How can we make ourselves better teachers and better coaches? What areas can we work on?” We’ve started to do some of our teaching differently. There are areas we never emphasized that we’re zeroing in on.
We now are looking at different approaches to home visits, evaluations, and exactly what the characteristics are that we’re looking for. Our recruiting has been pretty solid. Well, let’s make it even better.
The world is changing and how these young people get information is changing. The environment around them is changing. We want to change with them. I’m not looking to use the same lesson plan I’ve used the last five years.
When you think about individual players like Skal, I tried to use the lesson plan we used for Anthony and Karl. It wasn’t the right one. We adjusted, but it was late. He’s still going to be fine because he learned to fight, he didn’t blame anyone and he learned to trust. He was still a first-round draft pick and is going to have a terrific career. But, we could have done better. I could have done better.
The guards we have this year are totally different from a year ago. The bigs we have and the players we have with length – guess what – are totally different than we had last year. To me, this means we as a staff have to think and prepare differently to play to the strengths of our players.
Where is the game going? LeBron James was the biggest player on the floor 50 percent of the time in the NBA Finals. Golden State shot 40 3s per game. How do we make sure we’re moving in the same direction? That’s what I’m spending time on.
If we don’t think in those terms of how we can do things better, we aren’t moving forward and we aren’t getting better. My hope is you watch our team and you see where we’re trying to take it.
As the coach, my challenge is to get my team to believe they can win a championship, to believe they can be the No. 1 team in the country, to believe they can win all 40 games if they choose to do things other teams aren’t willing to do. It’s not just about working harder, it’s about working smarter and we have to help them with that.
If you’re not striving to be the best team, win a championship and win all the games, you’re just trying to survive. There’s surviving and then there’s thriving. I want this program always to thrive.
I want us to the best and most efficient offensive team, which most of last season we were. I want us to the best defensive team that looks to pitch shutouts. I want us to be the most exciting team. I want us to be the program that develops players far better than everybody and prepares them to have success in the NBA and in life. I want to be the program that best develops players to be servant leaders. I want them to create a love of learning, and a curious mind that lasts a lifetime. Basically, we want it all. We want to be the gold standard in everything we do. The ultimate compliment is then to be emulated by other programs.
I’ll close by saying as you get ready for the 4th of July, please know just how lucky we all are to be able to dream big dreams, follow our passions, to practice the religion we choose, and to be able to speak freely as long as it’s not slanderous to our fellow man. You can chase whatever dream you want to chase. We should all be remembering that during this July 4th holiday.
My thoughts on how the NBA Draft played out