This is a great read from USA Today’s Sam Amick regarding the widespread use of data in sports and how to combine its use with an individual’s “feel” for a game.

I like what Brent Barry had to say. As a fellow basketball broadcaster I try to gather as many statistics as possible and predict situations that could happen in the course of a game.

However, sometimes players, coaches, and broadcasters alike, must rely on their own instinctive knowledge of the game in analyzing a given situation. I like to often say that basketball is a game of infinite situations. It is impossible for us to prepare for all of them.To Barry’s point, you can prepare your own wisdom for a broadcast. However, there are situations that arise in a game that you may not have thought about in your preparation. What you still have is the working knowledge of an individual player or a team to connect them to the given game situation.

For instance, why didn’t the Pacers have Paul George take the last shot in game 2 against the Cavs? Well, the Pacers probably have practiced this situation at some point this season (at least, I hope) but Paul George had to analyze it on his own.

Never mind that he has been playing very well, George was double-teamed and, in that given situation, he would have had to force up a shot against two defenders (one was LeBron).

Brent Barry and I may not have made a statistical note about this going into this game so we would need to analyze the game situation as it is.



I love Tony Dungy. Yes, maybe it’s because he coached my favorite NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, maybe because he led the Colts to the city’s first major sports championship in my lifetime. But I have really grown to appreciate who Tony Dungy is as a person and the principles in which he led the football teams he did.

Tony Dungy

In preparation for Coach Dungy’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this weekend, I reread his first book Quiet Strength, which was published in 2007 after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. The last time I did any significant reading of Quiet Strength, I was preparing the eulogy for my nephew’s funeral six years ago. I recalled the strength in Coach Dungy’s words regarding dealing with grief (Dungy’s son Jamie died suddenly in 2005), and I wanted to articulate my own feelings in a similar way. His words helped me personally deal with my own grief.

To me, Tony Dungy embodies everything that is right in coaching and in being a leader for humanity. He was not only a good football coach but he knew the importance of using his platform for good. In observing him and reading about his career over the last twenty years, these are the character traits that I most appreciate about Tony Dungy:

  • He built his teams on character and values, the same way he lived his life.
  • As a coach, he always did things the “right way.” He never compromised character and virtues, even if it meant a better chance of winning.
  • He was positive with his coaching staff and players but he held them accountable.
  • He shared his faith openly with his coaching staff and players who were life-minded. He thought it was important that his players and coaches be connected spiritually.
  • He was loyal. He refused to fire Mike Shula in Tampa Bay after the 1998 season when Joel and Brian Glazer asked him to do so.
  • He often preached to his team, “Do What We Do.”Tony Dungy “did what he did” and he did it with class.


I attended the annual Play Like a Champion Today Sports Leadership conference a couple weeks ago at the University of Notre Dame. I had the pleasure to meet and hear author Todd Gongwer speak at dinner one evening. Todd, a coach himself, has quickly become acclaimed as a motivational speaker and outstanding author of the book Lead…for God’s Sake. (I highly recommend it, especially if you like leadership fables.)

Lead for Gods Sake
In his speech at dinner, Todd spoke about one thing that I have come to realize in sports and life – the realization that we control so very little the result of being “the best.” The reality is that we will eventually compete against someone who will be more talented than us and if they perform at their best, we’re going to get beat. Therefore, Todd says “your best” is maximizing the gifts and talents for the purpose God has given to you.

Being “excellent” is being the best you can be and letting life take care of itself.

Oh, you may be wondering who “Joe” is, as indicated in the blog header. Read Lead…for God’s Sake to find out more about him. You may learn a thing or two from “Joe.”

photo (3)

Todd Gongwer and me at University of Notre Dame on June 25, 2016.


What is the first thing that your program needs to be successful? It is not a set of rules for your athletes to follow. It is not a system of X’s & O’s. It isn’t a summer conditioning program. While extremely important, it’s not even a great assistant coaching and support staff.

The first thing every program needs is to define who you are! As the leader of a program you must develop a system of values in which you want your program to be identified. While coaching and the education field as a whole are different than the business world there are more similarities than differences when it comes to leading them. Therefore it is necessary to establish values based on three key constituents of your program.

1) Your school or organization’s values –  When developing these values it is important to know your school or university’s values. While you do not need to include all of the values that the school has identified, it may be helpful to weave one or two of the school’s values into your own program. Know your school’s mission statement, its history, and value them.

2) Your personal values – What values are important to you? Which of these values do you want your athletes to carry with them throughout their lives? I am not suggesting you turn your athletes into robots and have them act like you. They need some freedom to be themselves. Instead, I am suggesting you choose a couple key values that are non-negotiable.

3) Values that are important to your athletes – This has as much to do with your program’s culture than anything. If you have taken over a new program that has a culture of apathetic players, you would want to make “hard word” or “commitment” one of your values. It is necessary to identify where your program is when you establish your values so you know what traits you need to implement to be successful.

Once you have established the core values for your program, it is time to implement them. Here are three important strategies to implement these values.

1) Emphasize your values every day. –  These values are who your program is and what they do. You must talk about these core values and motivate your athletes through these values each day you are together. Use motivational quotes. Tell stories of historical figures who have stood for one or more of your values. The best way to emphasize them is to provide examples of when your own athletes have lived out your core values.

2) Make sure your athletes are invested in the values. –  Whether you are in the middle of your season or your athletes are home for the summer you want them identified as an athlete in your program. You want them to live out these values in every walk of their life. As they do, you will find greater “buy in” to your program.

3) Simple is better. – When it first occurred to me as a head coach that my program needed some core values, I quickly made a list of 16 values that were important to my school, to me, and what my players needed. I should have narrowed that list to a more manageable number. There was not enough time to integrate all of these into my program. I would suggest you identify four to six core values for your program.

I love to hear your feedback. Are there other strategies that you have implemented in developing your program’s core values? Are there other effective ways you have implemented your own core values in your program?



Over the last couple years, I have been fortunate to become involved with Play Like a Champion Today (PLACT), an initiative at the University of Notre Dame that is working to promote a positive sports culture through a series of coaching clinics and parent workshops. Through their train-the-trainer format, they have trainers throughout the United States that have spread their message to thousands of coaches.
PLAC Locker Room
It was at their Annual Leadership Conference in June 2014 that I was trained to conduct their “Coaching for Character” and “Coaching as Ministry” clinics for coaches, as well as their “Parent Like a Champion” educational workshop for parents. I have presented a handful of workshops both at Saint Agnes, where I am Principal as well as parishioner, and St. Thomas in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.

I love the program and these are four reasons why:

  • It’s mission-oriented. – The “Coaching as Ministry” program promotes the idea of coaching as a service for young people.
  • It’s character-building. – It provides opportunities for coaches to explore the important characteristics of a champion athlete.
  • It recognizes the spiritual nature of sport. – Coaches must foster the spirituality within their athletes.
  • Their “GROW” approach – Goals. Relationships. Ownership. Winning. This is PLACT’s approach to motivating athletes to success.

I’m looking forward to continuing to share my own research, as well as more about Play Like a Champion Today, with you in future posts.

If you would like more information about Play Like a Champion Today feel free to email me at or access their website at If you are interested in bringing Play Like a Champion Today to your league or school, please contact me.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog:
Play Like a Champion Today,


Lauren Hill

Many of you have seen and been touched by the story of Lauren Hill, the 18-year-old Mount St. Joseph University basketball player who has been given weeks left to live because of an inoperable brain tumor. If you are not familiar with the story I highly recommend watching Cincinnati Local 12’s Brad Johansen’s feature on Lauren:

Recently I began a Sports & Spirituality Club with some of our 6th-8th grade students at Saint Agnes School. The other day I showed them this video. I followed the video by informing them that public demand to watch Lauren’s “Last Game” has been so overwhelming that Xavier University offered the use of their 10,250-seat Cintas Center to host the game, a game the NCAA permitted to be moved up to November 2. I also told them that the game at Xavier sold out in minutes and that Lauren’s story has become national.

Once I updated the 14 students in the room on the story I asked them a very simple question: “Where is God in this story?”

Some commented that Lauren’s bravery and attitude was where they saw God. Others thought the support of Lauren’s family are examples of true love. A couple noticed God in Mount St. Joseph providing Lauren with the opportunity to play basketball despite her circumstances. And another mentioned Xavier stepping in and offering their facility so thousands could show Lauren their support.

Throughout the rest of the hour-long meeting our conversation moved to examples where we have seen sports provide moments to benefit others – cancer-awareness games and the special-needs team manager who plays in a varsity game, to name a couple.

The common theme among all of these examples, including Lauren’s, is that in these sport settings everyone involved benefits. Not just Lauren. Not just cancer research or the team manager. We all benefit when we help others.

Sports are an instrument to help others. These are the kind of memories that will make our world a better place. Thank you, Lauren.

Question: How can we better help others through sport?

If you would like to follow more on Lauren Hill’s story, check out these articles:

“Facing Death, Lauren Hill Teaches Us Life Lessons”, October 26, 2014,

“Lauren Hill, college hoops player with brain tumor, living in the moment”
USA Today, October 24, 2014,

“Devon Still Visits Lauren Hill, Forms Positively Inspirational Pair”
ESPNW, October 21, 2014,



Yesterday was Father’s Day and I couldn’t help but think about the similarities in responsibilities that a coach has with a father. I have often heard people say that coaches have the ability to have as much influence on their athletes that anyone. While parents should, without question, serve as the primary influences in their young people’s lives there is no doubt that coaches have a substantial platform to impact them, as well.

In my book Finishing The Job ( I wrote that Michael Bradley, a former NBA player and NCAA All-American, calls Steve Lappas, his former coach at Villanova, every Father’s Day to thank him for being such a tremendous role model in his life.


Only some of the wins and losses will be memorable. It is the impact that a coach can have on his athletes and the impact of those lifelong relationships that will have the most profound impact. If you are a coach and did not get a phone call on Father’s Day from a former player that is not to say you have not made an impact on the lives of those you coached. Rather, if you did get a phone call know that you have been fulfilling your platform well.

By no means am I saying that a coach should be a substitute for his athletes’ fathers. Rather, a coach has the opportunity to role model the most important attributes that a father can provide his son or daughter. Here are the three most important fatherly attributes that a coach should exhibit:

1. Show them that you believe in them.
2. Take an interest in their life outside of your sport.
3. Be fair, but be firm.
They don’t have to always like you. But they should always respect you.

Coaches, Happy Fathers’ Day. Be sure to model the attributes of a great father to your athletes.

Resources Mentioned In This Blog
Finishing The Job,

Question: What coach has displayed the attributes of a father figure in your life?


The coaching world lost the greatest basketball coaching educator that it has possibly ever seen yesterday. The great Don Meyer passed away at the age of 69. If you have coached basketball or researched any aspect of coaching the game, chances are you have come across Coach Meyer. If you are not familiar with him it is probably because he was satisfied coaching at NAIA Lipscomb University and Division II Northern State for most of his career.

Don Meyer

Coach Meyer was well-known for sharing his knowledge of the game through dozens of clinics and instructional videos, as well as hosting the annual Don Meyer Coaches’ Academy. Don Meyer was, quite simply, the ultimate “Coach of Coaches.” And, by the way, Coach Meyer also held the record for most coaching victories in the history of the NCAA for a short while after he broke Bob Knight’s record in 2009.

I was fortunate to hear Coach Meyer speak on a couple of occasions, both of which were some of the most enjoyable learning experiences I have had. One occasion was about seven years at the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches’ Clinic. Coach Meyer had a handout and probably a dozen different motivational Northern State Basketball cards for everyone in attendance. Usually coaches will show up for those clinics with a few notes scribbled down and not much else. Not Coach Meyer. He was in his element sharing his encyclopedia of basketball information. He spared seemingly nothing when it came to sharing his work and what he knew about coaching.

The other time I heard him speak, and had the opportunity to meet him, was at the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Convention at the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2010. That was one of my favorite basketball days ever – I got to watch one of my favorite teams, Butler, win a Final Four game and hear Don Meyer speak! Coach Meyer was in a wheelchair that day after a horrific car accident and cancer diagnosis just a year-and-a-half earlier. Coach had a quick wit, even referring to his amputated leg as his “Little Buddy” during that speaking engagement.

He also had an affinity for good pens. That may be another reason why I liked Coach Meyer so much. We both love a good pen! He was using a Uniball Signo, my personal favorite, that day in Indianapolis. Coach Meyer loved taking notes. He would stop in the middle of his presentation as a thought came to his mind – you could see his wheels always spinning – and write down the note. He would write down notes based on questions that others asked. He developed learning experiences out of everything.

The detail with which Coach Meyer shared his knowledge showed his tireless work ethic and experience in the game. Buster Olney detailed Coach Meyer’s tremendous life in his 2011 biography How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer. I highly recommend it! I also recently purchased Playing for Coach Meyer, by one of his former players and assistant coaches Steve Smiley. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here is a collection of my favorite notes from Coach Meyer:

Three Rules for His Players:
1. Everybody takes notes.
2. Everybody says, “Yes, sir,” “Yes, ma’am,” “No, sir,” and “No, ma’am.”
3. Everybody picks up trash.

Five Phases of Great Teaching:
1. Tell them what to do.
2. Show them how to do it.
3. Have them show you how to do it.
4. Correct them.
5. Repetition.

On Shot Selection:
1st Bad Shot = Bad Shot
2nd Bad Shot = Bad Player
3rd Bad Shot = Bad Coach

Northern State’s Field Goal % Grading System:
4 = wide-open layup
3 = Wide open shot by good shooter
2 = Contested shot by good shooter
1 = Terrible shot
0 = Turnover

Offense: Get better shots than your opponent and get more of those better shots. (He learned that from the great Pete Newell.)

“If you want to thank me, go do something for somebody else.” – Don Meyer

R.I.P. Coach Don Meyer. Thanks for teaching all of us.

Resources Mentioned In This Blog
Book: How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Don Meyer,

Book: Playing for Coach Meyer,

Question: How has Coach Don Meyer impacted your coaching? Please respond in the comments section below.



One of the traits that has been lost in coaching (or never found) is that of a “coach as educator first.” It’s reason enough why we need more education and development for coaches at all levels. What does a “coach as educator first” mean? Quite simply, it means adding value to your athletes’ lives by educating them about life skills.

“Coach as educator first” can mean teaching them about your sport but it goes well beyond the playing field. I see many coaches at many levels who are great teachers and use their platform to educate a well-rounded athlete. Yet many others do not.

Bob Hurley

Too many coaches are in coaching for themselves. They see wins and losses as the end-all-be-all. They try to live vicariously through their coaching because of their own unfulfilled playing career. The ultimate goal of any coach should be to add value to his athletes. When a coach finds himself educating their athletes first, then that coach has found real emotional intelligence as coach.

The following is a good list of questions to ask yourself to identify whether you are a “coach as educator first”:

1. Do you have a set of core values that are important to your program that you discuss and provide examples of where they have been used effectively?

2. Do you role model high-level character qualities?

3. Do you strive to develop your athletes spiritually, or at least morally?

4. Do you discuss current events with your athletes and how they relate to their lives?

5. Do you find “teachable moments” to improve the “360-degree” athlete?

6. Is winning the most important aspect of your job?
(Note: Even the most successful college basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, said “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”)

If you answered “yes” to questions 1-5 and “no” to question 6 you are in pretty good shape.

In future blog posts, I’ll discuss how coaches at various levels of sport can serve as “educator first” and provide examples of coaches who are. Yes, even professional sports!

Question: Are you aware of a coach who personifies being an “educator first”? If so, please respond with in the comments section below.



It’s New Year’s Day and people all over the world are creating goals for themselves for 2014. Often people will make goals for themselves and become frustrated and give up during the year when the goals no longer become attainable. Still others will not make any goals at all because they have been unsuccessful at them in the past.


For coaches of any sport, it is a great time of the year to assess and create goals. For coaches of winter sports, they are halfway through their season and it is a good time to measure their individual and team goals. For fall sport coaches, the off-season is here and it’s a great time to implement some ways to grow their program. For spring sport coaches, their pre-season is near and the establishment of season goals are necessary.

The following are some suggestions and resources I have for anyone, whether it be a coach or one just looking to grow in any aspect of their life, as you develop your goals for 2014 (and beyond). Like most things I share I have learned them from others and have found them to be beneficial for me.

My Rules for Establishing Goals

1. Keep it simple. – This is why you will only find two rules from me. The easiest goal to attain is the one that is simple. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Dream big but make your goals attainable. Accomplishment of small goals will naturally lead to accomplishment of larger ones.

2. Reflect and pray about your goals. – Spend time daily reflecting and praying about your goals. Reflection is integral in any growth situations.

My Favorite Goal Resources

• One way to keep it simple is to use the “One Word” concept. One Word is summarized in a book written by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page ( The idea is to choose one word to focus on as you move throughout your entire year. As a school administrator, I shared this concept with my faculty in August and challenged them to come up with their own “One Word.” I chose “remarkable” as my word. I want to be “remarkable” in various aspects of my life. As educators our years usually run on an August-July calendar so many of us did our one word for our school year. January is a great time for anyone to establish their “One Word” goal.

• Lou Holtz’s 5 Things to Accomplish – The former college football coach and current ESPN college football analyst has written several great motivational books. In Wins, Losses, and Lessons he writes his list of five categories of things he would like to accomplish in his life.
1. Things I want to do as a husband and a father
2. Things I want to do religiously
3. Things I want to accomplish professionally
4. Things I want to do financially
5. Things I want to do for excitement (personally)
Coach Holtz originally listed 108 items in his five categories. Be goal-oriented like Coach Holtz but don’t limit yourself to accomplishing everything in 2014. Your goals don’t have to all be accomplished in the next 365 days. I started reviewing Coach Holtz’s five questions with my wife, Kim, a couple years ago. It has been helpful and I even accomplished one of the things I wanted to do for “excitement” in 2013 when I published my first book Finishing The Job.

Good luck with your goals in 2014. I hope it is your best year yet. Happy New Year!

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: Get One Word (

Book: Wins, Losses, and Lessons (

Book: Finishing The Job (

Question: How do you go about choosing your goals for the new year? (Feel free to leave a comment.)