Adam Cestaro

Website – Cestaro Basketball

Email –

Twitter – @AdamCestaro

Adam Cestaro is the Head Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach at Highland (OH) High School taking over the Hornets in June of 2015.

Cestaro previously spent a total of seven years in the Highland program at various levels. Adam started his coaching career as both a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at Highland before taking a job on T.K. Griffith’s boys basketball staff at Archbishop Hoban in Akron, Ohio.

Adam is a 1998 graduate of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary who gained experience early in his career as a student manager at the University of Akron, working for Coach Dan Hipsher.

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Be prepared with pen and paper as you listen to this episode with Adam Cestaro, Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach at Highland High School in Medina, Ohio.

What We Discuss with Adam Cestaro

  • Playing basketball for the first time with his buddies in 6th grade
  • Why he became a willing passer playing with his friends
  • Some of the life lessons he learned as a kid on the playgrounds in Barberton, Ohio
  • The pros and cons of today’s youth basketball system
  • Growing up a two sport athlete and why he eventually chose to coach basketball instead of baseball
  • Playing his high school basketball at St. Vincent St Mary in Akron (LeBron’s High School)
  • Play because it’s fun and because you love it
  • How his thought of playing D3 basketball was ended by his Mom
  • Becoming a team manager for the University of Akron Men’s team
  • How his high school coaches inspired him to want to go into coaching
  • How “just showing up”  led to more opportunities with the basketball program at Akron
  • Losing a player at the airport on a European trip with the Zips when he was responsible for checking to see if everyone was present
  • Learning the x’s and o’s while he was at Akron
  • Having Pat Knight on the staff at Akron
  • His best Bob Knight story: it involves a manager, a beard, and a chicken’s ass
  • Why he decided not to pursue college coaching after finishing up at Akron
  • What it was like to coach his first team in 7th grade CYO Basketball
  • Reflecting on what he did well as a young coach
  • Why it was important for him to do everything the head coach did when he was a varsity assistant
  • Running his team like the Varsity when he became the freshman coach at Highland
  • Why he always wants at least one guy on his staff that wants to be a head coach, one young, hungry guy that will show up for everything, and one former head coach that wants to be in the assistant’s role
  • How he structures his youth basketball program:  Varsity players help coach, lower baskets, smaller, make it fun
  • Setting up a travel organization and working with those parents
  • Using a games based approach with youth players and teams
  • Running a clinic for his youth coaches and giving them a coaches handbook
  • Keeping everyone using the same terminology and concepts through the entire k-12 basketball program
  • Tips for building those connections between everyone in the entire program
  • A good parent relationship starts with treating their son the right way
  • Coaching how you would want your kid to be coached
  • How being a teacher in the school helps him build relationships with his players
  • Ways to give the players a voice in the program
  • Learning and “stealing” from coaches that have had success
  • Using scenarios to teach the pillars of the program’s culture
  • Can you live your culture when there is adversity?
  • Advice for incorporating your family into your program
  • How to balance working on what you do vs. preparing for what an opponent does
  • Watching film of other teams that play a similar style or are winning programs to watch what they do
  • Why he uses small sided games and a games based approach to practice
  • Why you should add a defender to all your drills
  • He is a social studies teacher at Highland and received bachelor and master degrees at the University of Akron

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from Highland High School here in the state of Ohio, Adam Cestaro. Adam, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Adam Cestaro: [00:00:12] Oh, pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:16] We are excited to have you on get a chance to dig into all the things that you’ve been able to do in the game of basketball.

Want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid, talk to us a little bit about your first experiences with the game and what made you fall in love with it when you were younger?

Adam Cestaro: [00:00:29] I might have a fairly unique, I guess, background in hoops, for a coach. I did not have a lot of athletes in my family.

My mom and dad never really played organized sports. I think my mom might’ve played one season of CYO volleyball in middle school or something. but my buddies did so, I’m from Barberton, Ohio originally. and I started out as a baseball player. Both my grandpas really liked baseball, so I did that a lot.

And then my first experience was with hoops was wth [00:01:00] My buddy’s dad, Ernie Panko, who was a Barberton police officer was going to coach our CYO team in sixth grade. That was the first year we had basketball at Saint Augustan. And, I remember he came up to me and asked me, Hey Adam, are you gonna play basketball this year?

And I thought to myself, I’ll never forget this. I thought to myself, well, I’m tall. I’m good at basketball. Yeah, of course. I’m going to play. And, I was terrible, but, I got to play with all my buddies. I’m in sixth grade. And by the time seventh and eighth grade rolled around, we were pretty good.

And well, yeah, the beginning of my basketball career was playing with all my buddies that I went to grade school with. We had two teams, we had like 25 boys in our class and like 22 or 23 of them played basketball. So we had we had two teams an A team and a B team.

And I think by the time we were in eighth grade, we won the championship and the B Team played in the championship game. So  in Barberton, we liked hoops a lot. I liked playing with my buddies. I always said that I was [00:02:00] pretty good and willing passer because when you grow up playing with your friends you pass the ball to them.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:08] so true. Well for people who are not from the state of Ohio, the city of Barberton has a long and storied history in Ohio high school basketball. So what was it like. Growing up there in terms of the basketball that you were able to see or heard about as a young kid?

Adam Cestaro: [00:02:23] Yeah, I remember a kid that went to our grade school.

We had like a buddy, like a big brother kind of program. And when I was like third or fourth grade, Terry Allen was my buddy. And then he went on to be a really good player at Barberton. And so one of my friend’s parents took us to see him play for the Magics and, played in old Grinnell’s gymnasium with the band up in the balcony on the one end.

And then, Yeah, by the time I was in seventh or eighth grade, we would go to Tusk park and play pickup games. Like whatever the weather was. We were down there and I tell you what I probably learned a lot, [00:03:00] in life, the lessons that have gotten you through playing, playing pickup basketball you learn how to negotiate.

You learn how to stand up for yourself. You take some pride in your game and you, you learn how to work through being called names and you either figure out you get pretty good or no one lets you play.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:21] I feel like that’s been a running theme throughout our podcasts, since it started right from the very beginning is just the demise of pickup basketball and how that’s impacted the way kids grow up in the game.

And I’m like, you and I grew up playing on the playground and driving all over the city, trying to find good games. And as you said, I learned a lot of life lessons, not just basketball, but just how to interact with people. All different kinds of people, different ages, different races.

People who had different kinds of personalities just to put it kindly.

And I feel like that stuff is still things that they’re, there’s still things that I carry with me that I learned on the [00:04:00] playground that goes nothing with the impact that it had on me as a basketball player. And I always say there’s a tremendous amount of value in the system that we have today for youth basketball in that I think kids are exposed in a lot of cases to better coaching.

At least from a technical standpoint than kids may be of my generation or your generation would have been exposed to. And yet. I still think that there’s something missed when kids only play in a gym with parents, with officials against kids their own age, and they never get to learn those things that you were talking about, negotiation and standing up for yourself and how to play against somebody who outweighs you by a hundred pounds and trying to figure out how this guy who’s.

You know, 38 years old and still can reach around and tap the ball away from you from behind and all these little tricks that another, another eighth grader doesn’t have those same tricks in their bag that a 26 year old playground player has. And I think kids today, miss out on that, I feel, I feel bad for him.

[00:05:00] Just in a sense, it sounds like you had a similar experience that a lot of my most fond memories of the game of basketball aren’t even necessarily from. The organized basketball that I played. But I think back to those playground days is ones that I really miss and wish that today’s kids could have the same opportunity to experience.

Adam Cestaro: [00:05:16] Yeah, I think kids today are probably more skilled and will kind of work on their game more and get, like you said, get a little better coaching and instruction, but, just the competitiveness of playing at the playground and, playing pickup games. And if you lose, you might have to sit for an hour or something.

yeah, there, there is something to that and all the other life lessons that you pick up while you’re out there.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:39] And question about that. So as you go along and you think about growing up in Barberton and playing multiple sports, when you got into high school, just tell me a little bit about what you did from a high school athletic standpoint, and then how you think playing those multiple sports when you were younger, impacted you as just an athlete.

[00:06:00] Adam Cestaro: [00:06:00] You know, for me,  I didn’t know what that was. Was I a basketball player or a baseball player? You know, in baseball season, I was a baseball player and I loved that. And I thought that was the best. And, and during hoop season, I was a Hooper and I thought basketball was the best.

So. For me, it gave me, some variety, something to look forward to. and you know, two games that I, that I really love. I coached high school baseball one season and I loved that. It was great. I coached the freshmen at Walsh and Walsh baseball is incredible.

So we were like 18 and one or something, but, It was just too dang cold. And I said,

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:38] get back in the gym, right.

Adam Cestaro: [00:06:39] You’re back in the gym. Yeah. Yeah. I mean. I froze my butt off coach in those April, April games. So, that was my last, but I, I coached my son’s T-ball team here, in the fall.

So this was my first experience going back. But yeah, I love baseball too. And grow up watching the Indians with my grandpa and listen to it on the radio [00:07:00] and. No, just a big part of the experience of kind of maturing from a kid into a young adult.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:07] Absolutely. I’m going to give you some advice on the youth baseball front. Okay. When you get to the season where it’s coach pitch. Only be  a parent that season don’t be the coach.

Adam Cestaro: [00:07:17] Yeah, I did. We were supposed to be T-ball and it turned into coach pitch. So I got fairly good at hitting bats by the second or third game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:27]  That was the worst. Striking out kids. You just, Oh, I felt so terrible the year that I had to do that. And you just sort of up there, like. Just like you said, aiming it at their bat. That was, that was the year that I was like I was doing, I would do camp in the summer. And that was at the time when I was still at Strongsville high school in their old, in there.

Well, I guess it’s a new, old gym, but didn’t have air conditioning. So I was in this. Oh, sweat box all day for like six or seven hours it’s 95 degrees in there. And then I would leave there, come home, grab something to eat and then go stand out on a sweaty, [00:08:00] dusty baseball, trying to pitch to six year olds.

Those are some long days.

Jason Sunkle:  Let me tell you, Mike, Mike has secretly enjoyed. Striking those six year olds out.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:13] I couldn’t strike them out probably when I when I was six. So I guess I had to get my satisfaction from being an adult.

So anyway, yeah. Understood. So, all right, so you get into high school and you’re looking around, what do you remember about your high school career? Give me a one or two high school basketball memories that stand out for you. Just things. When you think back. You’re like, wow. That’s really what my high school experience was all about.

Adam Cestaro: [00:08:36] Yeah. So I went to  st. Vincent st. Mary, in high school, I was a few years ahead of, another pretty good player, that you guys might’ve heard of. That’s going to win his 4th NBA championship here in a couple of days, LeBron James. So I missed him by a couple years, but, yeah when I was a freshman at Saint V, they were coming off a three and 17, [00:09:00] season.

And our coach, reminded us of that all the time. We had a new coach, Mitch Garish, took over my freshman year. And I was okay. I played some JV as a freshmen but by the time I was a senior, we won the district. Weplayed in the regional, and it was kind of part of the kind of getting back to st V basketball being pretty good.

So I always kind of took a lot of pride in that, and I got to play with some really, really good players. So. John King was like the number one freshmen in the state. He was the grade behind me, when he came in and then, Derrick and Darren Tarver, Derek went on to, lead the Mac in scoring, and then be a pro for 11 seasons, rolls into the gym and scores twenty-five points. and his twin brother, Darren, who played at George Mason, but had a heart condition. and then, and they couldn’t keep going with his college career. And then Maverick Carter was a sophomore when I was a senior too.

So, [00:10:00] LeBron’s business manager was also a pretty good Hooper and, wound up, I think being D three player of the year, by the time he was a senior. So I got to play with some really good players. I was a role player that just tried to pass the ball to guys that could score and rebound.

I fell down a lot on defense. I called it taking charges, but I couldn’t block shots, so I just tried to fall down a lot and get charges. And, yeah, so it was the, those weeks we, we, we, we had Buchtel on the ropes, my junior year, and just couldn’t quite put them away.

They played the state final four and then my senior year, I really thought we had a chance to go to Columbus and we kind of got, upset in the regional by Cardinal Mooney. And, we would have played Hoban in the regional championship, which would have been a pretty Epic battle.

And they went to a, they went to the final four that year TK, took them to the final four that year and we missed out. So he never lets me forget that.

[00:11:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:11:00] And you never will trust me. No. Those things stick with you, those losses and the missed opportunities. You, I think as a player, Your career is so fleeting that those things go away.

And sometimes as a coach, not that they’re any easier to take as a coach, but as a coach, you have a long career to be able to try to at least make up for that in some way. And as a player, I think that that’s the same way, looking at our current situation with the COVID-19 and the pandemic and all this.

And, and I’ve had a bunch of conversations with people, just how. How bad it is for kids. Who’ve you only get four years of playing whatever your high school sport is and to lose one or have one compromised, or I can’t even imagine being a spring sport athlete last year and working your entire high school career to get to your senior year.

And then it just disappears. You don’t even get to play. Yeah, that’s gotta be tremendously, tremendously disappointing. And I think that sometimes. We often think that, Oh, we’ll get another opportunity. And I think [00:12:00] it’s a good lesson for everybody that you don’t, those opportunities don’t always come. And when you don’t take advantage of them, they live with you for the rest of your life.

Adam Cestaro: [00:12:08] Oh, for sure. For sure. I mean, yeah, you’re right. There’s this COVID experience has been a good lesson and just enjoy every single game, enjoy every single practice. And remember that. Basketball or baseball or whatever sport you play is you play it cause it’s fun and play it cause you love it.

So just love it and enjoy while you’re out there.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:29] So you move on from Saint V and you end up at the university of Akron and you have kind of a unique basketball experience there. So talk to us a little bit about how you got involved with Akron basketball and what your experiences were as a part of the Akron zips.

Adam Cestaro: [00:12:47] Yeah, so it was funny. I was thinking of this, on my drive in, and thinking about talking to you tonight, I had one conversation with my mom about playing D three basketball. I said, mom I think [00:13:00] I’d like to try to play D three basketball. No one was recruited me or anything, but I think I’d like to try to reach out to some coaches and play and she said, one sentence to me. She said, how are you going to pay for that? And I said, Oh, that’s a great question. I never thought of that. And then I found out how much it costs to go to some of those D three schools.

And I was happy to, go to the University of Akron and I just went into the basketball office and said, Hey, do you guys need a manager? And of course I had visions of that manager that gets in on in that game on ESPN and the crowd is going crazy like, Oh, the, the former manager turned walk on makes it, makes a shot at the end of a blowout or something.

which never was never materialized. and I kind of realized that, the first practice I went to, but yeah.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:51] So when you went into it, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I’m just curious, cause this is something that always, I guess I didn’t think about it when I was playing. And now [00:14:00] that I’ve talked to so many coaches, it makes a lot more sense to me, but it sounds like you went into become a manager, not with the idea that you want it to get into coaching, but more with the idea that you could still.

Be around the game with, with a, with a dream in the back of your head that maybe someday as a player, I could actually check into a game. Is that kind of where your head was at that time?

Adam Cestaro: [00:14:20]  Yeah, no. I mean, it was both. I knew that I knew deep down that I wanted to coach, and, and probably be a high school teacher.

My high school coaches were great. Like I said, Mitch Garish and Rob Sloan. Who’s now an administrator at Cuyahoga Falls. Those guys were young. they love hoops. They were sarcastic. I had them as teachers and, I really looked up to him and I was like, man, these guys have fun everyday.

This is something I could do for a job. So my mom was a middle school math teacher, recently retired. She didn’t want me to be a teacher. She thought I should. You know, I think I said my major was going to be marketing or something business, but I knew I wanted to be coach basketball.

So [00:15:00] yeah, I wanted to play, I mean, we all want to play that’s the best. And  they let me play in practice and I’d show up at open gym with my shoes. And I play in open gym sometimes and stuff. And like I said, when they needed a guy in practice, I’d jump in. but yeah, I just wanted to be around the game since, since sixth grade I’ve been part of my school’s basketball team.

So I just showed up at the office and say, Hey, can I hang around? And, I didn’t get paid for like the first, I don’t know, six weeks or something. It was like t they wanted to see if I was really into it and I just kept showing up. And then they called me in and said, Hey guess what?

We’ll pay you for doing this. So, yeah,  I got a paid position and got to have some really awesome experiences sitting. They, they let me sit in the first seat on the bench and be it be around division one basketball. So I’m always thankful to coach Hip and, and Coach Bugatti and those guys for having me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:54] So tell people a little bit about what you actually did day to day. So what were some of the tasks [00:16:00] that you did to help them out? What, what was your experience like while you were there? First? Let’s go with the task question then. Secondly, we can maybe talk a little bit about. Just how you felt accepted by the coaching staff and then what your relationship was like with the players too.

Adam Cestaro: [00:16:16] Yeah, I did everything. For a while I was our only manager, there was one other guy when I started out and he got a job or something or they kind of moved on and that I did it for myself for like a season and a half. And then I got a couple of guys to help me out, but, so yeah, I mean I washed the practice uniforms.

I sent out letters to recruits I was in the office. doing stuff on the road trips, I would get everybody’s food order. They just put me in charge of like, Hey order something from whatever. And here’s some cash to pay for it. So they gave me a ton of responsibilities.

I got to go to Europe for like two and a half weeks after my freshman year. It was like the second time ever. I’d been on an [00:17:00] airplane. and we spent two weeks and we went to Malta and we went to, we went to France and we went to Italy. And, yeah, it was great. We lost a Jamal Ball at the airport.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:11] how did that out of that happen? We,

Adam Cestaro: [00:17:13] we had, so that was one of those, another one of my jobs, making sure everybody got on the bus. So, if you guys remember Jamal was a really great point guard at Akron. He he’s from Canton and, But anyway, anyway I’m like 19 years old or 18 years old and, we’re in Europe and we’ve been traveling all day and I don’t know, Jamal got on the bus and then he got off the bus to use the restroom.

And, I, I didn’t notice. And we drove like an hour to the hotel and this was before cell phones and stuff. So this would have been like 1999. and, somehow Jamal had his itinerary and took a cab and met us at the hotel. But, th the coaching staff was not too happy with me, but, it was a fun trip.

And they forgot about it pretty quick.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:58] You still [00:18:00] had a job here. You still had a job when you returned stateside.

Adam Cestaro: [00:18:02] Yeah. They didn’t send me home or anything. I got to hang out for the rest of the trip, so that was good.

Mike Klinzing: [00:18:09] Nice. So when you think back to that time, and obviously you get sort of a behind the scenes, look at what coaching at the division one college level is like, what do you remember about that in terms of.

Things that you saw or things that you learned that you didn’t really necessarily understand were part of coaching going into that experience? Because I think when you’re a player, you don’t necessarily see all the things that go on behind the scenes. You’re like, Oh, my coach just shows up for practice for three hours and then they go home.

I have no idea what else they’re doing around the time. And clearly you just mentioned some of the things from washing uniforms to doing itineraries and all that, but it was just maybe from a. Perspective of somebody who’s brand new to seeing that. What, what did you notice about coaching that surprised you during that time?

Adam Cestaro: [00:18:56] It was, it was that old saying, like, you don’t know what you [00:19:00] don’t know. Like, first of all, like the X’s and O’s like in high school, we ran five out and we passed and cut and we played man defense and we switched everything. And I was like, I know about basketball. Like you just switch everything when teams screen and you just pass and cut and that’ll get you open.

And then I go to Akron practice and Coach Hip was a Bob Knight guy. So it was all motion offense cutters and screeners. and it was all man defense and we had four or five different balls screen coverages and chasing shooters and getting third man through.

And I was like, Whoa, I have no clue about this game. And I’m glad I’m here and I can learn. So from the X’s and O’s standpoint, and then from the from the coaching standpoint of just like what goes into a scouting report, watching film players, tendencies, all that stuff.

It was just such a great, it was just such a great lesson on a deep study into the game.

[00:20:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:20:00] So are you able to sit in on a lot of the coaches meetings, like planning practice and going over scouting reports, you were in on a lot of that stuff.

Adam Cestaro: [00:20:07] Yeah,  I would be in with the team.

I would be with the team when we would go over the scouting report. Every time I’m in the office,  I would kind of sneak into the film room with like one of the assistants. if they were, we had like a closet with VHS tapes and a bunch of VCRs stacked on top of each other, that was like the film room.

So I would sneak in there and, and watch film, with some of the assistants sometimes? Coach Hip’s office was kind of like the big office, so I didn’t venture in there too much. He kept it pretty locked down and he didn’t coach you up too much during the season.

I got to see it all and we had a, we had a really cool thing where, my junior year, Pat Knight was our, was our assistant. It was the year. Bob Knight left Indiana. And, and [00:21:00] before he, before he, went on to Texas tech, so Bob Knight showed up at three or four of our practices that year.

And I would try to sit next to Pat on the plane and like it old Indiana stories and stuff. I’m sure he got super annoyed by me, but

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:19] All right. So what was the best story he told you? There’s gotta be some.

Adam Cestaro: [00:21:24]  Ok so the best Bob Knight story was, he shows up to practice for the first time and there’s another manager named named Jeremy.

And, Jeremy is like a huge Bob Knight fan. So he asked Pat, he said, Hey after practice, can I go and meet your dad in the office? And he’s like absolutely. So Jeremy is a college kid and he’s got a little beard that he’s trying to grow and it’s not working out well. So anyway, he goes in.

You know, it goes out to the office after practice and Pat says dad, this is Jeremy’s our manager a big fan, like to meet you. The first thing Bob Knight says to him, he looks at him. He [00:22:00] goes, Jeremy, your face looks like a chicken’s ass missing some of the feathers.

Yeah. I’m back here tomorrow. I want to see that shaved off your face and, I wasn’t in there. So Jeremy comes down to the locker room and like tells me the story. And he goes I’m a grown man. I’m a grown man. And you know, I’ll wear a beard if I want to, but doggone it if Bob Knight tells me to shave. I’m going to shave. So the next day, the next day he was clean shaven and actually coach Knight stopped practice. He stops practice right in the middle. He just walks out on the court Hey Dan, let me say something to the team. And he’s talking to the team and like halfway through his talk, he goes.

Where’s Jeremy at? Where’s Jeremy at? and he tells the whole team that he would, he told Jeremy about his face and he says, look at his face today. Look how great he looks. You know, so the whole team was dying, laughing, but that was the best, that’s the best zips and, and coach Knight’s [00:23:00] story.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:00] That’sgood stuff. That is very good stuff. It’s funny because. You know, you think about Bob Knight and just clearly his style of coaching. And then we think about the way that coaching has trended today, sort of away from that style. And you just hear that story and you’re like, man, I don’t even know if somebody could get away with saying that even at the college level today, you just hear about things that go on and come out about.

You know, different coaches and clearly we’re in a different we’re in a different era without question, but that’s just, I remember when I was at camp, we played, we played at Indiana. And the thing that I remember the most about Bob Knight is that I was just really surprised by how big he was.

And, and he was just a very, he just had a very intimidating presence. Cause obviously you grew up watching him on TV and seeing him. And I just remember when I saw him in person that he was much bigger. That I would’ve thought from seeing them on TV. And he was just as intimidating as you would have imagined watching him on TV and reading the books and [00:24:00] hearing the stories about them.

Adam Cestaro: [00:24:01] Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah. I was always nervous  to try to go talk to them or do anything that would catch his eye when he was around. So yeah, he was an intimidating figure for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:13] You never knew what you were getting, right,

Adam Cestaro: [00:24:15] exactly.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:16] Exactly. Probably better to be the manager.

That’s kind of off on the side, as opposed to one of his best players. If you want to avoid the brunt of let’s just. Kindly calling his criticism

Adam Cestaro: [00:24:28] Yeah, for sure. Lay low lay low.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:32] All right. So you’re clearly getting a look at what it’s like to coach college basketball. So even though maybe your initial thought was, I want to be a teacher and a high school basketball coach.

Did you ever think about. Staying with the college game. And I’m sure based on their relationship that you had with the staff there at Akron, that they probably would have been willing to vouch for you and talk to people that they knew and use their connections to help you get a job. So just curious as [00:25:00] to what your decision making process was when you got finished in terms of where you wanted to go with your career.

Adam Cestaro: [00:25:06] Yeah, I always, that’s one of the things I always regret. I wish I would have pursued the college game a little bit when I was young. The manager before me, had gotten a grad assistant position because of the his. Good connections with the coaches at Akron and, for whatever reason, because I was 22 and not very smart.

I kind of got it in my head that cause I didn’t play in college that I couldn’t really be a college coach, that the players wouldn’t respect me. and also I kind of saw the world of recruiting and, and it’s kind of cut throat and the way that college coaches sort of took it personal, with players and they’ve got a paycheck on the line and guys aren’t performing and guys aren’t producing, and you’ve recruited them it becomes a weird dynamic and I just thought that didn’t really [00:26:00] fit my personality. Like I said, I wish I would have tried it. I wish I would have just pursued it and hopped around schools and, and just gave it a shot. but no regrets. I got a, I got a teaching job right away at Highland where I did my student teaching and, it’s worked out pretty darn well for me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:17] Definitely, I think when you start looking at the difference in the lifestyles between high school and a college coach, although. I’m sure you can attest to the fact that those lines have blurred a little bit in terms of the time commitment that it takes to be a high school coach probably now compared to where you started, but still clearly when you’re a college coach, there’s a lot of late nights.

There’s a lot of nights recruiting on the road and being away from your family. Not that you don’t have those same things when you’re as a high school coach, but you know, the lifestyle of a college coach. I always say that. We’ve talked to a bunch of people on the podcast that have the story of I was a graduate assistant.

I was making a thousand dollars a year or I was making [00:27:00] nothing. I was living with four other guys in someone’s basement, in two rooms. And I was there for two years and then I had to move halfway across the country to somewhere I had never been before. And now I was I got promoted and I was making $5,000 a year.

And you just hear these stories of, it’s not something where. Very often you become an overnight sensation as a college basketball coach. Most people in that business, it takes you a long, long time to work your way up the ladder. And in many cases, people never get to the glamour jobs that we all think of.

There just aren’t that many of them, the guys who were making millions of dollars at the top of the food chain, there just isn’t very many of those. And so I think you look at what your lifestyle can be as a high school coach and a high school teacher. And. Again, I don’t know that one is better than the other.

There’s obviously pluses and minuses to both of them. But I think from a, from a lifestyle standpoint, especially as you get a little bit older and you want to have a family, you get married, you have kids. I think to me, the college basketball [00:28:00] lifestyle would be, would be a challenging one for sure.

Adam Cestaro: [00:28:03] Oh, yeah, absolutely.

I mean there’s not a lot of money in it, unless you somehow get to the division one level and even then you’ve gotta be one of the top assistants and it’s a rough go and it’s a long road and guys certainly aren’t in it for the cash. I mean, at least not early on.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:23] So what did your first experience look like? When you got your job at Highland, what’s your first coaching experience look like? What do you remember about standing in front of the kids for the first time? No longer is your title manager, but now your title is coach. What did that feel like? What do you remember about those first moments with your first team?

Adam Cestaro: [00:28:41] So my first team that I actually coached was during my senior year college, I was done, being a manager, some of my friends on the team, I made some good friends with the players and stuff. had kind of moved on and, so I decided I, if I’m going to teach I’d better [00:29:00] kind of figure this out.

So I got a job at like Sylvan learning center, so I could get, get some experience teaching kids. And then I coach my cousins, seventh grade CYO team. And I went from a division one gym with coach Hipsher to six guys on a seventh grade CYO team.

And I was probably terrible. I actually, I know I I was just not nearly understanding enough, with them and, yeah. yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I tried to play man to man defense and it didn’t work out. So I just quickly reverted to the old two-three zone, like everybody else in CYO and, Yeah, we, I think we were down to five players by the end of the year, but yeah, I don’t know.

I mean, it was, it was good for me to kind of figure out how to be a coach. And, Mike, I tell my cousin, John all the time, he’s 30, some years old now. And, he’s not a professional basketball player. He is a great, construction manager. [00:30:00] so we didn’t have many great basketball players, but we had some, some really good kids, But it was a, yeah, it was a good experience.

for me to, realize seventh graders are a little different than D one college players.

Mike Klinzing: [00:30:11] What do you think you were good at out of the gate? Cause obviously there were things that you look at and you say, Oh man, I wasn’t, I didn’t really know what I was doing there, but what’s something that you felt like as a coach came naturally to you in that beginning, those beginning experiences.

Adam Cestaro: [00:30:28] No. I mean, I thought I always had a pretty good idea of how hard you needed to play to to be good of how to scheme and stop the other team. And, eventually. after a couple of seasons and some, some self-reflection, I feel like I’m pretty good at relating to players.

I was never a great high school player or anything. so  I feel like I can, kind of relate. I relate pretty well and I did that early on to [00:31:00] guys and had a passion to kind of help guys get better. And figure out their role and what they’re going to need to be successful as a high school player.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:11] All right. So over the course of your career, you’ve filled almost every position at the high school level. So you’ve been a freshman coach. You’ve been a JV coach. You’ve been a varsity assistant. You’ve been a varsity head coach. Maybe walk us through some of the things you’ve learned at each one of those different levels that have helped prepare you for becoming a head coach. And then that have sort of led you into some of the things that you believe you need to have as a head coach in order to have success.

Adam Cestaro: [00:31:42] Yeah. I tried to pick up stuff and learn along the way. So at least I could recognize, that I had a lot to learn early on.

So I started out as a varsity assistant. my first couple of seasons, I was at Woodridge one year [00:32:00] with, Chris Kesner, who I student taught with. And then, when I got hired at Highland, I was a varsity assistant for, Chris Capitola. And we won the league our first year and I’m like, Oh, this is easy.

When I was a varsity assistant, I tried to do whatever or the head coach did. I always knew I wanted to be a head coach. so whatever it was, game planning, scouting report I tried to split games with the head coach, Hey, let me have the scout for whatever games let’s split them or what games can I have.

I showed up to  every summer league, every open gym, every workout. just like the head coach did then I, then I spent, like five seasons as a JV coach, which I wanted to get the end game experience of subbing guys and, and call and sets and, making defensive adjustments and giving halftime talks and all that stuff.

So I tried to improve that game management, part of [00:33:00] it, when I coach JV. and then, I actually, so the head coach at Highland got fired, and I thought it was maybe time to step away from there. and then I went and coached as a varsity assistant for TK Griffith at Hoban and, same thing.

So I went back to being a varsity assistant and I was just proud and determined to be there and do whatever the head coach did. And even probably to a detriment, I think I might’ve missed like a K a meeting with a caterer or something when my wife and I were planning our wedding to go to a summer league game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:34] How dare you?

Adam Cestaro: [00:33:36] And, yeah, she’ll remind me of that every so often, but she would say stuff like, do you really need to be there? And I would. You say like, well where do I draw that line? Like, I’m just going to be at everything, I’m never going to ask, like, anything is they don’t leave me there.

so yeah that was always kind of my approach. And then, I got the opportunity to come back to Highland and coach the freshmen. And, [00:34:00] you know, that was, we played triple headers now, but that was kind of like the last year we played on Thursdays. And so I had a lot of autonomy and I ran the freshmen team kind of like I would run a varsity program. I mean, we had film, we had film sessions, we had scouting reports, where we could do him and I, and I just, coach those guys, like it was a varsity team and, and said You know, I’m a coach for freshmen is fine with me. I kind of have my own team, and kind of can do things my own way.

And, let’s just make this like a mini varsity program here. And we practiced in the back gym and we called it the torture chamber and we play games back there and we tried to make it tough on teams coming in there and, yeah, it was fun.

And, then when I got the head job at Highland. Those guys that played for me as freshmen, won the league as seniors. So that was kind of a really fun group to kind of be able to coach all the way through their high school career.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:56] Yeah. That’s very cool to be able to have that experience.

We’ve talked to a couple of [00:35:00] different coaches that have sort of had that experience. We had a guy who he’s the head coach at Fayetteville high school in Arkansas, Brad stamps. And he actually, he started out like as the seventh grade coach. And worked his way all the way up. And he had, Ronnie brewer who ended up playing in the NBA, played at the university of Arkansas.

But he started coaching Ronnie in seventh grade and then just worked his way up the staff. And eventually it was his coach all the way from seventh grade, all the way through being a senior in high school. And so I can imagine with that case, or with your case where you’re coaching kids for four years, that the bond that you were able to build with them, I’m sure it was really strong.

And that had to be, had to be a lot of fun. I want to ask you this, we’ll kind of start getting us into what you’re doing with the program at Highlands. So my first question is as an assistant coach, over the course of your career, What were some things that you picked up about what it takes to be a good assistant that now that you’re a head coach, that when you start to look to build your own staff and look for guys, you want to bring on as assistance, what are some of the [00:36:00] key qualities or traits that you look for in somebody that you want to bring into your program?

As whether it’s a varsity assistant, a JV coach, a freshmen, what kind of things are you looking for from your staff?

Adam Cestaro: [00:36:11] I want at least one guy on the staff who wants to be a head coach. I want a hungry young guy that’s going to do everything, show up to everything, be part of the help out with the travel tryouts and come to all the open gyms and do a bunch of Four man workouts.

So I I’m really lucky I have that right now, Jack Leslie, who I got to know through Somia used stuff. you know, came aboard right away and has been, our JV coach the whole time. I’ve been the head coach at Highland, the past new going into our sixth season now. So I, I always want, at least one young hungry guy.

I’ve got Chris Kesner now as my varsity assistant. I had James Madison, previously he’s now our girl’s head coach, but both of those guys had  head coaching experience. So I like to have [00:37:00] a veteran guy. Who is maybe ready to just kind of be in that assistant’s role and can just have that have that has been through the fire as a head coach and offer that guidance and support.

And then Chris Gessner too is a great specialist kind of coach too.  he was a good D three six foot six, below the rim big man with really good foot work. And, Really good toughness. So he works with our post guys and some of that old school stuff that maybe some teams don’t teach anymore, but…

Mike Klinzing: [00:37:35] yYou still have guys that go on the post?  What are you doing? You’re behind you’re totally behind the times.

Adam Cestaro: [00:37:40] Yeah. We like to throw it inside and get fouled and play inside out. And, so yeah, Coach Gessner does a great job. And then our, our freshman coach, Bob Buchanan, was a head coach at st [00:38:00] V and Revere back in the day. He’s a retired teacher and he’s been our freshman coach the whole time and  he does a great job with the fundamentals, and kind of teaching our freshmen how to compete and win at the freshmen level.

So, I think I’ve got a really good staff. And, those are, like I said, those are some of the things that I look for.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:21] How do you go about what’s your philosophy on putting together a K to 12 program to make sure that ultimately you end up having success at the varsity level? Because we all know, especially at the public school level, you have to be involved with the youth program.

You have to get those kids excited about being a part of. Your high school program as they grow up in aspire to want to be a part of it. So how do you try to go about aligning what’s done from the youth level all the way up to the varsity in terms of. Are your freshman and JV teams running the same things that [00:39:00] the varsity is running.

How deep does that go down into the lower grade levels are using common terminology. Do you do clinics? Just how do you get everybody on the same page so that everybody’s working to lead towards Highland, varsity basketball, having success?

Adam Cestaro: [00:39:17] Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s one of the things there was a lot of before I got the head job at Highland, there was a lot of coaching turnover.

So one of the first thing that I had to do is kind of get everybody on the same page. and so I I try to be real involved  in our travel program. We do first, second and third graders, on Saturday mornings, during the season and our players coach them.

And, we just try to make it really fun. We play three on three or four on four full court. we lower the hoops and, we watch kids just to have a great experience and fall in love with basketball. And we want to make it so  fuel level, isn’t high, but the fun factor when I say [00:40:00] that, Like we want the hoops low.

We want to use a smaller basketball. We want kids to have success and we want it to be we want it to be fun and exciting. We want to play three on three or four on four. So that it’s, it’s a little easier to connect a pass that it’s easier to get a fast break. It’s easier to find somebody for a layup.

so we, and, and our, we get our guys we kind of coach up our guys about to be real positive, make it a good experience for the kids. at their kind of earliest experiences with basketball. So we do that. That’s our philosophy with, first and second, and we get some third graders in there.

Third grade starts, starts travel. so I try to work closely with the travel parents, the volunteer coaches, and we’ve recently set up a, we haven’t had a travel organization. So we are kind of put the finishing touches on a travel organization. Where without getting too far into the weeds everybody pays into a common thing.

All the [00:41:00] uniforms come from the same place. Cause we never had that before. but yeah, we do a little clinic with those coaches. I try to hand them a coaches handbook that I give to all of them with, with some of the fundamentals and some of the things that we believe in with a games based approach.

to basketball. So we, we have a handout, we give them, I put some videos together of some of the basic stuff that we do. So by fifth and sixth grade, they start to incorporate some of our man defensive principles. And then they start to do some of our ball screen offense stuff like in fifth and sixth grade.

And then, yeah, and our seventh and eighth grade coaches. All right in line with, what we do. we use a lot of the same terminology we’re on the same base offense and defense. They run some of our, some of our kind of go-to staple sets that we’ve had. So. that’s the advantage that we have at a public school is that, we can get our kids playing together early and all on the same page and in the program, and hopefully fallen in love with Highland [00:42:00] basketball and staying in house.

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:03] Absolutely. How excited are your Varsity, JV kids, your high school kids to go down and work with those first, second and third graders? I always say that that’s something. When I look back on my own experience as a high school player. And as a youth player, that’s one of the things that I loved about growing up and strong.

So at the time I did was when I was in fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I still remember every single one of those varsity players that coach me, even if they weren’t high school stars to me, they were because they were my coaches. And then conversely, when I got up to the high school, I still remember, and I’m connected to some of those kids that I coached and it’s amazing that whatever it’s been now, 30 years later, 40 years later, That I still have friends and people that I talked to from those experiences.

And it’s one of those things that just like we talked about earlier that has kind of gone by the wayside because now we have, in most cases you have parent coaches. So I think it’s awesome that you guys are involving your varsity kids, but how do they feel about, are [00:43:00] they as excited as I am as a 50 year old to be, to be coaching those kids?

I know maybe sometimes they got to get up early and you know, that kind of thing, but I would think. Once they get there just being involved with those younger kids, I would, I would have to guess that most of them are excited about it.

Adam Cestaro: [00:43:14] Well, yeah, that’s exactly it. you know, sometimes they’re not real chipper on a Saturday morning, especially maybe after a loss on a Friday night or a long road trip or something, but, yeah, once the balls go up and they start coaching and the kids started going up and down and the kid that hasn’t made a shot and a couple, a couple of Saturdays makes a shot everybody gets real excited and they started cheering.

So our guys really do a good job and, they make it super fun for the kids. And, yeah, it’s a great connection between our high school level kids and our first, second, third graders.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:49] All right. So let’s take it to the next group of people that you have to get buy-in from If you’re going to be successful, how do you  engage the parents of your players in the program, what are some things that you [00:44:00] do to keep those parents engaged, to keep them excited about having their kids a part of the program? Just what do you do to communicate with them and make sure that they feel a part of it?

Adam Cestaro: [00:44:13] I think we do the similar stuff to that, that other schools do. you know, we have, we have a pre-season parents meeting and we have a post-season parents meeting. we have team dinners, that some of the parents will volunteer to put together. So like Thursday nights are like our team dinner night and everybody will get together.

We always do a holiday one. Sometimes it’ll be at somebody’s house if someone has the capacity to host everybody, but what I really think it starts with is treating their son the right way. you know, now having kids of my own, I think my focus has been I just want to coach how I would want my kids to be coached so  it gave me a little bit, perspective.

you know, when my son was born [00:45:00] five and a half years ago, and it’s like just, just, just coach them how I would want my kids to be coached, treat them the right way. And then that, that usually. That usually, if they know you’re, you’re treating their son, right. And you’re, and you want the best for them, and you want them to grow into, a good young man that, that is kind of the basis of it and that all that other stuff is it it’s fun.

it’s fun to have a team meal and sit around and kind of chat with everybody and the parents that are there. And we do our pre-season meeting and things like that. but, yeah, I think the core is how you, how you treat the kids.

Mike Klinzing: [00:45:35] All right. So what does that look like when you think about becoming a parent?

Cause I do think that as both a teacher and as a coach, I think when you are single or when you’re married and you don’t have kids, I think you have kind of a different perspective. And when you have your own kids, that perspective starts to shift. So what are some things that maybe you think about differently now that you’re a parent and then [00:46:00] what do you do to try to build the kind of trusting relationships with your players that you’re talking about?

Adam Cestaro: [00:46:06] For me, iit’s a huge advantage being a teacher in the school. So I, first of all,I have the kids in class. some of them I see them in the hallway. So I just try to engage with them and get them excited about hoops, talk basketball during the season we’ll, we’ll meet in my room first and just kind of get a gauge on everybody.

See how everybody’s day was. and you know, just start building a relationship that way, like I said, which is, which is something that I would want to see, from my kids coach and, and then from there we like to try to give so that I think I’ve gotten better at, as I given the kids a voice in the program, a choice in the program, letting them know that ultimately it’s their team, it’s their high school experience.

So we try to give them choices of what’s going to be on the practice plan. And in open gym, we’re having open gym, [00:47:00] then it’s like, cause you decide what the teams are going to be and decide what you’re going to play to and figure out the fouls. Don’t go to me and say like you guys be in charge of it, you know?

it’s going to be bette if you’re kind of running it. So I think it’s stuff like that. Like I say, given, given the kids ownership, when they can and, and just letting them know that they’re an important part of the program, whether they’re our, our star player and our leading scorer, or they are 11th or 12th guy that they’re all important for what we do and for our kids.

Mike Klinzing: [00:47:38] All right. So one of the things that you mentioned that I think is. Completely true. And yet I think we’re starting to see probably less of it than we ever have is being a teacher in the building and what an advantage that is. And so for me, when I was a varsity assistant coach earlier in my career, I taught in the elementary school, which at Richmond Heights, where I was [00:48:00] coaching was right across little, literally right across the parking lot.

So my school would end. And I would walk across the parking lot and be able to go to practice. And yet I still felt in a lot of ways, disconnected from my fellow coaches who both coached in the high school and from the kids, because I didn’t see them walking in the hallways every day. And if practice got changed or something.

It could just kind of get around the school word of mouth, but I was always the last person to get that information. I always fought, found that to be really, really difficult. And then I think about guys who have head coaching jobs that aren’t in the building. And I just think that there’s gotta be a ton of challenges.

So when you were coaching at Hoban, but still teaching at Highland, how was that experience different, more challenging than what you do now? When you’re in the building every day?

Adam Cestaro: [00:48:48] Yeah. I mean, it certainly was. I had to make kind of an effort to hang around after practice or pick up guys or give guys rides home and stuff like that [00:49:00] to, to build those relationships a little bit more.

but, yeah, it took a little longer from that habit and in class. So it took a me my first year at Hoban, I really felt like I didn’t really know the guys that well. but you know, after being there for a few seasons and showing up to all the team meals and all the chapels and things like that.

And like I said picking guys up for summer league and giving them rides home after practice, guys that needed it and, yeah, that you gotta work a little harder at it. That’s for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [00:49:34] How do you go about thinking as a head coach about. What you want your program to look like for lack of a better way of saying anything, whether you determine culture, you term it, the pillars of your program, how did you figure out, or how do you continue to figure out and evolve what you want your program to stand for?

And then how do you convey that message to the [00:50:00] players?  

Adam Cestaro: [00:50:03] I mean like any other coach I, watched really good coaches and, and stole from them. So, a lot of our pillars of our program, our standards, I got from TK, at Hoban. You know, he’s got a sign, when you come out of the locker room that says, represent Hogan with class.

So the first thing I did when I was, when I got the head job at Highland was I got a sign, made a, basically a duplicate of that side with Hornets instead of Knights on it. And it says represent Highland with class. And I hung that up in our locker room, because the first thing that we were going to do is make sure we represented our community well and our school.

Well, but yeah, and then you look around and you see what good programs look like and you, and you see what they do and, you try to emulate it really basketball is there’s only five guys out there. It’s a fairly simple game. So yeah. you know, take a look around and see what other coaches do, at see what, see what you [00:51:00] like, see what fits your personality.

And if I’m giving a message, any coaches that are listening to keep your standards really high whatever, whatever those are we like to say, like I said, represent Highland with class, be a great teammate and, and, and work hard and compete everyday to get better. those are the ones we stand by ans

 how do I convey it to players? We talk about it. We  Get our seniors, our captains are kind of our leaders of the team every year together to talk about what that means to them and how they’re going to show it. Right. That’s been  our big thing is okay, it’s okay to say these things. We’ve got the sign in the line, doc robot. Well, how are you going to show that? How are you going to dictate that every day and we’ll give them some scenarios. Hey, we just lost by seven points to a team that we should have be. What do you look like after the game?

What do you look like on the bus ride home? What are you saying? What does the next day of practice look like? And so we try to give them a little [00:52:00] bit of that training, to put them in a position to kind of lead our program and, and, and we ask them what we want. The, like I said, that buy-in, Yeah, we asked the kids, what kind of team do you want to have?

What are we going to be about this year? And when the, when the kids establish it too, I think the buy-in occurs even more. I love

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:23] I love that. I think that’s so important. What you said about attaching behaviors to your standards, because I think a lot of times, and I’ve said this before, but I’m guilty of this.

Sometimes you have. These things that you want kids to do, you want players to do, and you say it to them, but they really don’t necessarily understand what representing with class. What does that look like? What does that mean? I mean, I hear it, but

I don’t necessarily know what behaviors that translates to.

And I think that when you break it down and say, this is what it means when we’re talking about playing with class or representing our school with class [00:53:00] and giving them a scenario like you described to me, That’s something that has to go along with establishing what your standards or pillars are. If all you have are words on paper or even words that you speak, but there’s no behaviors or actions attached to them.

I think it becomes really difficult and confusing for a kid to understand, well, what does coach want for me? I don’t really get it. I hear what he’s saying, but. I don’t know how to put that into action in order to please him or to live up to that standard. And so I think by attaching behaviors to it, you make that a lot more clear.

Adam Cestaro: [00:53:32]

Yeah. I never wanted it to be like on a t-shirt and here a here’s this t-shirt and then you, well, what does that mean? You know, whatever, whatever the slogan Dasia is. you know, I was always, I was always like the, the slogan on the t-shirt always kind of. Kind of bothered me, I guess, early on now it’s to put it, put it on the t-shirt if you want, that’s fine, but you gotta live gotta live, you gotta live. The t-shirt not just read the [00:54:00] t-shirt

Adam Cestaro: [00:54:00] you gotta live in. You give the kids some, some training in and, and, and say let’s let’s let’s work through some scenarios here. let’s be prepared for, let’s be prepared for the bad things that could happen during our season.

And can we, can we live our standards when, when we aren’t winning, when we’re on a three game losing streak it’s easy to keep your standards high. you know, when you’re undefeated and, everything’s gone well, but can you, can you live that stuff? When, when, when there’s some adversity.

Mike Klinzing: [00:54:29] Yeah, so true. I think that’s, I think we had Anthony Komara. I think he’s the one who said this he’s an assistant coach at, University of Alabama Huntsville, and he said something and this more was talking about recruiting, but I think it sort of plays in here. He said, you want to have guys on your team that you can lose with.

And I think clearly as a college coach, you have more control over that from a recruiting standpoint, versus being at a public school, you get who you get, but. Part of your job as a coach is clearly to mold kids into what you want them to be if they’re going to be part of your [00:55:00] program. And so I think what you just said in terms of it’s easy to do when you’re winning, it’s easy to sell culture.

It’s easy to sell all these other things, but ultimately that sales job becomes much, much harder if you’re not winning games. And yet. The reality is, is that all those other things that go beyond the X’s and O’s that we’re talking about right now, those things should stay present and stay part of your program regardless of what the one loss record is.

And we all know that’s way, way harder to do than it is to say. But I think that’s what we have to set out to do as coaches is that has to be our goal that regardless of whether our team goes 20 and O or our team goes, Oh, and 20. The experience for those kids and the, just the way that we are shouldn’t change as a result of our record, the people we are shouldn’t necessarily be reflected off of what our, what our record is, is a basketball.

Adam Cestaro: [00:55:56] yeah, yeah. You can’t let the win-loss [00:56:00] record define you. it’s gotta be bigger than that for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [00:56:04] All right. So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk to you about. You have young kids. And I think one of the things that. You hear coaches talk about a lot is the struggle with the amount of time that you have to put in in order to be successful.

And so just as someone who’s a husband and a father of young kids and a high school basketball coach, just talk a little bit about your experience from that perspective and how you go about making sure that you’re able to give your best to both your family. And to your job as a basketball coach and just maybe give people an idea of how difficult that is, or maybe it’s easy.

I don’t know if it’s just kind of an idea of what that’s like for you to balance all that.

Adam Cestaro: [00:56:50] It’s a challenge. I always, I always like to refer back to, so, My son was born, a will, was born in 2015. So he [00:57:00] in April, I kind of took over, the Highland basketball program. and then the head coach had stepped down.

And it was getting to be kind of spring time and we needed to start having open gyms and stuff. So I just volunteered. I didn’t know if I would get the job, I would just say Hey, I’ll, I’ll kind of take over, and do what needs to be done if it, if I get higher grade, if I don’t so be it.

but, I’m going to do what’s right by Highland kids here. And, anyway, so will, will have been born that previous January. So I, that was my second full-time job. So I was a a full-time high school teacher. and then I was a dad, all of a sudden, so now I got another full-time job.

And then I became the head coach officially in June. So that’s when I picked up my third full-time jobs. I went from one to three full-time jobs, in a matter of a few months there, but. Yeah. I takes some real effort. It takes some a family calendar that has all of, dad’s basketball events on there, but also, has, has the family events on there [00:58:00] too.

and making sure that I work out the schedule. Luckily we have enough gyms and flexibility that I can make sure that I can, I can still coach the T-ball team. and you know, we work out some and daughter days, Elan. My daughter is three. you know, and there’s the pandemic.

it was really bad for a lot of people, but our family was in a fortunate situation where I got to be home and spend a lot of time with my, with my kids and my wife and I, and I didn’t have a lot of basketball responsibilities. and I was teaching online. So that was, that was kind of a.

A welcome thing, but yeah, I mean, it, it takes planning, it takes a wife. my wife, Bridget was a, was a really good athlete. So she, she understands what goes into it. if you want to be a good head coach, she’s also a teacher too. She was so she understands that aspect, but, yeah, you’ve got to manage it.

and you’ve got to make your family a part of it, will is just a, to the age where. he’s going to play. I think he’s going to try to play in our our, our first, second and third grade [00:59:00] league, this winter time, I’ve been taking it with, with me on Saturday mornings. he hasn’t played in any games yet.

He just kind of hangs out with our guys and stuff. But, you have to incorporate your family, make it part two to add to it. We, I live about 30 minutes from Highland high school. We don’t live in the district. We live in, we live in green. So, that’s a, that’s a, that makes it a little more challenging.

It would be kind of cool. If we lived in the district, that might be a decision that we have to make here sooner or later.

Mike Klinzing: [00:59:33] a two minute, the two minute commute versus the 30 minute commute makes a difference for sure.

Adam Cestaro: [00:59:36] Yeah. Yeah. And it would be pretty cool to have my kids at the elementary school and be able to pick them up and that kind of stuff.

The way our schedule worked out, I got to, take route B there. my wife and I were both there to take Will to his first day at kindergarten. so that was good, but yeah, just like anything else, it takes time management, it takes commitment [01:00:00] to, doing a right both ways.

I certainly can’t do right. you know, put in all the time and effort and tell my players about responsibility and then not do my responsibilities as a dad and a husband. And so, you gotta live it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:00:14] Yeah, no question. I think you have to, and they always say that they, they don’t hear what you say when they’re watching what you do.

And as a coach, I think that’s one of the things that you really have to make sure that you’re doing that whatever standard you’re holding. Your players too, or your assistant coaches too, that you, as the head coach have to live those things every single day and be the role model for what you want to see in your program.

And when you do that, it gets a lot easier to get everybody to buy into what it is that you’re trying to do. So to go along with that, just want to ask you a couple of questions about how you go about. Spending your time planning practices and watching films. So kind of goes piggybacks off the last question.

How do you build those things into like during the season, how do you build in your time to [01:01:00] plan, practice and to watch film? Are you doing that late at night when people are going to bed, are you doing that during planning time at school? How do you carve out the time? And what’s your process for watching film and planning practices?

Adam Cestaro: [01:01:14] Yeah. So if we’re thinking about watching films, I usually try to watch two, at least two films on every team that we play. and I kind of make the time if I’ve got to get to school early, to watch film. I like to get in early weather to be kind of plan my classes for the day, or watch film or practice plan.

I do that. Our schedule has worked out to where I have some time, our high school schedule, where I do have some time during the day to get things get things accomplished, basketball wise, if necessary,  they’ve helped me out with the that last period as my planning period as well.

So that’s in there, but yeah,  there’s definitely the late nights and I’m fairly meticulous about the practice plan, as far [01:02:00] as I like to have it typed out and ready to go and with some reflection on how we played and, what we need to get better at and what we need to do.

I think that’s a balance for coaches. how much do you worry about yourself and getting better, or getting really good at what you’re good at and how much do you worry about the opponent? I’ve found that probably more concentration on us and a little less on the opponent than what I started out as.

Mike Klinzing: [01:02:30] Yeah. I could see that. I think that’s, that’s one of the things that it’s, it’s clear that knowing and. It’s interesting too, because you mentioned back when you were talking about being at Akron and you talked about the big stack of VCRs and VHS tapes, and clearly watching film has become a lot easier, but we found talking to coaches is that, that just, it doesn’t really necessarily save them time because instead of watching two hours of one VHS tape where they’re having to rewind and [01:03:00] overshoot and.

Replay five minutes here because they went too far and all that kind of thing instead, because you can be so efficient with huddle. It just makes it where coaches are now watching three game films or four game films in the same time that they used to watch one or two, just because it can be so much more efficient.

And I think that that’s, again, those are all things that I think when you’re talking about the parents of a high school basketball player, they don’t necessarily see. All those things that the coach has put in time in on when it comes to film study, when it comes to practice planning, I don’t think kind of goes back to what we talked about, getting behind the curtain of a division one college basketball program.

There’s just a lot of things that you take for granted that you don’t see that the average person sitting in the bleachers at a high school game has no idea what it is that you’re doing and how you’re going about carving out time to do those things.

Adam Cestaro: [01:03:48] Yeah. You know, it’s what we signed up for. I mean, I’m certainly not going to complain about it.

I would probably be watching film and breaking down film and looking at [01:04:00] offenses and defenses and stuff even if I wasn’t a coach, because I justlik e it. and I’m interested in the game and what people are doing.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:09] Where do you go to pick stuff up?

Like what, what sources are you watching college games and trying to pick stuff up? Are you watching NBA games? Where are you going to pick up new things that you might want to add to what you do?

Adam Cestaro: [01:04:21] Everywhere really? I mean some, I love the NBA game just cause it’s basketball at the highest level.

but I our guys aren’t like NBA guys, so I watched that for fun and because it’s great basketball, occasionally you see a set or something that’s really good. And you’re like, yeah, we use those similar actions, so we could, we could throw that away. You mean you guys can’t walk five steps and not get called for travel.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:46] Yeah, those are, those are,

Adam Cestaro: [01:04:48] those are interesting. I liked the basketball breakdown where he talks about the, they get, they get Ronnie Nunn on there. They talk about the Euro step. And when you gather and

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:58] yeah, that guy does a really good job.

Adam Cestaro: [01:04:59] Yeah. [01:05:00] They’ve really, they’ve really kind of define that traveler or, or not kind of rule, But, yeah, I mean our guys take it, I have a little less space than the NBA players and are aren’t quite as athletic and don’t shoot it with quite the range that some of those guys do.

But, but, yeah, I mean, you get it from college games. I like watching. Hudl is great, cause I’ll just requests for film from teams that we don’t play, but I just think are really good programs and just see what they’re doing what can we emulate from them?

Teams that are like similar to us have similar style, what are some stuff that they’re using? What are some wrinkles that they’re throwing in? And, and we try to beg, borrow and steal all of those when we can.  

Mike Klinzing: [01:05:44] How much do you change, change out what you do year to year based on your personnel?

So obviously you have a core philosophy that you believe in, but then how much around the fringes are you changing out based on the kind of team you have and the kind of personnel you have? [01:06:00]

Adam Cestaro: [01:06:00] I don’t know what the, like the percentage would be and it just depends. I mean,  I’ve gone back and forth about kind of more structured offense, more and more freedom what makes sense for us what fits with kind of that, that games based approach to, and, and in decision-making, we’re big on decision making, but I actually think, more structure is kind of good for us.

And then limited get really good at decision-making, but don’t have quite so many decisions when the ball gets in your hands. So that’s, that’s kind of our, our focus. so we always have the basis of what we do, on the defensive and with man pressure defense and then we tweak it from there based on the personnel.

And then I think the same thing offensively we’re going to go back to the ball screen, zero ball screen motion. that we, that we’ve gotten away from. and I think that that’s something that we’re going to kind of consistently stick with and we’ll just tweak it. We’ll just tweak it  based on our personality.

We [01:07:00] have more shooters. Maybe we have more, downhill attack guys. Maybe we have more, guys that can score it around the rim. but yeah, I think once you have the system and the structure, then you can kinda start fitting the pieces together and, and put guys in position to be real successful.

Mike Klinzing: [01:07:15] Talk to me a little bit about, you mentioned the games based approach. Just talk to me a little bit about how you incorporate those small sided games into your practices to help the players with decision-making.

Adam Cestaro: [01:07:26] We’ve really gone to  LaSalle was old school guy that was doing zigzags and token defense and trying to shoot, we had a 10,000 shot thing where we you, we would challenge kids to shoot 10,000 shots by themselves against air, in the off season that was like the minimum requirement.

And then. I started watching all the Chris Oliver stuff and others, and realize that all the research and the education and I should have known this as a teacher has said the best [01:08:00] way to get better at basketball is play basketball. You know, game-like with defense.

So we try to put defense in, whenever we can to any drills shooting drills. passing drills, whatever we try to make it two on two, three on three, or give the offensive advantage, give a defense the advantage. and  we’ll break down the parts of our offense into two on two and three on three scenarios.

you know, we’ll work on ball, screen coverages with two on two or three on three, or guarding across screen, down screen. and we’ll just build it up, eventually five on five, but like I’ll tell the guys like, well, okay, here’s a new set that we’re going to put in.

Let’s let’s walk through it two times and, I’ll be like, guys, listen, it’ll be better when we get the defense out there, because then you’ll see where the defense is at, how you have to react. you know what to do when they’re overplaying. I know it feels clunky doing on air [01:09:00]  and like I said, we used to be a big five on zero, go through all your sets a million times and I’ve gotten completely away from that.

So yeah, whatever coaches  if I could give any of my advice would be put a defender in there. If you’re doing three man, we’ve put two defenders out there and make it better and make it more game like.

Mike Klinzing: [01:09:22] Yeah, I know I’ve done that myself over the course of time, coaching my own kids’ teams and I’ve gone more and more and more every year it feels like I get less and less of the on-air drills, less and less of the, just we’re going up and down the floor and working on fundamentals and sort of that old block practice.

And instead you’re trying to incorporate situational play and advantage disadvantage and all those things. And I think you just, your players get. Yeah, I think they just get more out of it. So now I want to ask you one final question, your Adam, as we head towards wrapping things up, and that is, I’ve kind of been finishing with this question in the podcast, because I think it’s a great way to end a great way to kind of sum up what you’re [01:10:00] all about as a coach.

And the question is when you look forward as the head coach at Highland high school, what is your biggest challenge that you see moving forward? And then what’s your biggest joy about being a high school basketball coach getting up. Out of bed in the morning. What do you look forward to every single day?

Adam Cestaro: [01:10:17] for first of all, Mike, thanks for having me when I, when when you invited me on the podcast and I started kind of exploring what you’re doing and seeing, seeing the college coaches and some of the heavy hitters you have on I’m like, wow, this guy wants to talk to me. I must say, it’s been great, man.

Mike Klinzing: [01:10:33] We appreciate it.

Adam Cestaro: [01:10:35] Maybe I won a drawing or something. He was pulling me slow. He had a slow week. So thanks for having me, it’s been really cool talking to you guys., my biggest challenge I don’t know, we’re a public school.

We don’t have open enrollment. We coach the guys that, that we get. I mean, some would that’s a challenge when you think of like winning [01:11:00] the state championship, which is what everybody wants to do. Right. That’s the ultimate thing as a high school coach and player, That’s  a big challenge, but you know, i it’s also really fun to be part of the community and be a teacher, in the district and get to know guys from, from second or third grade on and have their siblings I’ve a kid that I coached, my first.

My first year, my second year at Highland coach and his son is coming up and as is in our middle school program right now. So it’s going to be my first father son, which means I’m getting old, I guess. Exactly. So, yeah, I mean, I just. Yeah, I guess what I’ve looked the most forward to is all the all the great relationships that, they continue to grow and, and getting to, keep, keep pushing Highland basketball to get better.

You know, I go back to when I was hoping to get the job and my focus kind of was I’m just going to help these Highland kids get better at basketball. I’m the best I can. So that’s, [01:12:00] you know, that’s continues to be kind of when, when you have a rough week or whatever, and maybe have two road trips and they don’t go so well and I just kind of always reflect back on it just, just, just help get Highland kids get better at basketball, and, and, and have good relationships with them and treat them the right way.

And that everything seems to work out. Okay. So, so far so good. We’re going to stay on that path. I still love coaching. You know, I don’t see any end in sight. so yeah, it’s fun being part of the game. It’s fun talking to you and hopefully helping out some other coaches and if anybody wants to reach out to me, I’m just AdamCestaro on social media. mostly Twitter. I actually kind of try to stay off social media too much. Cause it there are some downsides to it and it is a distraction when you have kids and. Try to coach and teach, but I’ll jump on there.

If I see someone sent me a direct message and, and definitely try to help out a fellow coach, I’ve got, a YouTube channels too, Cestaro [01:13:00] basketball, where I try to post some stuff that I think is helpful for coaches and, that I’m part of a basketball mastermind group with Chris Oliver, That’s a really cool thing to be a part of.

I know you’re doing some mentoring stuff .

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:15] wW’re going to get that started hopefully soon about how maybe by the time this episode is there, we’ll have that up and running. So, hopefully you’ll be able to check that out.

Adam Cestaro: [01:13:22] I’ll check that out for sure. I enjoy being part the coaching community I’ve tried to help out with the state coaches association and our greater Akron association.

So I appreciate coaches, coaches have been a big part of my life. And I try to to give back as a, coach and hopefully provide some of the same some of the same growth for kids. So

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:45] Absolutely Adam, we cannot thank you enough for jumping out with us and spending almost an hour and a half tonight to share your story and just give out things that some of our coaches out there that are part of our audience can benefit from.

And we really, [01:14:00] really appreciate as a local guy here in the Cleveland area. we’re always excited to have those coaches on that we are geographically close to. And you definitely didn’t win a drawing. We were excited to have you on and be able to learn from your story.

And I certainly feel like we did that and to everyone out there, thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.

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