BEN STELZER – MICHIGAN TECH UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 509

Ben Stelzer

Website – https://www.michigantechhuskies.com/sports/mbkb/index

Email – ben.c.stelzer@gmail.com

Twitter –@stelz05

Ben Stelzer is an Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Michigan Tech University having been hired at his alma mater in June of 2021. 

From 2019 – 2021 Stelzer held the position of Player Development Intern with the Dallas Mavericks as well as Solid Base Skills and Drills website developer and owner, which provides remote player development training for players and teams from youth ages to college.

Ben ran clinics with small groups for youth, high school, and college level players from 2017-19 as a skill development coach and was on the men’s basketball staff at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh as an Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach during their 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship run.

Stelzer started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech during the 2016-17 season after playing professionally in Spain following his collegiate career.  At MTU Ben was a four-year starter and three-year captain. He finished as the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers and was named an NCAA Division II All-American, Academic All-American, and Midwest Region Player of the Year. He led the Huskies to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16.

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Grab pen and paper so you’re ready to listen to this episode with Ben Stelze, Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach at Michigan Tech University.

What We Discuss with Ben Stelzer

  • Growing up as a coach’s son in Wisconsin
  • Bringing teammates to the gym with him when he work out leading to more team success
  • His Dad’s competitiveness and intensity as a coach
  • The need to bring enthusiasm and energy every day both as a player and as a coach
  • Why mixing up your drills and working in shorter segments can be beneficial to creating a competitive practice
  • The benefits he derived from being a multi-sport athlete
  • Why it’s so important to have a plan when working on your game as a player
  • Refuse to Lose
  • How he landed at Michigan Tech out of high school
  • Looking for a school with great academics where he could be part of a winning program
  • Making the NCAA D2 Sweet 16 as a player at Michigan Tech
  • His experiences playing professionally overseas in Spain for one season
  • Getting his first opportunity to coach back at his alma mater Michigan Tech
  • Why player development was something he loved immediately when he got into coaching
  • Be good at the things that happen the most
  • His time as a player development intern with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Working with Mike Procopio in Dallas
  • What he liked about dealing strictly with basketball at the pro level
  • The resources and staff that NBA teams make available to their players
  • How the Mavs kept bench players engaged and in shape during the season
  • Communication and spacing are two things the NBA does really well
  • Why using simple terminology to communicate during games is so valuable
  • What he observed that makes Luka Doncic such a special player at such a young age
  • Using small sided games to improve basketball IQ
  • Focusing on the details of footwork is critical to player development
  • Starting his online training business, Solid Base Skills and Drills
  • Returning to Michigan Tech a second time this spring
  • Getting back out on the road recruiting and building relationships with the players

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THANKS, BEN STELZER

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TRANSCRIPT FOR BEN STELZER – MICHIGAN TECH UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 509

[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my cohost, Jason Sunkle and tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast assistant coach at Michigan Tech University, Ben Stelzer, Ben, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Ben Stelzer: [00:00:15] Thanks Mike. It’s a pleasure to be on.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] We’re excited to be able to have you on, and you have a very interesting and diverse background in the game of basketball and have done things in a lot of areas where we’ve had guests that have maybe been in one of these areas, but you’ve been in a number of different positions, not only as a basketball player, but also as a basketball coach, a basketball entrepreneur.

So I want to dig into all those things with you. Let’s start out by going back in time and tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball as a kid. What made you fall in love?

Ben Stelzer: [00:00:47] Well, I was fortunate enough to be a coach’s kid growing up with my dad, coaching girls basketball at Roncalli high school where I eventually attended.

So it’s always easier to get [00:01:00] invested and become more passionate about the game when your dad’s got keys to the gym. So that’s where it all started.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:09] And you look back on that time. Did your dad take you to a lot of practices? Do you remember to go into practices and games from the time you were very, very young?

Ben Stelzer: [00:01:19] I probably don’t remember everything, but from what they tell me and what makes sense of my personality is I was at most of his practices and was probably more annoying than helpful at first, but was always around.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:35] Do you think, did you have an idea, I guess maybe this probably question probably flows into you being a little bit older, but did you realize sort of how fortunate you were to be able to have the kind of gym access that you probably had maybe compared to your friends who also like basketball, but their dad didn’t have the keys to the gym?

Or did you just drag those friends along with you when you went to the gym?

Ben Stelzer: [00:01:56] I think that’s something probably as you mature and get [00:02:00] older into high school age, that you start to realize kind of the, maybe some of the privileges that you have, especially when your dad’s got keys to the gym and, and going through high school was fortunate enough to have a, a great high school coach.

We we’d go through some leadership classes. And like, that was one of the good things that I got better at is going through high school in the later years was trying to bring more guys to the gym with me. And ultimately that’s what leads to more team success. And that’s what you’re after. Absolutely.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:34] When you think about your dad as a coach, what do you remember about him growing up as a basketball coach? Like the style of coach that he was maybe the style of play, maybe some things that now you look at yourself as a coach that stuck with you, that you sort of incorporated into your own bag of tricks as a coach,

Ben Stelzer: [00:02:57] probably the first word that comes to mind is competitor.

[00:03:00] And definitely thankful for his competitiveness and intensity and instilling that and myself and brother and sister who are younger. And I guess it’s no surprise. Like I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to have a great high school coach and Joel rocks are on Kali high school in Manitowoc. And then the coaches I played for in college coach Kevin, Luke, who just retired and coach Bitner there were some intends to do it as well.

So I’m thankful for that intensity and that competitiveness cause I think that’s a great trait to have not only in basketball or sports, but really in life.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:37] Yeah, absolutely. I think competitiveness is something that, and you know, this as a coach or, you know, as a player too, when you think about teammates that you’ve played with it, it seems like some players just to have that natural competitiveness and others, it seems like it’s a lot of work as a coach to be able to draw that out of.

Players. So as a, as both a [00:04:00] teammate and, and maybe think about it as a coach, but what are some things that maybe you’ve done to try to inspire people around you? And you can take this as, you know, a player with your teammate or as a coach with the players that have played for you. What are some things that you’ve tried to do to buyer the people around you to become more competitive?

Do you think there’s anything that you can do to sort of, I don’t know if even teach is the right word, but just to get guys to be more compelling.

Ben Stelzer: [00:04:27] It’s probably got to start just with your example. I mean, you talk about leadership and lead by example and lead vocally. So if you’re not doing it yourself, like it’s hard to inspire others to do it as well.

Easier to do as a player, a little harder to do as a coach, as I’m figuring out, since you’re not quite on the court with them and putting in all the sweat and the workouts. But I say first example then in terms of your communication and energy and energy and enthusiasm is contagious. [00:05:00] So, whether that’s as a player or a coach, if you can bring that every day, I think that helps from a coaching standpoint, I mean, this is a question kind of in wrestling with, and trying to ask different coaches for advice.

So, I mean, I’d like to hear your thoughts too, but in terms of getting that competitiveness and toughness out of players, you try to create that environment where you’re competing a lot where it’s kind of win or lose type deal to try to fuel players with that. But I think it’s kind of a great discussion topic in general.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:31] Yeah. I agree with you a hundred percent. I think what we found over the course of. Doing the podcast for the last three years, this is a conversation that oftentimes we have with the coaches that have been guests on the show is how do you, how do you build a competitive practice environment? Cause I think that’s a question that all coaches out, they always want as much competition as you possibly can have and in practice to do your team to be better.

And so a lot of the answers from coaches is comes down to, [00:06:00] you have to have a winner and a loser in almost every drill that you do. There has to be something that’s being tracked. Whether you know, you’re talking about a shooting drill where, okay, yeah, we can a hundred shots or whatever it might be. Are we going to shoot for 15 minutes?

But if you don’t keep track of that, It’s just not the same level of competitiveness as it is when you’re tracking that. And obviously that clearly depends upon the level that you’re coaching yet. If you’re a one man show as a parent coaching, a fifth grade recreation basketball team, your ability to chart shooting drills is, is a lot less than a head coach at the division one level who has multiple staff members and managers and all kinds of people that can help and then film and all the things that go along with that.

So it does depend, I think, on the level, but having a winner and a loser and a drill is something that we’ve heard all the time. We’ve also heard from coaches that if you can track whatever it is that you want to. [00:07:00] Get your players to do more of whether that’s deflections, whether that’s offensive, rebounds, whether that’s taking charges.

If you chart those things in practice in games, you’re likely to get more of it. And you’re likely to get your players to compete, to try to do those things. So those are the things that we’ve heard most often from coaches, again, kind of across levels with the understanding that it’s limited, the lower levels you go on, the less coaches you have as a part of your staff, the more of a challenge that becomes.

But I think honestly for me, what I look at it, and I think about myself as a player, I think about players that I’ve worked with, I think about teams that I’ve coached. I think it comes down to that. If you’re measuring something it’s much more likely to improve because there’s at least a benchmark and there’s at least something for coaches and players to point to, to look at that says, Hey, we’re either getting better.

We’re getting worse. We’re staying at the same level. And when you see it in front of you. In a [00:08:00] concrete way, whether that’s just a piece of paper, whether that’s a chart on the locker room wall, whether whatever it is, if players and coaches can see it. I think that adds to the competitiveness without question.

Ben Stelzer: [00:08:12] Yeah. I guess one other thought that came to mind as you were mentioning on those points is I guess mixing it up depending on what kind of age group you’re working with, maybe their attention span or some kids aren’t quite as naturally as competitive. One thing that I’ve played with in camps or group workouts is just maybe mixing up the time of a competitive drill and maybe increasing multiple, rather than doing a four minutes shooting drill and having a winner at the end.

Maybe you go. A minute though, certain spots or a certain thing. So then you have kind of four winners. So I don’t have to keep that attention span for the four minutes. It’s more of a, alright, you won round one. These guys won round two. But I guess that’s something I’ve had a little bit success [00:09:00] with. I don’t know if you’ve played with that at all.

Mike Klinzing: [00:09:02] Yeah. That’s I think a really good one, because like you said, especially with kids today, and again goes to the, I think the younger you go, the more important that becomes just like if you’re a teacher and you’re teaching kindergarten, you better have a lot of activities planned to keep those kindergartners engaged compared to your teaching seniors in high school.

But I think for everybody, the attention spans today certainly are probably less than they were 20 or 30 years ago, simply because of the way we consume media, just phones in our pocket and all that kind of stuff that goes along with it. But I do think it’s a great point. When you allow for there to be more winners or at least more opportunities for kids to win those competitive situations, it can definitely, it can definitely work.

I think back to even when I was playing, we used to do a shooting drill where. You had to make a, you had to go kind of around the arc and make seven shots from three point range in a minute. And so you had three teams at your basket. One guy started at each [00:10:00] corner and then kind of worked their way opposite around the, around the arc.

And then there was another group of two that were shooting free throws. And so you’d have three rebounders in the basket and then you’d have three shooters. And so you’d have the winner of that round. So you might be competing at one end and gets another group of six players at the other end. And so you’d have the winner of that round and then that group would get rewarded, but then it would also end up being a cumulative score.

So you might shoot a total of seven or eight rounds and you’d have a winner of that entire thing, but you’d also have a winner, you know, for each of those one minute rounds kind of like to your point. And so it would, it would reset. And I think that always, I think that always helps. It allows you to say, oh, I, you know, I had a cold street for this minute, but.

I can bounce back. And the next minute we’re efforts, it’s a cumulative 10 minute shooting drill. And I have a really bad minute where I miss seven or eight shots in a row in my mind. I’m like, oh, I’m out of it. But when I can put that minute aside, now I can bounce back. And I think that’s kind of what you’re getting at is the opportunity for kids [00:11:00] to have success in that small range and then everything resets.

And now I got to compete again, instead of it can kind of drag and things go on longer maybe than they should.

Ben Stelzer: [00:11:10] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I like that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:14] All right. So let’s go back to you. As a player, was basketball, always your main thing. Did you play other sports? Tell me a little bit about your total athletic picture.

And then when you really started to focus in, on basketball or was it always basketball, right from the start, just because of your dad’s coaching background.

Ben Stelzer: [00:11:35] Growing up there was playing everything. Oh my brother. And with friends, basketball, football, baseball, tennis playing outside a lot. It was really playing everything and then not until high school.

I played football throughout high school and played tennis my freshman year, but cut tennis sophomore year to senior year, just with AAU, with the new schedule and not [00:12:00] wanting to miss that because basketball was my biggest passion. And I knew my goal was I wanted to play at the collegiate level and hopefully earn a scholarship.

So that’s probably when I got a little more specific and went down from three sports to two.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:15] What, what did you do as you started to realize that, Hey, basketball is kind of where I want to go with this thing. What did you do as a player to improve yourself? What was the balance between you and the gym by yourself?

Getting shots up and working on your game versus seeking out pickup games? How did you go about getting better? How did you put together that plan for improving yourself as a player as you started to get more serious about the game?

Ben Stelzer: [00:12:44] Well, it started with, I mean, I was lucky enough to have a dad who knows what the heck he was talking about and what he was teaching and then having a great high school coach.

So just having conversations and different things that they would recommend working. Yeah. [00:13:00] But then at the same time, there’s a lot to getting in the gym on your own and getting in there with a partner and working on things. I I’m six foot, one, like to say with shoes on not a freak athlete by any means.

So if, if I wanted to have the success that I wanted to have in the game of basketball, I, it needed to be through skill and some of those other intangibles but it helped having a plan. And that started with my high school coach in terms of creating a progression plan along with my dad.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:36] And so what did that look like?

The progression plan? Just, can you give us an idea of some of the things that you did? Did you have a regular, a regular workout? Like I did this much ball handling. I did this much shooting off the dribble. I did this much shooting off the catch. What were some of the things specifically that you worked on that maybe a player today who was listening might be able to take advantage.

[00:14:00] Ben Stelzer: [00:13:59] Yeah. And I think as I matured and got higher in high school, and then to college feel like, I mean, most good players, they work hard, but you also got to figure out how to work smart and having a plan is a big part of that in when, when guys talking to guys nowadays, when they say they’re in the gym for an hour and a half to two hours, the first question that pops into my mind is what were you doing for that long why to workout?

It takes that long. It’s one thing if maybe a work skill for 45 minutes to an hour and then put some one-on-one or two on two, then maybe I can see you getting up to two hours, but just being efficient with your time and having the plan of getting in there 45, 50 minutes, maybe an hour, working on your skill work and figuring, all right, I want to work on ball handling for 10 minutes.

I want to work on district catching shoot shots. 10 minutes. And then I want to touch these other areas of the game, these other skills, and want to [00:15:00] work on developing those this as well. And when you’re going hard, I think you should be dog tired. By the time you get to 45, 50 minutes.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:09] Yeah, I agree with you there.

It’s funny. I think I’ve told this story on the podcast. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but when I was in high school, I used to go to this workout club and go, and that’s what I, that’s where I do my shooting workouts. And it’s funny. Cause I had basically from the time I was about maybe 15 or 16 until I was done with my college career, I did, I had two workouts.

I had one that I did by myself and it was exactly the same. Every single day I went to the gym. I wasn’t nearly as creative, maybe as you were plus there wasn’t, I didn’t have the resources back in the back of the mid to late eighties to really come up with. I didn’t have YouTube to go through, to come out with new drills.

I look at all the stuff that’s out there now. I’m like, man, I wish I would have been. I wish I had a more creative in what I did, but I had the same work outside. If I was by myself, I did work out a and if I had a partner, I tried to get them to do workout B and I would go in there. And each of those workouts, my individual workout [00:16:00] probably.

It was probably about an hour and 15 minutes, maybe an hour and 20. And there was a kid that always played at a high school near me. That would always be up at that same, that same workout place. And I’d come into gym and he’d be wandered around out by like the exercise bikes. And then he’d come in, he’d shoot some free throws, then he’d walk over and he’d get a drink.

And he towel off and you know, the whole time I’m at my basket work in and, you know, I’d get ready to leave. And he’s like, oh, I’ve already been here. You know, I was, I was here an hour before you got here, you know, I’m going to be here. Another, I’m going to be here another hour or two. And then later you’d hear me come back for pickup games out here.

I’m telling guys here I was, I was here working on my game for three hours and I just, I always used to just laugh with some of my friends, like, look. I dunno what he’s telling you, but I’m here at the same time he is, and he’s getting up like, you know, one 10th of the work that I’m getting in, in, in the hour that I was putting in.

And I think that’s, to your point, the efficiency piece is something. I mean, you can go to any [00:17:00] gym in America and walk in there. And what do you see? You see kids shooting around. And a lot of those kids are under the mistaken impression that they’re really working on their games and that they’re getting better.

And again, I guess it’s better than sitting on your couch, but shooting around is not going to get you to the level of play that you want to attain. If you’re going to be a varsity basketball player or you’re going to be a college player, certainly.

Ben Stelzer: [00:17:26] Yeah, completely agree.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:29] So it’s kind of just every it’s interesting when you go and you think about yourself as a player and someone who started to take it more and more seriously and wanted to put that kind of time in, and then you kind of look around and you realize like, Hey, there’s a reason why I’m having some success, just because I’m more, I’m willing to work a little bit harder maybe than the people around me.

And to your point, especially when you’re someone who maybe doesn’t have all those natural running, jumping athletic gifts, that a lot of times we associate with high level players. I think you have to find a way to [00:18:00] develop your skill set in such a way that enables you to have success against the players who do have those gifts.

You have to just be that much more skilled in order to compete. And I know that that’s when I think about myself as a player, that’s what I tried to become. And it sounds like you were exactly the same way. So when you think about your high school career, do you have a highlight or two that sticks out that you remember.

That when somebody asks you, Hey, what was, what was your high school basketball experience? Like the one or two things that stick out for you?

Ben Stelzer: [00:18:28] My sophomore year was our only year that we made it to the state and the state of Wisconsin. Unfortunately left on a sour note and got upset my senior year. I think when we were the number one ranked team in our division.

So I though probably the, making it to state sophomore year, along with, as our program got better and better and thankful for the years before that, that kind of helped establish that we got to play in some of those better tournaments. One of [00:19:00] them was in Peoria, Illinois, the tournament of champions and Findlay prep.

Was there a couple of those prep schools along with a number of other schools. Basically it all around the Midwest too, in terms of high school teams and just being able to play at some of those bigger events and got on the different stages. That, that was, those are the memories that probably successes that you remember the most.

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:26] Do you remember the wins or losses? More?

Ben Stelzer: [00:19:31] Probably the losses.

Yeah. Unfortunately

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:43] I always like to ask the question. I don’t know that there’s a right answer, but would you say, and I think this probably answers itself, but how much do you love to win versus hate to lose? There’s a one that stands out when you hear one of those two phrases. Does one of them resonate more with you?

Ben Stelzer: [00:19:58] Our coach? I think [00:20:00] this is. Where I remember getting this from using the phrase, just refusing to lose. And I think as a competitor, that kind of sums it up, whatever you gotta do, whatever, whatever it takes, obviously within the rules and whatnot, but just refusing to lose. That’s kind of sums it up, I think in my mind.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:24] Yeah. I agree with you. I think like I said, for myself, I definitely remember the losses a lot more than I remember the wins. I mean, obviously there were a couple of memorable wins that you remember, but I can certainly remember all the, all the painful losses that come, especially when you’re a person that wins more than you lose.

You tend to have those, you know, where the losses are less frequent. You tend to remember them a little bit better. And also I think that the, the sting of those, if you’re a competitor, like we talked about earlier, I think those things, those things hurt. You had been set in mind that you wanted to play college [00:21:00] basketball.

So you’re obviously a successful high school player. You’re a kid who works are your dad’s a coach. When it comes time for you to start the recruiting process. What do you remember about that? What was it like going through it? And what was your mindset and how do you end up at Michigan tech?

Ben Stelzer: [00:21:20] I would say my goal always was to earn a division one scholarship.

You watch one shining moment, every what? Mark? Probably April at the end of every college season. And you want to be on that someday? I wasn’t able to earn a division one scholarship, but I had. A great school in Michigan Tech, who was very interested in me. It was a great fit academically basketball wise and thankful of the opportunity that I had there ended up meeting my wife there and how it’s kind of come full circle and going to be back working there again.

I’m [00:22:00] fired up for that. Yeah,

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:01] Absolutely. When you think about obviously having division one aspirations, which when you think about high school basketball players, there’s so many players who have that in their mind that that’s what they that’s what they want to do. So when you were going through that process, what do you remember hearing from coaches, people that were involved in the recruiting process with you when it came to whether or not you were going to get a division one opportunity?

What were some of the things that you remember hearing. From coaches in regards to that, whether it’s coaches at the division one level that maybe you reached out to, or maybe coaches at the division two or division three level, kind of talking to you about your game,

Ben Stelzer: [00:22:43] it was not big enough, not athletic enough.

Those were the main two average athlete, but having you don’t, you don’t forget those things. And I mean, one of the things that I’ve learned, [00:23:00] especially as I’ve gotten older and kind of changed roles and been in, been in the coaches seat, is it fit is so much important. Fit is so important in terms of, for, for players in the recruiting process and just finding the right fit for you.

Whatever level it is. And. I was talking with our now head coach right now at Michigan tech. And he was a guy who was a two time All-American. I was fortunate enough my senior year to earn all American honors, but he was just saying, yeah, probably by the time I was a junior or senior at the division two level, I would have been ready to play it at least a mid major division one.

But it’s that experience you get early, maybe being able to play early and how you develop as a player from that, that if he goes to a division one mid-major right away, maybe it doesn’t turn out to be the player he was after the four years, there are certain factors that contribute to that. And [00:24:00] I thought that was a great point.

So I just called it goes to fit and kind of what your situation is.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think that the fit is really important and try to figure that out where you should be. And again, we all know that most kids that they tend to, you tend to want to reach and you tend to want to stretch yourself and say, Hey, maybe I can play at this level, even though it seems like most everybody, the consensus is that I should be at another level.

And now when you talk about a player developing within, let’s say as a division two player, as an NAI player division three player, then eventually by the time you’re an upperclassmen, would you be capable of playing at that higher level? And in many cases, again, if you put the time in then your game and you’ve worked on it, I think there’s no doubt that there’s tons of players that are at whatever level they are that could probably play a level up, especially by the time they’re a junior or a senior.

[00:25:00] And yeah. In a lot of cases, what role you play at a school at a higher level may not be as much fun. You may not get as much of an opportunity to have the ball on your hands. And there’s something to be said for that. Like, it’s one thing to be out on the floor and you play 15 minutes a game at one level, and maybe you’re just strictly a role player.

And at a lower level, you can be the player with the ball in their hands, or you can be the player that gets to take more shots and just be involved. And so I think your point is really well taken that you have to find the right fit. So when you thought Michigan tech was the right place for you, what was it about Michigan tech?

And then as you got in there, how did you find, or what did you find to be the things that you loved about being.

Ben Stelzer: [00:25:50] So the academics were probably one of those at the top of the list wanted to go to a school that could win. Cause I said, [00:26:00] we were talking about early as a competitor. You want to win and you want to be part of a winning program, especially if you have kind of throughout your early career.

So those were, those were two big ones. And then one of the byproducts and my dad being the coach and working at the high school is I was a part of. Ron Kali community since I was one years old. So I’ll have having a strong tie and community sense. During the high school years, that was something that was important to me and just getting on campus and visiting just got the sense of I really tight knit community Michigan texts in a unique place in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Have you, some listeners are what’s the upper peninsula, what’s the upper peninsula of Michigan, but the part right above Wisconsin. But it gets tons of snow and a little more remote up here, but you kind of figure things out and people bond together with some of that remoteness and community.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:58] All right. So I got to ask you, this is my upper [00:27:00] peninsula of Michigan question. Have you been to isle Royal?

Ben Stelzer: [00:27:06] I haven’t.

Mike Klinzing: [00:27:09] You got it. You got to get there, man. Have you been to copper Harbor?

Ben Stelzer: [00:27:13] Yes. Have you been to Iowa? I

Mike Klinzing: [00:27:16] have, I have a, we went my family and I went out. Let me think. How many years it’s been? It’s been a, quite a few, probably who I would bet five or six years, probably since we went, but we drove from we’re from Cleveland.

So we drove from Cleveland up through the upper peninsula and parked our car at copper Harbor. Took the ferry all the way across lake superior to, I guess it’s about 12 miles from the Canadian border. Got off and stayed in. I dunno, whatever lodging that they had there, the you know, the they were like little cabins and then did some hiking did not see a wallflower there, but did see did see a moose.

Finally, the kids were super excited. We almost ran into a moose on the trail. So [00:28:00] for any of our listeners that are out there, I think it’s probably one of the least visited national parks because you do have to take like a three and a half hour ferry from the upper peninsula, which is hard to get to in and of itself and is anyway.

So if you get a chance, I’d highly recommend it. It’s great. I love that.

Ben Stelzer: [00:28:16] Yeah. My, my wife just brought that up a couple of weeks ago. She’s like, especially with going back up there and like this summer is maybe the time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:25] There you go. Well, if you do, you’re going to, if you do, you’re going to enjoy it without, without question.

All right. So tell us a little bit about your play career at Michigan tech. What it was like, what you enjoyed about it.

Ben Stelzer: [00:28:37] Definitely enjoyed the winning season three out of the four years, we made the NCAA tournament. The farthest we made it was the sweet 16. D two is a little different than the D one and D three national tournament in terms of their eight regions of eight.

So a little different than D one, D two or D three, but [00:29:00] we had a lot of success, had great coaches to learn from it. I don’t know. It’s a good place to be. I guess that’s why my

favorite memory would probably be making it to the sweet 16. My junior year, we had, had an upset in the second round. I don’t think a lot of people would’ve picked us to win that one. Re our whole team in general, Michigan tech, isn’t known as having the most athletic dudes in the world. It’s more so beaten guys being sound, being fundamental toughness.

And obviously you got to have enough players to win games. So we got guys who’ve got talent and some athleticism, but that round to win to get to the sweet 16 was, was probably the most memorable.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:51] Yeah, it’s very cool. I mean, I think competing in the NCAA tournament, no matter what level you get an opportunity to do that at is something special because [00:30:00] not everybody gets to go there and the opportunity to be able to compete for a national championship.

Again, is something that even if you’re a college player, not every college player gets the opportunity to experience that know I came up one point short when I was a freshmen and thought, oh, I got plenty of years left to be able to, to be able to get there. And. Never came as close as that to be able to get back.

And so, like you say, you dream of growing up and being able to think about one shining moment and playing in the tournament and making a basket and somehow making it on that thing and to, to not get an opportunity to do it. It was definitely, probably one of the biggest, I don’t know, disappointments is probably the wrong way to put it, but you just wish that having had the experience that you could have gotten the full, the full boat and gone in and played in the NCAA tournament.

So I’m sure for you as special to be able to do that at this point, as you’re wrapping up your college playing career, What’s on your mind from that point, [00:31:00] obviously you’ve been a player for pretty much your entire life. So are you thinking about, Hey, I might have an opportunity to play overseas. Was that something that you had your eye on or was it something that kind of came out of nowhere?

Or were you already thinking about coaching? Were you thinking about getting into a quote unquote real job? Where was your mindset as you were finishing up at Michigan tech?

Ben Stelzer: [00:31:21] It really wasn’t on the radar probably until towards the end of junior year when I started getting some messages or letters from agents, but then in having a good senior year towards the end, definitely something that talked about with the coaches and the teachers.

There a player in the year in our league, the prior year when I was a junior had just went over to Spain. So there was a couple of guys in our league who had went over and played in Europe. So I was aware of that and that kind of helped the process and thinking through, and kind of measuring yourself against certain guys.

And [00:32:00] coaches kind of helped make that decision and then started reaching out and getting different advice in terms of kind of figuring out what an agent, but explored those waters. And I guess kind of like college realized that it would be a pretty good fit. And I was fortunate enough to play one year over in Spain.

And then unfortunately dealt with some more injuries and probably a year or two before I would have liked to at the minimum, but it was, it was a great.

Mike Klinzing: [00:32:29] All right. So give us all, let me ask you this. This is my standard question. What was the craziest European basketball story that you had from your year over there?

And with the caveat you have to keep it PG.

Ben Stelzer: [00:32:44] I guess, I guess the first two days were a little bit of a shock. So the first day of flying in first international flight arrived, seven hour difference between. I guess Midwest and Spain and [00:33:00] get in the, our, our trainer picks me up from the airport and we drive straight to a restaurant.

And where I played was a city called  in the Northwest corner of Spain. So right on, right on the water there and no one further their seafood. And so the first Dressner we go to, he orders, octopus, pause, I guess it was especially in that region earlier delicacy. And so first meal, after coming off a 10 hour plane ride was octopus straight for me.

I can barely go for lunch and I can say that. Sure. I’ll I’ll take fish and the fish comes up. I mean, it was the whole fricking fished with the eyes still in the socket. Those were two experiences right away. That was a little bit of a shock, a little bit of a different culture.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:57] Pretty fast. You were pretty fast looking for some peanut [00:34:00] butter and jelly sandwiches or a hamburger, right?

Ben Stelzer: [00:34:01] Yeah. There you go.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:06] That’s it. That’s it. That’s it trying to find yourself some Kringle.

Ben Stelzer: [00:34:10] Yeah, that’s right.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:14] Yeah, I mean, I think it’s just, it’s funny when you think about that experience that I’m sure that just the opportunity to go over there for one year again, when you’re young and you have the ability to go and play basketball and, and be paid for it and just have the experience of living overseas, I’m sure it was tremendously, tremendously valuable for you.

So the injuries cut it short and then it’s time to come back home. What’s the thought process? Coaching was it that, was it something that was always on your mind from the time you were little because your dad was a coach and you thought, Hey, I’m always, you know, coaching is going to be something that eventually I could see myself getting into or was it more kind of, Hey, I got done playing.

[00:35:00] I still love the game. I want to be involved in it. Maybe now it’s time for me to really look at this coaching thing, which one of those paths maybe better describe you?

Ben Stelzer: [00:35:10] I guess, reflecting on it. It probably always was kind of in the back of my mind, just kind of with my upbringing and family. But the way that I was trying to go back to the second year of my contract, I was rehabbing and doing physical therapy.

Just other aches and pains and past energy injuries coming up. So it was kind of a later summer, last, last minute decision to call her quit. And at that point, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing. My expectation was that’d be back in Spain. And at that point, coach, coach Luke at Michigan tech and coach Butner or no head coach at Michigan tech put out the offer that, Hey, if you want to start some masters classes and basically come here as an assistant coach, kind of our second assistant that’s open for you.

And [00:36:00] probably the best part of that situation is we have that trust built up. As I’ve been getting older, realizing how important trust is, whether you’re trying to find a job or really dealing with anybody, but that trust factor is there. So they were able to give me a lot of responsibility. So I think that responsibility that they gave me in year one I think excited me with the coaching and being able to get my hands in a lot of, part of the job that a coach has.

And I think from there, I kind of knew what this is, this is what I want to do.

Mike Klinzing: [00:36:31] Coaches, did you like best right away? Like what was something that you took to immediately? Was it player development? Did you like scouting? Was it the X’s and O’s piece of it? Which piece of it did you immediately say, oh, this man, I love this part of, I love this part of coaching.

Ben Stelzer: [00:36:48] I liked most of it in general, maybe some of the time it takes to do scouting reports. I wish it did take quite a few months, but would probably have to save player development. That’d probably be [00:37:00] based off of, kind of what I needed to do as a player to have success player. Development’s been a passion and I think it’s a, it’s a big time difference maker.

And I mean, in my five years of coaching now, I’ve been able to witness it at different places that. Player development and players getting in the gym on a daily basis, whether it’s at UWI. Gosh, when would probably contribute to that as the factor that put us over the edge in terms of winning the national championship there, or being able to talk to different coaches have been able to go to different places player development, and guys getting in the gym and developing not only the off season, but over the course of a year can turn you into a championship team or get you over that hump.

Mike Klinzing: [00:37:46] Yeah, I think that there’s no doubts, but something that I think that, I mean, it’s always been prevalent, I think to some degree, but I would say probably in the last five years, especially I think the amount of [00:38:00] knowledge around player development and just the number of people that are sharing. Great information that are, are enabling coaches at all levels to be able to step up and become better with their player development.

Plus the fact that at all levels, they’ve been able to sort of relax the restrictions on how much player development time that coaches can have with their players. And I think that’s opened up the ability for coaches at both the high school and the college level to have more time with their players.

And that’s to say nothing of which we’ll talk about here with you in a second that’s to say nothing of the individual private coaches, who with most players in a lot of ways, there’s so many players now that are working with a private skills trainer or private skills coach to help them develop their game.

And so I think it’s no surprise that player develop development. If you do it well, can [00:39:00] definitely be. A game changer for a program, whether you’re talking about at the high school or a college level. So what are some things that you’ve learned over your time at the various places that you’ve been that are important for player development?

If you want to put together, if you’re, let’s just say you’re, you’re talking to a high school coach and that high school coach says, Hey, I want to develop a really good player development program. What are some things that, or advice that you would give them when it comes to that?

Ben Stelzer: [00:39:31] Probably the top thing would be just creating a plan or be in communication with your guys and have discussion.

Because I think having that plan needs to be based out of what do you do offensively or what are the things, or what are the shots that each individual player is going to get in games? I mean, that’s why you try to develop yourself so you can come a better player. So kind of having that plan, thinking through [00:40:00] visualizing certain situations that that’s kinda gotta be the core of your development.

Mike Klinzing: [00:40:08] Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. I think that’s something that when you think about working with individual players and I haven’t done as much of that recently since I started the podcast, which I guess isn’t recent anymore. It’s been three years since I really have kind of scaled back on the amount of training that I was doing.

But now I have a son who’s a freshman, so I’ve kind of been working. My trading has kind of been with him. And one of the things that I’m constantly trying to do is I watch when he plays in a game or a scrimmage or summer league. And I try to look at, okay, what are the things that he’s doing it games?

And then how can I translate that into the time that we spend together? Working on his game. And I think that’s so, so important when you think about as a coach, try to figure out, okay, well, what does this player, what do I need them to do in a game? And then how could I design it? Skill [00:41:00] work that it helps them to improve things that they’re actually going to do.

Cause we all know that you can see lots of people doing crazy drills and different things that you look at it. And you say, how can that be? That really help a player to get better in the role that they have on their game, the team. And obviously everybody wants to the reason, part of the reason why you go and work on your game is so you can expand it and expand your role with your team, but still you have to be able to do game style things that I think if you don’t have a plan, which is your point, then you’re going to be, you’re going to be in trouble.

You’re just going to, I ended up not being as efficient, efficient, which is what we talked about earlier, how important that efficiency is in really being able to do the things that you’re going to do in a game.

Ben Stelzer: [00:41:45] Yeah, I think I’ve heard some coaches talking about being good at the things that happen the most and probably the, what was the greatest like kind of aha moment was [00:42:00] the going to Dallas and just being around that every day and hearing so the former player development coach Mike Procopio, I heard him talk about like, what really, when you think about the NBA, there’s what two to three guys on each team that are shooting maybe over eight to 10 shots, a game.

So that’s only, I forget what he said is maybe 10, 15, 20% of the league. If that,

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:30] yeah. I don’t think it’s even, I don’t think it’s that high he’s like, he’s like, I think he said when he was out with us, I want to say, he said, I want to say he said something like there was. Like there’s, there’s 40 guys or 50 guys that beat, there was some number to that point where there’s this many guys who matter in terms of those guys are going to get placed, run for them.

Those guys are going to get to have the ball in their hands. Okay.

[00:43:00] Ben Stelzer: [00:43:17] Okay. There you go.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:20] And then his other, obviously his other big statement that he shares in the puts it everywhere. And he said it on our podcast is look just dominate simple, be good at the things that are very simple. I think that is exactly what you’re talking about. So before you, before you expound on that, just let people know what, when you said you’re in Dallas, let people know what, what you exactly mean you were with the Mavericks.

So just tell them what you had an opportunity to do there with the Dallas Mavericks.

Ben Stelzer: [00:43:46] So the Mavericks this past year was different with COVID. They have one of the biggest intern programs, player development, intern programs in the league. They’ve been bringing 12 guys in as interns, the last on cancel a years.

[00:44:00] So I had the opportunity to go there as one of the player development interns two years ago, was there in person this past year, it was working remote just to limit personnel in the facility but be around the team every day. Be at practice. Doing different video analytics work, being a part of the scout team then working with guys pre-practice post practice.

So that was the opportunity to add in Dallas. And it was a heck of a learning experience and thankful for all of the relationships and opportunities or learning opportunities that I had. There what’s

Mike Klinzing: [00:44:37] something that was unique to the NBA experience compared to some of the other experiences that you’ve had.

Obviously the budgets are bigger. The players are a little bit wealthier. They’re a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, but just what’s something unique that maybe was different there with the Mavericks, something that stands out to you as, Hey, [00:45:00] this experience was really cool.

It’s something that I’m not sure I would get at any other level of the game.

Ben Stelzer: [00:45:06] I guess one of the nice parts is it’s strictly basketball. As a college coach, you gotta deal with some of them. I guess extra cholesterol, extracurricular. I want this to sound wrong, but like some of the academic portion or administration or different elements of the game.

So it was kind of nice just dealing with strictly basketball if you’re super passionate about that. I guess like I am, but in general, like, I guess just going back to, like you laid out the stats for, and what Procopio talks about is keeping the game simple and working on the end game skills that you’re going to get as an individual and trying to get really good.

What you’re pretty good at? Yes. Still working on some of your weaknesses, but for the most part, like you were talking about Mike to him, the same [00:46:00] routine almost every day, maybe a mix mix it up once in a while, but it’s, it’s not that complicated when you really think about it and when you’re trying to improve or.

Play a certain role within a team or whether they’re trying to find a role within a team, if they can be simple.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:19] Did you notice about the mentality of an NBA player? What makes them different from a preparation standpoint and attention to detail standpoint? And obviously there are just like, there isn’t any level of basketball.

There are varying degrees of how guys handle their business, but just in general, how would you describe the mentality of NBA, NBA players when it comes to the player development process and them improving and working on their game, just from a mental standpoint of how they go about doing that?

Obviously one thing is again, being repetitive and paying attention, but just what was [00:47:00] your experience with their mentality when it came to trying to get better,

Ben Stelzer: [00:47:04] you notice pretty quickly that all of them are. Top 1% of competitiveness. I know a lot of people don’t like care for the whining that goes on.

Part of that is these guys are just so competitive that like going against their complete nature to not argue some of these calls and the MBA. So I guess the competitiveness would be one part of it, but then just learning how to be professionals when, when that’s your job. And it’s not to that level, but I experienced a little bit of that play in when, when that’s your job, that’s your career.

And all you have to worry about is getting better at the game of basketball, along with your body. It’s it’s, it makes things a little easier and fortunate to be able to do it, but they take it seriously and they put in the hours like anybody else does. [00:48:00] A normal job. I know they’re getting to play a game, but it’s taken very seriously.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:06] How does that relate to the age of the players? Because you think about guys coming in at far younger ages than they would have whatever 20 years ago. And so you got a lot of kids coming in after their freshman year of college. So you got a lot of 19, 20, 21 year old guys that are in there making a lot of money for the first time in their life.

What do, what do teams have in place or what did the Mavs have in place to sort of help those players? Not only with their basketball development, but just their development as human beings, when it comes to being able to handle all the things that go along with being a professional basketball player.

Ben Stelzer: [00:48:47] I’m sure that I, I don’t know all of it, of, of what the Mavs have in place or other NBA teams have in place, but. More, so dealt with the coaches on a daily basis, working with the players. [00:49:00] But I think the one thing is just in terms of your coaching staff and just listening to the conversations that you have every day with players, it’s not just about hoops or improving their skills.

It’s about how are things going? Are there things we can help you with? And the one thing you do notice there’s a lot of staff members along with an NBA organization and a lot of people there to help players and especially younger players become better professionals and help them deal with certain situations.

Like every team now has a sports psychologist. So talking with talking with them and helping them figure things out and allow them to have the most success that they can have. They have all the different people in place

Mike Klinzing: [00:49:46] when, when you’re in the midst of the season, obviously. The guys who are playing…And especially when you think about this year with it being a condensed schedule and, you know, and even in normal years, the amount [00:50:00] of practice time that NBA teams are getting during the season is fairly minimal. And yet there’s guys at the back end of the roster who aren’t playing nearly. Yeah. As much as I’m sure they would obviously like to.

And so they’re not getting any run on the floor. So in order for them to stay sharp and be able to compete and get an opportunity to continue to improve and get better without that formal team practice time, how do teams like the Mavericks? How do they go about making sure that they keep those guys at the back end of the roster?

Engage. It’s one thing, you know, you’re working with Luca and he’s doing his thing, and he’s one of the best players in the world that he’s playing 40 minutes every night or 35 minutes every night during the regular season. But what about these guys that are sort of towards the back end of it? How did those player development interns like yourself?

What role did you guys play with those players? Maybe guys were at the back end of the roster.

Ben Stelzer: [00:50:57] We’ve played a lot of five on five [00:51:00] actually. So his reputation is correct. Probably one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. But guys like bull bond or other guys towards the end of the bunch that maybe were younger guys who weren’t getting as much playing time, just getting up and down and playing five on five.

Incorporate some one-on-one at the end of workouts just to keep their cardio up. But they’re also doing, I mean, some wind Springs are down in backs, different ladder stuff. And it’s impressive when you see a guy like JJ Barea two years ago, and you realize like how professional he is. And it’s not a surprise that the amount of success that he had in his career when a guy 30, some years old, not getting much tick, but he knows at times he’s got this certain role to bring a spark and get the team going.

Maybe if there, the energy is down in a certain [00:52:00] game, that just the way he handles himself and takes care of his body and still gets cardio and running up and down. And that part was really impressive.

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:10] Was there a particular player while you were there that you built maybe a stronger relationship with then than some of the other guys on the roster?

Was there one guy that stood out that you really connected.

Ben Stelzer: [00:52:23] It was pretty hard not to connect with Boban and discussing the guy. He was one of our interns basically played them in one-on-one every single day of the season. Maybe one of the other guys that I’d say he came a little closer to was Jalen Brunson, just cause he’s, he’s a heck of a worker in a heck of a year, this year in his third year.

But part of that was just with my size as well. We would, we would do some one on one stuff and he actually broke my rib in one of our games to give him a token look defensively, but he’s a great guy [00:53:00] and not come a player.

Mike Klinzing: [00:53:01] What about on the coaching staff side? Was there somebody that kind of took you under their wing?

That was part of the, you know, the main coaching staff, so to speak

Ben Stelzer: [00:53:10] are really on the court. Boss was Peter pan. The, the shooting culture, the Mavericks, but really him and God Shammgod were kind of the main two player development coaches with the team two years ago when we were there. So probably became closest with him as we kind of reported to him every day and also had some good conversations.

I think he was kind of known as a shooter in his day, and it was always fun chatting with him and like we related to each other pretty well. In that regard.

Mike Klinzing: [00:53:43] Was there something that you learned during your time with the Mavericks that was a revelation, something that you hadn’t yet realized in your coaching journey that has helped you in your time since then to become a [00:54:00] better coach?

Ben Stelzer: [00:54:02] I don’t know if it was maybe a true revelation. Maybe to simpler things that just really stuck out as they were emphasized. I guess one was offensively just in terms of talking about and having the discipline with spacing and NBA teams are our greatest asset. And I think it’s starting to trickle down more in terms of holding that to a high standard in terms of spacing on the floor offensively and the benefits it gives you everybody on your team.

And then the other part would be the communication. One thing that, that I loved and we’ll definitely be using in the future is we had basically a communication and kind of like the vocabulary sheet to make sure everybody’s on the same page defense. This is the word we use when we’re in gap help. This is the word we use when you’re the weak side, like say [00:55:00] like a MIG midterm, or there’s a word we use for a ball screens.

Common. You’re just saying this word, if he screens your right shoulder, we’re just saying, right. Cause that indicates the shoulder they’re coming to screen you on, but it just laid it out, made it less confusing. And just, just kind of simplifying the communication and making sure everybody’s on the same page that I thought that was awesome.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:26] Yeah. I’ve said this a bunch of times on the pod with different coaches. I think that’s one of the things that I’m probably the worst at as a coach and have been for almost my entire career. I don’t know what this says about me, that I’ve never really improved it, but the ability to just kind of condense things down to a short word or a phrase, I’m always the person that likes to.

Give kind of the long explanation of, Hey, I want you to do dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. I just kind of keep talking instead of saying, Hey, split the lane. Like I always want to give this [00:56:00] big, long explanation and I want to do it every single time. And I’ve never been good about kind of coming up with, as you just said, those key words or phrases that when you say this one word or this one phrase, everybody knows exactly what it means and it just kind of key.

It’s just, it makes things so much easier to be able to communicate when you have to teach it and explain it one time or again, you get it ingrained in your players. And then all of a sudden it just comes where I just have to say this one thing and a whole bunch of things within that happen as a result of that one word or that one phrase.

I think that’s a really good takeaway that you were able to pick up and for any coaches that are out there. I think if you could incorporate that into what you do, you’re going to end up a lot better off. And I think that’s a good insight. That you were able to give from your time with the Mavs last Matt’s question, Luca, what, when you guys got together and got an opportunity to watch him do [00:57:00] the things that he does, what did coaches, what did you guys as interns?

What did you talk about that you’re like, man, we’re watching this guy and he’s just unbelievable in this way. What were the things that stood out for you about him that makes him such a special player?

Ben Stelzer: [00:57:22] The first thing is definitely just as IQ is how intelligent of a player he is. And I know coach Carlisle has talked about it and other assistants I’ve talked about it in different interviews, but.

Just how heady he is and how he knows where everybody’s going to be in terms of his teammates, but also defensively and just how we can anticipate everything. And as a coach, I guess, taking something away from that, it’s when you got smart players like that, I know that’s probably not going to be many more Lucas, but having discussions with them and asking them their thoughts, or what are you [00:58:00] seeing?

What are you reading? Just kind of having some of that dialogue. And I think that’ll probably help the relationship, but kind of also help you as a coach and your team. But the second thing you don’t really realize how big he is and just how big he is and how that can impact. I mean, he’s a great rebounder and just the impact that has and all the facets of the game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:58:28] To your point. You don’t always necessarily notice it. I think when I notice it is as he gets to the basket and he’s just able to both guys out of the way, cause obviously he’s not the quickest guy in the NBA and yet he can get where he wants to go because he just has to get a slight angle on a guy.

And then it’s a little hip bulb or a bag of the shoulder. And all of a sudden that guy that’s in front of him or right on the side of them is completely out of the play in terms [00:59:00] of being able to disrupt his shot. And you know, that goes to size. It goes to strength. And it’s just something that understanding how to use your body as a player.

There are some guys who do it really, really well. And then there are other guys who struggle with it. I think it’s similar to. Being a player like we all, I mean, I know James harden, hunts files, and I’m not a James harden fan, but the guy, and I know, you know, the same thing from, from playing with guys on the playground or playing against players, there are just some players that understand how to draw fouls.

It’s just, they just haven’t, they just have a knack for it. And I just don’t think that it’s something that you can, I don’t, don’t think it’s something that’s easy to teach. And I think players who use their body well, the way Luca does. I think it’s really hard to teach that some guys just seem to have a knack for it.

And that’s one of the things when I watch him. I mean, in addition to, as you said, the basketball IQ and the ability to pass and read the floor, but I think that ability to have strength going to the basket and just be able to use little subtle [01:00:00] bulbs that. Again are not going to be called offensive files.

It’s not like he’s plowing guys over it. It’s just a little hip check here, a little dip of the shoulder there, and it creates all the space that he needs and then be able to finish. And that’s something that from the moment he came into the league that he’s had, and I guess you probably developed that from being a kid who’s 14, 15 years old playing against adults over in Europe.

You bet you better learn those tricks of the trade or you’re going to be, you’re going to be in trouble fast.

Ben Stelzer: [01:00:27] Yeah, maybe that would be a third thing. That something that was really impressive, Luca does it, but all the smaller guards in the NBA, how well they use their body and kind of, if there’s somewhat of advantage, being able to take that step into a guide, either cut off or get into them, even if they’re 6, 10, 6, 11, 7 footers, how they can use their body, get into them, cut off angles, to then be able to create space, to finish that, that, that was really impressive and kind of eyeopening to see.

[01:01:00] Mike Klinzing: [01:00:59] It totally is. And I think when you watch the NBA game and you compare that to the high school game or the college game, and you think about how big and fast and athletic players are on an NBA floor. And yet, because the players often sensitively are so skilled and the spacing is so good. And the ability to shoot is so good.

The NBA floor looks like it has so much more space on it than a high school court. It’s just, it’s incredible. When you go watch a high school game, it seems like there’s six players in the lane at all times. And that’s even when a team is running a five out, it just seems like there’s always. There’s always a body in the way.

When a players try, when a player tries to drive and in the NBA, it’s just the spacing. And again, it goes back to the skill of the coaching and the teaching and everything that goes along with it. But it’s amazing how the game has evolved and how important the spacing piece of it, as you [01:02:00] said, it starts with the NBA and now that’s slowly trickling down to all levels of the game without, without question.

Ben Stelzer: [01:02:07] Yeah. And that’s, I guess that kind of helped confirmed in terms of future teachings when dealing with themes or offensively talking spacing and probably talking movement and just being able to play drive and kick without screens and then incorporating screens in there, but just kind of using that as progression, because I think a lot of players.

I mean, they don’t have a good feel. They don’t have a good feel of how to play and how to move without the basketball and how to space and read things. So I think kind of that progression of let’s talk about spacing. All right. Let’s talk about cutting, driving, kicking point off that, and then talking about playing off screens, I feel like that’s, that’s kind of a good progression to develop a better feel and get your [01:03:00] player side of play the game better.

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:01] What’s your mindset in terms of how to teach that as, as a college coach, what are some ways that you can help kids to better understand passing cutting? Is it mostly through small sided games at 303, and just kind of letting them experiment and then going back and analyzing and looking at what they’re doing?

Is it, is it putting certain reads in place? How do you go about getting kids to be able to see how to move without the ball? Cause we know that. Of the training that goes on with kids at the high school level and below is they have the ball in their hands and there’s not many traders out there working on, okay, here’s how you use a screen or here’s how you’d come off.

And you know, when you’re the screen or here’s how your role and how you make the read about what you do. And so in your mind, how do you teach kids to play without the ball and make some of those reads that are going to help your office function better? When you have players who are better at reading the floor

Ben Stelzer: [01:03:58] From my experience, [01:04:00] and I guess what I’ve been studying, I guess that was the benefit of the pandemic.

There’s a lot of people have a lot more time, a lot more coaches clinics. You’re able to learn a lot more too, but play in those small side of games. Like you mentioned, whether it be three by three, two by two, four before, and just kind of talking those teaching points. I mean, given certain constraints, but then off of that kind of reverse engineering that and all right, in some of our skill breakdown, we’ve talked about this in our small games, knowledge work, these kind of specific movements or let’s work catching off this way with certain footwork, like footwork is huge.

Footwork is what basically allowed me to be the player that I was in terms of attention to detail and footwork and kind of reversed and just going small games, reverse engineering. It, this is how we can help develop it. Going back to the small games and kind of building it all from.

[01:05:00] Mike Klinzing: [01:05:01] So in, in terms of being able to build that footwork base and the skill development piece of it, not only have you worked as a coach at the college level, you’ve worked as an intern with the Mavericks, but you also develop your own private basketball business.

Tell us a little bit about that. Why you decided to start it, what some of the things are that you did with it and hope to maybe do with it at some point in the future.

Ben Stelzer: [01:05:28] Yeah. I mean, I probably started it since I don’t sit still very well this past year with, with COVID and doing remote work, basically part-time remote work for the Mavs this past year.

I had, I had a lot of time on my hands and. We always talked about it, whether it be with the Michigan tech coaches or talking to us, my dad about kind of developing videos in terms of skill development. And so the idea [01:06:00] kind of stemmed from there and created videos and like, we kind of keep going back to over the course of this discussion, talking about having a plan is working smart is just as important as working hard and kind of creating a progression plan for players.

And eventually eventually evolved into kind of a three or four tier plan. You have your tier one plan for middle school is your two tier two plan for high schoolers, tier three. College, and then tier four for kind of professional level players and creating that progression plan along with the corresponding videos of how to work a skill, and maybe why we’re working that scale along with a demo of that.

And that’s kind of what the player development website that’s been created as amounted to.

Mike Klinzing: [01:06:57] And what do you see is that [01:07:00] something that you see being able to continue to grow? And you’re going to continue to try to develop it as you. It’s today, today’s June 23rd. And you were officially announced as the assistant coach back again at Michigan tech, which we’ll talk about in a second, how that came to be.

But do you see this being something that you’re going to continue to do moving forward to try to continue to build that part of what you’re doing to build that business out,

Ben Stelzer: [01:07:29] Working in the team setting, and especially now that you have the opportunity to go back to Michigan tech, that’s my goal.

And that’s what I love being a part of the team setting. I love, I love working with individuals and small groups and working with kids who are passionate about getting better. So I, I guess with kind of that said, I’m hoping this is just a, a side gig that I’ll continue to add to in the off season when the duties are a little light and with the team and the program, and continuing to [01:08:00] build that out.

But. Yeah, right right now it’s got a handful or so of high school coaches using it for their team as their off season development plan. And I would like to continue growing that and I hope coaches and players and teams can benefit.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:18] Yeah, it’s very cool that you’ve taken the time to put that stuff together with your connections and the people that you’ve met in the game to be able to get it out in front of them.

And it’s another way, again, to sort of expand your ability to have an impact on the game of basketball, which sort of that goes along with the mission that we’ve had with the podcast is to be able to hopefully have a positive impact with people who listen to our show with the guests that come on and share their insights.

And it’s been a fun part of the journey, and I’m sure that building that for you, it was really enjoyable to go and put everything down on paper and be able to build the website and all those things. And as you said, if you’re a person that doesn’t like to sit around and I can [01:09:00] certainly relate to that, you know, you always want to get something going and, and, and have at it and, and try to grow it.

So it’s exciting that you were able to get that started and I’m sure you’ll continue to have success with it. Let’s move into sort of our final chapter here, which. Begins and ends, I guess, at this point today with the announcement that you’re going to go back to Michigan tech as an assistant coach. So tell us how that came to pass and then what you’re excited about moving forward with this opportunity.

Ben Stelzer: [01:09:28] Yeah, I guess first off, I honestly think it’s awesome to what, what you guys have done in growing the hoop said pod and how it’s expanded and I enjoy listening to your guys’ stuff. So I just want to say that first off, but

Mike Klinzing: [01:09:44] Thanks for the kind words we appreciate it. It’s always nice to know that there’s people out there listening.

So it means a lot to me, it means a lot to us. You know, sometimes you feel like you’re talking to the mic and you know, you hope there’s people out there listening, but it’s always nice to hear from anybody, whether it’s a guest or, you know, when people [01:10:00] share something on social media or they reach out to us via email and just say, Hey, we, you know, we enjoy what you’re doing.

It makes a huge difference and it’s really something that inspires us to keep going. So thank you for those kind words and go ahead and continue.

Ben Stelzer: [01:10:12] Yeah, for sure. So how sorry. I drew a blank for a second. So kind of how the Michigan tech gig became to be is our longtime head coach, Kevin Luke retired a couple months ago.

He was at Michigan tech for like 25, 27 years as the head coach and assistant before that. And our assistant coach who’s been here the last 10, 12 years kind of recruited me as a player. The athletic department kind of moved them over a seat. Rightfully so he’s now the head coach and the assistant position opened up and just kind of the way things were with the state of things, with the Mavs and that internship and looking for full-time opportunities.

This was great timing. And [01:11:00] I would say my goal still, and I’ve talked with coach Bittner about this is the eventually. Get back to the MBA. Cause I enjoyed that. I thought that was a pretty good fit for me. But as long as things go, well, hopefully coach Bitner is the head coach at Michigan tech for, I know that was 25 years.

I want to become a head coach eventually, but I’m really excited to come back to Michigan tech and talk about a place that I love. It’s a unique place and it’s excited to work with the guys and have that team setting again and be with the players on a daily basis.

Mike Klinzing: [01:11:36] Absolutely. All right, let’s wrap it up with a two part question.

First part is when you look ahead over the next year, what do you see as your biggest professional challenge? And then two, when you think about what you get to do day in and day out, what’s your biggest joy about being a basketball coach and especially now going back again to your [01:12:00] Alma mater for a second time.

So your biggest challenge, your biggest dream.

Ben Stelzer: [01:12:04] Biggest challenge.

So right now I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting, which I haven’t been doing for quite awhile. And I guess it’s just more the uncomfortableness with something new. I think I should be fine at it, but it’s the new experience. So I guess, short term for this next few months and year, I would say just kind of going through the recruiting process and developing relationships with players and I guess.

Trying to think of the, the serving kind of mentality and doing this for them and not feeling like trying to sell them on something. Making sure it’s a good fit for them. So I guess that’s that new experience of recruiting may be my biggest, the challenge, at least that I’m thinking about right now.

In terms of the most rewarding aspects, I just really [01:13:00] enjoy working with the players and I guess one CMM improve on the court and being able to see that translate to the game. That’s one of the benefits of working in a team setting is you get to see that direct translation and see their happiness and success right there.

But then just being able to establish those better relationships and develop those lifelong relationships like in coming back to Michigan tech, for me, like I had with our head coach here who just retired and now our new head coach. It’s those relationships laugh, lasts a lifetime. So that’s always special.

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:39] Yeah. Those are two great answers. I think that anytime you’re faced with a new challenge and you’ve kind of been off the recruiting trail now for a couple of years. So you’re getting back into that and then the greatest joy, as you said, building those relationships and having an opportunity to have.

Your players not only have success on before, but have success off the floor. I think that’s what we start [01:14:00] thinking about, about what coaching is all about. It’s the ability to be able to use something that we love the game of basketball, to be able to have a positive impact on the young people’s lives that we get it chance to interact with as coaches.

And to me, there’s nothing more valuable. And that’s, I couldn’t agree with you more, more on that then just want to say thanks to you personally, for taking the time to jump on and share are with our audience. It’s been really great to have you as a guest. We thank Casey Korn who reached out to us and said, Hey, you guys should really have been.

On the show. And I have to say, Casey, you were a hundred percent, right? So bank you and bed it was terrific to be able to have this conversation with you. So thank you and to everyone out there, we appreciate you listening and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.

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