Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @coachbobwalsh
Bob Walsh returned to Providence College to work for Head Coach Ed Cooley in 2019. The 2020-21 season marked second season with the Friars overseeing the development, scouting and recruiting efforts for the men’s basketball program. It is his second stint at Providence as he served as an assistant coach for the Friars from 1998-05.
Walsh is the author of “Entitled to Nothing” an inside look at a championship culture built with an uncommon approach to leadership. Bob Walsh joined forces at Rhode Island College with a team of tough, hungry young men to create a level of ownership that led to sustained, elite success. Together they discovered an experience inside a demanding culture that did more than just win basketball games. It had a transformational impact on their lives.
Walsh was the head coach at Rhode Island College for nine seasons (2005-14). In his 13 years as a head coach, Walsh posted a 228-163 mark (.583), including a 137-79 record (.634) in conference play. He guided Rhode Island College to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, which included three Sweet 16s and one Elite 8.
Following his tenure at Rhode Island College Walsh served as a head coach at the University of Maine from 2014-18.
He is the founder of the Dynamic Leadership Academy for young leaders and coaches and hosts the Dynamic Leadership Podcast on AthleticDirectorU.com.
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Make sure you have pen and paper handy as you listen to this episode with Bob Walsh from Providence College.
What We Discuss with Bob Walsh
- Why the process of writing makes him a better coach
- His process for writing “Entitled to Nothing” and why it flows like a story from his first two seasons as the Head Coach at Rhode Island College
- The lesson he learned from one of his players before his first press conference
- Listening is the most underused and underrated skill as a leader
- “Get the other person to talk. You’ll learn more. You’ll connect better. You’ll get on the same page.”
- Coaching to reduce turnovers…”What did you see there?
- How questions help you avoid coaching with anger
- “Trust is essential to any high performing team”
- The famous “Get the Message” Practice that that helped develop trust between him and his players
- “You have to live up to your standards all the time.”
- Always think long term over short term and be processed based
- It’s about personal growth and character development
- Why he would tell his players from day one that he was trying to recruit over them
- “If you’re afraid of playing with and against great players every day, you’re in the wrong place.”
- Compete, produce, be a good teammate
- “Being a great teammate magnifies itself in so many different ways.”
- “We wanted our program to be a meritocracy. I said it was always going to be based on merit. It had nothing to do with status.”
- How to handle a player that is productive in games but isn’t a great practice player
- Championship Level…Everything we do.
- “You have to be willing to lose a talented player for your culture.”
- “Give them what they need, not what you feel.”
- Try and say something positive. The first thing out of your mouth is something positive after every negative thing that happens
- His thoughts on team captains
- How to get more out your pick up games as a high school or college coach
- Leadership is making the people around you better
- Every player can lead in a different way
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THANKS, BOB WALSH
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TRANSCRIPT FOR BOB WALSH – AUTHOR OF “ENTITLED TO NOTHING” & PROVIDENCE COLLEGE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SCOUTING & RECRUITING – EPISODE 438
[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 Providence College, Bob Walsh, who is back for his second stint on the podcast. And tonight we’re going to talk to Bob about his brand new book “Entitled to Nothing”.
So, Bob, first of all, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Bob Walsh: [00:00:19] Thanks for having me great to be with you guys.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:21] Absolutely. We are excited to have you on, just got finished reading your book yesterday. And as we talked about before we jumped on. I felt like there was so many little nuggets in here that we could almost turn into each one, a separate mini podcast.
So we’re going to try to condense all that into one very valuable and very interesting podcast. Let’s start out by just asking you, what was your process for coming up with the book, writing the book and what’s the why behind it? Why now? Why was this the right time for you to get this book out there for people to be able to read?
Bob Walsh: [00:00:55] I’ve always liked to write. [00:01:00] And when I was a division three head coach, when I got the job at Rhode Island College in 2005. After a few years I started a website. I started a blog as a way of just sharing ideas. And quite honestly, it was just a way of kind of separating myself a little bit and maybe our program.
It was a way to be transparent about who I was as a leader and a coach and who we were as a program at Rhode Island College. And I found that writing actually helped me organize my thoughts better and made me a better coach by thinking about how you would explain it to someone, it made my thoughts more concise and more direct, which I think is how you need to deliver a message to your team.
So I always enjoyed it. The why really came from it just felt like after my second year at Rhode Island College, we went to the elite eight and we built a program that ended up going to eight straight NCAA tournaments moving forward that we were doing [00:02:00] something special. We had a tough, really tough group of kids.
It’s a blue collar state school that didn’t have any history of success. And year after year, we were repeating really elite sustained success. And so I liked to write, as I moved on, I we really talked about how special it was, what we were doing. And then it started when I went to Maine.
I became the head coach at Maine in 2014. And in the summers we had some off time from recruiting. I started thinking about what we did at Rhode Island College and really comparing it to what I was trying to do at Maine and how special it was at RIC. So I just started writing the story.
To be honest, I didn’t have notes that I kept thinking okay, I’m going to write a book about this someday. And that’s part of the reason why it kind of flows as a story. You’ve read the book. It goes through our first two years and kind of [00:03:00] teaches the lessons that I learned and the mistakes that I made throughout those first two years.
But it tells the story of me taking over as a head coach. Our first two years, which ended that second year in the elite eight and it sort of flows that way. And as I just wrote what we did and told the story and kind of remembered the games and the games that really had an impact on me and mistakes that I made in practices and how we had to change things around with our culture.
You know, the book just kind of flowed from that. And it really took about six years in the summer, in the off season, generally at night, just trying to get the whole story on paper. And then at the end, after two years I realized, okay, I probably have a 150, 175 pages worth of a book here.
And then it became a matter of organizing it in a way so that it would flow.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:51] Was it difficult to go back and remember those specific details without having had thought about it and having notes [00:04:00] that again, looking forward and not knowing that you were going to write a book, was it difficult to go back?
Cause I know one of the things that you always hear about different people that some people have sort of that photographic memory for plays and games. And I was never one of those people, I always felt like games that I played or games that I coached, they all kind of flowed together. In my memory.
I know if I went back and tried to write a book about a specific season, either as a coach or a player that I would have some difficulty remembering some of the details. So how did that process work for you?
Bob Walsh: [00:04:30] It wasn’t as difficult as you would think, to be honest. And part of it, I think was it was my first time as a head coach, right?
So it was a really impactful time in my life and my career. So when we started to have success I could kind of go through and obviously I couldn’t remember every game, but I remembered all the impactful games the big games you know, we beat Iona in a division one exhibition [00:05:00] battles against a rival Keene state and in the finals of the tournament, stuff like that.
So it was a lot easier than I thought quite honestly, because I just remembered and the specific moments that I had with players that were really impactful to our culture. So some of it I’m sure. It was a little bit hazy. Some of it, I had to go back and look go check the schedule, check the stats like, Oh yeah, that’s right.
That game came first or this game came after that one. But the key moments I think were just kind of seared into my brain because they were so impactful on my leadership approach and who I became as a coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:37] Yeah. I think that comes through loud and clear that there are moments where you can almost see things crystallizing for you as you’re going through, and you’re having these different experiences.
And as you look back and you have sort of that perspective of time to go back and think about it, it’s almost like you were able to pinpoint, Hey, here’s the moment where I learned this lesson and maybe. [00:06:00] I’m looking at it and all of a sudden I’m seeing, Oh yeah, this isn’t working the way that I thought it was.
Or you come to a realization that something you thought was working wasn’t and I just found that to be really fascinating. It’s sort of a self analysis, which I think when you talk about people who are successful, I think they do a lot of self analysis. And a lot of thinking about is what I’m doing.
Correct. And that came through in the book where as I’m reading it, I’m kind of getting inside your head and your thought process as, okay, I’m trying, this is this working. And if it’s not working. Why is it not working? And sometimes I don’t realize it’s not working until a week later or two weeks later, even months later that I’ve been doing one thing and I realized I have to shift and do something else.
I found that part of it to be really, really interesting. And so I want to jump into some of those key bullet points that I pulled out and some concepts and things from a coaching standpoint, from a leadership standpoint that I think are [00:07:00] really impactful for. Not just yourself, but for any coach out there, who’s listening.
And I want to start with the very beginning of the book where you talk about a meeting that you had with a player, and it’s not really a meeting, but just player comes up to you before your opening press conference at Rhode Island College and hands you something. And that something ends up having a huge impact on the way that you look at things right out of the gate as you become the head coach at Rhode Island College. So tell us a little bit about what that player handed to you and then why that had such an impact on you.
Bob Walsh: [00:07:34] Yeah, it’s a, it’s a cool story. You know, his name was Kevin Payette, KP. We called him, he, he turned out to be my first captain, the only senior on my first team.
And Inherited a team literally. I got the job in early September. So the job opened in the middle of August. So the kids were already back at school. And when I showed up for the press conference, I hadn’t met any of the players. He was waiting on the steps and he [00:08:00] introduced himself. He said, coach Kevin Payette, I’m a senior on the team.
And he handed me the schedule that the team had been working out on. Right. They had been playing pickup four days a week, lifting three days a week, doing conditioning, completely on their own. Right. So they had started for two weeks working out, coming back to College not knowing they didn’t have a basketball coach.
Right. So you know, immediately I thought to myself, wow. You know, that that’s pretty impressive. Like here he is just, and he said, I look forward to meeting you after the press conference and we’ll have a chance to talk. So and really what it started was the idea of getting your team to take ownership of your culture.
Right. Of whatever it is that you do, that you believe in. And part of writing the book, and I think having written on my website beforehand helped make me comfortable with this is I wanted to be really transparent, right? Leadership. Isn’t something, you [00:09:00] have figured out. And then when you get the job, you say, okay, here are the eight things that we’re going to do.
And here are our core values. And here we go. It’s always evolving, right? You’re always learning. And you know, those first two years at Rhode Island College, I was really learning how to be a leader. I mean, I had some ideas about what I wanted to do. So when KP handed me that schedule, I realized that the kids had taken some control, which was a good thing.
They weren’t waiting for a coach to tell them what to do. And I think when you first become a head coach or a leader in any. In any field, it’s natural to think like, okay, I’m in charge. I start giving orders. And what I learned at Rhode Island College and continues to evolve throughout my career is that that’s not the best way to lead a high performing organization.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:52] And that goes to my very next point, which is, and this was something that hit on right here in this very first meeting that you had with the players, but it [00:10:00] was also a theme that went through the entire book and that is. Listen first. So tell us why listening first as a leader is important.
Bob Walsh: [00:10:08] I think it’s the most underused and underrated skill as a leader.
It’s not something you think about when you think about traditional leadership is listening, but I mean, it does a couple of things and again, this I learned as I went through this. You know, that first meeting is really about them. It’s not about you, it’s not about you explaining to them your philosophy.
It’s about you learning about them, right? So by listening, it allows you to connect to the people on your team, right? Individually as a group, who are they? What are they all about? That’s really gonna allow you to push the key buttons. Right? And then it gives them a voice. It empowers them, you know? Wow.
Coach, he’s really interested in what I think [00:11:00] so asking questions is such a valuable tool for leadership, right? And we think of leadership is making statements again, I’m in charge. Here’s what we’re going to do. It’s so valuable to ask questions. I have a really good friend.
Who’s a consultant and a radio guy. And he always says, whoever asks the most questions wins and that’s actually one of a philosophy that I’ve taken in into interviews, right? Asking questions in an interview, get the other person to talk. You’ll learn more. You’ll connect better. You’ll get on the same page.
So you know, listening, I think is just something we don’t do often enough, especially in a leadership position. And you’re going to learn how to connect with your team. You’re going to empower your team, and that’s going to give you a better chance to have success with your team.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:50] And I think that that allows you to learn things.
Not only just from them, when you’re talking about doing it during a team meeting where you’re talking, [00:12:00] maybe bigger picture, you’re talking about culture, you’re talking about those kinds of things. But I also think that just coaching with questions out on the floor to me is something that I never saw anybody do back when I was playing, it was always sort of here’s what you should have done it wasn’t.
Hey, what did you see there? Why did you do it? And I think that that’s something that coaches have gotten a lot better at, but just tell me a little bit about how you, how that’s evolved for you as a coach on the floor, as opposed to I kind of think what we were talking about before was more in the big picture culture, but just talk about out on the floor, how coaching with questions can help you to develop your players.
Bob Walsh: [00:12:40] One area I think about is how do you coach turnovers, right? How do you, I mean turnovers drive coaches crazy, but if you’re constantly screaming at your team, not to turn the ball over, your guys are probably going to get tight and they’re going to be afraid to turn the ball over and they’re going to turn the ball over more.
The question you brought up is a key [00:13:00] one. And I had heard this from Fran Dunphy when he was at Penn and then obviously he went to Temple and one of the smartest coaches out there and that was the question he would always ask when somebody committed a turnover is what did you see there?
Right. So his first reaction is a question and I’ve tried to do that as well. First of all, it disarms the team a little bit. It’s a little different when they threw the ball out of bounds and they know they’ve made a mistake and they’ve let the team down. If they’re hearing Stop turning the damn ball over right there.
It’s going to change the tone. Right. It changes. But if they hear all right, Bob, hold up. What, tell me what you saw there. You know, it’s like, well, coach he was cutting to the hoop. You know, his defender was behind him I thought I could lead them, you know? Okay. And then you can explain, well, it wasn’t a bad look, but it maybe wasn’t it wasn’t the right [00:14:00] timing or whatever it was.
So somebody misses a big block-out, right. Or even if they get a rebound, right. You know, this is one I learned to use as well. You know, your big guy goes up and gets a big time. Rebound just jumps over everybody, but he didn’t block out, you know? Hey Tim, did you, did you make contact with anybody?
We’ll coach yeah, but I got the rebound, no, Tim. Tim, did you block out. You know, so coach you’re right. I got to go make contact, right? Because nine times out of 10, if you don’t block out, it’s not going to work out well for us. So there are a lot of ways it translates on the court.
Transition defense. Are you running as hard as you can was that really as hard rather than screaming. You know, run harder, run, run, get back. Right. And you’re giving commands. I think asking questions disarms the players a little bit in what can be a tense situation. It forces them to think.
Right. Like it’s a little bit more than, [00:15:00] yeah. I tried to throw him a pass and went out of bounds, like, okay, tell me what you see there. So and again, gives them a chance to take some ownership and some responsibility and it alleviates the tension of what can be really an aggressive relationship.
And it also, it keeps you from coaching with anger, which I think is one of the challenges, a lot of coaches face. And one of the mistakes a lot of coaches make is their emotion takes over and comes out in the statements that they make. And that’s not really effective.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:31] How comfortable are your players with that approach right out of the gate.
In other words, when you ask them a question, let’s say it’s a freshman, who’s new to the program compared to you have a kid who’s been with you for four years. Who’s an experienced senior in terms of their reaction to those questions and how well they’re able to articulate the answer to those questions situationally.
When you ask them in practice?
Bob Walsh: [00:15:55] Not very comfortable is the answer at [00:16:00] first. Right. And a lot of it depends on what kind of program they’ve played for, coaches that they’ve played for. I don’t think too many coaches are taking that philosophy at the high school level. So I think at first it’s a little disturbing to them, like, wait, okay. So is coach playing a trick on me? Like I better give the right answer, you know? So, so it takes a little time to develop trust. You know, when you turn the ball over and I say, Hey, what’d you see there? I want to know really what you saw so that we can fix it and figure it out and coach it. But yeah, at first they’re a little, they’re pretty uncomfortable and as trust develops, and as they realize, okay, every time I make a mistake coach, isn’t going to be sarcastic or make fun of me or yell at me. He really wants to know like and it gets to the point where they say.
Yeah, you’re right, coach. I saw him cutting to the hoop, but that’s gotta be a bounce pass. Like, okay, come on Timmy. That’s gotta be a bounce pass. Right. We know that, you know? So [00:17:00] it does take some time, like most coaching approaches. Right. You got to develop some trust, but that one’s a little bit different because I just don’t think it’s something many players are used to.
Mike Klinzing: [00:17:11] Yeah, absolutely. All right. So that you just mentioned the word trust. So another theme that runs through the book is you constantly talking about being able to build trust with the team so that you can get the most out of them and demand accountability. So you also talked about how. Especially in that first season at the beginning, that there was this balance between having the players trust you and you thought they did, but then eventually you came to realize that they didn’t, that maybe you were just trying to coach to make sure that you kind of fit in with what they were already doing, that they liked you.
And you realize that, Ooh, after a couple of months I got to go back and I got to change this and I got to make sure that they trust me as the messenger. So [00:18:00] talk a little bit about what that process looked like for you and what was the bellwether for you realizing that? Hmm, they really may not trust me as the messenger and that’s why I’m not getting the most out of them.
Bob Walsh: [00:18:12] Trust is essential to any high performing team. And I always would say to them and always say to my players, look, if we can’t trust each other, like we can’t be around each other, like this isn’t going to work. Right. We have to be able to trust you. So our biggest core value when we first got there was compete, right? We’re going to compete. That’s how we’re going to judge ourselves by how hard we compete every day. Totally. Process-based, not worried about the results. So as we started practice, I thought we were competing pretty hard and they heard me. Talk about compete, compete, compete, right?
So that’s all they heard as the season started. Right. And this is my first year as a head coach. We’re a very talented team, come to realize we were the most talented team in the league [00:19:00] that year that I had taken over. But I didn’t really know it at the time. All they’re hearing about is how we’re going to compete.
And then we’re just really inconsistent to start win one game, lose one game. I think we were like six and five at the Christmas break and I knew there was a disconnect there because we, some days we’d bring it and we’d go really hard. And we were almost unbeatable and then other days we would lose to teams.
We shouldn’t. So I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was. I thought I was confusing them with my message. You know, I thought maybe I was just being inconsistent and it was either that, or for some reason they didn’t trust me and then really a big moment in my coaching career for sure is my first year as a coach, January, I think we were a couple of games over 500 where we’re going to a road game in the league over break.
And we had a [00:20:00] morning game day practice before we got on the bus to go. It was at 11:00 AM and you know, five minutes to 11 and there’s only one player on the floor. And I’m like, wow, that’s weird. And then like, everybody else walks in at 11:05, 11:07. And one player was one of my juniors best player a kid named Kinsey Dirk.
And I said, where is everybody? And he was like, I dunno I think they’re downstairs in the locker room. I mean, everybody’s here, so at that point I realized there was no confusion in the message, right. It was 11 o’clock practice, but obviously they didn’t think that what I was saying was that important.
And we went to Western Connecticut that night, we lost, we came back and I said, look, things are going to change. Clearly, you guys don’t trust me. Right. Because I told you 11 o’clock, everybody knew it. And it didn’t matter that everybody showed up. And then I realized. That I had been talking [00:21:00] about how hard we were going to compete.
But I really wasn’t holding them accountable to the level that I was talking to them about. And it kind of became like, coach wants us to compete, but if I don’t feel like it in this drill or feel like it today, like it’s not that big a deal. And what I was doing was trying to fit in as their new coach we had a good team and I think subconsciously.
I just wanted them to like me and I wanted it to be comfortable in practice. And what turned out was they were kind of taking advantage of the fact that I wasn’t holding them accountable to the level that I said I would, that we were going to compete at. So you know, I went probably four months where I didn’t really gain their trust. I didn’t really gain their respect by following through on the message I was delivering every day. So they kind of thought the message wasn’t that important. So after that game, we had a practice that our players still refer to as get the message [00:22:00] that’s what they call it.
And that’s when things changed for us.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:05] I think that’s something that I’ve seen it happen with coaches. I know there are times where I’ve felt this way as a coach where you think that, okay, I’m doing this and yeah, I have this standard and I want guys on the floor at 11:00 AM, or I want them to compete in this drill and you think you’re holding them accountable, but the reality is that.
You’re not. And so what was the difference for you when you had the, get the message, practice, give people an idea of what you got across to the players in that practice that let them know that the way that things had been going before were going to be different than the way they were going to be moving forward.
So give us maybe one or two specific things that you changed to make sure the players understood what your expectations were.
[00:23:00] Bob Walsh: [00:22:59] It’s a great topic of conversation, right? Because in those moments and we all have them as coaches, I think they have to see, hear, feel significant change, right. It can’t just be, Hey guys, we’ve got to get better.
We’re going to do things a little bit differently. So the whole point was. You know, it is no longer acceptable to disregard the message. I will make the message very clear, right. Practice is at 11:00 AM. That is the message. Okay. There will be no shortcuts taken, right? So literally when we showed up to practice, everybody had to tuck in their shirts.
Every time I was speaking to them, everybody was looking me in the eye. Literally if somebody was looking down at their shoes, I would stop talking. Until everybody else say, Hey, Hey, yo, yo, yo like, so you are going to focus on the message when we ran sprints or when I said on the line, you literally had to be standing on the line, like not near the [00:24:00] line, not straddling the line, like your foot is on the line.
And it became probably a little military for a few days, but my point was something as simple as when I say on the line, that message means something, right? Just like when I say we’re going to be on our black ball screen coverage, or we’re going to be in our 22 press after a make, like you have to listen to the message and you have to be able to execute it specifically.
So you know, we did a lot of running in that practice. There were no basketballs used that day, but literally, little things like that that were very specific became part of what we did every day. And I knew I couldn’t let up because they had to know that the accountability was going to be there.
And ultimately it was my fault that it hadn’t been,
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:52] I think it’s so interesting that when you look at that particular scenario and anybody who’s coached has [00:25:00] probably faced that scenario in some way, shape or form. And it’s almost counterintuitive in that what you, as the coach are saying is that I need you to hear this message and I need this, whatever it is, the behaviors that I’m demanding of you, you need to execute those and yet.
And so that’s a positive building that trust players. Sometimes when you think about it from a player perspective. Yeah. If I can roll in at 1104 for an 11:00 AM practice, eh okay. You know, coaches it’s nice he lets us do that, but in reality, the players want aand need deep down.
They need to be able to trust that the message that’s coming from their coach is the one that he’s really trying to get across. And it almost feels like it’s, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m explaining myself well, but it almost feels like it’s a contradiction and that in order to build that trust, you have to have [00:26:00] that high demand and sometimes when you think about it from a player perspective, it’s almost like, well, wouldn’t the players like it better. If they could take a play off here or there, or they could stroll in 30 seconds late and not have to run suicides, it almost seems counterintuitive. And yet I think it’s clear anybody who’s coached and been on a high performing team that when the players don’t believe the message that the coach is sending and they don’t think there’s going to be any consequence for not following the message, things can spiral downward really, really fast as you know,
Bob Walsh: [00:26:31] Yeah, and I believe they really crave accountability.
There are some who don’t. Right? And those are the ones that you can’t win with. Right? You figure out who those guys are and hopefully your culture just kind of pushes them to the side. But you know, most players that I’ve been around, they are disappointed even as they’re getting away with stuff. Right.
Even as they know, like what, if I don’t go that hard in this drill, it’s not that big a deal. Or if I want to take this play off, I [00:27:00] can do it. They don’t want that. I don’t think human beings are wired to want to be able to just get away with stuff. So I think you gotta be consistent, which I wasn’t being because I was saying one thing and I wasn’t following through on it all the time.
And you have to live up to your standards all the time, right? As soon as you accept a lower standard, get used to it, right? Like if, if it’s okay not to touch the line in sprints one day, well, they’re always going to do it right there. They’re going to walk if you let them. Right. So you can’t allow for a lower standard.
Once you allow for that lower standard, that is your new standard and the kids will meet it. Right. And if it’s set, if the bar is set high, the kids will meet it. Some of them might not be able to get there, but then those aren’t the ones you’re going to win with. So it is challenging. And as the [00:28:00] players get older and certainly as they move on, right.
And they look back. They realize now I think how much that level of the high standard and that level of accountability helped them and how much they really craved it. But it is a challenging place to get to as a coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:28:20] I agree with you there. I think a hundred percent that sometimes in the moment, it’s difficult for players to see that. But I think definitely looking back when they have years of perspective, I don’t think there’s any doubt. And I think even when you start talking about how you demand, how you build a winning team, how you build a winning culture players know they understand that if you have a team full of guys, they’re going to touch the line on every sprint.
That, that team is going to be better, more disciplined than the team where half the guys think it’s okay to come up a foot short for the line. And I think players intuitively know that as you said, human beings in any walk of life, in any business, whatever it is that you do, if you have [00:29:00] people who are part of your team that are cutting corners, you’re just never going to be as successful. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. This wasn’t something that you specifically addressed in the book, but I think it’s an interesting question that a lot of coaches out there may face, whether it’s at the high school level or the College level. And I think at one point you mentioned being able to demand accountability can sometimes be difficult when you’re not producing wins.
As a result of that accountability. So what advice would you have for, let’s say a high school coach who was going to take over a program that hadn’t had much success and they want to come in and they want to change that culture and they want to create a culture of accountability, but yet they’re just not good enough at this point to be putting a lot of winds up on the scoreboard.
So let’s say I took over a program and I’m now one in six and my first seven games, and I know we’re doing the right thing, but. It’s a lot harder to sell that message. So what advice would you have for a coach? Who’s taking over a program that they’re trying to [00:30:00] turn around, but, and they want that accountability, but it’s tough because they’re not winning.
Bob Walsh: [00:30:07] It’s a few things to me and it is one of the biggest challenges as a coach. And I have a relatively unique perspective on it, having two head coaching jobs. I took over the best team in the league at Rhode Island College. I took over the worst team in the league at the University of Maine. And I say in the book talent matters, right?
The ability to have success matters, it makes the buy-in certainly easier, right? Because as they’re going through the tough stuff and they’re trying to figure it out, if you’re having some success, they’re going to lock in a little better. So to me, it’s three different things it’s thinking longterm.
Right? Always think long-term over. Short-term right. Think about where you’re trying to get to and what you’re trying to build. Always. And [00:31:00] convincing your players, and this is hard, but you’re always going to be process-based right. You’re not going to be result-based. And I thought that was something we did a really good job at, at Rhode Island College and actually took me a couple of years to get there at the University of Maine, but we would never, ever, ever judge ourselves on the results.
So that second year we beat, Iona College, a division, one team, an exhibition game. We went 27 and four, but we’d come back after every win and talk about how we played and our standards. And did we live up to them? Right? So it was never, and we would always say others are going to judge us on wins and losses, and it’s going to be the first Oh, you play at Rhode Island College.
What was your record this year? How’d you guys do this year? So it’s how everybody else judges you. It should never be how you and your team judge your progress and what you’re doing. So process-based thinking, longterm. [00:32:00] And then I think one of the great challenges is to convince your players, that this is about personal growth, right? This is about character development. Okay. So this is going to have an impact on you as a person every day. Who do you want to be? Right? So we’ve lost our first three games and we’re all in three and we’re not off to the start that we want. Are you the kind of person that’s going to run from a fight, right.
So you’re going to show up the next day after you lost three games and just kind of bail out because it’s not worth it because you’re not getting the reward. So if they see the value in what you are doing in a bigger picture and in sort of a, a character development approach and that it’s making them better, I think it helps get and keep the buy-in and then you want to try and celebrate small victories as much as possible.
You know I don’t [00:33:00] ever celebrate losing. Something I faced when I went on domain where we would go to Vermont and play pretty well and have a lead in the second half. And we’d lose by 10. And there’d be a party in the training room the next day, like congratulating on our guys on how well we did.
And it was like, man, Like, I think there’s a fine line there where, where you’re teaching your kids to get comfortable with losing but have ways to measure what it is you’re doing in practice. Whether it’s your times in a sprint, whether it’s the number of shots you’re making in a drill. Where you can celebrate progress.
So they see we’re getting better. But it’s a great challenge, right? For a player, for a team to focus on what we’re doing to get better when the results aren’t in our favor.
Mike Klinzing: [00:33:43] Yeah. I think that’s one of the most challenging aspects of being a coach is when you take over a program that hasn’t had the kind of success that.
You would want to have, and then you come in as a new coach and you’ve got to, you’ve got to rework that and you’ve got to get people to buy in. And clearly if you [00:34:00] start doing things correct, you’re going to start to see positive results, but that may not always translate to wins on the scoreboard.
And I think that’s something that, especially at the high school level where you can’t, depending on what kind of school you’re out, you’re not, you’re not recruiting and you, you get who walks in the door. And so you got to build with those kids that you have. And I just, as I was reading the book, that was what popped out at me when, when I thought about demanding that accountability from.
Kids and trying to really build a program where you’re talking about building it up from one that maybe hadn’t been as successful before. And another thing that you mentioned there, and what you just said was talking about how important talent is. And I loved in the book I talked about. Yeah, we got to have a process and we got to be able to compete, but ultimately.
If you have talented players, those talented players, things just come easier to them. They see things that less talented players don’t see, they’re more athletic so they can do things easier. And then one of the lines [00:35:00] that struck me from the book was I’m recruiting over you. And the fact that you would just come out and be brutally honest with your players and say, look.
I’m recruiting over you. I’m trying to bring in better players in order to make our program better. And you told the kids, look, it’s not that I’m being disloyalty you, or I don’t like you or whatever, but my job here is to bring in the best possible players that we can to help improve our programs. Just talk a little bit about why you would say that to the players, what their reaction was, and then how you felt it helped make your program successful?
Bob Walsh: [00:35:34] I always wanted to be transparent, which I think is an essential part of effective leadership. Right? I wanted to be honest with them. I wanted them to know we were going to be direct truth tellers, like that was going to be our avenue of communication. And that was going to whether it was difficult conversation or fun conversation.
We’re going to tell the truth. Having been a division one assistant, and I was at Providence College the first time before [00:36:00] I went to Rhode Island College. It struck me how, like we would be and I think a lot of programs do this. We would bring in certain recruits and we would like manipulate the depth chart and we would take our point guard and we’d make them a combo guard or whatever we like, and it was just kind of like, well, Or it was like, well, don’t send them to lunch with Tim because they play the same position and I always just thought that was, I mean, look basketball teams don’t have five players on them. Right. You’ve got 15 players and so I never wanted to be worried about what our guys were thinking. Recruiting is a huge part of it, right at the college level. We’re all trying to recruit the best players.
So why wouldn’t I share that with them? I think a lot of my approach look, I’m very direct by nature. So I think a lot of my approach at first, stunned the guys a little bit, but in our first meeting every year, I would say to [00:37:00] them, look, today is the day I’m starting to recruit over you, right?
That is my job. You were first team, all league last year. You had a great year. I hope you have a chance to be player of the year this year, but if I can get a better point guard than you, I’m going to bring him in and everything we do in this program is going to be competitive. If you’re afraid of playing with and against great players every day, you’re in the wrong place. So you know, I think at first it alarmed them a little bit, but then when they realized I was just telling them the truth and it was in no way disparaging to them, like I was never. Ever like, Hey, I’ve got to get my own players in here or what wait till we get our own players in here, then we’ll be really good, which I think is a mistake coaches make.
They were all in on it and I would always tell guys, like my job is to bring in the best players. Your job is not to lose your job. So if you were the starting [00:38:00] point guard last year, Man, you shouldn’t be afraid of me bringing in a freshmen. If you’re working the way you should and develop it in the off season, hitting the weight room and conditioning and all that, you should be fine.
And what it created was a really competitive environment, which is what we wanted and we had some teams. I mean, those teams that I coached at Rhode Island College, and we played 10, 11, guys. I talk about that elite 8 team my second year, we had six seniors on that team. All of them were good enough to start probably for most of the division three programs in our area.
Only two of them started for us. We had four seniors coming off the bench. I think that transparency, that competitive environment you know, it creates more of a team attitude, more of, okay, this isn’t about myself I’m not gonna worry about the fact that he’s recruiting another point guard or he’s recruiting another center.
Two of the best teammates, teammates I’ve ever coached were on that team. Tony [00:39:00] and John we’re both from Connecticut, both six-nine, best friends for life, still best friends today. When one of them was playing the other one wasn’t right? They never played together. They were two centers.
So if one of them was playing really well, the other one was on the bench. And it became part of our culture. They were two of the best teammates I’ve ever coached. But they understood that it was a meritocracy and we were going to bring in the best players possible. And honestly, they liked that, right.
They wanted to be on a great team and to do that, you have to continue to get the best talent you can.
Mike Klinzing: [00:39:36] No doubt about that. All right. Next phrase, that goes along with what we were just talking about, compete, produce, be a good teammate. What does that mean to you? Explain to coaches who are listening, how you incorporated that philosophy for lack of a better way of saying it into your program.
Bob Walsh: [00:39:52] It really became sort of our core values. So, I, wasn’t a guy who came in and like okay, these are my [00:40:00] 10 core values or my five core values. And actually I was talking about it with Chip Kelly today. And Chip is a guy I’ve known for a while and he was asking me about, he read the book and we were talking about it.
And he said you didn’t really list your core values. And essentially what it became for us was, it started with playing time, basically, that was explaining what you had to do to earn playing time, compete, produce, be a great teammate. Those were the three things that we evaluated when it came to playing time and that really turned into the core values of the program.
On and off the floor, we were always going to be judged by how hard we played every day. All right. Bring it play as hard as you can every single day without compromise. No excuses, right. Production is something I don’t think we talk about enough as coaches, believe it or not. We kind of, [00:41:00] a lot of coaches like to say, well, the five hardest workers are going to be the guys that play and I just don’t think that’s true if you’re competing really hard and it’s not turning into production that helps the team, then something’s wrong.
Right? I mean, you can run as hard as you can in transition every single time. But if we throw you the ball and you kick it out of bounds, running that hard, isn’t helping us. Right? So turn your competitive edge into production for the program and then be a great teammate. And that was really a broad way of encompassing a lot of the values that we cherished as a program, the accountability, the trust, right? Being a great teammate magnifies itself in so many different ways. We wanted our program to be a meritocracy. Right. I said it was always going to be based on merit. It had nothing to do with status.
How highly recruited you were AAU team, what you did last year. [00:42:00] It was about what have you done to help the program today? So those three things were what you needed to do, compete, produce, and be a great teammate to earn merit in our program. And eventually when it becomes a really competitive environment, not only do you have to do those things, but you have to do those things better than the guys around you to earn playing time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:20] Let me ask a follow-up question about production, but I think this is another scenario that coaches find themselves in. You have a player who maybe is not the greatest practice player, but when the lights come on, that player produces in game situations. And yet maybe as a coach, you feel like that player is not.
Giving you everything, they have every practice. So how do you balance that? Or how do you handle that as a coach? What advice would you have for a coach who has a player that plays well, when the lights come on, but the old Allen [00:43:00] Iverson press conference, when you start talking about practice it, maybe they don’t bring it in the same way.
So how do you as a coach handle a situation like that?
Bob Walsh: [00:43:08] Well, it starts at the beginning, like I said, with valuing production, right? Because as much as it may bother you, that that kid isn’t going that hard and practice everyday are not competing the way you want. I will guarantee you that his teammates see him getting 20 and 10 in games and they want him to play. Right? So, and that’s the truth. So I think it starts with saying, like I said, production is important right there. There’s there are a lot of ways to go out and get us 15 and eight. Right? And so the understanding of that. Is where it starts. It’s a huge challenge as a coach, right? Because if a kid is relying on his talent you’ve got to be able, you’ve got to rely on what’s really important to [00:44:00] you. And if competing in practice are really important and they’re huge to me I think maybe that kid comes off the bench, right? His minutes. Certainly aren’t going to be you know, as high as they could be if he was competing hard all the time. Right. You’ve got to constantly talk to him about what he needs to do better.
Like, look. You should be an all league player. You should be a starter on this team, but I can’t put you out there 32 minutes a game, or I can’t put you in the starting lineup because you’re just not willing to compete. Right? You’re not diving on the floor for a loose ball. You don’t block out you, you just turn and try and rebound the ball.
And then a lot of times your talent is enough. So I think it’s a constant conversation with him and. Really it’s where do your core values lie? Right? And once you start to you lean towards the idea that talent is more [00:45:00] important than anything else, your kids are gonna see it.
And I think your culture really slips. So I would, you’re certainly going to have to limit that kid, but you’re also going to have to find time and ways to get them in the game so that he can produce and help. And then you hope over time that the culture sort of swallows them up, Right? And he starts to realize if all these guys are running hard and sprints every day and diving on the floor and doing all the things that coach asked me to do I’d be a better teammate if I did it. I would say for us compete, produce, be a great teammate.
If you had two of the three we could work with you, right. If you were just producing, but you didn’t compete and you weren’t a great teammate, I’m going to have a hard time putting you on the floor. Right. We can work on one of the three okay. Somebody competes really hard. Somebody is a great teammate that guy’s probably getting more minutes than he should, based on his production.
And we got to get to a point where [00:46:00] he turns it into production. Right. But if you’re lacking in two of those three areas you’re going to have a hard time getting on the floor if we really believe in what we believe in. And that’s why I think you really got to start big picture and long-term with your core values and make sure your players understand them.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:18] Yeah, All right. Another thing that I really liked, and this goes along with what you just spoke about championship level, everything we do. And I think that speaks volumes about what you just said, where, okay. We might have championship level production, but we don’t have championship level competing. We don’t have championship level being a great teammate.
So just talk about what championship level, everything we do, what that meant and how you got that to permeate through the entire program.
Bob Walsh: [00:46:45] Yeah, that became our mission. And I’ve one of my favorite stories ever quick tangent is when John F. Kennedy was president and he went to NASA to visit NASA and they were trying to put someone on the moon by the end of the sixties.
That was the goal. And he [00:47:00] met the janitor. And he asked the janitor what he did there. And he said, I’m here to put a man on the moon, Mr. President. And that’s what the janitor thought his mission was. Right? Everybody had the same mission. So we talked about who we were and what our mission was going to be.
And I think at first, everybody says winning and championships and cutting down the nets and I steered the more towards the process. Right? So that was going to be our mission. As our guys kind of talked it out and it evolved was we want to win championships. Well, how do you get there?
Well, everything we do then has to be at a championship level from the way we go to study hall, showing up on time for class, the way we treat people in the cafeteria, in the weight room, running sprints, all that stuff. So. It was short and simple. It was five words. And it allowed us to kind of ask the question you know, was that is that championship level?
Like okay, you didn’t run back at the last second you got a [00:48:00] piece of it, you got lucky, you knocked it out of bounds but you know, is that a championship level? Okay. I know the ball went out of bounds and it’s ours, but we didn’t block out. Right. And we’re lucky to have their guys bumped into each other and fumbled it.
Is that a championship level? I could constantly ask that question because our guys had come up with that as a mission. So like anything you talk about, I think you have to define it as behaviors. And with that kid, who’s maybe more talented, but he’s relying on his talent and not competing hard enough.
It gives you another push point, a bullet point to talk to them about to say, Hey you’re letting your team down a little bit in this area. We need more out of you.
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:46] Talk about the story where you had a kid quit. When you brought your players in to run sprints. After a couple of them had missed class.
And I know that in the book that felt like kind of a watershed moment for you, [00:49:00] where you had to really. Hold your ground toe. The line about our culture is the most important thing. It has to be more important than any one individual. So just share that story with our listeners, because I think it’s one that coaches can relate to where you could almost back yourself into a corner where I have to be willing to draw this line in the sand with a player, if I’m going to fight for the culture that I want to build. So just tell us that story.
Bob Walsh: [00:49:28] Absolutely. You have to be willing to lose a talented player for your culture, if you believe in culture. And it was after my first year as a head coach, we went 19 and 10, I think my first year lost in the semi-finals of the conference championship.
Like I said, thought we had the best team in the league. I was still trying to figure out which way was up. It’s the post-season now, probably April. We have the whole team pretty much coming back. We lost one player actually, the kid we mentioned at the beginning of the pod. So, but we [00:50:00] had we had standards for going to class on time upfront, every class phones off.
Right. Those were the rules. You’re on time for class. You’re sitting up front, you’re at every class and your phones are off. And I think our guys thought, okay, the season’s over. You know, if I don’t go to class, it’s not going to be that big a deal. And we would check classes 8:00 AM, all this and that so that they knew it mattered to us and guys were missing class and we had a couple of issues.
So we would have 7:00 AM meetings. I’d call a meeting at 7:00 AM. And after I got into the guys a little bit. You know, they would run sprints. And obviously this pissed a lot of guys off certainly the guys who were going to class that they had to be there.
And the guys who weren’t felt like, man it’s not during the season, like what’s this about? And I was pretty hot that day, to be honest. And I lit into them pretty good. And then they started to run and I think there was some attitude there and some this is BS and [00:51:00] I pulled them together.
After a little while and started lighting them up again, quite honestly, and said, look, this is how we’re going to operate, right? This is if you don’t like it, you can leave. And one of my kids who was who was a veteran player, he was going to be a junior talented, came off the bench for us, but I love the kid to this day.
I still love the kid. Love his makeup. Love his approach. Just said, man, this is some BS. And he walked away. You know, and we’re standing there. I mean, I can still see it. We’re standing there in a circle there. These guys are dripping with sweat. They’re all upset. And this kid just, just walked away, picked up his bag and walked out of the rec center.
And I was scared to death. You know what I mean? I was like, man, what have I done? Like, what if, what if I have a mutiny here? What if everybody just walks away? Like now what happens? You know? And you know, I had a pit in my stomach, but I was standing with the team and I stared at them and they were all staring at me, me, and I just said, anybody [00:52:00] else and everybody just looked at me and everybody stayed there.
And I said, we will be at class on time. Upfront, we’ll be at every class, our phones were off. That’s the standard for this program. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to be a part of it. And I walked away and you know, I think that was certainly a big moment for me because I stood up for our culture and realized, moving forward that made us better, even though we lost a really valuable kid and that kid I’m happy to say he graduated from Rhode Island College, he still considers himself part of the team. And so do I but he never played another minute for us. He was never on the team again after that.
So it was a challenging spot, but I just think ultimately if you believe in culture, Which I obviously do. You got to stand up for it. And sometime that sometimes that might mean losing a talented player.
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:56] That’s a tough spot to be in. It’s a tough spot as a coach, too, [00:53:00] to be able to stand there and let a kid who is an important part of your program.
Let that kid walk away. And then I guess, As I was reading that I didn’t necessarily think about it from the standpoint that you were thinking about it, where, Hey, maybe he’s not going to be the only one who’s going to walk out the door. As I was reading the story. I wasn’t thinking about it from that perspective.
I was just thinking about it from man. It’s tough to see this one kid walk out. And yet here you were thinking in your mind, Oh man, what a, what? A four or five other kids decide, Hey, they’re going to walk out. As well, and now I got a whole other situation that I got to deal with and figure out there that would’ve been, that would’ve been an interesting case study for leadership right there, Bob.
Bob Walsh: [00:53:45] Yeah. And that pressure is real. I mean, it is real, right, because if all your kids turn on you and look, there were plenty of moments throughout my first couple of years where I was like, man, like, is this too much? Like, am I [00:54:00] overdoing it here? You know? And I think, and hopefully that sort of thought process and the transparency comes through in the book where it’s not like I just walked in and said, okay, here’s how we’re going to approach this.
And boom, we started hanging banners like I was learning along the way and I knew what I believed in. And sometimes the way I delivered it was probably too direct. And maybe too confrontational certainly earlier in my career. But yeah, I mean, It was my first year finished as a head coach and here I am on a Wednesday morning in April and one of my key guys is walking away and I was afraid that two or three other guys would go, if he’s outta here, I’m outta here.
You know? And I think as coaches. You feel that pressure, right? What if he, what if the certainly for a high school coach? Well, what if he tells mom and dad I was treated unfairly and then you’ve got parents going to your boss saying this [00:55:00] isn’t right. I mean, I think that’s the level of pressure that coaches have to deal with all the time and making those decisions.
And it’s not easy.
Mike Klinzing: [00:55:09] There’s no question about that. And that goes to another statement that. You had in the book, which I really liked. And I think it’s something that all coaches could probably repeat to themselves every night before they go to bed. And that is give them what they need, not what you feel, explain what that means as a coach when you’re standing in front of your team.
Bob Walsh: [00:55:28] Yeah. I think it’s something emotionally coaches really have to learn. And I learned over time there’s so much pressure on us as coaches, right? You feel so much pressure to perform on the scoreboards in front of everybody. Right? There’s wins and losses every day that you feel a ton of negative emotion when something doesn’t go right.
Or somebody screws something up. And you try and react and one of the games I remember and the example I use in the [00:56:00] book was we were playing at Coast Guard and this was early in my second year and we were just playing awful. And I called three timeouts in the first half and we couldn’t get it right.
And I was on them at first and I was driving them harder. And then finally, like, I felt terrible about the way we were playing. And it was reflecting in the way I was coaching them. You know, the way I felt when ultimately this was a team that I trusted, we were talented. We were competing hard every day in practice, this day was clearly an aberration and I realized that what they needed was different than what I was feeling. Right. I was feeling tension and I was uptight and upset and angry. And that’s what I was delivering to them when ultimately what they needed was a settling hand. Right. They needed just to calm down and get back to being themselves.
And I think it was after I called a third time out in that first half. Where I just kinda laughed. I was like, okay [00:57:00] guys, like, I don’t know. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I was like, just like, I don’t know what I’m watching right now. Like, we look like you’re trying to dribble a football out there, you know?
So one of the examples I use a lot is like a rookie pitcher in baseball walks a guy on four pitches with like a five run lead and the manager goes out and lights them up. You know, like, what are you doing? Like what, you know? And it’s like, well okay. Yeah. He, wasn’t trying to throw four balls and you’re obviously upset that he’s not throwing strikes, but that’s probably not what he needs to perform.
So controlling your emotions and coaching your team based on what they need versus what you are feeling, huge challenge as a coach and something, I think more of us need to not only think about, but actually work on and intentionally practice, how we’re going to handle emotional situation.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:58] Yeah. I think that it’s something [00:58:00] that. I’m guessing you probably get better with through experience number one, but I think, and you just said it, that being intentional about it is probably even more important that you do sort of pull back and realize, Hey, I may be frustrated because we’re not playing well, or I may be upset because we’ve just turned the ball over three possessions in a row or whatever it might be, that sort of thing sets you on fire. And now suddenly you have to look and say, okay, what’s going to be because ultimately as a coach, what’s our goal. Our goal is to get the best performance that we possibly can out of our team. So when you look at it through that frame, then clearly what you want to do is look at what do my players need in order to perform at their best.
Now, of course, there may be times where they need someone to deliver a strong message to them, right? To get it turned around. And yet there may be other times where that’s not what they need, where they do need that support. They do need somebody to [00:59:00] just put their arm around them or whatever it might be.
And I think that goes to what really, really talented and skilled coaches are able to do is they’re able to have a pulse on their team as a whole and what they need, and then break it down. Even further they’re able to have a pulse and get to know each individual player and how they can motivate how they can inspire each one of those players.
And it may not be the same. For every single player on your team.
Bob Walsh: [00:59:25] Yeah. And it takes practice, like you said, when you said intentional, right. Go into practice one day and just try and do this. Right. Try and say something positive. The first thing out of your mouth is something positive after every negative thing that happens.
Right. So, so really you know, three on two break, great bounce pass. You’re going in for a lap and the kid just smokes it and misses it. Right. And the whole gym is like, ah, come like great job running the floor, Tim, great job. You know, come on, finish that one [01:00:00] the next time whatever it is, like, it’s something I’ve tried to do as a coach.
Right. Try and say something positive, following a negative situation. Every day, every time in practice, one practice where it’s just, okay, the first thing out of my mouth is going to be a positive statement, no matter what I just saw. That’s one way to kind of work on it. Right? What is it? I’m not going to let how I’m feeling emotionally impact what I say.
It’s going to start with what the kids need and it’s certainly, for me, it has evolved over time and I still catch myself when Phil Jackson has a great line when in doubt do nothing, you know? So like when I start feeling emotional, I try not to say anything because I know what’s coming right out, right.
There is probably not going to be productive but it’s something, it’s something you have to practice.
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:55] I think that’s a great point. I love the idea of. Saying something [01:01:00] positive when something negative happens, because that’s something tangible. If you’re a coach, that’s out there listening, that’s something that you can try tomorrow and you can work on it and it can immediately make an impact.
Cause I do think that if nothing else, if I thought about what I would want to teach a coach, just, just that statement right there of what they need versus what you feel. You can encapsulate a lot of what makes a good coach, just in that one statement. And as we set off the top, we could. We could probably spend another two hours going through and talking about all the different iterations of how that, how that could work.
I want to ask you two more things from the book that are again, sort of specific to things that coaches could implement in their program without much difficulty, or at least they could start to think about these things. One is about captains and two is about pickup games. So maybe talk about each of those things I take in winter, whichever order you want, but just kind of your philosophy on captains and then what you do or what you did [01:02:00] with pickup games while you were at Rhode Island College.
Bob Walsh: [01:02:03] So I think captains starts with your overall definition of leadership. And kind of what, where I evolved to throughout my tenure probably my first four or five years as, as a head coach at Rhode Island College I had the, the best leader I’ve ever coached is a kid named Anton gray smartest player I’ve ever coached.
He also worked for me as an assistant at Maine. He’s now an assistant at Brown and when he was a freshman, he was my starting point guard. We were really good. This was actually my third year. We were talking and he was like, yeah, I just don’t feel that comfortable speaking up because this isn’t really my team.
And I remember thinking to myself like, wow, he’s a great leader. The kids respond to him, best leader on the team yet because he’s a freshman he doesn’t feel like he should say anything. So I evolved to a model where I want leadership coming from everybody. And our definition of [01:03:00] leadership was make the people around you better.
And it was required of everybody. So when it came to captains, I just feel like the traditional top-down model of leadership, right? Head coach tells the assistants what’s to do you have two or three captains? They tell everybody else what to do. Isn’t the most effective way. I wanted leadership from the middle, from everybody.
So when it came to choosing captains, our definition being. Everybody’s required to do it and it’s make the people around you better. Our captains had technical responsibilities. That was it, not leadership responsibility. So they had to meet with the officials before the games. You know, somebody had to be a speaking captain.
You’re required to have them. But I didn’t expect more leadership out of my captains than I did out of everybody else. Because by definition, if you do, you’re telling other people not to lead as much. So you know, we [01:04:00] picked captains based on look, technical responsibilities. That’s it. Now I understand being a captain is important and it matters.
So I’m not downplaying that at all. But we would choose captains. The team would choose captains and we would sit in a room and anybody who wanted to be considered for captain had to get up in front of their teammates and write their name up on the whiteboard in front of them so every anybody could see, but you could only write your own name up there.
Then, anybody could nominate after that was done. Anybody could write somebody else’s name up on the board if they wanted to nominate someone. So if there was a kid who you would learn if there was a kid who other players thought, man, this kid is a significant leader on this team. And he didn’t put his name up there.
They could put his name up there. And then the third thing was you could take your. You could then erase your name off the board if you didn’t want your name to be up there. Which sometimes happens sometimes a kid didn’t [01:05:00] want to be a captain and yeah, essentially then our kids would vote.
And we would take whoever got more than 50% of the vote and you could only vote for people up on the board. And really, to me, what it was was, it was a way of creating empowerment within the entire team, right? Leadership’s required of everybody. Captains will have technical responsibilities.
Everybody does it in a different way. If you’re a vocal kid who who’s a rah rah guy and gets the guys fired up before practice, that’s how you lead. You know, you might be a quiet kid who just shows up 20 minutes before practice to get extra shots up and you bring a couple of teammates with you. That’s how you lead, right?
You might be a guy who. You know, reminds guys in the morning, Hey, we got to get study hall in done by two o’clock today. You know, because practice is at two 30, that’s how you lead. So that was our approach to captains. Captains to me tend to be three things. They tend to be older [01:06:00] players.
They tend to be louder players and they tend to be better players. And I just don’t think those three things necessarily make you a very good leader, right? They may contribute to your leadership ability, but why does being a senior matter? I’ve had plenty of seniors who weren’t great leaders and I’ve had plenty of freshmen who were great leaders.
So should rank matter. So we tried to treat leadership as a skill. It was a skill that we could develop. And that was our approach. To captains, we had them, but who they were honestly weren’t that important to me. And then the pickup games was a huge part of our culture at Rhode Island College and something our kids really developed.
But it made me such a better coach. And I had no idea at the time, but our pickup games mattered. So they would pick three teams every week. You’d be on the same team all week. Every, every win counted, right? So they counted [01:07:00] the wins every day. They’d play for a couple hours, usually four days a week. The team that lost the most games that group of guys had to get up Monday morning and run a time mile before class.
So they’d get up at 6:00 AM and run. So every game mattered, they were always competing to win. The games were played to seven. Straight to seven, no twos or threes everything’s worth one. One of the key rules was the offense is not allowed to call fouls. Every foul is called by the defense. So you foul somebody, you call it, if not, you play through it.
So you eliminate the whole the offensive player drives to the hoop, creates a little contact, throws a ball up and just stops and expects everybody to stop playing. You know, there were rules as far as crossing half court, right? So if the offensive team scored a basket and not all five offensive players had crossed half court, if somebody just hung out in the back court, cause they didn’t feel like running [01:08:00] the bucket didn’t count and the ball was turned over.
On the other side, if the offense scored and one of the defensive players had not yet crossed half court, the bucket would count and they would get the ball back. Right. So it was all geared towards creating a competitive environment in the, in the pickup games. And then the last thing was you had to, you had to win the game with a free throw.
So once you got to seven, whoever scored the last point, you line up on a free throw. He had to make a free throw to win the game. If he missed it, you rebounded it live. And then they went back to six, kept playing. So that competitive environment in the pick-up games became huge for recruiting. I mean, when kids came and played pickup with our guys, they loved how competitive it was, how much it mattered.
It took care of so many problems. I said this forever, I mean, I never coached good shot, bad shot as a head coach. Like I never talked to that’s a bad shot. We got to get better shots. I never had to because [01:09:00] all that stuff was taken care of. In the preseason during the pickup games where what, if you’re getting up at 6:00 AM and running Monday morning and your jacking threes when you’re not supposed to, like, you’re going to hear it from your teammates.
And that’s not to say we never took bad shots. Right? We took bad shots like everybody else, but it wasn’t some, there was so much of the competitive nature and winning basketball that was innate to what we did by the time we got to practice. Because of the way our guys played pickup, it was really, really important to us.
Mike Klinzing: [01:09:33] I love the idea of putting some structure to it. And I think that whether it’s a division three college program, whether it’s a division one college program, whether it’s a high school program, to me, if you can put some kind of structure to what you do with pick up basketball, because we all know how it can devolve quickly into something where you’re not getting the kind of benefit that.
Your guys were able to get out of it. And so I just thought when I read that, [01:10:00] that look, here’s a pretty easy framework. That’s been developed that again, a coach could start to implement that right now in their off season. As soon as they start you can put that in place and now you can take what in some cases can be pickup games that are not very valuable at all, where.
Guys, aren’t going hard and they’re not doing the right things. And now suddenly you’ve created this aura of accountability where these games now matter. And again, why does everybody, why do we play basketball? We play because it’s fun. Cause we love to compete. And so what you’re doing there is just providing kids with a framework.
To make sure that that happens. And I can see where your kids love, that I could see where recruits came in and played in those games. And they’re like, man, I can’t wait to get into this environment and challenge myself. And then obviously those are the kind of kids that you want to bring into your program.
So those are just two nuggets that out of many, many nuggets in this book. And like I said, we could. Break down any one of the topics that we just had [01:11:00] and probably make one podcast for each one of the topics, but there’s just a lot in there. And it’s told in an entertaining form and you go through the story of two seasons and I really enjoyed the book.
I got a lot out of it. I think there’s a lot of practical things that coaches can take and implement right away to make their program better and to make themselves better as a coach. And it kind of makes you think again about. What it is that you’re doing. And I think you do a really good job of self-analyzing throughout the book, because as you said, it’s not like you walked in and you were suddenly teaching a leadership master course because you knew everything that you needed to do.
It was a learning process. It was something that. Moment to moment you were figuring things out. And so again, I’ll say it just, like I said, off the top, I really enjoyed the book and it was a pleasure to be able to have you on tonight to be able to talk it through and just pull out some of what I felt were some of the key highlights and key points that I think any coach will enjoy getting [01:12:00] out of the book when they sit down and they read it.
So, Bob, before we get out, please share with people where they can find the book where they can find out more about it. Where can they buy it? Share your social media, everything that they need in order to get in touch with you and get the book. And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Bob Walsh: [01:12:17] I appreciate it, Mike.
I really do it. And I love the conversation and everything that you do for the game. Yeah. The name, the name of the book is “Entitled to Nothing”. You can get all the information. The website is entitledtonothingbook.com and it has all the information about the book. It has contact information for me.
It’s available online, wherever you get books indiebound.org. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all those links are on the website. You know, I am @CoachBobWalsh on Twitter and Instagram. And my website is coach BobWalsh.com. And I know, I mean, this community is terrific.
I [01:13:00] love hearing the feedback on it. You know, good and bad and what people took out of it. And I appreciate you saying that it there’s some practical stuff in there that can be implemented. Cause that was the goal was just to be transparent and hopefully provide some things that people said, wow that might be something that would make us better.
So for anybody out there who does get a chance to pick it up and read it, please keep the feedback coming. It’s really much appreciated.
Mike Klinzing: [01:13:25] Bob, we cannot thank you enough for spending some time with us here tonight, especially during the middle of your season. And I will say, in addition to the book, Bob talked about how he loves to write.
If you haven’t had a chance to go to. His blog at coachbobwalsh.com. And you go and you look there, you’re going to find a lot of great stuff that Bob puts out all the time that I’ve shared that in our newsletter, numerous times articles that he’s written. So please check that out as well. In addition to the book entitled to nothing and to everyone out there.
Thanks for listening. Thanks to Bob for being [01:14:00] with us tonight and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.