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Brett Nelson just completed his second season as the head men’s basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross in the spring of 2021.
The 18th head coach in the history of the program, Nelson joined the Crusaders after spending the previous five seasons on the coaching staff at Marquette University.
Prior to his time at Marquette, Nelson spent one season as the associate head coach at Ball State University in 2013-14. He was previously an assistant coach at Drake University for two seasons, Arkansas for one and Marshall for three seasons from 2007 – 2010.
Before landing his first coaching position, Nelson served as the director of basketball operations at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2006-07 and Colorado State University in 2005-06.
Nelson is a 2004 graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He was a three-year starter for the Gators and a member of four NCAA tournament teams, including the 2000 squad that reached the national championship game. He was a two-time All-SEC selection in addition to earning third team All-America honors in 2001. After his collegiate career, Nelson played professionally in Sweden.
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Be ready to take some notes as you listen to this episode with Brett Nelson, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Holy Cross.
What We Discuss with Brett Nelson
- His early experiences with the game growing up in West Virginia and the influence of his high school coach, Tex Williams
- The differences in today’s basketball system vs when he grew up
- Watching and competing with Jason Williams and Randy Moss as a young player
- Being recruited by Billy Donovan when he was in 8th grade and Donovan was at Marshall
- Getting in the car with his Dad to go find the best games in the area
- The joy he felt as a high school player with his teammates
- Getting to a Final Four as a Florida Gator in 2000
- Playing professionally in Sweden for a year and then returning to Florida to start his coaching career
- “I have an unbelievable passion for the game of basketball itself learning, growing just watching the game evolve and trying to stay on top of that.”
- Getting his first job in coaching with Dale Layer at Colorado State
- Being surprised that not everyone wants to do great things all the time
- Developing accountability in his program
- Actions create culture
- The four thing that make up “The Code” at Holy Cross – 1. Maximum Effort 2. Put the team first, have a selfless attitude 3. Practice is everything 4.
- “If you didn’t bring it every day and play with maximum effort, you weren’t going to play.”
- The importance of consistency and being yourself
- “It’s gotta be who you are, your heart, because if it’s just words and you don’t live it on a day-to-day basis, no one’s going to believe you.”
- Keeping things simple
- Recognizing and rewarding maximum effort
- Action is proof
- Getting daily touches with players to build and strengthen relationships
- “This is not my program, this is our program. And I want you to own that.”
- Giving his coaching staff space to grow and lead
- Asking his coaches and players what they see and constantly self-evaluating with the goal of improving
- Why he has 2-3 areas of focus for each practice and how he determines what they are
- Why he played a lot of 5 on 5 in practice this past season
- “I want our guys to do is to learn how to play the game where it’s not just scripted play out a concept.”
- 3 on 3 Cutthroat – one of his favorite drills
- Watching and charting film from practice then sharing that info with players
- Watching film with players in different places because of COVID, not just in the film room
- Showing a struggling player, especially a freshman, film of him playing in high school to help rebuild his confidence
- Three intangibles he looks for in recruits – 1. Competitors 2. Guys who find joy in the work 3. Good people
- Why he likes to call coaches that have coached against a player he is recruiting to get their opinion
- “Is he always wanting to grow? Is he a gym rat? Is he a guy that you have to motivate every day? Or is he a guy that man, he walks in that gym, his shoes are tied, he’s ready to roll. Those are the guys that I want.”
- “I’m always trying to learn. I’ve always got a pen and a piece of paper and I’ll steal drills from anybody. I like to go to practices almost as much as I like to go watch games.”
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THANKS, BRETT NELSON
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TRANSCRIPT FOR – BRETT NELSON – HOLY CROSS MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 449
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle this morning, but I am pleased to be joined by Brett Nelson, Head Coach at Holy Cross. Brett, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Brett Nelson: [00:00:12] Hey Mike, it’s going to be good to be on here with you this morning.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:15] Excited to have you on, dig into all the great things that you’ve been able to do in the game of basketball, both as a player and as a coach you’ve been at a lot of places, had a lot of different positions. So there’s a lot, I think, for us to learn about going across this whole span of your career. I want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid growing up in West Virginia. Talk to me a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball.
Brett Nelson: [00:00:36] Yeah. Growing up in West Virginia it was something that I always kind of gravitated to Mike. In the state of West Virginia the population isn’t that big. And there are no pro sports teams. So pretty much when I was growing up in the eighties and nineties everything revolved around sports I played all sports growing up and at a young age really, really, took a [00:01:00] liking to the game of basketball, had a knack for it and just fell in love with it at an early age. And then going through my childhood, I was blessed to be around some really good people. I had an unbelievable high school coach in Tex Williams, who at that time, not many high school coaches did it but he spent a ton of time in the youth program.
So Coach Williams, he was a division two head coach at University of Charleston. He coached in the CBA, the old trust and gunners was a great player at Marshall himself. He had been around and he really did a great job in the youth programs in the community. I grew up in St. Alban’s West Virginia. So I can remember fourth, fifth, sixth grade being involved in all his basketball camps, and him constantly having the gym open for his summer leagues and the outdoor leagues there in the town that I grew up in. So that kind of stoked my passion. I grew up in a neighborhood of all kids.
So again, we played all sports, but it was a deal where I was just always around it.
[00:02:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:01:59] Outdoor basketball, man. Does that even exist anymore?
Brett Nelson: [00:02:02] Not very often. And you know, I look back on it. Like I remember being in the sixth, seventh grade, somewhere around there and we would go right after school or during the summer we would spend four or five hours until it got dark he would have a summer league at Highline Elementary which had two big full courts and it was outside for all the kids there in the area. And then one thing for my development that I really think that helped me again, around sixth, seventh grade he would have a summer league in the high school. Now you gotta understand, there was no air conditioning.
There was a bunch of teams grown men. Marshall University was 30 minutes from my house. So some Marshall players played in it. University of Charleston, a lot of division 2 West Virginia state two division two schools there in the area I grew up in, played in it, a lot of great former players, whether they were in high school or college who were working in the area played in it.
So I can remember being in my high school during the summer from about 5:00 [00:03:00] PM. When those guys would get off work and be there until 10 or 11 at night. And I would keep score, if somebody didn’t show up, they throw me in a game, so it was a great learning experience going through that for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:12] How did that impact your development? I think it’s one of the things that I always find to be interesting when you go back to people who grew up in a little bit of a different era, when the game of basketball before sort of the current system that we put in place took over where you’re playing against kids of all different ages, you’re playing against adults versus now you have a lot of kids that grow up in the system where they only play against kids that are their own age. They’re only playing in a gym with officials and their mom and dad sitting and watching them in the stands and a coach on the sideline. I just think that when you look at the way that players develop today, there’s positives to the system that we have set up. But I also think that kids miss out on some of the things that maybe you had an opportunity to do, or I had an opportunity to do when I was growing up, which is play some playground basketball, play outdoors, play with people of all different ages.
And I think you’ve just learned some tricks of the [00:04:00] trade for lack of a better way of saying it compared to the way kids grow up. Today. How do you feel about that particular system that we have now compared to what you grew up in?
Brett Nelson: [00:04:08] Yeah, I think it’s obviously totally different now than it was in the early and mid nineties when I was going through, for me, I put a lot of work in like alone, a ton of time by myself using my imagination and working on my ball, handling, shooting all the skill stuff, no one, like there were no trainers or anything. So I remember watching videos and after videos of whoever, it would be Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Kidd, go back to all the Pistol Pete videos just trying to emulate those guys by myself.
But the, the biggest thing for me honestly, was for my development was like you said, playing against older guys again from the time I was in sixth, seventh grade, I was playing against college level. Guys are grown men. You know, after remembering the summer league that’s when Jason Williams was graduating high school obviously played had a great year career in the NBA.
Jason and Randy Moss grew up about 15 minutes from where I was, they were about five or six years older than [00:05:00] me. So I remember watching Jay play in the gym and coach Donovan had just become the head coach at Marshall and Rick Barnes, I think he was at Providence at the time or Clemson.
I remember all these college coaches coming to see Jason to recruiting. And then Randy played in the summer league. You know, obviously he was a great football player, but people don’t realize he was a terrific basketball player so playing against grown men. And honestly having to figure out is this the seventh or eighth grade how to create space, how to compete, you know you’re not going to get the ball.
So, how can you make an impact on winning? How can, like, how are those guys going to want you to be on their team again when you do get your opportunity, you better take advantage of it, cause obviously I was so much physically smaller than them at the time, but I had a passion to play. I played with a lot of joy and I got my butt kicked a lot too, which, which really, really helped me. And then when coach Donovan got the Marshall job he was 28. I was going to the eighth grade. My high school coach took me with the high school team, to their team camp, Mike, and you know, the [00:06:00] first couple of games are really in play cause I was an eighth grader.
We had a couple of guys go down with injuries. Next thing I know there’s five or six guys. And he throws me out there. And for a weekend I just played really, really good. And that’s, that’s how I met Coach Donovan jumped off where Anthony Grant, Dhani Jones. That was his staff and they started recruiting me.
So from that time on you talk about playing against older guys. I can remember my dad picking me up after school, in the car and driving 30 minutes to play with Jason Williams and Keith Beanie and Sidney Coles and John Brandon from Cincinnati now was on that team. And going down there, I may not get in a game in two hours, but I may play in five games.
You just don’t know but those guys really, really helped my development. I look back on it not just there, but I would go to University of Charleston anywhere I could find a game against older guys. I was there and I was blessed enough to have a dad who would just throw me in the car and said, Hey, brother, let’s roll.
You know it was funny. I was talking to my son the other day that the area I grew up in, the Canal Valley, it’s going to all County. I grew up around Charleston, West Virginia, which is the Capitol [00:07:00] Of the state. I was driving him here in Massachusetts. It was like 40 minutes to an AAU practice.
The other night. And I was like Eli. I was like, dude, I think I can remember the shape of every basket, every backboard in Canal Valley. I think I was in every church, every grade school, every middle school, every high school, but that’s just the way it was then.
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:17] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it’s interesting, especially when you talk about your dad before you can drive and get new places.
And I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and so I just remember. Again, driving around to different playgrounds at different gyms and trying to find out and figure out, Hey, where are the best games going to be? And my dad was a professor at Cleveland State. I used to try to go down and get into games with the guys at Cleveland State.
And like you said, it just had such an impact on my development, getting an opportunity to play against older players and to be able to be in that environment. Whereas you said you don’t know if you’re going to win. You don’t know if you’re gonna lose, that you got to fit in and play a role, especially when you’re a 13, 14 year old kid trying to weasel your way into games with players that are in college or adults or whatever it may be. And I just [00:08:00] think, I always feel bad for my own kids. I have one son who’s a freshman and I have two daughters, but I always feel bad that they don’t get to experience some of those things that you and I get to experience, because I think that some of my best memories of the game of basketball aren’t necessarily in organized games.
I think back finally to those times, Playing in a gym, just playing pickup or playing on the playground. And going back to the original sort of Genesis of our conversation here, just kids don’t play outside. And I think you miss, I think they miss, I think basketball misses something when kids don’t get that opportunity, but nonetheless, we got to move on system is what it is.
And it’s not probably going back because of just everything. There’s lots of factors that go into that. But when you think back. So let’s wrap up talking about your playing career by just giving me your favorite high school and college memory as a player. What are one or two things that stand out for you as both a high school and a college player?
Brett Nelson: [00:08:49] Yeah, I think that in high school you know I had so much fun because I had obviously, great teammates. I talked about my high school coach. We just had so much joy playing the game. It was pure, you know [00:09:00], we had some really, really good teams, good runs, playing in the state tournament obviously is a big time memory, but just the time we got to spend together, like I tell our guys all the time here at Holy Cross.
And even when I was just, I was like, man, you’re going to miss winning the winning games going on the road and all that stuff. Obviously, making baskets, making it a good place. Well, the biggest thing you’re going to miss is the comradery you have with your teammates and those connections, like I can remember in high school going to the beach ball classic in Myrtle Beach being on the road for 10 hours, staying in a hotel when you’re a high school kid playing against teams from all over the country.
Like just being with your teammates is a joy in those times and just being really honest, we talk about as coaches all the time being present. Being stuck in the moment I can remember in high school, man, I was stuck in the moment. I wasn’t worried about college or anything else.
I was just having a good time playing ball with my buddies. So those are the things that I take away from a high school career, obviously in college. You know, I play with some unbelievable teammates Mike Miller, Udonis Haslemn [00:10:00] as on that bond or they believe the ball, man, they make it look good.
And you know so I play with some really, really good dudes. Really good players in college, obviously playing in 2000, playing in a final four, playing in a national championship game that whole run really sticks out to me and is something that I’ll always share is because people don’t realize, dude, it’s hard to win six games in a row.
People have no idea. Like I was a freshmen. And I thought I was going to do it four more times. Yeah, man, this is easy. I got this and next thing you know, I’m graduating and you know, we never got back to a Final Four and now I look back at it when I’m 40 years old now and cherish that run we had for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:10:42] Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. I think people do discount how difficult it is to get to a final four, to win an NCAA tournament to let’s face it, just to get to, depending on what level of basketball you’re playing at, just to get to the tournament for some teams is a huge accomplishment to get through your conference tournament and all those things that go along with being a great [00:11:00] college player.
When you get done playing Florida, you get an opportunity to go and play professionally. So this is a question that I always ask people who play overseas. Give me your craziest overseas basketball story, and then we’ll jump into your coaching career.
Brett Nelson: [00:11:11] I don’t know if it’s a, I really don’t have a crazy stary.
I only played over there one year. You know, I went to Sweden and I remember how cold it was. Cause there was honestly the town I was in was near the North Pole and we had two hours of daylight. That was it. Per day. So it was a dark, gloomy place, but it was a good experience at one year.
And then I came back played summer league with the New York Knicks, went to training camp, got cut. And then I had a decision to make, always wanting to coach Mike. I could have kept playing overseas or the D league or wherever and trying to try to make it playing. But I had a decision to make about that.
Obviously Florida was having a lot of success and again, Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones and John Pelphrey, all those guys were becoming head coaches at the time. And it’s hard to get your foot in the business and the division one college basketball world. And I just made a decision to go back to Florida.
I had one class to finish up my degree, get that class out of the way. And then go ahead and get in this crazy coaching business. When I was 23.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:10] What was it about coaching? How early in your life did you know you wanted to coach and what made you think that you did want to do that?
Was it just that you knew at some point that your playing career was going to come to an end and you knew you wanted to stay in the game? Was it something specific about coaching itself that you loved? Just what was the Genesis of your thinking about coaching?
Brett Nelson: [00:12:29] Yeah. You know, obviously it started, I always want to stay in the game of basketball whenever I was done.
If that was like what happened at 23 years old? Or if I was 33 and played professionally for 10 or 15 years, whatever, it may be always you want to stay in the game. You know? Always kind of once I got into college, I really started thinking seriously about, the coaching side of it.
You know, my heart man, I’m a competitor. It was one way for me to stay in the game from a competitive standpoint, I love to compete. I love to be in those situations. And then [00:13:00] the second thing is like if I find joy in helping people you know, and seeing other people succeed and seeing other people have success, and then obviously I have an unbelievable passion for the game of basketball itself learning, growing just watching the game evolve and trying to stay on top of that.
You know, so I kind of knew early obviously coming out of high school to college, I really wasn’t thinking about it then. You know, at that point I was going to try to take this game and play in the NBA. But once I figured out the odds of me playing in the NBA at that point were highly unlikely again, I made a decision I could have stayed overseas or bounced around for 10 or 15 years and played professionally or got into coaching while I was young and kind of started to build my career instead of when I was 35 or 40 years old.
Mike Klinzing: [00:13:42] Did you always know college was where you wanted to be. Was there any thought of being a high school coach or trying to work your way up into the pros? Was college always where your thoughts and mind were?
Brett Nelson: [00:13:51] Yeah, it was to start, you know what I mean? That’s where I wanted to be at the college level.
Obviously the NBA is intriguing. Just cause [00:14:00] you’d be working with the best players in the world, it’s all basketball. You know, and when I say all basketball, obviously there’s relationships and all that stuff, but you’re not dealing with recruiting and a lot of things you have to deal with at the college level or even the high school level.
So yeah, for me it was, it was always at the college level.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:15] All right. So the first opportunity you get is at Colorado state. Talk to us a little bit about how that came to pass, and then what you learned that your first year. Being involved with the coaching staff and kind of getting your first taste of it.
Brett Nelson: [00:14:26] Yeah. You know like I said earlier, it’s hard to get your foot in the door. I was involved trying to get a job that spring and nothing worked out, there were no really opportunities there with the guys who coached me jumped out for you was I think the head coach at South Alabama, obviously, you know Coach Donovan, Anthony Grant, Donnie Jones were still in Florida.
But again, I was kind of around the program and Larry Shyatt came in there who was the coach at Clemson and then Wyoming. He knew Dale Layer who was a coach at Colorado state and they kind of had a I don’t know what [00:15:00] kind of position you call it. GA operations video. My first year in coaching, I make $10,000 that whole year.
Mike Klinzing: You made more than a lot of guys made.
Yeah. Luckily I had a few bucks in my pocket from playing overseas where I could pay rent and I was working some kids out on the side so a couple of professors, kids who would pay me hourly, work their kids out that year at Colorado State.
But I’ll always be indebted to Coach Layer for giving me that opportunity. Obviously, Larry shut a new coach layer and you know, it got me, it got me in the door there. So I spent a season there and it was Good really good experience. Again, I got my hands involved in every aspect from an administrative standpoint, obviously I wasn’t allowed on the floor at that time.
So whether it was video, travel, budget facilities I can remember every single day having to take down the stanchions, the baskets on both ends. That was my job. So, I mean, you can imagine I go from playing to doing all that, but I loved it. Coach Layer and his staff really treated me great.
And I learned a lot that one year, for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:59] Was [00:16:00] there anything that surprised you about coaching that you didn’t realize when you were looking at it from a player perspective?
Brett Nelson: [00:16:06] You know what, obviously I was really young then I’ve always been able to connect to guys. You know, I don’t know if there’s anything that surprised me.
I think that being at Florida and in that program every day you expected to win, there was an expectation level that you’re going to perform. You’re going to be a high achiever and not everywhere is like that. You got to grow that. And I’m sure Coach Donovan’s first two years at Florida it wasn’t that way.
And over time that developed where the expectation was to be an elite level every single day in practice in the weight room. And so that was what I was around. So, you know at times you know, I guess when you asked me, is there some things that were surprising? I think that people don’t expect to do great things all the time.
So like I don’t care what the talent level is or whatever it may be. You walk into every single game, every single day expecting to do [00:17:00] the right thing. So I don’t think everybody has that mindset. So I guess that was a surprise at times. When I first got into coaching.
Mike Klinzing: [00:17:06] All right. So let’s talk about that as it relates to, I know we’re kind of jumping ahead, but I think it leads us directly into this question. When you think about trying to establish that when you come into a new program as a head coach, so you get to Holy Cross and you’ve got to establish what you just described, how do you do that? What does that process look like? What are some of the steps that you have to take in order to set those expectations that, Hey, we’re going to be an elite program.
How do you do that?
Brett Nelson: [00:17:32] Yeah, I think that obviously like there, the accountability comes to mind. There there’s a certain level of accountability that as a coach you must have within your program. You know, like for me, obviously our first year was really tough this past year, during a COVID year.
We made a lot of improvements I wish our record was a little bit better, but we’re on the right path because I really believe in what we’re doing but to answer your question, how do we get there? I think everybody talks about [00:18:00] culture and all that culture is action. Like every single day, what are your actions?
Everybody can have all these great words and sayings, but you know, I really believe in what we’re doing in the environment. We’re creating Mike. You know, so how do you, how do you create that expectation? I think that there’s accountability, but you’ve gotta be consistent. Okay. Like you can’t like get, show caught up into what the scoreboard says.
Like every single day is your process, right? Are you doing the right things? Day after day after day are you, are you a consistent leader, consistent mentor? Are you consistent with your staff, with your players? You know, obviously with your work you don’t get too emotional. You know, and, and, and for me, like from day one, you know talk about it, we expect to win it.
How do we do that? Obviously everything we do, we’re going to attack everything. We’re going to be the aggressor. We’re going to serve each other. But I talk to our guys all the time about the code. What’s the Code, there’s four things you’re going to do your job with maximum effort, EMP emotional, minimum, physical.
If you play with [00:19:00] maximum effort, which was our number one thing in the code and our number two thing is always put the team first, having a selfless attitude. That’s going to put you in the ballpark on a day-to-day basis to have success. That’s going to put you in the ballpark to win a game, right? Mike?
Absolutely. So that’s not going to win the game for you, but that’s just going to give you a chance. You got to execute to win that game. You’ve got to execute in practice. You’ve got to execute in the weight room to actually win that day. But if you don’t close an action and you don’t have an unselfish attitude, you ain’t got a chance.
You know, so for me, like being consistent with that message, I’m not all over the place with all this stuff. Our guys know that like consistently, that’s really, really important to me. The third thing of our code is, practice is everything, like I want to create such a competitive environment in practice where our guys feel like they’re getting better.
And as gospel, like they’re getting better. They’re going to continue to work. They’re going to continue to grow. They’re going to continue to buy in to the environment that you create. And then the fourth thing is being on time. We were going to be on time in this program. I know it sounds simple, but [00:20:00] it’s something that I really, really believe in.
But I go back to my time in Florida. Obviously we had so many good players. Like if you didn’t bring it every day and play with maximum effort, you weren’t going to play, and if you’re a competitor, you love that. Obviously you gotta to play with having an unselfish attitude. But I looked back like practices, everything.
I think we had such great teams because how hard we practiced, how hard we pushed each other, iron sharpens iron, our heart, how hard we competed. So those four things like our players, my staff, they know exactly where I’m coming from. How do you create that? I think you have to be consistent with that.
And then also the most important thing you’ve got to have relationships. You got to spend a lot of time with your players and your staff. I think then obviously we’re not quite there yet. We’re building and we’re growing at Holy Cross, but you gotta find out what makes each player tick.
You gotta be vulnerable. You gotta build safety where guys feel safe around you. You know, and in the day while doing all that, I really believe you gotta be yourself. Okay. A lot [00:21:00] of guys in his profession, they try to be somebody else. I am who I am like I don’t try to be anybody else.
What you see is what you get. I think that’s one thing that if you ask our staff and our players about me, like I’ll tell them the truth. They always know where I’m coming from. I don’t feel like anybody ever feels like, well, what’s he thinking? Or no. I mean, you can’t perform and function on a day-to-day basis if you’re unsure. So how am I trying to create that there, hopefully when I explained it in a simple way.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:30] Absolutely. How do you drill down to get to those four things? What is it over the course of your career through your experience? How do you come up with those? I know one of the things that sometimes coaches will struggle with, especially new coaches is they’ll have a million things that they want to do or they’ll have, Hey, I got to have this saying, or I got to focus on this, whereas yours are really simple practices, everything be on time. How do you drill down to make sure that you have the right four things that represent, as you said, who you [00:22:00] are so that your players, your staff knows authentically that that’s what you’re all about.
Brett Nelson: [00:22:05] Yeah, that’s a really good question. First off as coaches, we’re all thieves, we steal from each other, you know what I’m saying?
And one thing I do have is a hunger to grow and to learn constantly. You know, and that didn’t just come up with this, right. When I became the head coach at Holy Cross, I think this has happened over my career. I was an assistant for 14, 15 years and was a lot of different places for a lot of different head coaches.
And you kind of take what you like from each guy, and then you kind of mold it into who you are. And over time I kind of developed this and then, before I got this head coaching job, No, I didn’t really start getting looked at as a head coach getting interviews and all that good stuff until probably the last four or five years. So as you go through the interview process, like, I think you’ve gotta be very intentional and purposeful. And for your program your guys, like I’m a big believer in [00:23:00] simplicity. Like you got to keep it simple. And keep it to the point and really like if you’re trying to do something like that, it’s gotta be who you are, your heart, because if it’s just words and you don’t live it on a day-to-day basis, no, one’s going to believe you.
So for me, obviously with those four things, some of those, I really believe in them, like in my core you know, who I am up to addicted with it, talk about it all the time. You know, obviously got those things from some other places throughout my journey and my career.
But you know, at the end of the day, I mean, that’s what I truly believe in. And that’s what we live by here.
Mike Klinzing: [00:23:34] How do you recognize when players are living up to those standards too, when they’re meeting your expectations in those areas. Do you have anything set up in terms of intentionally recognizing some of the things that you’re looking for in order to reinforce the concept of, Hey, this is what’s important to us.
If that question makes sense.
Brett Nelson: [00:23:56] Yeah, thank you. I think you always have to evaluate self-evaluate. [00:24:00] Okay. So like for me practice is everything just as an example, like I remember my first year, like we’d have a good practice. We’d have two bad practices. We’d have two good practices. We’d have three bad practices.
Like it was just all over the up and down. You know, there wasn’t much consistency. And obviously I talk about it, same thing with maximum effort when you’re watching film, like what does effort look like? So I explained to our guys what maximum effort is like all offensively and defensively, obviously defensively that’s easy.
Are you the first to the floor? Are you blocking out? Are you really making an effort to guard the basketball, being in a stance off ball positioning? Are you in a stance? Are you eating space? Are you really trying to do what’s right. Maximum effort wise. Well offensively like we’re where we want to play.
Obviously, every coach has, they wanna play fast, but like, are you really sprinting the lanes are you making cuts where you put pressure on the rim? Are you setting good, solid, hard screens? Like that’s all, I’ll try to explain what maximum effort is and you know, so [00:25:00] as I’m evaluating practice, when I watch practice every single day how do I know we’re getting better?
Like this past year, I can only remember a handful of bad practices we had Mike. Okay. And this is an advanced DEMEC. This is kids. You know, kids are on campus, were getting tested three times when we are guys. Wasn’t a lot so when I’m watching practice, I’m like, I know the code is coming. We are like, and obviously the results showed on the court.
We’re playing with maximum effort, emotionally, mentally, and physically, our guys are mentally locked in. We have an unselfish attitude, not just like making the extra pass. And playing and unselfishly offensively or defensively rotating to help your teammate when he gets beat.
But like as our locker room, right? Do our guys really care about each other. And a lot of that comes from communication whether it’s bringing your guy, I’ll bring my guys in to tell me about our chemistry. Do you enjoy your teammates? Like, what’s that like off the court? Do you guys go eat together?
Like you guys hang out, like guys will tell you the truth. And [00:26:00] so for me, how am I, how am I judging where we’re heading? I’m constantly in communication with our players or staff evaluating film, or much more consistent with the way we practice. This year I only had one time, all year where I had a guy late and that was from the weight room.
He was three minutes late. So being on time, the fourth day of the code, why do I think it’s working? Because there’s proof there. There’s action. That’s happening. So that’s what gets me excited about where we’re heading this program, because what I believe in, I think that our guys are really getting it and they believe in it and they’re doing it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:26:36] Getting that feedback from players. Is that more formal or informal? In other words, are you setting up a weekly meeting where you’re talking to the kids in the program or is it more just, Hey, you’re catching them between classes or you’re talking to them on the practice floor as you’re walking out, what does that process look like for you in terms of getting that feedback and having those honest conversations with kids throughout the throughout the season?
Brett Nelson: [00:26:57] I think it’s a combination. I do like every [00:27:00] day, like if we practice at 3:30, I’m on the court at three o’clock, I’ll try to get there 30 minutes before, I’m just touching guys, trying to get a read on body language. I watched, obviously I watched the previous day’s practice.
I may give a guy a few words of encouragement and they have a computer down there. Hey, watch these three clips or, Hey man, you need to pick it up or whatever it may be. So I try to do that almost every single day before practice, while the guys are rolling in there. Getting their pre-practice work in and so I think that that’s one way.
Yeah, I do set up one-on-one meetings throughout the year, and constantly in communication, obviously we do a lot of team meetings and we talk about a lot of different topics other than just basketball. But yeah, I think that you know, one thing I want to do is create an environment where there’s great care, but there’s great ownership from my staff and our players, like this is not my program, this is our program. And I want you to own that. I want you guys to take ownership and I’m empowering you [00:28:00] to have a voice. You know, we all talk about it, but you don’t want a coach led team.
You want a player led team. And I’m trying to create an environment where the players are taking ownership and when they take ownership, we’re going to play that much harder, compete that much harder. They’re going to take it that much more serious because they don’t want to let their brothers down to the right to the left, you know?
They want to do the right thing, not just for themselves, but through attitude on it. Same thing for my staff. I got a great staff here. I believe in these guys. I want them to take ownership in this program, cause we’re all in this thing together.
Mike Klinzing: [00:28:34] How do you create space for both players and your staff to have those leadership roles? Because obviously you, as the head coach, you’re overseeing everything and you want to be able to have your hands in all the things that are going on in the program. And yet at the same time, as you just said, you want to be able to empower them and utilize the knowledge and skills that both of your players and your staff bring.
So how do you take a step back as a head coach to make sure there’s enough space for. Your players to have an [00:29:00] opportunity to lead and for your coaching staff to have an opportunity to have input and contribute and do all the things that we all know are really important if you’re gonna build a good program.
Brett Nelson: [00:29:09] Yeah. That’s a very good question. You know, I’ll start with our staff, obviously my first year I had to do a lot in the aspect of, cause we’re implementing everything. Yeah, how we operate on a day to day basis. They’re trying to get to know me. Obviously from a system standpoint, offensively, defensively I really had to drive a lot our first year.
My staff was really trying to get to know exactly how we operate and do things just like the players were. And those guys are awesome. They learn, they grew. So this year I think that they had a lot bigger voice within our program.
And man I got guys that number one, care about our players. They really make them better. They’re really good coaches. They’re good at in all aspects of their job. And as a coach just to continue to encourage them to have a voice, and set up practice in a [00:30:00] way where they can set up drills, they can teach, they can it’s not just me.
We’re players, your mama was constantly. So you know, and I think you know, I’m a question asker, so I’m kind of saying, asking these guys questions of what they see what would they do? How do you think this guy’s feeling? You know, what do you think we could do differently?
How can we make this better? So from a staff standpoint, I’m always trying to ask them questions because I want their feedback. Cause I respect their opinion and I don’t have all the answers. I need help. And I’m the first one to admit that and so I want everybody’s viewpoints and opinions and same thing with our players.
I’ll bring our players in and be like, Hey man, what do you see out there? Like when you’re coming off that pick and roll walk me through your reach, what do you see? You know, or, Hey man, that guy’s hanging his head over there. Like what what’s going on off the court?
Like as a leader, let’s pick everybody up like talk to me, you know? So just constantly asking guys questions and talking to him about gas like [00:31:00] when things get hard cause it’s going to get hard every single game. I can’t be out there with you guys.
Our totals gotta be tight whether it’s a free throw or a time out, you guys got to huddle each other up and have purposeful conversations because you’re out there playing, you see what’s going on. And then just like everything, there’s usually one or two guys that kind of push through and become leaders as players, but I wouldn’t group create a team of leaders. I don’t want to, Hey, this guy’s the captain. I think that days of captains are over, you know what I’m saying? So like, I want everybody within our program within their role to take ownership and not try to create that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:37] Yeah. I think that’s something that, just here on the podcast, talking to a bunch of coaches over the last couple of years, there’s been so many people that have mentioned the idea of captaincy kind of being something that is a Relic of the past. And that we don’t want to just develop one or two players who are maybe upperclassmen who have been in the program.
And maybe they’re just named captain because they’re seniors or because [00:32:00] they’re upperclassmen and they’ve got some kind of standing in the program, but they may not actually be the best leaders. And then you might have a freshmen or sophomore player comes in and that person is much more of a natural leader.
And yet they can’t take over that leadership role because again, there’s no space being given to them to be able to do that. And I think it’s just been interesting how the coaching profession has changed. When you think about the conversation that you and I just had about being able to empower your players, being able to empower your assistant coaches and you think back and you go 20 years back, 30 years back where you had more of the dictator style coach. And they’re just that, that style of coaching I think is slowly, slowly going away. As people realize that what you were describing, the way you’re building your program is the way that you’re going to be able to a have the biggest impact and also be able to develop a winning program with the athletes that you’re working with today.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that the way that you’re going about it is the right way to go. And when you think about. [00:33:00] Designing a practice and trying to get that competitiveness into it. What does that look like? How do you build a competitive practice? So if I’m a high school coach or I’m a coach, that’s just starting out in my career and I want to make sure that my team is going to be competitive in practice.
What are some of the things that you do to set up competitive practices within your program at Holy Cross?
Brett Nelson: [00:33:20] Yeah, I think as a staff, like we that’s one thing it’s really important to me is what does our practice look like on a day to day basis? I would say on average we’re spending probably an hour and a half to two hours every single day during the season planning practice it’s obviously if we’re practicing the afternoon or the night before, if we have early morning practice or whatever because I think you’ve gotta be intentional.
You’ve gotta be purposeful. I don’t really go more obviously before the game start. Max, I would go with two hours, usually practice is no more than an hour and a half, but it’s fast paced. Every minute is detailed. How do we create a competitive practice? I think again, you’ve got to be purposeful and it depends on the [00:34:00] time of year where you’re at.
I think that one thing I’ve learned over time is man, as a coach you’re meeting and sitting there, and you’ve been there, you’re sitting in a conference room, you got four coaches in there and we need to do this in practice. We need to do that in practice. We need to boom, boom, boom.
Next thing you know, you got like 25 things in a practice and like guys, we can’t practice for four hours, you know? So I think again, coming back to being purposeful, intentional so. Like, Hey, this week guys, or these next three practices like defensively, guarding the ball, like where you’re going to get better guarding the ball.
Let’s be intentional with that. So let’s set up practice where every drill, whether it’s real three cutthroat everybody runs some sort of a form for shell. You’re playing five on five. You need to play one-on-one driving line, but we are going to focus on guarding the ball.
What does that look like? You know, so we’re going to teach our guys how to guard the ball. Hey, next week, we’re going to really get better at golf ball possession positioning. You [00:35:00] know, we were going to get whatever your philosophy is. You know, everybody’s got different philosophies, but you know, we, we got to get our off ball positioning, right.
Are all offensively men are spacing socks. Like these next three practices. Like, yeah, you still focus on guarding the ball and you’re focusing on fall positioning, but like I’m watching our, our, our spacing on offense. We’ve got to move on penetration. We’ve got to have the right spacing. So that’s kind of how my mind works when I’m putting practice together.
And I believe in you kinda, you gotta build, and just what I’ve been around and like I’ll never get away from the player development side of things. So I’m always going to allot 10 to 20 minutes of skill work, individual improvement, shooting ball, handling gas, passing each other, fundamentally stuff like that.
On top of obviously the, the competitive side of things. But you know, as a staff, we really try to be perfectly, I’m sure every coach does, but it’s not rocket science, but you know, like, Hey, like let’s watch this film. What do we got to get better at? And let’s really focus on that. And what’s important [00:36:00] and create, create that type of practice where, you know you know, you get better in certain areas instead of trying to get better at 25 things, Hey, let’s get better at these three things this week or these, these three things like that’s going to help us win.
Mike Klinzing: [00:36:11] Is it sometimes difficult to do that not necessarily in terms of figuring out what you want to emphasize or what’s important was, is it, what is it then difficult to ignore or not put as big of an emphasis on some of the other things that you might be might be secondary needs to focus on that primary need?
How difficult is that? And is it something that you’ve gotten better at over the course of your career?
Brett Nelson: [00:36:35] Yeah, I think I’ve gotten better at it. Again, I was blessed and fortunate to be around some really good head coaches throughout my assistant coaching you know, career and kind of took things I liked and the way people ran practice.
But yeah, like when I’m saying, Hey, we’re going to focus on our ball. That doesn’t mean we’re not focused on offense or defense or whatever we’re doing. You know, we’re still, we’re still working on all that stuff, but like, Hey, if a guy gets blown by automatically, we’re blowing it, we’re running. [00:37:00] We’re blowing it, we’re doing it to out Bush, we’re blowing it.
We’re, don’t put, like, they’re going to know that subpoint emphasis for that practice. If that makes sense to you, Mike makes total sense. We’re still, we’re still working on whatever it is that we need to work on transition defense and you know, all offensively that whatever parts of the offense concepts that we need to work on.
But when I’m saying, Hey, our focus is that that doesn’t mean we’re not coaching other things. And trying to get better in a lot of different areas. You know, I think one thing looking back. No. It was a self evaluated from our first year you’re at Holy Cross to, to what I did this year.
You know one thing I did a lot more this year is play a lot of five on five, you know instead of so much drill work I spend a lot more time and plus with, with. I was practicing for so long before we were allowed to play a game. You know, I had to figure out ways to keep my guys really, really locked in and engaged and figuring out different funds, competitive ways to, to play five Oh five mini games, four minute Wars thrilled, three cutthroat play to 20, like different things like that.
You know, from a competitive [00:38:00] standpoint and for us, even during the season, I want to make sure that unless it’s like the day before and we played three games at six days or something I’m going to make sure whatever it is. There’s some, there’s a part of our practice where guys are going at it and it’s love you know, it can be controlled, but it’s our guys know like, Hey, this is lab.
We’re playing the wind.
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:21]All right so two questions, one, give us an example of some, a competitive situation that you set up, whether it’s a five on five or it’s the three-on-three cutthroat and kind of going to a little bit of detail on that. And then the second piece of it is, is there anything that you chart in practice that you then share with the players in terms of tracking, shooting percentages or tracking deflections or hustle plays or whatever. Is there anything like that, that you’re sharing with them on a daily basis where they’re kind of competing to on those particular metrics that you’re measuring?
So give us some specifics on a drill or competitive situation that you set up, and then is there anything that you chart.
[00:39:00] Brett Nelson: [00:38:59] Yeah. Yeah, so, I mean, like I said, I think that one thing I want our guys to do is to learn how to play the game where it’s not just scripted play out a concept.
So like one of my favorite drills that we do is thrill three cutthroat, you know? So You know, you got three teams of three guys, or obviously if you got more than 12 guys you can have a couple of teams with four guys where they’re subbing in and out, but let’s say you have a white team, a purple team, and a red team, and you got a coach, you know we call it the battle line, which is about a step or two above the NBA three-point line.
That’s kind of what we call the battle line. You got to coach to the battle line. You got a team with all offensive team will defense. We played at 25 points. You know, like no pick and roll, you can’t set a ball screen. You know, every offensively there’s a 15 second Shacklock. So every time you pass, you got to make a game cut.
You can screen for each other. You know, if the offense scores. Coaches under the basket. He throws it out to the other coach. He can fire right back in. The other team is his own defensive team. His whole defense is off. If they get stop, whoever gets the rebound or, or the [00:40:00] loose ball or whatever’s, he throws it to the coach at the battle on, and that team’s on offense.
So it’s a quick transition drill. So you gotta communicate, you gotta talk, you gotta be alert when you’re not in the action. You know and then like I talk about, Hey guys, today, man, we gotta get better guarding the ball. Like if a guy doesn’t go to ball, you blow it. That team’s off the next team’s on.
And it’s a fast paced, continuous drill. So you’re working on offense defense. I’ll put one assistant coach and I want you to really watch it all offense. We’ve got to move on penetration better. Let’s improve our spacing. Hey guys we, we got to attack the paint. You know, if the ball touches the paint and we sprayed out for three today, it’s worth four points.
So give guys different incentives that way you can, you can make a lot of different rules with real three cutthroat, but it’s really competitive. The guys really like, and it’s fun. You know, and I think you get a lot of teaching and it’s game, like and then you can play four on four cutthroat as well and add, pick and roll in there if you wanna work on your pick and roll defense, stuff like that. But yeah, that’s one of my favorite drills from a competitive standpoint. Hold on real quick. [00:41:00] So you asked about what we chart. Okay. So on a day-to-day basis we have a defensive chart you know, every single practice we chart so guarding the ball.
What does that look like? You know, did you go like, if it’s a closeout situation, did you have early on hand, you can’t give up any deer threes. You know, if a guy just rises up you didn’t guard the ball. So we marked that down. You know, obviously a blow by is not guarding the balll. You know, did you guard the ball off the bounce?
So the guy has a lot of dribble. We teach our guys, we wanna, we’re pressure team, but you have one link. You can’t get your body up when a guy if you really guarding and he passes the ball, Hey, that’s, that’s one for one but if he blows by you we, we, we marked that.
So guarding the ball. W we all fall positioning for each guy, transition effort like rise to the shot. You know, when that, when that, when that ball goes up are you doing your job? If you’re supposed to go off into rebounded you all offensive [00:42:00] rebound. If you’re supposed to sprint back and get ball the basket, did you get ball a basket?
So we, we, we, we chart that all the time, this the other two things we’re going to contest everything. Okay. So if a guy doesn’t contest the shot. We Mark it if he doesn’t contest the pass. So if you’re going to ball gap, picks it up and he just makes it pass without great ball pressure. And you’re really trying to contest that pass.
We Mark it. So guarding the ball or all ball positioning, contesting shots, and then blocking out those four things. Defensively. We chart every single day. You know, and so one week, one of my assistant coaches is watching guarding the bowl. You know, when he’s watching Phil the next, the other assistant coaches watching, contesting shots. blocking out and on down the line.
So yeah, we chart that stuff. We keep it daily. So and then we keep a cube at the end of the week, you know I’ll go to organize, Hey man. You know, as a team, we only go to the ball about 62% of the time, the right, we need to get that to 80. You know what I’m saying? Or, Hey like we have [00:43:00] a rule, we can test 100% of our shots and passes guys were like a test at 70% right now.
That’s not good enough. And you can do that individually as well. So yeah. We chart that stuff. We talked to our guys one-on-one about it. And then we talk to them about it as a team.
Mike Klinzing: [00:43:12] You’re charting that off the film, then not off practice?
Mike Klinzing: [00:43:19] How much film are you sharing with your players during the season when you’re prepping for, let’s say it’s a league game, obviously you’re watching a ton of film, but how much of it are you sharing with the players and what’s your methodology for doing that?
Brett Nelson: [00:43:33] Yeah, we went to quite a bit of film now when we watch. I don’t think kids today are, we don’t as a staff cause we talk about it a lot. I’ll try not to be there more than 10, 15 minutes max, try and get our point across. Try to be very purposeful and intentional. Simplify it to what we want to teach at that moment and then move on, you know we try to change up where we watched film. That was one thing about COVID. We couldn’t use our film room this year because of the [00:44:00] space too many people in a small amount of space. So we would watch film, different places.
And I liked that so we would set it up on the court. We set up all the Concourse. We set it up in different areas. You know, when we did watch film as a team, I thought it was a good change up for our guys. So we do it that way. Try not to be there more than 10 or 15 minutes. And then we move on to, to make sure that we keep their attention span.
And then we do show a lot of one-on-one film. I mentioned earlier, whether it’s before practice, after practice, one-on-one with our guys, bringing guys up to our office. And my assistant coaches, man, they do a great job of teaching. And we talk about it a lot.
Like, Hey man, this guy’s struggling in this area. You know Sam, I want you to really help him with this this week. I want you to pull every clip of him not doing whatever he’s got to get better at and sit down with him, one-on-one and teach and help him. And I’ll give our guys credit our guys, they’re bought in and they learn.
And then they grew this year by doing it that way.
Mike Klinzing: [00:44:56] What’s the balance between when you’re working with film with a player, [00:45:00] what’s the balance between showing them, Hey, here’s where you made a mistake and you need to improve on this. And you’re showing them those clips versus showing them look, here’s where you did it successfully.
This is what we need to see more of. How do you balance that out in terms of, is it the same for every player? Is it different because you know what motivates one player versus another? How do you guys approach that?
Brett Nelson: [00:45:20] Yeah, I think as a coach, you have to have the feel. Yeah, we’ve all probably done it, but there’s times when the guy’s struggling, whether it’s shooting the ball or with his confidence or whatever you know, like pull clips of him doing it playing a great game, making shots, making plays I’m gone all the way back to, we’ve had our freshmen struggle, like what?
We’re going back to his high school. Man, look, look what you did six months ago in high school, man. This is who you are. You know, stuff like that. Any, anything you can do to build guys up, I think is really, really important to, to, to help these kids. So, yeah, I think the, the, the, as a, as a coach, you have a feel you know, for me, I’m always a moral that obviously I’m always going to tell guys the truth, but I’m more of the positive side of things where I want to build these kids up where when they get in [00:46:00] games and just on a day-to-day basis, they feel really good about themselves.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:04] All right, Let’s talk a little bit about recruiting as it relates to the type of program and culture that you want to build at Holy Cross, when you start looking at. Players that you’re trying to bring in. Obviously there’s a certain level of talent that they have to have in order to even be under consideration.
And then clearly with you being in the Patriot League, there’s a serious level of academic performance that your players have to have as well. So let’s put both of those two things aside and just assume that the players that you’re going to be recruiting are they have those two things under control.
They have the ability, the skill level of the play, and they have the academics that are needed for them to be able to have success at your institution. What else are you looking for when you go out on the road and you’re watching a high school player, whether it’s an AAU setting or whether it’s on their high school team, what are some things tangibles, things that you’re looking for in a player that are going to let you know that they’re going to fit in well with what you’re trying to build.
Brett Nelson: [00:46:56] Yeah. You know, obviously there’s different positions, [00:47:00] different needs it for every year. But from an intangible standpoint, there’s three things that I really look for when I’m evaluating. Number one. What type of competitor are you? You know, when I evaluate competitiveness, I like to see when guys are struggling.
Do they have the mental toughness and the competitiveness to fight through that and respond and to help their team win, maybe when their shot’s not falling or they’ve had two or three turnovers in a row, or coaches got on them are you really, really a competitor and you want to get better?
And then, you know the second way I really evaluate competitiveness is when the game matters the last quarter of a game when it’s a tight game and the talents even game goes into overtime are you making winning plays to put your team in position to win the game? I kind of know who I am, Mike and I really struggle with guys who are not competitive. I’ll be honest with you. So as I’m evaluating I want guys who are relentless competitors. The second thing is I want to find guys who find joy in the work. We’re going to have a culture where every program works, but [00:48:00] we’re going to do an individual structuring during the season, it’s a year long thing.
We’re going to have our shooting school. We’re going to really, really work on our game. And I want to find guys who find joy in that. We’ve all been around guys who they complain or they blame or whatever it may be but I don’t want those guys.
I want guys who are going to be gym rats, going to live in the gym. No, they’re going to be hungry to get better all the time and be coachable. So I want the putters. I want guys who find joy in the work, and then we want really good people. You know, obviously Holy Cross is an academic school and our guys are going to go to class.
We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to talk to each other the right way. Our number two thing, we’re going to have an unselfish attitude. That means guys will be great teammates that are going to be able to accept and be happy for their teammates when maybe their teammates have a success and they’re struggling.
I think that when you’re watching a guy play, obviously you can evaluate it, the competitiveness and all that. But in recruiting as a staff, we’re constantly talking about, Hey man, are you talking to the [00:49:00] guidance counselor? Are you talking to the assistant high school coach?
I like to call coaches that play against guys like usually a high school coach or AAU coach is going to tell you the right things, good things about a kid, but I’m going to call somebody and play. What was it like playing against the side? What was it like when you were scouting?
What was it like? Was he really a competitor? Those guys will tell you the truth a lot of times, not that their coaches won’t, but you know what I’m saying? I know exactly what you’re saying, you know? Especially now, I mean with COVID we can’t go out and see people live.
So that stuff is really, really important, you know? And then it was a guy, there’s a guy I have a get better mindset. Is he always wanting to grow? Is he a gym rat? Is he a guy that you have to motivate every day and representation? Or is he a guy that man, he walks in that gym, his shoes tied, he’s ready to roll.
Those are the guys that I want. And then character wise you know, does he go to class? What it was teachers say about it? All that stuff’s really, really important. And we try to dive in [00:50:00] and do our due diligence and get to know every kid that we bring this program in that way.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:05] Do you think it’s gotten easier or harder to evaluate players since you started. Your coaching career, just in terms of the explosion of the number of kids that are playing AAU, the number of kids who are working with skill development trainers, kind of to take it back to our conversation at the beginning of the podcast, or do you think it’s still just the same, that if you’re working hard and doing the things that you need to do as a coach, you can still on earth.
The guys that are going to be part of a successful program.
Brett Nelson: [00:50:33] Yeah. Obviously there’s so much more access now than when I first got in the business with social media and all the technology from video standpoint and all that. Yeah. So I think that from an evaluation standpoint you just have a lot more access to, to evaluate.
So I would say it’s probably easier obviously now, without being able to go watch guys and games sometimes I have a hard time evaluating the guy when he does an individual skill [00:51:00] workout. Again, you can’t tell whether he’s it’s really that competitive. Absolutely all that stuff.
So I like to me personally, I like to watch guys in live situations. We’re playing. For us as a staff, we talked about it a lot hopefully we’re able to go back out in July or this fall to recruit, but I like to go to practices I like to go to a high school practice or a prep school practice and see how seriously he approaches practice to see what type of coaching he’s getting.
There’s some guys, when you get into the program it’s a smaller learning curve because man he’s been in somewhat of a college environment for the last four years of his high school career, you know what I’m saying? And he’s going to be able to come in from day one from a practice standpoint, work standpoint, and he’s going to be ready to roll.
And then there’s the other side of that too. You know what I mean? So I really, really enjoy going to practices and for me to selfishly, like I’m always trying to learn. I’ve always got a pen and a piece of paper [00:52:00] and I’ll steal drills from anybody. I like to go to practices almost as much as I like to go watch games.
But from a competitor standpoint, like I said, like when the talent’s equal and the game’s on the line, the last quarter of the game, the high school game, or the game goes into overtime. Like that’s when you’re going to find out whether a guy’s really competitive or not. And I’m not saying making shots I’m talking about, is he trying to play?
Is he trying to play defense that you will take charge? Is he going to make the extra pass and make the right play when he’s supposed to stuff like that?
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:28] Absolutely. I always say to people that you can walk into a gym and if you know the game and you can identify. The kids who, the kid who was a basketball player, who has an opportunity to play at your level, they pop out pretty quick.
You know, it’s, it’s and then obviously you’re splitting hairs and you start figuring out who is going to be part of your program and not, but you can, you can usually pick out a kid in the floor, whether it’s a practice environment or whether it’s a game environment, the kid who at least has those qualities that you were just describing.
We’re coming up on our time limit here. I want to ask you one final question. It’s a two-parter. And first [00:53:00] part is when you look ahead, what’s your biggest challenge that you see on the horizon. And then number two, when you get up out of bed in the morning, what’s your biggest joy about being the head coach at Holy cross?
So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy, and then we’ll wrap things up.
Brett Nelson: [00:53:13] Yeah. You know what, this is the way my mind works, Mike, from a challenge standpoint just making sure our guys continue to grow and develop as people and players, that’s my goal for all these guys.
I don’t know. I would consider it a challenge. It’s what motivates me every day. It excites me. But I just want our guys to continue to become the best versions of themselves and that kind of answers both of those questions. When I wake up every morning, there’s two things that are on my mind.
And Urban Meyer said this and it really stuck with me. I heard of four or five years ago but you got to implement, clarify your culture and the environment you want. And it goes back to what I said about our players. I’ll wake up every morning, man. I want to put our guys in the best position to be successful.
That’s exciting. That’s challenging. That’s pretty much [00:54:00] both of those in one but that’s my mindset. I got to implement and clarify, talk about the code. I’ve talked about a lot of different things every single day number one, that, and then the second thing for me as a college coach, like I and he said you gotta acquire and develop talent.
So from a recruiting standpoint you gotta recruit every single day. That’s a challenge and that’s exciting as well. And then you got to develop it like I love helping our guys become the best versions of themselves as people and as players. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s kind of a challenge, but also it’s exciting as well.
Those two things on a day-to-day basis.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:37] Absolutely. It makes complete sense spoken like a true coach. I want to just give you a chance before we get out to share where people can find out more about you and your program. If you want to share social media website, whatever, and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up
Brett Nelson: [00:54:50] Yeah, obviously goholycross.com is our website. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, anything like that. You know obviously my email. I [00:55:00] believe it is on our website as well. So anybody that listens, has questions, wants to talk about ball, whatever it is. I love to help out I need help too, man.
So you gotta get out there and set them up. But I appreciate that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:55:14] Absolutely. Brett cannot thank you enough for taking some time out of your schedule this morning to jump out with us. Really appreciate it. And to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.