BRYAN BENDER – SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE MEN’S HEAD COACH – EPISODE 308

Bryan Bender

Website – https://southwestbearathletics.com/index.aspx?path=mbball

Email – bbender@smcc.edu

Twitter – @BryanBender

Bryan Bender is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Southwest Mississippi Community College.   Bender has been the head coach since July of 2018 after spending the previous season as an assistant at SMCC. Bender built the culture and foundation of a program centered around academics, constant improvement, dedication and being grateful by celebrating value-driven behaviors such as hard work, toughness and unselfishness. 
 
In his first year at the helm, the program was named NJCAA Men’s Basketball Academic Team of the Year in 2018-19 after compiling a 3.43 team GPA.  The team has a 100% graduation rate under Bender since taking over the program. 
 
In his four years coaching at the NJCAA level; Bender has coached/signed 30 players that have signed with Division I schools and has had ten top 100 ranked players in the country, four of which were ranked in the top 50.  
 
Prior to Southwest, Bender spent three seasons as Director of Basketball Operations at Appalachian State University, a NCAA Division I school in the Sun Belt Conference and in 2013-14, Bender was an assistant at Missouri State University-West Plains.  

Bender began his career at the University of Minnesota.  He served as video coordinator under Hall of Fame coach Tubby Smith and spent his eight years overseeing scouts, student managers, and all video duties.

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Have a pen and some paper in hand so you can take down some notes as you listen to this episode with Bryan Bender, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Southwest Mississippi Community College.

What We Discuss with Bryan Bender

  • How his career got started as a manager at the University of Minnesota
  • Working for Dan Monson, Jim Molinari, & Tubby Smith at Minnesota
  • The challenge of being a video coordinator or basketball ops and not being able to coach on the floor or recruit
  • Taking the leap to JUCO so he could gain experience in all aspects of coaching
  • The things that changed when he became a first time head coach
  • All about the SHIPS
  • His acronym of GRATEFUL –
    • Grit
    • Respect
    • Attitude
    • Toughness
    • Effort
    • Future
    • Unity
    • Love, Lead, & Learn
  • Constantly growing, developing, and evolving as a coach and then asking your players to do the same
  • Tips for using social media to impact your team
  • Admitting your mistakes to players
  • Advice for building a great coaching staff
  • Why a supportive spouse and family are critical to coaching success
  • Learning to do what’s needed to add value to your program
  • His favorite camp games for young players
  • His biggest challenge is putting out fires every day as a head coach
  • His biggest joy is having an impact on players’ lives and helping them grow and learn through basketball

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THANKS, BRYAN BENDER

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TRANSCRIPT FOR BRYAN BENDER – SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE MEN’S HEAD COACH – EPISODE 307

 [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 from Southwest Mississippi Community College, Bryan Bender. Bryan, welcome.

Bryan Bender: [00:00:11] Thanks for having me on, guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:13] Absolutely. Very excited to have you on and got a chance to watch your presentation at the virtual coaches clinic.

Thought you had a lot of great things to share that our audience of coaches could benefit from. So wanted to have you on to talk about all that, but want to go back in time, first of all, to when you were a kid. And talk a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball when you were younger.

Bryan Bender: [00:00:32] So, you know, every, every kid’s dream, you know, going through what’s going on right now with the Michael Jordan documentary and the last ride.

And,  that literally was my childhood.  grew up in the Midwest. I was, I was born in Chicago area and lived outside Chicago for awhile. And then when I was in third grade, my family decided we’re going to move to a farm in Wisconsin. And so grew up on a farm and had my home court in the back and painted my own lines on the floor or on the concrete.

And, [00:01:00]  you know, I love the game of basketball, but unfortunately for me,  yeah, I was a late bloomer. So when I was a little kid, I was probably one of the best players in our town. And as seventh, eighth grade hit and everyone grew and I didn’t,  basketball became a harder sport for me, but could always shoot the ball.

But knew I wanted to coach at a young age. And so, you know, when I was in sixth grade, I was running my own camps and little things for little kids and roughing soccer and basketball and,  doing things as a basketball junkie. And,  it kinda came down to, you know, a, I was an average varsity player, but knew I love the game of basketball.

And so, you know, I was actually watching the Wisconsin badgers play on TV now. I ended up going to Minnesota, so we don’t talk much about the badgers, but there’s a guy whose name was Tanner Bronson and there is a special on him and he was a manager and he turned into a walk on, I was like, Whoa, what is this?

And, you know, research it a little bit and said, Hey, this is what I want to do. And,  I always knew I wanted to coach and my [00:02:00] dream was to coach college basketball, but didn’t think that was really obtainable for a guy that it wasn’t going to play college ball. And so the manager route was the way I went.

So, you know, that first summer going into university of Minnesota, I was contacting the basketball office and trying to get on and trying to get on and no one would respond to an email. I went there for orientation stop at the office and you know, it wasn’t really going that way either. And you know, my freshman year, they put me in this class at exploring your major.

And it said,  we were reading this book and it said, Hey, chase your dreams regardless of money, you know, just go after everything that you possibly can that you want to do with your life. And so, you know, I knew I wanted to coach basketball and it happened to go back that same afternoon after reading that book.

And you know, lo and behold, the guy basically said, Hey, stop coming. Bring your class schedule. If it fits, we’ll hire you. And luckily it fit. And you know, first weekend of practice, I was there. So started as a freshmen, 18 years old. And,  got on the university of Minnesota, you know, Dan Munson, who is, [00:03:00] you know, kind of started the Gonzaga tree.

 and now he’s the head coach at long beach state, but they hired me on, and you know, my sophomore year he ended up getting fired and Jim Molinari and other Midwest guy ended up getting hired as an interim. And then my third year,  Tubby Smith came. And so worked for Toby for six years.  so I was a manager then a GA, then,

Video coordinator and I learned video and was running Tubby Smith basketball camps and doing anything and everything I possibly could to make ends meet and know, work my butt off with the program and did everything I possibly could for eight years. And then we ended up making the NCAA tournament three times while I was there.

It was fun experience, got to travel the world and got my masters paid for, and it was a really cool experience. But during that time, it was one of those things where, Hey. You know, I wanted to coach, I wanted to recruit. And being in an admin role or a video coordinator or manager, you’re not really technically a coach, even though you’re around it every day.

And then meetings and things, you know, [00:04:00] it’s, Hey, can you recruit? Can you coach? Can you recruit? Can you coach? And,  you know, we beat UCLA and the first round of the NCAA tournament, and I’ve losing a Florida around a 32. And,  Tubby actually gets fired. And,  it was kind of a crazy time. And for two months they.

I was a union employee. They couldn’t get rid of me, but I was the only one and worked for coach Pitino for a few days and you know, he said, Hey, we’re going to bring in our own video guy. And I ended up working in it. For two months. Absolutely hated it. Every second of it. They had me working graduations.

Now I liked the guy I worked with, but she would, I was plugging in different things. I didn’t even know what I was doing and I had an intern. It was the craziest thing. So I get, I have an intern, the intern knows 12 times as much as I do, and we just literally, I’m like on the phone trying to get a job.

And,  you know, Tubby gets on at Texas tech and said, Hey, you know, there’s a video job here, but. During that time at Minnesota, I interviewed so many different places and fell short, and it was, Hey, you hadn’t coach, you hadn’t recruited. And so I decided to take a [00:05:00] leap of faith, you know, trusting myself and knew this is what I wanted to do.

And got on a junior college in Missouri called Missouri State West Plains, and I was a volunteer basketball coach, and I was the happiest guy in the world. So I was working in a dorm. I was a dorm director for a bunch of college kids at a junior college. And I was teaching six credits at the school each semester.

And then I ran the study hall program for all the student athletes on campus. And just so I could coach and,  you know, did that, and you know, you could say you served your dude or paid your dues and did that for a year. And luckily we had a lot of,  good players on that team and had 12 guys end up signing division one off that team.

Quite a few Ohio kids actually on that team,  from the Cleveland Akron area.  Justin Jamison being kind of the most famous one. He went to Garfield Heights and he was a baseball player, professional baseball player, draft a high school, and he was like 25 on our team. He was like the st we like the same age.

And  [00:06:00] so he, he ended up getting like 25 vision, one offers as one of the top junior college bigs in the country. And we’re going to Texas tech. There’s another kid from Canton, McKinley high school, Devante Williams, who’s now still playing pro, and he went to Texas tech as well to play for Toby. And quite a few others.

You know, Craig Eubanks went to Akron,  Jamille Moore went to Walsh and then translating to UWA Parkside.  there’s a few others that we had,  from the Ohio area, but, you know, good team. And it ended up parlaying a job at Appalachian state. So Jim Fox got that job. He was a Davidson disciple.  he was the top assistant, recruited Steph Curry to Davidson and got to know him a little bit through some different things and did an internship with USA basketball.

I was in college and got to know Bob McKillop. And when they’re for three years is what’s called the director of operations and those operations titles. You basically run the program so your coach can coach. And you know, after awhile I’m running budgets and camps and community service and you know, doing everything except actually being on the floor coaching again, it kind of got [00:07:00] old.

So after three years of that, I decided to take another leap of faith and moved to Mississippi. And so there was a guy, his name was Thomas Gray. He’s now the director of operations at Ole miss for Kermit Davis. But Thomas worked our camps at the university of Minnesota. So we stayed in contact for like eight or nine years and ended up hiring me on as an assistant and told me, you know, Hey, you come here.

I don’t think I’ll be here much longer. And when you hear that and you have a chance maybe to be a head coach at a young age, you jump on that opportunity. So me and my wife moved down to Mississippi and,  was an assistant for one year and then I became the head coach,  at age 31 at this junior college.

So we’re a division one junior college and the head coach for two years. And,  had a lot of different successes. You know, how you determine what success is, is kinda a lot perception. But I’m the first coach in school history had a winning season and their first two years. And,  our goal is to get guys in the next level.

And we’ve had in my three years here now, we had 12 division one players. We’ve had the highest GPA in [00:08:00] the country and,  gotten a lot of guys in and outta here. And you know, we still have a few guys in this year’s class. They’re still gonna be signing. I got four more with division one offers. I haven’t picked a school yet.

And so we’ve had a lot of success here in terms of getting guys the next level, and I’m figuring out how to do XYZ. And the junior college, you get so many experiences because you get to wear so many hats. And so I’ve really enjoyed this level and seeing guys get recruited as well as I get recruited because you know, these guys get recruited.

But I also get to recruit. So as a head coach, I’ve signed 29 players in three years, and you know, that’s the fastest, most accelerated way to learn,  get reps on the floor, just like a player. And,  this has been really beneficial too. You know, be in charge of my own program. So here I am full circle, so Southwest Mississippi community college division and junior college.

Then here for a little bit. And  you know, where I’ve kind of found my niche. I had to be different, you know, I’m a five, eight white guy that didn’t play college basketball and I coach Mississippi. And,  so, you know, where I found my niche is obviously recruiting, you know, [00:09:00] finding good players, trying to relate on their level, develop players.

Obviously. And use my network of being a division one for a long time to get my players out. But at the same time, my other one was culture. And so how we got connected is did a virtual coaches clinic where you know, when this Corona virus hit, and you know, the final four is a great time for coaches to see different.

Coaches give clinics and things at the final four. It’s a big coaches convention. And without that, this year, you know, they changed it to virtual. And I was lucky enough and fortunate to be asked to speak and I spoke on what I felt most passionate about and that was recruiting. And then my culture. So my first year as a head coach did some things and you know, some work, you always think, you know, I have all these answers as an assistant.

Then you become a head coach and they don’t always work how you imagined. And so was that, you know, change some things up and found some unique ways of making things tangible and having a value based culture and you know, you’d be surprised how well it stuck and there’s some cool things, you know?

That’s kinda me in a nutshell. So from a little [00:10:00] kid shooting hoops on the driveway to, you know, being in Mississippi here. A coach and a bunch of guys that are trying to change their lives in a short period of time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:09] All right. Let’s flip the order around because typically we start from the beginning of your coach coaching career and go towards the end.

Let’s go from where you are now and then we’ll work our way back towards the beginning. So let’s start with one of the things that I really loved about your presentation was the acronym grateful. So just explain how you use that acronym to sort of encapsulize what you want to do with your program.

Bryan Bender: [00:10:32] Okay. So my first year as a head coach, I was all like as an assistant, I was so much about the players. I was all about the players. And so I’m like, Hey, you know, I worked for these different guys and you know, they put the guys on the line and I never really understood why. Like you wouldn’t just meet them at their level and talk to them and you know, have a different level of relationship with accountability.

And so we had this great thing that I came up with and I was all excited. It was all about the ships. And it was, Hey, our goal as a team is to win a championship. Our goal is players is [00:11:00] win a scholarship. How are we going to do it? We’re going to have great relationships with each other and using our connections as a coaching staff, taking ownership and leadership in your life.

You know, craftsmanship getting better every day. We had a penny jar, and every day you put that penny in the jar and you know, battleship. We had to compete. And something that was lacking in that was that was basically about me, not me, myself, but about them. And what happened was. You know, first year as the head coaches, we weren’t, you know, we weren’t very thankful as a group.

We had some issues off the floor, had to suspend some guys. And you know, I learned the hard way, you know, learning how to discipline is not something that you learn as an assistant or, you know, a young manager or GA. And that was something that I struggled with. And so I tried to make things different,  without changing who I technically was.

Because I know if you try and be someone you’re not, it’s not going to work as a coach. And so what I came up with, you know, came up with it on my own. I was just thinking of different things. But the one thing that bothered me the most about my first year was [00:12:00] my team was not very thankful. They weren’t appreciative of what we were doing as a staff.

They weren’t appreciative of each other. And the scholarship, you know, not say we had a bunch of jerks, but it was a frustrating time to coach. And I wasn’t happy. And so I came up with this acronym and we called it grateful. And it stood for things that I figure are not only important basketball, but in life.

And then found ways to make them tangible where you’re doing things that will translate to winning, but aren’t directly saying, Hey, you’re doing this because I want you to, are you doing this because this is what’s gonna make us win? And so that grateful acronym stood for the G was grit. And,  you want me to go through all seven or eight?

I got to learn how to spell. So eight. So we’ll go through each one individually. So grit was number one. And so grit is hard work. And you know, I’m a guy that’s worked my whole life to try and get where we are. You know, I consider myself to be like a blue collar guy, grew up on a farm, you know, nothing was really handed to me.

I didn’t have that famous last name. You know, I had to work for [00:13:00] what I, what I earned. And,  I believe that’s a core value of.  any program or organization. So we had something that we did to make it tangible, so something they can touch, grade, feel, talk about, you know. And so we had a hard hat challenge.

And so each week you could earn this construction hat and we decorated the hats ourselves, you know, a little corny, but at the same time I ordered, you know, they were on Amazon, they’re like $13 for 20 hats or something. And they were like literally plastic party hats. But we drew on with permanent marker and they drove their name on them and what they thought was.

You know, important in their life. You know, what are you do it for? You know, somebody will put area codes or zip codes on there. Some put parents names or grandparents names, or someone who’s passing their family. Or maybe it’s words that. You’ll have some significance to them, and that’s what they work for each week.

And they could earn their hardhat. And we hung it up in our locker room. Just a little hook, little hooks on there. And  you got your heart app, you showed up everyday on time to everything. So [00:14:00] that was study hall. That was the curfew, that was the breakfast. That was the, anything that we had required as well as practices and game film and things like that.

 as well as you get three extra workouts in of 30 plus minutes. So whenever you wanted to do those, maybe that was in between class and he came and shot on the gun extra. Maybe that’s at night. You get a rep in with your coaches are playing one-on-one or doing something productive to help, you know, make yourself better.

Cause you got to work harder than everyone else. Just doesn’t practice. Everyone’s doing practice. What are you doing extra? And our coaches the same way, you know, as a head coach, he kind of put your health on the shelf and so. I had to find a way to hold myself accountable to, to work out more. So I had earned my hat, cause you gotta lead by example.

So, you know, getting those 30 minute workouts in at least three times a week was beneficial for my health and my staff. So we did that to signify grit. So the R in grateful was respect. And,  that was something that we struggle with my first year. And, you know, guys doing stupid stuff in the cafeteria, not talking back to teachers [00:15:00] or, or authority figures or, you know, something with a referee or maybe it was not giving your best effort, respecting the game of basketball or, you know, how you behave at Walmart.

You know, all these things kind of fall into one. So just talking about respect and you know, we gave our guys pictures of things that we thought were important of guys at the school. You know, the important figures, you know, the boosters and things. And they would have to go say hello to them before the games.

And we taught them how to shake hands the right way, which is kind of irrelevant right now. So I had to learn how to like bang elbows and there were things just life lessons that they can take with them.  we even had that campus police come in and. You know, talk about scenarios.  and we’ve had issues with that in the past.

Like everything you can imagine that junior college happens. We don’t have a bunch of bad kids, but you know, things happen and learning how to handle those. And one thing that we did is we pulled a rest records,  from every division one basketball player since 2013 and we showed them, and most of them happened between 11:00 PM and like [00:16:00] six in the morning.

And that’s when our curfew was as a team. So, you know, kind of make things, understand that it’s for their benefit, not because coach wants them, wants you to, but that’s how we kind of did things. So that was respect.  the, A was attitude.  we would grade three things everyday. Your attitude, your effort, and your focus.

Okay. There’s a guy named Scott Saver.  he’s in Minnesota and I met with him over Christmas break when I was home.  In between semesters here and he’s kind of a energy guy. He’s a tangible guy. He’s, he’s big on culture and works with, you know, he’s worked with the warriors in the past and the Minnesota Lynx, and he works with the Timberwolves now on different coaches.

And one thing he talked about was grading. What you have going on in terms of your attitude was really important. So your body language, we talk about it. And so we had a couple of things we say,  I’m a big, I’m a Minnesota guy, so PJ Fleck is the head coach at Minnesota, and he says, if you’re useful, you’re useful.

If you’re useless, you’re [00:17:00] useless. And so we actually had a juice bottle. We literally taped with athletic tape on this power a bottle, and it said juice on it. And if you had the juice every day, you could take a squeeze of it. And you know, you know, kind of like Michael Jordan had that magic stuff that, and then space jam where, you know, he gets the guys fired up at halftime and it’s just water.

But at the same time, like it’s just the simulation in their heads of understanding like, Hey, you gotta bring it every single day. You got to have that great attitude and you’re in your happiness about it. And we talk about it in bench energy and when you come out of the games and things that are challenged.

There’s no one wants to sit. And then we also had the opposite. So we had an energy vampire is like a Dracula, and this Dracula was like a little symbol and we would hand it to guys and make them sit on the bench because that’s where you’re going to be sitting if you bring down our energy. So the energy bus is a great book.

I don’t know if you guys have read that book, but great book, great book. So you know those energy vampires, they suck the life out of here. And there are people that you don’t want to be around all the time and you know, always talking negative and you know, [00:18:00] it’s easy to fall in that trap. Even right now.

You know, even right now, like we’re bored and where you say the word bored, and we’re not utilizing this opportunity to grow almost like a sabbatical.  this is where people can pass each other. And so not having that negative energy, it’s hard to wake up when you got nothing to do. You know,  it’s easy to say, Hey, I’m not going to work out today and all those things.

And so we just use this vampire. It’s just visual. You know, they’re, they’re 18, 19, 20 year old kids. And so, you know, finding things that are fun that they can understand and they can joke about, but at the same time, like it gets so fired up to take that a squeeze of the juice bottle for no reason. But if you make it fun and you celebrate these things, so you celebrate positive behavior, you know, most coaches are so negative.

And I even found myself as a more negative coach cause I wanted to correct and correct and teach and teach. You have to make things fun.  you know, that’s our generation. That’s the generation that we’re coaching right now. And you know, you watch that documentary again in the nineties, they were ripping each other’s heads off.

Now they’re best friends and playing with each other and you know, things like that. [00:19:00] So it’s just changed so much.  but that attitude is everything.  you know, the T in grateful was toughness. So we do a boot camp, we call it adversity bootcamp. And,  we bring them in in the preseason and it’s hot in Mississippi when we put them basically through basic military training and team bonding and different things.

And if it was raining, we’d do it in the gym. If it was hot. We do it on the track and flipping tires and contests, and they partner with each other. Just try and make them tougher. And then we also had a toughness belt challenge, so we bought like a WWE belt and embroidered it like toughness belt champion.

And. You know, we attract things that we thought would help us win. So whether it’s charged as their house employees or rebounds or turnovers, assists, you know, deflections, you know, anything that defensively mostly, which required toughness. You know, my first year as a head coach, we had the most talented team.

Like we had six guys signed division one we had five freshmen. We led the nation in junior college players going division one they’re refreshing. And not one kid sign below mid major of those six guys. And we basically had a [00:20:00] 500 record. We weren’t that tough this year. We had a talented roster, we didn’t play hard all the time.

And so now the roster that had built for the following year coming up is we got a combination of both. And so slowly figuring it out, but that’s toughness about challenge really helped us in the second semester.  you know, give guys something to compete for. And I’ve already started it with my group that recruited, you know, we’re already talking about toughness as a mentality and just trying to establish our culture, which will translate to winning.

 that year was effort, you know. There’s the best, and there’s your best, and our goal is giving max effort every time and everything that you do. You know, I’m a big Alan Stein guy, and Alan Stein always talks about performance gaps, and he says, Hey, you either, every decision you make is getting you closer or further from your goal.

So how do you focus on that? How do you give maximum effort to establish what you want to get done every single day? And so we grade our attitude, effort focused. And so efforts one of those, you know, effort kind of goes along with focus hand in hand and, [00:21:00]  just being aware of what’s going on. So basic awareness and just tracking, you know, they kind of go hand in hand with the toughness thing too, of just tracking max effort.

If you give me max effort every day, now I don’t have to coach your attitude and effort.  then I got to coach what I want to do and that’s basketball.  and so it will be crazy. So in 2018, our team, I was an assistant that year.  but we had the largest comeback in college basketball history. You’re done by 34 points and 14 minutes and 10 seconds to go in the second half and came back and won.

 it just kind of shows you some of the effort and the not quit that we’ve had in our organization. Now, I’m not proud to say we were down by 34 points, but it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. And you’ll only see that probably in junior college because. You know Dijuan you get so many timeouts with media timeouts and different things.

You got so many like people leave them in their pocket when they leave the game and you go like literally you see crazy runs. Cause we only get six time outs the whole game. And you know most of our 32nd time outs. So, you know, you [00:22:00] only get 30 seconds to regroup your guys in. And in Juco, there’s a lot of people that are up and down and you know, mentally aren’t as strong and they’re 1819 years old, a lot of emotion.

And you know, crowds can do kind of what they want. And it’s, it’s crazy because different. And so just that come back was absolutely not, they couldn’t break our one to two press and we were Dunkin it after Dunkin and after docking. And it was the craziest, surreal moment probably in coaching. You know, done some cool things.

Beat the number one team in the nation when I was in Minnesota with Indiana and won NCAA tournament games and been to the nit championship game and different things. But you know, nothing kind of compares to that comeback and that feeling in a locker room when you get in there, like doing something that you didn’t think was possible, but you know, with effort, anything is kind of possible.

 yeah. Luckily it was a home game and you’ll laugh like 14 minutes left in the second half. No one left. I don’t know if our kind of like wasn’t even paying attention or something, but they did not leave the game and like you could kind of sense, you know how momentum shifts in basketball, but like we had like a momentum shift and we cut it from [00:23:00] like 34 to like 1819 and like you like felt like, Oh yeah, we’re changing the moment

You’re still down 19 you’re like, what in the world? But it just kept going. It never stopped. And the other coach, like, I’m not, you know, I don’t have.  anything really negative to say about different guys, but I don’t really get along with that coach as much as others in that game. And just watching that dude just sweat through his suit was like very satisfying to me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:24] I think we all, I think we all probably have an opponent somewhere in our past that we’d like doing that too, for sure.

Bryan Bender: [00:23:29] Yeah. So that was effort. The F in grateful is future. You know, one of the things I talked about was the academics.  you know, our program philosophy is if you can get it right off the floor first, you’ll get it right on the floor.

And so we do different things. You know, we started doing weekly character meetings and,  you know, the future is everything. A lot of these kids in Mississippi don’t come from much, you know, a lot of them are first generation college students and we got 12 Mississippi kids on our roster. And so, you know, finding ways to make sure that they get,  any degree.

 you know, a two year associate’s [00:24:00] degree can be really powerful for them and, and moving them forward in their lives. And, you know, talking about that, you know, a lot of times, you know, you’re only as aware as your surroundings. And so fortunately for us, like we grew up in the Midwest where, you know, there’s a lot of things that are preached from day one in our lives, you know, value, education, value, you know, morals and different things.

And, you know, not saying that lacks technically here, but then ambition isn’t always there. The urgency, the, you know. Feeling of, Hey, I can do anything. And so, you know, we always talk about those things with our team and you know, we try to live it. And so, you know, having that highest GPA in the country, having, you know, all of our guys, we have a 2027 to 2700% graduation rate in the last six years in our school.

And you know, that’s something to be proud of, is that you can never take it away from these kids, that they earned something and they did something. And then they go on to their next school. So, you know, talking about future your future when I’m recruiting kids, is your future nothing to gamble with. You can’t gamble away your future [00:25:00] because you know, as a parent you’re dropping off,  their most prized possession, their kid.

And my job is to make sure that their, you know, their kids ate, basically taken care of. And, you know, for our kid, his most valuable asset is what is their future. And so they’re trusting you in building that future. And so that’s kind of how we run our program. And,  it’s worked pretty well getting guys out.

So,  I don’t think we’ll change anything that we’re really doing there.  and then unity was the you and grateful.  we did, we started this at semester and I didn’t know if it would really work, but, so if you recall in the energy boss to before he goes into this meeting,  he gets out the bus and he takes like a walk.

Do you remember that? He takes a walk around the building and he’s thinking about, he’s like going through in his head, like visualization of.  you know how it’s going to go and that he can do it. He’s kind of given himself like a pump-up speech. And so we started doing this thing, we call it the grateful walk.

And so after they stretched, [00:26:00]  we would bring it to the middle. We’d say grateful on three, maybe I’d tell a story or something like, the most impactful one was the Kobe Bryant. When he passed away. It was like right before we practiced. And so some of our guys were like crying and they were messed up.

And so thinking about like what’s going on in your life and things, you know, what are you thankful for? What are you grateful for? What is your purpose? What is your why? And so we took a lap around our gym.  one lap, they weren’t allowed to cut any corners. And they do it in silence and you just think about what you go at your own pace.

Some walked in, some jogged it and it was cool. We’d take like the first time we did it, our trainer got up. No, he usually sits on the bleachers and kind of hangs out by himself. And he got up and did it. And then, you know, we’ve had a couple of visitors and recruiters come into our gym and they started doing it.

So now it’s kind of like kind of caught on and our guys really buy into it. But we take a grateful walk. And then before a state tournament this year,  I saw something like this with Texas tech. They did what they called it a unity walk where they linked arms and jogged across the court. [00:27:00] And,  you know, it was one of those things where it’s just, you know, you’re in it together.

Think about what you’re there for and what others are there for. And,  you know, going after what your purpose or why is. And most of them, you know, live, drink, eat, sleep, basketball. And so finding that common ground and that passion is so important.  and then the last one is the L is love, lead and learn.

 you know, you’ve got a love one another as, as, as a team. And that may not sound. You know, like the most exciting thing in the world for a bunch of guys. But you know, that’s what creates the bond and the relationship. You can’t do anything yourself. I’m in this game. And so, you know, leading the right way, continuing to learn.

We say there’s winning and there’s learning. And our goal is to create more leaders, not followers. And so we preach this all the time and trying to become better leaders in our society, in our lives, and in fact as many people as you can. And so, you know, holding each other accountable, they say, Hey. No good programs.

The coach leads good programs, you know, the, the players can, you know, [00:28:00] the players lead a little bit, but when players can hold each other accountable, it’s just so much more effective.  and that’s how you win. And so that’s kind of our grateful culture in a nutshell. I know that was a little word vomit on you.

Who knows how long I just talked. But,  that’s our, that’s our program in a nutshell. And, you know, kind of created it myself or the last few months.  and I love to, you know, expand upon it and make things more impactful and continue to take these things and learn. And, you know, maybe it’ll catch on somewhere across the nation or who knows.

But, you know, that’s what we believe. You know, that’s what I believe as a head coach. And,  that’s how I want to run my program.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:37] Well, what I loved about it when I saw the presentation initially was that a lot of times you’ll see. Coaches with acronyms or you’ll have standards that programs are built upon, but you don’t always hear what are the tangible behaviors or things that you’re looking for as a coach or [00:29:00] that the players should be exhibiting in order to live up to those standards in order to meet the expectations of the culture.

And what I really loved about what you did is you put together. Eight letters that each one of them, yeah. As a meaningful word that we’ve all heard used in coaching and various different ways, and yet with each one of them, you were able to put something tangible with those words so that if a kid comes in and wants to know what does effort mean.

Well, you have a whole bunch of things that this is the behavior that we expect. This is what great effort looks like. And when you’re talking about the unity walk, when you’re talking about any of the things that you put together, there was always some behavior that you would expect expected from the players connected to it.

And that’s one of the things that I really liked because like I said, a lot of this, it’s great to talk theoretical about. Hey, we want to be grateful. Hey, we want to give great effort. Hey, we want to be [00:30:00] tough. Okay, great. But what does that mean? And what I liked about what you’ve said, both in your presentation and then here on the podcast tonight, is you’ve given players something that they can actually do.

You’ve given them something that they can measure themselves against it. To me, that’s so, so important as a coach, not only with the culture piece, but just with the basketball coaching piece. You have to. Give somebody something that they can actually do. You can’t just be talking to talk. You have to put something out there that I think that your players can grab onto and they can actually.

Do. It’s just like I say, Hey, we want to play hard on defense. Okay, well what does that mean? I don’t, I don’t understand what I mean. I’m trying to play hard. What? Give me something tangible that I can actually do that can help me to improve. And I think you’ve done that with the culture piece, with what you just described.

Grateful. Is that kind of, was that sort of your thought process behind putting that whole thing together?

Bryan Bender: [00:30:52] We scratched the surface, but they didn’t live it. And I didn’t know how to hold them accountable to it. So when you put, you know, not [00:31:00] a great, like we talked about the grade, but making something that they can touch, feel, understand, you know, being a, it’s one thing to say something, it’s another thing to be able to do it.

And then it’s another thing. To be able to teach it. And so what I’m most excited about is, you know, the five guys, six guys that I have returning, is how does this impact next year’s group? How does, you know the translation of these five, six returners that we have going to translate to, Hey, this is how we do things here.

Now let’s take this to another level. You know, this is why we weren’t successful the first year here. This is why we weren’t as successful as we wanted to. The second year here, Hey, this is year three, let’s get this done. Let’s be in this together. That’s,  you know, let’s play out, okay, we want to play hard.

Well, what does that look like? Okay, now we have a scale. Now we have a measurable thing that they can take home with them. And you know, what’ll happen is, [00:32:00] you know, the guys will either all band together. Or, you know, they could rebalance some way, but I think there’s so many hidden values in this, and we have such great kids coming in that they’re going to adopt and live it.

And you know, it’s funny, like they joke about things and you know, but they genuinely believe it when, you know, they’re, they’re walking around campus and, you know, yelling, grateful, grateful coach. They see me across campus and wave and like, you know, it’s kind of a joke, but at the same time, like they’re thinking about it.

And at the end of the day, that’s our job as coaches to make them think and change the way that they view not only basketball, but life. And you know, just this, that was my goal. And you know, it’s never going to stop. You gotta keep pushing and then there’s always going to be that next thing that you want to get accomplish.

And so we’re just going to keep pushing and moving forward and,  hopefully continues to translate into what our jobs are as develop young men. And then at the same time, when basketball.

Mike Klinzing: [00:32:55] Absolutely. And I think what you have to do is you have to find [00:33:00] something that works on two levels. It has to work for your players, and you have to get them excited about it.

And obviously if they’re shouting it out across campus, you’ve made. An impact and that has entered their consciousness, not just while they’re in basketball practice, but also while they’re out in class and out of greater society. And then you also have to, I think, find a system that works for you as a coach that you’re comfortable with.

And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve found since we’ve started talking to lots of different coaches from all different levels across the country as part of the podcast, is that you’ll hear a lot of coaches saying. Sort of the same things in that we want our players to be grateful. None of the tough about them give tremendous effort and each one of those coaches approaches those things in a slightly different way.

They have a way that they hold their players accountable. They have a way that they measure what those things are. And it’s not that [00:34:00] anybody’s one way is right or wrong, it’s you have to figure out what works for you as a head coach. Because if you don’t feel comfortable with what you’re trying to instill in your players.

Coaches can, players can sniff that out and they know right away if you’re not genuine, you know, as you said, even when it comes down to something as simple as you taking care of yourself and getting your own workout in, like players see that and you can talk about it and give that as an example and that’s what helps players buy in.

I always think that for me, one of the things that I think is so important as a head coach, as a leader of a program is whatever you are going to hold the people who are part of your organization. Whatever standards you’re going to hold them to, you better be living those same standards and be at the very, very top of the performance metric on all those things before you can start holding people below you accountable.

To me, that’s so, so important to be credible as a leader.

Bryan Bender: [00:34:55] Yeah, definitely. Will you say just a couple of things? I can, if I sweat with my guys, they’re going to [00:35:00] respect me more. Like if I’m out there working just as hard as they are and they see me doing that, you know, of course they’re going to try and give more effort, you know, not to seek pleasure, but this is what’s expected.

And then same thing with learning is like. Hey, if I’m showing that I’m constantly developing and growing and evolving as a coach, they can understand that it’s okay for them to evolve as players. Like, you don’t need to be stubborn. You don’t have all the answers. And that’s a problem that we have in this generation is that they’re quick to answer.

They’re not as respectful with coaches. Like, you know, you see all these kids transferring and everyone has a voice in social media. You know, there’s, there’s more equality.  there’s less like, not dictatorship, but like that, that,  You know, hierarchy of, Hey, this is the coach, this is the player. And you know, some people may disagree with me even, you know, sometimes my staff disagrees with me, Hey, you gotta be harder on these guys.

You gotta, you know, you got a yellow screen. No, you just have to learn with them and figure out what makes them tick. And so, you know, my goal as a coach is to always [00:36:00] be the fastest learner in the room. And they see that then they’re more prone to hopefully want to learn and continue to get better.

Mike Klinzing: [00:36:08] So how do you demonstrate that to your players?

What, what is it that you can do as the head coach to let them know that, Hey, I’m out there learning, trying to grow and get better? How do you let them see that in you?

Bryan Bender: [00:36:20] So there’s a couple, I can give you a couple of examples. So one,  would be. I use a lot of these social media videos and things. So they have the intention span of like one and a half, two minutes.

And so if I see any good things,  a lot of videos, so I’m big on this, so I actually have a culture group, photo stream on iPhones. You can have that photo stream and I have probably 40 coaches in it. And,  what I do is I get people that post things to it and myself. So anything I see, and it’s almost like, you know, like they have those Bible apps and you could search like you’re facing adversity and you could find the right Bible verses, so I’m working [00:37:00] on a culture one where I’m looking for something where, you know, maybe accountability or quote on discipline or respect or,  maybe we’re having an issue with selfishness or, you know, different things.

And so. We bring those examples of people that they look up to and use it in our own program. So, you know, you take, for example, there’s a really good one, I’ll just keep talking about it since it’s on right now. So it was about Scottie Pippin. He took four charges in game, four of the jazz series. And somebody posted the video and they posted the four charges and said like, Hey, if I’m not willing to put my body on the line from my team, why should I expect my teammates to do it?

And it was Scottie Pippin. And so I actually sent it to my team for next year and just said like, Hey, this is going to be a mentality that we’re going to have.  to learn about, Hey, taking charges and sacrificing yourself for your team to win. And, you know, there’s already like, one of the guys who’s like, you know, I’m gonna win that belt next year.

It’s already starting. Like they’re already talking smack. And it’s like, it’s awesome. [00:38:00] So that would be one, you know, the other thing,  you know, one of the things I think coaches should be judged on is how well they develop their staff. And there’s been times where I’ve struggled with this.  because I’m a doer, not a very good delegator, but something to that I learned this year,  was how to practice like humility.

So if my players or my coaches are struggling to, you know, accept criticism, okay, so I need to teach them what that looks like. And so I would have like an example where I basically use myself. A lot of people use their self as examples, but you know, where I was wrong and I admitted it.  to show them that this is how you handle it as a man or as a coach, that I don’t always have to be.

Right. And that’s a hard thing to do as a coach because you have, you know, a lot of coaches have egos, a lot of coaches have.  you know, the stubbornness of wanting to be right and different things. And we do that a lot in our film sessions. So, Hey, here’s, you know, I messed this up [00:39:00] just as much, so I’m going to criticize you for not being in the right spot, but we’re going to criticize my assistant because his Scouts said that this guy was a shooter and he wasn’t.

And then, you know, we’re going to have something else that has like, Hey, when I, I called this play against the zone and you know, this is something that we worked on all week and it didn’t work. Like, we’ll talk about those things. So practicing humility as a leader is something that you can show. Make yourself an example.

And so those would be two things that I would say, you know, we’ve tried or that we’ve used. Yeah, that’s

Mike Klinzing: [00:39:31] good. No, that’s good stuff. I think it, it speaks to, again, being able to point to something tangible that. The players can see, because as I said before, I think a lot of times we tend to talk concepts and then the players leave after that, or they hear a quote or they watch a motivational video and okay, maybe it inspires them for.

The minute they’re watching it or for 10 seconds afterwards. But then how do we get them to change their [00:40:00] behavior? How do we model the behavior for them that we want them to see? And that could be, again, as part of the culture piece, or that could be part of what we wanted to do out on the floor. And I think those were two really good examples.

And I think you gave a bunch of good examples when we went through grateful. I like their, what you were talking about when you mentioned, you know, your staff and just try to figure out how to. Build your staff up. So talk to me a little bit about obviously going and getting your program for the first time as a head coach and having to put together.

A staff. Did you end up keeping some of the assistants that were previously there? Did you bring in some people that you had already built relationships with? Talk to me about how you put together the staff your first year.

Bryan Bender: [00:40:42] Yeah. So it’s, it’s been unique.  and I’m not saying I wouldn’t change how I did things, but I didn’t really know what I was doing with building a staff.

You always have like a couple people in mind.  but you can’t practice these things. You know, there’s certain things that the head coach, you can’t practice when you’re an assistant. And whether or not you think about them all the [00:41:00] time and you’re preparing yourself every day for that next move to slide over 18 inches.

Like it, it’s hard.  so we had, it was, I was full time and then we had, we have, we’re fortunate here, we have a dorm director job that has kinda been like out of a basketball job. And so they’re a volunteer coach, but they get paid a full time salary and they get a, you know, run the dorm and they went with the players.

So it’s kinda nice to like give you another set of eyes. But you know, so we had me and the dorm director and we made it through the summer. So I got the job in, like may made it through the summer. And there was a coach at a division two locally that called me and asked about him. And I was, I pushed him and he ended up getting the job at division two.

So I got to start basically fresh.  so I was bringing in, we only had two returners and myself. So we brought in 12 new players and three new coaches. And what you’ll learn is that going through the processes and assistant recruiting players, then becoming a head coach then trying to coach them is a challenge because [00:42:00] you recruit them slightly different.

 people like, I meant change who I was, but you know, my first year I kinda coached my team as an assistant coach, but I was a head coach because I was a guy that was their relationship guy and created that bond with them. So it got better this year because about half the players were new. And they were recruited by my staff.

And then next year coming up like I wasn’t, I was a lead recruiter on a few of my kids, but it’s been, now I’m kind of the home run hair instead of the establishing the relationship, then, you know, building the trust and calling moms and dads and parents and coaches and Aus and you know, all these different people that are important and their decision.

So to rally back, so I hired ’em. A guy who I thought was similar to myself in terms of, you know, Hey, started on the bottom and worked his way up. He was a manager of Virginia tech, and he was on staff at Georgia state, so he was with a Hunter around Hunter, who’s now a two lane. And he was on the bench when, you know, Hunter fell down on that chair where he broke his snare towards [00:43:00] Achilles and his son hit that shot, Baylor.

So he was on staff there and we were in the same league and the Sunbelt, so he was a good friend. And,  you know, he wasn’t, he wanted to get into coaching, you know, he was at GA video, like done all that other stuff. And so, and he knew something I didn’t know, and that was matchup zone. So I haven’t really worked for zone coaches.

And so he had a unique system defensively where, you know, he was very well spoken and things like that made it through the interview process. And that’s crazy. Like we had 42 applicants for a full time job that paid $34,000 just in Mississippi. Just think about that for a second. Of how competitive it is in college basketball to get a job in our profession.

There’s way more people that want jobs and that jobs are actually available. And so, you know, he ended up coming as my full time guy. And so now we got two guys that didn’t play. And so I was thinking in my head, Hey, you know, I think it’s important to hire a guy who played.  and [00:44:00] so there was another guy similar.

He was a grad assistant at Arkansas state, younger guy. He played at Florida Gulf coast. He’s been at. Barry a D two. He was at Liberty, he was at Delta state, and he had coached at another Juco and he was like 29 and he played professionally for a couple of years too. He’s still the best player on my team.

I’m like, if you can, if your players can’t be your coach, you know, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, but he’s pretty, he’s a pretty brilliant too. Yeah, he is good.  like we play intermurals and he had like three dunks in the championship and he’s like five, nine. And the dude, he’s unbelievable.

He shoots me from like the volleyball line. Am I getting mad cause he hasn’t passed me the ball, but as long as it goes in, I guess it’s good.  but yeah, so coach Reggie is his name and, and you know, he’s good with the relationships, really good at player development and you know, gives a voice to these guys that I can’t be,  all the time.

And then my first year I had a young young guy, he was 23, and,  that presented its challenges at times. Like he was really good. Like. Understood basketball and understood relationships, [00:45:00] but at the same time it was like you had another guy on staff. Sometimes from a maturity standpoint where you’re coaching your players and your, your staff.

And you know, you gotta make sure that any staff that you have, like all these guys have been very truthful and loyal to me. And that’s probably the most important thing in terms of, you know, what goes on in coaching. Like there’s some crazy stuff that goes on and things that you hear and see. And not saying that happens, I say in my program, but you know, being in college basketball for 15 years, you see a lot of crazy things that you’d never would’ve thought in a million years.

And you know, you even see it like you saw the FBI special on, you know, we’ll wait and, and the AAU guy. That subs real like that stuff is, is genuinely real. And not saying like I’ve been a part of any of that stuff, but like. You hear so many things and reputations and guys trying to backstab and get jobs and things.

Loyalty and trustworthiness is the most important thing with these people. And so I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had really good loyal coaches, you know, but he was a younger guy and so you got to coach other things too. [00:46:00] And those are things I didn’t take into account. Now I’m bringing in 12 new players and I’m going to bring in three new coaches that don’t know anybody and I’m going to be good as a first year head coach.

Whoa. Like that’s hard.  that’s really hard. And then,  this past year, so that guy left, he ended up taking a high school job in Virginia back where he’s from, and I hired a guy, his name’s Vince Tibideau and Vince is incredible with leadership culture. Like he’s an intellect and most intellects don’t coach basketball.

So sometimes they like, it’s too much. But the guy is like the smartest guy I’ve ever been around. He knows everything about everything. And you know, he just understands stood people. And he was my volunteer, so he lived in the dorm and ate for free, and I was lucky to get him. I met him at a rising coaches conference and he was actually wearing like the why I talked to him as he had a bracelet on, and I guess it was fate or something, but it was an ALS bracelet and that’s when my dad passed away.

And so it had like fighting ALS, ALS association. So when they [00:47:00] had an ice bucket challenge, and so it was a bracelet from that. And I was like. Tell me about your bracelet. And that’s what, like I saw him, we were at like a bar, like it was after one of the events was over and started talking to him and we stayed in contact and he ended up getting let go.

And this business is so hard to keep jobs sometimes and now we get less and less time to keep our jobs. And you know, I got a guy way overqualified, he’s got a master’s degree and he was a full time guy at BMI on staff there. He was at another division. One junior college in Virginia, Richard bland. He was at George Mason.

He was a manager at Western Michigan, and like he played football for awhile, like he’s done it all. And so he was really beneficial to me this year because he had some skills that I didn’t have from a leadership standpoint. And talking about things that were different. And so, you know, even some of this stuff is some of his ideas and stuff that he’s helped bring to the table.

And so, you know, all the guys have brought different things to help make me better.  but you gotta continue to grow. [00:48:00] And so that’s what I challenge those guys to, you know, building that staff is hard and, you know, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but, you know, at the same time, like, I want to keep learning.

And so having a new guy this year was really helpful and you know, whether I can keep him or not, I don’t know if I can afford to keep him cause he’s got to make some money. But he was like day trading during the day. So he’s talking to me about like all these different stocks. And then it was like way over my head.

So, you know, but it’s been fun, you know, having a staff in spawn.  it’s challenging here just because we were all 28 to 32 and so sometimes the hierarchy was difficult cause you were the same age and you know, some of that was difficult. And then, you know, they’re all three of those guys are single. And so that presented its challenges at times too.

Like there’s not a lot to do in some of Mississippi.  so you know, your quality of life, even though you love your job most of the times, you wouldn’t voluntarily live here. A job brought us all here. And so, you know, that presents its challenges, but it’s been fun.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:56] Enjoyed it. Yeah. I think when you [00:49:00] put together a staff and when you can find people who compliment.

What you do well and sort of fill in those gaps. I think that’s always an important piece of it. I think that, you know, there’s, there is constantly challenges with this, and we can talk about this at some point too, but you think about the balance between. You know, your work life, your coaching ambition versus your family, and if you’re single, sometimes that isn’t as big of a factor.

I know I’ve told this story before, but you know, when I was young and we were coaching, that was on a call, high school coaching staff, and we’d have a three and a half hour practice, which I’m sure wasn’t very valuable after the first hour and a half. But that’s what we did back in the day. And then we’d sit in the coach’s office after that, three and a half hour practice for another hour or two just talking.

Cause it was just a bunch of guys who were single. And then as we grew up and started getting married and having families, that dynamic changed. And I think it’s something that lots of coaches struggle with is that ability to balance your ambition as a coach [00:50:00] with your family life. And obviously you and your wife moving down to Mississippi from having been in the Midwest the whole time.

So talk about what that transition was like. On you and your wife. From a family perspective, you taken over a head coach and as head coach and moving into a completely different area of the country.

Bryan Bender: [00:50:14] Yeah. The biggest thing that I’d say, and this goes for any coach any time, is when you’re home, try the best you can to be present.

And not just physically present, but mentally there. And I’m not the best at it all the time, but that’s something that I’ve tried to focus on is just being present in the moment. So like my phone constantly buzzes. That gets a bit crazy, especially in this code thing because everything’s being done on the phone.

So the last seven weeks, so I got two Dijuan transfers in the portal, and I have seven available players. And you can imagine like. You know, and four of them have, five of them actually have visual and offers. And so it’s like everyone is trying to get your hand or get ahold of you or give it. And so like, [00:51:00] you know, I stayed, it was her, my mother-in-law and my, you know, her mom.

So grandma in law I guess. And we were all in the same house and it was me. And they’ve never really seen me work. And then I get a be on the phone and we talk and do all day. It’s 10 o’clock at night and I’m getting phone calls and they’re like, what is going on? And we’re trying to watch those arcs. I mean, like, what are we doing here?

 but it’s one of those things you gotta be present.  you have to have someone that understands,  you know, she sacrifices so much, so not live in where her family is, you know, like what, why in the world with someone that has five aunts and uncles on this side. And another three aunts and uncles on this side, and she’s super close to her family and her mom and her brothers live up there now it’s like 50 family members live in the state of Minnesota and we live in Mississippi.

Now. My family is a little different. I got my mom who lives in Madison and my sister lives in Naples, Florida. My brother runs a homeless shelter in Portland, Oregon, like got family in st Louis and [00:52:00] Chicago like to me like, but I didn’t grow up like that. I didn’t grow up where every weekend I was seeing an aunt, uncle, cousin, like she did.

You know, her cousins are like siblings or to her maids of honor in our wedding where two cousins, like she didn’t have a sister. So like, that’s tough. And so you’ve got to find someone that you know, obviously can’t stop love. And so it’s difficult, but you know, finding someone that understands like, Hey, this is what I love to do so much, and hopefully we can sacrifice enough.

Until, you know, one day it’s quote unquote worth our while financially and things like that. But it’s a hard journey. Like since we’ve been married, like we got engaged right after I moved from Missouri to North Carolina. Then we lived in North Carolina for two years, you know, as a married couple. Then we moved to Mississippi and we’ve moved houses since we’ve been here.

I’ve moved three times. Indeed married not even five years yet. Like that’s tough on anybody, the coaching, the coaching, you know. But at the same time, like our goal at some point is to try and get back towards the Midwest. And you know, as we, as we start a [00:53:00] family and things like that, you got to think about those things.

But, you know, it takes a Saint of a woman to be able to do it, but at the same time, she’s just as part of our family as anybody. You know, so, you know, bake cookies or be around, she loves to have the guys over. And you know, we did a super bowl party and she’ll talk smack with them and still show up for practice every once in a while just to pop her head in or, you know, all those different things.

And then unfortunately, she has a really good job where she can work remote,  where she can travel and, you know, we don’t have to go find her a job every time we move jobs, you know, cities. So, you know, it’s been fortunate to have that opportunity, but I would say, yeah, be present. You know, find someone that understands that, why you love it and not someone that has to love it as much as you do.

And obviously you talk about work no matter what relationship you are, but you gotta be able to turn it on and off a little bit, you know? Yeah. I lived drink, sleep basketball, and my program, and I’m thinking about all the time, you know, and we complain about work and we talk about great things at work and she’s just as crazy and not in the stands as I am coaching.

So, you know, she, she knows that it matters, you know, and it matters to [00:54:00] me and it controls your happiness a little bit, but you know, you have to be. I understand that it’s still bigger than basketball too, is your relationship, your wife, your family, you know, whatever it is. And you know, if I’m forced to hang it up because of something that like that, but I don’t want to,  you know, but no one always wants to do things, you know, sometimes you have to do things that’s hard part of adulthood.

So, but I’m very lucky to have her. You know, she supports my mission, dream and moved around so

Mike Klinzing: [00:54:31] well. It’s just like you asked your players to think about what they’re grateful for and their why, why they play. And I think sometimes it’s really important for coaches to step back. And remember. Why it is that they do what they do.

And yeah, there’s that love of the game. But when it’s somebody that you’re married to, and eventually if you have kids, coaches who have kids out there, you think about the why of what you do, and you do it for your players and do it for your love of the game, but you also do it for your family and home.

And [00:55:00] I know during the season we all get caught up in. The game. We get caught up in the wins and losses and in the practice preparation and in the watching film and all those things, and it’s just super important to have somebody that’s at home that’s supportive, that understands it, and then it’s so important, as you said, to be intentional about making sure that when you are home, that you’re being present.

I thought it was funny when you’re talking about them not seeing your work. That’s one of the things that’s been interesting too during this time is. Typically with the podcast, I’ve been doing things like late at night when we usually want to record, and I’m usually putting the episodes together and that kind of thing.

When my wife and my kids are asleep and now I’m home all day, so there’s times where I’m doing it or I’m making phone calls and my website’s like, what are you doing? Are you talking to? Why are you doing that? And it’s just funny because again, she hasn’t seen it in the same way. Just like you were talking about, you’re taking recruiting calls and all those kinds of things that typically you’re doing that at the office and now you’re doing it from home.

And so your, your work life is kind of on display.  [00:56:00] all right. So I want to go backwards and let’s get back to the very beginning of your career. And talk a little bit about what it was like being a manager and how that kind of gave you a headstart into the coaching profession. Because I’ve had this conversation with a couple of other coaches on the podcast, and I was a division one player at Kent state, and we obviously had managers that were around our program.

And I can honestly say during the four years that. I was playing, and I have good relationships with a lot of the managers. There’s still one of them that I still talk to to this day that I consider to be a good friend of mine, but I never once during that entire time, ever thought about or considered.

The manager position as being one that could lead to, that could lead you into the coaching profession. I guess I always looked at it then. This is me. When I was 18 years old or 19 years old, I was looked at it and saw, man, these guys must really want to like hang around the team and they like basketball and they liked the coaches, [00:57:00] but I never thought about it as a career path to get into coaching.

And I know you said that you kind of discovered that on your own, so just talk a little bit about how. Being a manager at Minnesota, how that helped you in your quest to become a college basketball coach?

Bryan Bender: [00:57:17] Yeah, so there’s different people that obviously become managers and like you can, I think life is about perception.

And so you think manager, you know there’s a stigma that comes to your head, kind of like a glorified water boy or a guy that you know, sweeps the floor, does the dirty work or like you were saying, like wants to be a part of the team. Because they want to be a part of the team. They want that prestige.

They want that image. They want the gear, they want the, you know, and I’ve seen them all and I took it from day one that I was going to use this as a learning tool. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I remember like I have a binder for my freshman year and I [00:58:00] filmed most days, so I was a low guy on the totem pole.

There were six of us. And the word, like the youngest guy, he had to sweep the floor. So I wet mop the floor. I had to get the water ready, so I had to get the water jug literally upstairs, like William’s arena had an elevator floor, so you had to go up an elevator to get up to the floor and. Then I had to film practice everyday.

So I was doing all this work to set up practice and then I had to fill. So I set up there and I literally would like move the camera and watch and then like there’ll be like a 10 minute segment of post perimeter shooting and I would sprint down from the second level. Like to get down there and just hit people with Pat or be a passer to learn.

 but I had a binder, so I kept every practice plan. I stole every scout report, so they like the second that game would be over and I’d like go in and clean it up, like steal scout report. And so I have a binder for my first year, everything, all the notes, I took, everything. I look back, I’m like, what the heck was I thinking?

Like, you know, different things. But it started there. And you know, everyday like I wanted [00:59:00] to learn and different things. And soon you learn, you know, I think any job you learn the system, you know, and then you learn how to exploit it, but you learn how to maximize your usage in that system. And so, you know, my freshman year I, at the end of it, I started to learn video.

I, I’m not the most tech savvy guy, but I’m a quick learner. So I like learn from our GA at the time. Like, how do you use this EXOS program? Then the next year he wasn’t retained, and so it was crazy. So they basically offered me a job to be like the video guy. They could, they could give me for cheap, and they offered me a certain amount of money.

Then I went home for break and I came back and they gave my money away. So I wasn’t there over the summer, and I’m not like bitter because I ended up getting the money back. But how this goes full circle. So Nico med, Betty’s a head coach at Colorado state. He had just, he was an interim head coach at foreman.

He gets fired. [01:00:00] He doesn’t get the job. They don’t keep him as a head coach. And so he’s from Minnesota. He was actually a manager as well. So he gets on at Minnesota staff as a $10,000 part time job, and they literally gave what that was going to be like my scholarship money to Nico. Well, November comes, we started the season like it was miserable.

We lost it when I won a state division to champion.  that you’re an exhibition and in Minnesota at a high level, big 10, you can’t do that. All right? We blew like a 10, eight point lead with like foremost to go against Iowa state. And this is great. So this is 14 years ago, and I’m remembering this stupid stuff now.

When we went to Florida and we played in the old spice classic and we lost to Montana, Marisy and Southern Illinois back-to-back-to-back we came back and we lose the Clemson by like 30 something in the big 10 AC challenge and he gets coached months and gets fired. Well, the assistant becomes a head coach.

The, there was some conflict with one assistant. So he like lets go. One of the assistants, the Dobo becomes an [01:01:00] assistant. Nico becomes an assistant and there’s Brian Bender, the only guy in this room that happened to only guy that knew how to use film. The only tech savvy guy apparently on the staff at 19 years old.

And, and so that was before synergy. They have these video programs now, like everything’s so electronic and so unbelievable that they have these things that that was before film exchange. And so I had a film games on TV. I had to do deck to deck VHS tapes, connecting them. I had to send out letters to every school requesting film, and then I had to send them a tape in the mail or fax it and then send the tape to them and then hope the game would come back within two days.

I was filling out FedEx forms and like I was, so our head coach was time Jamal and Ari did not know how to use a DVD player. So this was 2006 seven and he didn’t all use the unity point. So here I am. He’s literally blowing up my phone. I’m a student. He’s like, where are you? Like I’m in class. Like, he’s [01:02:00] like, Hey, can you come to the office?

Like I was like leaving class to go work on scout reports with our head coach at Minnesota at 19. And so I was just fortunate to be able to do that and learn how to, how things worked. I didn’t know shit, but you know, I was able to do like all these things with him and, you know, created that bond and that relationship and the assistance and things like that.

And so I just grew at a young age. Then TBI came my junior year. Well, yes, we know how to do everything. Yes. Who knew everybody? Well, I provided value.  you know, we, first thing we had was camps. And like, I love little kids and I love these camps and I love the, you know, I got a great, you know, we got Scotty said, like Scotty Pippin says like, and do I have all these camp games that I’ve learned over the years with different coaches.

And you just steal everybody’s ideas. But like, our camps are really fun. And so me and the director of ops, Joel Xeno, we joke we had the best camp in America and we had kids. [01:03:00] We, we made Tommy Smith like a million dollars in six years of camp. And. It was crazy. So like I’m the only one that knew where everything was.

And so he’s seeing this guy just hustle basically, and they kept me on and know, ended up paying for my grad school and things like that. So I was very fortunate to work my way every day in some capacity. And then I was getting reps coaching by, you know, I was a guy that I didn’t thought in sleep, so they’d be like, Hey bender, can you open the gym at six in the morning and rebound for me?

Sure. Hey bender at 11 o’clock tomorrow night, can you open the gym and be there for me? Yep. So I just was around and create a very close relationships with the players. I didn’t sleep, and literally, that’s all I did. So, you know, that’s, that’s what I did. And,  you know, here I am 15 years later, still kind of doing the same thing.

Sometimes I still open a gym late at night and working guys out and things, but it just has a different method to it. And [01:04:00] so like the hustle, the grind, you know, they say, I hate the word grind because I do what I love. Grind to me means like, ah, you have to do it right. If you really love something enough, you’re going to find a way to do it.

They say people don’t have time to do things online. You make time. And so that’s what I’ve always done as I’ve always been helpful to other people and I’ve always tried to live out my passion of hard work, and that’s where grit comes from. That’s our grateful is the grit. Like no one’s going to outwork me.

And that’s the mentality I’ve had since I was a kid and I hate to lose. So those two things together, those are two good quotes. Those are two good qualities I guess so. But they also can drive you crazy, you know, they can also drive you crazy because, you know, in coaching, especially as a head coach, you can, you can never stop working if you want it to.

And so learning how to turn that off and learning how to give a break, you know, just as my, I found that rest is just as much beneficial. I’ve never slept until I became a head coach [01:05:00] and not saying I’m lazier. I’ve never been this tired. And so you realize the mental capacity of what’s going on. Have you thinking so much?

If that makes sense. I just, the last two years I’ve slept more than I have all those other years now. Maybe that’s age, maybe I don’t know what the science is behind it, but I’ve never really been tired until I became a coach. And I think it’s cause you’re mentally thinking about things all the time and so you’ve got to find ways to turn it off.

Mike Klinzing: [01:05:30] I agree with you there. I think that that’s one of the things that I’ve told this story to people that I’ve had conversations with about just me as a coach and me as a parent. And so a lot of the coaching that I’ve done in recent years has been with my own kids and I’m coaching one of their teams and we lose a game.

And that game will stay with me until the next time we play and I’ll be running. And this is like we’re talking [01:06:00] a seventh grade basketball game or a fourth grade basketball game, and those things will stay with me and there’ll be running through my head and I’ll be going through scenarios, thinking about what I could have done differently or planning what we’re going to do with the next practice so we can avoid having that happen.

And as you said, I just, it’s very difficult to turn it off. And then. I could be in the same situation as a parent and go and watch my kids play and I want them to win and I want them to be successful and all that, but the game ends and five minutes after it’s over, I don’t care if they won or lost. It doesn’t, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

I don’t want them to have played well and had fun and played hard and do all the things that you expect them to do. But the outcome. Doesn’t sit with me at all, and it’s just interesting. Again, I think that somebody who has never been, and I think it’s even different as an assistant coach, and you can maybe speak to that as an assistant coach, you don’t hang the wins, the wins and losses don’t hang as heavy around your neck.

I know it was that when I was an [01:07:00] assistant varsity coach, I didn’t want to lose, but I know that that those losses didn’t hang with me the same way. They did when I was a head coach.

Bryan Bender: [01:07:10] If it’s not going on your record, even though you say you care and you want to win, it doesn’t mean as much. And it’s just like, what if it’s your scout?

So like if people have a little bit more invested interest in something, let’s say you gamble on a game $5. Like you’re going to be so much more invested in that game. Fantasy football, fantasy football. I should not play fantasy football. I’m allowed to cause I’m a Juco, not NCA, so don’t be right in advancing football.

Like I’m so locked in in it. It’s not anything I can control. But why do I care? I know I care so much. Well, I like to win. Competitive, I’m competitive. And so yeah, stuff can drive you off the wall and it makes people go crazy. And that’s why like, you know, you see these youth parents, you see all these different things.

So I’m not a parent yet, so I don’t know [01:08:00] what that’s really like, but I can almost sense like how it’s going to be, you know? Oh

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:07] yeah. Being being a parent, definitely it, I don’t want to say changes. The way you look at things, but you definitely start to observe and notice different things about the way sports are compared to.

So I feel like I’ve had the player perspective and I’ve had the coach perspective, and I’ve had the parent perspective. And each one of those perspectives for me is slightly different because as a player, I was very. Obsessed with the game of basketball. It was all I did when I was a kid. It was all I wanted to do.

It was all I thought about. It was all consuming for me from the time I was probably in, I don’t know. I don’t think I gave up my last other sport maybe when I was in seventh grade. And then as you become a coach, you want to have those same demands [01:09:00] of your players. But it took me a little while to realize that not everybody was wired like me.

And then you have to figure out how to meet them, where they’re at, where they are, and then. Get them to do their best despite the fact that they’re not as assess of it as you were as a player. And then as a parent, you come down and you realize that you have basically not no control, but you have very little control over what your kids are going to like and not like.

And you can expose them to lots of different things and you can have this vision of what you think. You want your kid to be. And then when they are here in the world, you realize very quickly that they are who they are and they’re going to find things that they like. And you have to, you have to meet them where they’re, where their interests are, and they’re not you.

And so as you become a parent, it’s just very, very interesting to look at all these different perspectives and then see how it impacts you. As a coach and just the way you think about the game and the way you think about players and families and all this stuff. It’s just all these different perspectives that you get as you have these, these [01:10:00] life experiences.

I want to ask you though, you talked about running camp there at Minnesota. Give me your favorite. What’s your favorite camp game that kids love that were part of your camp?

Bryan Bender: [01:10:10] Alright, so you’ll, so Jim Fox is probably the best at it. I don’t know if he took it from Davidson, but, so he had a couple of different things that he did.

So he had a blindfold shot. He had a beat the clock. So you do it when the parents are there. So like you, you know how it is, like you do all the things and when a parent comes, they want to watch your kid play games and like, here’s something from the staff of like, Oh, you’re going to this camp, and you heard this MBA guy speak, or you heard.

So you do these fun things that are just pure entertainment.  you know, kind of the show. You gotta be the show. So he did a blindfold shot. We had this game called, they call it the watermelon game. It’s the variation, but basically you have a winner’s court and you rotate all of the kids at all different levels.

So like it would be like third graders playing against the high school kids and they shoot from the block. And then the other [01:11:00] ones shoot from like the ELA or the three point line, and they gotta make a certain amount, but it doesn’t start till you get to that basket. And so it’s evolving circle and you only get points if you’re on the winner’s court.

So it’s like King of the court almost. And. The kids go bananas and then you just kill time 30 minutes on the clock and they just eat it up. So you got games like that. We did one that said,  beat the horn. And so you have them play one-on-one against like one of your players. They shoot it and there’s like three seconds on the clock.

So when they get the rebound, they got three seconds to get to the other end and beat the horn. So sometimes they’re shooting like a half court shot. Sometimes they’re shooting a layup, sometimes, you know, and based on how old the kid is, you could put more time out there. You know, they won’t be able to make it,  things like that.

But Fox did this,  he called it, Scotty says, so as Simon says, he bought 12 minutes on the clock. And he’s never lost. And I had never done it. And so I became a coach here. And so he would ring out a hundred dollar bill. So imagine like, Hey, what kids? You guys want to win a hundred dollars and the kids [01:12:00] go freaking bananas.

And so you put a hundred dollars on the floor, you’ll never lose if you got any act to you, I guess. So you’ll be like, all right, Scotty says, slide this way and you point this way. And then you say, Scotty says, slide this way. Stop. He didn’t say, Scotty says. And like half will stop. And so they’re all out.

They gotta to go sit down, you know, my favorite part. So he does this. He goes, the first thing he goes, you guys ready? And I’m like, yeah, okay. All right, so raise your hand if you played this game before. And like, half the kids will raise their hand and they’re out and they’re out to start the game. It’s like, it’s unreal.

Like how mad the kids get and they don’t listen. But you make it a quote and think about listening.  but you’ll laugh if you want to YouTube this. So we had a kid named Rodney Williams, so Rodney was.  when you say high major athlete, he was a high, major athlete if he ever made that MBA. So he probably liked the G league or D league, whatever you call it, for multiple years, maybe three or four years.

Played for Greensboro and different things and injury, play career. But he was [01:13:00] six, six, six, seven. But like the bounciest kid you’ve ever seen, he gets three 60 through his legs. He could,  you know, he did the Michael Jordan, you know, jumped from the Frito line. He did it from the elbow in three and did a three 60 and dumped it.

Freak athlete. So we put him in the corner. And so I played soccer in high school and so we, we call it, if you, if you YouTube is Rodney Williams kicked on on YouTube and we, I kicked the ball from half court, like a chip shot. And he would catch it as an alley, Oop. And Duncan. And we said like if he ever made the NBA, so like if he would have worked harder, he probably could have done it.

Cause he was that type of athlete and he could play the two or the three and six, seven. So he said if he ever made the dunk contest, like this is what we would do. He’s like, I’d fly you in and we do this. And we did it for the first time, like in front of all the campers. And we nailed it the first time.

Like it was a perfect kick. It was. It’s so hard to catch it cause you think about you’re kicking a ball from half court like that. Things got a little zing to it and he [01:14:00] caught it above his head and slammed it and there’s like 200 cameras in the video and they just go crazy either. Like if it was viral back then.

Like the video is not very good footage because it was like 2010 maybe. But like if it was today, it would be on like overtime or house of highlights, but that was like our camp game and then we’d play against our players. You’d have like the whole little kid team. They’d be on teams. It’d be like eight players.

If you beat the gophers, two minutes on the clock, you beat them. You got free stuff from the concession stand. Oh man, those kids were playing as hard as they could. And the older kids, they like block all their shots. They want let a score over the little kid every once in a while, like make a shot. And our guys would like mess around and they’d almost lose.

And like our coaches were like sweating bullets and we’re going to lose like $50 in the concession stand. They’re all getting mad. But you know any of those types of games, like things that are fun, you know, that’s why you go to camp, you go to camp, you’re either a babysitter or the kid actually wants to get better.

And I’ll remember like I went to one camp, like we didn’t have a ton of money growing up, and [01:15:00] so I went to one camp when I was in seventh grade and we went to the Badger camp and Tony Bennett did a speech and I remember it, and he did one, and he could spin basketballs. I don’t know if he could still do it today, but he’s fun.

Six balls at one time. And I’m like this kid and like looking at him like, Holy cow, who is this guy? And he’s like, he played for the Hornets for awhile. I’m like, Oh my God, an NBA player. Like I was so naive to everything, but now it’s like you meet anybody and it’s not really the same having been in the business.

But like that was the coolest thing. That’s got a memory in my head. Of camp. And so like I want to have that impact on kids. I want to change kids’ lives. I want to bring them to an event. I want to go to NBA game. I want to change. We want to do those things to give them life experiences through basketball, which they wouldn’t have that opportunity to do so.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:49] That’s  awesome. Those are all great things. I love it. One of the things that when you were talking about the Scotty says sign, have a buddy who he likes to do. Simon says game two and [01:16:00] just when you were talking about different ways of getting kids out, one of the things that he always does is he’ll play a game with whatever.

Let’s say we’re doing a, we used to do some group skills training stuff together. We’d have 30 or 40 kids in the gym at a time, and then we bring them all together to play. The Simon says game at the end, and. His lab. His big thing was he’d have the last two kids come up, so you know, you get down to two and he’d say, all right, you too.

Come on. You know, whenever Simon says, come on up here, Simon says, face each other. And then he’d be like, alright, now before we get started, I just want you to shake hands, you know, so that we have good sportsmanship. And of course the kids would shake hands like, Oh, you’re both out. You know, he wouldn’t have to give, you know, stuff like that.

Just to kinda throw kids off the, you know, off the set of what you’re trying to do. It’s always, it’s always fun. And then as you said, everybody gets mad. And of course then the other kids are having fun, cause they’re, you know, they got out early, but then they see them get tricked and it’s just a.

Bryan Bender: [01:16:52] I got one more for you. So we had this game, he called it, go for it. Okay. So you put like a water and it would be like [01:17:00] the free throw line, and then you do like a bag of chips or something. A little better bag. The candy and like the top of the key. And then you put like NBA three $20 okay. So you’d have, you’d like call it one of the coaches and it’d be like.

Alright, so Mike, you call out one of your kids and you call your best kid, like a kid who sucks, so we don’t lose the money, but you, you pick a kid and he’d go out there and he’d shoot it from the, the. Water bottle and he’d make it, you can have the water bottle or you can go for it. And all the kids, it’s just like those games on TV, like goodbye going bananas.

And they’re like, pick me, pick me, pick me. But then he goes to the egos to the, you know. Bag of Cheetos and he goes and shoots, he makes the three and the camp’s going all crazy and they’re all standing up and they’re hitting the floor and they’re getting excited. And then he’s like, do you want to go for it for the 20 and he’s like, ah, I don’t know.

And like they just peer pressure him and shooting the shot that he has no chance. Like you can’t even get it there. [01:18:00] Like shoot the full court shot or whatever. And then we keep our money and. Yeah, it’s good entertainment in three minutes.

Mike Klinzing: [01:18:06] That’s awesome. I do that the same thing. So I’ve done that with basketball cards since I started my camp.

This’ll be like 28 years. And so what I’ll do is I’ll take, and I’ll put a card down, right, right in front of the basket. And so my cancer always for elementary school kids. So just like you will have kids who literally can’t, you know, they could barely make the basket. If we have, if we’re in a situation where we have 10 foot baskets, we can’t have much to be adjustable.

You know, there’s some kids who are in like first grade, they can’t. Barely get the ball to the basket as it is. So we’ll have him shoot and it’ll always be. No, the most random obscure NBA player that I can find in the deck of cards that I have, and then we’ll use it like as a quiz for the coaches. You know, I’ll say, you know, Joe Smith, what college is this guy from?

And you know, then the coaches are all guessing, you know, so it’s our little time of having fun. So I’ll put that car down. The kid will make it or miss if they miss it, they’re done just same way and that they make it, they got to decide if they want to go [01:19:00] back and shoot for a card that somebody has heard of.

And it’s always funny because of course. Every time they make the first one, everybody’s same thing, they’re yelling, go for it. You know, take the shot. And you’ll get these kids who are like in kindergarten or first grade who could barely, yeah. And then they could barely make, you know, if they made the first one, it was complete and utter lock in a lot of cases.

And so then they go back to that shot at the free throw line and that, you know, I mean the ball gets like halfway there and you just, I always think. Okay. In a, in a six or seven year olds mind, like at what point did they process that and be like, Hey, I can, I think I can make that one. It’s like, why not just pick that one up and put it in your pocket?

And it’s always, always cracked me up.

Bryan Bender: [01:19:39] What I’m missing this summer. And that’s all I know is that it’s sad that there’s no camps and that was a great way, you know, getting into coaching. Is working in these camps.

Mike Klinzing: [01:19:47] Yeah, for sure. You think about the relationships and just the time that you had, not only within the camp structure, but then you just think about at night after the campers go to bed and just, you know, building those relationships.

I [01:20:00] think it’s something that if you’re a young coach. The fact that those camps aren’t as prevalent today as they were 1520 years ago, makes it a lot tougher, I would think, to be able to build those kinds of relationships. Like I’ve heard so many stories from guys that are around my age, let’s say from some 50 let’s say between ages 40 and 50 who you know will go back and say, yeah, I remember I worked at whatever university, Kentucky’s camp, and I met.

The young John Calipari or I met this guy and then I had this relationship. And just even if I was just a high school coach, I got to know these people and then that afforded me some opportunities to go and do these other things. And it’s just, or you think about five star, the number of people that worked at five-star camp that were connected to these big name coaches, and then had an opportunity to go and work side by side with them.

And if nothing else, just learned from some of the best coaches in the game and that those opportunities just aren’t there at nearly as much as they were. In times past.

Bryan Bender: [01:20:55] Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. It’s crazy that some of the kids that worked our camps, like say kids, but [01:21:00] they’re all getting head jobs now and like different things in college.

And then when I did video exchange, I was talking about all those letters that you write. So some of those names, like there’s some big names now that we’re doing the same thing I was, and it’s like funny, like it was because I was 1819 so I still feel a little bit behind, but they were like 24 25 and so like, I’m still a decade behind them, but you know, they’re starting to get, one of them was Brian Berg.

Brian Berg wrote me like this long letter when I was at Minnesota, like trying to reach out to different guys and he was like at Campbell and now he just got the head coaching job at Georgia Southern and it’s like crazy to me. Like I’m close like. Right? Some of these guys, they’re so close and like eventually, you know, the coach, K’s and the Bay, Heinz and you know, different guys are gonna retire and there’s going to be the next wave of these young coaches and we don’t know who they are yet.

But you know, I’m hoping someday that might me or some of my other guys and friends and like one of my best friends, he used to be an assistant here, is that Dayton.  Andy Farrell, and never follow Andy [01:22:00] Farrell with any job. I thought I worked hard, but that dude works.

He was a machine and he still is, but like he’s been a date in life.Like Andy Farrell will be the next head coach at Dayton and you can record this podcast and say it. Not right now. It may be a couple of jobs from now or coaches from now, but Entyvio will be a head coach at Dayton one day and winning a national title there. And that dude, like no one knows he exists, but like there’s the next wave of different coaches.

That are coming up and you know, doing things like, you know what I’m doing with these podcasts and different things to try and, you know, Mark it and you know, get your brand out there and you know, it’s just a matter of time.

Mike Klinzing: [01:22:34] Absolutely. I think it’s interesting that you said that because I think about that just in terms of life in general.

And I think back to when I was, let’s say age 22 to age 30 and. You had a big network at that time. There was a lot of people that you knew, whether it was in coaching or just in life in general, but a lot of those people were not at that point in positions where they could help you or they hadn’t reached leadership [01:23:00] status or they hadn’t gotten that inclined.

The ladder, so to speak. And now you get up to be age 50 and a lot of the people that are contemporaries of mine, or people that now have jobs, whether it’s in coaching or whether it’s in business or these other things that. Are just, it’s amazing how as you, as you get older, just how your network expands and how that network sort of grows and influence.

And I think that’s what you’re seeing happen with you, the people that you kind of grew up with, the people that were around when you were 18 1920 years old. Those people at that time were just. Kind of doing the group, you know, doing the grunt work, doing the grind, and now they’re starting to ascend because they’ve worked hard and they paid their dues and they’re starting to get those opportunities, which again, in turn, allows them to provide people who are part of their network with even better opportunities as well.

All right, so I want to wrap up. We’re getting close to an hour and a half. I want to ask you two questions. So one, I want you to tell me what your biggest [01:24:00] challenges day to day. As a head coach. And then two, what’s the biggest joy when you wake up in the morning? What’s the one thing that you love about coaching at Southwest Mississippi?

Bryan Bender: [01:24:09] Yeah, so the biggest challenge definitely is as a head coach, you get forced to make a lot of decisions. And so the decisions that you make every single day, like you don’t think about them. From when you’re an assistant of like how impactful every decision is in like as an assistant, you go to your head coach and you ask them three questions.

Well, if you think about it, there’s 30 people on campus doing the same thing. And so some days as the biggest challenges, I have a list of things I want to get done or that I think about getting done or that I want to do for either myself or for my program or things. And I get nothing done. And I think like some days I’m like, what in the world did I do today?

And literally, so the biggest challenge is putting out fires every single day. I think that’s [01:25:00] maximized the junior college. It’s maximized the places where you’re a little understaffed. And not saying that we are on staff because we have a very good situation here from my level, but the amount of decisions you make every day to put out fires and the things that you come across like ridiculous.

Crazy things that you never thought in a million years you’d have to deal with and things that you see good, bad, ugly, like as a head coach in college, basketball is absolutely like, it’s like real life. Netflix. Like every day of my life living here. Some days it’s like real life, Netflix and yes, I love it, but some days like it’s literally just so comical.

Some of the things that people do and say and things and the parents and the emails you get and the tweets and the things that you read every day. Like it’s real life. Netflix. So biggest challenge fires everyday. Biggest joy.

I love seeing my job ended up going full circle. So whether or [01:26:00] not it’s a player or another coach or someone you come across every single day, if you can have some type of impact with them and it goes full circle. So just an example, like I will take a kid that I, you know, started to recruit a couple of years ago and I build a relationship with them.

They end up signing at your program. And then coming full circle, they develop as a man, as it is, you know, as a player and all these things. And then when they get to sign or they get to commit or getting that call, that first offer, I’ll never forget. So the kid Devante Williams, he’s a kid from Ken and Ken McKinley, and this dude was good.

And I am a young assistant at Missouri State West Plains, and we’re in a hotel. And we had just played in like a January and we’re going to another one. I want to say we’re going to like somewhere in Kansas. We were in the hotel at breakfast and he gets [01:27:00] his first division one offer, and it was from my owner and he came sprinting to me.

Like, and kissed me on the cheek and just like, I get the chills thinking about it and he ends up blown up a little bit and like, but this dude, like especially these non qualifiers, which means that they didn’t have the grades out of high school to go to college and they have to go junior college. The fact that somehow I was placed in his life and helped him get a offer.

And we’re working out each night and talking about what we can do and what levels of basketball and people that we know and like how we’re going to try and help him and how important the grades are, and then when it happens and they actually get to do it, like that is so cool and so impactful. Yes.

That’s a success story. Yes. That’s what joy should be, but every day I get to live that in some way, shape, or form because there’s 15 new ones every year. You know, maybe it’s not the same 15 but like, Hey, 10 new ones. So this year I’ll have 10 new guys, [01:28:00] couple of managers, you know, probably one assistant.

And like I get to have an impact on their life and help them grow and learn through something that I love. And that’s basketball. And then teaching, you know, I love to teach at the end of the day, coaching is teaching. And so the joy of, I get to do basketball every day, every single day I get paid to coach basketball, like who?

Like. Trade me any job. I don’t care. I get, I can do what I love everyday. So that’s joy.

Mike Klinzing: [01:28:29] That’s good stuff, Brian. I love it. I think it came across throughout the podcast, how much you love what you do, and as we all know, that passion and that competitiveness is really what fuels success. Whether you’re a player or whether you’re a coach.

And I really can’t thank you enough for spending some time with us. Before we wrap up, I want to give you a chance to. Let people know where they can find out more about your program. Share your social media. Share your website. Just let people know how they can find out more about you and your [01:29:00] program.

And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

Bryan Bender: [01:29:02] Yeah, for sure. So I’ll do this, so I don’t mind these things and some people won’t. And maybe as I continue to grow in this business, I may regret doing these things, but like I usually give out my phone number, but I’ll do, I’ll do my emails. So it’s coachbryanbender@gmail.com and it’s Bryan with a Y, so COAC H B R Y A N B E N D E R@gmail.com.

Is my email. My Twitter is at Bryan Bender.  one word,  Bryan with a Y again, and,  you know, that’s, I mean, our program, you know, Southwest Mississippi Community College. I put a lot of our stuff on my Twitter handle and do a pretty good job with social media. You have to, you have to market your program every day.

 you know, if you want any notes from this, like I have a PowerPoint that I put together and it’s on a  Google drive and on Dropbox, and I actually have a PDF that I can text people.  from what I talked about with grateful and it’s got a couple of other things from my virtual coaches clinic. I’m more than willing to [01:30:00] give that out,  because if it can impact your program, I want it to, and that’s what business is about.

Basketball is all still on material anyway. So, you know, everything I learned some, some way shape or form a book or someone told me or something. And so let’s just share knowledge and you know, those types of things. So that’s what I’d leave you with. And if you love basketball. Trying to wait to impact someone else’s life through it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:30:22] Absolutely. Bryan can’t thank you enough for spending an hour and a half with us tonight. It’s been a pleasure getting a chance to talk to you and I think it’s been a very informative episode. You’ve shared a lot of things that I think coaches can take away and use to impact their program and their players and to everyone out there.

Thanks for listening and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.

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