CABRAL HUFF – HOLY INNOCENTS EPISCOPAL SCHOOL (GA) VARSITY BOYS’ HEAD COACH – EPISODE 381

Cabral Huff

Website – https://coachcabralhuff.weebly.com/

Email – coachcabralhuff@gmail.com

Twitter – @CoachCabralHuff

Cabral Huff is the Head Boys’ Basketball Coach at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School (HIES) in Atlanta, GA. During the 2019-2020 season, Huff took the team to the Elite 8. Prior to coaching at HIES, Huff had been a successful head coach at Duluth High School. In Huff’s three seasons at Duluth High, he took the team to three consecutive state tournament appearances, including back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. His overall record at Duluth was 54-36.

Prior to arriving at Duluth High, Huff spent two seasons coaching college basketball. At Alcorn State University (2015-16), he assisted in leading the Braves to a total program turnaround, resulting in second place in conference. While at Georgia Southern University (2014-15), he helped to guide the Eagles to a 22-9 record.​

Prior to his time at the college level, Coach Huff was a successful coach at St. Francis High School in Alpharetta, Georgia for six seasons.

Huff also has coached at Cedartown High and Atlanta International High, as well as professionally, in the WBA and the ABA.

Coach Huff has two players currently playing in the NBA: Malik Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kobi Simmons, currently a two way player for the Charlotte Hornets.

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Get a pen and paper ready now so you can take some notes as you listen to this episode with Cabral Huff from Holy Innocents Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia.

What We Discuss with Cabral Huff

  • Growing up in Atlanta a fan of Dominique Wilkins and remembering the Larry Bird – Dominique Duel in the ’88 playoffs.
  • Lethal Weapon 3 at Georgia Tech coached by Bobby Cremins – Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, and Brian Oliver
  • Learning to play the game the right way from his high school coach
  • Getting a hip injury playing high school basketball that led to a tumor being discovered on his hip
  • The impact that Morehouse College had on him – developing life long friends and learning to become a leader
  • How he came to feel that helping kids reach their goals was definitely more important than being a journalist while attending Morehouse
  • Coaching a church league team as his first coaching experience
  • The learning curve as you step up from one level of the game to the next
  • Why he is a life long learner
  • Being able to relate well to players as a young coach
  • Why he doesn’t think coaches should play during practice
  • As a coach you can’t use everything you learn
  • Coaching both boys and girls jv team Dutchtown High School
  • If this is what you want to do, you have to be willing to put in the work
  • Leaving behind the results of a jv game to focus on the varsity
  • Advice for dealing with failure as a coach
  • How being a head varsity baseball coach helped prepare him to be be a varsity basketball coach
  • How coaching different sports helps coaches grow and improve
  • If you don’t have fundamentals, you’re not going to win
  • The importance of taking input from your assistants and not trying to do it all yourself
  • How things in the media can sometimes be misconstrued and finding motivation in quotes from coaches
  • Only 20% of what you do as a head coach involves around the X’s and O’s part of the game
  • Meeting with every player after tryouts, both those who make the team and those who don’t
  • Up front communication heads off a lot of problems – make sure players always know what their role is on the team and tell them the truth
  • Having a winner and a loser in every drill to build competitiveness
  • Using Impact stats to evaluate players – rebounds, assists, deflections
  • Having assistant coaches watch over specific aspects of practice and games
  • I get with my coaches together and individually, and I want to know what they love to do, I tell them what I think they’re good at and we talk about what they want to try to work on. Then I try to piece all that together and placed them in the right spot
  • How to achieve a flow in your program from one level to the next
  • Why his middle school coaches handle a lot of pre-season workouts
  • Why pace is so important to him
  • Tips for figuring out what to focus on with your team heading into a season
  • Why he chose to emphasize communication and ball movement in his first season at Holy Innocents
  • Hero, Highlight, and Hardship – building relationships among players
  • Establishing an accountability partner
  • His “State of the Bear” addresses every Wednesday during the season
  • Implementing a leadership program
  • Why he tries to incorporate dribbling and passing into his shooting drills
  • “We’ve got to be able to use basketball to teach our kids about life.”
  • Georgia’s High Academic Coaching Clinic
  • Bringing in outside voices to speak to his team as part their Leadership Program
  • “They’ll forget how many championships you may or may not have won. How many wins you got. They’re really going to ask you how many people did you touch?”
  • You never know when someone’s watching
  • Why he seized the opportunity to leave high coaching to take the DOBO job at Georgia Southern
  • Taking a pay cut to go from high school to college coaching
  • “You don’t understand the sacrifices that have to be made to pursue your dreams.”
  • His time at Alcorn State
  • His decision to return to high school coaching and how what he learned in college coaching helped him succeed
  • Why it’s important to play for the person next to you
  • Leave a legacy so that you can one day bring your kids and your family back and say I was a part of something special.

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THANKS, CABRAL HUFF!

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TRANSCRIPT FOR CABRAL HUFF – HOLY INNOCENTS EPISCOPAL SCHOOL (GA) VARSITY BOYS’ HEAD COACH – EPISODE 381

[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from Holy Innocents Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia. Head Boys basketball, coach Cabral Huff, Cabral, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Cabral Huff: [00:00:14] Ah, so privileged, glad to be on, have listened to you guys a lot and, have gained some knowledge.

So hopefully I can do the same, in our brief conversation tonight,

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:24] I can honestly say that we’ve had many guests that have come on and say that they’ve listened to a lot of episodes, but with you, there’s definitive proof out there on the internet. Have you re tweeting and sharing out some of the things that our great guests have said in the past?

So I want to just. Start off by saying thank you for that. And I know there’s a lot of things that you’ve passed along from our podcasts that have gone out on your Twitter feed to coaches. And again, that’s really what this whole thing is about, is trying to grow the game of basketball and improve coaching profession.

So we thank you for that and really looking forward to diving in with you tonight. So let’s start out. By going back in time to [00:01:00] when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball when you were younger.

Cabral Huff: [00:01:03] I guess I was blessed to have some length and some being tall, which kind of ran in my family, but my parents weren’t tall, but my grandparents were and some people, some brothers and sisters on my mom or dad’s side were and so it was kind of the sport I kind of grew to love more so than, than even baseball or football, which I played growing up as well. And really it was anybody that knows me, knows my love for anything, Atlanta having grown up in Atlanta, Georgia, and kind of been here most of my life.

And so it was my fondness of this guy. We call the human highlight film. How many.

Everybody else probably thought Michael Jordan was the best they favorite player. but Dominic Wilkins was my favorite player. so that was, kind of what got me going. And I would go in my backyard and, and try to practice his spin move into the finger roll. Couldn’t quite windmill dunk, like he could, but I tried everything else, you [00:02:00] know, bank shots and all that kind of stuff.

And so that’s kind of what got me into basketball. Right. It was watching the Hawks, growing up and in the age,

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:08] How old were you when the Bird – Dominique duel took place?

Cabral Huff: [00:02:12] Oh, what was that? 1988.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:14] I think it was 88.

Cabral Huff: [00:02:14] Yup. I am 19.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:16] Okay.

Cabral Huff: [00:02:18] Don’t get me started about why Cliff Levingston took the show six and Dominique didn’t take that shot.

You know, they’re there two times in our history, I thought we had a chance and I’m not even including the time we get to the conference Finals was the only time that the Hawks get to the conference finals, but that was one year. And unfortunately, the year we traded Dominique, I thought if we had kept him, that was another year, really done some damage in the playoffs.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:47] Well, welcome to being a tortured fan base. Other than the time, I guess we’ve kind of gotten spoiled here in Cleveland, getting a chance to watch LeBron over the years, but certainly prior to that and in any other sport, as I’m sure coach Jason can attest to.

[00:03:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:03:04] a Falcons fan. It’s not going well for him this year.

Cabral Huff: [00:03:08] Let’s stay with basketball right now. I won’t get to the football. I might put your podcast short.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:14] Right continue sign. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Go ahead and keep rolling on your Atlanta sports fandom.

Cabral Huff: [00:03:20] But, but that was it. And then add into the fact that I then grew to love college basketball and, and lethal weapon three, was just something that was really big the 1990 team and went to the, the final four.

Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, Bryan. Brian Oliver, some great teams that was a great team and they had some great players and watching Bobby Cremins coach that team. I think those were the two things that really led me to basketball and grew my love for it and playing it obviously in high school and then getting the opportunity a little bit in college and then.

You know, just the evolution of basketball and allowing the kids are growing the game was kind of what started me in coaching. You know, I grew to love teaching it. [00:04:00] Wasn’t something that I started out in college to do. I wanted to be a journalist ironically, since we’re on this podcast. but, God, sometimes there’s different things in store for you.

And, teaching was one of one of those things and that led me to coaching.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:12] Talk a little bit about your high school playing career and then kind of how you ended up at Morehouse and what your experiences were like as a high school player. And then in the opportunity that you got to play in college.

Cabral Huff: [00:04:25] The head coach at May’s high school was definitely a hard nose. gotta find a do it the right way. do the things his way kind of coach. And, it was really good playing for him. You learn how to play the game the right way. You learn how to do the necessary things to do your job, then only your job.

Unfortunately, between my junior and senior year, I got hurt in a game where a dude undercut me. I was going up to try to Dunk and dude undercut me and I fell on my hip and just thinking it was just something minor maybe a hip pointer. I actually tried to go back in the game and it [00:05:00] got a rebound, but couldn’t run the floor after I made the outlet pass.

Realized something was wrong, but after a couple of days  it was over. I was ready. I could go back and play basketball again, but my mom’s friend was a nurse and she said, just go get them, checked out, go get checked out to make sure he’s all right. And unbeknownst to us, I had a benign tumor on my hip that had been there my whole life.

And, if that hadn’t happened at that point, probably by the age of 25, I would’ve had the book Bo Jackson reconstructive hip surgery. so it definitely changed my life. It made me see things differently and maybe view things differently. I tell people that was probably the thing that humbled me very early in my life, because everything I did centered around basketball, charged playing, I have decent grades, pretty good grades.

And my parents won’t let me play unless I had those grades, but it all of a sudden around basketball, I was getting those grades. Cause it was right.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:56] Right.

Cabral Huff: [00:05:57] So that it really changed. And my [00:06:00] pastor, Dr. Aaron L. Parker was, he was a professor at Morehouse and his son and I grew up being great friends, even though we went to rival schools, he went to Westlake, I went to Mays High School here in Atlanta and he was the influence that said you need to go to Morehouse, and start your journey there and see where it leaves you.

So that’s how I kind of ended up at Morehouse College and, and in all honesty, it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:24] What was so positive about the experience for you there?

Cabral Huff: [00:06:28] Lifelong friends, the ability to learn how to lead. I think that’s one of the great things that Morehouse teaches you.

you see it in a, in the alumni base that we have, but it teaches you how to lead a tissue, how to be a leader amongst men. just by the conversations, not even just the classes, but the conversations and it broadens your horizons. You know, it’s still a liberal arts school. So you got to take religion.

You’ve got to take music. You gotta take art. and obviously being in America as an African American male, being in Atlanta, that was [00:07:00] during that time, that was the time when hip hop was really getting big in the South, without Outkast and some groups of that nature.

so it was just a great time to learn a great time to explore. And, it led me to some people to some lifelong friends, not just friends, but mentors, guys who graduated, men who graduated from Morehouse before myself. And it also turns you on to being leaders, to guys who came after you.

Part of the one of the biggest things I’ve had in my career is having a player. No, he didn’t go to play basketball and Morehouse, but he went to Morehouse to run track. And, that’s probably one of the things I smile about to this day.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:37] Yeah. That’s really cool. When you get an opportunity to have somebody kind of follow in your footsteps as a coach and sort of walk in those same shoes that you walked in at one point, and I know just.

Speaking for myself here I am back. I haven’t always lived in the town that I grew up in, but I’ve been back now for probably 11 or 12 years. And so my kids are going through the same high [00:08:00] school that I went to. And so it’s kind of neat just to see them kind of in the same environment that you grew up in.

And I’m sure it’s a similar feeling with. Players that end up going and kind of having, again, a similar experience, especially because your experience, as it sounds like was so positive and you felt like you drew so many lessons and things that have influenced you well, beyond your years that you spent at Morehouse to have a positive impact on your life.

And so you mentioned earlier about. Going into the, your college experience, thinking that you were going to be a journalist. And then at some point you started switching over and thinking about teaching and coaching. So how did that shift take place? Was there one specific moment that stood out? Was it kind of a gradual, just from what you were exposed to while you’re at Morehouse, talk a little bit about that transition in terms of what you saw your life path being.

Cabral Huff: [00:08:47] So I’m probably one of those kids that listened to sports talk radio. From like the age of 12. And so even now, and so I just watched all sports, baseball, [00:09:00] football, basketball, and I began to notice unfortunately at that time, many African American males were not in the journalism business unless they had played at a professional level.

So not saying I couldn’t get it done, but I said, I need to find a plan B. I was majoring in English. So I said, well, let me begin to take some education classes that our sister college Spelman, which is in the Atlanta university center, everything’s right there, and so once I began to take those classes, they kind of really changed me. It drew me away from journalism to realizing that that helping kids reach their goals was definitely more important. the me being a journalist, to be honest with you.

Mike Klinzing: [00:09:46] So when you make that switch, are you thinking then at that point, that teaching and coaching are going to be a part of your future. Did those two kind of go hand in hand or were you still just more focused maybe on the teaching piece [00:10:00] of it and the coaching came a little bit later. Just how did that come to be?

Cabral Huff: [00:10:02] So it’s really funny that you asked that question because one of my good friends growing up and he told me this probably about a year ago, he said, I remember when you told us when you were still in high school, that you were going to be a coach one day and nobody, everybody kind of looked at you like, Oh, okay.

That’s what you want to do. but even at that time, although it was in my mind, it wasn’t like, okay, I’m doing this so I can coach. but then right around the time when I stopped, I didn’t realize that my playing career was done. Like, the injury had taken its toll. I wasn’t the same player anymore.

When I stopped playing, I realized that let me try to help somebody else reach their goal and not even through teaching. So I began actually coaching my church league team, which was Zion Hill Baptist church. And these kids, these young men were like two years at most, two, three years younger than me.

And, we were very successful and that kind of got the itch going right [00:11:00] there, but I had, no, I did that going into my first you’re teaching right after graduation, that somebody was going to give me the keys to a JV basketball program.

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:11] So, did you feel when that opportunity came to be, did you feel prepared for that because of your previous experience with the church league team, or did you feel woefully unprepared once you stood in front of a JV team?

Cabral Huff: [00:11:25] I thought I was prepared as far as, as far as telling them what to do. but you’re never prepared for that step up until you actually get into it. And I don’t care what level you’re talking about. If it’s going from rec leagues to JV, JV, to varsity, varsity to college, college, to NBA, there’s always a curve, a learning curve.

and at first you was at learning curve. I think we went about 500 and I just, I tried to pick the grunt brain of the coach I was working for and learning as much as I could. And, I probably, an experience I remember the most is. One of my players, parents kind of gave me the blues after the [00:12:00] game one night.

And I remember going home like, wow, is this what it’s about? But you know, it just made me say, I gotta get on my game better. I gotta learn more. and I think that’s kind of the thing I try to tell young coaches has never stopped learning. and that’s part of the reason why I listened to you guys’ podcasts a lot.

Cause there’s so much information out there whether you’re using it now or whether you can put it in your goodie bag and use it later. for whatever experience is needed. I think you got to continue to learn at all times.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:26] Yeah. That’s a great point about maybe not necessarily pulling something out that you can use right away in the moment, but that’s one of the actually things that I’ve enjoyed talking to coaches about on the podcast is just, what’s kind of their system for keeping track of things that as they go about being a lifelong learner, like what systems do they use to.

Remember all the things that they hear or see or take in from mentors and other coaches, because we all know that you can, they’ve listened to a podcast or you can read a book or you can watch a video or [00:13:00] go to a clinic. And if you’re not writing that stuff down and actively going back, yeah. I’m looking at it.

You’re not going to end up probably. Utilizing it, unless you have it saved somewhere. So I always find it fascinating, just coaches that use the three ring, ring binder versus coaches. We have it on a file and some people have it on their phone or they send an email to themselves or whatever system that coaches have.

I think it’s so critically important that coaches do do that because if you don’t a lot of the good information that you might intake. Ends up going right back out because you just don’t retain everything. And so I think from a standpoint of you talk about as a young coach, trying to learn from the coach you were working for in that first year, and really trying to intake as much as you possibly could to help yourself become a better coach.

I think that’s a lesson that every coach can learn. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young coach or an old coach, you can always learn something from somebody in that. Attitude of being a lifelong learner, I think is so important. If you go back to that time, [00:14:00] when you were in that first year as a JV coach, what is something that you feel like you took to pretty naturally, and you did pretty well that first year.

And what’s something that when you look back on that first year, you’re like, ha man, I was terrible at that.

Cabral Huff: [00:14:13] Probably something that I thought I did well was relating to the players. I think that’s really easy, especially just coming out of college. I think you probably listened to the same music.

You can probably relate to what they’re thinking about. so it’s easy for them to talk to you. not even just the stuff about basketball, but stuff that’s not going on on the court, but the hardest thing is realizing that you don’t play anymore. I realized that very quickly, because as a young coach, many times, we want to get out there and play with our guys.

But if we’re playing with our guys, sometimes you don’t get to see everything that’s going on. Now you’re making see the guy didn’t cut, but can you see what’s going on on the defensive end when they’re not rotating? You can’t do that. So I had to learn that. I can go play at a man’s league, but I can’t play when I’m in [00:15:00] practice with my guys.

And the other thing was just the game management. How to sub when it’s up, trusting yourself on certain things. I think that was the greatest thing that I had to improve upon. I think that first year gave me that avenue to improve upon it. You know, I go back to you’re talking about how coaches keep notes.

And I remember going to clinics that was the first time I had went to a coaching clinic was during the spring of that year. And, You try to take all these notes down and if you think you can use them right away, once you get back to your team, in reality, you can’t. I think that’s the other thing that I learned during that first year, even though it was kind of after the first year was that you can’t use everything right away.

Some things need to be, to be stored and held on to, just to the perfect time. But that’s kind of how that first year went. But I think it benefited me that next year, because the next year we, we, we, we lost one game. unfortunately that game was in the playoffs, but, we lost one game. So we went undefeated during a regular season.

and those JV guys ended up being [00:16:00] a real crucial guys following that 10th grade year on the varsity team for the next two years.

Mike Klinzing: [00:16:06] So you take the lessons that you learn each year and you try to apply them to your next situation, obviously, so that you can continue to get better, whether that’s you’re in the same position and you continue on with just the next year’s team, because clearly there’s a lot of turnover.

When you’re talking about high school basketball, if you’re coaching a JV team, guys, move it up, guys, moving down, you’re getting a whole new group of kids in. And so that to me, I think is one of the most exciting and interesting things about coaching, especially at the high school level is that your team changes so frequently and you have to, as a coach adjust to that when you started your career and obviously teaching was where you were focused.

Did you ever have a thought in mind? And I know we’ll get to this as we go later, but I think it’s probably a relevant question at this point. Did you always think that. High school coaching was where you wanted to start, finish and end. Or did you have in mind that, Hey, maybe at some point I’d like to try to coach at the college level, and obviously you [00:17:00] did get a chance to do that, which we can get to in a little bit, but just talk a little bit about maybe where your mindset was when you first started.

Cabral Huff: [00:17:06] when I first started, it was trying to be the best I could be at that position. I was blessed to get it. I don’t think a lot of people coming straight out of college at age 21. Well, they had that kind of position put upon them so early. So I was just trying to be the best JV coach I could be as I moved along.

As I got to be about 24, 25, that’s when I thought came to my mind, like one day I would like that opportunity to coach at the higher level. At that time I thought possibly the highest level as I got older. Sure. I kind of realized that college or high school are the two areas that I would really like to focus on.

but I think starting off it was just let me coach and be the best JV coach I could be. but as I got older, a lot of people don’t get to scratch that itch and I definitely was able to scratch it. And, it was a great time. And we’ll talk about that later.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:58] Perfect.

All right. So tell me a little [00:18:00] bit about you, your next opportunity. When do you get the opportunity to lead your own program and how does that come to pass? So

Cabral Huff: [00:18:07] After the four years at Booker T Washington High School, which is a skip hop  and a jump from Mercedes Benz stadium, which was the Georgia Dome.

I get opportunity to go to Dutchtown high school and worked for Kurt Miller, and be his varsity assistant and be over the JV program. But I also was, the varsity assistant and over the JV girls program. So I had, I wore two hats and a big thing about this school was a brand new school opening up with just ninth and 10th graders.

But playing a varsity schedule. So you want to talk about really being able to develop some guys, knowing you may get your head beat in some nights, with some young kids. but it was we would, we were two guys about the same age as far as Kurt Miller and I on the, on the boy side and the same thing, Gilbert and myself.

And, we just really [00:19:00] kept that thing going. We were really good about it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:04] So what did that look like in terms of the amount of time that you were having to put it? You probably had a game during the season. You probably had a game four or five nights a week, huh?

Cabral Huff: [00:19:12] At night four o’clock five 37, eight 30.

So imagine, it’s an away game. And, at that time we played teams like Griffin high school. And if you know anything about Georgia, Griffin is where Darren Hancock went. J Ron went up playing football, and some other guys that were really good in sports, went and played in play down there.

So that’s about it an hour away. So. Game finishes at 10, you may not get home until 11, 12 o’clock you know, once every kid is picked up. so that was some long nights. And it’s part of the reason why I tell young coaches a lot of times you gotta grind. If this is what you want to do, you gotta be willing to put in the work.

You gotta be willing to put in the [00:20:00] time. And it’s not always going to be easy. You may not have the time to spend out and everybody else who’s your age. but I did that as well as teaching classes. And then on the flip side of that, I coached football at the time too. So I think it really let me know what it meant to.

Yeah. If I wanted to become a head coach, I had to put in the time and, and grind to show. What it’s like to be in the office so long to try to get things done. and I think it benefited me in my career.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:26] Yeah. Well, I’m sure it did. I think when you were put under those, I don’t want stressful is maybe the wrong word, but when you’re, when there was a lot of demands being placed on you, in terms of the things that you have to do, I think that’s when you have a great growth opportunity.

And if you can make your way through that and get through that grind and learn from it and take things that are going to benefit you moving forward, that I think you always come out on the other side. Better for having gone through those experiences. And as I think about what you did there and coaching both the boys and the girls side, I just know that whenever I’ve [00:21:00] coached at the high school level, and there were times that I was the JV coach and time when I was the varsity assistant.

And I think that as much as you want your team to. You know, to be successful and to win games. And then you’re sitting there as the JV coach and you win your game or you lose your game and then you’re going to the varsity game and there’s, there’s still a party that’s doing over your game. The JV has the JV coach.

And so for you sitting through that quadruple header and being invested in every one of those games, Man. That’s, that’s, that’s a lot of, again, I don’t know if stress is the right word, but that that’s a lot of pressure on you every night to go through all that.

Cabral Huff: [00:21:35] It was. I think that was the first thing I learned.

I remember, I think I went from the JV boys bench to the varsity girls bench and coach Nita Gilbert one time. Cause I was very quiet and maybe through the whole first quarter. And I remember she sits next to me and she goes, that JV game is over and there’s nothing you can do about what happened in that JV game.

So I need you right now to be in tune with me and how we can win this game. Nope. [00:22:00] And I think that was, that was really important. And then if I could go back a little bit, I’ve been blessed in my career to have coached football, baseball, track basketball, but I think one of the biggest things that helped me was my time at Washington.

Again, as a young coach coming straight out of high school, excuse me. Out of college. I was thrust to be a varsity baseball coach. And taking over a program that was wanting well, excuse me. We went one and 21 my first year. So having to deal with, I’m not winning at a young age and the failure and how do you get better?

And, yeah, I remember halfway through that year telling some, some seniors who were playing baseball cause they didn’t want to run track because they were football guys. listen guys, I’m trying to build a program. so we can get better. So you guys want to play anymore this year. You will still come to the banquet and get a certificate.

and I don’t hold anything against you, but I’m trying to build a program and we’re going to move [00:23:00] forward. And, we lost with those young guys that year, but I remember my last year at Washington, Us going 500 and missing the playoffs by about one game, in a competitive region with some private schools and we missed the playoffs.

Cause we didn’t catch a pop fly in between my outfielder and second basement. And we were up 12 – eight. I remember to this day, we’re up 12 – eight, and that pop fly drops and we lose a game 13 – 12. but that experience as a head varsity baseball coach really. Help me understand what it meant to be a head coach before I ever got a, that first head coaching job after leaving, Dutchtown a Cedartown high school, which is in Rome, Georgia.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:43] Do you think that we talk a lot about multi-sport athletes and how that benefits kids who play multiple sports in whatever, maybe their favorite sport is. Do you think the same applies to coaches in that if you’re coaching a different sport maybe than the one that is number one. [00:24:00] So for you, basketball is number one, but you coach these other sports.

Do you think that you gained a tremendous amount of value from those other experiences? And do you think other coaches. Would benefit in the same way. Now, obviously you have to have some degree of knowledge of the sport and all those kinds of things, but all things being equal. If, if I know enough about baseball or football to be a coach in one of those sports, do you think it benefits a basketball coach to have coached other sports?

And if you do, in what way?

Cabral Huff: [00:24:29] I think and I’m really big on the mental aspect of the game. And I think there are different mental aspects of the game that you do in each sport. You know, baseball is truly a mental game. You know, you fail more times than you win that you succeed in baseball. How aggressive you have to be in football or to really be successful.

I think as a young coach, it definitely can help you. I don’t think it’s something that you should shy away from. Everybody wants to, well, I just coached basketball. well I just coach whatever [00:25:00] sport, but I think being able to, to, to coach those other sports can really help define who you are as a coach.

You can learn what you don’t like as a coach and not just from coaching under somebody in basketball. and you can learn about the attention to detail that football coach has put in. You know, a lot of people don’t realize even at the high school level, that after a Friday night game, they’re either meeting Saturday night or Sunday preparing for the next game.

One of the things that I learned that I’ve never understood from about basketball coaches at the high school level, they do win in college basketball, but in football they give their next opponent like three game films and say we’re just gonna run our stuff better than you’re going to be able to stop it.

And in basketball, we try to hoard our stuff. Like, no, they can’t see what we’re doing. and probably we probably got it from somebody else anyway.

Mike Klinzing: [00:25:55] Exactly. Well, and now it is, it’s so hard to do that. I think that was probably [00:26:00] easier to say, Hey, we’re going to hoard stuff 15 years ago. We’re not going to share our VHS tapes with you and we’re going to keep it hidden.

Whereas now I think it’s, even if you want to hide stuff now, I think it’s almost impossible.

Cabral Huff: [00:26:12] Correct. So it definitely does help. I just know that coaching, that baseball team, It really helped shape me as a coaching and how I had to be a stickler to detail what I wanted to do. What do we want to be good at?

And the fundamentals for baseball, if you don’t have fundamentals, you’re not going to win. I don’t care who you are. And so that trickles down. I think a lot of times we miss that in other sports, we just think, Oh, he’s so athletic or he, or she can do this, but it still comes back to fundamentals all the time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:43] Yeah, I agree. You have to have that base without the base. It’s nice to have the great athleticism. There’s no question about that. And clearly, if you can combine the high athleticism with the high skill level, then your ceiling. Is much higher as well. But I do think that if you just try to get away with just being [00:27:00] athletic and not working on the fundamentals that you ended up getting yourself in trouble.

And again, I don’t care what sport it is. I think that that’s true across all sports and across all levels that. The fundamentals when, and then you put that on top of being able to make good decisions in the moment, and that’s how you really end up having success. So you learned a bunch of things from all of your experiences leading into that first opportunity to be a head varsity basketball coach.

So tell us a little bit about. What your mentality was going into that in terms of what were you trying to do? Philosophy wise, culture wise? What do you remember about that time? When you thought about putting together a winning basketball program?

Cabral Huff: [00:27:42] One of the big things was I was walking into a situation with a team who they were successful as far as wins and losses.

But as a young coach, I think when we get our first job, sometimes we, we want to change everything. and I didn’t do a great job of listening to my guys. I didn’t do a great [00:28:00] job of realizing what their strengths were. and, and I just tried to come in and kind of change everything. so probably the biggest thing that I learned was you gotta do an introspective.

Research, on the team that you’re about to take over. But my philosophy during that time was we wanted to get up and down. we definitely want it to press. but I wanted to, I wanted to out scheme everybody on the show have a culture was reality. I mean, I remember we got halfway through the year and I remember my assistant coach had told me this early in the season.

He said, coach, I think we’re throwing too much at him. No, no they’re going to get it. They’re going to get it. Had I listened to him early in the season. We want to have some struggles that we had, coming out of the gate. and what’s funny is I want my very first ever game as a head coach versus a ranked team and who was arrival.

and I made the mistake of saying the wrong thing in a newspaper that got them riled up the second time. The second time we played them and they’d beat us like a drum the second time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:59] All right, [00:29:00] well, I’m not going to let you get away without telling us what the quote was.

Cabral Huff: [00:29:02] You know, sometimes people can take anything.

and  make it, I guess wallpaper ready, understood. And I said, well, they’re a good team, but we’re a better team. And they have a great coach. He’s won a lot of games, but I don’t think they had seen anything of what we were ready to do. It was something of that nature and right. You know, I had never, like, it was so new to me because I was in a small town.

Cedartown yeah. Georgia is actually what Nichelle played football.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:34] Okay.

Cabral Huff: [00:29:35] So that kind of gives you a little aspect of what I’m talking about. They have their own radio station that follows teams around the newspaper. You’re the big dog in that town. So you’re going to get interviewed after every game.

I was we had just beat a ranked team at home and I was living the great life, no first ever varsity game as a head coach winning. Gotta watch what you say. I guess I needed some media training.

[00:30:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:30:02] Well, and I’ll say this too, that one of the things that I, I think that the average person doesn’t know or understand if you’re just a, a fan of sports fan and you have never been interviewed for a newspaper article in particular.

Then you have no idea that the things that you say, and then what is actually written in print so often do not match up. And I always find it to be very, very interesting when you, I can think of again, and I never, never really was interviewed as a coach. Interviewed as a player often enough that I could see the difference in what I said versus what was actually put down in quotes in the paper the next day.

And then also just kind of hearing things about what happened in a particular story. I think about one time we were in our school district, we were, we were on strike. And [00:31:00] so of course there’s newspaper coverage that goes along with that. And I remember things being quoted and said, and my. the guy who was our head coach at the time, he was our union president.

And so he was quoted several times. Like I was standing right next to him when he said things. And then the things that were. Reported that he said, we’re nowhere near what he said. So I always find that interesting. I don’t think people realize necessarily that not every single thing that you see, every quote you read that’s attributed to an athlete or a coach is exactly what they said.

Let’s put it that way.

Jason Sunkle: [00:31:32] Would you say it’s fake news?

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:34] I wouldn’t say it’s fake news. I’m not going to go that far, but I do think there is occasionally liberties taken with trying to get. What the reporter wants the story to be. I was just giving you a hard time. Like I know, I know you were,

Cabral Huff: [00:31:48] I will agree.

I’ll give you two quick stories and they were there. Aren’t at Cedartown, but when I was at St. Francis, I use one and I know being in the culture are really good friends, but [00:32:00] I don’t know how the newspaper got this out and how was able to it. I found it and I put it on our guy’s locker. Can we, we want to play them in a championship.

And apparently the coach, I say, apparently a legend let’s go here, but it was in a newspaper. Allegedly. The coach said we were just and maybe he was referring to cause our guys all play. Most of them played on the same AAU team. but they had grew up together. So, but that was our motivation when we played them.

and I know the guy didn’t, that’s not probably, it was probably said in some other contexts, right. Me knowing them. But we use that as a motivation. And then the year before it was a newspaper article that comes out before our championship game. and it doesn’t mention our leading scorer who ends up being Malik Beasley who plays in the NBA right now for the Timberwolves and the morning of the championship game. I’m having to deal with. Why is the newspaper article not talking about Malia?

[00:33:00] Can I go? And I’m honestly, like I didn’t even get quoted in a newspaper article, so. They just did a newspaper article without talking to any of us.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:10] Right. And that’s crazy. I mean, there’s, it just goes to show you sometimes too. I think, especially when you talk about the high school level and depending on, and I don’t know how the coverage is in the newspapers in Georgia and clearly news, the newspaper business has changed, but here in Cleveland, the, our newspaper, our daily newspaper doesn’t get home delivery every day and used to be that they would.

Have two or three guys that were dedicated to the high school sports beat, and those guys kind of knew what was going on and it’s just, it’s just, it’s different. Yeah. Now. And so you sometimes have somebody who’s a freelance writer, who’s writing an article that maybe has no idea about this team or those players or the history of a rivalry or whatever it might be.

And they sometimes again, sometimes they get things wrong and. You know, Hey, sometimes it works in your favor and you can use it as a bulletin board material. And I [00:34:00] guess in the oblique Beasley case, it worked against you.

Cabral Huff: [00:34:02] It definitely did. I remember going to my assistant, knowing I’m having to deal with this.

On championship day, which try to win a championship.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:13] That’s another thing too, that I think fans, parents, not, everybody really understands some of those things that don’t have really anything to do with basketball. They’re just kind of tangentially involved in the, in the process of preparing for a game that how much time.

Those things take up in a coach’s life. And I always go back to, we had a situation. I think it was my, it was either my first or second year when I was a varsity assistant. And we had, we were trying to make a decision about whether or not to keep a kid who would have probably been our 12th or 13th player on our roster.

And I could still remember the conversation sitting in the coach’s office and the three of us kind of going back and forth and you know, saying, well this kid. It’s a nice kids. Probably never gonna play [00:35:00] skill levels, not quite as high he’s been part of the program. It seems like he’s been okay.

He played on JV as a junior, got a few minutes. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to be a problem. Should we keep him around? Should we not? We batted the idea back and forth and back and forth. And finally we decided to keep the kid and. It ended up being that I would bet that over the course of that season, we spent more time talking about him, dealing with him, dealing with his parents and just all these things that took away from our focus where it should have been on the rest of the team and on trying to win games and develop kids.

And instead, we ended up having to put out a bunch of fires with them. And from that point forward, whenever we came down to that kind of a decision. We thought much longer and much harder even than we did with that one about in a lot of cases, we’re just better off having a problem quick when we cut the kid and not having to deal with it over the course of, because again, it didn’t that kid wasn’t having any impact on our team as far as what [00:36:00] was going on out on the floor.

Cause he wasn’t playing, but yet we were spending a ton of time with him. And so I think that a lot of times as coaches, we get. We have to end up dealing with those things that don’t necessarily impact what goes on in our day to day winning and losing and quest to quest to help our team be successful.

Cabral Huff: [00:36:19] I’d say elevating coach that wants to get in this business as a head coach, especially at the high school level, that probably only 20% of what you do involves around the X’s And O’s part of the game. The other 80% is. Scheduling buses, dealing with parents, sending off emails that helps alleviate the problems you could have with parents, or just things of that nature that nobody ever thinks about eligibility.

Nobody thinks about those kinds of things. They just think about man. That’s great, man. I can’t wait to, to plan practice. I can wait to the games. That’s only 20% of what you have to do. and then to the, about the, the situation. So you told, it’s why every year I don’t care. [00:37:00] From our best player to the last player, we keep all the team.

even the players, we could, I meet with everybody that night. It may take me a long time as a staff. That’s what we do, because I want the guys that got cut to no fly. We decided to cut them for whatever reason I wanted the guys that made the team and know why they made the team and what their role is at that current time.

because I think a lot of times people think, well, I made the team, I got a chance to be the star, right. There, there are times we choose players on a team that play a specific role that would, that we need. And sometimes that role could just be, I just need you to rebound. I need you to be the greatest practice player.

Cause I know you, you go so hard in practice, but I need you to understand that you may not get a lot of minutes in the game, but it alleviates. Cause you tell that key from day one, that that day that’s what their role is going to be. Now you tell them it also could change. As we get along, but that’s what that role is going to be in.

Sometimes you get a kid who is 12, 13, 14, 15. Yeah. They may say coach, that’s not what I [00:38:00] want to do. I would rather go work, but it’s done. It pays dividends in the end because now that kid is not causing you problems. because he thought he was maybe better than he was or was going to get a different role than then the culture staff thought he was.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:14] Yeah. And I think that communication is just like, when you think about as a teacher, you want to have communication with parents before you have issues at the first time a parent hears from you is when there’s issues, then that’s when parents tend to get upset because you don’t establish that relationship with them.

Prior to, with a good conversation. I think that’s exactly what you’re talking about when you meet with somebody on the first day that you’re determining who’s out of the team, who’s not on the team. And so when you have, when you have that kind of conversation, let’s focus on with you, the kid who makes the team, but maybe you don’t foresee their role as being somebody who is going to get a lot of playing time.

Do you get pushback or have you gotten pushback from a kid? And then where does that conversation go? When let’s say you tell the kid, Hey, we think you’re going to be a really great practice player. We’re not [00:39:00] sure at this point that there’s going to be a lot of minutes for you. Not that there’s not that you can’t work your way into that, but let’s say the kid had a different idea going into it that they thought, Hey right now, I think I’m going to be a starter.

I think I’m going to get a lot of minutes. What’s that conversation look like if the kid pushes back for lack of a better way of saying it,

Cabral Huff: [00:39:19] You do get pushed back, but you know, hopefully in all situations you built some kind of truth and trust, with that kid and maybe not, cause it could be a new kid.

And so then you just got to tell them why it could be something as simple as we’re bringing everybody back from a team that went to the sweet 16. And so right now you’re just behind the eight ball. They know everything that we want to do. Whether it’s how we practice, how we play, what play to run and Tom, how I liked it.

No, I know them how I need to get on these player. And I’m still learning you. if you’re willing to, to adjust and, and roll with the punches to start off, so to speak, let, let’s see where this thing goes, but [00:40:00] sometimes it just has to come down to it. Like, listen, these guys are better than you. And at this particular point, can you continue to work and get better?

Yes, you can. And if that takes place, then we gotta reevaluate. You know, we always get the player an opportunity to, to better himself. by saying that they get an opportunity to be better. So how do we do that? We have impacts that’s for our games. and because I think a lot of times kids these days just think you can only impact a game by how many points you score.

And so we look at other things the rebounds, assists, deflections, all those kinds of things, about how you impact the game. And you’ll be surprised how that changes the outlook on some guys. and maybe you realize that a guy you thought. Wasn’t going to be really big in your rotation as a guy that doesn’t score, but maybe a couple of baskets a game, but he just gets deflections.

He defends every time he’s on the floor, something good happens. and I think it helps us as coaches to like sometimes we only look at the things that we can [00:41:00] obviously really see during the game and say, man, that guy needs to be playing. but those impacts that’s kind of really help us. and then we try to grade practice.

Well, even at the high school level, it used to be a time where I tried to grade everybody at practice. but what we try to do now is, we do everything competitively and, there’s a winner and loser for every drill. whether it’s a shooting drill, whether it’s a, a shell drill, whether it’s whatever it is, there’s a winner and a loser.

and then we were just great every practice, totally. because we just want them to be 1% better every day.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:30] All right. So I want to ask you that this is a question that I often have when I hear about coaches that are charting and doing those kinds of things and my experience as I’ve never been a high school, varsity head coach, but I’ve spent a lot of time coaching my own kids where typically it’s just me, or maybe I have one other coach that is with me.

So when you’re charting and you’re keeping track of impact stats, and you’re going to. Have every drill be competitive and marked down who wins and who loses? How do you go about doing that? What is your [00:42:00] record keeping system looking like? Who is doing that actual charting for you or as you’re as practice going out?

Cause I always find when it’s me as like one set of eyes, if I try to even like keep track of, of a score of something, especially if it’s anything more than just. Like who scores a basket before it I’m totally discombobulated. I have no idea like what the score is. Cause this team got an offensive rebound, which is worth one point and this deflections or two.

And so just talk a little bit about how you go about setting that up to benefit you in the way that you want it to

Cabral Huff: [00:42:32] It’s utilizing your coaching staff and utilize your managers. So the managers are really in charge of we try to set teams every day. You know, who’s in gold and who’s in white.

You know, if we have a third team, maybe who is it? and older teams that day manager’s in charge of who wins what drills every day. but usually like overall who wins it, but we’ll know who won at that particular moment. and then we have a coach I’m big on [00:43:00] assistant coaches being a head coach of their area.

And so my job and what I try to do is I don’t want yes, men and women. so they have a job, a head coaching job. I call it whether it’s I call somebody a defensive coordinator I kind of handle the offensive end, but somebody is watching rebound and in practice, somebody is watching defense, somebody is watching our communication, but even when we get to the games, there’s a coach that is over our impact stats.

So hudl does a great job of breaking our film down for us. So that helps. But we also chart during the game we have, our coaches would have op-ed, he’s able to chart during the game. And so we can kind of get those stats and our coach has a force the next day. That’s okay. That’s his job. Like I have a coach that whose job is to upload the film.

You know, and I didn’t.  I wasn’t that way until after I went to college, I’m gonna be honest with you. And I realized the impact of something. I learned my coaching colleges. Everybody has a job, [00:44:00] you know, when I was adobo at Georgia, Georgia Southern, I was over video and I was over traveling, but that was somebody else who was over the budget for the gear.

There was somebody else who was overseas. Everybody has a job. And, and that’s kind of what I took from that and took that with me to the high school level.

Mike Klinzing: [00:44:18] Do you write up formal job descriptions for those things? Or is it something that you just kind of determined with your staff or you talk it over and say, okay, these are the things that we need to do.

I need a defensive coordinator. Who’s interested in doing that. Obviously coaches have strengths and strengths and weaknesses. So just how do you go about assigning roles within your coaching staff?

Cabral Huff: [00:44:37] So, so every year, and then even after the year, I get with my coaches together and individually, and I want to know what they love to do.

What they like to do. I think that I tell them what I think they’re good at and what they want to try to work on. So I try to piece all that together and placed them in the right spot. and that’s kind of how we go, but it is written out, written out. And when we have our first [00:45:00] meeting, like I think we had ours maybe three or four weeks ago before we got to work outs.

we met as a staff all the way down. So our middle school, like everybody had their role of what I needed you to do. Oh, that was going to benefit us as a team because it’s not just me. I can’t do all those roles, so I’m going to need them. So we’re doing a leadership series and our program this year.

So I needed somebody that was going to be overall leadership series that every Wednesday during the season, Well, we’re meeting with our community leaders would mean with alumni. You know, obviously with the things going on with the, the racial injustice we’re meeting with police officers, to help our kids be better media training we were just talking about, it may not be so much, it’s talking to a newspaper, but more so with social media.

So those things are in writing so they can see it because you never want somebody else to, to overstep their bounds, so to speak. Unless they need that help or want that help. so everybody knows what everybody’s job is, including mine. Like they know [00:46:00] I’m the person that’s got to handle everything that’s in the building.

They know I’m willing to drive the bus just like somebody else is willing to drive the bus. and there’s some people who I, I don’t have drive the bus cause they do some other things for us. so those kinds of how we keep things going and everybody has that list that I give out with them at that very first meeting.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:19] How do you work with your unit? You mentioned your middle school coaches. How do you work with them? What’s your philosophy in terms of aligning what they do with what you do at the varsity level? How much are you? I don’t know if dictating is the right word, but how much are you guiding them in terms of what your expectations are for what kind of offense and defense they run and how they teach?

Just what’s your influence on the middle school program look like?

Cabral Huff: [00:46:45] I think we have to have a total program. I don’t think you can deviate. Well, this is the middle school, or this is seventh grade and this is eighth grade. And then this is JV or ninth grade and, and this is varsity and everybody’s doing something totally different.

I think there has to be a flow to your, to your overall [00:47:00] program. cause if not, you’re just building teams. You’re not building a program and I’m into building a program. so our middle school coaches are part of that. They’re there at our practice anytime they can. I include them in everything that we do.

It’s like that beginning of the season meeting and actually, my middle school coaches handle a lot of our workouts at the beginning of the year. because that way they can have hands on, and get better as coaches, they do some of our scouting for us. so I’m really big on that.

As far as the offense and defense, I give them a couple of things that I know that we’re going to do throughout our program. like they need to run shell drill every day, we’re going to be a man to man team. Not saying we won’t zone, but we’re going to be a man to man. And that’s what we’re about.

they’re going to do our continuity motion offense. That’s something I want them to run, down at that level. as well as our space and stuff. but after that, I also want them to be a coach and I’ll tell them other than that, you can run. If you see a baseline out of bounds, you can run it.

[00:48:00] But I just need these kids when they continue to meet, we’ll open our program. When I call continuity motion offense, they know exactly what we’re doing. They’ve seen it before. and I think that’s really big if you’re building a program.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:14] To me, that’s really, really an important thing where you have an overriding philosophy or just a particular system terms.

I think the terminology is really important because you could be teaching the same thing at the seventh grade level. And if you call it something different and then those kids get up to the high school level. Even though they may understand the concept. Just the fact that it’s a different term can throw them off.

And to me, that continuity is something that is, is really, really important. And when everybody’s on the same page, we all know whether that’s teaching or coaching. It just makes things so much easier for you as a coaching staff, but also for the players to just understand what the expectations are of them and to feel like they’re a part of it when everybody’s talking the same [00:49:00] terminology, when a seventh grader.

Here’s the same terminology that a senior does. And you kind of feel like you have this special bond amongst the program. And to me, that’s something that’s really, really important when you look at the preparation for your season. And obviously you’re spending a lot of time in the summer with your kids, whether that’s through workouts or playing in leagues or watching a play you basketball.

When you go into a season, how do you figure out or plan for what you want to emphasize in that particular season. Yeah. We all know that you can’t focus on everything. There’s lots and lots of, lots of things that maybe you’d like to focus on, but we all have limited time limited resources. So how do you narrow down what it is that you say we’re going to be good at this?

How do you narrow that down?

Cabral Huff: [00:49:50] I think you got to take a look at your program and what can you be good at a lot of times, sometimes we try to focus on things that unfortunately, our teams at that particular point [00:50:00] can not be good at. and what I mean, sometimes we want to say, well, I want to focus on.

You know, we want to get this many possessions in the game, but we don’t have the personnel to get that many possessions, or I’m not going to say you don’t have the personnel. It doesn’t benefit you to get that many possessions. Right. For whatever reason, I think you’ve got to do. You actually got to go back and you got to dissect your previous season.

If you’re not a new coach and kind of sit down and evaluate, what do we need to do to get better? What do we need to emphasize this year? and so a lot of times for us, it goes back to let’s look about overall team impacts that. and what do we need to improve, to get better? So like, one of the big things about my teams is pace and it doesn’t mean how many, exactly, really how many points we going to score.

But for instance, our team last year, I don’t think we got enough possessions, because we just, we didn’t push the ball. As hard as I thought we could have and so we got late in the season, so that’s something we want to improve upon this year is pace. But I don’t think that just comes with pushing a ball.

I think that comes with [00:51:00] how we practice. Right. I don’t think we got very good with how we practiced until about January last year. and a lot of that comes from being a new coach. They try to understand what you want. things were done totally different. so that’s one of the things like we want to concentrate on.

We wanted to concentrate on communication, like going in my first year, communication, and ball moment, were two big things. Like we will chart how many passes we had in the game, because we felt watching tape of them the previous year. There was a lot of one-on-one basketball. Like guys are standing around watching somebody so want to emphasize ball movement, and we want to emphasize communication, especially on the defensive end.

And those things worked. when we got 12 plus assists a game, I don’t think we lost two games. I think when we got, as a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure  in January, we only gave up about 45 points a game, and that’s the reason why we went to the elite eight. so this year we want to concentrate on rebounding.

[00:52:00] We’re not the biggest team, but I thought we could’ve did a better job of rebounding. and I want to concentrate on shooting. Like those are two big things that I just think right off the top of my mind, I think we’ve gotta be able to make more shots. When I looked at effective field goal percentage, I looked at our three point field goal percentage.

It just has to be better. cause we make those shots. There’s some games that we lost that we will definitely win.

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:23] I want to ask you about two things. You mentioned three things that stood out for you that you’ve either worked on in the past, or you want to continue to get better at, so you mentioned communication, rebounding and shooting.

I want to go back to communication first, when you talk about helping your team to communicate. I think you could probably survey a hundred coaches and all hundred of those coaches would say, I want my team to communicate more. We all have that saying that. Look, you can never communicate enough out on the floor.

It’s impossible to over communicate. So how do you as a high school coach, how do you teach kids to commute? Indicate what does that look like in [00:53:00] terms of. What you’re demanding or asking of them. And then what you hope to see them doing out on the floor?

Cabral Huff: [00:53:07] it starts with something as simple as if a coach sends you a text, then you respond back and that would a thumbs up.

if we send something to a groupme, you have to like it. So we know tha you’ve seen it and looked at it and it goes further. Like when we have practice, you’ve gotta be calling names. We’re making passes, you’re calling each other’s names, and it may sound elementary, but you’ll be surprised what that means when somebody hears their name, every time they know that pass is coming, it means being together, in everything that we do, those little things about communication matter.

It means what we do in our leadership program about changing pairs each week with players on the team and getting to know them, having an accountability partner. but you can’t have an [00:54:00] accountability partner without knowing your teammates. So it’s something we did this, even with our staff, who’s your hero?

What’s your highlight? And what’s your hardship. I think the more you know about your teammate will improve that communication. So I think that’s some of the things that we do some small things we do about communication and me as a head coach, I have to then be able to not just communicate with my players and my staff.

I’ve got to communicate with parents and so something, I do know there’s a weekly email that goes out for me. I try to do a great job of planning. They get a practice schedule once the season starts. So even if it’s in March, they know what time we’re practicing. Now, if I have to change it, that change will go on the email for that week.

but then it’s every Wednesday, along with our leadership series, we call it a state of the bear address, like the state of the union, where parents can watch practice. Then we can go in out and you know, our conference room and then they have questions about the program. I can answer them, I can give them updates.

So now [00:55:00] I program, I won’t talk about individual players and say, Johnny has such a great week. This week. He averaged 30 something points. That’s not what we’re doing in the state of the bear address. It’s just talking about our program. You know, maybe why I skipped it. It was so difficult at the beginning of the season last year.

well we played all these teams. We ended up going to final fours and ended up being eventual state champions, but how it benefited us on the long run. So things of that nature, I think communication is big and without communication, I don’t think you can be successful.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:30] I want to come back to the leadership thing too, but let’s jump ahead to shooting.

When you talk about helping your players improve their shooting, what does that look like to you? In practice. We all know that for kids to really truly be great shooters, they’re going to have to get shots up on their own. But what can you, as a high school coach within the confines of your practice setting in the preseason and during the season, what do you do to help your kids become better shooters?

Cabral Huff: [00:55:55] Well, I saw preseason wise, we want to concentrate on shooting. [00:56:00] So what I told my  staff is that what are the things that we’re going to concentrate on in preseason? We wanted to concentrate on shooting, dribbling and passing. So every drill that we did had to incorporate that. So as we get closer to the season, if we now incorporate some of the things that we may be able to do as a team, but it’s still going to incorporate shooting, dribbling, passing.

So I think you’ve got to, if that’s going to be an emphasis that you’ve got to do it daily, multiple times a day, over and over again. and so even when we get to the season, that means every two or three drills we’re shooting. So I believe we become better shooters through repetition and become better shooters, do making shots when we’re tired and being competitive in those shots.

You’ll see that that at our team will get better, even though I didn’t like our shooting last year. No, our percentage wise, we got better as the season went [00:57:00] along. I just want us to be better this year, but I think that’s because we’re able to spend more time on it pre season wise than we did last year.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:08] Makes sense. All right. Tell me about the leadership program. What is it, what did you come up with? How is it structured and what do you hope to get out of it?

Cabral Huff: [00:57:17] I’m a true believer that it’s more than just basketball, right? We’ve got to be able to use basketball to teach our kids about life. we want them to be great fathers, great husbands one day.

Great citizens of this world, period. so it really was during this pandemic I’ve been blessed to be, co-director of the minority coaches association with Georgia And we did clinics every week. We brought in speakers, and one time we did no, we were trying to just help coaches, around the state.

And we brought in, we called it the high academic coaching clinic, where we brought in. Harvard, Dartmouth, teams in the Patriot league assistant coaches or head coaches to just talk about their [00:58:00] programs. And when we heard from Harvard was this leadership, program that they do at Harvard about how they have dinner with faculty and how they bring in community leaders.

And you add what I heard from them. So what was going on in the world with the racial injustice? I said, there’s not a more perfect time that for us to implement a leadership series that I program there right now, we’re doing some things but we were bringing in some speakers, but it wasn’t an every week, day.

And so what we decided to do is that every Wednesday. Throughout our season is that we call it leadership Wednesday and before practice, they’re going to get either alumni. They’re going to get media training. They’re going to get a police officer. They may get a teacher. they may get somebody in the community who’s going to come in and speak to them about leadership.

We have someone that’s gonna come in and speak to them dealing with John Wooden’s pyramid. I know that’s old [00:59:00] school, but if you really talk about the tenants of that pyramid, they’re still relevant today about how you can be a great team, how you can be a leader. and when you talk about John Wooden, that’s what it really was about.

We can talk about the championships he won, but think about the young men that he helped mold, to become the man who they are today or word back then. So, that leadership series is really big with us. And in actuality, one of my assistants, our eighth grade coach has really took that bull by his horn.

And every day he said, coach, I got this person lined up. I got this person lined up for us this year. and I’m, I’m just really excited about it because I know how much it’s going to impact our kids. You know, I think Dave may get much more out of that then they will about how many games we went in, to be honest with you.

Mike Klinzing: [00:59:47] Yeah. I think those things that happen off the floor can I have a huge impact? And as you said, you’re trying to make them be eventually better husbands, better fathers, [01:00:00] better citizens. And those are things that don’t pay off right there at necessarily in the moment. Yeah. There may be some benefit to you season in season out where your kids get some value out of it.

And they’re able to transfer that to what goes on on the team. But I think ultimately. It’s five, 10, 15 years down the road where those kinds of things really pay off. And we’ve talked about it with lots of the coaches, just in terms of the fact that. We’re all in this business to be able to impact kids.

And we love to do it through the game of basketball, which is so important to all of us. And clearly the wins and losses are something that drives us, but it’s also just the ability to have a positive impact fact on young people and do it through a game that we all love. And I think like what you’re talking about, what I love about.

What you said was the fact that you’re bringing in other outside voices, because we all know whether you’re a player or a coach over the course of a long season, you kind of get tired at times of hearing the same message from the same [01:01:00] voice. And even though somebody who comes in from the outside might have the exact same message that coach Hoff has been sharing all season because it comes from somebody different.

It may get through where something that you said, because you’ve said it so often maybe. Is it getting through in the same way. And I think there’s power in being able to hear from different voices. And I think that bringing in those guest speakers and having them be in part of that leadership series to me is probably really, really impactful for your kids.

Cabral Huff: [01:01:30] I think it will be. And we kind of started it during COVID obviously we were only able to meet with our team on zoom, but that’s kinda what kickstarted this after hearing. What Harvard was doing. It said, man, I don’t want to wait till we get back in person. Cause at that time we didn’t know when we would get back in person.

so when we met through zoom every every week or a definitely every two weeks, I was trying to have somebody speak to them. So like I even had a [01:02:00] coach who coaches and our same classification. But me and him are really close. We both have made the journey to coach college at a point and came back to high school.

He’s coached some pros, he was the Dwight Howard’s high school coach.

Mike Klinzing: [01:02:15] Gotcha. Okay.

Cabral Huff: [01:02:16] Yeah. If you them speak to them about what it takes to be successful. Not just as a basketball player, but in the world. or to have Coach  Brownlee who was an assistant, at Mississippi State. Now he was at Old Dominion, with Nikki McCray come in and speak because he used to be a high school coach down here, as well as on the side, before you went to the women’s side.

So it made it easier for him as a women’s coach, no compliance issues always go now for him to come speak to my team. Because it’s not, he can’t recruit anybody out. My team think about things that they know they are looking for or what he saw when he coasts on the men’s side. You know, people like that.

I even did it with my coaching staff. You know, Tom Crean was very has been real influential in. [01:03:00] Since he’s gotten out here to Georgia and helping us do some things here in Georgia.

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:05] Yeah. Congratulations on that.

Cabral Huff: [01:03:06] By the way. We’re happy about that. That’s nice work,  but he talked to my coaches about things that we, we can do as coaches to be better coaches, better men things of that nature.

I just think it’s just more than basketball.

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:18] Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s no question about that.

Cabral Huff: [01:03:21] We just rely on basketball. Then at some point, somebody is gonna forget how many championships you may or may not have won. How many wins you got. They’re really going to ask you how many people did you touch?

How many young men did you touch? And I think you already can see, I see that. And when those guys come back to see you last year was my first year of Holy innocence and I have two guys I was at the, for three years before then, but I had two of my former players come watch us when they came I’m home for the holidays.

Like, I don’t think people really understand that. Like most times people not going to go to a different school to go watch their former coach. But they [01:04:00] did. And one of them not even playing basketball, like he plays football at East Tennessee state, but that’s just the impact that I want to make on my guys every day.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:08] Yeah, there’s no doubt that I’ve said it numerous times on the show, but I think one of the most satisfying things that can happen to you as a coach is when you get that phone call five, 10 years later, somebody says, Hey coach, there’s nothing more powerful. There’s nothing that makes you feel better about the impact that you had.

On a kid when they’re still calling you coach when they’re a 25 or 30 year old adult, I said it before. I think, I can’t remember which episode we were talking about it, but you know, my, my high school coach, my college coaches, and I’m 50 years old, I still call them all coach. You know, I’ve never, I’m never going to feel comfortable calling them by their first name because you just have that level of respect for what they did for you when you were a young kid.

And I think that’s what you try to engender as a coach with your players is to try to get them to feel that that yeah. The influence that you have and that you can. [01:05:00] It’s really changed someone’s life by through what you do with with coaching and being able to do it through the game of basketball is clearly a blessing for any of us who love, who loved the game.

I want to talk briefly as we, get close to our time limit, but I want to give a chance, give you a chance to talk about your college experience. So tell us how that. op those opportunities came to be, cause I know you were at Georgia Southern and you were in Elkhorn state. So just talk a little bit about your experiences there.

One why you went for that, to what it was like. And then three, what made you decide that you wanted to come back to the high school ranks?

Cabral Huff: [01:05:32] So obviously at St. Francis, when I was there, we had a great run winning some winning the state championship, three guys who now are a part of the NBA. Other guys who went other places James Banks played for me, who just graduated from Georgia Tech, Josh Coleman, who played at Coastal Carolina.

So, so guys like that who were able to play, some at the highest level, even down to guys like know Connor Smith who played at Oglethorpe, [01:06:00] but during those times, we probably had anybody and everybody walked through that gym to come recruit guys. And you never know what I can tell a young coaches.

You never know when someone’s watching. but I always had that inkling, like I said, that itch to go coach college basketball. And so during that time, Coach Mark Byington was a coach at Georgia Southern and he had came in and watched Josh Coleman to be exact and a couple of other kids. And after I seasoned, I realized he had an opening on this staff and I reached out to him and I was interested in the open and he said, coach, no offered the job to someone.

I really like what you do on my off. I’ll offer the job to someone. And I think he’s wanting to take it if he doesn’t, I’ll reach back out to you. But even if he does if I have something else that comes open, I’ll let you know, you’ll be the first person to know now, to be honest with you, I thought, man, I’ll never hear from him again.

but I remember it like it was yesterday, it was a [01:07:00] Thursday and I get a call from him and he says, coach, I’ve got an opening on my staff. It’s not exactly what you want, the Director of basketball, operations job, but I would love to have you, can you come down tomorrow and let’s talk about it. And sometimes you only get certain opportunities.

Sometimes it’s destiny, how God says things up. And, I went down there and it in all, honestly it wasn’t even so much of an interview. It was basically him telling me why I should take it. And this is what the job description was. Then I remember driving back and I made the decision then to take it and join that college level.

But I think that was beneficial because a lot of people can be thrust into assistant college job, but to have that. That core job of being a director of basketball operations, like when you can’t even get on the floor, but you know everything about the, the ins and outs of what it takes to be successful, like one 22 games that year.

And, I wasn’t able to get on the floor, but I felt like I was important to why we were able to get to the conference champions, and [01:08:00] mindset. And right now plays a very important role. And what I do and who I am as a coach, because he always had a say in about find a way. He didn’t care what the obstacles were, why you couldn’t get it done.

He just wants you to find a way to why you should get it done. he treated us all we were equal parts. So all of his coaches, including myself we met about Scouts. We met about. Recruiting. We met about academics on our guys. so he was real influential about understanding the college game, as well as the staff, we had a great staff, Larry Dixon, who’s now in, South Florida working for Brian Gregory, Tim Cain.

Who’s now at Murray State. you know, obviously he’s had a pro

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:41

Cabral Huff: [01:08:41] Yep. You’re from Murray state. I’m under a magnet man. And then, we also have Andrew Wilson. Who’s still with Coach Byington. Who’s now at James Madison. because Byington told me I had to get on the floor. He felt I was, I was too good to just stay in that role.

And so when Montez Robinson got the job at Alcorn state, [01:09:00] he reached out to me and Coach Byington was a person that said I needed to go and take it. and we walked into probably one of the worst situations. Unfortunately, when you talk about being on APR. if anybody knows about college basketball being on APR, kind of restrict some things that you can do, whether it’s practice time, whether it’s who you can recruit.

But we just got in there and I still use that mindset of finding the way, Going from a director of ops to still being over-travel at Alcorn State, but also being a recruiting coordinator. And we just busted our butts and got players better. And we went 15 and 15 that year, which is first non losing season.

We kind of turned that thing around and we recruited some guys that next year to help Coach Robinson staff get to the conference championship and lost about one and overtime to Texas Southern. but I remember when I was there I think a lot of times you don’t understand the sacrifices that have to be made to even pursue your dreams.

and sometimes that means taking [01:10:00] pay cuts. The job I took from Northern, from St. Francis to Georgia Southern to Alcorn state, I took a pay cut and a lot of people would never understand that. and that’s probably a story that we can have for another hour and 30 minutes for not being in the college business.

but while I was there both my parents died, but right before my mother died right before I got my first head coaching job, as Cedartown high school, my dad died shortly after. So she never got to see me coach as a head high school coach. My dad got to see me coach that season only cause he died six months later, just over a broken heart.

but one of the things my parents taught me was generational wealth. My mother was the one who kind of, I don’t want to say forced my hand, but pushed me to buy a house at 21, which was my second year teaching, the housing market was great at that time, I will say so now I had a tenant that was not living in my house at that time.

And [01:11:00] trying to realize how you were going to make it work with was kind of difficult. and I just believe I prayed to God. I believe that God sent me to come back to high school for a reason at that particular time. and he sent me to the Duluth high school and no, the rest is History about what we were able to do in those three years there most school by wins in a three year span, three straight tournaments, in a three year span with two sweet sixteens and Adam Flagler’s at Baylor and Devin Evans is at, Omaha, Nebraska.

And we’ve got guys at. Arkansas pine bluff and places like that. We got a guy, like I said, playing football at East Tennessee state. I think things happen for a reason. and God definitely led me to come back to high school. I was able to take all those things that I learned at Georgia Southern and Alcorn state that really helped me part of what we do all offensively is something I learned from.

Montez Robinson at Alcorn state part of something. We do defensively that something that I learned from, [01:12:00] you know, coach Byington, at Georgia Southern, in addition to having a great assistant when I was at st. Francis Drew Catlett, who worked at West Virginia and Georgia state, and Randolph Macon, whose uncle is Gail Catlett, who used to be the head coach of West Virginia.

So, having That succession of things happen. Next recession, the people have really impacted, know who I am and where I am today.

Mike Klinzing: [01:12:24] I think that goes right back to the top of our conversation. When you talked about just constantly wanting to learn and grow and get better. And in every step of this conversation along the way here, You’ve talked about something that you’ve learned, that’s helped you to grow and have a better understanding of who you are as a person who you are as a coach, and then being able to pass that along to the kids that you’re coaching.

And so we’re coming up towards an hour and 20 minutes or so here . So I want to ask you one final question and relating to your job there at Holy [01:13:00] innocence and just looking forward, when you think about. What’s going to happen in the future. What do you see as being the biggest challenge that you’re going to face moving forward?

That could be in the short term that could be in the longterm. What do you see as the biggest challenge? And then I’m pretty sure I can guess the answer to this question, but the second part of that is what’s your biggest joy in getting out of bed every morning and get an opportunity to coach high school basketball.

Cabral Huff: [01:13:28] The biggest challenge. Probably the biggest challenge is a plan for getting, helping players understand why it’s important to play for the person next to them. Because I believe we live in a society right now. That’s so prevalent on me, me, me. so I think every day I wake up, every day I go to the school everyday.

I get to interact with my players. I have the [01:14:00] challenge, which I love the challenge, because I think there’s an opportunity of helping them understand why you have to be so much better, not for yourself, but for someone that’s next to you. I think that’s, that’s really huge. I think if we can help somebody else impact somebody else, and we’ve really done our job.

So I think that’s the challenge I think if we can do that, I mean, the adversity that we’re going to face on the port, We’ve got each other’s back then. Right. So we can face it. so I think that’s the challenge that I have in the joy. The joy is, is honestly when, when I see my guys succeed, in a classroom, when I see the joy, the joy I saw on their faces when we were able to work out again, the joy I saw when they were able to come back to school, to be around each other, The joy that I will eventually see when they get married.

And, I pray that I’m a person that they invite to the wedding [01:15:00] because I’ve gotten old enough to be invited to some weddings of former players already. even when they have siblings just join is pandemic. I I’ll use one example is Kobi Simmons was a guy coached at st. Francis. So I last coached him in 2014.

Now our relationship has remained the same, his family and myself, no matter what has went on. but to be invited to go to his young sisters graduation, drive through ceremony during college, just lets you know, that’s the kind of things that bring you joy. and I always tell people that let’s leave a legacy that you can one day bring your kids and your family back and say I was a part of something special. that’s what we were able to do at st. Francis. That’s what we’re trying to do at Holy Innocents.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:49] That’s great stuff, Cabral. I just think that when you start talking about that longterm impact, that’s really where our value lies as coaches, before we get out of here, [01:16:00] I want to give you a chance to share how people can follow you and your program.

Give your social media handles. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you if they really enjoyed the podcast and just want to say thanks, or they have a question for you and want to talk some basketball, give us the best way to. Get in contact with you, find out what you guys are doing, and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

Cabral Huff: [01:16:20] Definitely. I love talking hoops. definitely want people to follow our program. We’ve got some guys college coaches that you need to be on if you’re not already on them, but you can follow me on Twitter @coachcabralhuff . and then on, Instagram, CabralHuff_    I H I E S I hope I don’t offend anybody with what things I posted, really an advocate for change as far as our racial climate in the world today.

and I’m a part of a group called embrace us, which is a bunch of college coaches and administrators and. People in the NBA who are also about this change, being a change [01:17:00] to help change that. I’m a believer in God and I believe in my faith. So you’ll see a lot about that as well, but you’ll also see a lot about a basketball team and our athletic programs at Holy Innocents.

So that’s how you can follow me. look forward to hopefully helping anyone that reaches out.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:15] Absolutely Cabral is a great follow. If you get a chance to follow them on Instagram or follow them on Twitter, I’d highly recommend that you do that. We cannot thank you enough Cabral for spending an hour and 20 minutes or so with us tonight, been an absolute pleasure, getting a chance it’s to know you after having kind of watched you from afar.

And like I said, The support that you’ve given our podcast, certainly, is much appreciated and what you’re trying to do for the game of basketball and the kids you coach, I think that came across loud and clear in everything you said tonight. So again, thanks. We really appreciate it. And to everyone out there, thanks for listening.

And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.

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