Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @CoachEvans_UNG
Dan Evans is in his second season as head coach of the University of North Georgia men’s basketball program after being named the fourth coach in the history of the program in April 2019.
In his first season at the helm, Evans led the Nighthawks to a PBC Tournament berth after being picked to finish 10th in the preseason league poll.
Evans came to UNG after a six-year stint as the head coach at NCAA Division II Ohio Dominican in Columbus, Ohio where he led his team to 76 wins including a 37-12 mark over his last two seasons.
Evans was hired in May of 2013 by ODU to lead the Panthers after spending the previous six seasons as an assistant coach at Hillsdale College where he was part of a coaching staff that rebuilt the Hillsdale basketball program.
Evans played his collegiate ball at Lawrence University, a Division III school in Wisconsin, where he was a three-year starter and captain. He earned all-conference honors as a senior and helped take Lawrence to the Elite Eight in 2004.
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Go get some paper and pencil so you can take some notes as you listen to this episode with Dan Evans, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of North Georgia.
What We Discuss with Dan Evans
- Growing up in Chicago during the Bulls title runs
- Playing multiple sports. but eventually settling on basketball
- Being an “intangibles” guy who wanted to be a leader on his team
- The need for both skill development and development through playing the game
- Why players should play more 1 on 1 and other small sided games
- How to set up small sided games with restrictions in your practices to work on specific actions
- Using gold sweatbands & shorts for motivation recognition, and reward in practice
- Why players crave recognition
- His million dollar shooting challenge during walkthroughs and the chance to win some lotto tickets
- His system for tracking wins and losses during practice
- The changes in the game from old school motion offenses to more on ball actions of today
- Studying other teams at all levels from D3 to the NBA to add things to his playbook
- “If you fit in at a place. You’re going to have a better experience.”
- “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
- The value of seeing players compete against other really good players in AAU
- Trying to find and evaluate players in AAU and with their high school teams
- His belief that all coaches and programs are working harder than they ever have, especially in recruiting
- Getting the “feeling” that coaching was where he was supposed to be
- His path from college graduation to CVS Caremark, to the G League, and then Hillsdale College
- Finding his purpose in coaching and how it shifted from just winning to understanding that coaching was his way of making an impact in the world
- Being focused on success where you’re at, not looking ahead to your next job
- Being involved with all aspects of the program as an assistant at Hillsdale
- Getting all the details of how he would run a program down on paper to prepare for head coaching interviews
- The fear of not being good enough that follows you as a head coach
- Gaining a feeling of competence as you have success running your own program
- “Be early, be ready, be competitive and be connected”
- The challenge of cementing the identity of your program
- “We are in the business of building a program, not collecting talent.”
- The joy of being around his player in any situation and spending time with his family
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THANKS, DAN EVANS
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TRANSCRIPT FOR DAN EVANS – UNIVERSITY OF NORTH GEORGIA MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 406
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, but I am pleased to be joined by Dan Evans from the University of North Georgia. Dan, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Dan Evans: [00:00:13] Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:15] Absolutely. We are excited to be able to have you on and dig into all the great things that you’ve been able to do in the game.
Want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball. What you remember about him then maybe what made you fall in love with the game?
Dan Evans: [00:00:32] I really think it was pretty typical of a suburban kid. I played park district basketball in suburban Chicago and at the time I was growing up, Jordan was playing for the Bulls and obviously the bulls were the biggest thing in the world at that point. To be honest I played soccer as a little kid and played baseball as a little kid and just kind of doing everything in the [00:01:00] community and having fun with neighbors and friends and just gradually over time I kind of became a single sport athlete in terms of what I really cared about and worked at. And that was really basketball. And I don’t remember as a, as a little little kid liking basketball any more than soccer, baseball, truthfully. But when I got into like probably late grade school and certainly into high school it was really the only sport I played and had a passion for, and really was bought in to trying to be as good as I could be, but really a lot more than that for me was about just trying to win.
I wasn’t, my players will probably laugh if they heard me say this, but I wasn’t a big workout guy. I wasn’t a big skill all the time guy, but I was really, really passionate about whatever I thought would help us win and whatever I thought whatever kind of leadership role [00:02:00] that it would take me or take us to be successful. I was pretty darn bought into that part of it. The intangible qualities I thought it took to be successful. Certainly as I got later in high school I felt like that was a real strength of mine and kind of spurred me going forward.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:18] All right. I got a couple of questions to play off of what you just said.
So the first one is you grew up playing multiple sports. And basketball eventually becomes the one that you gravitate towards any reason, other than the fact that you just thought basketball was more fun than the other sports. Was there some piece of it that really attracted you to it? The way that it was maybe an outlet for your competitiveness, or you just liked the ability to go out and practice on your own?
What was it about basketball that made you choose that over some of the other sports you played when you were young?
Dan Evans: [00:02:51] That’s a good question because my dad. for when I was younger, probably into college, maybe just after college would [00:03:00] occasionally express to me that I was a better soccer player than I was a basketball player.
And I was not a great basketball player. I mean, I ended up playing at a really good division three school and stuff like that we’ll get into I’m sure. But I just liked to practice basketball more than I liked to practice of soccer when it came down to it. I liked to play in games when it came to soccer, especially leading into high school, but I found myself not very enthusiastic about really going to practice.
I can remember sitting in my dad’s car and he coached a lot of my youth teams, particularly in soccer. And just kind of feeling like I was going, because I like to be around my dad and I liked to spend that time together and I know he enjoyed it. And so at some point I probably got the courage or at least enough sort of age and standing to be like, Hey, I just don’t want to play anymore.
And I just want to [00:04:00] play basketball. And I don’t know if there was like a pinpoint thing other than I didn’t have any issue, practicing basketball I was always excited. I was always liked that form of competition. And when it came to soccer, I was like, I don’t really want to do this part of it anymore.
And, and that kind of tipped the scales, I think for me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:22] Yeah. When it’s something that you don’t enjoy putting the time in and working at. I think that’s something that you learn, especially as a parent, because you have these ideas of what you think your kids might do or what you might want them to do.
And then you realize that. If you’re taking them to activities that they don’t really enjoy, that they don’t want to participate in. It quickly becomes not very much fun for them and not very much fun for you as a parent. And so I think it’s important to expose kids to a lot of different things and then kind of have them find their path of.
What it is that they want to do. And it sounds like, sort of [00:05:00] that’s what happened to you as you were exposed to a bunch of different sports, and then eventually just kind of weeded your way out of the other ones and found your way to basketball. Because as you said, it was just something that you love to do and that you had a passion for.
When you think about that time, when you switched over to becoming focused more on basketball, and you mentioned that. what you really like to do was go out and play and be competitive and not necessarily be the workout guy or the skills, skill development player. And of course, again, comparatively to when you were growing up in the game to where youth basketball and high school basketball is today, a lot of those things that kids.
Do today in terms of working with an individual skills trainer or some of the workout stuff that kids do were things that I know I’m 50. So all that stuff, none of that existed when I was a kid. And for you, you’re a little bit younger than me, but at the same time, that wasn’t nearly as prevalent. So when you’re thinking about your development as a player compared to the development of your players today, [00:06:00] how would you compare the two?
And what did you like about the way that you grew up in the game? Maybe compared to the way kids grow up in the game today?
Dan Evans: [00:06:07] I think what you’re saying is 100% the case and I don’t feel like I’m very old I’m 37 years old. And yet what one of my players has gone through in his development to get to this place is just way different than what the equivalent player was going through in the, whatever that would be mid to late nineties into the very early two thousands.
And I think it is very different. And I do think the idea of being able to play multiple sports for me was a huge benefit. I think it unlocked some things from a mental standpoint that allowed me to be a better basketball player. I think it also allowed me to be competitive in a variety of environments.
And [00:07:00] I think there are times today where those opportunities are not always there for our young people to be competitive in a variety of environments. And so I do think the freedom and let’s be honest, I was not talented enough to think that. I was certainly going to be a professional player.
I’m sure at one time I probably hoped and probably told my parents, I wanted to get a scholarship, but there were just some gifts I wasn’t provided with physically that we’re going to always hold me back as it relates to that stuff. But it wasn’t an expectation for us to do skill workouts.
On a day-to-day basis, like the idea of having a trainer. An individual skills trainer, it just hadn’t been popularized in the mainstream. I’m sure. [00:08:00] Elite level players were probably already. That world was developing, but it wasn’t for quite honestly, a division three player. Like it wasn’t really for us at that point.
I don’t think that’s really good or bad truthfully. I just think it hadn’t come to the forefront and hadn’t really been sort of brought to that population. And I think there is a big difference in that our players are more skilled in their ability to do certain things in particular, play with the ball in their hands than I was, but I was forced to learn things kind of mentally, competitively that I think at times there can be some stunting of that growth with the volume of skill training that people have access to today, and really the best players find their way to doing both. they find their way to be able to do both and, and [00:09:00] allow them to be as skilled as they’re capable of being at that point of their development while still knowing how to compete and knowing how to fight to win in whatever it is they’re doing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:13] I think you’re a hundred percent right. And I think the positives to me of the system that you, and I maybe grew up with, is that competitive piece of it that if you’re at the park, can you lose a game? you’re going to have to sit out for the next hour and a half. Kind of motivates you to want to play a little bit harder.
And yet at the same time, I think you look at it and you made a great point about players today. I think being far more skilled, I look at it, maybe not as much at the college level, at least when I think of it in my mind, I think about high school players. And I go back to the time when I was playing in high school or even 10 or 15 years ago.
And you had players 10, 11, 12 on the end of that bench, that. Probably weren’t that skilled. Maybe you had a football guy who was just out there to be a [00:10:00] rebounder and set some screens. And now you have kids one through 12 that all can shoot and all can handle the ball. And as you said, every kid is more skilled with the ball in their hands.
But I think the one area that maybe is lacking in addition to the competitiveness sometimes is that IQ because they spend so much time. Working on skills in isolation, as opposed to really putting them to use in a game. And so it’s a challenge, I think, as a coach to be able to. Figure out, what do I have to give my players?
What is it that they need? And how do I design my practices, my workouts in order to take advantage of that. So when you think about trying to instill competitiveness in your players or trying to help them improve their basketball IQ, what are some things that you do as a coach? Whether it’s in the off season or through your practice design that helps you to build on those two things, IQ and competitiveness.
Dan Evans: [00:10:50] I want to touch on one thing you said. I think one of the other differences. W relative to age is just, we didn’t play as many [00:11:00] structured games as people we’ll do now.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:04] Absolutely.
Dan Evans: [00:11:04] I can remember playing in the Kerry Grove Hoop Fest in suburban Chicago, and they had the crystal Lake, South hoop Fest or Hoop,
What was it, Gary Collins shootout or whatever it was called. And like, those were our summer tournaments and those are the only games we would play all summer. And so we had to wait again until whenever we started about Thanksgiving in Chicago land and it was really important to play any structured setting because you just didn’t have that many chances.
And so I think that like heightened importance sort of instilled in us in a way, because we weren’t gonna get to play in May, June, July, April, may, June, July, right. We weren’t going to get to play all those [00:12:00] months still. And so that from a competitive standpoint and really more of an urgency and a valuing standpoint, maybe even more than competition, like we had to value it because it wasn’t coming again. it wasn’t coming again till we got into Thanksgiving and you’re suiting up for your high school team.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:19] Yeah. There’s no doubt about that. I think about the added importance that games took on for me. So when I was in high school, in the state of Ohio, our regular season was 20 games.
And then really there was almost. Little to no a U basketball. Certainly nobody would recognize what AAU basketball looked like when I was playing in the late eighties, doesn’t look anything like it did today. And to your point, maybe I would play in one or two tournaments in the summer where you’re getting maybe three, four or five games.
So over the course of a calendar year, I was playing maybe 20 regular season high school games. And then depending on how far you get in the tournament, you play another [00:13:00] two, three, four games. Then you have some. A few tournaments in the summer where maybe you’re playing another 10 games, maybe. So I’m looking at 35 games.
Total, sometimes players today are playing 35 games in the course of a month. When you figure they’re going to a tournament every weekend and they’re playing six or seven games in that weekend. And every game, just like I heard you describing every game to me when I was a high school player, even as a college player, every game meant something to me because.
There were just relatively few of them. And I think that fueled that piece of the competitiveness from a structured standpoint. And then as I said earlier, I think playing on the playground where you go and either you play and you keep winning or you play and you lose the ACIT, that’s pretty motivating when.
You get yourself up to a playground into a park, or I used to drive around the city of Cleveland to try to find games at different places and you go there and you take all that time to get to a gym. And then all of a sudden you play one [00:14:00] game up to 11 and you’re done and you lose, you got to sit for an hour.
That’s pretty motivating to not want to have to do that again.
Dan Evans: [00:14:06] No doubt. I think that’s one of the great advantages of being sort of self confident enough and willing enough to explore and go play in that environment. Right. It’s something that doesn’t occur as often. It doesn’t seem like now because there’s just so much availability of gyms and whatnot and structured environments, which also have really positive things.
Safety, maybe being at the forefront. But I do think you gain so much and that’s one thing I probably just missed out on I was pretty far out in the suburbs. I probably just missed out being able to go to a park and really play good players. we played in the park, but it was ultimately the same guys I would have been practicing against and all that stuff.
But. Certainly there’s that blacktop experience, that is unique and irreplaceable.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:55] Yeah. And it’s not coming back. I think, unfortunately I think the way [00:15:00] that the system is set up from there’s a lot of different reasons why it’s gone away and I’ve said it on the podcast a bunch of times, but I really feel like some of my best moments in the game of basketball.
We’re on the playground. I mean, just in terms of my experiences with the people that I played with on the playground with just being able to have fun. And you think about why you started playing basketball and you didn’t do it because you were going to get some kind of accolades as a high school player, or that you were going to go and be able to have a chance to play college basketball or this or that you started out doing it because it was fun.
And some of the most fun moments that I’ve ever had, regardless of whatever I achieved in my playing career. Some of the most fun moments were just on the playground, hanging out with guys that I played with all the time and had fun with. And again, people of all different ages and from all different backgrounds and all over the place.
And I don’t think it’s coming back. And again, as an old guy, it’s unfortunate. I look back on it, very very nostalgically, but yet at the [00:16:00] same time, I think if I had come up in this era and had an opportunity to play. 70 games over the course. It was summer. I probably would have been just as into that as I was into playground basketball back in my era.
Dan Evans: [00:16:12] Yeah. And I think one of the things you’re talking about that, that I feel like was helpful to developing a competitiveness and an IQ to go back to your question about what we do in practice is like, Playing one on playing two on two, playing three on three, four on four playing in small sided sort of settings to give people a different feel and different set of things that you have to consider.
How you played two on two carries over to five on five, but certainly to be more worried about different things, right? And the same thing with three on three and four and four. And that is actually one way that we do our best to try to provide our players kind of outlets to advance their understanding.
And sometimes those setups are, [00:17:00] very specific structures of, Hey, we’re going to run this movement to get started in a three on three or a four on four, and then you’re playing with no restrictions or sometimes it’s, Hey, we’re playing four on four, but you can only post up and penetrate, you can’t screen anywhere.
Then maybe we’ll play this isn’t as much for us now with the way we play. But certainly in my past, we’ve played where, Hey, you can’t dribble at all. So now you can strain and post and move anywhere, but you literally can’t dribble and you’re still trying to score, you’re still trying to make plays in that way.
And so those are some ways that really we’re developing IQ and in a more live setting, obviously we have a certain amount of repetition of Hey, you got to go do this movement, reading it in this way. And like, okay, now they got it this way, go do this movement and, and just kind of training [00:18:00] you in that way.
And the other thing is we’re trying to make as many of those things competitive in a literal sense, keep score in as many settings as we can, like for us right now. We have a set of like gold. One of our sort of secondary colors is like a yellow gold. And so we have a gold, two sets of gold headbands and wristbands.
And literally I hand wrote like like Jim McMahon used to do, on these headbands rebound.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:36] You’re not, you didn’t write Rozelle on there.
Dan Evans: [00:18:38] Yeah. Something like that. I wrote rebound. And so we give those out after each sort of stretch of practices to a group of guards and a group of front court players.
And whoever has the most rebound in each group gets to wear any combination of them that they want. And it’s really silly. Right. And even saying it out loud, I kind of laugh to myself. [00:19:00] And yet there’s a pride that goes with that. There’s a pride that goes with being recognized and in this case, it’s for rebounding.
And, and so the other thing we have is, is a pair of gold shorts. And I know we’re not unique in this way, but the play player who wins essentially the most drills wears the gold shorts for the next set of practices. And again, is it the most important thing? Are they really much different than our practice shorts?
No, but somebody gets to spend those two, three, four days or whatever we have in a row being recognized and that’s for winning two on two and one-on-one, and you get points for winning any drill. And so those are some ways that we’re trying to foster both IQ and competitiveness as much as we can.
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:47] That’s great stuff. I want to dig into exactly how you score things and maybe give us some examples of exactly what maybe a driller to book like that you score. But before you do that, I want to say that the [00:20:00] headbands and the shorts, as you were saying that, and you’re saying, well, I’m kind of laughing about this kind of in the back of my head, as I’m saying it out loud.
And I think one of the things that we forget. As we get to be adults is how important those silly little things are. And even though, as you said, when you say it out loud, you’re like, really like this is motivating college athletes to be able to put on a goofy yellow headband or some yellow shorts. And yet you forget that as kids, those things are so, so important that recognition that just.
Something tangible that they can hold on to. That is proof that they’ve done a good job. Or I often think about how important, I don’t know how you were, but when I was growing up, even when I was in fourth, fifth, sixth grade, the number that I got from my Jersey or my t-shirt for my team [00:21:00] was so critically important to me.
Like that was one of the most important things in my life was what number I was going to get to wear. And you think about that now as an adult and you’re like, What did it even matter? Like who cares? And sometimes as a coach, I’ve been guilty of this with my own kids. Like you’re passing out whatever t-shirts for their Jersey number or whatever, and everybody it’s just, okay, we got five larges.
We’re going to just give any kid whatever. And you forget how important those numbers are. You forget how important the yellow headbands are, how important the yellow shorts are. That recognition. I, we were, we had a A JV coach. That was part of my high school program. And I never played for him because I went from ninth grade to the varsity, but he was the JV coach while I was in high school.
And he always would give out an orange juice whenever a player would get a charge and literally players on his team year after year after year would kill themselves, trying to take charges so that the next day at school they would get. [00:22:00] Multiple orange juices. Like it was this huge sense of pride. If you could sit at the lunch table with three orange juices that you had earned for taking charge.
And I think as coaches, we forget how important that stuff is sometimes.
Dan Evans: [00:22:09] Yeah. There’s no doubt. I have a couple of things about this. Actually. One is sort of what I perceive as a failure of mine. We had a year, it was one of my last two years at Ohio Dominican. And. We had a similar idea to the sort of gold shorts.
What is often referred to as like the points game and what we were going to do it as like more of a lunch pail for like rebounds, deflections, charges, like those kinds of hustle sort of stats and, and similar to the gold shorts. Whoever had the most of the previous set of practices would literally get a lunch pail.
And I bought a black sort of steel lunch pail. And it became somewhat more difficult to track than we thought. And so it [00:23:00] kind of just petered out a little bit unfortunately, and I really feel like looking back, it was in the moment I felt like we had failed, but I didn’t really see a path for us to continue it.
And it was probably two or three months later. And one of our guy, one of our best players, like came in and was like, Hey, whatever happened to that lunch pail? And I was like, Oh I didn’t really know where it was even honestly at that moment. And he’s like, I really liked that. And I remember thinking like, darn man, like, and we liked the idea.
Certainly we implemented it. But exactly like you’re saying, like there was value to it. It was this little, black lunch pail. I don’t even remember if we decorated it and like, There was value to being the person who had won it. You know what I mean? There was status to be the person that had won it.
And you kind of forget how people want to be [00:24:00] rewarded and they really want to be measured. they want to be measured in some way, shape or form to their performance. And the other thing is we do this thing called the million dollar challenge we started my first year at Ohio Dominican.
And it’s a layup, a free-throw, a top of the key three, and a half court shot. And if you make them all, I tell the guys I’ll buy them. If you make them all. And we do it at walkthrough, the day of games. I will buy you a lotto ticket for you for a chance to win a million dollars. Nice. And the whole thing is that after you graduate, however many you win and this kind of developed over time I’ll give those to you and it is unbelievable and you only get one chance, but it’s unbelievable how focused people get, trying to make this silly little challenge.
And how like people pay [00:25:00] attention and they watch, and when somebody gets it it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but like people are genuinely enthusiastic about it. And it’s all about just recognizing and just sometimes providing an honor a privilege of whatever and how much that does sort of resonate with all of us, but most especially young people, for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:22] So does every kid get one opportunity at. The day before a game practice, is that how it works?
Dan Evans: [00:25:28] It is at walkthrough itself. So we get day of game walkthroughs or shoot arounds. And if we’re not going to, we give it at the end of practice the day before, but generally it’s, Hey, we have a walkthrough in the morning or the afternoon, whatever it is relative to our game time.
And that’s the last thing we do before we huddle and generally go eat. And so it’s like, When we’re, depending on our schedule, like I will literally make it so that you as soon as you miss, you’ve got to get the heck out of the [00:26:00] gym and I’ll like send people off the court and just kind of laugh and be sarcastic and joke around with people.
But I’ll make them go sit on the bench once they’ve missed. And It’s just lighthearted, but the idea of getting to win this lotto ticket, that is way down the line of their careers. Most of the time is still a lot for them. But a lot of excitement,
Mike Klinzing: [00:26:24] This is going to be a great story, like 30 years from now.
And one of your kids hits on the lottery.
Dan Evans: [00:26:29] Yeah. I established an agreement that I take 10%. Period. Nice. Whatever you win. 10% of that’s coming to Coach Evans and that’s after their taxes. So I’m avoiding the government as much as I can on that front.
Mike Klinzing: [00:26:46] I like it. I like it. That’s very cool.
I’ve never heard that idea. I think it’s a great idea. It’s brilliant that as you said, it’s just a fun way. I’m sure it’s something that the kids look forward to every single time. And I can talk, I mean, as [00:27:00] you’re saying it, I can just picture what that would be like both from watching it as a coaching staff and also participating in it.
In it as a player, I could see how fun it would be. And then the other thing that you talked about with the lunch pail, and this is something that I’ve come up against and for various reasons, but I tend to be a person. A lot of my coaching in recent years has been with my own kids where typically it’s me and maybe one other.
Person coaching somebody else’s dad typically, and I’ll find that I’ll have these ideas kind of like whether it’s the lunch pail or I’ve done other things where I have this grand idea that I’m going to keep track of wins and losses and drills, and I’m going to chart this or chart that. And then inevitably what ends up happening to me is I’m only one person and my assistant.
Doesn’t CA can’t make it to a practice for whatever reason. And now I’m trying to chart this and keep track of that. And it always, it always ends up going South at some point, and I can never finish [00:28:00] off these great ideas that I always have. So maybe just give people an idea about. How you put together, your point system, give us one or two drills maybe that you do that you do chart and then what your system is for keeping track of that stuff.
Who does it, and then how does it get back to you and where do you, how do you record keep for that?
Dan Evans: [00:28:21] Yeah, so that what you’re talking about it throughout my career has been the challenge, right is actually tracking and staying consistent with it. And so right now I got the points, game idea.
We used to do it years ago and then kind of brought it back after some conversations with some good friends of mine in the coaching world and they’re doing it. And I was just, honestly, a couple of days before practice this year, regular season start, I was just kinda like, let’s do it. And so we keep it as simple as if you win a drill, you get a point.
If you take a charge, you get two points. And it’s that simple. [00:29:00] And the graduate assistant Jordan Magruder is responsible just for keeping it right on his practice plan. So it’s not like overly complicated. It’s not a big to do. It’s just, he tallies that right there. I think he has a little an area with each guy’s name right below the plan itself.
And then we have we have a student assistant right now. Who’s one of our former players who is finishing up school. And he’s responsible to track rebounds. And so he has a clipboard and he literally, even while he’s coaching and he just has it right with him. And when we play live drills, he just flips it over and then he just tracked those rebounds.
And so we try to keep it that simple. I think the points game in particular is something that even if I was a solo coach, I do think I could track that element of it. And then we don’t necessarily record, keep Beyond the stretch of practices. So if we have three in a row, we named the winner and then we don’t necessarily keep it beyond [00:30:00] that though.
I know some programs do keep like long record books of who wins, what we haven’t really graduated to that.
But we try to keep it as simple as possible. And it actually dovetails into some of what we try to do in terms of scoring our drills. we’ve in the past, I’ve done things where you’re given points for rebounds, losing points for turnovers twos and threes sometimes even send advising Specific kinds of scores.
So layups are double inside, out threes are double in, and I like that we have gone, I don’t want to say the opposite way, what we’ve tried to simplify our scoring of drills. Just because for our players, it makes it simpler on them. They understand more clearly what’s winning and what’s losing within it, but certainly there’s a variety of creative ways to score even within a drill that can help emphasize what you may need for [00:31:00] your team in that moment.
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:02] What are some of the small side of game drills that you like to use? Or maybe just, what are some of the constraints that you like to set up? Heading into, let’s say you’re going to do a three on three. You talked about maybe doing specific actions. Do you build those off of actions that you run in your offense?
Do you sometimes, if it’s, if the focus is defensively, do you focus on what. Maybe your opponent’s going to do some actions. Just talk a little bit about how you design those small sided games to try to get the most benefit out of it for your players.
Dan Evans: [00:31:33] Yeah. So some of that, the last part is really based on when we are during the year.
So like at this point in time, we’re really doing actions particularly three on three that are for us, you know? And so we will play three on three games where you get a single action. And the kind of result of it. So this simple way to think of it is, Hey, we’re gonna have a wing ball screen, and we’re going to [00:32:00] lift out of that wing ball screen.
And essentially you get that action and the resulting advantage that you have to score. And so those possessions might be four or five, six seconds long. But you’re still forced to guard. You’re still forced to play offense in a live manner, but once that’s sort of controlled, the whistle just blows and you keep playing really until the whistle blows.
But we as coaches myself and really my lead assistant we’re blowing the whistle. If it feels like it’s going just a little too far and that those type of things will mostly just be about us stuff that we want to do. We want to get better at in a live setting, but also not leave it to the chance of playing five on five and hoping we get repetition at it.
And that’s actually something that we used to do years ago. When we played five out motion, you know we would do three on three on a side. So you had to stay on your [00:33:00] side and, and we were really more focused on off-ball screening at that point. And so you would play three on three on a side, and you could use a passer on the other side that was part of your team.
And you would get different screening varieties you could read and feel and curl and separate and do everything really, but you had to confine yourself to that side. And I don’t remember if we gave them a time constraint, but you had the opportunity to do it and continue to do it.
And then you would sometimes we’d make it a five on five drill where one side went three on three, you didn’t score, you scored. And then you had your two other players playing two on two on the other side with a passer. And so your of whole group of five was getting opportunities to rep these individual spacing and actions that you had to read and decide.
But it was competitive you were keeping score and the other team was guarding you. And so those are some examples of sort of smaller sided. When we get to four on four, it’s really a mixture [00:34:00] of. Screening action that we want to learn how to defend or rep defending,so that’s a good amount.
Especially when we get into the season, we may use four on fours as sort of scout time. some teams running screen the screener we’re gonna set that screen the screener up in a format and make it be live. And once we’re done with the action, it’s live playing the way we play.
And in other cases, we’ll run our stuff out of that same setup.
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:31] So you mentioned a little bit about how in years past, when you’re running up a motion offense, and there was so much more. Off-ball screening and the game has clearly morphed and changed to where you have a lot more ball, screen offense, and clearly then defensively.
You have to be able to be prepared to defend a ball screen. I tell people all the time that when I think back to my playing career, late eighties, early nineties, they’re like, I can probably count the number of times [00:35:00] on one hand that I ran. A ball screen. And then also probably the same thing. As far as defending a ball screen, it almost was non-existent you had much more of the motion, offense type of basketball being played back in that time.
So how have you seen the game change and why do you think it’s evolved? Obviously, probably taking the lead from the highest level of the NBA as the pick and roll has become more important in the league. It’s trickled down into the lower levels of basketball, but just what’s your feeling about how. The game has changed both from a pick and roll standpoint.
And just from an emphasis on the three point line being so important in today’s game.
Dan Evans: [00:35:38] Yeah, I think so I went to Lawrence University, a division three school in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I played for a man named John Thorpe who really, we ran Dick Bennett, Bobby Knight Style five out motion, you know?
And so we really learned how to [00:36:00] cut, move screen without the ball in our hands. We didn’t dribble the ball quite honestly, all that much in my memory, certainly relative to watching a game today, we didn’t dribble the ball that much. And I had the same experience personally. Like I don’t know that I came off more than a handful of ball screens.
In my life. And so that was how we were taught to play. And we played a little bit like that in high school at Kerry Grove. I honestly don’t remember as well, how much emphasis was on it at that point. And then I ultimately went to work for Coach Tarp at Hillsdale College in Michigan, and we ran the same stuff.
And so when I got to Ohio Dominican, that is what I walked in kind of believing we would run And as it turned out, we’re in the middle of a city for one at Ohio Dominican, right in the middle of Columbus, Ohio. And it really I just felt like there was more players that could play with the ball in their hands at that point.
[00:37:00] And so we just kinda took a lot of the principles we talk about in our off-ball screening when I was at a true pure motion person and just kind of put those two on the ball created movement and reactions and not that we created them, but really dug into what different people were doing most, especially I felt like the Spurs were really at the forefront of what we were sort of emulating just because they had movement along with the off ball stuff.
And so really from that time, it was kind of tinkering with what we thought worked. Paying attention to what other people were doing. And both at the NBA level, college, small college, and just kind of tinkering to get to a place that we felt like we liked what we were trying to accomplish.
And I don’t, I don’t think it’s good or bad. Honestly. I think style of play is exactly that it’s what suits your kids best, what suits your athletes [00:38:00] best and, and ultimately that’s going to be what’s best for you.
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:04] Where do you go to try to find things that you want to incorporate into what you do with your program, from an X’s and O’s standpoint, do you tend to find yourself in the off season watching other college programs?
Do you find yourself gravitating, gravitating towards NBA actions? Is there some other source that you go to when you’re trying to think of. Innovative ways or things that you can incorporate into what you do with your program. Where do you go to find those things?
Dan Evans: [00:38:38] I would say I lean toward college programs of really at any level.
I think when we get to conference tournament time of the division one level, you begin to get the opportunity to more easily act and we have synergy. So, I mean, I guess I always have easy access, but you get the opportunity to watch [00:39:00] people at the most important games of their season, right?
Conference semi-finals, conference finals of all sorts of leagues and sort of strata of the division one world. And I feel like that’s probably a time that my interest gets peaked and I begin to, and it’s obviously coincides with our year having sort of ended or, or getting near the end or having just ended.
And so I would say that’s at the forefront. I watch the NBA. I think it’s incredible, but it is a different game. I mean, it just is a different game than what we’re doing day to day, both the skill and ability of all the players. And beyond that, just the size and athleticism of everybody it’s just not the same for us.
At the college level, in my opinion, at any level, it’s just totally different. And so I definitely lean more toward the NBA or toward the college [00:40:00] and try to try to understand and see other division two and division three teams, honestly and a lot of my coaching friends and connections just happened to be in the division three world because of the path I’ve taken to coaching and through coaching. And so I see some amount of division three basketball, probably more than would be a normal division two coach. And obviously get a deep immersion in division two basketball for over a decade now,
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:33] Clearly that’s something where you are familiar with the level where you coach at and you tend to.
Make your friends and be able to see and go and observe and watch, and the teams that you’re playing against and steal and borrow. And clearly you’re watching a lot of film on the teams that you play. And so you’re always, I’m sure picking things up and looking at that. So let’s go backwards in time to talk a little bit more about your path.
So [00:41:00] first let’s go back to your. Recruitment and what that looked like. And just your college decision, when you’re thinking about the way that you went about making your college decision and then think about whether or not any of those lessons are applicable to players out there, or what you’ve learned as a coach, what you learned from your own experience as a player being recruited to go play college basketball.
Dan Evans: [00:41:25] Yeah. So I was a high school basketball player at Kerry Grove High School of the far Northwest suburbs. We were a good high school team. We ended up getting beat, Illinois at that time was two classes and we won our sectional, which was the first team, I think, in our league’s history to win the sectional, which is essentially four games winning four games.
And so we were in the final 16. Two way, which was the the bigger of them. We got beat and over time at the Mark of the clod cities by Moline and really what was [00:42:00] going on, it’s kind of a devastating loss. If we had won, we had gone downstate, which for Illinois was in Peoria and the final eight played at Bradley or at the Peoria civic center.
I was not a highly recruited player I think I had some conversations with Bucknell because I had good academic scores and I wasn’t really, I would have never been good enough quite honestly, to play at Bucknell. In my opinion my division three, Lawrence, which was in the Midwest conference and a couple other Midwest conference schools.
And I visited, I think DePaul and Elmhurst and North central. Which are all division three schools and talked to Augustana, Beloit, and Lawrence, and I’m sure there were others, but those are the ones that I kind of remember. And the reality for me is like, I really wasn’t enthusiastic about going away to college.
I [00:43:00] I was really worried about being homesick and all those kinds of things. And I ultimately chose Lawrence because I just felt comfortable there. It just felt like the place I was supposed to be. Coach Stark. His personality is very outgoing and very comfortable in his skin. And I don’t think I was those things at that point.
And so I think he made me feel good because of that coach Jacome who was the assistant at that time and is now the head coach at Wash U in St. Louis and they made me feel like I belonged. And I felt like I belonged in that environment. And I think because I just felt at home it ultimately just, I just believed it was the place I was supposed to be.
And so I know I visited at least one other place after that just was kinda like, I just don’t feel the same and the thing I really believed. And certainly after going through the experience at Lawrence believe even more is [00:44:00] if you fit in at a place. You’re going to have a better experience if it fits you and you’re going to be comfortable there and be given an opportunity to grow there you’re going to be better off. The relationships I have from my college experience are a result of me and my teammates being there for four years together as classmates, at least, and being around the class ahead of me for three years and being around the class behind me for three years and that length of development and relationship and we were successful certainly was I think part of it too, but the fact that we got to grow and go through adversity and win ultimately together.
And honestly, I have a lot of what I’m sure were foolish experiences off the floor. Like. That’svincredibly valuable and the stuff that to this day I cherish. And so I think when we’re recruiting student athletes, like that’s a big [00:45:00] thing for me. Like they have to fit in. We have to believe in them obviously, but we got to believe that our university, whatever it happens to be in right now at the University of North Georgia, we have a tremendous place to provide an opportunity, but we gotta believe that it works for them.
You know that our program works for them. The university works for them, and that environment works for them because I believe people should be at places for extended periods of time because that’s where all the great growth really lies.
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:29] So when you’re recruiting a kid and you’re trying to figure out whether or not they’re a good fit for your program. Obviously, the first thing is there has to be a certain level of talent that they need to have out on the basketball floor in order for you to even consider recruiting them. But then when you start looking at how’s this kid going to fit into what we’re trying to do, how do you go about determining whether or not that kid’s going to be a good fit fit?
Are there questions that you’re asking? Are there things that you’re looking for? Are there people you want to talk [00:46:00] to? What’s the process for figuring out if they’re a good fit for your program?
Dan Evans: [00:46:04] I mean, I think all those things you’re saying are, are part of them, right, high school coaches, AAU coaches, if they have individual trainers conversations with them, their family, that visit is really important to me, both any sort of shorter visit that’s just unofficial and spending a few hours together.
Like I think there’s a lot to be gathered through that. And, and honestly, a certain amount of it is like, watch them and watch their body language, watch the way they interact with people. How are they in your conversations? Can they follow through with the things you’re asking them?
Do they demonstrate some interest back toward you? And I think it’s an old Bill Parcells quote of. When someone shows you who they are believe [00:47:00] them. And I think when we get into these processes, people, oftentimes they are who they are at, especially at that point in their development.
And you got to trust that what you see and what you’re hearing is right and if you can back it up with, with tangible examples. And so some of it’s, what kind of school are you at? Right. Like, can that person succeed academically there? Are there things for them in terms of major, in course of study that are going to satisfy them. Socially, is it going to be a comfortable environment? Are they going to be okay with what a normal student is at your school? Does that fit for them? Are they not? Do they have, they don’t have to be the same, but are they going to be comfortable and okay with that being the normal regular students, so to speak. For us, it’s big, we want people that value education.
They don’t have to be perfect academic profiles, but they need it for them and their parents. [00:48:00] Quite honestly, we need to believe that that education and that degree is going to be important then doing well in the process of it is going to be important. And we want people with high character that that can fit in, but also are going to be able to love other people and respect them and value the experience. And so the conversations, the questions, the body language, all the interactions kind of cumulatively, kind of ultimately, shed as much light as we’re going to get.
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:32] When you go out and you are evaluating a player, this is a question that I find myself asking to a lot of college coaches.
Now, how do you balance. What you see from a player during their AAU season versus their high school season. In other words, when you go watch them play in each of those environments, are you looking for something different in each environment? Is there something that you could pull from one that maybe is more difficult [00:49:00] to pull from the other and then which.
Evaluation. Do you, do you put more stock in, maybe you don’t put more stock in either one of them, maybe it’s equal, but just give me your ideas, your feelings about recruiting and watching a player during their high school season versus their AAU season.
Dan Evans: [00:49:18] Yeah, I think there’s value in both. I think this is a really challenging area for me personally, at least there is so much AAU basketball there’s just so many people playing.
That I think it can be difficult based on what environment you see them play. And even within AAU, I mean, I’m always a fan and I think as time has gone on, I seem to value this more and more that I want to see our potential players play against the best competition that they’re going to face, you know?
And, and that doesn’t mean that they have to [00:50:00] always be great in those moments, but it’s like, what do they do when they play good players? What do they do when they play in high leverage games? whether that be region, tournaments, state, tournaments just a rivalry game obviously championship games and such, and from an AAU setting, there are those high leverage games relative to the sort of tournament format, but also, Hey, you’re going to play a really good team that maybe has several scholarship level players. What do you look like? How comfortable are you? Can you hold up? What do you do? And I really like to see kids in both environments, meaning both AAU at high school, because you might play for your AAU team and you’re the fourth best player. And so you have a role to fulfill and can you fill that role? Okay. You go to your high school team, maybe you’re the best player and that role [00:51:00] is certainly different. And can you fill that role too? Because I think that takes great maturity and understanding and IQ to be able to do both and toughness, to do both those things separately in separate environments.
And so I don’t know if one’s more important than the other, other than to say, I have grown in my desire to see people in the best games. Like an 8:00 AM game against the team that you’re way better than in an AAU environment. Like, I’m just not sure what real information we’re going to get out of that.
Whereas you’re going to play a team that’s really good. And you’re on a really good team, whether it’s your high school for that matter. And what do you do then? What do you do in that moment? So it’s kind of a balance, honestly.
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:49] Yeah. I think being able to step up to that challenge and clearly when you’re talking about the AAU environment, you have.
A wide range of [00:52:00] the types of games that I’m sure you see. So you have that 8:00 AM game that you described where you’re playing against the team that you’re probably going to beat by 40, and then you do have more higher leverage games where you have a lot of college players on the floor at the same time.
And I’m sure then that allows you to see more of what that kid could do in an environment that’s similar to what they may participate in once they get to your university. And so. I think about just the difference between the two. And I think about how the AAU culture kind of goes back to what we talked about a little earlier, how the AAU circuit has grown.
And as you said, there’s so many kids playing now versus it used to be a much more selective process in the past. And I would have to think that it makes it and to go along with the fact that we talked about kids being more skilled. Do you think recruiting has gotten harder? Or easier in the time that you’ve been in coaching.
[00:53:00] Dan Evans: [00:53:02] That’s a good question. I think there’s more noise to sift through. Then when I feel like I started at Hillsdale in 2000, in may of 2007 going to the Peach Jam. Of of what would have been probably April early May, Kentucky Derby weekend every year. It seems like so early may of 07 was my first AAU event.
So you’re talking about 13 years. That’s not that long in reality, but there’s just a lot more coverage. And there’s a lot more teams and there’s a lot more kids playing. And so there’s a lot more noise and names to sift through. I think the reality is they’re still the same number of players that are good enough to play, but there’s more people fighting for those spots.
And so I think that in a way, [00:54:00] makes it more difficult to kind of just be decisive and concise and put your filters on it. What are your filters that spit people out on the other end to evaluate? And so I think in that way, there is a more complexity to it at our level in particular where we’re not going to the EYBL and that’s our recruiting I would love to go to the EYBL.
I’d love to recruit kids at the EYBL, but for us, we’re seeing a wide range of ability levels. Some kids are playing because they just liked to play. And that’s great. I love that about it. And other kids are playing because it’s really important to them and they want a scholarship and all those people are in the same event.
And, that can be, there are challenges to that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:47] Yeah. It seems like the funnel is maybe a lot bigger than it used to be in that because you have so many kids playing, it just feels like the beginning, part of the evaluation of how do we even narrow [00:55:00] down that huge list that we have into guys that we’re really gonna want to recruit.
That seems like it would be a challenge. And then I also think about the fact that, because there’s so many more kids who are more skilled, I would have to think that. They’re still clearly the elite players, whether it’s you define elite by players who are going to go play division one, or you have players who are going to be elite division, two players, there’s still those players out there.
And then clearly within an AAU environment, you have a bunch of kids who are completely unrepeatable either because of their skill level or because as you said, maybe a kid’s just out there playing to have fun. But I would think that this. Middle group of kids that kind of is all meshed together. That that’s kind of what makes it difficult is that there’s probably not much separation between that middle.
40% of the kids who were in tournaments. That’s the part that would seem to me to be difficult. It would be to narrow down, who do we really want to focus out out of this [00:56:00] whole big list of kids who are playing a new basketball and who theoretically might be recruitable?
Dan Evans: [00:56:06] Yeah, I think that’s a challenge.
I think the other challenge honestly, is there is like a proliferation of transfers and other paths. To end up with the right kind of people, you know? And so in those kind of those options are so much later than when you’re watching someone in May, June, July going into their senior year, or obviously May June, July of their junior year, even, obviously at certainly the division one level.
And so I think balancing those things has certainly become more challenging. For coaches and the other part I’d say, and I don’t know if this is right. Certainly coaches with more experience than I have and a little bit older than me would know this better, but I certainly feel like when I started in 07 at a division two school there weren’t as many programs working [00:57:00] as hard as there are today like there weren’t as many people at summer AAU events.
Or spring AAU events. There weren’t as many schools, I don’t think that we’re valuing that element of it. And over time, I think you have more people that want to be in coaching and appreciate it. And so they pursue it as a career. And so it creates more emphasis on it. And I think that obviously makes it a more competitive environment too.
You know what I mean? You just have more people trying to be as good as they could be. And I don’t think that was always the case at the division two, and I can’t speak to the division three level cause I haven’t coached at it, but I imagine that would trickle down to division three level as well.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:47] I’ve got to believe that to some degree that falls into social media, playing into that in terms of being aware of what is going on with other programs and just being a tap away [00:58:00] from on your phone that you carry around with you all the time that you can see that this player mentioned this offer, or this player is playing this tournament, or this coach is doing this thing and everybody is kind of on there.
And so I think there’s probably a hyper awareness of what other schools and other coaches and other players are doing that didn’t exist in the past. And then I think the other thing that you mentioned is just the fact that. Coaching and wanting to work within the realm of sports. And again, we can go beyond just coaching basketball, but just the number of people that want to work in sports.
And the competition for coaching jobs is just incredible. I mean, I’m sure and are well aware that you can put out a job that. Pays nothing and has super long hours, but is a foot in the door. And you’re going to get 200 resumes coming in of people who want that [00:59:00] job, just because they want the opportunity to work in college basketball.
And so I guess that leads you to our leads us to the next sort of step in your path. If we go back in time, you get done with your playing career and you graduate and you don’t immediately head into the coaching profession, which makes you. A rarity in the game. So talk to us a little bit about your mindset when you graduated, where were you with the game of basketball?
Why at that point maybe was coaching, not on your radar. And then what happened to flip that switch where you decided, Hey, I really want to get back into the game. And coaching is a way for me to be able to do that. So tell us a little bit about that period in your life and how you came to return to the game as a coach.
Dan Evans: [00:59:48] Yeah. So I when I got started at Lawrence, it was going to be a history major, do education and become, I thought I was going to become a high school teacher and figured I would coach at the high school [01:00:00] level. And honestly at some point during my sophomore year, I had an education class and it was the first time that part of the syllabus had me not shadowing, but getting out logging hours in a classroom, essentially, and just sort of spending 25 hours in a high school classroom and just taking notes on it and all that kind of stuff.
I went to my very first I’m going to call it shadowing. I feel like I’m not remembering the right word for this, but and I sat down and it was at a Catholic high school in Appleton, Wisconsin, Xavier. And I sat in the back of the room and I am not kidding you that it was probably a 50 minute class.
And by the time I walked out of that class and out of the front doors of, of Appleton Xavier, I knew I was not going to be a teacher. I just didn’t feel any connection. I felt like it seemed like something I wouldn’t, I don’t know good [01:01:00] at is even the right word. Just wouldn’t be happy doing. And I can’t sit here and say this reason, this reason, this reason, I’m not sure.
It just was like something deep in me was like rebelling against this being my future. And so I essentially changed courses and I just got a history degree. I would have done probably a business degree, but at Lawrence we’re a liberal arts school. And so we only had econ. We didn’t have like business management, which probably would have made sense for me.
And so I graduated, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. A buddy of mine from home high school, worked at a company called Caremark, which is now called CVS Caremark. And as I was interviewing for that job, I also applied at the inaugural class masters of sports administration class at Northwestern in Evanston and have a Chicago campus.
And I got in and I got the job. And so I spent, really a semester, working a [01:02:00] full-time job and doing the classes at night, or maybe like two terms I should say. And then I decided to move out to Denver with the girl I had been dating from college and just felt pretty miserable truthfully.
I mean, I look back and I’m really disappointed because I got to live with my brother and living in Chicago. I mean, there’s so many good things about it. Many of my friends were, were in Chicago at that time, but I just was miserable. And I thought moving to Denver with this young lady was an answer.
And of course, as it usually is when you’re not married yet, it’s not really an answer. And so we went out there, Caremark let me keep my job. And I worked out at the apartment and in our relationship fell apart very quickly. And I think that reality and that loneliness of being in Denver truthfully caused me to evaluate what I was doing, what was the cause of my own unhappiness and where did it come from? And I really felt strongly that it came from not necessarily being [01:03:00] away from basketball, specifically as a sport, but being away from the team environment, you know what I mean? That environment where it’s a group of people working towards something.
And so I was able to volunteer at a D league team in just North of Denver in Broomfield. Joe Wolf was the head coach and he was kind enough to let me volunteer. And really, I just did, I don’t even know what I did, just grunt labor and, and lineup tracking and did some filming. And I was probably trying to figure out how to do some video things, but it wasn’t quite smart enough all that kind of stuff.
And just being there, I can remember the first day I was there was part of their tryouts and they put me up in the scissor lift they have like a canopy and just went straight up in the air, whatever twenty-five feet and. Thing was swaying and I was pretty sure I was going to fall, but I just filmed the first day of tryouts.
And I found myself even just standing up there and like doing my part of this, this enterprise [01:04:00] and feeling better and just feeling like, Hey, this is something I’m supposed to pursue. And so I stayed with them really until the spring. And at some point kind of between probably February and April.
I reached out to coach Dart back at Lawrence and just said, Hey I’m going to come back to Appleton and I’m going to get into a master’s program nearby and I’ll volunteer. And he kind of kept me at arms length and I didn’t understand why it made no sense. I’m like offering free help. I’m like, I’ll figure out the rest.
And he was like, I’m not sure let’s talk about it in a couple of weeks. Time kept passing. And I was kind of getting frustrated, but what, what soon I discovered as he was in the process of going to Hillsdale and possibly taking that job and ultimately taking that job. And so once he got it he offered me a part-time no benefits role that included a room in the [01:05:00] house that five or six players lived in and $5,000.
And I was working in a corporate fortune 500 job. And in my opinion, I was making really good money. I didn’t even make that much money again for several years. And I just felt like I had to do it. And I said, cool, I’m going to do it. And I told my parents what I was going to do and like good quality parents, they were like, what are you talking about?
Asking me about insurance and health insurance, car insurance. how much do I make now? What was I going to make? How’s it going to make ends meet all that kind of stuff. And they were kind enough to put me back on car insurance and kind enough to buy me essentially a catastrophic healthcare policy for a few hundred bucks that just something terrible happened to me.
I wasn’t going to be crippled for the rest of my life financially. And I literally picked up and moved from Denver, [01:06:00] Colorado college teammate of mine, a buddy of mine came for the weekend. We loaded up a 17 foot box truck, put my Honda accord on the back of it. And we drove 17 hours.
I walked into the office the next day and said, these are my two weeks notice. Then two weeks later, I was at that Peach Jam. And really from the day I got to Hillsdale, I felt like this is what I was supposed to be doing. And certainly Hillsdale opened a lot of doors for me in terms of my own time and I met my wife in Hillsdale and but it was just like, I worked my butt off and coachTarp as well.
And we were ultimately able to have enough success to open other doors. And I really feel a lot of that has just been because. I was willing to pursue something and willing to listen to kind of what the gods were telling me was kind of my path.
Mike Klinzing: [01:06:51] Well, what was it about coaching that you really liked?
What, I mean, obviously you have a job that was well paying. You had a career [01:07:00] path that You were on and then you go and you take this glamorous job to earn $5,000 and live in a house with a bunch of players. You take the typical route of everybody wants to be a glamorous college basketball coach and you get that first job.
What was it that you liked about it?
Dan Evans: [01:07:21] I think it was purpose I think it was just perfect. So I think working in that corporate environment now, I think great corporations and not CVS Caremark wasn’t I think I was just too young to realize it, but I had a hard time finding my purpose within it and seeing myself in that world for my life and for my future, And so I think when I was volunteering for the D-League team, it reminded me that you know how to work towards something together, like truly be invested in something.
And certainly that’s a professional level, so it’s different than [01:08:00] the college level, but it opened the door to that for me. And just the. The personal relationships just the idea of like Coach Wolf was very nice to me and was open and treated me like a member of the team and of the staff.
And, and I appreciated that about him. And in a lot of ways, his willingness to let me volunteer, I think saved me in many ways. And so I think just being a part of a group again, And having that common goal. And I think what that purpose is probably altered as I’ve gotten older. initially it’s just about winning it’s about literally, like when I got to Hillsdale, it’s like, let’s win.
Let’s do it. We gotta win within, in terms of hours and the effort we need to put in and the traveling and the recruiting and the whatever else. All right. Let’s just do this to win. And then, and then over time I feel like, recognizing that you’re having an impact on people. I think ultimately I’ve [01:09:00] found that being a coach is my way of impacting the world for the better. And, and I am far from perfect, but I do think I care and our staff in the programs, I’ve been a part of genuinely care about the future of our players and their development. And I think when young people are in that environment, they’re better off and they have the opportunity to grow and be in a better place on the backend of being at a school and in a program.
And I think it ultimately came down to purpose. Having it and embracing it and recognizing it.
Mike Klinzing: [01:09:34] Yeah. I think that that’s something that, as you said, a lot of young coaches come into it with the idea, I think at first that you want to win. And I think that starts out being the purpose. And I think the longer you’re in it, and as you get older, especially if you get married and you have a family and you start to change up your priorities and you start to realize that.
Yes, winning is important. And clearly [01:10:00] at the level where you’re coaching, you’re judged on wins and losses, but there’s also this whole other piece of being able to have an impact and using a game of basketball that. We love to be able to have an impact on lives. And I think a lot of coaches eventually get to that same place where you’ve gotten where yeah, you still want to win.
It still burns in you, but there’s this whole other thing that goes along with it, that you’re having an impact on the players that are with you every single day. And you’re going to see. Maybe that pay off in the short term, maybe you’ll see the results, but you’re more likely to see those results.
Five, 10, 15, 20 years. On down the line, when your players come back to visit or say, thanks or remember something that you did and tell you the story about wearing the yellow shorts or getting to wear the headband. Those are things that I think are invaluable. That that means so much to all of us who have coached anytime those players, that we’ve been able to have an impact on not just as [01:11:00] basketball players, but as, but as human beings moving forward.
And so, as you think about. Being able to live out your purpose. And obviously at some point, as you’re moving through and you’re working as an assistant at Hillsdale, you start thinking about maybe at some point, you’d like to have an opportunity to run your own program. What did you do to prepare yourself to eventually become a head coach once that kind of got on your radar?
That that was something that you thought you might want to do? What did you. Begin to do to prepare yourself for that opportunity, whether it was just keeping a journal of things that you wanted to remember, maybe it was just putting together a philosophy or creating, creating your resume or putting it in a format that you thought would be beneficial to getting a head coaching job.
What did you do to prepare?
Dan Evans: [01:11:55] Well, I think one of the things that I [01:12:00] feel like helped me truthfully get help, helped me help Hillsdale be the best program it could be while I was there. There’s just, I was hyper-focused on that job at what I was doing in this case for coach Stark and for Hillsdale basketball I have to admit I was not very focused on my future.
I was not very focused on my next step. I didn’t, I wasn’t then. And to be honest, don’t feel like now I’m a great, like networker, connector. I really am focused on what we needed to do to be successful. And it got to the point where I was probably getting to my late twenties and I had just gotten married or was about to get married.
And coach pretty much told me like, Hey, now you need to start looking for head jobs and we had been successful. So I didn’t think he was trying to [01:13:00] fire me. And so I felt like it was genuine that, Hey, like now’s your time? Like you’re, you’re getting to that age. You need to start preparing. I think the big thing that as I look back on it, that helped me is that coach allowed me to be involved in every element of our program.
Like there was nothing from budget to travel to on floor strategy to Scouts, to film, to recruiting, to, you know academic monitoring. I mean, there was nothing. That goes on, that went on in our program that I was not deeply immersed in. And in many cases in charge of from a young age from a young age, I mean, and I think that experience of just kind of being thrown in the deep end a little bit helped me a great deal.
Feel like I was ready now when I went through my first round of interviews and whatever that would have been summer of, or spring of. 12 [01:14:00] or spring of 11, whatever it would have been. I had to put stuff on paper and, and, and needing to do that and really sort through my own feelings was a big help for me to like, identify my own philosophies.
How do they dovetail? What w what we were doing, but what was different? What did I want to convey? And the ability to sort of verbalize that over the course of my first set of interviews one off season, I want to say it would have been the August of 12 then really gave me a lot of like insight into myself.
And then when it got to the off season of 13, I was way more prepared. I had a way better sense of how to communicate those things and what I actually believed in. And I also felt very buoyed by the idea that I didn’t really want to leave Hillsdale. Like, I didn’t feel some like burning desire to do another job, to get a head coaching job, even though I was [01:15:00] excited to do it.
I wanted to do it, but I didn’t feel like if it didn’t happen, I was going to be lost. And so I think because of that, that second round of interviews, I was just wholly committed to being brutally honest about how I felt and what my opinions were and what I thought was best. And I think that gave me great comfort and great competence in all of my sort of processes that particular round.
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:26] So what were some things that you brought to the table to those interviews that you said, these are my philosophies. These are the things that I believe in. That maybe you wouldn’t have in that first set of interviews.
Dan Evans: [01:15:41] I think from an outline standpoint, just like, this is how I would, I honestly, the second time I tried to more specifically break down every single element of the program and exactly how I would run it, you know?
[01:16:00] And the first round, I think I had like the sort of framework of that, but not really the detail of it. The ironic thing to me is that I didn’t really end up feeling like I ever shared at all with any job. Like I had it. I worked on it. I was aggressive in my pursuit of understanding and having it ready, but when it came down to it like that process of getting it ready, almost embedded it in my mind.
And so I never really felt like I had to use it in a literal sense. Like we did video interviews, which I’m sure were like Skype or whatever. And some conference call interviews. Cause it wasn’t as prevalent to do all video interviews at that point. And so I communicated a lot of those things within the questions.
But when I got on campus, I had printed out copies that, that were those very detailed. Like, this is how [01:17:00] we’re going to do this, this, this, this, this, from all those things I said earlier from recruiting through on floor, through practice, through weightlifting, through academic monitoring and so on. I had it out there.
I had it ready, but. I feel like I handed it to like two people and never even really specifically went over it with them because those answers were just in the rest of my communication.
Mike Klinzing: [01:17:25] No, that makes total sense. And I think that as you go through the process and you become more confident and you become more organized and you just understand what the interview process is going to be like, and what kind of questions they’re going to ask you, it seems like it’s a no brainer that you’re going to be better at it the second time around than you are the first time.
So let’s talk a little bit about this, just your growth as. A head coach from your first year at Ohio Dominican to where you are now at North Georgia. What are some things that you feel like you’ve gotten better at, or that you have a [01:18:00] tighter handle on today than you had in your first year as a head coach?
Dan Evans: [01:18:07] I think as head coaches I’ll speak for myself. I suspect I’m not alone. There’s a certain amount of anxiety that just comes with being in this world that, in this job, right? Like there’s just a certain amount of I think inherent fear of being good enough. I think that’s true for most people in every part of their life.
Right. And I think having had the experience at Ohio Dominican and really building a program from the ground up, it gave me confidence that the things I believe in are right and true. And I think that things I believe in are not as much about a way to play in a literal sense, but just what’s important to accomplish within our program.
And that competence, I think I earned through years and with significant help from, from [01:19:00] staff and from players. Made me a lot more prepared to handle a job like this, which is in certain ways more complex and is in a tremendous league. And one with several established programs that are of national quality.
But having earned that competence, I feel like the foundation, I feel internally, both mentally, emotionally is just stronger. My convictions are stronger. My ability to set a better standard and a higher and a better tone day to day is better right now than in my second year at ODU. I just learned a lot through that and the ability thatI feel I’m capable of, but most especially that I can, can pull hopefully out of our staff and players. And that competence comes with time. Like it’s different, like being an assistant, being a head coach is different and it’s hard to say what the difference is, but I felt [01:20:00] it immediately and I honestly, occasionally, especially when I first got started as a head coach would, would call coach Stark, even though we were in the same league. So those conversations were a little different than had we been a different leagues. I would just almost apologize to him like, Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what you were going through.
Like, I tried to be, but I’m sorry. I didn’t know all this stuff that you are probably going through internally. And I hope I was there for you because it’s different. It’s different. And I think having gone through that at ODU has prepared me tremendously to be a lot better at those things here.
Mike Klinzing: [01:20:40] How do you go about setting the tone for what you want your program to be about both with your coaching staff and with your players? Is that something that you have a specific plan that you lay out or is that something that just. Day to day through your [01:21:00] experience and through the things that you’ve learned along the way in your career that you’re able to create through those day to day interactions with both staff and players.
Do you think that’s something that you plan out meticulously or is it something that happens. As a result of your experience, not that you’re not intentional about it, but maybe it’s just more of an organic day-to-day thing, as opposed to, let’s say a year long plan of how you’re going to establish what your culture is all about.
Dan Evans: [01:21:28] I think there’s kind of a middle ground. Like we have some things we’re very specific about that we expect our players to uphold and I don’t mean that like from a behavioral standpoint, like in a literal like rules, I mean, like we expect them to be certain things and for us, we, we talk about, we have four guidelines.
Ultimately we want to be early, be ready, be con competitive and be connected. And we really want our guys to [01:22:00] uphold those four B statements in everything they do. And that is the expectation. You know what I mean? That is a standard of performance in everything they do. And so that is very specific. Now, when you drill down to those things, it’s not like we have a bullet point of like what that means or what you have to do to achieve those things.
It’s those are becoming more about day to day emphasis, kind of group discipline in terms of holding each other accountable and us as a staff, holding our players and ourselves accountable to those things. And I think there’s just a certain level of kind of toughness mentally and physically that comes with setting that tone.
And the other part is like how we practice, how we lift. Like, we want those things to be hard. We want those things to be hard. And that day to day is a little bit more, I can’t put my finger on what that is, but that’s a little bit more of that kind of feeling and culture that [01:23:00] develops over time, more than just, Hey, this is on a piece of paper, so now we’re going to do it. That’s more of an evolution.
Mike Klinzing: [01:23:08] Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think there’s. An overarching plan. And yet it’s the day-to-day execution of what you do day in and day out, how you interact with the players, how you interact with your staff, what the expectations are that you set, there’s an intentional piece of it.
But then there’s also the day to day of, we’ve got to set the tone based around these parameters that we’ve set up. We are closing in on an hour and a half, Dan, and I want to ask you one final question that I’ve kind of been using the wrap up episodes lately, and that is share with us. What you think about being your biggest challenge moving forward.
And I’ve kind of asked people to put aside the pandemic as a challenge since we’re all kind of facing that, but let’s imagine that at some point things go back to normal. What do you see as your biggest challenge at the university of North Georgia? And then after you answer the challenge question, [01:24:00] what is your biggest joy?
What do you get excited about when you get up in the bed, out of bed in the morning to go to work. What’s the biggest joy. So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy?
Dan Evans: [01:24:13] Well, I think the biggest challenge is cementing our identity and then recruiting to that identity. I moved here from the Midwest from I was in Columbus and Michigan before that, and grew up in suburban Chicago.
And so cementing our identity within our program. And then making sure that we are supporting that identity every day with our behaviors and with our what we emphasize and then recruiting to that same identity. I think there are a tremendous amount of talented people and players here in Georgia, specifically.
But even in the Southeast overall, and just making sure that we’re comfortable pursuing [01:25:00] the players that fit us and what we’re trying to be more than just collecting good players like I think it was Mike Lombardi who may have been sort of quoting Belicheck or Parcells or Bill Walsh or somebody or Al Davis, but it’s like, we are in the business of building a program, not collecting talent.
And I think at our school it’s important that we are a program, not just a collection of talent, because it’s a good academic school. There’s just factors to it that I think allow us to be a great program. And so I think building that identity, cementing it, and then making sure that everything we do pushes us toward is the greatest challenge, which may be true anywhere you are.
But certainly I feel that way about us here. As we continue to kind of get into year two As far as joy there’s really there’s, there’s a lot, honestly, I think I have a great enthusiasm for life. I think [01:26:00] my players would say the same thing, but there there’s a few things that I just love to do. One, I just love being around our players.
In whatever the setting is, like, if we’re in practice, awesome, film, community service event, Awesome. Like hanging out in the office. Great. like I lift in the weight room, great. Like I love, love, love being around our players. And, and I think that is absolutely something I enjoy getting out of bed for every single day.
The other thing for me is getting to read to my kids at night. I love reading to my son and my daughter when we put them to bed, like though I shouldn’t leave my wife out. I love being around my wife, to be around my players and getting to read to my children are things that in the moment.
I know how lucky I am. I can acknowledge how lucky I am every single time I get those [01:27:00] experiences and, and, and certainly try to cherish them as much as I can.
Mike Klinzing: [01:27:04] What’s your favorite set of books you read to your kids? Do you have a favorite?
Dan Evans: [01:27:09] So my son who is going to be five right after Christmas we bought a flat Stanley book, which is nice for him in terms of like, he can’t read that book.
But we’ve been reading flat Stanley books and he just, he just loves them. So for him, it’s either flat Stanley or the Avengers. Those are the two like books. We have like five minutes stories or those sort of story book ones that, so those are for him, my daughter she’s only, she’ll be three in late February.
So for her, it’s like, This we have some Minnie Mouse books. She loves Minnie mouse and she just discovered, or we were introduced to something called Fancy Nancy and she loves fancy Nancy. I don’t quite get fancy Nancy, to be honest with you, [01:28:00] but she loves fancy Nancy. So I would say those are the books that we’re, we’re pretty bought into.
Mike Klinzing: [01:28:05] Let me vouch for the fact that there’s gonna be a lot of things that you don’t understand as they go through and they get a little older than you. Why do, why do they like it? This, I just don’t, I don’t get it. So I went through a lot. I went through a lot of stretches. My big thing with that was Pokemon cards.
I’m like my son for a long time would collect those. And I’d be like, why would you rather collect these and collect basketball cards or baseball cards? It never made any sense to me. But at any rate you will find that there are a lot of things that your kids do and enjoy that you’re like, I don’t think I ever would have liked or enjoyed that, but they are who they are.
And that’s part of the fun of being a parent is seeing what they end up doing. Dan, this has been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation before we get out of here. I want to give you a chance to tell people where they can find out more about your program, how they can connect with you, maybe share out your social media, give the school’s websites so that people can find out more about the great things that you’re doing down there at the [01:29:00] university of North Georgia.
Dan Evans: [01:29:02] That put me on the spot. I’m not even sure. I’d know my Twitter handle. So look it up. I am @CoachEvans_UNG, our men’s basketball pages @UNGMBB. if you search North Georgia athletics, our university website I believe pops up. And so those are places to find us. I have to admit there is no element of self-promotion for me. So like my Twitter is not very exciting, but my staff does a really good job on our Twitter and our external operations. People do a great job on our university’s, around our athletic departments, Twitter. So the website and our school, Twitter and our athletic, our basketball Twitter are all good stuff.
Mike Klinzing: [01:29:43] Dan cannot thank you enough for spending an hour and a half with us tonight and taking that time out of your schedule. We really do appreciate it. And to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.