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Duke Barther is the Boys’ Varsity Basketball Head Coach at Berea Midpark High School in the state of Ohio. Barther previously served as both an assistant coach and head coach at the former Midpark High School before the merger of Berea and Midpark High Schools in 2013. Barther than became the head coach of the newly combined Berea Midpark High School.
Barther played his college basketball at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio for legendary coach Steve Bankson before jumping into coaching during his junior season at Baldwin Wallace as the boys’ freshman coach at his alma mater, Fairview High School.
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Get ready to take some notes as you listen to this episode with Duke Barther, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach at Berea Midpark High School in the state of Ohio.
What We Discuss with Duke Barther
- Tagging along with his older brother and playing with older kids
- “I could not imagine myself not playing basketball.”
- “Kids don’t know what to do if a coach doesn’t have an open gym or a skill workout, when we were kids, we did that all ourselves.”
- How he uses film with players to show them areas to improve upon – showing film of the player, but also of other high school players executing skills that the player should add to their game
- His favorite high school basketball memory
- His decision at attend Baldwin Wallace University and play basketball
- His reaction after his college coach, Steve Bankson, told him , “Don’t think you’re going to come here and be some great player right away.”
- “The best way to talk to players? You have to be truthful with them.”
- The high level of play in Division 3 and how that surprised him even though he had watched a lot of D3 basketball
- The advice he got from his brother when he was struggling during his freshman year at BW
- Developing a friendship early on with teammate Duane Sheldon who later coached at BW
- The things coaches sometimes forget…
- Getting an opportunity to coach freshman basketball at his alma mater, Fairview (OH) High School during his junior year at BW, but having to leave his playing career behind
- “All I did was live, eat, breathe basketball when I was their age. And so it was difficult for me to understand that that wasn’t the norm.”
- “I knew within two days of coaching, actual coaching, that this was something I wanted to do the rest of my life.”
- “Playing time isn’t about whether you care for kids or not.”
- Caring for your players on and off the floor
- Why he has started each of the players at the end of his bench in at least one game
- The dilemma of travel basketball and limiting kids’ opportunities at a young age
- Becoming an assistant coach for his college teammate Duane Sheldon at Midpark (OH) High School
- Thinking long term as a coach
- “Sometimes you have to even make some of your own assistant coaches unhappy if it’s a decision that you think is that important.”
- Two key traits for assistant coaches – Loyalty and having a kid’s best interest at heart
- Why having assistant coaches that are friends can be helpful to a head coach
- Player development has a been a key to his success as a high school coach
- “It’s not a one size fits all for kids.”
- “Ultimately why do you play sports? Beause you like it, you want to have fun and you want to build on that and teach them to compete for sure.”
- “You can if you want to.”
- Handling the merger between Berea and Midpark High Schools as the head coach
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THANKS, DUKE BARTHER
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TRANSCRIPT FOR DUKE BARTHER – BEREA-MIDPARK (OH) HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ VARSITY HEAD COACH – EPISODE 590
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: 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, the head boys’ basketball coach at Berea Midpark High School, Duke Barther. Duke, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod, man.
Duke Barther: Thanks for having me
Mike Klinzing: Absolutely excited to have you on and dive into all the things that you’ve been able to do in your career.
I want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about growing up and just how you got into the game of basketball when you were younger.
[00:00:25] Duke Barther: Yeah. I had an older brother, so my older brother is three years older than me and sports was a big part of his life and my parents made him take me everywhere he went. So, so from a very young age, I was you know, playing and tagging along with him and the older kids and, and you know, doing all kinds of different sports and basketball is what I fell in love with. He, he fell in love with you know, football and baseball. He played baseball in college and I fell in love of basketball at a very young age.
[00:00:59] Mike Klinzing: When did you decide that it was only going to be basketball? Cause obviously you were growing up and you’re playing a lot of different sports. At what point in your upbringing did you decide, Hey, basketball is the direction that I want to go because obviously you’re playing all different kinds of things in the driveway and just chasing around with your brother?
[00:01:13] Duke Barther: Yeah. It kind of got narrowed down. I played everything and then in high school I played both basketball and baseball and basketball was just a passion of mine as you guys. I loved it so much, but I also like playing baseball a lot and I was actually either going to go to John Carroll and play baseball or go to Baldwin Wallace and play basketball.
And so that was what I narrowed it down to. And I just, I couldn’t give up basketball. I just loved that so much. You know, I don’t know if that was the right it ended up career wise being a right decision. But you know, I was always undersized and, and but it’s just what I wanted to do.
I could not imagine myself not playing basketball.
[00:01:55] Mike Klinzing: I think about how you grew up in the game and the way you went about getting better and playing the game and what your summers look like as a high school player compared to what. The kids that you coach today as a high school, varsity coach and the way they kind of come up in the game.
How do you think about that? Or just look at it. Good. Bad. What are some of the positives that you see in the system today versus some of the positives, maybe of the system that you felt like you grew up under?
[00:02:26] Duke Barther: You know, we’re around the same generation here, so you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Mike. We my summers from my sophomore year through college they were dedicated to working on basketball by myself. And then maybe getting some friends to work with me. I’d wake up in the morning. I’d go lift. I’d had a job from nine to 12 only. I do shooting drills, do jump rope, do stuff.
And then we went up to the Village Green every night in Olmsted Falls and played, the organization of team stuff was just, it was a lot different than it is now. You know now everything is organized and you know that from coaching your daughters everything’s organized kids don’t know what to do.
If a coach doesn’t have an open gym or a skill, a workout, when we were kids, we did that all ourselves. And so I think it’s great that, that we’re able to do those things with players. And one of the things that I always try to stress to kids is that love and passion. You got to do it on your own still, even though we’re doing stuff with you.
[00:03:31] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. That’s so important. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in, I think in today’s world that you have to be with a coach. You have to be with a parent, you have to be with a trainer, you have to be somewhere. And it’s really, I mean, the formula hasn’t changed since we were kids. It’s kind of different in terms of how you get there, but it’s still the kids.
Putting the time or they seek out the coach or they’re there at every single thing that you have for them, or they just, those are the kids that end up excelling. And you and I talked a little bit in our pre podcast phone call just about the way that sort of travel basketball and AAU has kind of taken over the scene and how maybe that’s not the right way to go for every kid.
And we weed out lots of young athletes before they even get a chance to get into basketball. And to me, I guess when I have conversations with especially parents, I think one of the things that I try to tell them is that you can keep giving your kid this and that and that and this and whatever, but ultimately what it comes down to is if your kid doesn’t love the game, like hearing you describe, like, I just couldn’t live without basketball.
You know what I mean? Like how many kids today, those are the kids that have success. The kids will say I can’t live without basketball. Those are the kids that are going to ultimate. Have the most success because they’re going to put in the time to improve and get better. So as a high school coach, what do you do?
How do you try to instill that love or have those conversations with your guys that you’re coaching now about, Hey, it’s not just, you can’t just show up for all the stuff that’s mandatory, but you got to put that extra time. And how do you have that conversation with them?
[00:05:09] Duke Barther: When I was a younger coach, I showed them you know, I did a lot with them as I’ve gotten older and more out of shape and knees hurt.
I do a lot of talking to them. I have a point guard right now who has that same kind of passion but needs to get stronger. And you can go into a weight room. You can, we lift three days a week during the season three days off season and he’s there every day. But until a player realizes truly realizes that they have to get stronger, they’re going to go through the motions.
And so we talk, I show them film of, Hey, this is look at this move right here. Had 15 more pounds of muscle on your you’re going to be able to finish Nan one. You know, I think just a lot of talking and explaining and we show, I I’ll be honest. I show a lot of video for the kids that want to get better and, and here’s what they have to do to get better and not, everyone’s going to take advantage of that.
Not everyone’s going to do it, but I think he can help spark like passion and the players that, that just need that extra push.
[00:06:09] Mike Klinzing: When you’re looking at video, do you primarily have them looking at video of themselves or do you ever cut up like video of NBA guys or college guys and say, look, here’s a move that maybe you could put into your game, or just, how do you approach your use of film with individual players?
[00:06:24] Duke Barther: Both I show a lot of individual things that, Hey, this is what you did. This is imagine if you were stronger, imagine if you can have more explosiveness on this move, but then I will show not necessarily college I’ll show some other high school kids that are able to do some stuff.
You know, that, that if, if they take that next jump, they can do it as well.
[00:06:50] Mike Klinzing: All right, let’s go back in time to when you’re a kid growing up and give me your favorite high school basketball memory.
[00:06:57] Duke Barther: Gosh, a quadruple overtime game at Avon lake, our teachers were on strike. So we didn’t go to school or I, or I think we’ve got, I’m sorry we went to school.
But it wasn’t quite the same. And we we went out to Avon lake. It was just a weird atmosphere because the, the part of high school sports is, is you know, that school day of, of getting ready. And the Avon lake was in, in one game out of first place. And we were two games out of first place. And we went and kind of Drupal over time.
We made w our team made three shots at the buzzer to put the game in overtime. And then we won in quadruple overtime. So it was it was unforgettable and we couldn’t even, man, I mean, we were just so exhausted. It was great.
[00:07:45] Mike Klinzing: You don’t get many buzzer beaters as it is to get three in one game. I would say, I would say that’s pretty easy to be memorable.
[00:07:51] Duke Barther: Like something was, something was on our side.
[00:07:54] Mike Klinzing: There you go. Sometimes things just work the way they’re supposed to for one team and maybe not the way they’re supposed to for the other one, for whatever reason. So nice thinking back to your decision, you talked a little bit about how much you love the game of basketball.
Couldn’t think about being without it. And so that led you on your path to decide, to go to BW and play basketball. Instead of going to John Caroll we’ll play baseball. What do you remember specifically as you were going through and working through that process? So one of the things that we talk a lot with both high school and college coaches about, especially when it comes to the recruiting piece of it is trying to find the right fit for.
The student athlete, whether that’s the school, the program, the coach, just the whole thing that sometimes kids get caught up in the wrong thing. And you got the division one or nothing mentality. So just when you look back on your decision to go and play basketball at BW versus going to John Carroll and play baseball, what, what were some of the factors that you put into that?
Or was it just simply, I love basketball. I can’t imagine being without it. And that’s kind of what overrode everything else.
[00:08:55] Duke Barther: Yeah. You know, it, that was the final two. Like the final decision leading up to that. Those are the two schools I decided upon. There was other options of division three basketball schools.
You know, ultimately, I needed to play basketball. I mean, that was that decision BW. It was close to home. I mean, I wanted to be close to home still, I guess. John Carroll wasn’t far, but in terms of basketball, I wanted to be close to home. I felt like. I knew some of the players that were going there, which we’ll probably talk about some of those players in a few minutes, but I knew of some of them and at least going into the freshman year, I know who they were.
And so I was already comfortable with going into that situation.
[00:09:40] Mike Klinzing: And you had an opportunity to play at BW for a coach who was there for a long time, legendary guy at Baldwin Wallace, and the division three coach banks. And just talk a little bit about what your experience was like playing for him, and just maybe some of the things that you picked up from him either consciously or subconsciously that you’ve maybe taken into your coaching that you’ve still do as part of your yeah.
[00:10:04] Duke Barther: I mean, we still, I still have some of the same, same calls, actually. It’s kind of weird. It’s some of the same basic ideas. I, I still use you know, he, he got, she, he just had a going on in terms of knowing. How to run a program. It was you know, almost in that regarded, it seemed effortless to him or for him you know, there’s a lot of things that, that you, you take in a lot of things you don’t take from coaches.
I will tell you, I remember when he first talked to me because you know, so many kids when, when they go and decide to play division three, they’re, they’re really good. They’re really good high school players. You know, I was a honorable mention all-state high school basketball player. And I remember when I met with him and he looked me in the eyes and he said, don’t think you’re going to come here and be some, some great player right away.
And I kinda was like, yeah, what you wait, buddy. And then we got to the first open gym and I was like, man, coach is right.
And he didn’t mean it like he was blunt and he was honest. And, and I think throughout after our postseason meeting after both my freshmen and sophomore years I took away from him what I needed to. I mean, he didn’t sugarcoat what I needed to work on. He didn’t sugar coat what my role would possibly be if I did work or didn’t work, he let me know bluntly, what I needed to do.
And I think personally, that’s the best way to talk to players. You have to be truthful with them.
[00:11:40] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. There’s no doubt about that. I think if you, if you try to sugar coat it and you don’t tell them what they need to work on to get better at, especially for a kid who’s thirsting for that. It’s just not everybody that wants to hear that there’s kids that obviously you’ve coached it, that don’t want to hear that.
But the kids who are, who are good are going to be the mainstays of your program. I don’t care if it’s college or it’s high school, whatever those kids want to know, like what do I, what do I have to do to get better? And, and when you have those conversations and you’re honest with them, then they have an opportunity to improve and make themselves a better player.
And consequently, make your team a better player. When you were thinking about that conversation with coach banks. And it kinda got me thinking about some conversations that we’ve had with division three coaches, how, when they go out and they’ll recruit and they’ll talk to players, and a lot of the players that they’re talking to have never even seen a division three basketball game and have no idea what that level of play even looks like.
So how familiar were you with division three basketball heading into that recruiting process and being a freshman at BW.
[00:12:42] Duke Barther: I went to a lot of gangs my senior year to the schools that were recruiting. I went to visit that had me for a visit I went to watch, but to be quite honest with ya, I thought I was pretty good.
And it’s hard to realize from the stands even how, how big and strong and quick those players were. So I thought I was prepared. I thought I understood it, but I didn’t.
[00:13:14] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, it’s tough. I mean, I think when you look at yourself as a high school player, it’s really difficult to judge, unless you’re actually on the floor with somebody, how good they are versus how good you are.
And then of course, everybody has a, I don’t want to say unrealistic, but we all think pretty highly of ourselves as players. Obviously. That’s what allows you to have success is you got to have a little bit of an ego and think you’re pretty good because that’s what it takes to be successful on the court.
But sometimes that can work against you in different ways. If you start, over-inflating how good you are. So when you get to BW, you mentioned that, Hey, all of a sudden we’re like, wow, these guys, maybe I’m not going to be the star that I thought I was. So how did you adjust from a mental standpoint of okay.
I thought one thing coming in and now I’m seeing that maybe I have to adjust, like, I think about myself going to Kent and I was pretty realistic that, I mean, I thought I could play and I probably still looking back on it and I’m like, I could’ve played that freshman year, but I kind of understood that.
Look, the odds of me coming in and being a star in my first year, probably isn’t going to happen and it didn’t happen. And then I had to figure out my whole basketball life, I’ve been the best player on the team and played as many ministers I wanted to and pretty much got to do whatever I wanted to do out on the floor.
And now suddenly I’m a freshman, I’m playing four minutes a game and I’m going through practice every day. It’s a grind. It’s tough. I’m playing against bigger, faster, quicker guys. And it’s more for me. I think there was definitely a physical. No change that I had to make, I had to make sure that I was being able to compete on that level from a physical standpoint.
But I think a lot of it was just mental and figuring out how do I get through this without without that care at the end. Cause I knew I wasn’t going to play very much. So just what did you do from a mental standpoint to kind of help yourself make that transition?
[00:15:10] Duke Barther: I struggled my freshman year I struggled you know, I knew it wasn’t a matter of being mad at a coach, I struggled with how good the other players were compared to me.
And you know, I struggled with can I ever do this? And it was the first time I ever really doubted myself in basketball and you know, it was over Christmas break. My brother was home. He was a senior at John Carroll. And you know, he pretty much said, you know pretty, pretty tough love that.
Kind of suck it up. I mean, it’s like, you’re not as good. What are you going to do about it? Like and then he, his example is he, he was a catcher for John Carroll and he didn’t play until his senior year. And, and but he asked me like, do you like your kids on the team?
And you know, who are your friends in school? And there was, I named 15 kids on the team, you know? And he said, well then sit on the bench and cheer them on, that’s what you do. That’s the, you want to, when you were in high school, you wanted those kids to do that. And then you got to spend extra time in private.
It’s up to you, what you want to do. Like this is the first time you’ve ever dealt with it. So I was fortunate that I the same, same kid that was upset at mom and dad for having to drag brother along when he was eight years old, was helping me understand like this is the real world.
Now this is what you gotta do. If you want to do it, if not, then don’t do it.
[00:16:40] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. So, which of your teammates did you get close to immediately that freshman year you connect with,
[00:16:47] Duke Barther: Duane Sheldon, who you know pretty well? Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think he is he influenced my life so much.
But right away he, he was in a very similar spot than me, but he got it more than me. He understood it. He, I don’t want to say accepted that he was going to have to wait his turn. I think a big part of it was that he came from high school Strongsville where he was a very good player, but he wasn’t the best player.
And you know, he understood that it was like, he understood his he’s gonna work hard and move up. So myself and Duane and three or four other kids were in the same boat. And, and that, to be quite honest, while some of us were complaining and he, he kind of just just went along and said, we’re going to he’s we gotta get better if we want to play.
[00:17:45] Mike Klinzing: So what did that process look like? We talked a little bit about how you went about get better as a high school player. What did that look like when you realize, Hey, I got to get better. If I want to get on the floor, what do I have to do? How do I have to do it? And obviously we know that division three rules are different than a lot of the division.
One stuff that people are maybe more familiar with where you have summertime workouts and this and that with the division three, the rules are different. So just talk a little bit about how you and your teammates went about trying to improve, get better, get yourself an opportunity to get out on the floor.
[00:18:16] Duke Barther: Well, our freshman year what we did there was about five of us that were all freshmen. At the same time that we’re all. Now kind of in the same boat. And you know, we, we were friends, we were good friends. We hung out outside of the court, but we stayed after we had fun. I mean, that’s ultimately why you play a sport is, is because you like doing it.
And you know, the games themselves, when you weren’t playing, weren’t necessarily fun, but practice was still fun because we love to do it. And then we stayed after practice at least three of us Duane and I had shooting contest after practice every day. We stuck around and, and we, we did it because we wanted to get better, but it kinda got us back to just having fun with basketball.
And then, and then we, I had the meeting with a Coach Bankson at the end of the year, and he was pretty blunt and It was the, I had a different fire under me going into my sophomore year. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be good enough to play or not, but I knew that I was going to do whatever I could to try to and the stuff I did in the summer when I was in high school, kind of doubled up my lifting, my shooting drills, all that ball handling stuff.
Whatever I was doing, didn’t prepare me to at that level. So I got a taste of it and I said, I was either gonna try to try to do it and prove that I could possibly play, or I was going to have to find something else to do with my time
[00:19:49] Mike Klinzing: to double down on academics. Right.
[00:19:52] Duke Barther: Yeah. Yeah. I guess
[00:19:55] Mike Klinzing: theoretically, right, Duke?
[00:19:57] Duke Barther: I wasn’t quite ready for that.
[00:20:00] Mike Klinzing: What’d you go into school thinking.
[00:20:02] Duke Barther: Had always wanted to be a teacher. When I was working at in high school from nine to 12, I worked at camps like my local playgrounds. And I was like the sports coordinator there. And so kids from the ages of about five to 10 would go and I would like do baseball with a ball basketball, different things with them.
And I really enjoyed it and I loved basketball and I really liked working with kids. And so I said, boy, this is what I want to do. And so I was fortunate that I was able to do both.
[00:20:40] Mike Klinzing: Was coaching always in the back of your mind as you were playing or did that come more on your radar after the fact, like when you were picturing yourself as a teacher, when you picture yourself as a teacher coach, or just strictly as a teacher and at least initially,
[00:20:56] Duke Barther: No.
I knew that basketball was always going to be part of my life. It, it was just, it was my passion forever. I could not envision not having basketball in my life in terms of somewhere or another. So yeah, I wanted to be a teacher, but I couldn’t imagine not being a coach. I still can’t.
[00:21:18] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. Did you start looking at, like, while you’re playing in college, did you start to, I don’t know what the right way to say it is, but you just start compiling a notebook or your thoughts about, Hey, when I get into my eventual career here, these are some things that I want to remember about what coach banks did or things that you saw other coaches doing.
Were you that particular about it or was it still sort of nebulous at that point? Yeah, I wish
[00:21:44] Duke Barther: I threw all that kind of stuff away. Yeah. I had stuff. I was the type of kid that Mike. You know, I would go to Ranger Round Ball camp at Lakewood. I don’t know if you remember.
[00:21:56] Mike Klinzing: I remember
[00:21:56] Duke Barther: it turned out packets.
I think I still have some of those packets of stuff. You know, I was the type of person that motivational quotes. I would, I would have all over the place. Yeah, so I, I did, and I was the type of person, even in college when I was watching college basketball with something that I have a notebook by me.
So yeah. Yeah. It was a, I think I always knew that I, I wanted to keep with basketball and coaching was a way to do that.
[00:22:27] Mike Klinzing: Kind of funny that we’ve kind of established over the course of doing however many episodes we’ve done with coaches that there’s two, there’s two patterns of. People get the coaching.
One is the way you described where you kind of always knew that you wanted to have the game be a part of your life. You kind of knew that coaching was a direction that you were going to go at a fairly early age. Then you have the other people who are just strictly focused on being a player and being a coach, never really dawns on them until they’re playing career ends.
And then they kind of look around and they’re like, what? There’s there’s no more basketball. Like now, what am I going to do to keep basketball in my life? And it’s just, it’s interesting how. Different those two paths when you really think about it, how different those two paths are, that here’s one group of people that they’ve been thinking about coaching the whole time.
And they’re kind of thinking the game and they’re, they’re trying to look at it, not only as a player, but as a coach, then you have other people who just are strictly like I’m a player and I’m trying to figure out how to get better. And coaching’s not even, they’re not even looking at coaching at all until the game ends for them as a player.
It’s just, it’s interesting to hear people tell those stories of how they come to the coaching profession, because there’s really those two pathways in each of those pathways can have obviously variations. But for the most part, that’s the way people, people get there is either knew right away or the game gets taken away from them as a player and they figure out, Hey, I gotta, I gotta keep, I gotta keep the ball bouncing and get, get into coaching.
And so it’s you know, I mean, when the game is. As good to all of us, as it’s been, you want to be able to give back, you want to be able to have it be a part of your life. And I think being able to impact kids through something that you love is really that’s what it’s all about. I mean, that’s really what coaching.
We all love to win and we all love to be able to compete and all that kind of thing. But ultimately it’s like you get to have an impact on people through something that has given you so much. I just think there’s so much value in that. I want to ask you too. I asked you about your favorite high school memory, getting your favorite college basketball memory.
And again, this could be a game. Maybe it’s a moment in the locker room. Maybe it’s on the bus. I don’t know where it is, but just what’s your favorite college, when you think back to your time at BW as a college basketball player?
[00:24:43] Duke Barther: Coach Bankson was fabulous. You know, I really do. I admire him. I do a lot of his stuff, but he we had a lot of people that how do I say this? They imitated him.
He had, it was something with the Duane Sheldon and his roommate. Chris Cebula will still, to this day, this is still a thing. So Chris and Duane were roommates from the first day they stepped on campus and coach, he really did care about everyone. But when you have a million kids coming through your system for 35 years of coaching you, you sometimes lose your, your who SU.
So he would ask Duane and Chris, you know how they’re doing how’s school going? Just like he did everyone, but he could never remember that they were roommates. And so he would like to this day, if I see. You know, I’ll go up to him and put my hand on the shoulder and say, Hey, Duane, who’s who you’re rooming with this year, Duane.
And they’ll just, it’s a funny thing, it’s it? It has nothing to do with the basketball court. And it’s really not a knock on coach basin. It’s just a funny thing. He could, it was like a blank space in his mind and we still laugh about it.
[00:26:03] Mike Klinzing: Those are the best. I think every team that I’ve ever played on has some form of whether it’s imitating the coach, whether it’s something, a little phrase that the coach always said, there was every team, every coach I’ve ever played for.
There’s always something, some phrase, some this, some that, that you remember, that you could share with somebody who is your teammate and immediately anybody you share it with is going to start laughing and be able to remember multiple incidents of like what you just described. I just think that’s super funny.
And then to kind of go along with that same thing with memory. I remember, this was probably pretty shortly after I graduated from college and I was with my, I think it was probably my then girlfriend now wife and we were at a Homearama. And so we’re touring these homes. I ran into my high school assistant basketball coach.
And this is probably so I was probably, I don’t know, somewhere between, let’s say five and eight years after having graduated from high school. And he said to me now, did you play with, and he started naming off guys that were like five years older than me. And I’m like, no, I’m like, what are you taught?
Like, I’m like, no, no, that’s not the guys who I played with. And I, I literally, like, I couldn’t believe like, how does he not remember, like, how does he not know who was on the team with me? And then as I coach, and then you go back and like, all those kids, it runs together. You’re like now did shames play with.
He played with that kid all the years. And I’m sure you experienced the same thing that you remit. You remember the kids obviously, but when you try to put them in context with, okay, that was my 2010, 2011 team. It gets a lot harder. It gets a lot harder to put a big context to put it that way.
[00:27:55] Duke Barther: Absolutely. That’s funny. Yeah. The same thing happens to me all the time.
[00:28:06] Mike Klinzing: That’s good stuff. All right. So graduated from BW, looking for a coaching job. Just describe what that job search.
[00:28:15] Duke Barther: It goes a little bit. So I, my second year I was a much better basketball player. I wasn’t good enough to get a lot of varsity minutes, but I kind of proved to myself that. That I could.
And basketball is still hugely important to me. I had some physical problems. I had tendonitis in my knee and there’ll be quite honest with you happens a lot at division three. You know, I was starting to get into my major classes. I was going, I had to go to practice my second year, an hour early to get like a treatment on my knee.
And then I had to stay after practice an hour late. It wasn’t it, I loved basketball, but I had a hard time sleeping because of my knees. And then the school I graduated from Fairview, this is my going into my third year of college. They, he, the coach called me and asked me if I wanted to be the freshman coach.
And so it kind of, I had a decision to make. And so my third year of college, I decided to stop playing at BW and coach and you know, it was a tough decision. But it, it really worked in my favor. So I actually started coaching high school when I was a junior in college.
[00:29:28] Mike Klinzing: So what’s that look like?
How confident or non-confident were you when you stepped in front of those kids for the first time?
[00:29:37] Duke Barther: I was pretty intense. It was the biggest word to explain it. I had a heart I was someone who, who, all I did was live, eat, breathe basketball when I was their age. And so it was difficult for me to understand that that wasn’t the norm.
So that was, that was the first thing. But you know, I, I loved it right away. I love the coaching. It, the different perspective. I I’ll always say to this day I was the best basketball player I ever was. After I started coaching when I was still in shape, still playing a lot of basketball, but I just saw the game from a coach’s perspective a little bit while I was playing it, I took to it right away.
I loved coaching. I knew within two days of coaching, actual coaching, that this was something I wanted to do the rest of my life.
[00:30:35] Mike Klinzing: Was it specifically about coaching that you love? Was there one particular aspect? You’re like, man, I just love being on the floor with the kids. I love the X’s and O’s and diving into that.
I love the competition. What was it? Was there one thing that really stood out to you that you’re like, man, I, I, this is the piece of it that really is got me hooked.
[00:30:54] Duke Barther: I think all of the above, but the rapport that you can quickly build with players and right away, you can see just the way they looked at you, looked up to you, looked up to me.
It was. It was different I wasn’t used to having, having people do that in terms of I was a college kid doing that with other other coaches and just that rapport you can build that love the X’s. And O’s, I love working with kids, the player development, but the rapport that you can build as a coach with kids is something that I still think is my favorite part of coaching.
[00:31:34] Mike Klinzing: How do you do that today? And your program? Is there, do you do it in a formal way or do you find that you have to be, do it more informally? Meaning you’re just doing it with conversations, whether that’s in the hallway at school, whether that’s before and after practice, whether that’s just hanging out with them in the lunch room, just, or, or do you have a more formal system where I’m guessing it’s probably a little combination of both.
[00:31:58] Duke Barther: Yeah, it’s a combination of both. We have individual meetings three times a year, before the year, middle of the year, end of the year. That’s the formal part, but I think the biggest thing, and it’s not always easy. But I think the most important thing is for the kids, the players, to know that you care.
I mean, that’s the most important thing if they, if they know that you care for them, when you are in school and you’re able to talk to them about, Hey, you just got to see an attest. Like they, how did you know that coach? You know, like they, they care. I mean, they, they want, how do I say this? They, they appreciate that more than anything else.
And vice versa. If they feel like you don’t care, it’s going to be hard to develop that. Yeah. I mean, it gets hard when playing time becomes an issue because oftentimes, and I say this all the time to teams, playing time isn’t about whether you care for kids or not like I’m going to, you’re the first player on the team or the 12th player in the team.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you. You know, like that’s not, that’s not what that’s about. So it’s not, it’s not always easy for, for players to understand that though.
[00:33:20] Mike Klinzing: How do you keep those kids at the backend of your bench that aren’t getting minutes, but as a coach that they play an important role in the success of your team.
Like they got to come out and they got to play hard and they got to compete at practice. And then they got to bring the energy on the bench and all those things that you, as a coach know are important.
[00:33:42] Duke Barther: That is Mike, it has gotten harder. I think it’s a societal issue as, as time has gone on. There’s so many other places for players to play.
You know, at one point, if you know, being part of Strongsville’s basketball program mattered. You just wanted to be part of it. For sure. I knew the players that got cut from strongsville’s basketball program, tthat it was their life dream to be part of it that I was friends with in college.
And that has changed because now every sport is 12 months a year. So if you, if you not, if you’re the 11th man on the basketball team, well, you can work out, you have an organized football workout or organized soccer workout or organized baseball workout four days a week. Or you can go play CYO high school basketball, or it’s not the same, but you can, you can still do those other things.
So it’s harder. I mean, it has really gotten hard to do you know, I try to, to be quite honest, I try to, like, we have a couple players that are really helping our team that are in that role. And you know, I will start, I’ve started each of them a game this year already. They’re part of our team.
They’re part of what they help us in practice every day. They have great attitudes. They deserve that a little bit and still talking about, I mean, and they still get to take part in everything we’re doing my guess is they’re not totally, we’ve talked about it and I know they’re disappointed, but they also know that the coaches care for them.
And it’s not a personal attack.
[00:35:21] Mike Klinzing: Let me ask you this, because this is something that I think. When I was at Richmond Heights, we would sometimes have this conversation with kids. And then we second guess ourselves, depending on the decision the outcome of how things turned out. But let’s say you have a kid who has been a part of your program.
It’s can you really like it’s kid that you want to keep around, but it’s a kid that in your heart of hearts that, that kid’s probably not going to play a lot of minutes. And we talked earlier about the need to have those blunt and honest conversations. So when you have a kid that’s in that situation, And you’re going to have that pre-season conversation with the board, that conversation, when you’re making cuts and trying to determine who’s going to be on the team, how do you approach a situation like that in terms of what you say to that kid?
And then you already kind of talked about how you handle it, moving forward, that if they’re a part of the team that you’re going to make them feel as much part of the team as you possibly can, but we know that that’s even more challenging is that kid probably has a trainer and an AAU coach and a parent.
Who’s all telling them, Hey, you’re going to be you should be a star, you should be a starter this year. So I I’m guessing that that’s a more challenging conversation than it’s ever been, but I’m just curious how you handle a conversation like that.
[00:36:32] Duke Barther: I think you just be blunt and that’s what I believe.
I think it’s the most fair thing to the player. We’ll talk about that at our early season meeting here is if we had a game tomorrow, here’s your role? Here, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way, but here is your role. Go home tonight. Talk to your parents, talk to your friends.
Are you going to be able to handle that role if it stays that way? And you know, some kids choose not to and some do, but I think it’s, it’s only fair where they find out 10 games into the year. That boy, I didn’t know. I wasn’t gonna play at all when I signed up for this?
[00:37:11] Mike Klinzing: Right.
[00:37:14] Duke Barther: So I just think you have to be honest early and and you know, it doesn’t, it still doesn’t always work out.
You know, that you, a lot of kids are happy. They made the team and think they’re going to earn that playing time. But I think as long as you’re honest with them, they really, they might disagree with you, but it’s an opinion. And you know, they can’t really ultimately I’ve had players come back and say, I appreciate you doing that.
I wasn’t happy at the time. Cause. I appreciate you letting me know what my role would have been.
[00:37:48] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s something that it’s hard to hear in the moment, but I think when you look back on it retrospectively, I think most kids understand and respect their coaches far more probably than they did in the moment, because they know that ultimately the coach had their best interests at heart and people forget.
I mean, I know it’s hard, man. It’s hard with the way that as you said, the way our society is today and just the way that the basketball youth basketball system is set up today, that everybody thinks that they should get this. And it’s, it’s interesting to sit and know now my son’s a sophomore in high school.
And so you kind of sit and you look at it, you try to and I kinda know where all the. The potholes are where the mine, where the mines are in the mind field is as a parent, as a coach. And even then you sometimes sit and you find yourself saying, well, why isn’t this happening? Or why, why isn’t that happening?
And then you, then you go in your head and you’re like, well, yeah, the reason why it’s not happening is because I’m a biased parent who I’m watching the game, but I’m only watching, I’m watching my own kids. So I’m seeing the four times a game where my kid was open and somebody didn’t pass the ball. I’m like, why aren’t they getting why don’t they get on the ball?
And then meanwhile, I’m not watching the nine other kids on the floor and you know exactly what I’m saying, but it’s just interesting as a high school, varsity coach, the challenges that you have to deal with your players, and you got to have those honest conversations and then you throw the parent piece of it on top of it, where no matter what.
Apparent of the star player who kind of gets to take a lot of shots and play a lot of minutes. And inevitably those parents probably have some kind of complaint too, that, Hey, I’m only getting 15 shots. We need to get 20 because we’re going after this scholarship and this and that. And meanwhile, the 12th man is like, God, I’d just like my kid to get in the game for 15 seconds.
So I can take a photo of them for the family scrapbook it’s just no matter what you do, you get, you know? Yeah. Those challenges. How do you, how do you attempt to, to work with parents and incorporate that into your programs so that you get them on your side as much as you possibly can instead of grumbling up there in the stands, which they’re probably going to be,
[00:39:56] Duke Barther: It’s just really honest with you with what is changed a little, their social media, like because you know, there, you’ve probably been at games.
I was at a basketball game scouting a game this year and, and the games going on and an apparent. Like tweeting about how bad the cooks was doing in the middle of the game. You know what I mean? Like, so you know, you’re, you’re fighting with that a little bit more it’s, it’s not easy because could, like you said, the parents, how do you, they care for their kid?
I mean, that’s ultimately what it is and, and it’s, it’s hard, but I will say this I’d rather a parent be there, support their son and go to every game and be mad at me sometimes than not ever go to their kid’s games. We’ve had players that have had that happen. You know, we’ll, we’ll have senior night and I’ll have to walk out with the player because the parent hasn’t been to a game.
So you know what, when you sign up for coaching, that’s part of it and you can, as long as I can look myself in the mirror and know that I’m trying to do what’s best for the kid. That’s I guess that’s all you can do
[00:41:13] Mike Klinzing: It really is. I think it’s funny. It reminds me early on the podcast, we had Greg White, he’s a high school coach in Arkansas.
And one of the things that he told us, he said when I’m dealing with parents, he goes, I try to remember that every parent’s dream lineup is the four best kids on the team and their son. And he goes, if I, he goes, if I keep it in that perspective, that that’s what they’re, that’s what every parent is coming to the games with to the, to my program with, I keep in mind that that’s their perspective, that it helps me to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from.
And I think like you said, you just have to, you have to be able to communicate and, and you have to be able to hope that the parents ultimately are there to support their kids, support the team and support you. And we know that’s not always the case, but I think as a coach, you have to. Just keep in mind that if you’re doing a good job, you’re probably not keeping everyone happy.
If you’re keeping everyone happy, then you’re probably, you’re probably not doing a good job of giving those blunt, honest answers that you talked about earlier. All right. So let’s talk youth program cause you, and I talked a little bit about that in our pre-call just about some of the challenges that the system that we have with youth basketball and specifically I’m talking about here in the Cleveland area, where.
Travel basketball programs. And I’m not sure if every state has it set up the same way that we do here, but in Ohio with a lot of our programs, you have a travel team of third, fourth, fifth, sixth grade, and you might cut down and maybe you have two teams, so you have 12 or maybe 24 kids at a particular grade level that you’re kind of trying to figure out, okay, these are going to be the kids that are going to come all the way up.
And yet we’re already cutting kids at eight or nine years old. And I know we were kind of talking through it, but just give us your thoughts on what you try to do with your youth program, to a engage those kids, get them to know you get them to know your varsity player so they can one day hopefully aspire to be a part of your tightened basketball program
[00:43:13] Duke Barther: Yeah, our situation’s a little different cause we have three communities You know, we have a, so many kids, children in our communities playing basketball. We have a great travel Titans basketball program. It is, it’s really good. They do a great job with them. But there’s so many other players that are playing and I mean, it’s so it’s very difficult to, I don’t, I don’t, we don’t want to just support the Titans travel team.
We, we, we love the Titans travel team, but there’s you go up to the rec and Brook park rec on a Saturday morning and there’s five fourth grade boys teams play in there. There’s three in Middleburg Heights and three in Berea. So what we try to do is do some things where we bring them to us, because it’s really difficult with three cities to get everywhere and the travel teams we’ll have we have a night where we recognize.
COVID has kind of stopped at a little time, but we have a little youth camp over Christmas break. We have one in the summer. This past year, this past summer, we had a, any, any player, any student from third through sixth grade, which is our youth programs. We had a time, two days a week from nine to 10 30 in the morning where they were allowed to come and we did skills with them.
So we, we don’t want to, we love our Titans youth program. And to be quite honest with you, they’re the better players right now. But we don’t want to limit the possibilities of any other player. So we, we try to bring them to us as much as we can.
[00:44:57] Mike Klinzing: That’s very cool. I think the thing that I always think is really key to having a good youth program at the high school level is making sure that those kids who are part of your youth program, and that could be, as you said, through your travel program, that could be through your recreation program.
If you’re a private school, you go out and get involved with CYO teams and that kind of thing. But those kids have to be able to, in my opinion, they need to know who the high school coaches and they need to know who those varsity players are, because I remember, and I’m sure you remember the same way.
Like when I was in, I moved to strong as one second grade and my dad and I started going to basketball games and. I still remember tons and tons of those players. I remember them coming out for warmups to the pep band. And I remember thinking that one of the coolest things that I ever saw was the high school team coming out and slap in the back ward when they shot their layups during layup lines.
And I was like, man, I can’t wait until one day. I can slap the back board in a layup line. And Mike still waiting for that day. That day has passed now. So I, I got it for a little while now. I’m not sure I could do it anymore, but nonetheless, it’s like I think. Aspirational piece of wanting to be a part of a program and saying one day, I’d love to be able to grow up and be a high school player and play for coach Bartha because I’ve known him since I was in third grade because I’ve been to his camps and I’ve, I’ve seen him at our games and all those things to me are just so, so important.
And I think that’s really where if you’re going to have a successful program, I think, look as a high school coach, you can have a successful year or two, or you can have a nice run with a four year class of kids who just happened to be really good. But if you want to have a sustainable program, to me, that connection with the youth program is critical.
[00:46:54] Duke Barther: Yeah, and especially now with so many different options and, and for kids to go to different, like there’s so many, I mean, every school district is, it is what it is. Some players to the private schools more, it feels like. So that’s the best way to combat it is to try to develop a rapport.
[00:47:22] Mike Klinzing: I think when you do that, It’s almost like, right. You’re recruiting your own players because you have to, you have to develop those relationships because as you said, you think about, just think about college basketball and the transfer portal, a number of guys that are going from one school to another and jumping from one level to another, whether they’re jumping up or they’re jumping down or they’re going again, like you think about your experience as a freshman, and there’s a lot of kids.
And that experience today come in and you don’t play. And, and I’m out the door. I go somewhere else where coach respects me, where I can get my minutes, this and that. And we see that dropping down to lower and lower levels. You see it obviously at the high school level, you see it now at the AAU level, like I’m jumping from one team or I crack up, you go to these AAU tournaments and playing against the kid one weekend, and then the next weekend he’s on some other team that you’re playing against them again on a totally different team.
You’re like, well, he’s just a free agent. You just go wherever you want to go. And it’s kind of the way that things are. It’s one of the changes just again, as a coach, I’m sure you just have to figure out ways to be able to deal with that. Talk a little bit about how you get to mid park. What was, what is now Bria mid-part high school, but when you first got there, it was mid park, high school, high school.
Just how your relationship with Duane. And we talked about earlier who full, full disclosure, Duane and I were teammates at Strongsville since Wayne was a year behind me. And you know, he’s a guy that I’ve known forever and he’s had a tremendous amount of success in his own. Right. But just talk about how your relationship with Duane kind of got you an opportunity and then we can kind of,
[00:48:55] Duke Barther: Yeah, it completely did.
Mike. I was interviewing for, for teaching jobs or for teaching jobs and I hadn’t really spoken. I was very close to Duane, but after graduation, I, you kind of lost touch for a couple of months, you know? And I was interviewing for a teaching job at Midpark and I walk out of the interview.
And Duane Sheldon’s there. You know, I haven’t seen him in a couple months. I say, what is going on? How are you doing? And I’m sitting there talking to him. And he had just literally been offered that boy’s basketball coaching job that day. And he said, what are you doing? What are you interviewing for you interest in this?
I said, yeah. So I’m hoping that I got the job because I interviewed well and they wanted me, but I think Duane had a lot to do with it. You know what I mean? I think that’d be great. I’d love for you to coach with me. And so I got called the next day and got offered the job and you know, I was a JV coach for what one year.
And then I was Duane’s assistant for four years. I believe. And then when he went, did he become an assistant BW? I think, yeah.
[00:50:07] Mike Klinzing: I think he first, yeah, I think he first was an assistant. I don’t know how many years. It wasn’t too much. It wasn’t very many years that he was the assistant before you guys tired.
Yeah. Before I saw him before he went to Heidelberg. Yeah, exactly.
[00:50:20] Duke Barther: Yeah. So he you know, he was a big influence on me. He really when we started out at mid park it was very similar to when I first got my first head coaching job at mid park. We were, we were pretty low. We were talent pool, everything was low.
And, and I learned a lot from Duane and how he handled those situations. That helped me when I was trying to build that program meant. So it was a big influence.
[00:50:48] Mike Klinzing: What are some things that you took away from that time that when you think back have, have influenced what you’ve done as a head coach?
[00:50:58] Duke Barther: You know, he, I think the biggest thing is that first year our talent pool is very low and I hadn’t thought, and I, I, we, we argued about it a little bit at the time. I thought we could have done some things to try to compete more. And I remember Duane saying, this is how we want to play. You know, this is the kind of style we want to play.
We’re going to probably have a hard time winning, no matter what style it is, but I’d rather start teaching it now. So our kids understand it instead of just trying to compete and lose by five, 10, whatever. And and it really paid benefits because two years later after winning four games, 16 games or 18 games.
And then it was that same style, which I think looking back on, we would have been further behind if we would’ve said, all right, we’re going to play a lot of zone just to try to keep the score low, do whatever. We would’ve had to teach that aggressive style later on. We didn’t have to teach it because we already know.
[00:52:04] Mike Klinzing: Hard to sometimes think long-term right. I mean, sometimes you get caught up in the moment of this game, this, this instant, and you got to step back and be able to see, I think that bigger picture, especially when she grabbed my head come a head coach, right. It’s totally different when you’re sitting in the assistant share and that record isn’t attached to you and your name’s not your name’s not in the, in the newspaper article.
It’s a lot easier. I sat on the bench as the assistant coach for whatever 13 years. And look, I understand that it is way, way easier to sit there and give suggestions or think that, Hey, we should do this or do that. But ultimately I’m not the person that has to answer to those, whether I’m answering to a player, whether I’m answering to a parent, whether I’m answering to it administrator, whether I’m answering to a reporter, I was the one who had to answer those questions.
So ultimately the decision was out of my hands. And then once you take over your own program, clearly you become the lightning rod for all those decisions. And you realize that. It’s more complex than just, Hey, we got to do X, Y, or Z. There there’s other things that you have to take into account. And one of them is what’s going to be the longterm vision for your program.
[00:53:13] Duke Barther: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I think what I appreciated about the way in as he would listen and he, but he ultimately, it helped me later on, he ultimately had to make the decision there’s a lot of things that he advice that he took for me and other coaches, but there was also things that he thought were so important that he was going to go against some things.
Cause that’s, that’s how important he thought they were. And that’s, that’s being a leader. That’s being a head coach. You know, sometimes you gotta even make some of your own assistant coaches unhappy if it’s a decision that you think is that important? No
[00:53:49] Mike Klinzing: question. No doubt. There’s no doubt about that.
When you think about what you’ve learned about being an assistant coach, Then you become a head coach and now you’ve got to find your own assistance. So when you think about what you’re looking for in an assistant coach, some characteristics and traits, some things that you think make a good, and let’s just specifically focus on high school.
What makes a good high school assistant coach when it comes to a high school, varsity assistant coach or a JV coach or a freshman coach, what are the characteristics or traits that you’re looking for in those guys?
[00:54:24] Duke Barther: All right. I think, I think number one loyalty is very important loyalty to the program.
You know in this day and age, if, if a parent, a community member feels that they can have a voice to complain or, or sound off they’re going to find that voice. And so you want an assistant coach, a JV coach, a freshman coach, middle school coaches that are going to support you, the, the, the program and the head coach.
Secondly, I think it’s very important that they have coaches that have the kid’s best interest at heart, that, that ultimately we’re coaching kids to make them better. And there’s some coaches that they love basketball and want to win, and they forget that they’re dealing with high school players and high school kids.
And so that’s that being there for the kids. And I’ve been fortunate for so many years to have people that do this the right way. And then the third thing is I want coaches that tell me when I’m doing something wrong, because there’s, there’s times where I’ll, I’ll, I’ll do stuff wrong. And I, I don’t sleep well at night after it, but it’s a lot better when an assistant coach in grabbed me beforehand and say, Hey, coach, settle down.
Or this is what happened or stuff like that. I want, I don’t want coaches that are just gonna be. The job coach do this, do that. And I want them to be able to tell me if they disagree with,
[00:55:59] Mike Klinzing: How long does it take you to develop that kind of trust with another coach? And clearly there’s guys, maybe that you’ve had previous relationships with that come in or a part of your staff, and then you have already have that rapport built up with them, just like you’re trying to build rapport with players, but that’s not always just like we talk about being blunt with players around the players.
Here are the things that maybe they don’t want to hear as an assistant coach. And I know I can speak to this a little bit that there’s times where you. You have to feel comfortable to be able to challenge your head coach. And if you don’t, then you end up biting your tongue and it’s not good for the program.
So just what’s been your experience as far as developing that kind of relationship where there is that honesty, that trust factor behind closed doors. And then once you step out of the coach’s office, you’re presenting that United front, like you’ve talked about where, Hey, we’re all part of this program.
This is a program wide decision. It’s not, Hey, I can’t believe Duke’s doing that. You know? Yeah. You’re he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So how, how long does it take for you to develop that trust with guys that you bring in as part of your staff?
[00:57:06] Duke Barther: I’m fortunate that I think developing a friendship with them is pretty important.
If you can, if you’re assisting coaches could be friends, you’re much more likely to tell a friend what you feel if you don’t agree. So I’ve been fortunate literally from seventh grade through high school to have assistant coaches that, that I haven’t had anyone come in that I don’t know.
You know what I mean? Like I’ve known them. I’ve been friends with them before they became an assistant coach or a JV coach or a freshman coach. So I think, I think the friendship thing is pretty important. If you can I’m not saying hang out with them. Everyone’s got things to do and family, but I’m just saying, if you are friends with them, That open line of communication as much more, much more easily handled.
[00:58:03] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. And it makes the time that you spend in the gym away from your own family, that much better, right? When you have guys that your staff that you like, that you’re friends with, not only on the floor, but off the floor, then the guys that you want to spend time with. I would say the thing that, the thing that I probably miss the most about coaching is just those conversations in the locker room and the coaches office after practice or after games, and just kind of sitting and talking basketball or talking about life.
And there’s no way to replace that. And if you do have that kind of relationship with your assistant coaches, with your staff, it just makes everything so much better, regardless of, regardless of the outcome of wins and losses on the four, you can still know you got can come back and you got guys in your locker that you can go to war with it, your friends with.
[00:58:47] Duke Barther: Yeah. Yeah. I 100 percent agree with that.
[00:58:51] Mike Klinzing: All right. When you look back on the success that you’ve had. And you think about some things that you’ve done well as a coach, what are one or two things that you think are the key to your success? And then maybe what’s one thing that when you think back to the early part of your career that you’re like, eh, maybe I, maybe I wasn’t that good at that piece of it.
And it’s something that I’ve had to work on and improve. So maybe keys to your success and then something that you feel like you’ve gotten better at it over the course of your career.
[00:59:22] Duke Barther: I think success a couple of things. Number one, I think the development of players you know, it starting with when the, when was the coach, we, we would open the gym all the time get kids to love playing basketball and kids.
I, my hope is that kids just develop that they get better. And I think like some of our better, the better players that I’ve ever had. Better players when they were younger they develop their skills and they gotten better. I think I take pride in G in players, improving player development. And the other thing that I think has helped me have success is allowing players to, to feel that they can be a part of the program, even if they sometimes even if they get cut in seventh grade my best player is still playing overseas.
So he’s 32 years old. He got caught in eighth grade and you know, he’s playing professionally in Europe right now.
[01:00:26] Mike Klinzing: Those stories the best man, honestly, like when you think about a kid and we’ve had several coaches on that have told stories about, Hey, this kid came out in ninth grade, got caught, came out in 10th grade, got cut, came out.
And 11th grade got cut. And then all of a sudden 11th to 12th grade, he grows four inches and puts it on at a time and a bunch of work. And, and I think that’s a message. It kind of goes back to that youth basketball conversation that we had. Right? Like you, you just, you just never know if you love the game and you keep working at it.
You never know where there’s going to be an opportunity. And I think people on the outside and especially parents who haven’t gone through it, I think a lot of times they have this perception that like, you have to follow this one pathway. Like if I’m not on the travel team in third grade, I, I can’t, I can’t possibly make it.
Or if I’m not on this particular AAU team, I can’t make it. Or if I’m not doing X, Y, or Z with this trainer that I can’t make it. And you wish you could kind of educate people that look, there’s lots of different pathways. And I still think it comes down to what we talked about earlier. Like, if you love the game, you’re gonna figure out a way to improve and keep working and getting better.
And it’s just to me, those are the best stories
[01:01:35] Duke Barther: I asked that kid. He, the last time he was in, in the United States he, he lives in Australia. Now. He was in the United States and we went out to dinner and I didn’t even know that this was important to him, but I just asked him, I said, man, like, I don’t think kids in your situation, he got cut in seventh and eighth grade.
I said, I don’t think those not many kids would keep trying out. I said, why did you try? And he goes, I love playing basketball and. You were sitting there with the eighth grade coach when we made cuts. And you said to all of us and you looked at me, I don’t even know if you remember. He said, he said, if he really loved playing basketball, it’s stinks to get cut.
But if you want to do it, you gotta work at it and you got to work at getting better. And that’s what I did. That meant a lot to me. Cause I don’t, I don’t really remember saying it, but he did. It was that important to them. I love that.
[01:02:30] Mike Klinzing: I think that’s when you, when you consider as a coach or as a teacher, and you think about all the words that you speak every single day to the kids in your class, to your team, and there’s so many kids out there, duke, I’m sure that you know this, and that’s an example of one and I’m sure you could probably come up with some other examples.
Certainly anybody who’s played the game and coach the game probably has examples of it, but where something like. Coach said to you that I’m sure if you went to them now and said, Hey, do you remember when you told me X, Y, or Z? And I can almost guarantee that that coach has no recollection of ever saying that to you.
And yet it could be one of the most motivational, inspirational things that somebody has ever said to you, and they don’t even remember it. And conversely, you think about yourself as a coach and the number of times that someone’s come up to you and said, Hey, I remember when you put your arm around me and said this.
And you’re like, yeah. You know, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t remember that. And it just speaks to the power that somebody’s words can have. And I think that it’s important to remember that, like you talked about remembering that you’re coaching high school basketball players, that you’re coaching actual people, and it’s not just pawns on a chess board that you’re moving around to see if.
Get the final score to be in your favor. There’s much more to it than that. I think that story that you just shared illustrates it perfectly like you probably, honestly didn’t even look at the kid, you know what I mean? You were probably scanning the crowd and for whatever reason, he just thought that your gaze fixed on him for a second and boom, like that kid’s still carrying that with him, whatever 20 years later, 15 years later, to me, that’s an incredible power that we all hold.
[01:04:14] Duke Barther: Yeah, the other part, the thing that yeah I think early on I was someone, I don’t know if you, how you dealt with this, but I was someone that like was not physically gifted.
I had to work my butt off just to be able to get to any level. And I had a really, really hard time that I didn’t have 12 players on my team that felt the same. And as time has gone on you realize every kid is different. And you know, I wanted every kid to want to have a basketball in their hand.
I wanted every kid to sleep with a basketball like I did when I was 10 years old. And you know, as time goes on, you realize that kids, I have other loves, they have a sports, they love they have other things they like doing they’re all in different family situations. You know, you have to, it’s not a one size fit all for kids.
And, and I’m still learning that every, every day there’s challenges, there’s eye opening things that I have with my players that I say, wow, I didn’t see that one coming. And I’ve been doing this 30 years.
[01:05:28] Mike Klinzing: I’m not sure. No, it makes, it makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure that I’m not sure I ever accepted that.
As a coach, I’m not sure I ever got to a hundred percent acceptance. And I’m still trying to your point. It’s really, it’s really, really difficult, especially when you are a kid that you couldn’t get enough of it and you just wanted more and you kept working. You tried to maximize what limited physical tools that you were given and then to watch a kid or see a kid.
And you’re like, man, if you would just put, put a little bit more extra time into it, or if you would just pay a little bit more attention during practice or those little things that like, when I was, let’s say when I was at basketball camp, when I was 12 years old and somebody was teaching some footwork, like, I’d be the kid in the back of the line, standing there, like trying to move my feet in the same way that that coach was demonstrating.
And like, I just did it. That was just who I was. And so then when you see a kid that you’re demonstrating something. Staring off at the ceiling or whatever it is that they’re doing like that again, it took me a long time to kind of understand that not every kid is wired the way I was. And I think the only way that I’ve gotten there, and again, I’m still not at a hundred percent, but with my own kids really helped me even more than coaching ever did, to be able to understand that your kids are not you and nobody’s going to be wired the exact same way that you’re wired.
And if you expect people if you expect your kids to be cranked out and be little mini MES, I guess it had probably happened. It probably happened sometimes. They’re probably, there probably are kids that are follow directly in the footsteps of their parents. But I think it’s probably pretty rare.
And as a parent, you have had to figure out and understand that. Look, my kids are not wired the same way that I am when it comes to athletics, they’re just not. And, and because I love them unconditionally it’s I I’ve come to be able to figure it out. I think from a coaching perspective, that’s helped me when I think about the teams that I’ve coached on the travel and AAU side of it.
And I’ve been out of high school coaching now for whatever out 13 years or so. So it’s not really relevant to that anymore, but certainly in my coaching with my own kids, it’s helped me to understand them. And it’s helped me to understand their teammates a little bit better and kind of realize that. Not everybody’s trying to get the same thing out of the game of basketball that I was trying to get out of it.
Let’s put it that way.
[01:08:08] Duke Barther: And ultimately why I try to tell myself it’s hard though, but I only have the same thing with, I have younger children, but it’s the same. I have the same, I’m learning too, but ultimately why do you play sports? Cause you like it, you want to have fun and, and you want to build on that and teach them to compete for sure.
I mean like, what the passion that everyone has is going to be a little different when it comes to basketball.
[01:08:40] Mike Klinzing: It is. And one of the things that I’ve tried to tell my own kids, and I guess, I don’t know if it goes against what I just said or not, but my feeling is like, look, it’s, it’s fun to be good.
Like if you’re going to play, it’s a lot more fun to be good than it is to not be good. And so if you want to have more fun. Get better. Cause then you’re going to get to get the ball in your hands and you’re going to get to take more shots. You’re going to be a more important part of the team.
[01:09:08] Duke Barther: Right? I see that the kids that play multiple sports that try to use that as an excuse of why they can’t work on football.
Cause they’re playing basketball or can’t work that basketball because I played baseball. My point to them is if you, you might not be able to work on basketball as much as someone that doesn’t do anything else, but if it’s something you want to do, then why don’t you try to be great at it somehow some way like I remember I got a call from a player who was a, he ended up playing baseball at Ashland.
So he, he had like, he was playing like 90 baseball games in the summer and really couldn’t make basketball, like tournaments and games and stuff like that. And I had someone video, a picture and I’m at a summer league. And it’s like a community member that had my phone number and it’s the player at nine o’clock at night, up at the Middleburg Heights rec with his baseball uniform around doing drills because he just came back from a game, a baseball game and he couldn’t make our game and one to still get better.
And that kid ended up being first team, all conference. And, and you can, you can, you can, if you want to.
[01:10:22] Mike Klinzing: That’s really what it’s all about. I mean, that still comes down to, if you love it, then you’re probably going to do what it takes to try to maximize your ability. And that’s really all you can ask as a coach.
And the kid comes as close to reaching their potential as they possibly can. And obviously all kids have different physical capabilities and mental capabilities and all those kinds of things. But ultimately if, if as a coach you can inspire a kid to get as close to their potential, as you can then.
You’ve done your job. I want to ask you about the, the consolidation of your school district and just what that was like. So for people to just kind of give them a background. So were, do coaches used to be two separate high schools. So you mentioned earlier three, three different communities, but it used to be two separate high schools.
And what year was that? 2012, 2013. Somewhere in there where you guys merged ?
[01:11:12] Duke Barther: Yes, that year.
[01:11:15] Mike Klinzing: Gotcha. So at one point, the two high schools merged and Duke ended up taking over the merge program. What was that like that first year where you had kids who previously were obviously your biggest rival and now they’re planning together?
What was that like? Was that your life for you? Cause it’s obviously unique. It’s something that not very many people, coaches, players get to experience anything like that.
[01:11:40] Duke Barther: Yeah, there was, I mean, there, it ended up being very positive. It was like. Everything came together in terms of basketball talent for us, but it was a you know, it, it, it was hard on the Berea players right away because there I was their rival coach, you know what I mean?
I was there their guy that was trying to beat him. And now all of a sudden
I’m on the back instead of saying like get an elbow in him when he’s Chrome cutting across the lane. So it we, we actually, that that’s, we were fortunate we had this summer. So we did a lot of team stuff that summer there, just to try for the kids to get to know each other for them, hopefully the Bria players to realize that I’m not gonna play the 12 best player on mid park, over a first team, all conference get returning from Berea.
And And we just had an incredible team. I mean you know, we, we had a six 11 kid who went to play division one basketball that, that was at our mid school. We had the conferences best shooter at mid-part and Rhea had the conferences, best point guard who went gotten scholarship apply. And then we had a professional Joey bace as a professional football player for the bangles.
He was, he was a sophomore at the time when the schools combined we just had everything going on. So I think we were 20, 22 and two or something that year. It wasn’t the very difficult basketball wise. ’cause we were so good to be quite honest with you. It solved a lot of problems.
[01:13:27] Mike Klinzing: So you feel like it merged pretty quickly where there was no, there was no longer, Hey, this kid would have been at mint park. This would have been at Berea. It pretty much because of that early success, you never necessarily felt that there was still like an internal divide even in subsequently.
[01:13:46] Duke Barther: No, no, I don’t. I really don’t. I think somewhat with the parents more than the kids, I mean, the kids were, once they, I mean, basketball was their, their language right now. Basketball is what they had in common and they, they played, they just had different teammates, you know? Absolutely. You know, sometimes for the parents, it’s hard.
If gosh, any eight, it could have been like we had a player who was our backup point guard his junior year. And he was going into senior year and he still was the backup point, you know? So that, that was hard on parents to understand, but the kid, I mean, he understood. Yeah. Yeah.
[01:14:24] Mike Klinzing: Well, when you get out on the floor, I think if you inject truth serum, kids that they know, I mean when you’re a player where you fit in the hierarchy, if you, if you think down deep enough and get to the truth, it’s oftentimes when you think about the questions that sometimes people have about playing time, I think if you were to ask the kid without the parent there, and the kid was being completely honest, I would guess 90% of the time, the kid knows the reason why they’re not getting the playing time that whatever the kids are, the kids, most of the time, that’s being driven by being driven by parents.
Unfortunately, I don’t want to wrap up by asking you one final question to partner. So the first part is when you look ahead over the next year or two. What’s the biggest challenge that you have in front of you. And then number two, what’s your biggest joy when you get out of bed in the morning, and you think about what you get to do each and every day, both as a teacher and as a coach, what brings you the most joy about, about your job and being able to be a head coach there at Berea Midpark High School?
[01:15:30] Duke Barther: Biggest challenge over the next couple of years is we, it’s a good challenge to have. We have a you know, we play three sophomores and a freshmen, a lot of playing kind of varsity right now. And and we’re doing, we’re doing very well. And so my biggest challenge over the next couple of years is going to be to get those sophomores that are going to be juniors and seniors, to understand that other players and other teams are going to keep getting better and they better work at it.
If they want to have the success. They talk about having the biggest thing I love. I mean, I love everything about coaching. I love it, Mike. I, I, this is my 23rd year of being a head coach when you think my 30th year of coaching. And I actually love it. I love going to practice every day and I love, it sounds corny, but I love checking kids’ grades every day to see how they’re doing in school.
I love that aspect of poaching, the rapport that you constantly build with kids, because it sounds cliche, but cliche-ish, but you truly are like, you’re a coach, but you’re around these kids as a coach, more than they’re around their family for the most part. And I take that very seriously and I love it.
[01:16:53] Mike Klinzing: It’s a great answer. And I think that it speaks to sort of that coaching life or mentality, right? It’s like every piece of it that you can touch and have an impact on your players through the game of basketball game that you’ve loved since you were a little kid and you get to live in that every day and be able to have an impact on your players, your community, through the game of basketball.
To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than that. And I think about what I’ve been fortunate enough to do in my career. And just again, giving back to the game of basketball, what’s been so good to me over the course of my life. I could probably never, I could never repay it with, with what basketball has brought to me over the course of my life.
And I think the passion that you have for what you do clearly came through the microphone tonight. Without question, before we wrap up, I want to give you a chance to share how people can find out more about your program. How can they connect with you? Whether you just want to share your email website.
Your social media account, whatever. And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
[01:17:58] Duke Barther: Yeah. We, we communicate and do a lot with Twitter. @BHSBball is our Twitter account. @Titansathletics is where we post a lot of stuff as well. That’s where you’ll, you’ll see updates about our games or use activities, our junior high games.
Everything’s on those two sites.
[01:18:18] Mike Klinzing: Perfect. Duke, I cannot thank you enough for getting a chance to jump out with us. It’s been a pleasure having you on and getting to know a little bit more about your story. I’ve known you for a long time, and you know, it’s funny how sometimes you think about just how long we’ve been around the basketball scene and just the, the, the friendship that we’ve had and, and being able to be a part of seeing your success and having you jump on and getting to know you even better tonight.
I really appreciate it. It’s been spent a lot of fun.
[01:18:49] Duke Barther: Thanks so much for having me, Mike, I’ll talk to you soon.
[01:18:51] Mike Klinzing: I do. Thanks man. Appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon and everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.