Email – email@example.com
Twitter – @johngriffinIII
John Griffin is the Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach at St. Joseph’s University where he is responsible for coordinating the on court player development program and overseeing the team’s defense which includes drill implementation, teaching strategies, opponent scouting, game planning, and research projects. Griffin is also tasked with recruiting, game scheduling, and serves as a liaison with the department’s compliance, academics and sports performance staffs.
Griffin previously spent four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Bucknell where the Bison made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
John started his collegiate coaching career on the staff at Rider, working as the director of operations until he was promoted to assistant coach, serving for two seasons from 2013 to 2015. Griffin was the Indiana Pacers’ video coordinator during the 2010-11 season, in between a three-year professional playing career in Europe following an outstanding playing career at Bucknell where he scored more than a 1,000 career points.
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Grab your notebook right now so you don’t miss any of the knowledge dropped by John Griffin, Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach at St. Joseph’s University.
What We Discuss with John Griffin
- Growing up as the son of a coach – his dad was the Head Coach at St. Joseph’s in the early 90’s
- How he worked on his game when he was a player growing up in Philly
- His high school memories playing with and against Kyle Lowery
- Why he chose to play his college basketball at Bucknell
- Playing in the NCAA Tournament for Bucknell
- His European playing career and Octoberfest in Germany
- The identity crisis he went through when his playing career ended
- Working for a year with the Pacers as a video coordinator and getting to experience the NBA
- After that year the NBA Lockout hit and he returned to playing in England
- Getting a job on the staff at Rider as the Director of Ops
- Trying to live in the moment and not look ahead
- Journaling and staying organized
- His wife’s basketball background and incorporating his family life into his coaching life
- Recruiting and evaluating players
- Advice for players and parents on how to reach out to a college basketball coach
- Identifying and developing a player’s basketball IQ
- Using film of NBA players with their players at St. Joe’s
- The challenge of sustaining the infrastructure that has been built at St. Joe’s in his first two seasons
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THANKS, JOHN GRIFFIN
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TRANSCRIPT FOR JOHN GRIFFIN – ST. JOSEPH’S UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH – EPISODE 489
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my cohost Jason suckle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast, the associate head coach at St. Joseph University, John Griffin, John, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod
John Griffin: [00:00:13] Guys. Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be on the, share my story and really appreciate what you both do for, for the business.
And again, just excited.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:25] Well, we appreciate those kind words. And it’s always nice to know that there are people out there listening. As I’ve said, a couple of times here on the podcast, sometimes you can get the sense that you’re talking to your guests and you hope that there’s somebody else out there listening.
So it’s always good when we hear from people that have listened to some of what we’ve done and, and found some value in it. And we’re really excited to be able to have you on. And it’s actually a family affair cause we had your brother on this morning as part of the university at Albany group staff podcast.
We had a going on this morning, so we’re, we’re, we’re doubling down on the Griffin family today. Want to start out, John, by going [00:01:00] back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball and just how you fell in.
John Griffin: [00:01:08] So I was born into the, into the world of college basketball.
My father was at one point in his career, the youngest head coach in the country at Sienna college. He was 25 years old. So I was born in Albany, New York which is currently where my brother is now residing. And, you know, I didn’t really have a choice as to what my day to day life was like, kind of growing up in terms of the game of basketball, constantly conversation surrounding the game with both my parents and over time, as I got to understand coming up probably around seven to the age, seven to 10, I started to really understand just college basketball and the [00:02:00] passion and excitement that was involved with the game. And my father went from Sienna college in 1985. And he was there to 1988, I believe, or 1980.
He was the head of 1985. I got to know mine father’s car. And then he actually got out of the business for a little bit, got into a wealth management and then returned back to, to the world of college basketball resurfacing at St. Joe’s, which is Alma mater. And he was the head coach there from 1990 to 95.
It was at that point where I was able to really witness just college basketball and it’s pride. Philadelphia is widely recognized for its passion surrounding college basketball because of the big five. So it was during that time where I really started to just enjoy it, I would say at the, at the age of enjoying it more than falling in love with it.
[00:03:00] my father was a multi-sport athlete and I would say most parents, most parents influence their kids based off of their life experiences. So I was a multi-sport child growing up and as I started to get older and being in the city of Philadelphia, the game of basketball started to get more competitive.
I started to spend more time on the development side for myself. and, and probably six seventh grade is when I really started to pick up the game of basketball. So from six seventh grade, you know, on through high school and then eventually to college and eventually professionally in Europe, you know, it, it all started from witnessing my father’s passion and energy and commitment to just being successful as a basketball coach in college basketball.
And, you know, it’s been a, it’s been a blessing, you know, for, for where I am now. It’s been a blessing too. [00:04:00] Have the perspective of being the son of a head coach, being a son of a college coach in general. So that that’s a brief background.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:08] How did he bring you around the game when he was coaching? I mean, did you go to practices?
Did you go on road trips? Were you around the team? How did he handle that? Either separation or bringing together of his home family with his basketball family?
John Griffin: [00:04:23] Well, he was very intense. He’s widely recognized for his intensity and he would bring me to practice. Fortunately St. Joe’s had two gyms, one was more of a recreation gym.
The other one was the home court. So usually when I would go to practice due to his level of intensity, a manager would take me to the recreation gym and I would just live. On the rubber courts at the time during the practices? I don’t think he really wanted me to get [00:05:00] experience in his world of intensity at that stage in my life.
Uh, but my, my most, my best experiences being the son of a college coach were really centered around the final four, because the final four during his time and still to a certain degree now, but during his time was, they were very authentic relationships. in the, in the world of college basketball coaches to the comradery, the, you know, the, the ability to just connect with people in a very natural, organic way was what w w I thoroughly enjoyed because.
In all of all the coaches that he was friends with. So I enjoyed that aspect of it. I enjoyed going to the final four games itself. I have fond [00:06:00] memories being in Charlotte when Arkansas won and grant hill was unbelievable. And those were probably my best experiences with him as a son of a college coach because I was able to just see it, you know, by his side.
And, that was really how much that was the exposure. That was where I realized how important relationships were in this business and you know, how authentic they needed to be. They needed to carry weight. So that that’s the long-winded way. He didn’t bring me in, in the gym.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:40] He was, he was, he was a smart guy.
He knew what you were getting into or not getting into.
John Griffin: [00:06:44] Right.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:46] Who was your favorite coach that you got to meet? Shake hands with, get to know as part of those trips to the final four who made it, who made an impression on you?
John Griffin: [00:06:55] Well, well, I [00:07:00] guess one name that sticks out to me was Jim Boeheim, just, and I was so young, but you know, I was thinking John Wallace and I remember like how massive he was on the state of college basketball.
and back in the day, the sneaker companies used to have trips for coaches. So depending on your sneaker affiliation, that was probably like the strongest relationships that you were able to create and maintain. So I felt like just shaking his hand was, was a prime moment for me at that early stage in my, in my life.
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:41] I mean, I think when you go back to that era of college basketball and you think about what big Monday meant back then, I mean, those guys in the big east, when you think about the, the bay Himes, the , the John Thompson’s and just the Rowley mass aminos, the glory [00:08:00] years of the, of the big east.
And I mean, it’s just, it’s incredible. Just the talent level that came through there in terms of players, but also just in terms of coaching, I mean, it’s just phenomenal. What came through there, when you think about yourself as a player, once you started to get more serious about the game in sixth, seventh grade, how did you go about improving yourself and becoming a better player?
How would you describe the balance between how much you were playing pickup basketball versus how much you were working out on your own alone?
John Griffin: [00:08:35] So my father is from Philadelphia. We grew up in Philadelphia. My father went to Roman Catholic high school, which is where my brother had just been coaching for the past five years.
And his experience in the city was one where he had to earn everything and he had to, to earn his respect as a basketball player. Roman Catholic was [00:09:00] really, really talented and they had a lot of success during his time, but that made him into the person that he is today. And he kind of just push Matt and I in the same direction as we started to develop a stronger passion for the game.
So we were from the, you know, on the outskirts of Philadelphia and around sixth grade is when we started to move our way towards the inner city. World of basketball. And that world really helped build who I am today, both my character, as, as a human, but, but also my character as a basketball player. So he really wanted to expose both my brother and I you know, in terms of letting us know what, where we stood, when it comes to being a quote unquote good basketball player, and that exposed quickly, we [00:10:00] got, I got exposed quickly and he was just let us know that there was a world of basketball beyond what we thought that you, you, in order to be successful, you were going to have to put in and, you know, unusual amount of time, just on the day on the basics dribbling shooting.
I’m not even talking about passing, but I consider myself a good shooter. Growing up six and seventh grade, and I couldn’t get my shot off in certain environments. So I had to develop a speed to which I ultimately was able to get my release and then be able to make it so I stayed in the games. So it was about that time sixth grade and the AAU team that I played for that my, my father found.
And we ultimately stayed with for quite a long time, was very, very [00:11:00] talented. We had Kyle Lowry and Sean Singletary, and there were a bunch of guys that went on to play high level college basketball. and it was an incredibly competitive setting. And I only had really one way to go. I worked to, I was either going to stop playing basketball or figure.
And I think what my father hoped that I did was figure it out, which I ultimately did, but it was about that time where I really had to make a decision as to do, I want to spend time working on my ball, handling, which to many at that age can seem mundane, but in order to get on the court, I had to be able to dribble.
And I had to be able to dribble if somebody picked me up 94 feet, which in sixth grade or seventh grade seems a little much, but depending on your environment, it wasn’t. And so that’s where they, when I started to develop a passion for it, that’s really where I started to spend the most time. [00:12:00] And that’s when I started to spend most time on the fundamentals, but also, you know, creating a little bit of a niche for myself as a jump shooter and one that could get it off.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:11] So, what did that look like? How do you improve that skill? What were some of the specific things that you did? I’m always curious because when I think back to, and I’m older than you, and I think back to my time of trying to improve and get better and a similar experience of trying to go and seek out better players in different neighborhoods and playing against older players and all those kinds of things to kind of help you to learn those tricks of the trade like you’re describing.
And yet I had to spend, obviously just like you a whole lot of time with my game by myself, but there wasn’t the same number of resources. At least not. When I was coming up where my workouts were, just something that I kind of came up with and I pretty much did the same thing. Every single day, I had one workout that I would do if I was by myself and I had another workout that I would do if I was lucky enough to have somebody to be a shooting partner with me.
[00:13:00] And that was pretty much what I did every day. From the time I was 15 until the time I was 22 and I graduated from college. So how did you go about putting together your workouts and what you were working on in order to improve yourself?
John Griffin: [00:13:12] Mine were very similar. It’s not like it is today. I feel like there’s a, some sort of trainer for every player in the country.
It seems anyway, or some sort of training program built and put in place. Mine was very simple. What you’re describing is exactly what I did. I would go in the backyard, get a basketball. And a lot of my let’s just say dribbling drills, for example, were as game like as possible. I tried to simulate. Uh, in my own mind while going through dribbling drills, what it would be like in a game.
So could I go up and down the driveway change speeds? I wasn’t, I wasn’t, kind [00:14:00] of born a ball handler, so to say, so it didn’t come natural to me. I had to develop the hand speed dexterity element of dribbling a basketball just to be competent as a dribbler. And that took time. So I had to keep it simple first, throw it going through your legs behind your back.
It really didn’t apply to me because I couldn’t and do it in a competitive center. Understood. Had to find a way to build that into a dribbling routine, but also work on changing speeds, keeping the ball on the same hand so I can get it up to court and get it out of my hands and ultimately hopefully get it back.
So that was like majority of my. Workouts, honestly, from probably sixth grade to when I finished playing professionally, of course, as I got older, I, I try to incorporate somebody that would rebound for me so that I didn’t have to run all over the gym, but [00:15:00] I valued one, the cardio aspect. I valued the game simulation aspect and I valued changing speeds because I, I needed it.
So from a ball handling perspective, I did a lot of full court running. And of course I did some of the stationary stuff to make sure that my hand speed was where it needed to be. and then from a jump shooting perspective, I had to just figure out how to make shots on the move, because it was very rare that it was going to get opportunities starting in sixth grade as a.
Wide open catch and shoot jumped shooter. and, and that was a lot of footwork, you know, we grew up where we had, I don’t know if you guys know this as you probably do a pop a shot. Yeah, absolutely. And so we had a pop shot in my basement, which we have now for my kids, which I’m pretty sure they’re putting on [00:16:00] holes in the walls, rolling the ball as hard as possible, but I truly believe the Papa’s shot impacted the speed of my release because we would have competitions in the basement.
And in order to win these competitions, the ball had to hit your fingers and get out of your hand at a ridiculous rate so that you could get the number that was required to win between my father and my brother and I, and I eventually was able to, to build a release that was very quick. So then I had to figure out and I was fairly tall, younger in my life.
I wished that I continued on that trajectory. A pediatrician said I was supposed to be going to
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:42] those pediatricians and mess up all. They mess up that all the time,
John Griffin: [00:16:46] all the time. I’m going to make sure that they don’t tell me how tall my oldest
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:51] is. Don’t listen, don’t listen to that.
John Griffin: [00:16:53] If they do. I mean, I’m going to be the parent.
I’m going to be the AAU parent. That’s saying you need to play my son. He’s going to be six, five.
[00:17:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:16:59] Exactly.
John Griffin: [00:17:00] So I had to then figure out a way to be able to make shots and in a very competitive environment. And that took time. And that took a lot of misses before makes fortunately I’m confident by nature.
So I just kept plugging away. I kept plugging away. And then the final piece to my development at a younger age. And it didn’t actually help me until I was a junior in high school. Cause I didn’t really have to be that much of a Playmaker, even in high school. Like in AAU, I had Sean Singletary and Kyle are Sean cemetery, hands down, best AAU player I’ve ever been.
And I don’t know if you remember Sean some where he went to Virginia, he was, you know, playing the NBA cup of coffee and MBA, but is very well known in the Virginia basketball community for this like step back against duke. I’m pretty sure it was over time. I see it regularly. Sean was a stud, but he was the primary ball handler.
And then you got Kyle Lowry who, what you see now in Kyle in terms of [00:18:00] like a junkyard dog of a guard is what he was as a sixth grader. No, I mean, he was an absolute, like animal as a player. He was fearless and he was like the smallest guy on our team. And then by the time he a senior high school looking down at me, but, I had to develop some element of like point guard skills.
My father was an undersized foreword in high school at Roman Catholic. He was, he had a chip on his shoulder. He’s well known within the city during his time as just being a physical undersized forward, he had to develop. A ball handling ability so that when he played in college, he could play his natural position.
So he, he valued because I was taller, he would never didn’t matter what team I was on outside of the AUU, wherever didn’t have a choice, he never let me play any other position except for point guard. So I, so I was able [00:19:00] to build some comfort in handling the ball with people in my space, people near my feet and make plays and be a confident, aggressive player.
So on my local school team, I played the point guard and I was very fortunate that even my coach in seventh and eighth grade, although I was the tallest player on the team allowed me to be the point guard allowed me to bring the ball up the floor. Cause you don’t see that very often in this day and age, if you’re the tallest guy, they’re going to put you closer to the basket
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:28] that’s for sure.
John Griffin: [00:19:30] And it hurts your development. If you’re, if you’re at a certain talent level anyway, That’s kind of how I was able to just build my, and develop my, my skill level to the point where I was able to, to play varsity and ultimately play college basketball.
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:49] What’s your favorite memory from high school basketball.
If you can pick out just one.
John Griffin: [00:19:53] Oh, I’ve had a number. So I played for a guy named speedy Mars, William speedy Mars, who should be in the [00:20:00] hall of fame. He’s he’s been nominated a number of times. Williams speedy Mars is a legend in the coaching industry, but he’s, he’s without a doubt, a legend in Philadelphia.
And we had unbelievable success when we were together. We want to Philadelphia Catholic league championships, and both of them were against the same team, carnal Daugherty, which was Kyle Lowry’s high school team. So I would put those two and combine them as two of the best experiences for me in high school.
Mike Klinzing: [00:20:34] All right. So obviously you have an outstanding high school career. Talk a little bit about your recruitment and ultimately your decision to go to Bucknell, how that came to be. What were some of the other places you considered and what ultimately led to you choosing Bucknell as the place that would be best for you to continue your career?
John Griffin: [00:20:51] Yeah, well, it’s, I’ve had, I had a, I didn’t have a great, I didn’t have a great, recruitment [00:21:00] process actually. And the reason being was because are you still there? I’m still here. Okay. The reason being was because in high school, I didn’t handle the ball as a point guard. We had one of my best friends in life who was an unbelievable player, and actually went on and played for coach Chaney at temple.
His name was Chris Clark. He was up here. And nobody stole the ball from, so coach Morris was not going to take him off the ball.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:33] He was good with that. He was okay with him.
John Griffin: [00:21:35] You were, you were not taking the ball no matter what, from Chris Clark. So I was never able to fully showcase, even in AAU, I was never fully show able to showcase my ability to handle the basketball.
So my recruitment process stayed at a certain level until the summer of my junior year, where I actually take you behind the curtain here. I, my [00:22:00] father used his network and we developed a plan. And so for anybody listening, you know, if you want to be recruited and this might be an interesting plan that you follow.
Okay. So I, I wasn’t very quick. I wasn’t dunking or very vertically athletic by any means. So I had the two, we developed a plan that could showcase my abilities. Make decisions be a point guard show that I could shoot and prove that I was a division one player. So going into my senior year, the summer before, which is now hoop group, it was a hoop group invitational.
I forget what it’s called now, what it was called. the plan was because you put in all these different teams, the plan was you have to be the point guard. Okay. I’m confident by nature. So establishing like that [00:23:00] alpha role was not hard for me and people that are friends with me can attest that I’m probably overly confident at times.
So, all right, check that box. Have to be the point guard. That’s one, two if you get the ball, swung to you and there’s the defenders not closing out to you pass it because. I was not quick enough to create any advantage unless the defensive player was closing out. So I didn’t want to show any college coaches that I was slow.
So I just passed it. There you go. So that, so they say didn’t mark that as a negative three, if I was in transition. And, and it’s a 2 on 1 break, I’m pulling up for three, like try to get as many of those pool of threes off as possible. Now we worked on this, we worked on it for about two weeks leading up to this camp.
[00:24:00] four was set a ton of back screens. The more back screens you set, the more opportunities you will have to shoot, which I did. And five was pick up full court. And although I was laterally limited, the fact that I was outwardly confident, I picked up full court was viewed as a positive because. Like a competitor, as opposed to looking just like an absolute lie,
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:31] just the guy standing on the defensive end of the flowing blow by him.
Right. There you go.
John Griffin: [00:24:35] So I executed that, wait, I made a lot of shots. Thankfully, the ball went in the basket that week and I left with 10 scholarship offers and one of them had been Bucknell. So long story after that short is, is a visit. I visited a few schools, Ivy league, and it and Patriot league. And it came down to rider university, coach Don Harlem was, he was a great friend and mentor to me now and Bucknell and [00:25:00] I, I obviously, I have a huge passion for Philadelphia basketball and I was at the time, a little disappointed that I didn’t get recruited by anybody in the city.
Uh, but. When comparing the two, the academics of Bucknell had had a little bit of an advantage, and that was very valuable to my family. And I, and Bucknell has got amazing facilities at the time. It was a brand new facility that had just been built. And that was also, played a major factor in my decision because my parents were thinking academics, as I say to most kids now that when you’re recruiting them, the kid’s not really thinking academics.
They may say that there’s other thing in basketball. Absolutely. Yeah. So I looked like an opportunity for me because of the facility to have a successful basketball experience.
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:54] Yeah. I mean, I think when you, when it comes down to it, you hit the nail on the head. When you say that, ultimately it comes [00:26:00] down to, comes down to basketball.
I mean, I had one division, one scholarship offer opportunity and I took it and it wouldn’t have mattered. It ended up being Kent state, but it could have been whoever. And I would have taken it because I believed I was division one player and that I just needed an opportunity and wherever that opportunity was going to happen that’s what I was going to go because I wanted to be able to give it a shot.
And, you know, it ended up, I ended up, I happened, stands probably in the right place for me and got an opportunity to play and have a good career and all those kinds of things. And it’s just, it’s interesting when you talk about a player it sounds like you and I were very similar in terms of our ability to get up and down off the floor and our ability to move laterally and our ability to shoot the ball and handle the ball.
Like I played point guard all summer. I was probably more of a, a two guard when I got to college, but I played, I played some backup point and I played, I played half a season as the point guard when I was a senior, when our, when our senior point guard got injured, that [00:27:00] was part of my class. And, but all summer long, I wanted the ball in my hands because it’s, I get better.
You don’t get better. You don’t get better handling the ball by standing off on the wing. Shooting threes. You gotta move on. You gotta be able to do things. You’ve got to have the ball in your hands. And I just always loved that part of the game. Uh, you know, I love to pass and just love to be the guy that kind of made things go.
And so whenever I got an opportunity to do that in the summer, I certainly took advantage of it. And you know, it sounds like your plan was, you know, along the same lines, then if you wanted to get better, you had to, you had to do some things that were going to allow you to show some skills that maybe you couldn’t during your regular season because of circumstance and guys that were playing that position around you and you get to Bucknell.
Obviously you have a great career there. Tell us a little bit about, just give me a highlight again, of playing at Bucknell and then we can get into when coaching gets on your radar?
John Griffin: [00:27:51] Yeah. I mean, I, again, similar to my high school experience, I had, I walked into an unbelievable [00:28:00] environment from a basketball perspective.
There was a group of, of guys in the locker room on the team. One had a ridiculous passion for the game. And two were very talented. We were huge. We were one of the biggest teams that the Patriot league to this day has ever seen. So my first year we have a tough little beginning of the season, and then we beat Pitt at Pete pit.
There were seven in the country, went on that year to beat Kansas. We are 14 seed and we lost the Wisconsin the next game. I mean, at that moment, I’m thinking to myself, does it, does it get much better than this? We’re we beat basically the top tier program in college basketball and, and then the following year we had everyone coming back.
Wait, everyone were coming back and we had an unbelievable center. We had really good guards and we actually for pastry team, we were [00:29:00] 23rd in the country. We were 19 in the NCAA tournament and we beat Arkansas in the first round and then lost to John Cal Perry’s Memphis team in the sec or one seat.
So again, similar to my high school, is there one moment now there’s two, there was two wins and then say tournament without a doubt are as memorable as anything that I was able to accomplish during my college.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:25] Yeah, that’s exciting to be able to get to the term that we, my freshman year we lost in the, in the finals of the Mac tournament by one point to ball state.
And then that my freshman year I maybe played six or seven minutes a game. And, you know, you get that close and. No party parties says, ah, you know, we, we lost, well, you know, we’ll have another opportunity, you know, to get back. And my sophomore year, we were really good again. And I think we won 21 games and got upset in the first round of the tournament.
And then my last two years, as a junior and senior, we just never really put it together and, you know, never got close again. And so that’s one of the things that you look back on. You’re like, man, you know, we [00:30:00] were so close to be able to experience it, get into the NCAA tournament, which of course all of us grow up watching and wanting to be a part of and dreaming about.
And now you look back on it, you say, oh, we were just, you know, one point away. So for you to be able to have that experience twice, and not only that, but to win a game each time we went in there, I’m sure is just, again, that’s a memory that’s seared into your mind. It’s never going to, that’s never going to go away as you’re, as you’re wrapping up your playing career at, in college.
Are you starting to think about coaching? Are you still looking at the opportunity to play over in Europe? Uh, what, what’s your mindset as you’re finishing up your four years at buckle.
John Griffin: [00:30:39] I never even really knew much about European basketball. I had known, you know, certain elements of it from my father’s coaching in the, in the nineties as to some of his players went on and, and did well, but it, it never really entered my world [00:31:00] until we had success.
And I saw my teammates start to do it. And one of my teammates who is currently an NBA system with the Milwaukee bucks had great success his first year playing professionally. So similar to you. My junior year, we lost a championship. They didn’t have the rule in place where if you won the league, go to the nit.
So our season ended. And then my senior year, we had a bunch of injuries and we’re really young, but statistically I did well enough to get an opportunity. So I was hungry to keep up. you know, I think that my passion for playing even today’s day is strong, is strong. So I wanted to maximize my time and I had gotten my grandmother’s Italian, so they worked for about 12 months, my mom and my grandmother in getting Italian citizenship.
So ultimately we were able to [00:32:00] become dual citizens. Not that it had any impact, but it was because of, of the, my teammates that went before me, that it opened the idea of doing it and Dorma high school career. Uh, 2004 was my senior year Jamir Nelson Delonte west. That was the kind of miracle run of St. Joe’s. They were unbelievable, but I was very fortunate. They kept the door open for me, even after my fight. resigned and retired. And I was able to build a really strong relationship with those guys, majority of the guys. And I was in the gym with them all the time, all the time. so even seeing how, how their careers just exploded really just really just kept me wanting more.
It just said, okay, I want to keep playing for as long as possible. So that’s where it went. And I ended up having, [00:33:00] I played one year in Germany, torn ACL had to come back instead of kind of getting into coaching. Then I S I was, I received great, great advice from Dave Paulson, who was the head coach at Bucknell at the time, because I spoke to him about getting into coaching.
And he said to me, if you still love to play, don’t get into coaching because you will struggle mentally struggle with. The fact that you’re not playing. And I took that advice very seriously and I took the stage. Anybody that’s, a former player wants to get into coaching. I echo that advice. It was great advice.
So I, instead of getting into coaching right then I’ve rehabbed and went to Slovakia and did the whole thing again. And, and I don’t regret it. So I’m grateful that coach Paulson gave me that advice.
Mike Klinzing: [00:33:55] Tell us about the experience playing overseas in terms of the adjustment [00:34:00] to the cultures, in terms of the adjustment, living on your own, what was the language barrier like?
The, the food, just, what was the experience like for you overall looking back?
John Griffin: [00:34:10] It was an unbelievable experience in the moment. I was a little homesick, you know, I think most young adults complain about absolutely everything. So I’m sure. Burn people’s ear with complaints of what was wrong, blah, blah, blah.
But looking back, it was, it was an incredible experience. And my first year was in Germany. Germany is, has a huge army base, has a bunch of, it has an American culture. In, in Germany. So everyone spoke English. It was an easy world to really dive into. And I enjoyed my time. There were very good. The team that, that I was on, we won the league, we moved up a level and I ended up having individual success that probably would have propelled me [00:35:00] forward until I tore my ACL.
My most fond memory in Germany was non-basketball related at Oktoberfest in Munich was quite an experience just visually speaking, just seeing the sheer number of people drinking beer. And I was in all because they don’t have anything that replicates it in the states. Yeah. I went back to Bratislava Slovakia.
I went back way too early. I was too heavy. I already had already had my jumping limitations and I didn’t make. I didn’t make a shot. So after seven games, I said, thank you for coming over here. Here’s the rest of your money? The real question John would have to, were you too heavy? Cause you celebrated too much at Oktoberfest.
That’s the real question. Well, there’s yeah, there’s definitely an element of that for sure. I mean, October Fest, I, if, if anybody is still [00:36:00] single and doesn’t have the number of kids that I have and have they have time, I recommend making that trip, for sure. And, and they were nice, you know, the, the coaching staff in broadest level was nice in my departure, but I left there.
I came home and that’s, you know, the lead into the next segue here. That’s when I kind of get into coaching because I had to reevaluate the next step.
Mike Klinzing: [00:36:28] All right. Two Euro basketball stories. First questions. First one is what was your favorite. Sight city place that you got an opportunity to see while you were over there and then give us your best PG PG 13 and below story from European basketball.
John Griffin: [00:36:46] Yeah, my sort of best city. It’s a little challenging. Uh, but Vienna, Vienna is without a doubt. My favorite city in that I, [00:37:00] that I was able to kind of enjoy. and from a best PG 13 story, I wasn’t, I didn’t, I don’t because of my experiences, Germany was the most stable environment, but they have in, in the town that I played, they, they were most well-known for having this enormous Christmas game.
So I, we, I just. As a European basketball player, you can kind of reinvent yourself. So, and that means like wear long hair. Where did your ponytail, all the things that you ever wanted
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:43] you can do is give it a shot, give it a shot. Yeah.
John Griffin: [00:37:48] You see people do it on TV. This is your opportunity. You’re a pro and you have that professional ego.
So yeah, I played a game with, you know, my hair in a bun, so, and then we won and it was a [00:38:00] great celebration in the end. So that was probably one of my, my best memories. And, and then find it like the one amazing part about European professional basketball that 10 out of 10 European professional basketball players will tell you is that they know how to celebrate championships better than anybody.
They know how to celebrate wins better than the raw energy that the fans. Just because of soccer and the passion and how everyone grew up, just following that sport and like how one goal really matter. They know how to, they know how to celebrate a championship better than anybody. So we won the championship.
It was, it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of there was just a big party and that was a really significant moment for me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:51] There was some Oktoberfest activities.
John Griffin: [00:38:53] Oh, without a doubt, the best experience, just the sheer size of [00:39:00] the beer mugs. I think that myself and the waitresses can carry like six at a time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:39:06] That’s tremendous. That is, that is good. That is good stuff. I mean, again, I think those experiences, like you said, in the moment, I’m sure it was challenging. And I’ve heard that from other people. And yet you look back on that, the opportunity to do that when you’re a young person to be exposed to those different cultures and different people, and to get those world experiences, which obviously as the three of us all know, as you get older, being able to have those experiences gets more challenging when you have other people that are depending on you and that if you want to go experience those things, bringing them along as much more of a challenge than it is when you’re just a single, a single guy, hopping around Europe and playing some basketball and with lots of free time on your hands.
So it’s a different, it’s a different world. Once you get to the age where we’re, all of us are. All right. Let’s transition from playing to coaching. Tell me a little bit about the men, the mental switch that you had to [00:40:00] flip in order to transition from playing to coaching. And then let’s just kind of go through your itinerary one step at a time, and then talk about what you learned along the way.
John Griffin: [00:40:11] I think. It’s important to know, because I’ve had this conversation with a number of friends of mine that are, that have played professional basketball in Europe, or know people that are playing professional basketball in Europe. There is an identity shift to not being a player anymore. That it’s can be a tough realization.
So for me, although I’ve been around the game of basketball, my entire life, my father got was, was in coaching and then was out of coaching and then was back in and then was out. So we had, we’ve had a different outlook on it. Especially as we grew older, he wasn’t, he was at our games and he was around us as opposed to.
Other teams and the idea of coaching never really crossed [00:41:00] our minds. My both my brother and I, and maybe he will say differently, but at least in my mind, it never really crossed my mind because playing was the only thing I wanted to do.
Mike Klinzing: [00:41:10] That’s exactly what Matt that’s exactly what Matt said. He said the exact same thing.
John Griffin: [00:41:14] Yeah. So we essentially, for me, as soon as I returned home from, from my Slovakian experience, my father kind of just put it on me as most parents do they say, okay, here’s reality. And what direction do you want to go? So the natural direction for me was basketball. And I really didn’t give anything else a chance.
And looking back, would I have given something else a chance I might have, I might have, if I know what I, what I know now, if I knew what I know now. And, and so an opportunity. From a relationship that my, from my father’s relationships, [00:42:00] it showed his face and it was a very intriguing situation. I had gone through a couple of interviews for graduate assistant positions and Jim O’Brien was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
And he had a video coordinator, intern position available with the Pacers. And he basically said, why don’t you come out here for the summer league? See if it makes sense to you. And if it does, you know, let’s do it. So I went out there and I was very intrigued. I really wanted to learn the world of NBA basketball because it was always a goal of mine to be a player at that level.
Like it is for everybody. But since I wasn’t going to have that opportunity, I felt this would be a great chance for me to learn what goes on behind the scenes. So I went out. Enjoyed it and ended up committing to the position, and [00:43:00] started my coaching journey that year. And let me tell you, it was I, if I were to just from a academic standpoint, that that year with, with them was like getting my masters on steroids without a doubt.
Now it was very humbling because I went from this ego of I’m a European professional basketball player to the lowest person on the totem pole. And it really changed my entire work rate, my work ethic and helped me develop as a human. And if I didn’t have that experience, there’s no chance I would be the person that I am today in the coaching world.
So I was very fortunate, but that’s how I started this journey, getting into it at the lowest, lowest level. Professional basketball.
Mike Klinzing: [00:43:45] Did you know anything about the video room or how to do any of that stuff before you took the
John Griffin: [00:43:49] job? I knew nothing. I knew nothing and I’ve, I’ve seen Eric’s bolster refer to it as like the dungeon and it was there’s [00:44:00] no windows.
And in 2010, the technology has evolved and at 11 years, but in 20, in 2010 it was, you still had the live code, but the room was full of DVD machines and TV screens and uh, old school computer screens. Like it wasn’t no laptops or anything like that, you know? And, so I had to learn on the fly and that was like I said, it was very humbling.
It, it couldn’t have been a better situation for me as somebody that at the time thought they knew everything and was confident that I’m sure my confidence was. Not appreciated at times by the head video coordinator and the assistant video coroner, but they did a great job just helping me transition into this new life kind of world.
And yeah, I learned it on the flight. I’m pretty proficient now, but it was [00:45:00] challenging. It took a, probably about a month to, to be trusted.
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:07] I can only imagine. I can only imagine what that means when you’re pulling up something and Hey, where’s this supposed to be? I thought John was in charge of that. Where’s that? Where’s that where’s that, where’s that clip going to be where where’d that game disappeared to
John Griffin: [00:45:21] the video stuff. I tell people that, that ask, can you go to the NBA?
Can you go to the couch? What’s this, what’s this position like compared to this position and in the NBA, everything is done at the highest level. You know, everyone that is working in the MBAs and assistant or a head coach essentially. Should have a doctor next to their name as it’s associated to the game of basketball.
So you’re going to be challenged regularly. And like I said, for me, it was a blessing because I wanted that, but I also wanted to see what the relationships were like behind the scenes. And I [00:46:00] wanted to see what the strength coach was like. And I wanted to see what the gear and the food and everything that came with being part of an MBA program was about.
And it’s completely been a major piece to who I am now as a coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:18] What was surprising to you about what you learned in that year about how the NBA did things? Was there something that jumps out at you? You’re like, man, I can’t believe that they do this or that. I can’t believe they do it that way, or I can’t believe this is what goes on.
Was there something that jumped out at you? Well,
John Griffin: [00:46:37] a few things, actually, it wasn’t just one thing, but a few things, one the. The normal casual environment of an NBA locker room. I think there’s an element of like unknown, where you look at all these players on TV and social media, what they’re just regular people. So, that was an easy [00:47:00] thing for me because outgoing, I just wanted to connect with people.
I think that the amount of video work that’s done and now data at the time analytics at the time was still very, very early in its, you know, NBA kind of world like it is now. So just seeing how the coach is prepared for opponents, as well as tried to find ways to make sure that their team progressed was very interesting to me because it takes a ton of work, a ton of work, because knowledge is key at that time.
Knowledge is key. These guys are without a doubt, the best basketball players in the world, and similar to any industry that has the best in the world. You have to be on it. You have to be, you have to be locked in every single day so that when you’re challenged, you know exactly what direction you want to go as a [00:48:00] coach, as a, you know, as a communicator.
So I learned the importance of being yourself, being knowledgeable, creating relationships, and then working I every morning because I was the lowest man on the totem pole. And there was a Dunkin donuts, two blocks down the street and everyone in the NBA, at least in our organization seemingly drank coffee.
And I don’t know if it was just challenging me, but everyone seemed to drink. I was going at seven, every 7:00 AM, two blocks covering eight coffees and I didn’t drink coffee. Now I do like, it’s like there’s sunflower seeds, but I would drink, I’d bring eight coffees back. Thankfully about three months into my time with the Pacers, they put a Dunkin donuts in the building.
Nice, nice. All that, all that stuff really just taught me how to work and the importance of it all. So it wasn’t really one thing, but it was, you know, knowledge communicate and be yourself. [00:49:00]
Mike Klinzing: [00:49:00] Was there a particular player or coach that you bonded with that year? Somebody that you really were able to build a relationship with over the course of that year, that you became close?
John Griffin: [00:49:11] Yeah, I, I, I became close to everybody on the staff. So Frank Vogel was an assistant and that particularly our coach coach O’Brien actually departed mid year and coach Vogel became the head coach, the interim mid-year and we, we finished in eighth place, but Walter McCarty was on the staff. Walt is an unbelievable personality, very well known for his playing days at Kentucky, and very well known for his charisma as a person in the NBA.
So I got really close with Walt. There’s a guy now who’s an assistant for the 76 or so I believe is probably the best defensive mind I’ve ever been around his name’s Dan Burke. He was a great mentor for me and he still is. And, and then there were [00:50:00] uh, there were a few other assistants. Those two in particular really took me under their wing and made it if they didn’t see me.
Not really made an emission, but gave me time, which now I appreciate even more because I know there’s so many different things pulling you different ways. So I really appreciate that gave me time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:26] Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think when you talk about being able to bring somebody along, especially somebody who in your case comes in and you don’t know anything about what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.
And there’s obviously a learning curve there, and it’s going to take some time. And if you had gotten with the wrong group of guys or a group of guys that was more selfish with their time, then that experience probably could have gone a completely different way and maybe turn you off in a way that could have prompted you to go a different direction with your career.
Did that experience with the Pacers? [00:51:00] How did it impact your decision in terms of the level. That you wanted to coach that, did that make you think, man, I really want to stay with the NBA. Did that make you have more just wonder, Hey, well now I’ve experienced the NBA game. I want to go and see what college basketball is all about.
What was your mindset after going through that experience for the first season?
John Griffin: [00:51:21] Well, the NBA, unfortunately at the end of that year, went into a lockout. So I didn’t really have much of a choice because a lot of the support staff were left behind. So I had to either go back and play or continue my coaching career.
And I actually went back and played. I went to England and played because during my time with the Pacers, the idea of a player development coach wasn’t as standard as it is now. So coach O’Brien and. I’m incredibly grateful for the autonomy [00:52:00] that he gave me at such a young age. He allowed me to work out the players like Lance Stephenson and Paul George, the younger guys.
And then the older guys at the time were like TJ Ford and James Posey, like incredible humans and like James Posey and like TJ Ford. And I would play one-on-one all the time and he never made me feel like I was superior to him. And, but it, it it kind of rejuvenated the playing
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:31] juices. The fire got re lit.
John Griffin: [00:52:35] It did
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:37] probably didn’t take much, right. It didn’t, it wouldn’t have taken much for that.
John Griffin: [00:52:39] My younger brother. So he mentioned something in his best man speech at my wedding regarding the reigniting of. Passion for playing, which was pretty funny. But, yeah, I, I think the other aspect, I was probably young and dumb where I [00:53:00] most likely could have said, I don’t need to play the I’m glad I did it.
But if I had been a little bit more persistent with staying around coach Vogel and the Indiana Pacers, I might’ve had an opportunity to come back. And the NBA experience, you know, I wasn’t really looking at it. Sometimes I hear this. If you go to the NBA, you can’t go back to college. You go to college, you can’t go to the NBA.
I’m not a great believer in that. Although there are two completely different worlds. I kinda just looking back, I probably just should have stuck it out and been persistent, but, and I didn’t. And then, I look, I lucked out and in my next spot at rider with, with coach Bagot and you know, it is what it is.
Mike Klinzing: [00:53:47] How does that opportunity come to you?
John Griffin: [00:53:50] St. Joe’s connection? So Kevin baggy is a St Joe’s alum. And my brother actually spent the first two years of his career at rider. So he had a [00:54:00] great relationship with Kevin Baggett and he, Tom Dempsey had taken a job at Binghamton and Kevin Baggin had just been named the head coach at rider, and we connected while he was figuring out a staff and the director of basketball operations position at rider at the time was volunteer.
And I wasn’t afraid of that. You know, like I said, the Pacers experience has had prepared me from a work rate perspective. So the idea of working for free didn’t scare me and I jumped all in to being the director of basketball operations.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:36] What did you learn from that experience that was different maybe from what you learned with the Pacers?
Was there something that stood out to you from a standpoint of how college was different from the pros, how your role as director of ops was different from your role as a video coordinator, just kind of give us the difference between those first two experiences.
John Griffin: [00:54:57] Well, director of operations at Ryder, and [00:55:00] probably similar to at all those level college programs, you’re limited in terms of your resources, obviously in the MBA, resources are plentiful, so you can just provide for the players as they need.
I think the director operations position, the one thing that I was prepared for was putting on multiple hats and I think that’s an advantage, right? Go into this world of college basketball coaching. If you’ve been a director of operations, you know that there are so many boxes to check. So what I learned during my director of basketball, operations time with, with coach Bagot well, because I was basically bags is I was like attached at the hip.
As he’s experiencing this head coaching situation for the first time, there is a lot of things that you have to make sure that you’re ahead of, and that you are preparing for as it pertains to just the day to day for the program. [00:56:00] So academics, travel, gear, food, practice time. Non-conference scheduling.
And then all the video stuff, thankfully, I was prepared for the video stuff. We didn’t have a video coordinator or anything like that. So I was way ahead of the game. I think bags definitely appreciated that I was way ahead of the game when it came to video preparation for our opponents, et cetera,
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:27] that made you a valuable guy on the staff,
John Griffin: [00:56:29] for sure. Oh, there’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. There’s many things that make you invaluable and being proficient at the video stuff is one of them.
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:42] All right. Next thing I wanted to ask you is when you think about just that time as an assistant coach, and you start looking at how you want your career to sort of unfold, do you have a plan for writing down [00:57:00] notes, journaling, keeping it.
Things that you want to sort of stash away that you may use in your next position at your next stop, in the eventuality that you might take over a program at some point in the future. When do you start to kind of collect a portfolio of coaching material for lack of a better way of saying it and how do you organize that if you do
John Griffin: [00:57:23] well, it’s funny at one point in time, I journaling is constant.
I think journaling collecting information for most coaches is constant. I think staying organized in that world is very beneficial if you’re able to do so. You have, depending on the number of jobs and in the institutions, if you can store it away when your computer gets taken, that’s also very, there you go.
I made a goal for myself. The first dinner I had with coach O’Brien [00:58:00] with the Pacers. And he said, what do you want to be in five years? Or where do you want to be? And I’m sure I gave him some ridiculous answer where he literally probably didn’t stop chilling where he thought of himself. Yeah, no clue indictable those businesses.
And from that 0.5 years later, I had married. I was living in Lewisburg. I had two children, so I couldn’t have been further away from what I told him at the dinner table. And really for me, it’s, it’s now where, I just started and I know this is cliche, cause I’ve basically heard this on every podcast I’ve ever listened to, but I just really try to live in the moment.
I really try to live in the moment. I think this business can be really distracting. I think social media enhances the distractions of career movement, career opportunities, but at the same time for me. The mentality of being a head coach is something that’s always at the forefront of my mind. Every [00:59:00] decision that I’m asked to make, I tried to make it as if I’m the head coach of the program in which I’m working in so that I can keep, just prepare myself to be a decision maker when it’s crunch time.
And that’s just the mentality that I’ve taken due to my father’s influence because he was a head coach at such a young age. And then even as, as my brother kind of undertook his journey as a head coach decisions, there’s so many to make. So how do you gain that experience without being in that seat?
Which is a question that’s constantly asked when you’re going through an interview process. And, you know, the answer that I gave is just every decision that’s being made is made from a head coach’s perspective without being in that seat. And so I just try to, I really just try to challenge myself. And in having impact on the program that I’m with and, and live day to day, when it comes to the world, [01:00:00] college basketball,
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:02] that’s a good piece of advice.
I’m sure that anybody out there should take in whether you’re a coach or you’re not a coach living day to day, and just being focused on where you are is always a good piece of advice. When you think about these early stages of your career, what is something that you feel like as a coach came naturally to you, that you were pretty good at right out of the gate.
And then what’s something that you feel like was an area that was maybe a weakness or that you weren’t very good at, but that you’ve been able to develop over the course of your career?
John Griffin: [01:00:36] Well, the last two years, so my Indiana Pacers year, I consider the year that I have received my master’s degree in coaching.
And then these past two years at St. Joe’s, I feel as though Billy Lange really helped develop and fine tune my world of coaching and I’ve received my PhD and I think early in my [01:01:00] career and still to this point, what comes naturally to me. So just based off my life experiences is building relationships and diving deep into the players that are in the locker room and the people that are on the staff and making sure that the relationships feel and are organic outside of the game, because basketball is so competitive and there’s an L and there’s an element of confidence that, you know, can really waver while, while being a player.
So my role is to make sure. The players feel confident and comfortable. And I also feel like the development piece on the floor in terms of building confidence and creating a daily routine so that the players that are in the program feel as though they’re progressing those, those two elements come natural to me.
Now, the one where I’ve been where I’ve really been [01:02:00] challenged is just organization because at a certain level of college basketball, your organization level has to be elite or you’ll end up getting distracted too quickly and you won’t spend your time efficiently. And it can be very overwhelming because there’s just a sense of urgency that’s required to be successful.
And there’s times where. Let’s just say a buck and the Patriot league where you don’t have to, maybe you’re not challenged on that daily basis because the students are doing so well academically. And so this has really been one of those eye-opening two years where, and I’ve gotten better at this, but the first year was a challenge from an organization standpoint.
Mike Klinzing: [01:02:47] So when you talk organization, give me a concrete example of what you mean in terms of you having to be more organized in a particular area. Let’s just say it is academics. How do you go about [01:03:00] keeping that organized, keeping on top of it? What does that look like for you as a coach, putting that together to make sure you’re on top of what you need to be?
John Griffin: [01:03:07] Well, for me, it’s putting things to paper or to a word document in an organized efficient manner where the words, the sentences, the phrases, everything makes sense. And it’s. Not too long. It’s not too sure whether I’m, I dunno. I think the idea of a to-do list can be overwhelming, but pertaining to academics, it’s have you met with the player?
If the player needs help, what do they need help in? Have you followed up with the academic side of campus is a plan in place. You know, those are four major things right there that have to be accomplished that you can’t push off to the side. So they’re going to take your attention. And if you ended up dropping that into a bucket and not really circling back to it with the attention that’s [01:04:00] needed, because you’re distracted.
Bye. Okay. Let’s just say Twitter, for lack of a better other thing, you know, then that element that you, you are required to figure out doesn’t get done, not at the, not, not in a way that it needs to get done. So that would be an example where you have to really make sure. Everything that needs to be accomplished, gets accomplished in a timely manner at a high level and Twitter can’t solve.
Mike Klinzing: [01:04:36] No Twitter will not solve that problem for sure. It will do a great job of distracting you, but it is not going to help you be organized. I can vouch for that.
John Griffin: [01:04:44] Right, right. That’s good. I’ve got nothing else on that.
Mike Klinzing: [01:04:52] All right. so after rider, you get a chance to go back to your Alma mater and coach at Bucknell.
What’s that experience like [01:05:00] going from, you know, your previous experience with the program as a player. Now you come back in as a member of the staff, how special was that opportunity for you to return back home?
John Griffin: [01:05:11] Oh, it was, it was a great moment for my family. My wife was pregnant and. She, we were living in New Jersey and it was an opportunity for us to step away from the chaos of, of the New Jersey, New York world.
And for me, my experience and the relationships that I had built, or my time as a player, the opportunity to come back and really spend time with those people in a different setting was really special, was really special. And the head coach, Nathan Davis was an assistant and helped recruit me during my high school time.
So I had known him since I was 18 years old and actually each stop of the way for my coaching [01:06:00] career. I’ve come in when the head coach is just taking over the position. So it was a great learning opportunity as well. Coach Davis has had a ton of success. Is it is win-loss record. The percentage is when percentage is through the roof.
So I was just really excited to be reconnected with somebody that was so close with in terms of relationship at a place that we both love. And we both had great experience, shared experiences, and we were, we were ready to go. We were ready to take the Patriot league on by storm coach Paulson did as a great favor and left us some pretty unbelievable players.
It was just a really exciting time. It was a really exciting time. It was the right time. It was really hard to leave bags. Those bags gave me that opportunity when, when I really needed it, but it was the right time and it was the right program for my family and I
Mike Klinzing: [01:06:59] let’s talk [01:07:00] about your family. Once you meet your wife, you get married. First of all, does she know what she’s getting into before she married you?
John Griffin: [01:07:07] She does. So my wife was an assistant on the women’s side for seven years. I’ve actually seen, I, I S I’ve seen a lot of women’s college basketball.
I’m constantly reminded by my father-in-law that my wife scored more points than me in high school. She points me in college. She’s a better coach than me. She should be a head coach already. So she is very familiar with the world of college basketball, the turnover, the at times instability, but we have a great, we have a great partners.
She’s very, I’m so lucky because I can come home. And if I wanted to talk about basketball, I could now we normally don’t, but I could, if I, if I needed to. So I’m very lucky. She was. Much in tune with the world of, and the business of college basketball or basketball
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:58] in general, as you think about [01:08:00] your kids growing up as the sons of a coach, and obviously you had a similar experience with your dad growing up as the son of a coach, how do you envision in an ideal world?
How do you envision that coming together at some point in the future? Let’s say whether you continue to be an assistant, whether you eventually get to take over your own program, how do you, how do you envision incorporating them into your day to day? What do you do with it now to, to keep them around what you do and then what do you anticipate them doing around the game as they get older?
John Griffin: [01:08:34] Well, my, my five-year-old. In tune, he is locked into any program that we are a part of, you know, he’s five, we’ll be six in August. He knows every player on our team right now at St. Joe’s. He is fully aware of what happens during the games. And it’s really fun for my wife and I to see how he kind of [01:09:00] remembers different plays and talks about the wins and, and unfortunately, the number of losses that we’ve had.
I really am just going to include it. And I’ve been so lucky. The players on our team here at St. Joe’s the players at Bucknell, they are incredibly open caring kids. So bringing my boys around has been easy because the, the players that we’ve been fortunate to be around are all for. Spending time with them.
And I, I, I grew up where my father’s players were my idols without a doubt. They were models. Like I, I wore the number 11 at book now because of a player that played for my dad, Rashid bay, we used an absolute stud of a player and he was tough as nails. And I wore 11 because he was [01:10:00] inspiring to me. So I know the significance of the player to coach his son relationship.
And I just want them to experience. And my oldest, my five-year-old, he loves basketball. He’s always, he doesn’t consider, practicing his jump shot, playing basket. The only competition, if I’m not playing one-on-one we’re not playing back. I could be laying it just exhausted laying on the floor under the hoop as he shoots it.
That’s not playing my three-year-old. He doesn’t know if we’re winning or losing.
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:34] Yeah. You got a lot of time. You got a lot of time with all the trust me
John Griffin: [01:10:38] around and, and make it as fun for them, similar to my experience as possible.
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:44] Yeah, for sure. Let’s talk a little bit about recruiting because obviously bringing in the right kind of players, not only from a talent standpoint to help your team win, but also when you start talking about guys that you want to spend time with as a coach and that you want to be [01:11:00] around your family and that kind of thing.
Obviously, it’s been a little challenging with COVID and you’re doing a lot more watching guys on tape and that kind of thing. But when you start looking at a player and obviously there’s a, there’s a certain skill set, a certain level of talent that they have to have in order to even be considered to be able to play at St Joseph’s.
But what do you guys look for? What are some of the intangible things that when you’re looking at a kid, when you’re talking to them or talking to their family or talking to their high school or AAU coach, what are some of those intangible things that you look for?
John Griffin: [01:11:31] We ask a lot of questions. So we, we are looking to build out more or less a player bio, both on and off the court to make sure that they fit like the program and the standards of the program.
So. We have a fairly specific style play. So from a basketball on-court standpoint, we try to recruit to the style we are perimeter or spacing oriented. We play with [01:12:00] what I know it’s a buzz term, NBA, NBA pace, but we have data to back our style. So we try to recruit players that we feel can fit and Excel in what we are trying to do.
Now we take every tendency to take a lot of threes. So there has to be an element of, of shooting, to the player. And so once we’ve identified the particular skillset that fits our needs, we then dive deep into who they are as people. And that just takes like crown work, getting on the phone, figuring out.
Uh, even, even from people that might not be associated directly with the player, you know, what people think of that particular guy. And right now it is challenging in some aspects. I think the, for at least for my perspective, the most challenging piece [01:13:00] is evaluation because everything is video and video is really hard to determine actual height and actual speed and actual athleticism.
I think you can for sure tell the level of talent, but the other elements that are also important, it’s just can be a little bit of a guessing game in terms of those other pieces based on watching film. So once we’ve identify the talent that fits though, we build out that bio and we. Recruit well as a staff, I think that’s one of our advantages that as a unit, we are we’re in it together.
There’s no egos, there’s nobody trying to outdo one another. So we’ve done a fairly decent job in that department. And I think it’s important because the other part of it is these, these kids can’t visit campus. So you have [01:14:00] to, they have to be comfortable with who you are, who your staff is. And then from there, you just, you just work.
Mike Klinzing: [01:14:08] How do you balance the evaluation of a kid when you’re watching them with their high school team, versus when you watch them in an AAU environment, are you looking for the same things? Are you looking for different things in different environments? Just how do you balance out your evaluation between those two sort of distinct environments that a kid might be playing?
John Griffin: [01:14:31] Yeah, that’s a challenge. It’s a great question. I don’t know. Have an answer for it. I think there’s, there’s an element of guessing involved. I think you kind of weigh both based off what you’re seeing visually based off of the rosters, a, you might have more of a competitive opponent based on the, the opponent’s roster and maybe where those players are, are committing for college and high [01:15:00] school, maybe less competitive, but it can be a challenge.
And I’m openly admitting that there is at times maybe a little deception in the sense that you may under evaluate somebody because of that balance or over evaluating somebody because of what you perceive the right percentage. Isn’t that balance. So I don’t really have an answer for it. I think it’s just a, it’s a hard thing to figure out.
And it takes what it takes is a lot of film study so that you’re not. You’re you’re limiting this guessing game. You’re really trying to figure out, does both match, you know, and that’s, that’d be my answer to that. It’s a tough one.
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:48] Yeah, it makes sense. I mean, I always think that, you know, when you talk about watching a kid on video and you mentioned, you know, you can’t tell the real size and you can’t tell the speed, cause you’re only looking at them relative to those.
[01:16:00] 10 kids that are on the floor. Whereas if you’re there in person, you know, your, your eyeballs and person can tell that, you know, a little bit easier. I would think that over time, especially as you get to, and you bet at a program for awhile, you could start to get a little bit better at evaluating off of film.
What are the kinds of guys that, you know, you’re looking for? What are the things that pop out that fit what your program is going to do? But I still got to believe that to do it all over video, as compared to being able to do it in person is, is a big adjustment. It makes it makes it a challenge. Without question, if you had advice for a kid who believes that they’re a division one player or their parent, a kid who’s made.
Quote under recruited, what’s the best way for a high school athlete or their parents or, and their parents to reach out, to make contact with college coaches so that they don’t seem overbearing and crazy. But they’re just trying to get the word [01:17:00] out about their kid’s playing ability. Now, this being said, John, I’m talking about somebody who’s realistic about what that player is.
In other words, if it’s a kid who has no chance to play in college basketball, and they’re sending you video, obviously it doesn’t matter what they do. They’re not going to have an opportunity, but let’s say it truly is a kid who has the ability to play at the college level. What’s the best way for them to reach out to a college program in your mind to be able to get their attention.
John Griffin: [01:17:28] Well, it’s an interesting question. I’ve actually thought about this quite a bit because I feel for those families, it’s not an easy. Topic. There’s no easy answer, no easy way to do it. Most people resort to sending an email and Kyle’s coaches, these days tend to get 30 to, it seems 30 to 40 emails a day regarding a player that’s [01:18:00] supposedly going to help win five to seven games the following year.
And that can be hard to really dive into as a coach in terms of your, your daily time. I would say the first part of it is if there is some sort of connection to the coach fee, a friend, family member, acquaintance that could directly contact a coach from the institution, similar to networking for a job in any industry, go with the network first.
So that. Word of mouth. I I’m a big believer in word of mouth. And then if you’re going to resort to an email, keep it short. I think the other challenge is highlight tapes. They don’t show everything. I can create a highlight tape of my year practicing. And you would think that I was pretty good. I think that if it’s the [01:19:00] highlight film is too long, then the coach won’t watch it.
If it’s too short, he might just push it off to the side. So finding that balance of of two minutes where it’s not just 30 straight made threes, and there’s some element of, of what they feel like can impact your team would be beneficial. But the email can’t be, it can’t be a, let’s say two paragraphs gotta be fairly brief.
If you want to throw in at other. Schools are recruiting you to inflate, at least the idea of, of what type of player you are that would help. But I would say still, number one thing would use your network. If you have it,
Mike Klinzing: [01:19:47] How do you evaluate basketball IQ? I know you can look at skill on the floor and you can see way, Hey, this kid can shoot it or look, this kid’s got a good handle.
But I think one of the [01:20:00] things that from an intangible standpoint, obviously, obviously that impacts winning is you could have a kid who’s tremendously skilled, but has no idea how to play. And I think that today’s basketball world with the amount of time that kids spend one-on-one with a trainer where they’re just working individually on their game.
And then you get into an AAU environment where in a lot of times it’s just, Hey, your turn, my turn. And now you get into a college program where you’re expected to play. Within a system and make your teammates better. To me as an outsider, I would think that the most difficult thing to be able to identify and be able to project is what’s this kid’s basketball IQ when he’s playing with other players of a similar skill level and talent level to what he has.
So how do you evaluate a players? Basketball IQ?
John Griffin: [01:20:52] Yeah. I mean, you kind of just basically talked about the difficulties for sure. And you have to look at the totality of the [01:21:00] situation and the environment. I think a U is a little bit more of a transition driven environment. There’s a lot more space, you know, people aren’t walking it up the floor, so, you know, can they make quick decisions?
What type of decisions are they making in the flow of the game? I think if you sit back and. You dissect the speed of the decisions that the players making. It could be offense or defense. It could be a defensive rotation, but if it’s within the speed of the game, you know, you can assume that they have a general idea of where they are supposed to be based on what the coach said.
And if those add up well, then yeah, I would say that that would be a good indication that there is a level of IQ, [01:22:00] that, that player has the other piece to it. Is there the coach, the staff, and what, the reputation for the program, you know, amongst the basketball world, in terms of style, play what it is and.
What they’re what they’re well-known for. If, if, if it’s, if it’s a high school program at AAU program that plays in a lot of pick and rolls and they’re successful we’ll then if it’s a guard, you can assume that they pretty regularly practice pick and rolls decisions. So, okay. That’s an advantage if they run a lot of sets and you see somebody running the flex offense, well, you might have to dig a little deeper and see if they understand the concepts of offense, or they’re just running the play because they know they have to be in a certain spot.
So you really gotta just dig deep. You have to watch, you have to watch both [01:23:00] sides of the ball, offense and defense to see if these players are making quick decisions that ultimately will translate from an IQ standpoint to college basketball. I think that can. It’s actually a little bit easier to watch on film, believe it or not.
Cause you can pause or rewind and see if the player was at
Mike Klinzing: [01:23:19] what might look at, what the options were that the kid had before he made the decision, right?
John Griffin: [01:23:22] In person, you can get enamored by the overall athleticism, the most certain player, and that might distract you from identifying whether that players basketball, instincts can translate to your level.
Mike Klinzing: [01:23:37] Once you get a kid on campus and you get them in your program, how do you continue to develop them from again, from an IQ standpoint, from a decision-making standpoint where you can trust them to put them out on the floor, that they’re going to make good decisions. What are some things that you do in practice or in your player development program, to help them to develop that basketball IQ?
[01:24:00] John Griffin: [01:24:01] Because of coach Lang’s background in the NBA, he was with the 76 years for six years. And they used film as a teaching tool every single day. So consistency is a big piece to that development and it’s, there’s gotta be a plan in place and you have to execute the plan. So if you need uh, interior player to be a better pick and roll defensive decision maker, you got to show him film and it’s gotta be daily so that he starts to visualize the actions and the movement patterns that’s required.
So for us, it’s consistency and it’s a plan and it’s recognizing a weakness. And whether that be finishing a layoff or a layup off two feet now, how do we get somebody to do that in a game? Well, okay. A lot of, a lot of alums. Get a heavy ball, get pads, do it every single day. It can be monotonous until you see [01:25:00] the results.
So we we’ve done a good job of developing plans for players so that they can, they can progress. But film is a big piece to that and creativity and consistency, and just following through without getting too outrageous with the point.
Mike Klinzing: [01:25:20] How much time do you spend with the kids watching film? So let’s say it’s an individual player development thing in the off season.
Are you showing them their own clips? Are you showing them clips of guys in the NBA who are working on a particular move or skill that you’d like to see them develop? Are you showing things from previous seasons of like, look, here’s a guard that we had two years ago that really executes this particular read off the pick and roll really well.
Here’s five clips of him doing that successfully. Take a look at these and see if you can incorporate that into your game. How do you use the film with the players in terms of [01:26:00] development? Let’s not talk about the scouting report and that kind of thing, but just more about individual player development.
John Griffin: [01:26:05] We do both. We do both. We have enough film now from practice and game situations to, without a doubt show. The player themselves in the action that we’re looking to help them get better. And we also use NBA footage and we use it because it’s exciting and it’s captivating. So why, why would we ignore it?
Everyone watches the NBA, especially as, especially this time of year where there’s no college basketball on TV. So we, we find players that, or, or styles of play. And again, this is an advantage for us because, because Billy Lang having just been in the NBA for six years, he scouted almost every opponent, at least once.
So stylistically speaking, he knows which teams are comparable to us. So we can just watch [01:27:00] a full game, grab whatever we need to grab and show the player. And I think there’s an element of. General excitement out of a player when they’re watching an NBA player, do something similar to what they, what we hope they’re able to do, because you know, right now it can get monotonous, especially during a COVID year.
Yeah. Which I hope to ever, never have ever
Mike Klinzing: [01:27:21] again done with that.
John Griffin: [01:27:23] Yeah. You’re trying to create this element of enjoyment around the game right now, after a full season. And so you have to, you have to be creative and you have to live in the player’s world. So I think we’re pretty good at that, but that’s, we do a combination of both, but we definitely use the MBA stuff to our base.
Mike Klinzing: [01:27:42] Yeah. And I’m sure our players for sure appreciate that. Because like you said, if they’re seeing something like, Hey, an NBA player can execute that and the coaches believe that I can execute that same, that same maneuver, whatever it may be, whether it’s footwork or a particular read or a particular type of pass or an action that you’re trying to go [01:28:00] and get off the pick and roll.
Uh, I’m sure the players take that to heart and they really dial in and focus in John. And we are, I feel like we have like three more hours to talk about stuff. I mean, I really, I really do, but we’ve gone, we’ve gone an hour and a half. So I wanna, I wanna wrap up by asking you one final question. And it’s a question that I’ve been using a lot on the podcast recently.
Cause I think it sort of encapsulates everything that we’ve talked about and that 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 roll into the office there at St.
Joseph’s, what are you thankful for? What’s the biggest joy that you get from your current position and what you do every day?
John Griffin: [01:28:44] So I would say for the biggest challenge part really is it’s continuing to build what we’re building. I think you taking over any job right now and it’s [01:29:00] climate due to the transfer portal.
And just due to the overall environment of college basketball, there’s going to be a roster restructuring and you have to build the infrastructure. So for us, it’s continuing. And for me, it’s all the infrastructure that’s been built in the first two days. First two years, make sure that it doesn’t break and really make sure it doesn’t break going into year three so that every player that’s on the roster knows exactly what they’re going to get out of the program.
Day to day academically strengthened, strengthened, conditioning, every aspect of the program they’re familiar and they understand what’s coming and they Excel. So that’s my biggest challenge of making sure that the infrastructure that we’ve built doesn’t break, and you most enjoyable piece for me is without a doubt, seeing the players without a doubt, it’s the energy, the smiles, the vibes, it’s, there’s hands down.
That’s, that’s the most enjoyable part [01:30:00] of, of my entrance into the office. So I’m a highly energetic guy. I think any player that’s ever played for me will tell you that I’m like borderline crazy in terms of, of energy. Uh, I’m completely okay with that. It’s just you know, and, and in my world of overly confident, I’ve now pushed it into overly energetic.
So I enjoy seeing the guy. And I enjoy seeing the fact that they’re happy to be around
Mike Klinzing: [01:30:32] overly energetic is a good quality to have. There’s no question about that. And then when you come home and then we can come home and you can sleep in front of your kids, Nerf hoop brothers, she, she won’t break while they’re rain and jumpers on your head while you’re falling asleep.
Okay. Got it.
John Griffin: [01:30:45] I think our players think it’s because of of the coffee habit
Mike Klinzing: [01:30:49] that I’ve developed from life. There you go. You got one in your hand all the time.
John Griffin: [01:30:56] Yeah. It’s like, it’s become a vice. That’s funny.
Mike Klinzing: [01:30:59] That’s
John Griffin: [01:30:59] funny. [01:31:00] I can drink him now. I fall asleep in 10 minutes. It’s not
Mike Klinzing: [01:31:03] there. There are probably worse vices than that though.
You could do it. You could do a lot worse than you could do. We could do a lot worse than coffee when it comes to vices. Before we get out, before we get out, John, I want to give you a chance, share where people can connect with you. Social media. Website, email, whatever you want to share. And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
John Griffin: [01:31:21] yeah, I mean, I don’t really, I’m not a major poster on social media. I sadly don’t have much of a presence or brand on Twitter. I mean, my email is jGriffin@sju.edu Very much available to any young coaches specifically that are looking to break into, into the business, or just have questions.
I’m not like the cliche responder. I’m not, like I said earlier, I’m not a believer that if you’re in the NBA, can’t be in college and vice versa. I kind of look at it and, and just evaluate each [01:32:00] situation on its own and give you whatever advice, advice I feel. You may need at a time. So feel free to to email me, reach out without a doubt.
And then my Twitter.
Mike Klinzing: [01:32:13] No, we’ll find it. Jason, Jason, Jason’s got it. Jason, jump in. Give it to us. I know you already tweeted it out at some point. It says, hold
John Griffin: [01:32:22] on on I’m right here. Hold on. It’s a Tim Griffin. Her John Griffin’s coach John Griffin three or something like that. Hold on. Yeah. @JohnGriffinIII
And then I’m the third. So my you’re the third. I was wondering if you were the, I was really confused when I looked at it because I didn’t hear John Griffin in three eyes, John Griffin, three eyes.
Mike Klinzing: [01:32:43] Right? Well, well now people will be able to find you on there, although, although it sounds like you may not always, you might not catch that.
I would recommend email based on this conference. Yeah. I’d
John Griffin: [01:32:52] recommend email my wife. She’s the social media machine in this valley.
Mike Klinzing: [01:32:56] So yeah, there you go. Well, John, I cannot thank you [01:33:00] enough for jumping out with us tonight, Jason. I both appreciate your time. Uh, we appreciate Bobby Jordan from Wagner, who has been a huge supporter of the podcast that hooked us up and.
It’s just been a again, like I said, it felt like we talked for an hour and a half and I felt like we still had three more hours with the conversation that we couldn’t continue. So we’re going to have to have you back on again at some point, but we appreciate you.
John Griffin: [01:33:23] Thank you guys. So you guys do a great job, like I said, and I’m very appreciative that you gave me the chance to tell my story.
Mike Klinzing: [01:33:28] Yes, we don’t take it lightly when somebody takes the time to spend with our audience and with us. And so thank you. And to everyone out there, we appreciate you listening and we will catch you on our next episode.