Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @BadgerCoachTsip
Jonathan Tsipis is the Women’s Head Basketball Coach at the University of Wisconsin, taking over the program on March 31, 2016.
In his four years, five Badgers have earned eight All-Big Ten honors while 27 have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, including a record 10 in 2019-20. Two athletes have also recorded 1,000 career points in the past four seasons–Cayla McMorris in 2017-18 and Howard in 2018-19.
Prior to Wisconsin, Tsipis spent four seasons as the head coach at George Washington University, re-establishing the Colonials as a national power and a dominant team in the Atlantic 10. He inherited a team that went 11-18 the year before he arrived and led them to a 55-11 record, two A-10 titles and consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in the last two seasons. In his four years, GW was 92-38 (.708).
Tsipis arrived at George Washington after serving on the coaching staff at the University of Notre Dame for nine seasons where he worked under Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw, Tsipis aided the Fighting Irish to five Sweet 16 appearances, including national runner-up finishes his last two seasons.
Tsipis went to Notre Dame after one season as the director of men’s basketball operations at UNC-Greensboro, where he worked under Fran McCaffery, now the head men’s basketball coach at Iowa. He spent two seasons as an assistant men’s coach at Elon University in North Carolina and one year as the top men’s assistant at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.
Tsipis also spent three seasons on the men’s basketball staff at Cornell University and one year as a student staff assistant at Duke under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
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Get ready to listen and learn from Jonathan Tsipis, Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Wisconsin.
What We Discuss with Jonathan Tsipis
- Growing up in a basketball family: His Dad played the the Greek National Team, his sister was a 3 sport athlete at Baldwin Wallace University, and his brother played basketball at Case Western Reserve University
- Changing schools several times during his high school playing days
- Attending North Carolina and setting up his class schedule so he could play basketball all afternoon
- Coaching nine year olds while he was still in college and running his own camps
- Getting an opportunity to be a student assistant at Duke with Coach K in 96-97 through a connection from his nine year old team & Tommy Amaker
- Leaving his college major, pharmacy, behind for coaching and a job at Cornell
- Euro basketball stories from his Dad and brother
- Don’t wait for someone to ask you to do something
- Learning that things don’t just “happen”, somebody on the staff has to make them happen
- Coach K’s ability to motivate and the gold standards he used at Duke and with Team USA
- How Coach K shared the message that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts
- Why his first job at Cornell was so important in his development as a coach – all basketball, all the time
- Why young and hungry can’t always trump experience
- His one season at LeMoyne
- The opportunity to return back to North Carolina at Elon College/University
- The journey to his first big break in year 8 of his career
- If you can find something you love to do and something that you’re good at and those crossover, then you found your passion
- Needing support from those around him during the difficult times early in his career
- How his connection with Fran McCaffery led to an opportunity with Muffett McGraw on the women’s side at Notre Dame
- How his daughter helped him gain perspective as a coach
- Why building confidence in players is so important
- Consistency and understanding personalities helps get the most out of your players
- Two things he tells recruits, I’m never going to be a former women’s college basketball player and I’m never going to be Mom
- Why coming in to the Head Coach’s office as a player can be kind of like going to the principal’s office
- Why conversations and informal small talk helps build player relationships
- Why Coach McGraw always had a male coach on her staff to act as a father figure for her players and because many of them had played for male coaches in high school
- Getting the right balance in your staff to meet the needs of your players
- Opportunities for women to coach the men’s game
- Why he loves being at at high academic school like the University of Wisconsin
- Coaching In Washington DC at George Washington
- The challenges of hiring the right staff and what happens when you make a hire that doesn’t fit
- The Center for Coaching Excellence and the WBCA
- Why attending other coaches’ practices is so important to growing your knowledge – Don’t be afraid to reach out to other coaches!
- The need to “win the living room” in recruiting in order to continue improving at Wisconsin
- Why he loves the players he gets to coach at Wisconsin
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THANKS, JONATHAN TSIPIS
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TRANSCRIPT FOR JONATHAN TSIPIS – UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN WOMEN’S HEAD COACH – EPISODE 355
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’sMike Klinzing here without my co-host, Jason Sunkle tonight who is relieving his wife on baby duty, but I am pleased to be joined by Jonathan Tsipis from the University of Wisconsin Badgers, the head women’s basketball coach. Jonathan. Welcome.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:00:17] Well, thanks for having me, Mike, looking forward to it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:20] Absolutely. We are excited to be able to have you on talk about the varied experiences that you’ve had in the game of basketball throughout your coaching career. Want to start out by going back in time to when you were a kid. Talk to me a little bit about your experiences as a youngster playing basketball.
I know your dad was a member of the Greek national team. At one point you had some siblings that played athletics in college. So just tell us a little bit about your upbringing in the game of basketball.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:00:50] Yeah. You know, I’m the youngest of five and my dad has, as you mentioned still holds the record for being the youngest member ever of the Greek national team.
[00:01:00] So, I have a daughter now who’s 15 and to think he was playing on a national team at that same age is pretty amazing. And he’s held that record and, basketball’s obviously you go back to that point of that’s, how it started to get into our family. He played basketball in Greece and then had the opportunity to come over to the United States, more to get him out of the country during the Greek civil war, my grandfather was actually the chief of police of Athens. And they were concerned that that both my dad and my uncle could be possible targets. And so they kind of snuck them out of the country.
It always is good for anybody in our family when they’re doing a family history project about that journey. My grandmother was over here and, and, he lived in, kind of the projects of Cleveland and went to, at that point, what was St. John’s Kansas, which is now part of a Cleveland Cleveland Central Catholic.
So, yeah, he played there, played at Baldwin Wallace when they were, playing [00:02:00] against all division one teams. And, like you mentioned too, I’m the youngest of five. I have a brother who’s 14 years older, who played at Case Western Reserve. I have a sister who’s 10 years older, who at the time was, I worked in the family.
she was Bo Jackson slash Deon Sanders before they became famous. Cause she was a three sport athlete in college, played volleyball, BW, played basketball, and then also was a thrower on the track and field team.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:27] So there’s not many of those left anymore?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:02:28] No, no. And nobody throws a Javelin in high school and so they asked her if she would try it and she tried that, so she threw the javelin as well, but being the youngest of five and having that age discrepancy, I can honestly say I’d never had a babysitter growing up. My dad, after he was done playing continued to coach and officiated in the Senate league in Cleveland and I was usually at a game, whether it was a siblings game or my dad was [00:03:00] coaching or he was refereeing, that was my babysitter.
And so I kinda grew up in the arms of basketball and played when I was young and played throughout middle school and high school. We moved, my dad retired before my junior year in high school. And so actually I’d be a red flag in today’s recruiting world because I went to three high schools in four years. I actually went to Highland High School in Medina County in Northeast, Ohio, and then Western Reserve Academy for a year and then, finished in North Carolina at Durham Academy. And. he had to make a decision. I was not the biggest guy in the world or the quickest, but I had a love of the game.
I had a pretty good IQ, I think, for growing up around the game. But, I decided to go to North Carolina and, and started actually coaching. Going into my freshman year of college, my high school coach asked me to go, come along and coach the JV team when I was 18 years old, and then started [00:04:00] coaching younger kids..
I had no misconceptions. I didn’t think I was gonna become the Rudy of North Carolina basketball and walk on or anything like that. So,
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:11] Well, it’s probably a good place to find a pickup basketball game I’m guessing.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:04:14] I had some really fun played against Carolina women’s players played against, one of my claims to fame in high school is, and one of the local papers, the players of the week, Rodney Rogers, who was obviously a great player at Wake Forest and went on to the NBA. And I were co players of the week but, I love the game and I set my schedule up to be done with classes by noon every day, my freshman year. So I could just play the whole afternoon and got to meet some of my best friends in the world that way. And then when the opportunity came at the end of my freshman year to start coaching nine year olds year round, not necessarily an AAU team. [00:05:00]
Things in life connections are so important. And, I was fortunate. My high school Durham Academy is where Tommy Amaker when he was an assistant at Duke would run his summer camp. And, and then the dad who started this kind of group of young kids and searching out, trying to find somebody that could coach them year round was a doctor at Duke who was, was pretty tight with Coach K and, actually I’m thankful that Kenny Blakeney turned it down. Yeah, he was option number one. All right, there you go. I got the opportunity to start coaching those kids and, really just continue to do that and started my own camp and was able to do that in the summer.
And then, my first kind of breakthrough, as far as coaching goes was, the doctor had kind of asked, what did I want to do with basketball moving forward? Or was it something I wanted to do after I graduated? And I was a pharmacy student and thought that was going to be my kind of livelihood.
And I said, I’d really [00:06:00] love to try to continue to do this. And, kinda that led to a conversation that he had with Coach K and so I got an opportunity to be a student assistant and be at every practice. It was an unbelievable. I don’t think you could pick a better, I got to be a student assistant in 1996 97, and that was Coach K’s year coming back off back surgery. And so he was just rejuvenated. Yeah. Two brand new assistants. One of them you may have heard of Quinn Snyder was in his first year as an assistant. And he’s just exactly like what you see as a coach now, high energy it’s the help and coach Amaker was kinda the veteran of the staff and Tim O’Toole was another, just high, high energy coach.
And I was around them and did a lot of film work and just try to absorb as much as I could. And had an opportunity to go visit my sister out in Kansas, who happened to be neighbors with the Wichita State men’s head coach and that connection ended up, when I graduated Mike, [00:07:00] I had prepared for five years to take the pharmacy boards and, and got a chance to interview for a position at Cornell.
And kind of the timeframe was we were still running camp and there were no cell phones then, or if they were I wasn’t to the point where I could get one and then you have a brick phone carried around, but, I interviewed with coach Thompson and ran camps the rest of the summer.
And on a Friday, I got the results, from, from the board of pharmacy that, in North Carolina, if you pass the board of pharmacy, there’s two, there were two different. People that administrative assistants that sent letters out and one would actually put your name and then comma, have you passed?
So my mom called the school cause like I said, there are no cell phones and the school came and got me and she said, well, I think you passed. It says RPH on the outside of your form. I’m like open it up. There might be a mistake. And, so I found out on a Friday on the last day of camp, that I legally become a pharmacist and on a [00:08:00] Monday, I got offered the job at Cornell. So it was short lived career. It was quick. I kept my pharmacy everything from a certification standpoint, active for 11 years. More to appease my mom that I had actually, studied hard in school.
I will tell you the greatest thing from pharmacy schools. I met my wife in pharmacy. So there you go.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:21] There’s nothing better. It was well worth it just for that right?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:08:23] It’s absolutely, absolutely.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:26] There’s a lot of stuff to unpack on what you just said. So I have one question that I have to ask, even though it’s not directly related to you.
It relates to your dad. Did your dad ever tell, tell you? Cause I ask everybody who played overseas for their craziest overseas basketball story. So what’s your dad’s craziest overseas basketball story that he shared with you. Does he have one.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:08:48] You know, I think the most interesting thing he’s ever told me about playing overseas, is, he took me to games. I’ve been to Greece.
so I was in Greece when I was baptized there [00:09:00] when I was one year. I don’t remember that trip at all, but, so I think the craziest story, he told me, Is that he had the opportunity to stay there, but it was so important to start his family and be stable and everything, that they stayed in Ohio.
He went back right after he graduated. But I think the craziest story comes from my brother. So. in Greece, the fans are a little bit different than they are in the U S and, my brother, after his senior year in college, he got to play on a Greek American all star team, and they toured all over Greece.
And, he tells this great story of the two rival teams are playing. So, in Athens, there are several teams, but the two kind of biggest ones are Olympiakos. And I think power play and it may have been Nikos, but two rival teams are playing. They’re playing in the old Olympic stadium.
So outdoor, and my brother is at the game and he said, they sit on each side so that they don’t fight. [00:10:00] And then nobody sits kind of in the end zone. And he said, but as the game goes, the fans like just start making their way towards the end zones. And then the police, the riot police come and send them back and everything, and then they would continue to do that.
And then at one point that somebody threw a flare onto the court and, it was a big seven foot, two guy. My brother said you’re like chased the flare around. He was like the jester of the game, but, I’ve gotten to see three or four games and, I think my dad probably, censored some of the things that were being yelled at probably, but coins thrown on the floor with something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a game in the States, but, Yeah, it’s, it’s amazing because, I think smoking as well is something that, that later on in my career, I kind of pass along generation.
We played, when I was at George Washington, we took a team overseas, took our team on a foreign trip. We one of our players is like, boy, [00:11:00] that team was really bad in transition in the second half. And as we’re walking down the stairs, we see two of their players walk out before they even get in the locker room and they’re smoking cigarettes outside.
So, it’s, it’s my dad just tell some of the some of the stories of being that young and being 15 or 16 and playing on a national team and playing with 30 year olds and I mean, he’s at his, at his prime, he was, he was six, two. but he, as opposed to play and, and, so, we’re, we’re fortunate enough living in Wisconsin that Giannis is obviously a huge deal across the country, but even more so in the state of Wisconsin and we like to refer to Giannis and our family as the Greek Freak, 2.0, there you go.
You had the original, right? Yeah. My dad is definitely the original Greek.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:46] That’s awesome. That is very, very cool. I just think anytime I get a chance to talk to people about those stories inevitably. Everybody has one, whether it’s the fans or it’s not getting paid or it’s some crazy travel trip [00:12:00] and riding a bus, that’s about to careen off the edge of a mountain or whatever it might be.
Everybody always has always has a good story. So I wanted to make sure I got that in.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:12:09] Well, the other thing I was going to add, and this is my dad put his foot down and would not endorse my brother playing in Greece because, and that same trip, was a gentleman by the name of Nick Gallus, who was considered at the time, kind of the Magic Johnson of Greek basketball.
And, and you talk about that getting paid. And he was, in there they’re in their championship series. He was averaging, I think my brother would say like 35 or 37 a game. And then the final deciding game, he had 31 and he didn’t get paid. And the people said the, the owner was like, he didn’t even get his average.
Why should I pay him? So my dad’s like, listen, when they’re not paying the best player in the country, you’re not going to see a lot of money. Right.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:56] Exactly. Especially back in those days. I think it’s a little bit less [00:13:00] like that today, but I know back then there was a lot more chicanery that went on in terms of having guys come over and then get, try to get there, trying to get your money. And who’s going to get paid where, and it’s just a there’s inevitably something crazy, always going on. Next thing that I wanted to ask you about is. Getting that opportunity at Duke as a North Carolina guy. How did, how did that, how did that go over?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:13:24] I will tell you it almost cost me my future wife. cause she’s a diehard Carolina fan camped out for tickets. we were pretty quiet about where I went to school while I was at Duke
Mike Klinzing: [00:13:38] You weren’t accentuating that on the resume?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:13:40] Okay. No. but it was really interesting, I think because, one of the first after one of the first practices kind of after everything cleared, I just said to Coach K, and I really appreciate this opportunity and he was very quick to say a lot of people want to help us and he goes, just make sure you [00:14:00] take full advantage. And, and he said, you know what? I think, learn as much as you can, but when we need a hand with something, I don’t need to be the one to ever ask you to do it. And so I have great respect.
I think that the managers kind of took me in and when they were maybe over Christmas Break, when they didn’t have their full staff there. And, I was really lucky too. Cause just again, by happen chance, I got to meet Chris Collins when he was a freshman. Cause he lived two doors down from the girl I was dating who was a sophomore at Duke. And so I knew him right away. It was his senior year. He actually came that same group of kids. I coached and talked to like my kind of seventh grade group of kids before a game. And I appreciated that it wasn’t a Hey I want this to be on my resume.
It was I wanted to try to learn and Coach K might come up and say, I want to take, before the days of synergy, one of my job and anything we could find on. [00:15:00] On any type of that was on TNT or TBS, any NBA games? I wasn’t sure getting those put on a VHS tape and logging them.
And if he wanted to look at something and try to break that down so he could kind of see I think one thing you learn as a coach is you gotta be continuous learner. See, I thought I was going to walk in and see Albert Einstein diagramming things on the board.
And I think that was key. You started it was so much man to man pressure, defense and motion offense, and it’s been neat to see how the game has changed, how he’s adapted to the players that he has.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:39] Yeah, no question. I mean, I think the overall game of basketball has clearly evolved and adapted.
I’ve said this a bunch of times, I think back to I’m 50 years old. So I think back to when I was playing and I’ve said, I don’t ever remember in my entire career. Driving to the basket and then throwing the ball back out behind me to the three point line. [00:16:00] I never remember making that pass ever. And I kind of grew up both in high school and in college kind of planned a motion offense.
And I think I maybe played in the pick & role four times in my entire career. And we just, it just wasn’t done. And then now you think about how important that is in the game and just how the three pointer has changed it and evolved. And it’s really incredible. And then obviously the best coaches that figured out as the game evolves, they’re evolving either right along with it, or in many cases, cases, the best coaches are evolving ahead of it and trying to see where those trends are headed.
So my question, going back to the Duke experience again, obviously that’s the first time that you get an opportunity to be behind the scenes with the coaching staff, pretty good coaching staff to have your first opportunity to look at what it’s like to actually coach and run a college program. So is there anything that you remember from that early time that was [00:17:00] surprising to you that you were like, man, I didn’t know the coaches did.
So much of this, or I had no idea they even did that. Was there anything that just jumps out at you that was surprising?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:17:12] I think two things, one thing when Quinn Snyder started as an assistant at Duke, obviously at a great career, there has a double has an MBA and a law degree from their combined degree.
I’m really seeing him, he had already been an assistant coach in the NBA at that point for Larry Brown and the Clippers, but to see how he had to kind of start at square one of the recruiting process. And I think a lot of people say, well, it’s Duke it recruits itself. And I just, there’s a lot of things I can remember of him having on flip charts of why you separate whatever school you’re at to understand that, in the recruiting process, you start with somebody with even thinking they have a blank slate and why [00:18:00] it’s important not to take any of that for granted. and then I think all the things that happen beyond the, behind the scenes and, and whether it’s I, that was my first experience with what films exchange was and that was it.
I think. It has really helped me get a better appreciation kind of in my journey of never forgetting those people that are doing those things. Like, yeah. I think a lot of players, when they come out, they get into coaching. They’re amazed because no matter what level, like all of a sudden, like their food was always there or the hotels are booked and you just get handed a hotel key and even how the gear and how you get it and, and figuring everything out.
So I think from the Duke standpoint and me, the one thing from Coach K was his ability to motivate that. That was to me, I watched him turn it No Jeff Capel into somebody who had been to the national championship game as a freshman and Chris Collins as a [00:19:00] sophomore to they’d really had that tough year that he was out and how he was able to not only motivate, but make them better leaders that help some of the younger kids on that team, which was Eric Newton and, and Cherokee Parks and Ricky Price.
And so it’s just amazing. And just seeing his one-on-one interactions and trying to not be too close to you felt like you’re intruding, but trying to listen, and talk about how he was able to transfer the experiences he had had, not just to kids individually, but. The leadership. And like when I read the gold medal standard, you saw it, he was doing the same things, but now he’s doing it, but he was, there’s a more, even more of a listener, I think when he had, and didn’t try to reinvent it the wheel with people like LeBron and Kobe and, and when he coached those players at the highest leve when he was the national team coach.
[00:20:00] So, I think just understanding, like I worked for a coach, the director of operation who had been as assistant had gone on to William and Mary as the head coach things didn’t go well, he’d been back at Duke. It is to watch somebody to have to kind of reinvent themselves in basketball, while other people are coming in through for the first time, like Tim O’Toole.
And, so yeah, it was really personalities. Coach K always talks about when he had to kind of reconstruct that staff, he talked about all of a sudden I was the old guy on the staff. And I had to make sure I had better connections and he goes that’s why I needed somebody like that, Tim and I needed it.
You know, it was just as important to have Tommy be able to help train them as much as me training them. And that’s something I think I’ve been put in that same position. And so I think I understand that a little bit more when I got to Notre Dame and moved up and then was in a position where I had [00:21:00] two younger assistants that were assistants with me and kind of what Coach McGraw, kind of challenged me that would eventually, I think helped me make, make me a better.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:10] So I want to talk, touch on something you said with Coach K and that is when you talked about how good he was at the motivational piece of that, both with his players and his staff. If you had to put your finger on one key to it, and there may be multiple keys, but if you had to think about one thing that makes him a master motivator, I know you mentioned listening.
I know you’ve mentioned one-on-one conversations. Is there something that you could point to, that you would say, this is what makes him. As successful as he is as a motivators or one thing you can point to?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:21:42] I think no matter who he was talking to, he could always incorporate how the team could accomplish more.
And that was the most important thing. And it sounds really simple, Mike. But when you have a McDonald’s all American and all they’ve heard [00:22:00] about no matter how much they’ve won is how good they are and they needed to average this, or this is what they needed to do to put themselves in way the best position, to be drafted by an NBA team and everything like that.
He was always able to, I felt like in any message he had. Talked about the importance of one, how I always use the, I stole the phrase, like, like as a coach, one of the greatest goals we always have as being more than the sum of our parts. And, and I think he always was able to get that through. And honestly that team, wasn’t a great team.
I think they ended up, I think, 18 and 12 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But I think he got more out of that team and again, Steve was a sophomore on that team and was coming off the bench. He’s not the WoJo. Everybody knows now that he finished as a junior and [00:23:00] senior.
but to me, I think that collective buy-in. he’s just so deliberate, so consistent with it. I’ve not had anybody, who’s had a military background outside of my father in law. but again, I think, you always saw his West Point training. Just with the consistency and the detail oriented and that same message and obviously he drives people hard, but he had to make changes and everyone saw it that year. And, it always came back to that of getting the most out of the team is that was always going to be number one. And how could he get everybody up to that level with the understanding of what they were doing collectively was going to get you to that level.
Mike Klinzing: [00:23:46] And I think what’s amazing is that hearing you talk about those players in that team, and you think about the fact that that’s 25 years ago now. And could you have a [00:24:00] very good memory for the details of what went on in that year? And I have a vague recollection of some of the details as you’re talking that are coming back to me and Coach K missing the whole season and then coming back and sort of being rejuvenated.
And then now here we are 25 years later and he still is continuing to adapt and adjust and be successful. And obviously his success with The Olympic team speaks to his ability to be able to adapt to players at all different levels, clearly coaching a bunch of college guys, no matter whether they were McDonalds All-Americans or not is different from coaching Kobe and LeBron, it just is.
And the fact that he was able to find that success as a college coach, transitioning up to coach NBA players in the Olympics is a credit to what he’s done. And just from hearing you talk clearly, I can tell that those things that you learned in that very first year are things that. You are continuing to carry with you even [00:25:00] today, 25 later, 25 years later.
And that speaks to, I think, the greater influence that any coach can hope to have both on their players. And in this case on somebody who’s a part of their staff. And I think we’ll get to it. We start talking about you as the head coach, but I think that as a head coach, one of the things I was like talking to head coaches about is how they.
Helped to develop their assistance both as in their role, as an assistant port for those guys or those women who want to go on to get a head coaching job later, how does the head coach help them to prepare for that? So let’s jump into your assistant coaching career and you get offered the job at Cornell.
You give up your dream of having a pharmacy career. talk a little bit about what your experience was like there in Ithica with Cornell.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:25:47] Well I was really lucky cause I already I had met the head coach and and. obviously Scott Thompson goes from being, let go at Wichita State to getting the job at Cornell.
Well, and, [00:26:00] you know, as a 23 year old who struggled mightily when we moved from Ohio to North Carolina, even though some of them, some of my family was in North Carolina, to move 11 hours away and not know anybody for six hours within any direction.
I really think it was an unbelievably cool opportunity. Cause I could just dive in. And everything was basketball. And as a 23 year old to be the youngest assistant in the Ivy league. And everybody, I think in my family, was just so supportive. Cause as a volunteer assistant, I mean,you, weren’t going to get paid.
I was trying to save money from camps. Luckily North Carolina was a pretty inexpensive school in state, so I wasn’t hammered with student loans and, but you look at it and say, who did you learn from? And I had Coach Thompson, [00:27:00] you know, it was a great point.
Player at Iowa had helped Coach Olsen build things both at, he went back to Iowa. He was the first ever assistant to work for Digger Phelps and not leave for a head coaching job. which I knew and ironically, and then all of a sudden I at Notre Dame, 15 years later, or not even that many, seven years later, but, it was great.
Cause again, you talked about other assistants I was working for. You know, and the other two assistants were a former really good player at Penn named Tyrone Pitts. And then Ray Jones, who was 53 years old, a veteran and assistant coach. He’d been all over, he’d recruited Moses Malone when, before Moses decided to go straight to the pros.
He’d been at Duke with bill foster and recruited Gene banks. And so just to kind of learn from both of those gentlemen every day. And then I think at, [00:28:00] at Cornell you saw a different side, the academic side and the procedure of the Ivies. But there were no director of operations, there were no video coordinators or no player development coaches And my second year at Cornell, there was no volunteer assistant.
I got moved up on an interim basis for a year because we had somebody leave late. And then, so I was kinda already filling a couple of roles and I wouldn’t change that for the world. It was so good. Cause you learned how to, for the first time as a college graduate, you’re trying to figure out I jokingly, one of the players when I was at Cornell, my first year was older than I was. And basketball is not a small world. And last Thursday, we got a call on the basketball office that. Our offices aren’t open. So it gets transferred to, our program assistant and she sends me a text and say, Hey, there’s a player who says he [00:29:00] played for you at Cornell named Alex Compton.
He’s back in Madison. And he’s trying to, and to connect well, Alex Compton was the player at Cornell who was older than me. That’s funny. And been, it was a fifth year senior had started at st. Joe’s, but he’s from Madison. Sat out a year and then played his last two years at Cornell. And so we caught up last Thursday and he’s been playing overseas.
He was, his parents are in the Peace Corps and, it’s just crazy. So yeah. Yeah, it felt he was able to play in the Filipino league cause he was born in the Philippines and and then he’d coach for 12 years and he just came over. They, he was coaching and they got quarantined in March and he just said, you know what, let’s, we’re gonna, we’re gonna go back to Madison and see what happens and they’re going to stay here. And, and so it’s just, it’s really neat to, to continue, like, to look back and say that first year you made that connection. And then, it, it definitely, I look back and I had to figure out how to deal with the long distance relationship.
And it was probably the best thing is that my wife didn’t have to live with me for four years, [00:30:00] while I coached out of state. and so I moved back to North Carolina, so, but it was great to go to Cornell. I just think there wasn’t any outside distractions.
It’s not no offense against Ithaca, New York, but, it was all basketball for me and I loved every minute of that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:30:16] Yeah. And I think one of the things that always comes across is when you hear these stories about guys like yourself who were 23, 24, having just graduated from college, getting your first assistant job in whatever role that is.
It’s kind of like, again, you don’t have, at that point, you’re not married. You don’t have kids in most cases. And so, as you said, it just becomes basketball 24, seven, and more often than not. You’re at a place where as you described, you don’t necessarily have the huge staffs that a lot of division one programs would have today.
So you end up. That’s ends up being a huge benefit to you because you have to slash get to depending on how you want to look at that, do all these different tasks that eventually [00:31:00] benefit you as you move on in your career. Because now if a staff needs somebody who knows how to run video or somebody who needs to know how to be a player development coach, or nobody even needs to know how to book hotel rooms, you’re like I’ve already done that.
And so I could fill that role, which clearly makes you more valuable. In the next job that you get to. And so I think that that’s something that a lot of people who maybe are not in the coaching profession, or when you think about players who maybe want to get into coaching, just like we talked about before, they don’t necessarily realize all those little things that go into.
Making a staff, making a team, making a program successful in the fact that you were able to do that at Cornell and an Ivy league institution, get that kind of experience I’m sure was invaluable. And then your next stop is at Le Moyne. So talk a little bit about that transition from Cornell to Le Moyne and how that happened.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:31:54] Yeah. So as, as I got the opportunity in my second year at Cornell, T to be [00:32:00] able to do some recruiting still in the days, the third assistant at that point on outside of the Ivy league was still known as the restricted earnings coach, we used to joke in the evening, it’s really restricted when it’s volunteer, super restricted.
We went back to a full staff. I went back to the volunteer. I had no recruiting. I mean, I had that little amount of time and recruiting experience. I think making sure you always treat people the way you want to be treated.
I interviewed with Fran McCaffery. Right. When he got the UNCG job got down to the final two and somebody he had known who had been recruiting at a division one level for 18 years as who ended up getting it over me. And so LeMoyne situation came about, it’s funny early morning workout at Cornell Dave Paulson had reached out, there was a connection between my brother and one of the kids that he had kind of mentored as a player that was going to end up playing for [00:33:00] Dave at LeMoyne.
And, Dave, had played at Williams for Harry. She. And, and so Harry was on a sabbatical and they were just going all over to practices and, and so, they said, Hey, can we come watch a early morning workout in the, in the fall? I said, sure. I said and so afterwards I said, the only thing is, could we go to breakfast afterwards?
And just, I wanted to hear how they thought our workout was, what are other things we could do? you know, so that was in the fall later in that spring we stayed in touch then Tobin Anderson got the opportunity at Clarkson to be the head coach and, and Dave reached out. and, yeah, I know, again, you had on recently, Sean McDonnell was his assistant and Dave had me come in and it was unlike I had interviewed.
At UNCG I had done phone interviews, but Dave had me put a player through a workout and some different things you can do on a division two level. but I think getting the recruiting experience is something I felt like I really needed to be able to do, or I was just going [00:34:00] to maybe spin my wheels and continue to lose out on opportunities because I had something I think the older you get, you understand experience more.
I think when you’re young and hungry, you don’t understand why just young and hungry can’t trump experience, right? but got the opportunity there. And so it’s, it’s funny because, Dave’s like, well, I might, you might be the only person I could offer a job to that I’m actually giving you a salary and giving you a place to stay it’s joking.
seven years of division one basketball. My second year at Cornell, I got a salary for about seven months and, I got a stipend at Le Moyne for each semester. I got, initially at that point, a 26 year old, I got a beautiful double dorm room in a coed dorm as a 26 year old, that led to, with Sean’s help, becoming the freshmen dorm director. And, yeah, you want to, I have a dorm that’s full of issues to handle. It would be the freshmen. Right. [00:35:00] but yeah, just little things like that. I think Le Moyne was great cause it was, it was not an ideal year from a record standpoint, but I think I learned a lot cause, I have it just a different personality, I think, than Sean’s a little bit more mellow and I think even keel, I’m probably a little bit higher up and down like Dave Paulson was, but I just think sometimes experiences of things that don’t maybe go the way that you would hope you learn a lot more and I enjoyed being at Le Moyne and then Dave got the job at Williams and I went you have too many distractions. Now. It seems like a Giant town, but then, to go back to Williams, I felt like, Oh, this is like way there’s like just nothing here. Right. I was kind of at a crossroads too.
I enjoyed working for Dave. Obviously. I thought, man working [00:36:00] for a, for a program that has a legitimate shot to win a national championship. And, but I also knew that, I needed to really figure out kind of the next stage of my life and having dated somebody for four years and living in the same state for six months, that if there was an opportunity closer to North Carolina, could I find that?
And so, kind of went back. I had a really good setup at Le Moyne. Steve Evans asked me to stay and just felt like it was time to try to find something. And, luckily an opportunity presented itself and the third assistant spot at Elon. it was going from Elon College to Elon university and that would allow me to be closer to home and continue kind of my journey as a coach.
So I’ll be ever it’s great. Cause I think, I think Dave, Dave and I kinda we ended up in the same league obviously I was on the women’s side and he’s on the men’s side when he got the George Mason job. So there’s been a lot of fun. I got to actually, Sean and I were at. the national championship game one day won the national [00:37:00] championship.
So, in 2003, so it was pretty neat to see somebody who you knew was, is really talented and works like crazy be able to go back to his Alma mater and win a national championship was something you look back and say it started with coming to work somebody out. I think part of it is I worked somebody out so he could get a break from teaching at camp for a couple of minutes when I came up on my interview.
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:23] That is funny. Well, what you just described is the glamorous life of a college basketball coach, all those things that you talk about obviously when many people in the public, I think of being in college, college, basketball coach, excuse me, they think of the big jobs. They don’t see the guys who are doing the things that you did as a young person, to be able to work your way up into an opportunity where maybe you do have a little opportunity to make some money where you do have an opportunity to. Have better control over your career when you’re younger, again, [00:38:00] you’re scratching and fighting to be able to just have an opportunity to learn, to continue to grow in your profession. And a lot of people, I think discount those early years that people put in and they only see sometimes that finished product. And I think it’s always educational for anybody. Who’s out there in the coaching profession, just to understand how hard you have to work, to be able to get to the position that you’ve obviously been able to get to and will continue to move in forward with that.
But I just think a lot of times people discount that early part of your career, where you’re working for next to nothing. And you’re living in a dorm room and it’s just that people forget about that.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:38:38] Well, and I think it’s a great point and I think. I I’m very quick to when people talk about a path, I said, mine is good.
It’d be really unique. And again, it goes back to like, things happened at the right time, but they didn’t happen in year one or year two or year three. Like it it was year eight. And, and now for me, [00:39:00] you know, whether it’s talking to you, players that are graduating going on onto the next step or.
You know, managers or people that are just inquiring about coaching. you’re going to get a long list of things that are your job responsibilities. I will tell you right now duties as assigned will be your most important job, as you’re coming up in coaching. And I, I think having, having a pharmacy degree gave me I think a level of confidence too, that I could go back and do that if coaching didn’t take, but I like to tell people that the like being on college campuses and this will be for me, this will be my 26th year outside of being a student as an undergraduate, and I’ve heard a lot of people speak and, one of the best speakers I ever heard about was to me was explained why I’m in basketball. And I think I, a lot of people in life, love to do something, but they [00:40:00] might not be very good at it. And a lot of people in life are really good at something, but they don’t necessarily love to do it.
And people will ask me did I have something against pharmacy? Was there an aspect I didn’t like? And I did and I said, I kinda tie that up together. It was said, like, I found something that I love to do. And, and I had a belief that I was going to be pretty good at it and keep working to get better at it.
And the speaker that I heard say this, and I can tell you, it was in 2000 or 2001 at Elon’s commencement. And it was, he, he said, if you can find something you love to do. And something that you’re good at and those crossover, then you found your passion. And I think that’s what I’ve always found in basketball is I loved coaching as much when I wasn’t sure six months where I was going to live or how I was going to move or figure that out or where I’d be as I do now as being a coach [00:41:00] and going into year nine.
And, so it’s definitely a journey as trying to tell people you’re not going to have the same, the same path and that’s okay. And, if you can kind of have a survival mode and, and not just, and there were times I know I was frustrated and maybe this wasn’t for me and trying to get a master’s degree in education and maybe end up teaching and younger kids. Cause I I’d run those camps for so many years and it was always a great. I think balance for me in the summertimes. Cause the Ivy league didn’t have summer school for the players to stay and everything like that we paid for.
It was always a balance to me and I’m glad the people that cared around me from a basketball standpoint always kinda made sure during the times when it didn’t look like it would continue to go and in a way that can continue to elevate my career and that they would understand I was still learning and continue to motivate me to continue on [00:42:00] with the opportunities.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:01] It’s good to hear you say that you had moments where you kind of looked around and were like, man, is this thing gonna work out the way that I wanted to? I mean, clearly you had the passion, clearly you had the belief and yourself that you thought it was going to happen, but I think it’s instructive for young coaches out there to know that it’s not all going to be just a path of red roses laid out for you. That here’s how it’s going to go. And I’m going to be able to make it through exactly the way that I want it to. There’s clearly times where, where it becomes difficult. Like I said, when you’re not making very much money when you’re living accommodations are.
Maybe less than what you had, you had hoped for. and you started looking at if you had people that graduated from pharmacy school, with you that were clearly, I’m sure making a lot more money than you were in the early years of your career. It’s probably easy to look around and say, Whew. Maybe I’m not always making the right decision here with what I’m doing.
So I think that’s really helpful of coaches out there to [00:43:00] understand how you went about and made it through your journey. And yet at the same time, I think whenever we have moments like that, you go back to them, that speech that you heard at Elan, and you say, look, this is where my passion lies. I’m sure over the course of time you had gotten some pretty good feedback from the people that you were working with, that, Hey, you’re on the right path.
You’re doing the right things. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep working. And opportunities are gonna present themselves. And so when you do that, eventually you do get your break. Eventually things do start to go in such a way that enable you to begin to elevate your career. So maybe talk about what that inflection point was exactly for you, where you kind of felt like get, not that I’ve made it, but boy, I’m really catching a break here, and this is going to be my opportunity to continue to move up the ladder.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:43:44] Yeah, I think the opportunity I got, and as you’ve talked to people, like some people talk about, if you go from the men’s side of the women’s side, you, you can’t go back. I think the one thing I [00:44:00] figured out, being on the men’s side is where I felt I had a bigger impact and maybe it’s because of what different schools fit me and. You know, kind of what I felt like was to be at North Carolina, but then to be at Duke and be at Cornell and then maybe see a little bit different than kind of student athletes you have at Le Moyne and Elon and even UNCG.
But Nobody’s a bigger influence, obviously then than Muffett McGraw on the women’s side for me. Fran McCaffery is the link to all these. And, he’s the link to somebody who told me from interviewing with him after my third year at Cornell, To coming back around three years later and having an operations position and me being back in North Carolina and looking for a change and that connection piece of Fran having been at Notre Dame as an [00:45:00] assistant, having gone from being a head coach really young at Lehigh. And being successful and then not being able to kind of go where he wanted to go and felt like he needed to go back a step. It was really eye opening to me.
And I think that whole year, it’s from who I worked with, again, coming back to learning from different people around you, I still can remember when Fran kinda at the end of our season came in and said, Hey, I want to tell you about this opportunity, my wife played for Coach McGraw, Notre Dame, and she called and just said she needs to hire an assistant.
She’s waited a year, she’s kept somebody on as an interim. ironically enough, that was one of her former players that is now married to Kevin McGough and who’s the head coach at Ohio State. And she asked him, did he know or somebody? And he said, I think I have somebody.
I think, knowing [00:46:00] his background and having a sister who was obviously successful college athlete, knowing my dad had coached my sister’s team. And it felt like every place I was at, I got to know the women’s coach that was just natural for me. And it was another person to learn from.
It just happened to that they coach the women’s team and not the men’s team. You know, the sport that I was passionate about. Timing means everything, it’s funny. And being with Coach McGraw for nine years, I felt like, probably the time I figured that out was in my second year at Notre Dame.
when I got the opportunity to interview, I was amazed. with the number of people that maybe you didn’t even realize who would coach in the women’s game. So Chris Collins at that point, I had reached out cause he had coached, in the WNBA as an assistant. Not a lot of people knew that.
And he said, listen, he goes, I’m coaching the best women’s players in the world. And they’re like sponges. It’s like, they want to know more. And, [00:47:00] and he goes, yeah, people arevgoing to tell you there’s an emotional piece to it. And he goes, I’m not going to tell ya that’s wrong.
He goes, but just the lack of ego. And when I got the opportunity to Notre Dame is similar, Coach McGraw was two years removed from a national championship and, kind of needed me to do things that I had done for Fran, from a scouting and even the player development side.
And, as I got there, I had just been married less than a year earlier, would they tell you never, do you have the three things, get a new new job, get married, have a child all in the same? Well, the trifecta. We did. We did. And, later on in the set, my second year, our daughter was born in September.
I think that was to me is, is coming home and knowing, I was going to have my daughter. And if we had ended up having any more kids, we’re going to have this unbelievable like set of like 15 older [00:48:00] sisters to teach her and, and wanting the same things day in and day out. You’re trying to build and, and fight for.
And a women’s program was the same thing as you’d fight for your own child. And, I can still remember the losses, I think sometimes way more than you do with the wins. And I do,
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:22] I do. For sure. I can vouch for that.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:48:23] And yeah, we were up six with 32 seconds left at home against Michigan State and they hit a three and we missed the front end of a one on one.
They ran aside out of bounds, play it dictates how I guard every side out of bounds play late game. We played, we played a little bit off the ball and the kid got hammered on a flare screen and they banged the three. And I just can remember sitting in my daughter’s room and, after the game I’ve watched it on film and everything.
And just sat there. And I watched her like, just sleep peacefully and went like, you know what, I’m going to wake up. Things are going to be okay tomorrow. That’s the most important thing in the world [00:49:00] right there. And just to me, that was kind of an eye opening moment, was knowing I was in the right place.
I was at a high academic school, we weren’t just when somebody graduated it wasn’t handed them, they weren’t just getting a piece of paper. They were getting stuff the rest of their lives. And how could I be a part of that? Whether it be an assistant, be a head coach one day.
I think that’s truly, I can point back to that game. And in early December, number of 2004, of making a huge impact in my career of saying, okay, there’s a reason, that again, that, I’m in this position right there. And then, that I hope I get the opportunity moving forward to keep being able to be that impactful.
Mike Klinzing: [00:49:47] Absolutely. What did you, what did you love immediately about. Coaching the women compared to coaching the men and maybe the verb compared is the wrong word, but just [00:50:00] what was something that when you came in and you were coaching the women’s team for the first time that. You’re like, Ooh, this is some piece of it that I really, really enjoy that maybe I didn’t have the same feel about on the men’s side.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:50:14] Yeah. I think, to compare the two, I kind of look back to back on UNCG and Notre Dame. And, when I was at UNCG, I’d been at Elon the year before, so we played against them. And so I knew the roster from the scouting report and everything. And Fran had gone to an NCAA tournament and then an NIT berth.
And so it really, really good team. So I say those in a row, cause he had a point guard who was about to be a junior. And in his first two years he had started one game. Ironically enough, that game was against Elon. but it started one game in two years and I got there in August. And, Fran had said, you have no idea.
We spent two months waiting, for this player to figure out if he was [00:51:00] going to declare for the draft after starting one game in his first two years. And, and when I got to Notre Dame, you know what I was going to coach perimeter players. And, and coach McGraw’s like, okay, here’s project number one who was a rising junior who as a freshman, had been the national freshman of the year, as a sophomore had made second team all big East, but then it had had a, just, just had a bad day three games in the NCAA tournament shot like six for 43 from the field. she’s like, you got to figure out how to make Jackie believe in herself.
And I was like, She was like an all American as a high school player. She was the national freshman of the year. And, and she goes, you’re going to be able to tell her certain things, that if I tell her they’re going to be personal. And if you tell her the exact same things, she’s going to soak those in.
And, and you’re going to, you have to teach her how to, to believe in herself and how she’s going to be a really, really good player. And, [00:52:00] and I think that balance of. ego versus, just having that knowing there’s sometimes a, it definitely and bending being now this will be my 18th year on the women’s side is, is that balance of being a confidence giver and, and just, just fortunate to me that on the, the men’s side at the same school to me is probably.
The best confidence builder. He’s like Coach Bray likes to refer to himself as, as his number one job is to be a confidence giver. And I think he’s figured out how to do that amongst a highly inflated ego sports system and men’s college basketball. and does it, his guys just believe they always believe they’re better than they are, but in a good way.
And, and so I think to me, that’s that that’s the biggest, kind of comparison I can have from my own path of being on the men’s side. and I I have friends who my first couple of years at Notre Dame are like if a full [00:53:00] time spot, like opens at like Elon, like you you’d go back and take that, right?
I’m like, no, like coaching at one of the greatest universities in the countries for a hall of fame head coach with kids who to have an unbelievable belief in why they’re going to be able to do once they graduate from Notre Dame. And my second year, I got to coach my niece, as a walk on.
And she’s the women’s basketball version of Rudy who got a scholarship in the end. And I go, it’s just funny. Cause you definitely like a lot of things in coaching until you’re in it or hear about people’s paths. what path do you think somebody should take is very different from what they end up being able to do so.
Mike Klinzing: [00:53:41] Yeah. So how do you strike that balance between helping your players by instilling confidence in them and still pushing them to the edge of their comfort zone. For lack of a better way of saying it. How do you strike a balance as an assistant during those days at Notre Dame, and now as a [00:54:00] head coach, what do you do to be able to push your players towards their limit?
And yet still keep them confident in their play?
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:54:09] you know, I think consistency is the most important. and I think for me at, at Wisconsin and even when I first became a head coach, I think understanding the other personalities that you have, if you’re going to ask especially, I think in women’s basketball, if you’re going to ask your players not to take things personally, you as a staff, I have got to make sure how those personalities work, and that Notre Dame jokingly, I coached, perimeter players more the wing kids.
some of the point guards for nine years and. Some of the those players, like from basketball questions and everything you got to figure out who was really influential in their life, you know? And, and if you could figure that out and you could see the impact they would have, I think that consistency, I [00:55:00] also think that you also knew they were going to go to female coaches on the staff for certain things, and you couldn’t get caught up with, Hey, wait a minute.
I’m their position coach? Why aren’t they coming to me about that? So I think being able to do that, being consistent, I think as a male coach in a female sport, they, they’ve got to see you and I’m fortunate enough to be a dad, as well. And I think they have, yeah, I have to see that humanized side of you as well.
And, and whether that’s my family is around, whether that’s how I think parental decisions I have to make, I feel like. Having a 15 and a half year old and a 13 year old now, like I’m seeing a lot of the recruiting that goes on. but, but I think as players trying to, you have to take a, a genuine issue and things outside of basketball, if you’re going to ask them to.
Focusing on, being the best can and these two hours and, things I got from Dave and what he [00:56:00] talks about, you’ve really got to be invested in their family. You’ve got to be invested in their academics and you’ve got to understand that. And I’m really lucky. Cause I think Coach McGraw has talked about was just having people that have been in their shoes and whether it’s assistant coaches or video people or people that deal with their career development and.
I’ve tried to be really intentional with staff building that way. And whether it’s somebody who like, and then knowing even as the head coach, that that person might go to some. I’m upfront about two things, Mike, to, to anybody that we recruit. and the first is I’m never going to be a former college women’s basketball player, no matter how hard I try, that I’m always going to have what I’m always going to have those people on my staff.
And, and the second thing is I’m never going to be a mop. And, I’ve been lucky that I’ve had that on both of my staffs and I think it’s important. They see me, as, as a dad and a husband too. Cause I think you’re [00:57:00] trying to the best players, the best teams, I’ve been a part of have really good relationships.
And that doesn’t mean you always got along, but you had really good relationships. And I think to push somebody hard, you’ve got to have earned that trust. And I think they’ve got to see you in the same way, like our players will tell you like that, that if, if, if Michael kids kind of growing up or messing around at practice, like they got it the same way that somebody in practice got it.
So I think that consistency, but I think also my players know how invested you can be in your kids’ lives, they know then you’re going to be invested in there.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:43] All right. Two questions related to that. First one is how do you go about building those relationships with your players? In other words, is that done? And again, I know there’s lots of different ways that you can do it and that you do do it. But when you think [00:58:00] about being intentional is that day to day conversations on the floor before practice after practice, is that.
team meals. Is that just a constant day to day? Is there a formal meeting, like, do you check in once a week with each player and have a look five minutes, sit down and give them a chance to kind of empty out anything that they want talk to you about. So that’s the first part of the question. And then the second part is you talked a little bit about how you’re never going to be a former women’s basketball player.
So how often. When you’re talking to a recruit, how often does your gender come up as a question that either the player or their family asks? So you can answer those in either, either order. And if you forget what the second part of it is after you answer the first part, I’ll try to remember it too.
Jonathan Tsipis: [00:58:48] Well, I remember I’m a pharmacy grad, so I can remember science and everything, but all right, good.
I think on your first, the first area is. [00:59:00] I’m trying to make sure I it’s a new challenge right now because of the limited access we actually have with our players. I think it’s amazing. What a, what a FaceTime call versus a text message you’ll have. it’s I think adapting to whatever that individual is the most comfortable with.
I’m really big on, I think, as an assistant, some of my greatest. opportunities to learn from a player was just rebounding for them and not going in with a set agenda and how that kind of leads to talking about their family. Or maybe even, Hey, this is a class and maybe they’re struggling with, and then you get a little bit more information.
I do think as you talk about having. being in, sometimes being outside of it, basketball is really important. And I think trying to do that, we’re lucky enough that Wisconsin and that we have training table meals and we try to have our whole staff there. And sometimes we all sit together sometimes somebody wants to talk and you’re over on the side.
So [01:00:00] it’s private. I think having those type of, conversations are really, really important that they see you, that whether it’s a good practice or a bad practice, you’re still there and you’re able to have those kinds of conversations. I think one thing I’ve learned is just, and sometimes coming into the head coaches office is like the principal’s office or a kind of the white coat syndrome that people have going to the doctor.
is trying to a lot of times talk with players outside of my office. And I think my office is always open and I think that’s a lot of times great coach speak. And we have a meeting though, and a player comes in stops, but I think sometimes just sitting in the arena and talking to a player or sitting outside or meeting them somewhere and.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but having a coffee and being able to talk to you. I think it takes out the, as a head coach, I think as an assistant, they know in the end, as much as [01:01:00] you’re going to give your influence and give your opinion to the head coach. You’re still not always directly dictating how much they’re going to play.
And I think as a head coach, you’ve got to make sure that you have that trust to be able to talk to them about all things across the spectrum. And I make our players tell me what, like, Hey, where’s the one spot on campus. You go when you want to get away. And it might be we’re lucky enough to.
Yeah, it’d be on one of the most gorgeous campuses in the country for 10 miles. So the year, but, being able to do that during the quarantine, how can you make sure we’re lucky enough? We have five players are kind of within an hour distance.
I got in the car on Saturday mornings was sit outside with a new player every Saturday for five straight weeks and just sat outside and social distanceand try to constantly doing that. I think if you preach to your team that you need to have good [01:02:00] relationships, you’ve gotta be able to extend it to your own life.
And be able to use those examples of whether it’s your marriage, whether it’s how your parenting is, you’ve got to constantly work on those. and I think that that that’s really, really important. I think the second part, when you talk about that, it’s, it’s, it’s very interesting.
And, when I was hired, I asked coach McGraw why have you always had a male assistant. And, and she she said, I, she said, I can’t, I’ll give you our roster. And then I could go through. And if you wrote down the name of every high school head coach of each of our players, the name, the name of every one of their AEP coaches, you would see between those two positions.
And if there was a father figure involved. How there’s always a male influence in our kids’ lives. And she said, I need somebody to provide that. And it’s interesting now, because [01:03:00] obviously like you talk about great coaches and she definitely leads the women’s game right now into providing opportunities for for, for other women in our profession.
it is something that I think, I want to get for my players if I’m lucky enough to coach one day. As well rounded experience from our staff. And, and I think to me that is something that’s we’re players and players at a high level and players from different backgrounds and Coach McGraw, I can remember her saying, that’s how she diversified her staff.
I was a male assistant with two black female assistants on the staff. And so, I think she wanted to make sure and was always really cognizant of. Making sure that there was a different personality, what the backgrounds are of her staff to better help serve each of our players.
And, and I think when people ask about that, like I, I’m never going to, I never sit there and go, well, [01:04:00] like, this is what a male coach can provide to me. It’s that balance of having, I need to make sure there are really strong female role models in our players lives. And if it means I’m not going to be that female, I’m going to make sure that every aspect that I touched that is going to affect them is that they feel comfortable going to those people.
because again, there are, I know right now I can tell you at Notre Dame, who had a, really, was really close with, with a brother on their team, who had had a really special bond with their dad. And obviously I think every kid has a connection with their dad, but, sometimes those were post players or point guards that they went to their position coach, but they came to me on certain things.
and I think that was what was always amazing at Notre Dame. There was no, no type of ego issues within the assistance because we saw the greater good that it could provide.
Mike Klinzing: [01:04:57] I’m going to ask you this question, which is [01:05:00] unrelated, I guess, directly to you, but it kind of speaks to what you talked about in terms of balancing out your staff and the fact that many of the players that play for you and that played for you at Notre Dame.
Had some type of father figure in their life and let’s flip it around and think about the men’s game and the fact that so many of the men’s players obviously had an influential female in their life. When, and again, this is a difficult question that I don’t know that you can necessarily even answer, but just when we think about the diversity of a staff on the women’s side of the game, it’s kind of interesting that that diversity.
Has not, obviously there have been women’s assistants at the division one college level, but not very many. Do you see a time at some point in the future here, as we continue to work through all the things that we’re working through from a social justice standpoint and from a diversity standpoint, do you see a point in time and do you see the value in more women getting an opportunity in the men’s game?
[01:06:00] Jonathan Tsipis: [01:06:00] Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really interesting to me because having. I think several of the women who have been given the opportunity, whether it be in the NBA is I think, where you’ve seen it more prominent. I now have been around when I watched them as either college players or WNBA players.
and you saw the impact. Like I was fortunate enough when I was in Washington D C that. that, that we got to know coaches there and I can remember it was a big deal for coach Teebo and sons on staff and Mariana said when they got Kara Lawson to come back as a player, not just cause she was from the area, but they felt like.
and you see it with a lot of NBA players right now, and,NBA teams right now, who’s in those 11, 12, 13 roster spots. It’s a veteran that maybe they’re not going to get as much out of a younger, but that’s going to be able to help groom them. [01:07:00] And I think, like I knew at that point, like, well, I don’t know if Kara Lawson would even go into coaching at that point? But I knew like that that how important she was on a team like that. Then it went back to when I was at Notre Dame and she had just gotten into broadcasting. There was never somebody to me who was as detailed as she was.
I can remember she came after a practice coach and McGraw had left and she had caught me. Somebody was getting some shots up and I can remember. My kids are over in some Christmas party. We were in another part of the arena and Kara was there for an hour asking questions about we were playing Purdue the next day.
And, I think obviously Becky Hammond, it’s pretty neat right now because I think our generation sees Becky Hammond as somebody who had the breakthrough. Yeah. And obviously works for as, as respected of, NBA coach as there is in [01:08:00] coach Pop. And I think as you have those, obviously Neil was able to do that this past year for Memphis and then move over.
I think, making sure that, how can we affect that a little bit more? Mike is we, we’ve gotta be I hired a video coordinator. And one of the reasons I hired her as she was adamant, she wanted to be an NBA video coordinator. and I said, what about a WNBA? And she goes, I would be that too.
She goes, but I know as an NBA video coordinator that could also lead to another step. And there’s just more opportunities and it’s it’s the greatest league in the world and I love that confidence that she had. Cause I know that would be able to be spread upon my team.
So yeah, I think it’s interesting. I think when it starts in the highest level that I think that hopefully we’ll see that be able to spread itself out. You know, we’re lucky at Wisconsin, cause one of our former players, one of the greatest players in Wisconsin women’s [01:09:00] basketball history is now a men’s coach, at the college level in Minnesota, and she’d coached a semi-pro men’s team.
And so it was pretty neat to see it happen right at home. And you just hope that those opportunities continue to present themselves?
Mike Klinzing: [01:09:12] Yeah, absolutely. I think the opportunity is the key. And we all know that once you get an opportunity, then you can be judged on the merits of what you do in the job. And it’s just a matter of, can you break down that door, that GRA glass ceiling, however you want to phrase it, to be able to, to get those opportunities.
I think once more women get those opportunities, we’re going to see more and more that the things that they can bring to the table. Are just as valuable as the thing that a male could bring to the table. And then just like you talked about the balance and a staff, I think if you had more of a balance in the staff, there would definitely be strengths that a female coach could bring that it’s possible a male coach might not be able to bring in terms of the X’s. And O’s in terms of being able to relate to players in terms of, [01:10:00] again, that influence that many of those players, moms may have had on them when they were younger. And again, those are things that are invaluable that I think it would be great for more women to be able to get an opportunity at, at all levels of the game, from high school, even down in the you think about where it starts is even at the youth level the number of times that you go to a a recreation league and you see.The girls’ teams being coached by a dad, instead of a mom. And I think putting up more opportunities for women to coach a bunch of third grade girls would be great for the coaching tree of women, move it forward and moving up in all different levels of the game, because then all those players. And he clearly you think about the number of female basketball players across our country today compared to 30 years ago.
And it’s ridiculous. I’m dubious of, in some cases, the value of AAU basketball on the men’s side. I think there’s, there’s good things about it, but there’s also a lot of things I don’t like, [01:11:00] but on the women’s side, I think it’s an arguable, how much it’s opened up opportunity for girls to be able to play the game.
And it would be great if it would open up the same opportunities for female coaches to be able to have opportunity to coach. And that would give the players who were playing. As you said earlier, role models that they could look at and say, well, look, this person’s a coach. And so people can start to see themselves in that role.
When they see people who are like them, who are doing the things that they may want to do a lot of times a female player can come all the way up and never have a female head coach all the way through their entire career. And so it’d be great to be able to see both so that you can have men and women both on the staffs of women’s basketball, but also on the staffs of men’s basketball. I think that would be something that the coaching profession, again, it’s a slow grind to get there, but I think it’s a, a laudable goal that we, we all should be trying to strive for to try to be able to balance that out. Let’s jump back to your transition from assistant coach to [01:12:00] head coach at George Washington.
What do you remember about. Your first couple of days on the job, what were the things that you said, Hey, I got to make sure that we get this done. How did you go about building your own program for the first time?
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:12:14] Well, I got some opportunities at Notre Dame that I didn’t just have to take a head coaching job offer just to take one. And one was one was to me, again, as we’ve talked about, I just feel like I’m a better fit at a high, high academic school. And if that means maybe that limits who you recruit a little bit, like I had been through that and understood that and saw I think at Notre Dame and.
and I was fortunate enough, in 2011 to get opportunity to play in the final four. We upset Connecticut. We lose in the national championship [01:13:00] game. And I’d seen a path. Kevin McGough had gone down and he left, he leaves Xavier and Xavier’s open, and it’s a former Notre Dame AD and Kevin’s been there and you get to the end and, it’s a former Xavier women’s player and myself, and Mike Neighbors and the former women’s player gets it. And you understand that. And I think you can I think that’s something I learned early on as, as a male coach and women’s basketball. just what we’ve just been talking about, like is, when we sit there and talk about, well that person’s not qualified and everything flip over to the other side and see how many women’s coaches there are on the men’s side.
And I was fortunate enough that another opportunity could present itself and, and, yeah, and we got another, had another great run and, I got involved in the George Washington situation, during a recruiting trip and, have never, we lived in the giant metropolis of Hinckley Ohio with, with one stoplight and, And when the [01:14:00] George Washington opportunity is completely out of my wheelhouse, I’ve never no matter where I coached, never lived in a big city or coached in a big city.
And, I just didn’t want to be a distraction. And, and so I. I met with their athletic director in the week between the big East tournament and the NCAA selection show. And then we, we agreed to, the loyalty to coach McGraw that again, I didn’t want anything to take away.
I never feel. you know, right. If, if somehow I felt distracted because I was worried about that. we kinda got everything done. He asked me, you could come out to Notre Dame and watch us play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And, I said, okay, I’m happy to say hi and. I can introduce you to the person who this is gonna come down to decision making and he watched our game and, and he wanted to watch me coach on the sideline.
And then he spent about an hour and 20 minutes with my wife after the game talking. [01:15:00] And, and they got, yeah, kind of done. And I still Coach McGraw was okay with me, accepting it even as we were playing. And I just wasn’t. And, and so, we literally lost on on Monday night to Baylor and on the plane ride home the next morning turned down an opportunity to interview at another time place and just said, it’s, this is the place believed in me and waited for me through the NCAA. And we landed on Tuesday morning. I told the players on the team, I’m a flight home. and, and that Friday, which ironically enough was good Friday is when I was introduced as the coach at GW.
And, I can still remember, that first weekend, you envisioned, I think certain things as a head coach and Coach McGraw, put me in a lot of positions to make decisions like a head coach. I think, quickly I saw really, really fast that not everywhere was Notre Dame. And, and we had a very good learning experience.
The very first weekend I was there. It actually, it happened, we flew then [01:16:00] on Thursday night and the press conference was on Friday and it happened Thursday night. early in the morning. And I think like they say nothing good happens at two in the morning. Well, something bad happened. but I, but I to sit and figure out and make that decision and the ultimate decision, disciplinary action down to me as a head coach within the first 48 hours, I was there.
And, and, but I was really lucky. I think. getting myself acclimated, being away from my family. I’d already done that at Notre Dame and had been away from them. They waited and my wife waited until the end of the summer to come out to Notre Dame. Being in that situation.
I think, I was really fortunate to. So, no, it gave me the rest of the spring and the summer to get to know the kids on our team and figure out which kids wanted to be up to the challenge and what we were going to do and help the kids that maybe weren’t ready to accept that, figure out what their next steps were going to be.
And, and I was lucky. I brought three Notre Dame. People tied in with me on my first staff. So, [01:17:00] you know, one is an assistant and, now I have to battle against her in the state. Megan Duffy that’s the head coach at Marquette was my associate head coach at GW. I brought, our director of operations, another former Notre Dame player.
And then our assistant director of operations, came and went to grad school. And that’s really all I could kind of give to him was that in the stipend. And, but it was helpful to, I think in your when you’re trying to look at your first staff and, you, you don’t always everybody. I think I was lucky that, at GW I I’d watched.
I do the tradition and you know, again, now I get to face it, but the person that they’re tradition is responsible mostly for Joe McEwen who’s at Northwestern now. but I also then saw somebody that. Kind of was the kind of, yeah, it was the coach between Joe and I, who really only hired people that, that told him what he wanted to hear all the time.
Yeah. And so that helped me. I think being at Notre Dame and Muffett [01:18:00] valued assistant’s input in that way, she didn’t want somebody yes. Person. And, I think that that was a huge step for me is as a head coach is making sure I hired. You know, I wasn’t from DC. And I think DC, outside of what we know is political from the true political side is also politically basketball eyes.
and so hiring people that knew that area and was fortunate that, that somebody I had known and had recruited her players was, was really interested in, in getting back into the college game. And, and then also made a hire that just from a personality standpoint. You know, on the hardest things you have to do is I think you may, as a head coach, you coached two teams, you coach the student athletes, and then you coach the group of what your staff is.
And, I made a hire that just wasn’t a fit for our players, for myself or the rest of the staff. I think one of those situations that, you want and make sure that you’re doing the best to bring the best out of somebody, but also you got to [01:19:00] make sure at the end of the day, your staff is going to what you know, and players are gonna what be able to control your future.
And at that point we’re married, moving into a place that we never dreamed we would live in, in Washington DC and, and I had to make a staff change and that’s that’s I think something I tell. You know, new head coaches is that you as you’re doing that, what’s your plan. Do you keep a list of people?
I think always have a list of head coaches for every sport. And, I think always, I’m not sitting there right now. I’m really lucky I have a great staff, but I’ve had to make decisions twice on, on engaging the staff and it is your effective in somebody else’s life. And I think that was one of the things that GW, I was really lucky because I had three people that knew what I wanted to do, but also three people that I think would tell me things I needed to hear.
And maybe necessarily didn’t always want to hear.
Mike Klinzing: [01:19:53] Yeah. I can understand that. As you were going up through your entire career, did you [01:20:00] put together a list, a notebook of a file of things that you were going to use when you eventually became. A head coach. In other words, did you kind of formalize the process of thinking that when I get a head coach, here’s just some things taking notes, trying to keep them organized so that when you did eventually get the opportunity to run your own program, that you kind of had that as a reference that you went back to, or was it more a case of you had kind of prepared you had kind of just observed, you had seen from all the great people that you had worked with and therefore you were able to have an idea of what it was that you wanted to do?
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:20:36] Yeah. I don’t know if I had a specific notebook. I have a lot of files and, and I think always tried to look at that and, and what fits for the right period of time. and I think learning from one, it doesn’t work the way you thought it was going to work. And I said I’m very as somebody who was an extrovert working for somebody who is highly successful as an [01:21:00] introvert, I never understood the, the toll it took on coach McGraw, whether it was somebody coming for a recruiting trip or even game day.
And I loved the earlier parts of game day. Cause Coach McGraw’s somebody that she would not come in on game day until, and at Notre Dame, when we were at home, we did not do a formal shootaround. We did a walkthrough an hour and a half before the game. I had been through that scenario because Fran had done a similar type of thing, UNCG and joking, she’d always say it takes me the entire day to pick out the outfit I’m going to wear.
But, I saw it, I understood it cause I could get a lot of stuff done, whether it was making sure whatever the next recruiting trip was or again, making sure my scout had been double and triple checked, but. I think that’s something that I’ve tried to write down more and try to tell younger coaches, is the amounts.
And so much of it, I think is self absorbed, [01:22:00] of, of, of mental, yeah. Language that you have as a head coach is because no matter how much you delegate and you hire the right people and you’ve asked them to make decisions on your behalf. In the end, those decisions are still the head coach’s decisions, even if you’re not the one that’s settled and think, I think that was the way Muffett was always able to balance that was, she knew if she, I can remember asking her the one day and she goes, and she said, Sip, I gotta be at my best from seven to nine.
And if I’m in the office at 10 in the morning or noon. And, and so I see you figure that out. I think that’s one of those things you have to figure out what’s built. In yourself. And, some people need to, after around, I need to be away from people for a little while. I just, as much as I am an extrovert.
And then before the game, as I’m getting ready and stuff like that, I like to have somebody around. but I think trying to figure that out, I did, there were certain things I, I tried to do right away. that [01:23:00] I felt like it worked really well at Notre Dame, or I really had liked that I had seen, you just have to make sure you’re not trying to pound square pegs through a round hole.
And I think that was something of it’s still gotta be your fit, your personality. And and I do think that, that I’m really grateful because I feel like there were things that happened and from a learning curve standpoint point at GW, that, that made me better equipped once I got to Wisconsin.
On how to handle certain situations and, I think no matter, it’s yes, again, your first head coaching job, you’re, you’re gonna, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error and, and, and just understanding from the recruiting, from, from your staff, just one of the greatest things I got a chance to do was the WBCA offered a program called, the center for coaching excellence and just personalities at a table.
Of new head coaches and [01:24:00] seeing your way to do it. It’s not the only way, even if you’re way still, it’s going to be what I’ve learned from Dave Paulson and Fran McCaffery and Muffet McGraw and coach K and you know, Scott Thompson and it just it’s, it’s definitely, I think that’s, there’s been silver linings of this quarantine of being home and not having, and I’d love the chance to kind of recharge and learn from people probably I wouldn’t normally learn from, and a lot of it’s obviously been virtually, but, I definitely think keeping a lot of notes. you talked about, what I wrote down, I wrote down, like when I, I think recruiting, I always watched and who did I interact with?
that I thought, man, one day, I think that’d be somebody I’d really like to work with and, and keep that, Hey, if we have an opening on the staff of, and then being able to pick brains kinds of people that staff, people that have had staffs that really seem to gel well together and why and what their responsibilities that they gave out times, just having somebody [01:25:00] look through it with a different set of eyes.
Muffet was really good at. if you came to practice, you could be a AAU coach. You can be a boys’ varsity or JV coach. You could be a, a girls coach. She was going to ask you what you saw and, and, and take your opinion on what that person maybe sees it different. Maybe sees a player different than men.
Maybe we see the same thing every day and it’s something maybe we’ve ingrained in our heads only, or operates one way.
Mike Klinzing: [01:25:26] So let’s take the quarantine piece of it out of it. And you think about how you learn and grow as a coach under normal circumstances. Here you are, but division one head coach, how do you go about learning the game?
What do you do? Are you going to video of other teams? Are you going and. Seeking out colleagues in the profession. Are you just explain your process for how you continue to grow and learn as a coach?
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:25:54] I think you have to be fearless. I’m just, if you want to learn from the best reach out. [01:26:00] And, I can remember as, as a young assistant and then go into clinic and I can remember, I can remember going to watch Tex Winter and. I just sat there and all, and now it’s funny because everything kind of comes around with the last day and talking about that, the importance and the influence he had with Phil Jackson. But, wwhen I got to Notre Dame, And I can remember going to the first.
and so I interviewed at the final four and I think when you’re two years removed Muffett, McGraw, no more wanted to be, not coaching in the final four, then the man on the moon. And, I can remember my first year as an assistant going to the final four and I had the schedule of who was going to speak and everything.
And muffet goes, Hey, who do you think is the best at guarding ball screens? Yeah, the country that we played against, well, like. No, Virginia Tech’s really good. Like they guard them different ways. I felt like you could tell they were really good at like their personnel knew our personnel and [01:27:00] she’s like, okay.
And all of a sudden, I know she’s like, Hey, three to four 30. you know, I think the first year it was in New Orleans, we’re going to meet with Bonnie Henderson. Who’s that coach at Virginia tech. And so, she’s like, Hey, you were in the Ivy league who was really good outside of Princeton or who do you know?
And, and I said, well, Coach Carmody was had the team that was 20, 29 and three, and was ranked in the top 10. And. And, she goes I think at that point she made and said, see, you still Princeton. I’m like, no, he’s the head coach at Northwestern. He goes, do you know anybody? Can you get ahold of him?
And Paul Lee was an assistant at Columbia is on his staff at Northwestern. And all of a sudden we, we probably in a two and a half year span made 10 trips from Notre Dame to Chicago to sit at a practice or. coach Carmody was the only one of the original prison people that would really share.
And, and, Paul Lee, I still can remember send an edit to, Hey, here’s the exact edit tape we use with our team [01:28:00] and send him that, and we’re looking at it and everything. And, and I think I think for our staff I, I know go into. You know, we went to NBA camps. We went to WNBA camps and began still trying to do that same, any opportunity you have with that, if there was an area that you really want to learn about.
The amount of video that’s, that’s available free of charge, just even online is amazing. But, I think being able to since we’re spoiled with synergy, cause I can go get any game WNBA men’s college women’s college. but I think being able to ask the question why, and I when, when I was at Notre Dame, We tried to put in we were trying to put in a a three quarter court press and I can remember buffet going like, Hey, well, what did you run with Fran?
And I said, Oh, we kind of ran this one, two, two. And, and, I called Fran and Fran’s on speakerphone and he goes, Hey, set [01:29:00] this up. This is going to be crazy. But do you guys have like a fall break? And I said, yeah. And it says, what’s your schedule? And I said, well coach usually likes kind of to practice maybe Saturday to Tuesday and then let the kids go home.
he said, Hey Rollie, Rollie, Massimino has, and I’m like, yeah, coach, I know who he is. he goes, he’s coaching now at a school in Florida. He’s the best at any of the three quarter court stuff. And he goes, I have his assistant on my staff former assistant Mitch Bounoguro. He said, I can have Mitch tell you about it, but honestly, go down and spend two days with him and sure enough, like Mitch gets me connected.
Here’s a guy I watch like one of my most vivid memories as a kid growing up is watching the the perfect game. Oh yeah. So when they beat Georgetown and. And, and I called and introduced myself, Mitch kind of made the connection and, and he said, ah, he said, come down and you got to stay for more than one practice.
And he said, now, if I’m going to teach you about this stuff, you gotta help me. [01:30:00] And, and so I went down there and shoot like w we sat there and he’s got Dennis Hopson, who I grew up watching play at Ohio State as a kid on his staff. And. and, I just, again, like, and that turned into, he goes, Hey, you know what?
We should be learning. I know all these people, we should bring them all in. And, and two years later he has a clinic mic that is like people. I said, I still can’t believe I sat in a room with and like, learned from, but something small like that, or he’s coaching it. And then AI school, I think people.
Especially on the women’s side, feel like they will be like a nuisance to somebody. And I do think that is where the women’s side is not as protective as the men’s side. I think there’s a little bit of a paranoia share sometimes on the men’s side. but I, you being able to make a call, like if you’re an AAU coach or you’re a eighth grade coach, I don’t care what level, if you want to try to become a better coach.
I like our practice. We’re always [01:31:00] open in our practice, our shoot around. It’s like being able to do that, I think is so important for us to grow the game and just, we obviously, we, we we’ve had to do it. Differently. But I think in a normal sequencing of the, the spring of, I asked him coach guard, what is he watching?
You know? And, and, and, and just first looking at home. And I think if you’re a coach somewhere, And I can remember being at Cornell and the lacrosse coach is coming to our 6:00 AM practices. They just wanted to see how, how you approach college athletes. And I just, I think that that’s one area that I think some people miss out on.
it’s, it’s yeah, it’s an opportunity to continue to learn. And if it’s a 10 o’clock zoom call, which I think I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to, with other coaches and everything, it’s been a lot to me, I, I love that because I had people be able to, to influence me by, by challenging me to go do that on my own, that it’s part of my [01:32:00] staff professional development are to name the Hey, who are three people you want to learn from?
Or where do you want to go for NBA training camp WNBA training camp. the worst thing they can do is tell you and if not, I think most of the time. if you give them enough leeway that most people will let you in to watch.
Mike Klinzing: [01:32:18] Yeah I think that’s a hundred percent. Right. And we’ve seen that sort of with the podcast has been kind of amazing to me back thinking about when we started I would have had no idea that the caliber of the type of people that we’ve been able to have come on the show from.
Again, the high school level, all the way up to some NBA, people that we’ve been able to have on, it’s just amazing the, the willingness of coaches to share. And I think you make a great point that just reach out. And if you do reach out more often than not, it’s going to work out where they’re going to be able to help you with either a phone conversation or invite you to a practice or whatever it may be.
And I think that one of the things that. I think has opened that up is the [01:33:00] fact that you mentioned it when you said you can get any NBA game, you get any men’s college game, get any women’s college game, WNBL game, whatever is there’s really, it’s really hard. Even if you wanted to keep something a secret now. It’s really, really hard to keep anything that you’re doing a secret between social media, between the ease of being able to find video. And so I think what that’s done is really opened up the coaching profession, where there’s so many people that we hear you can us on the podcast. And I hear just in conversations of.
Look, I love coaching my team. I love doing that. The X’s and O’s, I love building relationships with my kids, but I also love basketball. I want to just help to grow the game. And I think that’s something that, that trend has excited rated in the last five to 10 years. And I think it’s good. Continue to accelerate here as we move forward.
Just because coaching profession, I just think is filled with so many good people that are willing to share. Grow the game and help to build it and help young people who are coming up in the career of coaching and really are trying to help [01:34:00] those who are coming after them to grow and improve. And to me, that’s a credit to everybody who’s a part of the coaching profession. So let’s talk a little bit quickly about Wisconsin here as we blow by an hour and a half. And the podcast, I’m just want to give you a chance to just. Talk to me a little bit about what you love about coaching, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:34:19] You know, it’s a growing up in the Midwest, I think there’s a genuineness and obviously both my children were born while we were at Notre Dame. So even when we moved to Washington DC we, we took them out of the Midwest. There’s a lot of Midwest in them.
When the opportunity presented itself at Wisconsin, it, there were some, some definite things of competing at the highest level at a conference that competes for national championships not just in women’s basketball, but across all all sports and again, I did not know, [01:35:00] Wisconsin of the places we had played in nine years at Notre Dame.
We had played in Madison once we flew in, in the cover of darkness on a Saturday night. Played a two o’clock game, got on the plane and went home. And so I did not know much about the campus, except my brother in law had gone to school here and he just always talked about how beautiful the campus was and it sat on the lakes.
When the opportunity presented itself, ironically enough, Wisconsin had played, had come to Notre Dame and, played in the first round of the NCAA tournament. my second to last year and, Yeah. And so there was some familiarity there. Knowing Coach Alvarez, had been at Notre Dame and, and I when this job presented itself, one of the things that really stood out to me is women’s basketball was not at the same level as, as men’s basketball and football and, and women’s volleyball.
And. Even both our, both our ice hockey programs. And that was a really, really, some people may say, okay, [01:36:00] that is not a red flag. And I saw that as an unbelievable opportunity. And I think that being able to recruit high high end academic students Wisconsin is a top 30 school in the world, and, and be able to have a fan base are convinced and now having a couple of babies in our program, that they change them real quick, when they’re born in.
So either. A red and white onesie or a gold & green one. Cause you’re, you’re, you’re born into the Packers and you’re born into the badgers. So,for me, it brought I think looking at our family and saying where somewhere that you envisioned your kids being able to, to grow up, to be able to have an opportunity that you look at it.
I think as a kid, where would you want your own kids to go to school? And I love that challenge. I, I loved what they wanted to do with the women’s programs and the people they [01:37:00] had hired they’d hired Kelly Sheffield as the volleyball coach two years earlier. And, you’d seen Coach Gard actually got the job permanently, the day I interviewed.
And so I loved, I felt like I knew a little bit of his background and that, that had always been, I had been so fortunate, the different places I had been at at to have a good relationship with a men’s coach. I think. Sometimes at Notre Dame, it was go down the hall and make sure, and I was kind of the person that was always the go between.
But, I thought I could learn a lot and, and, and be able to really grow up and, and recruit women that wanted to have that same vision and same challenge. that I had and saw it as an opportunity. I think that’s what we’re building here is since I’ve been here, I’ve watched our women’s ice hockey team win a national championship.
I’ve seen Coach Chryst. You know play in for bowl games and go to the Rose bowl. I’ve seen Coach Gard go to multiple [01:38:00] sweet sixteens. Yeah. In a big 10 championship. And our hockey, the coach was a former Badger player here. Who’s a first time college head coach. I love that atmosphere because in the end there, there’s not a whole lot of athletic directors here across the country who have coached.
And I really, I saw coach Alvarez his path. you know, he inherited not a lot of people. Remember he inherited and he was one and ten his first year. and I think one in 10 resonates in my mind. especially after I won my second game, my first year, I was like, okay, I want to add, but it’s also, in college, I went through Mac Brown’s first year when I was in college.
He was one and 10 at Carolina. And, and he’s been phenomenal. I think you see as leadership throughout everything that’s happened, magnified in the last six months. And I just love that opportunity. to have that and understand that’s the person who’s that he treats our, our, our coaching staff of all the head coaches and the assistant, like his own coaching staff when [01:39:00] he was a football coach and being able to learn from that.
And. No, no, no one it’s I I’ll be honest. I was really spoiled at George Washington to walk into a situation where, we had a, there was a really good talent base. We were really fortunate with some kids. We recruited right away. We had a couple of transfers and just things took off.
It’s obviously. A bit more of a slower climb at Wisconsin, but, I’ve been really lucky in the kids. I’ve gotten to coach and, and kids we inherited and now our younger kids and the kids we’ve even had that have been added to the program in the last year, have that same kind of mindset, that I think that that student athletes here at Wisconsin had been successful.
The coaches that have been successful. instead, it’d be able to emulate that. And, and again, it’s, we play with at Notre Dame, it’s unbelievable to me the network that we had. but we still have times weren’t even the number one team in our [01:40:00] own state. You know, there were Purdue fans there, you fans there are it being the flagship school of a state.
It brings a certain amount of, pride. And it also, I think brings a certain amount of responsibility that I really like, because it helps me have that connection with, with the coaches in the state, from every level and to make sure one of my big responsibilities, there’s no question. My responsibility is to build a great program.
And one of those pillars are, how am I doing that on the grassroots level for all our girls and women’s coaches in the state.
Mike Klinzing: [01:40:34] Yeah, no question about that. I think that when you have that opportunity to be the flagship university in the state, you have that recognition. And then as you said, then you have that responsibility to go out and be able to advocate for the female players in your state and build relationships with high school coaches and all those things ends up translating into success longterm.
So I want to wrap up by asking you one final question. It’s a two [01:41:00] parter. The first part of the question is when you look at where you want to take the Wisconsin Badger program, what is the biggest challenge that you have ahead of you in order to get that done? And then part two we’ll end on a high note, which is what is the one thing when you get out of bed in the morning and you think about man, I’mgoing into work today.
What is the biggest joy that you get out of being the head coach for the Wisconsin badgers.
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:41:26] No, I would say like an hour ago, when you tell me to remember a two part question I was alone.
Mike Klinzing: [01:41:31] Yeah, exactly.
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:41:32] Yeah. I, I think I think for us, I think one thing right away, you knew, and as part of. What excites you every day is how good, big 10 women’s basketball is talked about and, understanding, you’re, you’re going, not only against some of the best players in the country, you’re going to, I guess, the best coaches in the country and, and, every athletic department in the Big 10 funds women’s basketball, supports women’s basketball at the [01:42:00] highest level. I mean, there’s a reason that every year there’s double digit amount of teams that are in the top 25 in attendance and, and the support and having to recruit against the best in the country. You can, you can look at that and say, okay, is that something.
that’s going to hinder us. It’s I look at it and say, it’s gonna just make something that makes us better. you know what I think kind of you look at Jerry McGuire and he, anyway, he referred to himself as the Lord of the living room, for us to beat teams in the big 10, it starts in the kids that you recruit.
And, and you’ve gotta be able to, have the right kids find the right fit. you, you’ve got to win. You gotta be willing to go into those battles in the living room. And right now those might be those battles on zoom calls. but, you’ve got to have, those type of players and I think. I look at it and I try to make that comparison.
What is our goal for Wisconsin? Women’s basketball. It’s, it’s that consistency, to, to be in the picture, for a big [01:43:00] 10 championship year in and year out. And you know what? I only have to walk about 15 feet across the hall to see that consistency and, and the amount of yeah. The top four finishes, that our men’s team has had 19 in the last 20 years.
That’s that same model of consistency. Yeah. And it is, is amazing right now because we have weekly, big 10 head coaches meetings and, and you see, you just see the minds and, and the, and the proactiveness and the foresight. Every week, you already have to go against it every game when you get to the conference season, but you see why those coaches and those are in those positions in our league, they’re making you better.
I always say that we, we, we might, we might not get every kid wearing those battles, but you don’t win any of those battles unless you get yourself into. I think the second part of your question is for us you know, I guess the other thing to add onto that, as we know, if we’re, we’re in that pitch in picture for, for, for being in a position to fight for a big 10 championship, [01:44:00] you’re going to be amongst a pitcher to, to be able to play in the second and the third weekend in the NCA tournament.
And I think that’s your goal is to get to the NCAA tournament and then use that experience to understand, I think from every level I’ve been at. And how you go about that, that two game tournament. And, I still use the same you put a bracket of two teams up. That’s what we did. And I can remember Coach K doing that.
Duke UConn might the year I was there. and that was the only goal was to get to that next game. And, I think I wake up in the morning knowing I get to go and, and, and whether it’s the it’s the staff I work with is on that same level. As I get to work with student athletes who I know are going to not only go to do bigger and better things while they’re at Wisconsin, but once they graduate, they’re going to impact the world. And I got a picture two days ago from a recent graduate who, she made fair. She, they, they know I’m very quick to on social media, talk about our, our, our former [01:45:00] players and what they’re doing.
you know, she she’s in the Police Academy and she wants to work for the department of Justice. And she sent me her first picture as, as, as in full uniform and said, coach, you can’t put this on social media. and I think understanding when, when you’re, when you wake up in the morning and that’s the type of young women that you’re interacting with a daily basis it puts you in that same perspective of that’s the same goals you have for your son or your daughter. you know, in my case, having a daughter first, it’s knowing that she has those people to look up to, they’re going to be successful and I get to work with them and be in a partnership with parents, that this is we, we had a zoom call earlier tonight.
with every, every player in our team and every parent and, it’s pretty neat to be able to, no, that’s the biggest duty I have a is being in that partnership with parents and understanding I’m always going to treat them like I would my own daughter. And that’s something a lot of people in life [01:46:00] can’t say.
I think one of the things they talk about is that as a coach somebody, people impact a small amount of people in their life. coaches get to involve impact, such a greater margin or such a greater number. then we’ll hopefully continue to go do that and impact people around them.
And I think that’s why I wake up. We’ve got workouts tomorrow. I think, the only disappointing part of having workouts tomorrow for me is it’s our last workout. So the summer. but, but I I’ve appreciated that, that our team knows right now, there’s nothing. Guaranteed. And the fact that they’ve been to have a chance to come and do some workouts here over the past few weeks, just, just leads to my excitement of how quickly I’m going to want them back.
So we can have that daily interaction.
Mike Klinzing: [01:46:42] Yeah, well, let’s hope that whatever happens here, that we do end up having a basketball season of high school season of college season. And certainly we know coaches and athletes. Or just itching and dying to get back out onto the floor. And I think that last answer kind of summed up everything that we were able to talk about and discuss [01:47:00] throughout the podcast and just the passion that you have for your job and for your kids.
And as a parent, I think is, is as clear as we go through and me listening to you talk throughout the almost two hours here. it’s just been a pleasure for me to get an opportunity to know you and pick your brain. And I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to jump on here with us and share everything before we get done.
You mentioned social media. Why don’t you go ahead and share how people can find out more about you and your program there at Wisconsin. And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:47:30] up. Sure. I think the easiest is on Twitter, I’m @BadgerCoachTsip. And just remember TSIP is spelled T as in Tom, S as in Sam, P as in Paul as well as folow our program, which, I got to make sure, cause I always do this one wrong.
cause I’m so used to just,
Mike Klinzing: [01:47:48] we’ll throw it in the show notes anyway,
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:47:49] Yeah, @BadgerWBB. I’m just trying to type it in to make sure I know.
Mike Klinzing: [01:47:58] Ido that
Jonathan Tsipis: [01:47:58] all the time. Trust me. but [01:48:00] I think we’re on Twitter. We’re on Instagram. We’re on Facebook. I’m more of a Twitter guy.
so that that’s the best way to follow me. I’m on Instagram. It’s way more of just following people than actually posting, but it’s amazing even in the basketball circles of, of the people, that you’re able to learn from and yeah. And, but, no, I think that’s the best way to follow us.
And, and we’ve got to, we had a pretty dynamic group. We had an Instagram takeover today, so that’s a great way to follow us as well. but, they try to keep a lot of the Badger stuff under the same. Same handle. And I know ours, obviously, if you start typing Badger in, it’s going to give you the option.
And that’s the reason, the reason that they started with that Badger. So I was really happy. I just had to change GW to Badger and, and was able to fix things. So there you go.
Mike Klinzing: [01:48:47] It’s so awesome. Jonathan. We cannot thank you enough for spending almost two hours with us tonight. It’s been a pleasure.
Getting a chance to learn more about your basketball journey. Learn more about what you’re doing with your program there at Wisconsin. And we’re going to be [01:49:00] eagerly anticipating the season and be able to follow you guys as, as you hopefully go through your big tent season at some point this year and to everyone out there.
Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode.