JP Clark

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Twitter – @CoachJPClark

JP Clark is a former NBA Assistant Coach with both the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers.  Clark spent one season with Celtics before following Coach Doc Rivers to Los Angeles where he was an assistant coach in various roles for seven years.

JP began his coaching career as a student assistant working under his father at Flagler College.  After graduating from Flagler JP spent 2009-2010 season as the Director of Basketball Operations at Colgate.  He left his volunteer position at Colgate to become a graduate assistant at University of Central Florida for two seasons under Coach Donnie Jones before getting his opportunity to jump into the NBA coaching ranks.

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You will definitely want to take some notes as you listen to this episode with JP Clark, former NBA Assistant Coach with the Celtics and Clippers.

What We Discuss with JP Clark

  • His grandfather was a high school coach and then was the Head Coach at the University of Central Florida
  • His father was the Head Coach at D2 Flagler for 31 seasons
  • Having the keys to the Flagler gym as a young player looking to improve
  • Being in your own thoughts when working you’re working on your game alone
  • Watching other players on tv and in person for skills/moves he could emulate
  • His basketball relationship with his Dad and not felling forced to play
  • “The best way to develop the passion is where you find it yourself.”
  • Competing against his Dad’s players at Flagler as he got into high school
  • The benefits of competing against older players
  • “It is the full package. It’s mental, it’s physical it’s preparation. It’s developing a routine. And those are all traits of the best players.”
  • Work on things you’re going to do in a game and that your coach wants you to do.
  • “Develop your weaknesses, but focus on your strength.”
  • How an injury to his knee ended his playing career and pushed him into coaching with his Dad as a student assistant
  • “If you’re trying to get the best out of a player first starts just with their heart.”
  • Realizing quickly that most coaches are underpaid, he enjoyed the relationships with players, and he needed to study the x’s and o’s.
  • His year as a volunteer at Colgate
  • Tips for improving yourself as a young coach, the most important is just to study the game
  • “It’s hard to improve your knowledge base if you have no basic philosophy. So just trying to have a simple philosophy of how you see the game, I think it’s really beneficial and something I would recommend to younger coaches.”
  • The importance of spacing and pace on offense
  • Where his passion for player development started
  • Working for Donnie Jones as a Grad Assistant at Central Florida – learning the uptempo game on offense and playing an aggressive defensive style
  • How his connections with Brendan Suhr at UCF led to an opportunity to work with Austin Rivers leading up to the NBA Draft
  • Watching lots of film to help prepare for the opportunity to work with Rivers
  • Why it’s important to factor in the player’s opinion regarding what they need to work on
  • Watching film of other players to pick up things Rivers could incorporate into his game
  • How he teaches guards to attack the pick and roll in a workout
  • Having a theme or focus when you play pick up games
  • How working with Austin Rivers led to an opportunity with the Celtics and their G-League affiliate Maine Red Claws
  • Following Doc Rivers from the Celtics to the Clippers
  • “When you’re around elite minds and elite players, it just drives you to be the best that you can be and try to get on their level.”
  • Preparation and the ability to eliminate distractions are two traits of all elite players
  • “The best players are the hardest workers. And I know that sounds cliche, but it’s so true. Those are the ones where you come in the gym at night, they’re in there, you come in the gym in the morning, they’re in there.”
  • “It’s a full-time job to be elite. And that’s the number one thing I think I’ll take away is how difficult it is to not only be great, but to stay great.”
  • “Something that I hope to do in my career at some point is to build world-class athletes, but also to build world-class people.”
  • Working with Kevin Eastman

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my cohost Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast. Former NBA assistant coach, JP Clark, JP. Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

JP Clark: [00:00:10] Thanks. Thanks for having me. It’s awesome to be here. Excited to talk some basketball with you guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] We’re very excited to be able to dig in with you and learn about some of the things that you’ve done along the way on your basketball journey. I want to start by going back in time to when you were a kid, give us an idea of how you got into the game. At first, when you were a kid, I know you have a family of basketball players and specifically you have ties to University of Central Florida, which I’m sure we will get into as we travel further along the road, but just give us an idea of how you got into the game when you were younger.

JP Clark: [00:00:42] Yeah. So, so I grew up as a coach’s son. My grandpa coached in high school in Wisconsin, his school called Xavier high school. And then he got the job at University of Central Florida. Back when they were actually named Florida tech university, he was there from 1969 to 1983. [00:01:00] So you know, he, he was a great mentor of mine growing up as a kid.

And my dad coached at Flagler college for 31 seasons, a division two school in Florida in the Peach Belt Conference. So as a kid, that was my every day was basketball for us. And growing up around coaches you’re at practices, you’re going on the trips with them.

And those were special times for me as a kid being around so much basketball knowledge and I just soaked it all up as much as I could, and eventually find myself here as a coach. So it’s come full circle.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:38] How old were you when you realized that your situation in terms of having access to a gym was unique compared to your peers?

JP Clark: [00:01:47] Yeah, that’s a good question. So yeah, I would say when your Dad’s  a coach, one of the best moments is when you just grab your dad’s keys, that open up the gym. So you know, back in the day [00:02:00] my dad would run camps all summer and I would be the first one in the gym. I would take his keys and get into the gym.

And that’s when you’re younger, you want to play at the highest level. And that was my passion growing up is to be the best basketball player that I could be. And in the gym all day, all summer playing two on two, three on three, four on four. I wanted to be the best player that I could.

So that was a special privilege for me. And I have two younger brothers to be able to get into the Flagler gym whenever we could was something that we definitely took for granted looking back on it, just to have that access to a college gym and a nice wood floor and glass back boards.

And that was a really cool moment for us just growing up as brothers too, but also getting a chance to work on our game and develop and become the best players that we could be.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:50] Absolutely. How did you balance when you think about, and let’s throw a timeframe on it, maybe when you’re from, let’s say seventh grade up through maybe ninth [00:03:00] or 10th grade, how much of your time was spent playing the game versus how much time was spent?

By yourself, working on skill development stuff.

JP Clark: [00:03:09] Yeah, it’s interesting now, especially like in my current role, I was in the NBA for a long time doing development and then became an assistant coach. But when I look back on it now, I never had anybody work me out as a kid. And I probably just missed that kind of wave of the development.

So when I would go in the gym, it was more just have a ball, spin the ball, work on your foot, work, spin the ball to yourself, go get your own rebound. You’re playing one-on-one, two on two, three on three. So it was a little bit different back then. As far as like working on your game yourself, there’s definitely tremendous positives to having someone work out with you and push you and grind you.

But there’s also something to be said about just being in a gym by yourself, where you’re just working on your own game, you’re in your own thoughts. And there’s just a peaceful alert [00:04:00] to that. And I really enjoyed that as a kid, just having those moments where you’re a young kid, you’re in seventh to eighth grade play, you’re playing middle school basketball after your middle school gets over.

I was real close to Flagler where I went to school where my dad was coaching. I would just walk over across the street and his teams usually practice around 3:30 and I’d get a chance to walk right into his practices and watch his teams play and watch his passion come out and you know, how alive he came became during practices.

So that that’s when kind of the first passion started developing within myself about coaching was probably in that era that seventh, eighth, ninth grade, during those times.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:44] I think that’s interesting what you said about just kind of getting lost in your own thoughts while you’re out there shooting.

And I wonder …that’s something that, I’m older than you. I’m 51. And I had a lot of those similar experiences with the game in terms [00:05:00] of the way I grew up. I didn’t have a trainer. My dad might sometimes step out and my dad was not a basketball coach, but he might sometimes step out on the driveway and say, Hey, you should be working on this or shooting like this or whatever it might be.

But most of the time I spent, especially when I was in like my late elementary school years and middle school years, I spent those years on my driveway or in a gym somewhere by myself. And I always found it to be, again, you kind of get lost, as you said in your own thoughts, you’re inventing scenarios in your head.

And yet I look back on that time and one of the things that I think is so different from the way the kids grow up today is I think kids miss out on that, because so often they are with a trainer. I wonder sometimes how often a kid is in the gym by themselves just working on their game.

I don’t think it happens nearly as much as it did even 10 years ago. But what I do find interesting, this is what I wanted to ask you is when you were that age, how were you figuring out what you needed to work [00:06:00] on or what that looked like. In other words, did you have a plan? Did you go out and find like, Hey, I’m going to check out this.

Steve Alford DVD, or I’m going to go ahead and find these other workouts or was it just kind of, Hey, I’m

out here. And maybe there was something that I was doing in the game that I wanted to work on. How’d you come up with what you were going to practice while you were in the gym by yourself?

JP Clark: [00:06:18] Yeah, I think a lot of it just was, was learning from example.

So being at my dad’s practices that the guys that I would look up to was maybe a little bit different than the average kid. Of course I would watch the NBA and ACC basketball and stuff. But I would also look up being a young kid to my dad’s players and being able to be in person and watching these guys play there’d be certain moves that I would watch and just how guys came off screens, how guys use pick and roll.

And for me, it was really cool just being able to like visualize it live and actually like be in the moment and see every day practically scrimmage basketball and development. [00:07:00] So I think what I would do is just try to just try to take a player that mimicked a little bit of what I did or who I was trying to develop into myself.

Man, I was like a one, two, so I would watch the point guards and, and how they set up their pick and rolls, how they came off, the speed. They came off. I would watch the two guards and how they came off pin down screens and down screens and how they set their man up and the timing.

So I would say that that was one piece of it. And then the other thing was just watching games on TV and that’s the dream of every young kid as was mine that play at the highest level and play in the NBA. And so that was kind of before YouTube. YouTube was definitely around, but not like it is now to where you can basically just type in any workout and find it it’s unbelievable the content that you can find on YouTube nowadays. I mean, you can really become an expert in anything, [00:08:00] no matter if your passion is basketball or cooking or but anyways, yeah, I would say that definitely watching my dad’s teams and then just picking stuff up watching games live on TV.  Just trying to find players that I could see myself playing like.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:18] No, that makes, that makes a lot of sense. I think when you’re, if you watch things intentionally, whether it was your dad’s practices or whether you’re watching games on TV and you can really pick out things that, Hey, this guy plays my position and he looks like that’s a move that I could incorporate into what I’m trying to do.

I think that’s what we all did at some point, just again, 25 years ago, you didn’t have the same access that, as you said, kids today, you can find any single thing that you want. You can find a video breakdown of this or that, or often moves. It’s just, I mean it’s just, it’s just incredible. What is out there?

So as you’re growing up and you’re in your dad’s gym all the time, what is the relationship like between you and your dad in [00:09:00] terms of how much he was pushing you as a basket ballplayer? Cause I think that’s one of the interesting dynamics between father and son, especially when you have a father who has had some success with it.

Whether, whether as a player or as a coach. And just, what was that relationship like between you and your dad in terms of how much he worked with you? How much he pushed you? Just kind of where that relationship was at the time.

JP Clark: [00:09:25] Yeah, so he was involved, but he wasn’t over the top. And it’s something that I look back on and I really appreciate, he never forced me into it.

He let me find and develop that passion myself. He was there for feedback whenever asked, but never breathed down my neck or told me his experience. When I would ask questions, he would shed light and bring in unbelievable expertise and knowledge. And that was something that has really helped me as a coach, but also looking back really helped me as a player, but I appreciate that I didn’t feel forced to play. And I think that’s the best way [00:10:00] to develop the passion is where you find it yourself. And then you just step into it versus kind of being pushed into it. I think leads to a little bit of burnout.

And for that, I’m thankful. One of the things I always say as a coach’s son is one of the great perks of being a coach’s son is you’re actually allowed to shoot on the side baskets. What you can’t do is miss the Shot that goes into the live play. And then the whistle stops. That’s where you get yelled at.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:28] But you know, that’s where you learn new rebounding angles.

JP Clark: [00:10:31] Long distance rebounding, for sure. So but I’ll always cherish those times at Flagler and it was really cool growing up as a coach’s son was something that was really awesome.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:43] How old were you when you started to be able to jump into some pickup games with the guys at Flagler?

JP Clark: [00:10:51] Say my late high school years I started to play kind of, not as much in season and stuff, but definitely like in the fall, like before high school [00:11:00] gets started when his guys would start coming and they’d be playing to kind of get their conditioning and get their wind going.

And I would say probably, maybe even early high school, but when I could actually maybe start at least like not just being out there and actually playing and competing was probably my late high school years. And that was nice to just being able to always get better when you play against better players.

So that was something that you play with those guys and then you go to your own practice and it definitely helps you when you’re competing against guys your own age.

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:31] Yeah, no question. I think that’s one of the things that it’s sort of been a running theme here on the podcast. JP is that kids today in a lot of cases, they don’t get those experiences of playing against older kids, or if you think about pickup basketball, maybe even playing against adults, because we spend so much time in the travel and AAU basketball, where you’re playing against kids in your own age group. And I just think that the experience that you had at Flagler or my experience, a lot of times it was on the playground.

And [00:12:00] then my father was a professor at Cleveland state. So when I was in high school, I would get an opportunity sometimes to go down and play in the gym with the guys that played at Cleveland state. And I just think about the benefit to my game at that point in my career, where you’re playing against people who are older than you, they’re more experienced, they got some of those tricks of the trade.

They’re more physically developed than you are. And so you have to learn some different some different things in order to make that happen. And I think that’s something that kids miss out on today. And it’s just, it’s just an interesting way of how basketball has evolved from what it was back in the time when when you were growing up.

And certainly back in the time when I was growing up, for sure.

JP Clark: [00:12:39] Yeah, for, for sure. I mean, I think that’s, that’s one thing I picked up from my dad and grandpa just you always want to play with better players than your own ability. And I think that’s like that in life too. You just, you want to surround yourself with people that are more knowledgeable than you, and especially finding areas maybe where you’re weak and finding where other people are incredibly knowledgeable, [00:13:00] but it’s like that in basketball too.

It’s the same thing playing with better players. Like you said more physically developed stronger, quicker, faster. And I think the other thing that doesn’t get talked about a ton playing with better players is you have to go from being like the star to, to fitting in and being part of a team and playing a role.

And when you’re playing with better players, you’re maybe you’re not getting the pick and rolls. Maybe you’re not getting the shots, but you’re learning how to set a screen. You’re learning how to defend and not get beat. You’re learning spacing. And so I think it just from a team standpoint and from an individual standpoint there’s nothing better than playing against players and then playing against better teams than you’re on too.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:42] Yeah. I agree with you there. Let’s jump ahead for a second because I think that leads to a question when we talk about player development and let’s say in the NBA, and you obviously have some experience there. So when you think about working in developing players in the NBA, and you’re just [00:14:00] describing there, how you have to learn how to kind of fit into not being the star.

And obviously if you’re an NBA player, You’ve probably been a star at every level of the game that you’ve played up until the time you get to the league. And now suddenly you get to the league and you have, you may have a very specific role of something that the team needs you to do. So how do you balance that?

Or how do you get players to buy into that role? And then how do you help them to develop that specific niche that they need to have in order to keep themselves in the league, keep themselves on a roster and get themselves into the lineup as a role-player.

JP Clark: [00:14:36] Yeah. It’s finding that balance to where the individual can develop for what the team needs so we would always talk about like the summer is where you’re really working. You’re really developing, you’re working on new things in your game.

And, and once you enter the in season, that’s where you’re working on team [00:15:00] specific drills, you’re working on where your shots are coming from and the games you’re working on the different actions that you may get. You’re watching film, you’re breaking down opponents, but I think that all factors into development nowadays.

It is the Full package. It’s mental, it’s physical it’s preparation. It’s developing a routine. And those are all, those are all traits of the best players and just like simple routine. It doesn’t have to be where you have this long duration workout. It just has to be very efficient. You get right to your spots game speed, game shots.

And that’s a large part of how we used development is to maximize our individuals so that we could become the best team that we could be.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:52] Do you think if we take this, what you just said, and we move it back to the high school level, or we move it back [00:16:00] to even further to like the middle school level, and we’re thinking about how we develop players and what you’re talking about there with NBA guys is it’s efficiency.

It’s making sure that what you’re working on and that you’re working on things that. I don’t know if simple is the right word, but you’re working on fundamental things that they have to be able to do in order to succeed at that highest level. And it’s not a bunch of fancy stuff, and it’s not some of the things that we sometimes see on the internet.

What do you think is the biggest misconception? When you talk about people who are out there training or working with high school players, player development wise, what’s the biggest mistake that you think somebody could make as a trainer for a high school or middle school player?

JP Clark: [00:16:41] Yeah, no, it’s an interesting question.

I think when you talk to basketball people, I think it’s a question that comes up a lot. And I don’t know if there’s any, I don’t know if I have any misconception or if I’ve ever like, witnessed a bad trainer like, to me, there’s so many ways to do it. There’s so many ways to be successful. [00:17:00]

What I would encourage just through my experience and what I’ve seen, the coaches that I’ve seen is as much as you can keep it game specific. I think that’s so important to where you’re working on things that you’re actually going to do in the game and what your coach is actually gonna like that you do.

And I think just that simple philosophy takes away from some of the workouts that are a little bit over the top. You know, like with the cones and the balls and stuff, but I you can make an argument that, if that’s what you believe in and you do it hard and you do it at game speed, that can be efficient too.

But what I would encourage middle school and high school players is to focus on your strengths. Like, what do you do well? And if that response back is well I’m a really good shooter, I’m a good pick and roll player. I would suggest that spend a lot of time on that area. You also want to develop your weaknesses, but focus on your strengths.

If you’re a shooter shoot, like JJ Redick has made a [00:18:00] career being a shooter. Now he’s developed and he’s worked on his hand and he’s become much more of a complete player, but he’s a shooter. And I guarantee when he was a kid and he was growing up that he spent 90% of his time shooting drills and shooting.

So. I think in a workout setting if you’re being pushed by a coach, I would just encourage you to just get together with your coach and, and find the areas that you already do well and focus in on those. I think sometimes maybe we focus a little bit too much on weaknesses and that’s important to develop in your left hand, developing your weak can, but it’s also important to focus in on what you do well, because what you do well is going to be what gets you to the next level.

Mike Klinzing: [00:18:42] Yeah, I think that’s a great point that sometimes does get overlooked and you see obviously all want to develop well-rounded players. And if you’re working on your weaknesses, you’re going to become a better player, theoretically, that can do more out on the floor, which might allow you to expand your role.

And I think back to what you said a few minutes ago [00:19:00] about working on that type of stuff in the summer, and then in the season, you’re working on the specific things that you might need within the confines of your offense or defensive schemes, whatever it is that you do. But I do think then when players double down on.

Their strengths, if I’m a shooter, well, why not continue to work on my shooting so that I can be the best possible shooter I could be, or if I’m good screening and rolling to the basket and finishing around the rim, but I’m not a great shooter. Well, maybe I only can, ER in the course of a summer, I may be able to improve my shooting a little bit, but man, I could really get better at something that I’m already really good at, which is going to enable me to play an even bigger expanded role within my team.

If I develop those strengths, I think that’s a great point. As you said, when you talk about skill development, you talk about player development. There’s obviously a lot of different philosophies out there and you see people doing all kinds of different things and they have different ways of getting their messages across to players.

And I think ultimately as a player development coach, it’s your job to kind of [00:20:00] figure out, well, what does this player need? And to learn them as an individual, just like any other role in coaching, where if you know your individual players, you know what motivates them and you know what they need to work on and you know what they do in games.

Then I think you’re going to get a lot more out of that player as opposed to you just work with a player, but you’d never talked to them about, well, what do you actually do in a game or what’s, what’s your role on your high school team or your middle school team or your college team? And if you don’t know what the player actually does, I think it’s really difficult to work with them and help them to improve.

I want to go back to you as a player and wrap up with one, one more question about you being a player, and then we’ll slide into your coaching career. When you think back to your time as a high school and college player, give me one highlight from each of those two levels that stands out for you as your favorite memory as a high school player, your favorite memory as a college player.

JP Clark: [00:20:52] Yeah, I would say looking back as a high school player we were the number one team in the state my junior year. And that was pretty cool. Played with [00:21:00] TJ Patrick who went on to play at Richmond. Pat Leper went on to play at IPW. And we had a really good team my junior year.

So I would say I would look back on that year as probably the most fun you know, as far as my high school college, I would say looking back on it, just like getting a chance to go and play some of the big universities that we would play, like an exhibition and preseason games. Like we played Florida State, UCF, Florida.

I would say just looking back on those and getting a chance to play in those types of games was really fun. Playing at a smaller school, like a division two school, getting a chance to play the big dogs was a lot of fun and the challenge that provided and some of the scores ended up pretty lopsided, but it was fun.

You know, being a part of it, there was something every year you’d look forward to getting a chance to kind of play the big guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:47] Absolutely. I think getting a chance to prove yourself against the players that are at that one step, maybe above you. And it’s always interesting. When I played at Kent back in the day we would play against division [00:22:00] three schools and that was sometimes their biggest game of the year.

And for us as a division one school, it wasn’t quite as big. And then conversely, sometimes you’d go on the road and you’d play. We played Ohio State while I was at Kent. We played University of Tennessee. We played USC, played Houston. So you play some of these bigger teams. And then that becomes a really big and important game for you because you want to prove yourself against those players who are maybe just one step ahead of you.

And those are always fun. So I can completely relate to what you’re saying there. As you start to wrap up your college career, at what point did you know that coaching was going to be part of your future? Is that something that you always knew growing up because you were around it with your dad or was it something that you really didn’t have on your radar until you got done playing and then you looked around and you’re like, Hey, I got to somehow figure out a way to stay in the game.

Which one of those better describes your situation in terms of coaching

JP Clark: [00:22:54] Yeah, I would say my senior year in high school, I hurt my knee pretty bad. And my [00:23:00] freshman year in college at Flagler, I had knee surgery just from that injury. I played my sophomore year my junior year. I got hurt and I sat out that year and then my senior year I ended up, I ended up saying it was a tough decision, but just looking back on it I just decided that I was going to go into coaching right then and there, I really only played one year in college and that was a difficult time when  you’re so passionate about the game, you want to be the best player you can.

And you know, you have some injuries hold you back. So that was kind of a difficult time for me. So that summer, my junior summer, I talked to my dad, we sat down and he just said, Hey, listen, if you want to be a student assistant this year, if you don’t think your body’s up to it, he said we’d love to have you.

So after some prayer and some thought, and just the way my body was feeling I decided to do it. And you know, when you’re at a smaller school, like Flagler, my dad had one full-time assistant. He had a part-time assistant. And then basically I was the third assistant as a student assistant.

[00:24:00] So I had to take the recruiting test and you’re allowed three assistants out on the road. So I was out on the road recruiting and I was in practice and I had my own groups. And so that was a great opportunity for me to kind of get my feet wet as a coach.

And I didn’t know what I was doing, but at least I’ve been around the game for enough to have had at least a slight clue. So that was something that I look back on now. And that was really a blessing in disguise. It was tough at the time with the injuries, but it really spring-boarded my career to where your question of when did you know that you wanted to coach?

I would say, I didn’t know until that year I had always wanted to play and then possibly go play overseas and just continue to play, play, play. And I think when I was able to spend time actually as a coach and see the impact that you could have on guys and getting a chance to work with guys and get on the floor and just talk the guys, I just enjoyed it.

And from then on out, I was like, [00:25:00] I want to do this. And I kind of set my sights on coaching.

Mike Klinzing: [00:25:05] What was something that felt natural right out of the gate. That from a coaching standpoint, you felt really comfortable with that particular aspect of coaching and then flip it around. And what was something that maybe was a little bit more difficult or didn’t come as naturally to you when it comes to coaching.

So something that came naturally and something that didn’t that first year.

JP Clark: [00:25:26] I would just say getting a chance to get on the court and work with guys, I would say was probably the easiest transition cause a lot of them were guys that I came in with in my recruiting class.

So they were friends. And so that was an easy transition and it just showed me the power of relationships because I had relationships with these guys already. They were my friends. So just being able to get out on the court and work with guys and, and develop guys, sit down and watch film with guys was really an easy transition.

And [00:26:00] it was something that I really enjoyed and yeah. It showed me how important relationships are if you’re trying to get the best out of a player first starts just with their heart. And I would say something that was difficult was just like the game planning, the scheming, the X’s and O’s part, you’ve never done it before having the whiteboard, just things of that sort, what was a good transition and realizing all the stuff that you don’t know, and that those were some of the things and just, that’s where I would lean on the staff and my dad and just how they did their game plans, how they did their scouting, how they did the personnel, the film, those were things as a player, I think we all take for granted.

And then once you make that transition to a coach, you’re like godly. I had no idea that you guys put this, my Simon like, Oh, so yeah, that was something that was eye opening for me. And even as a coach, I knew my dad would be in the gym, but it wasn’t until that you sit down and you’re kind [00:27:00] of in the fray that you realize how underpaid all coaches are and, and the amount of the work that they all put in and just how many good coaches there are, is definitely very humbling.

Mike Klinzing: [00:27:12] Yeah. It’s so true. I mean, I think there’s two truths there. One is as a player you definitely have no idea how much time coaches are putting in outside of the time when they’re actually seeing players. I mean, when you think about the scouting and the film and the practice preparation and the recruiting and all just, I mean, again, I don’t have to list it all for you or anybody probably that’s in our audience, but just players have no idea.

The amount of time that gets put into being a coach. And then the second piece of it that you talked about, there is just making that transition from playing to coaching and just try to wrap your head around again, all that time that you’re putting in. When you think about that first year, what was it like working with your dad?

What was that transition from being okay, you’re a player now you’re a [00:28:00] coach, then you’re a colleague. You’re a son. You’re all these different things wrapped into one. What was that experience like for you that first year with working with your dad?

JP Clark: [00:28:08] Yeah, I think I had a little bit easier transition because I was coming from playing for him.

So I think that helped just the fact that I was used to playing for my dad and just having guys that’s always different when you’re the coach’s son and  your teammates are talking about the coach and that’s your dad. And you just have to kind of get used to that and maybe filter some of it out and just kind of listen to the necessary stuff and just kind of move on and you just can’t get wrapped up in too much you know, nonsense. So I think I was used to that playing for my dad. So it was an easier transition, I would say, going into coaching with himm because I had just basically already kind of learned what I needed to by playing for him.

But it’s still a transition, when you’re the coach’s son you’re going to get some crap and you just, gotta handle it and deal [00:29:00] with it. And you know, I think looking back on it, it was something that I’ll cherish forever.

Getting a chance to play for my dad in college was really cool and then get the chance to spend my first year in coaching as a student assistant with him was, was really cool. And, and to this day, we kinda talk about a lot of those moments during that year. And we had a good team that year.

So it was it was a fun year.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:21] Yeah, that’s a lot of fun. I mean, I think the opportunity, as you said both to spend time with him as a player, so that player, coach relationship, and then when you become his colleague as an assistant underneath him, and we all know like just the intense experiences that you have in a team when you go through a season to be able to share that with your dad, not only in the moment, but as you said now, to be able to reflect back on it and just think about those experiences that you had together, I’m sure that there’s plenty of stories that you guys will be telling over Thanksgiving dinner for years and years and years, without question.

So that, that [00:30:00] year ends, you graduated in 2009 and you get an opportunity to go to Colgate. So tell us how that transpired.

JP Clark: [00:30:08] Yeah. So I spent that year, I graduated 2009 from Flagler and I knew I wanted to coach, so sending resumes out left and right. You know, doing all that, trying to build the circle and connect with as many people as I can. I had a little bit of an advantage with my dad being in the coaching world and that’s something that I was very fortunate to have. So one of the assistants at Colgate was a former Stetson university assistant in Deland, which is about an hour, hour and a half from where Flagler is John Kaufman, who’s actually the coach at IPFW now. But anyway, they needed a volunteer at Colgate. They had three assistants, they needed someone that could just volunteer, just come up there and work hard. And he said, Hey we’d love to have JP. And that’s kinda how it worked. So yeah, that year I went to Colgate.

So that was I think that was 09. [00:31:00] Yeah, 2009 – 2010. And that was so I was volunteer director of basketball operations that year in the Patriot league coach at the time was Emit Davis.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:10] So you get up there and this is obviously you get to a completely new experience. Cause now. As a player, you were in the program with your father as a coach you’re in a program with your father and now you’re in a completely new and different programs.

So what were some things that were different? The same? Just what was that experience that transition like from being in an environment that was pretty familiar to an environment that was maybe unfamiliar to you?

JP Clark: [00:31:36] Yeah, it was interesting just seeing a different system, like up close and personal and just seeing him, it was incredible defensive mind and our defensive system that we had.

And just the planning that went into the defensive system. It was just different than so used to growing up around my dad’s teams and how they played and that they were incredible defensively too. And he was a kind [00:32:00] of a Dick Bennett, a follower, and they played the pack line and up the line down the line and, and it was a little different they would, they would play more zone and man to man.

And so that, that was, that was eye opening for me, just seeing a different system and way to do things I think was cool for me as a young coach, just to see, okay. You know, there is a different way to do it. And at that time I was so used to kind of the way that I’ve seen it, that.

It was really cool. Just seeing how seeing the game through another coach’s eyes and you just, at the division one level, you have a bigger staff. You know, there’s more to, there’s more going on. There’s there’s, there’s more at stake, I guess you could say as far as just your jobs are on the line.

So it, it was, it was a unique experience for me at the time being a young coach grew up around the division two lifestyle, just to step into the division one game and just see what the differences were at that level compared to what I was used to,

[00:33:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:32:59] If you had to pinpoint one big difference between the two levels, what’s the biggest thing that would jump out at you.

If you had to identify one thing that stood out for you.

JP Clark: [00:33:09] Well, I think that the number one thing is the talent is higher. So you’re working with better players. It’s kind of like what we were talking about earlier in the podcast. I think the better players, you work with the more on your toes that you have to be, because the better players they’re going to challenge you.

And that was something that as a new coach coming in, a young coach, that you almost have to prove yourself stepping into a new situation, that, okay, Hey he knows what he’s talking about, or Hey, he’s gonna work, cause players want to know, they want to know if you’re going to work.

They want to know if you care about them, they want to know that you’re knowledgeable and that you’re in it for the right reasons. So I think those were things that as a young coach, you just step into, and I don’t know if I was able to pick that up right away. But I think over time once you kind of earned some buy-in that, that it’s a little bit easier.

[00:34:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:34:01] How do you go about improving yourself and making sure that you’re doing those things that you just described. So how do you build your knowledge base to be able to help players? What is it that you’re doing? Is that you going out and, and studying tape, is that you having mentors in the coaching profession, how are you building your knowledge base as a young coach?

What recommendations would you have for somebody who’s early in their career about how they can grow? Because I think one of the things that is super interesting about what you said is when you’re playing for your dad and then working for your dad, you really were only exposed to one system. And I’ve said this before that, when I think about myself early on, when I was first coaching, my first job after I got done playing was as a JV basketball coach.

And basically I played for the same high school coach for my entire high school career. And then I played for the same college coach for my entire college career. So everything that I knew about. Basketball from a drill standpoint, from an X’s [00:35:00] and O’s standpoint, pretty much, I just did whatever they did and my knowledge of other systems and other ways of doing things was pretty limited.

And I know for myself, I did a pretty poor job of going out and learning the game because I kind of thought, well, I was a good player and I know what I was doing. And so I just kinda did what had been done to me for lack of a better way of saying it. So what recommendations did you have for a young coach?

How do you go out and build your knowledge? How do you become the kind of coach that somebody would want to play for? And somebody would want to work with as a player.

JP Clark: [00:35:32] Yeah, I think that the simple answer is just study. I think it just comes down to studying. And however you find yourself, like whatever works best for you.

Like we talked about the YouTubes earlier. I mean, you can go on YouTube and you can become an expert in any category. So I would just encourage you to use all the resources that you have. And that’s available to you? Like coaching clinics, I think are really good.

I think one thing with coaching clinics [00:36:00] is go and try to be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge that you can find, but also in the back of your head, like, whatever it is that maybe your focus is, maybe you’re a head coach, then you’re focused on all areas, but let’s say you’re a development coach.

Then when you go into the clinic, you should try to have your own philosophy in your head where you’re just taking bits and pieces of the clinic. Yeah. And then you’re not getting overwhelmed by all the knowledge. So I think that’s kind of one thing that I learned early is like, there’s just so much knowledge out there that it can be a little overwhelming, but if you can have your own thoughts and build your own philosophy, then when you’re going to listen to people, speak and talking to different coaches, then you’re basically just fine tuning and tweaking your, your own thoughts.

And it’s a little bit easier just to comprehend knowledge. I think when you have your own. Kind of basic philosophy in your head. And as a young coach, you might not have that and that, and when that’s, when you’re going to college and you’re just you’re soaking or you’re going to [00:37:00] clinics, and you’re just soaking up as much knowledge as you can.

And those are like the most humbling times, like go into a coaching, you live clinic and hearing six or eight NBA speakers and just the level of detail, the level of knowledge, the level of expertise, like it overwhelms you. And I think that’s what drove me initially was that I’m nowhere near their level.

I’m still nowhere near their level, but if I’m willing to study and put time in, I can at least be able to hold a conversation. And I think that’s what drove me initially was just to improve my overall knowledge base. And I think one of the things I learned along the way was like, it’s hard to improve your knowledge base if you have no basic philosophy. So just trying to have like a simple philosophy of how you see the game and then just fine tuning some of like the other people that you talk to within the game and adding that to your own system, I think it’s really beneficial and something I would recommend to younger [00:38:00] coaches.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:01] Okay. So I have two questions to follow up on that. First one is when you talk about your philosophy, share what your philosophy is. Currently, and maybe how it’s changed since you first started to develop it. And then number two, when you think back to those early couple of years in coaching, was there one area of the game that you started to gravitate towards more than the others?

Like did you say, Oh, I really like all offensive sets and X’s, and O’s, I really like player development. I really like working on team defense or I like, w just, was there anything that stood out for you from that standpoint and then you know, going back to that, going back to that first thing, what’s your overall philosophy and how has it changed over the years?

JP Clark: [00:38:46] Yeah, I would say that’s a question we could spend a lot of time on, but just as a simple way to kind of answer it, I obviously offensively believe in tempo, playing with pace, getting the ball up the floor attacking [00:39:00] early, that would be something that I would really try to implement early.

You know, spacing is critical, especially at the NBA level. You put the ball on your best player’s hands and then you have great spacing and largely that’s 90% of the best offenses in the NBA are great players with great spacing that run their sets with great speed. So that that’s kind of offensive, really how I would really try to implement within my teams and then defensively throughout my journey as a young coach is in college you see more zone, but you know, the NBA, you see a lot more man to man.

So aggressive man D you get up into the body, you’re aggressive, you’re physical. Those would be some of the overall just simple ways and how I see the game. And then what was the second question?

Mike Klinzing: [00:39:52] Second question was, when you think back to those early years, was there one part of the game that you sort of [00:40:00] gravitated towards?

Did you enjoy coaching offense, more defense, the player development piece of it? What aspect of coaching did you enjoy the most? Especially in those early years.

JP Clark: [00:40:09] Yeah, I would say that I enjoyed the development early because that’s where I wasn’t able to at Colgate, do we know what the college rules?

But you know, my next year I went to UCF University of Central Florida and became a graduate assistant. And one of the things you’re able to do as a grad assistant is get out on the floor, work with the players. So that’s kind of where the passion came for development is I actually had a chance to get out there and do it.

You know, I was real comfortable with that at Flagler. So I was able to kind of step in that UCF and be comfortable with that as well. And Donnie Jones, who was the coach there at the time, gave me a lot of freedom. So to be able to do that. And that was kind of one of my main responsibilities.

So but, but yeah, the whole package, I mean, I enjoyed everything, when I was at UCF and Colgate, as far as offensively, defensively I’m just a basketball junkie. I love basketball, but [00:41:00] I would say just with the rules I was actually able to experience development and actually get out there and get my hands wet and get our hands dirty and do it myself.

So that would be something  that I would look back on and say, yeah, that’s probably where the development passion came from was those early years when that was kind of my requirement at the time as like my job responsibility.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:22] Yeah, for sure. So tell us how that opportunity at Central Florida comes to pass.

JP Clark: [00:41:26] So I was at Colgate and I really wanted to get my masters. And so University of Central Florida had a program at the time, sports leadership and coaching, and there wasn’t many programs around the country at the time. And then we also have the family history, like we talked about earlier in the podcast with my grandpa and my dad playing there.

So that was something that kind of caught my eye. And Donnie Jones had just gotten the job. He had just come from Marshall. They had a lot of success at Marshall. So I ended up that summer, while I was down in Florida, I worked UCF camps. [00:42:00] I got to know Coach Jones told him that I I’d be real interested in, in the sports leadership and coaching program would he consider me as a GA?

And it ended up working out. I got into the sports leadership program I was one of I think we had three GA’s at the time that year. And yeah, so it worked out. So I left Colgate. I made a little bit of money at UCF, not much, but anything was better than zero at the time. Absolutely. So yeah, that was my transition and it was a nice transition because I was able to get a little bit closer to home too, which was nice.

And then you know, Coach Jones is a terrific coach, is at Stetson now and they just had a really good year. So yeah,  that was kind of the next step for me was University of Central Florida.

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:44] What’s the biggest takeaway that you had during those two years that you were at Central Florida?

What are some things that you picked up during your time there that impacted you later in your career? And that still are having an impact on what you’re doing today?

JP Clark: [00:42:57] I, I would say Coach Jones, [00:43:00] Donnie came he came from Florida with Billy Donovan and they won two national titles with those Gator teams and Noah and Corey Brewer and all those guys.

And that’s where that kind of aggressive, pressing style defense that I really came to like during that UCF time that’s something that I still have in my notebooks today. You don’t see that quite as much in the NBA, but I think that that was really something that I was able to pick up from him.

And then also he was a big believer in tempo and early offense and pushing the pace. And I want to say at Marshall they were like top five or top 10 in scoring. I know they’ve been really high in previous years too, but they were really high during his heyday. And that’s kind of how he almost coaches like Mike D’Antoni, seven seconds or less, and just getting the ball up the floor space in the floor pick and rolls.

So he was a really good transition where I was coming from for Colgate in the Patriot league, you’re kind of more slowing it down, you’re grinding it out. And then you come to UCF and [00:44:00] there’s more athletes. And then you also go up a level. I think we were in  conference USA at the time. So we had an NBA player at the time, so yeah, it was you know, another, another step up in competition and talent. And then another system that I was able to learn from too. So that was I was there for two years. So those were really good years.

Mike Klinzing: [00:44:21] So when you get your masters and you’re done there, then you get an opportunity with the national basketball players association. Is that correct?

JP Clark: [00:44:29] Yeah. So so basically the story there is, I was at UCF my second year, I got hired as an assistant director of basketball operations. That was my first full time coaching job.

And so I finished my second year at UCF and it was in around April ,Austin Rivers, So David Falk who was Austin Rivers’ agent at the time? We had an assistant on our staff named Brendan Suhr. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but he was an assistant with us at UCF and he had become [00:45:00] kind of my mentor during those two years at UCF.

So he gets a call from David and says, Hey Austin Rivers you know, he just declared after his freshman year at Duke. He needs someone, he wants to stay local kind of in the Orlando Central Florida area. Do you have anybody in mind that could handle his development? So Brendan said, yeah, yeah, JP he’d be great. And that was the first NBA player I had ever worked with an NBA player.  I didn’t know anything about NBA players. And I was just basically going off kind of Brendan just said, Hey this might work. So Brendan was running, Coaching U Live clinics at the time. And Kevin Eastman was his partner at the time. So that’s where I got to know Kevin. So long story short is, is basically like doc kind of says to Kevin, like, Hey do you know anything about JP he’s? You know, at university of central Florida Brendan says Brendan coached with Doc with the Atlanta Hawks.

So there was [00:46:00] a lot of like just like weird instances and So Kevin kind of vouched for me with Doc and then Doc said, Hey let’s give him a shot. So I started working with Austin, getting ready for the draft and probably like mid April to late April. And we’ve worked out for about six weeks.

So it might’ve been early April six, eight weeks. And then the draft was in June. We worked out at Rollins College in Orlando and yeah, he ended up getting drafted 10th and went to the New Orleans Pelicans. And that was a great experience and really a cool moment for me getting to train an NBA player and Brendan was a huge catalyst and just kind of get me up to speed with those workouts.

But yeah, that was kind of a big break for me looking back on my coaching journey.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:49] How did you prepare for that? So once they say, okay, you’re going to have this opportunity, then what do you do in order to make sure that you’re going to be able to maximize the value [00:47:00] for Austin?

How do you go about preparing yourself? Having never worked with an NBA player before? Cause again, I’m sure there are lots of guys that are in that position that you were in at the time before you started working with NBA players. We know there are lots of people out there that would love the opportunity to work with an NBA player.

So what’d you do to prepare in that short time between when the opportunity kind of comes across your desk and when you actually step out on the floor with them, what are you doing to make sure that you’re going to maximize that value for him?

JP Clark: [00:47:26] Yeah. I think that the thing I tried to do is I just tried to talk to Kevin, I talked to Brenda and I said, Hey, what are the draft combines?

What drills are they working on? I got in touch with somebody at the NBPA that might be what you were referring to earlier. I got in touch with just a couple of people that were involved with the combine. What types of drills are they doing? What do they want to see? So I just had that in the back of my mind.

And that’s not my expertise as far as like what drills guys are doing, but I just wanted to at least have a knowledge base. And I think one area where I [00:48:00] really tried to dive in. I had some background in video at UCF and Colgate, I was very involved, just like a lot of young coaches are.

So I just tried to dive into synergy, dive into Duke’s film. I think I watched probably every Duke game, every Austin clip that I could find, I created edits. I made edits. I showed them to Brendan, showed them to Kevin. And then basically I just kind of planned out the whole summer, as far as the workouts tried to have like right at the start a game plan of Hey, these are the three or four things we’re going to work on.

These are like our focus areas and Hey, this is the plan of how we’re going to achieve those and how we’re going to try to maximize and make the best of this six to eight weeks and get you in the best shape and to be ready to play in some of the combine events that they have leading up to June and the different You know workouts that they put these guys through.

So yeah, it was just learning on the fly basically, and just taking the basketball knowledge that I’ve learned from the previous years and just trying to build [00:49:00] out a plan for Austin through talking to people in the NBA and then just kind of what I saw on film and, and then Brendan, myself and Austin all sat down.

We went to lunch before we started and kind of went over the entire plan. I had it like in a PDF booklet. And then we got his feedback too, on some of the areas that he needs to work with. And we were talking earlier about development and some of like the advice that I would have, and that’s another huge thing that I’ve learned over the years is just to factor in the player’s opinion too, because they’re the ones doing it. They’re the ones that are out playing. They’re the ones that are in the game, in the drills. So I think factoring in their opinions is really important too.

Especially at the NBA level where the knowledge is just unbelievable. It’s just elite level knowledge is just seeing how, what they see and factor it in. There’ll be a lots of things that you’d be like, gosh, yeah, that’s right. I don’t know how I didn’t have that in my plan. And I think it also shows that you’re invested in [00:50:00] their opinion too, which overall I think helps with the buy-in.

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:05] Yeah, absolutely.  I think you’ve got to build that trust with the player before you can get out on the floor. If you don’t have that relationship, you don’t have that trust. It becomes really, really difficult. I think, to maximize what you can get out of a player when you were doing that film breakdown.

And you’re looking at all of what Austin had been doing as a player at Duke as a freshmen, did you pull out clips of. Players in the league that were playing his position, guys that you thought did things very, very well or things that he might want to incorporate into what he was doing, or did you kind of, as you talked about earlier, did you just kind of double down on the strengths and the things that he already did well, what was your approach during those six to eight weeks when you were getting them prepared for the combine?

JP Clark: [00:50:46] Yeah. No, that’s a really good question. Yeah, I could, I would say a combination of those things. So yeah, what we would do is we would pick players and then we would basically watch synergy together. And I remember one of the things we were [00:51:00] working on was his shooting balance and landing in the same spot and just being balanced shoulders up to the release.

And we would watch Danny Green. Who’s like one of the most balanced shooters of all time. That was back when the Spurs were in the finals almost every year. So we would watch clips like that and that was a focus area for Austin’s shooting at the time. So then we would try to come up together with a couple of guys that we felt like we could learn from together watching the film and Danny Green was one of those guys. And then we would just study different guys on synergy. Like Kyrie’s finishing one of the best finishers in the world. We watch his, and we did incorporate that into our workouts. Just different, right, left, a Euro here, floater you know, just different finishes around the rim. And then we would just watch like you know, the one major adjustment going from college to the NBA is pace of play and pick and rolls and slow to fast and going at your [00:52:00] speed and not getting sped up.

So we had worked on a lot of those things. And I think at the time I felt more comfortable that way watching that we would come in and we’d watch the film first. And Austin is very cerebral, very similar to Doc’s mind. So sometimes, I’d want to watch your film for five minutes, ended up being 30 minutes.

But I think at the time that that helped me because like I could listen to his feedback, watching the film and, and watching these synergy elite players. And then it would help me with the workouts because I hadn’t coached in the NBA. So hearing his opinion and just seeing different things on film live was beneficial for me as I think it was for him as well, just because then we could go incorporate that into you know, into the workouts.

And I tried not to drift too far away from kind of the original plan, but we would mix in different things that we saw through synergy.

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:54] All right. I’m curious when you’re trying to teach a player to play at different speeds and to [00:53:00] play at a different tempo. So you’re trying to teach them to go from fastest slow, and you can’t always move a million miles an hour.

And I think that’s one of the things that. When I watch an NBA game and I don’t think it’s as apparent on TV, but when you go and if you get an opportunity to watch an NBA game up close in person, you realize that as that, so often the players are not necessarily moving at full speed. They’re playing at a controlled pace.

These bursts of obviously unbelievable quickness, quickness, and athleticism and verticality and everything else that goes along with that. But how do you work on that in a, in a workout setting with the player? Is it more just the film work and the kind of talking through it? And then showing them what that looks like, but just how do you teach, how do you teach that tempo, that ability to play with different speeds?

JP Clark: [00:53:49]  Yeah, it’s hard in a workout. I think there’s a couple of things that you can do. Like just talking about the setup, like in a pick and roll, there’s always a setup. Like you’re trying to get [00:54:00] your man to lean a certain direction and then you have the advantage. So even in like a one-on-one and what we did back then, and it’s still hard this way too, but, but I would always have another like coach or rebounder with me and I would have him as the big, so Austin would do, he he’d set me up in the pick and roll.

I would use a chair I’m fighting over. So he’s got me on his hip. He’s kind of bumping me off and then he’s attacking the big, who would just be a helper of ours. Who’s just simulating like a drop in the zone coverage, whatever you call it. And then Austin just has to make a read, so we would watch film prior, we’d say, Hey, today, we’re gonna work on the bigs up in coverage.

We’re going to attack them. All right. Now they’re dropping their big in coverage. You know, we’re going to come off, we’re going to look for the pull-up or we’re going to look for like the quick steak back to the other side of the rim and finish. So I would say a couple of those things are important development wise is just [00:55:00] working on rhythm and timing and pace, and it is a little bit difficult, but if you get out there and want to Kevin Eastman’s best lines is like just getting out there and sweat with guys like sweat equity, he calls it. Yep. And, and that’s so true. And he was instrumental for me just telling me kind of what to do when I first got in the NBA and that’s one of the main things is if you get out there and sweat with your guys and they see you’re, you’re passionate about developing their talent and making them the best players that they can become, they immediately buy in. So with Austin, just getting out there, sweating with them, working out with them, defending them as much quicker than I, but just trying to stay in front of them.

And then I got some help, but just putting them in different situations I think was what we tried to do pick and roll side, pick and rolls, just putting the big in different positions. And then he asked to come off and make a read. And I think the other thing this was Brendan’s idea at the time.

So we would work out like four days a week and then he [00:56:00] would go play pickup like two, three days. So we’d work out at 11, he’d go play pickup at two. And what will you do for when we got to the pickup is in Orlando, there’s, there’s some pretty talented players, a couple of NBA players he’d be playing with.

And then the rest of the guys would be college or overseas. And in those pick-up games, like we would always come up with like a theme, like going into the pickup game, not to where it interrupts like the flow of the game, but just, Hey let’s really work on getting to your left-hand or let’s really work on your, your, your mid range pull up, or just have some kind of theme where he’s going in and he’s actually working on something in those pickup games. And I thought that was beneficial for him too, because it is tough in the workout. Sometimes it gets a little repetitive, but then to where you can go transition into a pickup game and work on some of those things we just did two hours ago, I think is really beneficial.

The player kind of sees it, feels it. And then Buys into it a little bit more.

Mike Klinzing: [00:56:56] Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense that you take in, you learn it in [00:57:00] sort of a classroom setting, for lack of a better way of saying it. And then you get to go out and apply it in a game. And although it’s not it’s, it’s not a, it’s not an official you know, refereed game, but in a pickup game, you can also, as you said, it, it allows you to kind of put a focus on something, a particular skill that you want to work out, which obviously we know is, is valuable for any player to be able to work on and under game under game conditions.

So get an opportunity to work with Austin obviously takes you from the college game and gives you an exposure to the pro game that you hadn’t had before. And it sort of transitions your career from that opportunity. So just talk about sort of the decision-making process after you worked with Austin and then where it led you.

And then did you ever have any thoughts about. Hey, I should try to get back to the college game. Was it the program this opportunity in the program, I’m assuming was very attractive to you and you enjoyed [00:58:00] it. And that’s why you kind of pursued that route. But just talk about that decision and then kind of lead us into the experiences that you’ve had in the NBA.

JP Clark: [00:58:07] Yeah. So, so like we’ve talked about in the podcast so far, just my background is college. I’ve grown up around it my whole life. So I hadn’t watched the NBA back then, but I didn’t have a desire that wasn’t something that I was like aiming to do it just that experience with Austin.

You know, I was just so grateful for that opportunity to get a chance to work with him. I was so excited when he got drafted 10th. And then I go back to UCF and just saying, Hey, that was a great experience this summer let’s have a great year UCF. And so he gets drafted in June, I’m back doing UCF camps in July and we’re getting ready.

And it’s like the end of July. And I get a call from Kevin Eastman and he says, Hey, you know we may have an opportunity here with the Celtics in a dual role where you’d be with the Celtics part-time and then you’d be a [00:59:00] full-time coach with the Maine red claws which was, which is still their G league affiliate D at that time.

And he was like, Hey would you have any interests? I was like, heck yeah, of course. So I went up to Boston that year. And I was with the Celtics in the preseason. And then once the the D league started  at that time with the Maine red claws, I went up and was an assistant coach with the red claws and a coach at the time, there was Mike Taylor who had been overseas for a long time.

Yeah, so that was my first step into the pro game and some of my responsibilities and it actually the D league, it’s a little bit bigger staffs now, but back then we only had two assistants. So your hands are involved in everything. We had two Celtics players at the time down with us, Chris Joseph, who two Syracuse guys, actually, Chris Joseph and Fab Melo.

And that was a big part of my responsibility is kind of going back and forth with them to Boston and Maine. And then you know, being an [01:00:00] assistant for Mike Taylor. So. That was a lot of fun. Just getting your kind of hands just doing everything. Kind of like I did at Flagler was how the D league felt different.

Mike Klinzing: [01:00:10] different from the college experience, in what way?

JP Clark: [01:00:14] Different from the college experience, just because your staff’s bigger and in college I was just getting started. So my role was more almost administrative, video, class checks. I was basically just doing anything that anybody else didn’t want to do. I tried to dos o when you get a chance to go to the G league you’re a full-time coach. I mean you’re doing everything. You’re scouting reports, you’re out on the road. You know, watching the other teams play you’re, you’re breaking down video, you’re doing development you’re sending Mike Taylorbyour thoughts on the game the night before.

So it was just a different, a different experience as a coach where. You know, younger, you’re kind of more administrative, you’re just trying to make the life as easy as possible for [01:01:00] the head coach at the time with all the miscellaneous tasks and then stepping into it with Maine you’re you’re sitting right next to the head coach , giving your opinion and suggestions and Hey, we should run this or so that was a really cool experience for me.

Mike Klinzing: [01:01:15] All right. So you get that opportunity and obviously you make the most of it and have some success there. And then an opportunity comes with the Clippers, talk about how that transition happened, and then just give us some of the highlights of some of the opportunities that you had to work with players and to be on the bench as an assistant for the Clippers.

JP Clark: [01:01:35] Yeah. So, yeah. So once the G league ended so that was kind of like my role pre-season and post-season I’m with the Celtics. So go back to the Celtics. There’s maybe five, seven games left in the regular season, and then the playoffs start. That year we were the sixth seed and lost to the Knicks, Carmelo teams, Mike Woodson.

So that that’s summer starts Doc takes the Clippers job and he [01:02:00] asked me to go with him. So that, that was just a really cool text to get that opportunity. So yeah, go to the Clippers and then with the Clippers for seven years. And then yeah, so NBA for eight years with doc all eight years,

Mike Klinzing: [01:02:15] what were some of the highlights of your time with the Clippers?

Maybe not a story that the public remembers, but obviously there was some, some interesting times that go along with the Clippers franchise during the time that you’re there and the docks there as the head coach, and there’s some transition from one team to a whole nother new group of players coming in.

So just what were some of the things that stand out for you one or two highlights of your time.

JP Clark: [01:02:42] Yeah, I would just say being around like some of the best players in the world, I mean, those would be the highlights that I look back on and you’ll always remember that you’re never going to forget Kevin Garnett and like the intensity in which he approaches his craft, his work ethic, like how he goes about [01:03:00] leadership.

So those would be like, that would be the highlight from Boston. And then you have your, your Rondo’s, your Pierces. And then you move to LA and then you have your Chris Paul’s your Blake Griffin’s your JJs Jamal’s and just over the years, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George. So just to be around that type of talent has been really awesome. And the other part is this like second part of that is just like how humbling it is to be around NBA minds, both players and coaches, and the knowledge level of the elite really is something that has driven me to try to achieve that level. And it’s may take a lifetime you know, life is a continuous journey of learning.

And I think when you’re around elite minds and elite players, it just drives you to be the best that you can be and try to get on their level as far as being able to have the knowledge that they have. And maybe you never get there, but you can at least try.

[01:04:00] Mike Klinzing: [01:04:00] Absolutely what makes an all NBA level type player of which you obviously had the opportunity to work with a bunch over the course of your time with the Celtics and the Clippers. What sets those guys apart, whether it’s physically, what they do with their body, whether it’s mentally, the way they prepare, just what sets those guys apart, because we know that everybody in the league has.

A tremendous amount of talent, but it seems like those guys that rise to the top, just have something a little bit extra. Is there one or two things that you could point to, or maybe just give us an example from a particular player, something that made them who they were in the league?

JP Clark: [01:04:39] Yeah. I mean the first thing, like, just to answer it like simply, and then I’ll go into more detail.

It’s incredible talent, right? is the easy number one, like by far answer there’s 20, 25, like just incredibly, they’re all talented, but like elite, elite, elite talent is at the cream of the crop, and then everybody else is fitting in [01:05:00] complimentary roles to make the team as good as the team can be.

That’s how the NBA is where the elite are really the elite. And I think what separates them, like you just go through some of the names that like we just talked about, there’s like one common characteristic between like the KGs, the Pierces, the Rondo’s the Blake’s the Chris’s that Leonard, th, the Pauls is, is just their preparation, like their routine, their mindset, their ability to move on to the next play their ability, their desire to be great.

Their ability to just work, like cut out everything like Garnette was just. Everything’s in like game day is a game day. Like nothing else, no distractions. And I think it’s a combination of all those traits and then their mindset that sets the elite apart combined with incredible talent just makes a hall of fame player.

Mike Klinzing: [01:05:56] Do you think that’s something that they develop over the course of their [01:06:00] basketball life? Or do you think that that’s something that I don’t want to say born with it because I think that discounts the effort and the work that they put into it, but I guess what I’m getting at is, is that something that the best players in the league oftentimes come into the league with?

Like, I think about a coach who came into the league as the 15th pick, not necessarily anybody thinking that he was going to become the player that he became, but in your mind, do you think, and obviously you weren’t with him there in San Antonio when he started to really know for sure. But do you think that that’s something that.

A guy like him always had from the beginning. And that’s what allowed him to develop into the type of player that he was, or do you think that that’s something that as he got into the league and realized, and was around some of these other great minds and some of these other elite talents that he said, if I want to maximize what I’m going to do, then I’ve got to reach this level with my preparation and my, my my, my physical training and my recovery and all these kinds of things.

How do you balance that? Where again, how much of that is developed [01:07:00] versus how much of it is just who they are?

JP Clark: [01:07:02] Yeah. I would say a large part of it’s developed, they all have the talent. But the best of the best I think are able to maximize their talent and make the most of their talent.

And there’s so many examples you could go through the list of the top players and what I’ll remember is the best players are the hardest workers. And I know that sounds cliche, but it’s so true. Like, those are the ones where like you come in the gym at night, they’re in there, you come in the gym in the morning, they’re in there.

You come after the game, they’re getting a massage. As soon as they land at the hotel. They’re getting treatment. The amount of time that the best of the best put in just to be elite every night.  I think that’s another thing that gets overlooked is like, when you’re talking about the best of the best, you’re going to go to the NBA.

And I think just to be elite every night, Like when you’re playing 82 games and 140 days or whatever it is, you’re traveling [01:08:00] around the world. Just the amount of physical toll, not to even talk about the mental toll, that’s a whole nother side, but just the amount of the miles that you’re putting on your body and the dedication it takes to stay at the top of your game.

And that’s where you’re getting into like the cold tubs, the hot tubs and massage, the chiropractor that you know, the healthy eating the weight room. It’s a full-time job to be elite. And that’s like the number one thing I think I’ll take away from it is how difficult it is to not only be great, but to stay great.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:38] I agree with you there a hundred percent. I think that’s one of the things that obviously we had the opportunity as Clevelanders to be able to watch LeBron for a huge part of his career. And you think back to him as a high school player, I remember watching him, I went and saw him play. At Cleveland state when he was a high school junior, and just the sheer amount of talent that the guy had, and [01:09:00] obviously had so much hype and publicity as.

Probably younger than anybody, certainly at the time you know, now we have high school players that are getting hyped up and social media is a lot bigger than it was when LeBron was first coming into the league, but certainly nobody ever had as much hype coming in. And nobody’s probably done a better job of living up to that hype in any, in any profession anywhere than he’s done.

But I think one of the things is that’s a testament to who he is, is just that maniacal consistency of. Every night, he’s like a metronome. You’re like, you just know that I mean, you just look at his disease season statistics year after year after year after year he’s 28, eight and eight 29, seven and seven, whatever it is, he’s just so consistent.

And I think as you said, people underrate how difficult that is. From a physical standpoint, we all have heard the stories about the things that he does with his body and the amount of money that he spends to be able to get himself into that position. But I wanted to ask you about the mental side of it and maybe how that’s changed [01:10:00] from when you first started.

So now you’re going on you were in the league for nine or so years over the course of that nine years. How did teams approach to the mental side of the game? Did you see that change at all in the way that your staff handled players and their ability to. Performing the clutch or their ability to have that type of consistency from a mental standpoint?

JP Clark: [01:10:26] Yeah, I would say it’s a good question. I would say that’s like, just, that would be an area that I think like, just looking at coaches as a whole and certainly myself is an area that we all could improve in. Right. Like I think that’s an area that I don’t feel like that’s my strength. And I just think that like over time as coaches, like that’s an area that we all had to develop is how can we help our athletes become more confident be better performers in late game situations to be able to handle their nerves you know, large part of [01:11:00] it’s their life off the court and bringing that onto the court.

And  how I think our job as coaches is just, how can we make the best player that we can become, but also how can we become, make the best people that we can become. Right. And I think that’s where the mental side comes in is. You know, there’s just so many challenges of being a top tier athlete or just an athlete in general, in our job as coaches.

I think we have to take it a little bit more seriously players off the court and ways that we can help them not only perform well in games, but succeed in life. And I think that’s something that I hope to do in my career at some point is to build world-class athletes, but also to build world-class people.

And I think in the NBA, it’s an ongoing process. You know, you see, they put much more of an emphasis on it and I think it’s terrific. I think the, the more that we can do to improve athletes’ lives both on and off the court, I think [01:12:00] is a step in the right direction.

Mike Klinzing: [01:12:02] Absolutely. All right. I would be remissed if I didn’t at least ask you, give us one funny, humorous. Interesting behind the scenes story about a player. If you want to name them by name. Great. If you want to just say unnamed player X, that’s fine too. But some behind the scenes story that our listeners would enjoy.

JP Clark: [01:12:23] Yeah. So, so I’ve told this one a couple of times. I don’t know if I’ve told it on a podcast, but, my first year I go to Boston I’m in the pre-season with Boston and we go on one of the foreign, overseas trips and we’re in a, we go to Milan, Italy, and we’re starting our training camp and we’re playing like two games over there.

So for me, I’m like a kid in a candy store. Right. I’m just starting, like, my eyes are huge. So we get started with training camp and at this point kg I he’s probably year 15 year 16 10 time star So we get started in training camp. And, and if you could [01:13:00] just picture like a, a big gym with like three courts and like the center court is where the competition, the practices the left side of the court is like where all the water fountains are.

Like the bleachers guys can take a rest. And then the right side is just like a nothing’s over there. It’s just like extra baskets full court. So we start practicing and day one, we just do a lot of walkthrough stuff, day two, we do a lot of walkthrough stuff. And then we finally start playing on like day three scrimmaging.

We scrimmage for about five, 10 minutes and Doc’s like, Hey let’s get KG out of there. You know, let’s give him a break, get a long season ahead. So KG being KG, he didn’t like that. You know, that’s just like the competitor, he didn’t like that. So he has a few choice words and so there’s a timeout and at the time Darko Milicic and you know, some other subs, they come in and Darko has Hey, I got you kg. And you know, whoever else comes in and Rondo and Pierce and the [01:14:00] other guys go out and they go towards the left side, get towels, get Gatorade or whatever.

And KG goes to the right side of the floor all by himself. There’s no one over there. Okay. So you know, kind of seeing like, Hey, what what’s going on? So practice resumed. And then all of a sudden, like KG starts moving on the other side, all by himself, far right side of the court. And then I start to realize like, he’s mimicking what Darko Milicic is doing.

Like basically telling Doc, like, you can’t take me out of practice. So Darko gets a rebound, like KG gets an invisible rebound, like passes to the outlet, Darko runs the floor, ducks in like kg runs the floor ,ducks in, it was incredible. And, and The craziest part of that story was not only did he do that for like the next, like 10, 15, 20 minutes to where, like we couldn’t practice, but like he did that the, at least when I was there, like the beginning of the end, like he did that every time he got taken out of practice.

So like, it got to the point where like I said before, like Doc couldn’t [01:15:00] practice because you’d want to give kg time off, but he just go to the far court and he’d either run suicides where he would mimic who subbed in for him. So he was a rare treat of a competitor, man. He’s a one of a kind, but that was one of my favorites.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:16] Yeah, that’s a good one. I think it, it summarizes who he is, was kind of what his reputation is as just a maniacal competitor that you know, was going to do whatever it takes to be the best at his craft. And as you said earlier, that’s really what separates those guys is just that ability to go go the extra mile, go the extra mile, physically go the extra mile mentally and just really push themselves to the limit and maximize, as you said, everybody that has, that has that innate talent and you can’t get to that level without the talent, but then the best of the best maximize that talent.

Before we wrap up, I want to give you a chance to share what you’re doing with Kevin Eastman. Tell us a little bit about that and then [01:16:00] let people know where they can reach out to you. Find out more about what you guys are doing, and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up. Yeah.

JP Clark: [01:16:06] So you know, we’ll get a chance to work with Kevin for a long time with Boston and the Clippers.

And you know, what, what he’s doing now is he’s kind of transitioned into a speaking role where he’s speaking all over the country. And you know, now that the with the COVID, he’s basically shifted at all into zoom. So I’m just helping him from a strategy standpoint, just trying to help him stay on top of you know, just getting his, his you know, speaking engagements out.

And for anybody that knows Kevin you can find them at Kevin Eastman, but you know, his content is unbelievable. He’s one of the best thought leaders in the game of basketball and it’s been great for me. Just getting a chance to kind of talk to him every day and getting his you know, opinion on, on different things and hear in his thoughts on different subjects is is really cool.

So yeah, that that’s been a, that’s been awesome and Yeah, I’m on Twitter too. You know, just @CoachJPClark is my [01:17:00] Twitter and yeah, we’re excited about the Kevin stuff and yeah, I’m excited to help him however I can.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:06] Awesome. What what’s next for you? Long-term trying to get back in the league at some point here, or are you thinking.

JP Clark: [01:17:12] Yeah, I, I I’d love to, I want to stay in basketball. I’d love to you know, be, become a head coach that that would be my next goal. You know, get a chance to kind of take some of what I’ve learned from, from so many terrific coaches and, and get a chance to, to implement my own system. And that would be you know, my goal in the future and whatever the next steps are, you know I would be more than happy to, to fulfill, so I don’t know what’s next.

And so we’ll see. And I’m excited for the the journey ahead and I hope one day it leads to getting the chance to be a head coach.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:44] coach. Absolutely. And I think that just going through and learning more about you and about your career and just the different places that you’ve been and your upbringing with your dad as a coach and spending your time as a kid in the gym and just going through the different levels that you’ve been able to coach [01:18:00] at and the success you’ve had and the people that you’ve been connected to.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that that’s going to happen at some point in the future. JP, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule tonight, to jump out with us. We really appreciate it. It’s been an absolute pleasure and to everyone out there, thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode.


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