Website – https://www.walshjesuit.org/athletics
Email – email@example.com
Twitter – @WJ_Warriors
Kevin Byrne is in his third season as the Boys’ Varsity Basketball Head Coach at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Prior to returning to his alma mater, Byrne was the assistant men’s basketball coach at Akron University for two seasons. Before his D1 stint with the Zips, Byrne was the head men’s basketball coach at Ohio Northern University. While at Ohio Northern, Byrne guided the Polar Bears to a 41-38 record, a winning percentage of .519. ONU had a 16-10 record and finished fourth in the Ohio Athletic Conference in 2013-14.
Byrne went to Ohio Northern after a 4-year stint at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served as their associate head coach.
Prior to MIT, Byrne was the assistant coach at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon. During Byrne’s eight-year tenure, the team set the school record for wins with 19 (2004-05 season) and experienced the first 20-win season and first ever UAA championship.
After graduating from CMU, Byrne enjoyed a three-year professional career playing in England and Ireland. While at Carnegie Mellon, he graduated as the third all-time leading scorer and fifth all-time leading rebounder. Byrne’s class graduated with the most wins of any graduating class in Carnegie Mellon history.
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Take some notes as you listen to this episode with Kevin Byrne, Boys’ Basketball Varsity Head Coach at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
What We Discuss with Kevin Byrne
- “I was really fortunate. I had really good coaches and really good people around me when I was young, teaching me how to play basketball and making it enjoyable.”
- Why he considers his youth coaches such instrumental role models
- Growing up playing pickup basketball outdoors and what he learned from those experiences
- “If you can shoot, you can play.”
- The opportunity to improve your basketball skills on your own and the fact there is no substitute for just putting in the time
- Winning the 1 on 1 competition at Five-Star by beating Chris Kingsbury who eventually played at Iowa and how that got the attention of college coaches
- Focusing in on high academic schools during his recruitment
- His advice to players for finding the right college fit
- The story behind how he ended up at Carnegie Mellon
- Going from a post player in high school to playing more on the perimeter in college
- The unique travel opportunities as a player in the UAA, especially for D3
- The high quality of play in Division Three and why it was the best choice for him and for many players today
- “I tell anybody who wants to knock division three basketball, go watch a couple of games and see it and see how [00:23:00] good the players are.”
- You only have to have one coach believe you’re a D1 player and then you are, but is that happening?
- You won’t be the best player to ever play Division 3 no matter how good you are
- How his college coach Tony Wilson helped him get an opportunity to play professionally overseas
- Playing for three years in England and Ireland
- Two Euro basketball stories including one involving Princess Diana
- Getting a GA position at Marietta College after his playing career ended
- Not really knowing anything about coaching when he first started
- “Coaching is a job where everybody in the world thinks they’d be really good at it.”
- Quickly realizing that x’s and o’s was only a small part of a coach’s job
- Wanting to get to the next game as an assistant, but always wanting one more practice as a head coach
- Getting the opportunity to return to Carnegie Mellon as an assistant for his college coach, Tony Wingen
- Being a D3 assistant and getting to do it all and learn it all
- Winning the UAA title and making the NCAA tournament at Carnegie Mellon
- Helping players see the value in what you’re doing during practice
- After 8 years as a coach and 4 years as a player, leaving Carnegie Mellon to be an assistant for Larry Anderson at MIT
- His first head coaching opportunity at Ohio Northern University in the OAC
- You can’t hide from your decisions as a head coach
- The difference in mentality between being an assistant and being a head coach
- The challenges he faced as a first-time head coach at Ohio Northern
- “The guys that work hard in the classroom and work hard in general tend to be our best players.”
- Developing a hard-working culture where the older players show the younger players how you do things
- Tweaking your system to fit your team in a particular year
- Why he likes to get the ball in the post and why he likes to press
- Working for both Keith Dambrot & John Groce at the University of Akron
- The large staff at a D1 school compared to the smaller staff in D3
- Taking a high school job at his alma mater, Walsh Jesuit (OH) High School
- The same challenges exist in coaching at the high school level that exist at the college level
- Why he loves the state tournament in Ohio
- Continuing to work at getting better at every point in the season
- “There’s certain aspects of being good that aren’t necessarily quote unquote fun, but being good is fun.”
- Life’s for grinders
- “The team that closes out the best team, that boxes out the best, the team that passes the ball the best. is going to win the game.”
- “I’m happy that I get to have the impact, a positive impact on them. That is important to me.”
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THANKS, KEVIN BYRNE
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TRANSCRIPT FOR KEVIN BYRNE – WALSH JESUIT (OH) HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ VARSITY COACH – EPISODE 402
[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. Tonight, we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from Walsh Jesuit High School here in the state of Ohio, Kevin Byrne, Kevin, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Kevin Byrne: [00:00:13] Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:16] Absolutely. We are excited to be able to have you on and get a chance to dive into. The variety of different things that you’ve been able to do in the game of basketball over your career. I want to start by going back in time when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball and what made you fall in love with it?
Kevin Byrne: [00:00:33] You know, when I was a kid, kind of tried all the sports when I was a very young kid, six, seven years old and basketball ended up being the sport that I liked playing the most and the sport that I was best at. And so I was really blessed to have some, some really positive experiences, in kind of those early formative years.
I grew up in Stow and we had a really good sort of, [00:01:00] league for little kids back then John Stein, ran the league and was good role model, as you could have had if for somebody learning to play basketball when they were seven or eight years old, he really made it fun.
It was fun. It was just fun to play. You always looked forward to the game that week. And, so I really attribute a lot of it to him. And I went to Holy family grade school and played CYO basketball, through the eighth grade. And, actually, TK Griffith the head coach at Hoban, his father was my basketball coach when I was in fifth and sixth grade. And again, just a great guy and just so much fun to play for and made it fun growing up. So. I was really fortunate. I had really good coaches and really good people around me when I was young, teaching me how to play basketball and making it enjoyable and you get better at it.
And so that was kind of where it all started.
Mike Klinzing: [00:01:56] What do you remember about those times in terms of what those guys [00:02:00] did to make the game. Fun for you. Is there anything specific that you can point to that you remember? Or was it more just a case of you looking back and just looking on that fondly saying, wow.
I just remember how fun it was to be able to play basketball for those two guys?
Kevin Byrne: [00:02:14] Yeah, I think that it was both of those a little bit. I mean, do you definitely look back and just remember it being something you really enjoyed doing and being around them, but I think they had a really good mix of teaching you how to play and to get better even in third and fourth grade.
And then as I got a little older into sixth grade with Mr. Griffith, they were helping you become a better player. And so that was fun, but did it in a way that it also was kind of an enjoyable experience and something that you look forward to doing back then, once or twice a week and then play the game on the weekends, that kind of thing.
But you always looked forward to it. You always wanted to go, it was just something for me. And I think for my friends too, I mean, it was. [00:03:00] something that we really enjoyed doing. And, we’re really blessed to have guys like those two guys and others Tim Goodall was my seventh grade coach and was a teacher’s assistant and his father’s best friend.
And again, there wasn’t a better guy there’s no better person that’s walked the earth. And then since both passed away, but they were gone too soon, but they were instrumental role models. When I think of why did I end up getting into basketball? it goes back to those guys.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:32] As your level of seriousness started to increase. When it came to the game of basketball, what did you begin to do? What is your, let’s say summer off seasons look like in junior high and high school, as you started to take the game more seriously. Were you playing pickup games?
Were you working on a game on your own? I probably a combination of the two. Just talk a little bit about what your experiences were once you started to take the game more seriously, what that meant for [00:04:00] you as a basketball player?
Kevin Byrne: [00:04:01] Yeah, I think that it was I played as I got older and into high school, but it wasn’t quite what it is now.
I mean, we definitely played, but it wasn’t sort of the industry that it’s become in maybe the last 20 years, That was probably just before kind of all that. So you find a team and a couple of guys on your team and a couple of guys on the team down the street, we would play and you kind of play around here and do some of that stuff.
What did you remember doing through high school was, as you said, trying to work on my game on my own, but we also played every day, just outside. There were some courts over in Tallmadge. And really good players, kind of all walks of life. You know, it’s some older guys that have been really good college players.
Joe Jakubick used to come and play and high school guys really, competitive games. And you show up every day and you get there early, so you get on the court quick. Cause there’s a lot of people that want to play. And then you tried to get a team that could [00:05:00] win.
So you could stay out there and we’d have to sit three or four games if you’ve lost. So yeah, we used to go., Those courts have gone now, actually the police station, over in Tallmadge and, we used to go and play every day, every day we’d go. And I had a brother who’s about my age.
He was a really good player and I used to hop in the car and drive over there. Literally you didn’t miss it. I mean, we were there five or six days a week, as I recall. I mean, we played just about every day and, again, really good games and guys that could help you just by watching them play.
You’d learn from the guys, some guys have gotten into coaching and would help you out a little bit. If they saw something they thought that you could work on and do a little better. So, Yeah. I don’t know if it still goes on, but I don’t know if there’s much of that sort of thing anymore.
Just going and playing pickup, just going down to the park and playing. So, that’s a lot of what we did.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:47] Yeah, absolutely. Do you find, when you have conversations with your kids read more you’re coaching at the college level, do you find that. Any of your current players, let’s say players in the last five to 10 years.
Are they playing much outdoor basketball [00:06:00] anymore?
Kevin Byrne: [00:06:00] Not as much. I don’t think everything kind of revolves around, doing some kind of organized or something like we’re going to be doing in the summer, whether it’s being in a kind of a big time AAU team or sometimes maybe a.
Especially for the guys in high school, or get some guys who were coming into Walsh, places kind of fall ball and that kind of thing. But no, I think, yeah, I do have one player, but he likes to play for me right now at Walsh. And he’ll mention going down to the park every now and then and playing kind of two on two with his friends and that kind of thing.
But if it is a little different now than it was kind of what I’m talking about, where it’s almost kind of the main thing we did.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:35] Yeah, absolutely. It’s just a totally different world. I always say that I feel bad for the kids today that they’ve missed out on some of those experiences that you had I’m sure.
And the ones that I had were. You got a chance to play with people from all different walks of life, all different ages. And there’s clearly things that are positive about the system that we have today. And kids get a lot more gym access they ever did when you and I were kids.
And that’s something that’s [00:07:00] completely different, but I do feel like, and I would have loved the system today too.
Cause I would have loved to play. 30 40 50 games in a summer and all those kinds of things. But I played probably hundreds, if not thousands of games in the summer. Cause I was just playing whether it was on my driveway or going up to the park or driving across the city, trying to find the best games.
And it’s just a different world. And that’s. Just the way the system has changed and evolved over time. And clearly just as the game itself has changed the way players go about improving and getting better has changed. And with the advent of a high school coaches doing workouts with their players in the summertime, which is getting something that you and I didn’t have access to back, we were playing.
We had to kind of create our own workouts and figure out what to do. So when you were working on your game by yourself as a high school player, even as a college player in the summer, how’d you figure out what to do or what did you. What did you put together in terms of a workout to help yourself get better?
Where would you go? Where would you go to try to figure out, Hey, what kind of drills can I do? Or are you just kind of inventing them on the fly?
[00:08:00] Kevin Byrne: [00:08:00] Yeah, again, I think probably a little from column a and a little column B, certainly you talk to your coaches and say, Hey, what are the, the things that, that you think I need to work on and what are the best ways to go about that?
And then. No basketball is one of those things you can kind of work on by yourself. And there are a couple of things that really never go out of style. You can go in and get some shots up. And if you if you can shoot, you can play. So I was able to turn myself into a pretty good shooter over the years and you just kind of go work on it and there’s nothing like reps and you try to get a little help here and there to make sure your techniques where it should be.
And then just kind of wrap it. So just kind of getting in the gym and working on your ball handling and in doing all those things that really still kind of still play just two ball stuff. So it was to work on your ball handling and then getting on the gun, or I remember the old, the old, what was it? The Bounce backward go through and it hit the okay. Right. Hit the net and kind of [00:09:00] just bounce your shots back to you. And if not kind of chase after it,
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:03] You can always shoot free throws with that thing.
Kevin Byrne: [00:09:06] Yeah, absolutely. It would fall straight through and can come back to you. So but it’s like, I tell guys, you want to certainly want to be efficient. You certainly want to use your time well, but a lot of it’s just the desire to play and just getting in there and working on it, you put in the time and you’re getting your shots in or you’re getting your working on your ball handling and you’re in there every day kind of working on it.
You’ll get better at it. You know? I mean, it’s just kinda putting in the hours, kind of putting in the work and again, I mean, I think you can do it better there are better ways to do it than others, but I don’t think there’s any substitute for just having the motivation to get the ball, get in there, get to the gym, get to the park and then work on it again.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:48] Absolutely. I think there’s no doubt. I think sometimes now. In today’s world. Kids can be so overwhelmed with the variety of stuff that’s out there that they could do to improve that. It almost becomes [00:10:00] paralyzing where you think about like, when you and I were kids, you didn’t have access to all the YouTube videos and the trainers and the, this and the, that.
It was just Hey, I got to go out and work. And like, I was tell people what workout I did. I did the same. Hour and a half shooting workout probably from the time I was like in 10th grade, all the way through playing in college. And that was the workout I did every single day and I never really varied it.
And I probably could have been way more efficient and worked on a lot more variety of skills. But I think what enabled me to have success was just what you just said is I just wanted to work at it. And I went in there every day and I worked hard at it. And as a result, even though I wasn’t super creative, I was working on.
Just by putting the time in it, it was able to help me, allow me to improve my game and get better. And I think there’s a message in there for sure, for kids that it’s not always what you work out. It’s just, Hey, are you putting in hard work? And are you going and trying to get the maximum amount of whatever ability you were given?
Kevin Byrne: [00:10:56] I completely agree with that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:10:57] All right. So give me an idea of [00:11:00] when you start to see that college basketball, maybe something that is on your horizon, that you may have an opportunity to do that. And was that something that you always dreamed about thought about from the time when you first started playing?
Or was that something that kind of came to you in the midst of your high school career? When did college basketball get on your radar?
Kevin Byrne: [00:11:23] I don’t remember exactly when I just knew that I liked to play ann that if I could keep playing, I would keep playing. That was sort of, kind of how I thought about it. So if somebody wanted me to come and continue to play, I would certainly, entertain that offer. I went to a couple of the little five-star camps over in Pittsburgh.
And I remember when I started getting a lot of attention for basketball, I won the one-on-one. Tournament at five star going into my senior year. Maybe it might’ve been my junior year and I beat, Chris Kingsbury from Cincinnati who played at the [00:12:00] University of Iowa, really, really good player.
And, I’d beat him in the final and, and that sort of. Got out I guess the faster they put that kind of one on one, the one-on-one championship. And so all of a sudden I was getting letters from places that I was not good enough to play. I remember that sort of being a moment where I started getting a lot of attention, And then people started calling and talking to me about it.
And again, eventually some of those schools figured out that I wasn’t quite athletic enough to do maybe what they thought that Chris was. I got lucky, I managed to run a couple shots, was really good player, really super athletic and did very well in Iowa. and so, yeah, from there I started being recruited, and it began to go in a certain direction where, probably did, because I wanted to go that way. My parents were both college professors and I I’d been a decent student. And so started kind of focusing on that sort of some of the higher end academic [00:13:00] schools that were talking to me. and then trying to kind of find the right level.
And, and I was, I ended up being a guy who was probably coming out of high school. I was kind of a six-six back to the basket post player, something you don’t see very much anymore. It’s a trail jump shot, but it was really kind of. You know, I could go down and get you a bucket down around the basket.
And I just wasn’t quite big enough to be a division one player doing that. So I got some division one interest, but you’re kind of walking on, I remember three or four schools that called me and say, Hey, we’d really like you to come walk on. And, at that point I felt like I wanted to choose kind of a place that I liked and that was the right academic fit for me. And I wanted to I wanted to play. I said, I’ve thought about it as I have. And I tell guys this all the time you only get four years, decide what you want that four years to look like. And then. pick something that fits that. If you want to go try to walk on somewhere, I might be able to help you do that, but understand the chances of you playing much are very, very low.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but [00:14:00] it doesn’t happen very often. And if you are going to be okay with that and you just want to be a part of it and that’s what you want to do, that’s great. But y if you want to play, then you got to find a place where you can play. So that’s kinda how I started thinking about that.
I think into my senior year, and as I began to kind of narrow down what I was thinking about for college.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:17] So as you start thinking about looking at a higher academic school, I’m assuming that you had in the back of your mind at that point, was there a career that you had in mind that you said, Hey, if I go to school x or school y, that’s going to give me a leg up on what I eventually wanted to do in my career.
Or was it just something where you knew you were a good student? You knew that those academic schools would be ones where you could probably come in and play basketball. Just what was your mindset in terms of. Going and looking at that particular type of school.
Kevin Byrne: [00:14:45] Yeah. So I wish it was more of the first thing you mentioned there.
And certainly with my kids, I will encourage them to have more of a plan on what they think they want to do. And I realize it might change, [00:15:00] but that kind of wasn’t really how I thought about it. I ended up at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and it was a very good academic school.
And I really liked the coach and they wanted me to come play. And I knew that you could do do things there. And I didn’t know exactly what I was going to major in and it’s a very technical, very mathematical engineering, computer science school. And I’m pretty good at math, but I wasn’t as good at math as those guys.
So engineering and those types of things ended up not being for me. So I ended up kind of searching a little bit in college, looking for my major and did not have a real specific idea of what I wanted to do, but felt like it was the right place for me in a place where I could kind of figure it out as I went.
And, so that’s where I ended up a nice distance for me because we’re kind of, kind of right down the street, but a couple hours away, it was kind of felt like the right decision. And I certainly loved my time there and don’t regret for a second having gone there.
So that’s kinda how that went. [00:16:00]
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:00] What was the adjustment like both on and off the court for you when you went for the first time in terms of the basketball? Obviously the standard answer is everybody’s a lot bigger. Everybody’s a lot faster, but just maybe something unorthodox that people don’t often think about when they think about that transition.
And then what was the transition like off the court in terms of the social and classroom adjustment?
Kevin Byrne: [00:16:20] Yeah. So the first one for me, the biggest difference was I went from being a post player to being a small forward. So, it took me a year, and I got to play a fair amount for freshmen, but came off the bench and I just remember my coach looking at me and we had two really good post players that were juniors.
and he’s like maybe you can beat them out, but I think it would be best if we could get all you guys on the floor together. And that requires you to kind of go play on the perimeter. I could shoot a little bit, so I had that going for me, but had never really played on the perimeter kind of full time.
So, so that was an adjustment in the league that we’re in it is a really, really competitive division three [00:17:00] league. And so it’s, it’s really good basketball, really good players. and so trying to figure that out, kind of playing a new position, facing basket and standing out on the perimeter and doing all those things while playing in that league, it was definitely challenging and fun.
And that’s what I remember about the big adjustment for me was kind of changing positions. And then socially and in dealing with the classwork and all that it was fun. And I was around a good group of guys. I was at a place that challenged me academically.
And so you had had to put in the work on a daily basis. I remember going through a tough semester academically, as you sort of begin to realize that everybody there is really smart and where maybe you can kind of coast through some stuff before that there wasn’t really any coasting through.
and you really had to grind some stuff out. So that was a really valuable lesson for me as [00:18:00] well. And that was obviously a big adjustment. dealing with that aspect of it as well. And the league had a lot of travel to it. it’s kind of a weird division three league where it was all over this half the United States, Emory university in Atlanta, Brandeis, up at Boston, New York University, University of Chicago.
So you’re kind of flying to all these places and I just remember, and I coached in the league for a long time. Yeah. There’s usually a back-to-back weekend where you’re on the road and you’re out from Thursday morning till Sunday night, and then you’re right back out Thursday morning, again till Sunday night.
And you’re gone for quite a while. And you’re just kind of dealing with all that and learning how to kind of grow up and sort of deal with it just because we’re going on the road, we still have work and you’ve got to get it done it’s not just, Hey, we’re leaving to go to St.
Louis and we get to check off for four days. You know, it didn’t really work that way.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:51] But you did get to go on some nice trips out of the things about that league. That is that’s pretty incredible. It’s just that all those universities are in big cities and the [00:19:00] opportunity to travel is certainly that is a unique experience from a division three standpoint.
Most Division three schools aren’t getting to do the kind of travel that you got to do at Carnegie Mellon that the other schools in the U S get to do either.
Kevin Byrne: [00:19:11] Yeah. Correct. No question about it. One of the really cool aspects of the league is you’re getting on a plane for the most part. We bussed up the Rochester, so it goes over the case, but get on a plane and flying to New York city and flying to Atlanta and flying to Chicago and getting spend a couple of days in those cities every year.
And we played a double round Robin so you have to go to every city every year. And, again on top of it really good teams you can play the Wash U is just travel partner league. So we play Friday, Sunday, and you try to go play wash U and Chicago, in those back-to-back. And, yeah, good luck with trying to win both of those things.
I mean, it’s a full deal trying to win in that league. So, yeah, it was great. It was the right decision for me. It was the right place for me. It was the right lead for me. I’ve said over and over again, if I [00:20:00] think I could have played at the division one level, but I would have been, I could shoot a little bit.
I think I would have turned into like a six, six shooter. That’s what I would have been like, I would have been kind of a guy stand on the wing or come off the screen and then make a jump shot at that level. I ended up being a pretty good player and you had to learn to kind of do everything heavy lifting you had to rebound and you had to score and you had to score a variety of different ways.
And I ended up being a much, much better player, I’m convinced by going that route than I would had I had a quote unquote higher level.
Mike Klinzing: [00:20:31] Absolutely. I’m sure that you use that experience with. Players that you’ve had both when you’re recruiting them. And when you were coaching in college and now as a high school coach, that you can use those experiences to kind of help guide a player’s decision-making through the recruiting process, that individual, personal story that you can share with players, I’m sure can be impactful.
The guys that you’ve been able to deal with both again, as a college coach recruiting them. And then as a high school coach, trying to help them [00:21:00] navigate the recruiting experience.
Kevin Byrne: [00:21:02] Yeah, no question. And I’ve been fortunate to be at a few different levels and have a pretty good feel for it. And initially with a lot of guys, if you think about division three, and I say this all the time, they think that you’re almost insulting them and it’s like, you don’t really get it.
It’s really good basketball for sort of normal sized people, not that we don’t have big guys individually, but it’s like if you’re a six, six post guy and you’re really good player. But division three is a good place for you. Otherwise, you’re going to you can try to go be a guy around the basket division one, but you’re gonna be four inches shorter than the guy you’re playing against every night.
And that won’t be that much fun for you night after night. Unless you’re a really unusual guy. so that’s what it is. And so people think that you’re saying, Oh, you’re not as good and it’s not skill. Usually. I mean, our guys at the division three level, a lot of times shot the ball as well as anybody.
And could [00:22:00] handle and could do all those things, but if you’re not lightening quick it can be challenging to play at the division one level. If you’re not lightening quick, the guy that’s guarding you probably is. Or the guy you’re trying to guard probably is. so it’s a place where you can be really successful.
You play good basketball. If you’re not six, 10 around the basket, or again you have to win at that level, you need to really win. And then the fortunate to go to a final four and then we’d beat Princeton when I was at Carnegie Mellon one year.
And we’ve actually coached some really good division three basketball teams. You need borderline division one players to win at that level, or guys who were coming out of high school were one thing, and then by the time they’re juniors they’re something else by that time, all of a sudden they’ve really kinda figured it out in some way and they’re really, really good players.
And now you got a chance. but yeah I tell anybody who wants to knock division three basketball go, go watch a couple of games and see it and see how [00:23:00] good the players are. Yeah. I think that’s a great,
Mike Klinzing: [00:23:02] yeah, it’s a great point because it’s one of the things that. We’ve talked to a number of division three coaches on here.
And one of the things that a couple of them have brought up to us is when they’re sitting down and they’re talking to a kid and their family, and sometimes you get that initial reaction, like you described where. You said the players stealing like, Oh, or assaulting me things saying I can only play division three and a couple of the coaches that we’ve had on a civil, have you ever they tell recruits, have you ever even seen a division three game?
Like have you gone and watched the level of play and seen what you have to be able to do in order to be able to play at the division three level? I think that’s one of the things that. When you look at the current youth basketball slash a youth culture, I think there’s one of the downsides of it is that there’s such a division one or bust mentality.
And I think that’s put a when you start thinking about division three, it’s such a good level of basketball and people have no idea [00:24:00] how good you have to be to be able to play college basketball. At any level and everybody only sees the glamor of division one. And again, you could be at the mid major or low major division one level.
And I think you could, it’s debatable how much going on?
Kevin Byrne: [00:24:15] No, no.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:17] I mean, that’s for sure. Debatable. And so I think what you have to do and I hear you saying is you gotta find the right fit for you. And sometimes it’s do you want to be a big fish in a small pond. Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond?
Do you want something in between, which you’ve really got to sit down and try to figure it out? And I think that’s where somebody like you as a tremendous amount of experience at a bunch of different levels of the game, both as a player, as a coach, to be able to impart that wisdom to a kid and to their family, to help them to navigate that.
Cause a lot of times. You know, you figure as a basketball person, as a basketball coach, you’re going through that recruiting process multiple times every year with different players at different levels and all this. But for most people, [00:25:00] they go through it one time with one kid. If you’re one, if you’re lucky enough to have one kid that gets recruited at any level for any type of sport, that’s a lot.
And so trying to help people to navigate that, I’m sure. Is something valuable that you could bring now as a high school coach through your, your experience as a, as a college coach.
Kevin Byrne: [00:25:19] Sure. And just, a couple of points that I’ve mentioned from time to time when kind of finish my thought on that.
I tell people all the time, guys are like, Oh, I really want to play division one. I really, really want a scholarship I really want to be division two. And I say that’s great. And here are the things I think you should do to try to pursue that. And I think if I would tell a kid that I was recruiting the same thing, know if you get a division one scholarship offer, I think you should seriously consider taking that, but how many coaches do you have to convince that you’re a division one player to be a division one player? How many division one coaches do you have to convince? And the answer is one, right? How many division two coaches do you have to convince themy ou’re a division two player to be a division two player.
And the answer again is one. You [00:26:00] only have to find one guy who thinks that and he’s willing to offer you a scholarship and so if you’re not getting that, then that’s telling you something, it’s not like you have to convince half the division one coaches in the country that you’re a division one player.
You have to get this one. So if that’s not happening, then that’s sort of telling you something. The other thing I would tell some of I’ve told a couple of kids over the years when they, and they’ll be like, ah, I don’t know, but division three, it’s like, I don’t care how good you are. You are not the best guy who’s ever played Division three basketball. Like I literally don’t care how good you are. There’s guys who are better than you who have played division three basketball. So don’t get it twisted that you think you’re gonna just walk out there and be, and maybe you will be an all American and that’s certainly possible if you’re good enough.
But there’s been some guys who play in the NBA, there’s been some guys who’s been division one guys who have ended up at that level for one reason or another, over the years. So it’s so anyway. Yeah, and I do think the point that you made here a couple of [00:27:00] times, I think is the key point is finding what you want to do or what you want your college experience to look like, and then finding a place that lets you do that. Do you want to go and be the 10th guy on a team for a couple of years? Are you gonna be okay with that? Then look for places where that’s where you’re going to start and maybe you can move your way up from there.
or do you want to have a chance to play? I want to play a lot as a freshman. Well, then you’ve got to be good enough to find someplace that you can do that, but then finding that place where you can do that is and kind of thinking about it in those terms. More so than just, in thinking I’ll just go anywhere.
And I’ll of course, I’m just going to start ann play 32 minutes a game as a freshman, wherever I go, and it’s probably not going to happen everywhere.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:42] Absolutely. All right. So you get done with your college career and you get an opportunity to go and play professional basketball, which again, when you think about coming out of division three, I would bet that if you were to run a random survey during an AAU tournament of parents and kids, can you get an opportunity to [00:28:00] play professional basketball coming out of division three? I’m sure there’s a lot of people that say, Oh, heck no, there’s no way you can do that.
So tell us a little bit about how that came to be and what that experience was like.
Kevin Byrne: [00:28:09] Yeah, so it was definitely kind of a little bit of an unusual thing. That one was a little different in that I wasn’t necessarily. Thinking about that as my career finished. And I credit my head coach at Carnegie Mellon, Tony Wilson is his name.
He’s still there. He was the one who sort of approached me and said I think this would be a possibility for you. I know a couple of guys who kind of helped place players. and this was during my senior year. And, like, I guess most 21 year old kids at the time, it was. Like the play in the idea of making a little money to play, seem to sound like fun to me.
So it was something that once he mentioned that I was like, well, I definitely would like to see where that would go. It’s a little more common now. It’s actually not that unusual that the top guys in division three, most of them probably ended up playing professionally, at least a little bit for a year or two, [00:29:00] if not more.
And you see some guys who make careers out of it, at the division three level at the time, it was not as common. It was probably a little more unusual and I ended up getting a guy actually in the Canton area who, was kind of breaking into the space and guys over in Europe. And he was able to get me a gig over in England and that kind of started it.
And I played three years in England and Ireland mainly. And, as I like to tell people, if they try to get a kind of picture what it is, I say that, the further South you go, the more money you make in Europe. And I played as far North as you can play. So that’s what it was, but it was good basketball.
The Americans were very good. That was right when they started to where they’d gone to the European union. And so for instance, the Irish basketball, they could take a slight step down. From what it had been a few years before, because the very best Irish players to go play for in those places for more money.
Most teams were allowed two imports [00:30:00] usually as Americans. but didn’t have to be. And right before I got there a couple of years before that they changed kind of the rules where a guy from Ireland could play in France or Germany or Spain, Essentially as a German or Spanish player they didn’t count against the limit where before that they had, so if an Irish guy wanted to go try to play Spain, he had to be better than the Americans and things like that.
That one point space, it was less common. So what it did do was take the top handful of guys out of the league and so again, still really good basketball, but the, the very top Irish guys didn’t play in the Irish league anymore. They were playing in Belgium or again, Germany or France or wherever they ended up.
but still really fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. You know, three years met a lot of great people, got a chance to travel around and see a lot of places. you know, got a chance to live in have kind of, an overseas experience, which I really enjoyed and really tried to, take advantage of.
And so if you can [00:31:00] get somebody to pay you a little bit of money to play basketball for a few years, I would recommend it. It was a good crack as the Irish would say. and really enjoyed my experience doing that. So played three years, professionally and then, and then get into coaching after that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:16] What’s your funniest story from your time over there?
Kevin Byrne: [00:31:18] I don’t even know what kind of show is this?
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:23] Let’s call it PG-13
Kevin Byrne: [00:31:24] Yeah, this is probably is PG 13. So I won’t name names, but my teammate and I was playing for the Dublin Bay Vikings in Dublin Bay, in the Dublin Bay area of Ireland. And we were playing.
Who did they play for Limerick or somebody in the interior of the country? Truly one of those scenes over there. And, the guy who I played with who went to Fordham University. That’s that’s all I’ll say about him. Yeah, really good guy, and I think it’s probably known, and I don’t know if it’s as much anymore, but back then, I think even in the NBA, [00:32:00] the incidents, the usage of marijuana I think was probably pretty high.
And so fortunately that was never my thing, but my teammate enjoyed it every now and then and so he was hurt. and couldn’t play that that day. So we were actually going to play shorthanded with only one American. And we’re getting ready to play them. And the night before he drove over to see his friends who played on the other team, he knew the guys pretty well.
And they hit it pretty hard. Like I think pretty much like that night and all day, the next day. And when they showed up, you could just, I mean, they have the glass look in their eyes and everything, and we ended up founding a pretty good, Incapacitated them a bit. There you go.
Infiltrate got them, got them off their game just a little bit. And we ended up off the court, really at the MVP of the game, man of the match. that was that from a planning standpoint. I mean, we’re playing basketball and then we were on TV, a fair amount.
So, I mean, it’s, it’s just a, kind of a fun time and you’re working nights and weekends and [00:33:00] just kinda, yeah, I took it very seriously. I was professional about it, but, certainly had, had a really good time. And then, playing, especially when I played in Ireland. I’m sorry.
We were in Dublin and almost half the league was based in Dublin. So there’d be one can Sligo. And once you over in Waterford and one team, and then there were like five or six teams in the Dublin area. So you got to know those guys pretty well. And, we had a good time. Good, good games.
I mean, people, we played ArcLight to win, but get to those guys off the court and really had a good time. The other kind of funny story that people get a little bit of a kick out of the first league I played in was in England. and. I’m getting ready to go there. They’re processing my work permit and the whole nine yards.
And literally like two days before I was supposed to leave Princess Diana had her accident and passed away and the entire country shut down. And so I was sitting there on standby, like in my house. I moved back in with my parents for about a month, getting ready to go. And just sitting by kind [00:34:00] of was sitting by the phone, just waiting for them to call me and say, okay, They went back to work and they processed your work permit and you can get on the plane now and come over.
and just sitting there for a, it was literally like two weeks. I missed the first game. Like it was just my work for me. So it wasn’t gonna be allowed to see any country until that happened. And so that was another kind of a quirky thing that happened. it happened to me in my travails
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:25] Good stories.
That is the best. I think that’s my favorite segment. I always say we would put together a podcast of just guys’ favorite overseas basketball stories. Cause he could run the gamut, especially if you could. Step it up and have it be R rated and beyond you could probably get it even you could probably get an even funnier podcast.
Kevin Byrne: [00:34:42] I’m sure. Yeah. No, no, definitely. I, no doubt there was some, yeah, there’s some, some hi-jinks from time to time. No doubt about that.
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:49] All right. So as you’re going through and you’re playing a Carnegie Mellon, you get these opportunities to go and play professionally. Is coaching something that is on your [00:35:00] radar that you’re starting to think about as being a career or.
Is it something that kind of comes to you at the last minute as you’re playing, career’s coming to an end that you’re like, Hey, I got to stay in this game somehow. Maybe coaching’s where I should be was. So, in other words, was it more of a long-term plan or was it something that you just kind of looked around when you were done and said, Hey, I better start coaching.
Kevin Byrne: [00:35:19] Yeah. neither, I literally hadn’t given coaching two seconds worth of thought. I had to have ankle surgery and felt that was time to get into a career of something. So I had some offers to go back, but like I said, and again, it was a good living. I probably had as much money in my pocket when I was done as my friends who had started off in a career, but eventually it was going to come to an end.
I’d come to the realization. I probably wasn’t going to make a million dollars in Spain. Like I, again, I just wasn’t quite good enough for that. so it was like, I could continue to play a couple more years doing this, or at some point I’m probably gonna have to get at this point, I’m getting close to 25.
I’m going to have to. [00:36:00] think about doing something. So I kind of decided at that point I was going to stop playing and really needed a job and was talking to a couple of coaches that I knew, just not even really about that. And they were like the guy down in Marietta needs a graduate assistant this year.
If you’re kind of looking around for something to do right now, you can go do that for a year. Kind of get some graduate school and then kind of figure out what you want to do. And, I talked to Doug Foot was his name is the coach at Marietta college at the time. And, and he’s like, yeah, come down and, and you can help me.
You can help me for the year and we’ll kind of figure it from there. And so that’s really how I got into coaching. Like the thing I knew best at that point, it was probably how to play basketball. And so, I guess it sort of made sense that that would be the kind of job that would find me.
I mean, it was kind of a job that found me more than me finding a job. And so I went down there and help Doug Foot at Marietta college for a year. And that kind of got the ball rolling. And now I [00:37:00] kind of couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but, yeah, very much, very much last minute, very much. You know, kind of was looking to start something and wasn’t necessarily finding the jobs that I wanted and that sort of came up.
And so I was like, well, okay, let me go do that. And I’ll take some grad courses and kind of figure out what I want to do and here I am.
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:19] Do you have any idea of kind of what coaching was all about? I mean, obviously you plan a team for a long time and you’ve gone through high school and you’ve gone through college.
You’ve gone through the professional ranks, but. Did you really have any idea kind of what it meant to be a coach, especially at the college level. Did you feel like you had a good handle on that or? No?
Kevin Byrne: [00:37:37] Yeah. Not even a little bit when I started and I tell people now, cause it’s a funny job, right?
It’s a job where everybody in the world thinks they’d be really good at it. So everybody who doesn’t do it is like convinced that they’d be like a really good basketball coach and the thing that most people don’t understand. And I certainly didn’t understand is that like X’s and O’s is like the fifth most important thing you do.
There’s so much that goes into [00:38:00] being an effective basketball coach and having an effective basketball team and helping. kids get the most out of that experience and hopefully helping them develop kind of into the people they want to be. And all I knew was I knew a little bit about shooting and I could run a flex offense and show somebody else how to run a flex offense if they needed to.
but then you very quickly begin to realize that that’s really not, it’s almost a small part of it. Like that’s not really what coaching is about most of the time. So, no, I was not a very good assistant. I’m sure if we had coach Foot on right now, he’d probably tell you, I tell you that, he worked with young guys.
He had graduate assistants. I wasn’t married at the time. Now everybody has a full-time assistant or most of the higher end division three teams do. But at the time, a lot of them didn’t so this is what you had. So he would kind of break new coaches in and was a really good coach and a really good guy to be around for that year.
But no, definitely learned a ton. but he helped me [00:39:00] certainly. And my guess is a whole lot more than I helped him.
Mike Klinzing: [00:39:02] What’s one or two things that. Maybe you felt like you were pretty decent at right from the get-go and then what’s one or two things that you feel like when you look back at that beginning time that you’re like, Oh, I was terrible at that?
Kevin Byrne: [00:39:16] I think, almost two sides of the same coin, funnily enough. I think that I’ve always been, if somebody asks me what I do pretty well is kind of the basketball component of it. I feel like I played long enough that I have a pretty good idea of how to play and do some things maybe that most people don’t necessarily teach a player.
as far as when a guy gets the ball here, try to think about this. This is the way to be effective, stopping him, and stop most guys. And here’s kind of how you want to do that. And I’ve always been pretty good at making that make sense to guys, so I could kind of help teach them kind of some of the intricacies of it.
that’s maybe a step beyond kind of being in just [00:40:00] proper defensive position or something like that, which, which most good coaches can teach. but you know, kind of get into, okay think about what he’s going to try to do, and here’s how we can kind of combat that and make it kind of a low percentage proposition for him.
I wasn’t an effective practice coach. I mean, I didn’t really know other than talking to guys on the side a little bit and say, Hey, I saw what you just did there. Maybe think about this, but, having an idea of kind of day to day, whatyour coach was trying to get done with something I had to learn and wasn’t great at it.
I don’t think I was as coaches. Obviously you make your money in practice and then that was not something that was great after the first year or two, I don’t think, Actually, as I recall when I first started, I don’t even think I liked being in practice. One of the games playing some games. you know, now it’s funny, even as an assistant, even as I got better at being an assistant, I think I, I got to the point where I believe I was a very good assistant.
You’re always ready for the games to [00:41:00] be in and as a head coach, I always wish I have one more practice before we played the next game.
Mike Klinzing: [00:41:05] Putting that game on your record does to you, right?
Kevin Byrne: [00:41:07] Yeah. I’m like, man, if we just have two more days to get ready for this, I think we’d be pretty good.
yeah. It’s funny how that shifts for you. It does
Mike Klinzing: [00:41:14] Sbsolutely big, big change. All right. So you get done with that extra first experience at Marietta. And then you get an opportunity to go back to your Alma mater, correct?
Kevin Byrne: [00:41:22] Correct. Yup.
Mike Klinzing: [00:41:23] All right. So talk to us about how that came to pass, and then what the experience was like to go back to a place where you had played and become part of that staff and kind of go behind the curtain on what previously you would only be able to see from the playing side of it.
Kevin Byrne: [00:41:40] Yeah. so like I said, my coach needed, needed a guy and now I was kind of in coaching. And so obviously I had known him for, at this point almost 10 years. And, and so yes, if I wanted to come back and I did, and I really liked Carnegie Mellon and I really liked Pittsburgh, so it seemed like a good, and I, I [00:42:00] can’t stress this enough.
I really enjoyed my time in Marietta. It’s it’s a cool little town. But it wasn’t like I was dying to get out of Marietta, but just a chance to go back. And, and again, I learned to coach from Doug foot. I learned as much from him as anybody, that first year. So I really enjoyed my time at Marietta.
We had a great year. Marietta is now really, really good. At the time. They weren’t we had kind of, one of the best years that Marietta had had in a long, long time it’s really good players. And it was a really fun year. but you know, again, just the opportunity to go back to a place that I knew and, and to work with a coach that I really liked, was kind of a really good opportunity and something that I wanted to do.
and one of the cool things I would say to people too, is being a division three assistant is. Is a really cool thing because you get to do everything right away. We don’t have. You know, now you go to as an Akron for a couple of years, and then it’s great. I mean, it’s great to be around that many guys who love basketball.
We have a lot of people on staff and you can go at one time in division one, or even division two and not really get to coach and not really [00:43:00] get to, to recruit and not really get to the assistants and the head coach. You get to do that, but you know, most of the others. There are all sorts of rules in place about what you are, and aren’t allowed to do if you’re everybody else.
And in division three, you’re 25 years old and right off the bat, it’s like, okay, we’ve got to go recruit this kid. Like, go get them. And kind of learning on the job on all that. And you’re doing all the scouting, I mean, ever more scouting reports, probably anybody in the country, because you’re right.
You know, as an assistant you’re writing almost all of them in, you’re really involved in the everyday decision making. And so that was a really fun part about going back to Carnegie Mellon and this guy that I knew we sat down right away and talked about what it is we wanted to try to accomplish.
and when we start to work on that and we got it done. We never won the UAA. It’s really hard to win. And five years after I got there and we won more games every single year. And in the fifth year, we won the league for the first time and then got to go to the NCAA tournament.
And just how sort of awesome it was to sort of go through that, really good [00:44:00] kids. Really hard workers and just getting to work with Tony every day and getting to do that was, still one of the highlights of my career has just kind of. Helping Carnegie Mellon get as good as we got. and that was at the time when I was coaching Carney, that we would beat Princeton one year. We were actually beating Pitt. When you’re half time, we actually were being put at halftime by two, came out, hit the first two threes of the second half. And Jamie Dixon’s over there called timeout. We’re up to number five in the country. It’s an exhibition game. and we’re up eight with about 18 minutes left.
And from there they played a little better than that and were able to sneak it out on us. really good teams, really good players. Like I talked about division three, really good players and we got good. And so again, getting to go back and be a part of that day to day in the office think about how we wanted to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.
Getting the players that we got helping develop them and turn into a really good team and getting to do it with somebody you like as much andn respect, as much as I like and [00:45:00] respect Tony was just a great time that I really look back on.
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:08] Was there an adjustment period? Obviously he was your coach. So there’s a different relationship there. When you have the player coach dynamic versus you come back and are a part of his staff. So how long did it take you to kind of get over the fact that this guy used to be. A quote authority figure in your life or somebody that was on a different level from you.
And now you’re more on equal footing with them when you come back and you’re part of the staff. How quickly were you able to kind of get past that and settle into what you needed to do to, to help him do what he needed to do?
Kevin Byrne: [00:45:39] Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really good question. He and I always had a good relationship.
I don’t recall it taking us too long to get into kind of a pretty good rhythm and we felt the same way about things, when it came to basketball, we were compatible in that way. So like kind of what he thought we should do and what I thought we should do. and then when I first got there, it’s not like I was sitting there telling him, Hey, we [00:46:00] should do this.
Like is there more to help him do what he wanted to do, but it was, it was easy for me to help him do what he wanted to do because I agreed with everything we were sort of doing. And, and so we were pretty in sync pretty quickly and we’re able to come up with a good vision, be able to share that vision with the kids that we needed to recruit, to be able to win.
We’re able to get those types of players and you have to have really good players, to be able to compete at the highest level of, of like, like we were able to individually through basketball. And so that’s the, long-winded answer your question and not very long we were, I feel like we were pretty quick to get on the same page as to kind of what we want to do, how we want to do it, that kind of thing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:45] What’s the biggest thing that you remember that you took away from that experience with Tony at Carnegie Mellon? That you still carry with you in your coaching today?
Kevin Byrne: [00:46:55] Yeah, I think that he’s a really good communicator and he’s a really, really good [00:47:00] at getting guys to coaching the whole person.
And he’s the guy who made you feel like he cared about you and again, I tell people all the time, like hopefully playing basketball is fun and being good is fun. And there are certain things you have to do sometimes to work at it, especially in a team. You know, most people don’t love working on close outs for 10 minutes, but it’s a really important aspect of it.
And he was really good at getting you to kind of buy into those types of things and then realize the value and kind of everything that you’re doing out there to help the team become what, what it could become. And, So I try very hard to think of kind of how he would handle some of the situations that come up sometimes and, try to emulate with what I think he would do.
And again, I think he was kind of a master at it and, And so I I’d say that’s the thing that most taken with them among other things, but that’s the thing I mostly carry with me since I’ve kind of left Carnegie Mellon
Mike Klinzing: [00:47:56] Tony has had an impact on you, not only as a coach, but as a player too, which I’m sure has [00:48:00] imprinted itself on you as a coach.
I think there’s no doubt that as players, coaches who are former players, certainly I think take a lot from not just the coaches that they’ve coached with, but I think from the coaches that. They played for both on a positive and negative way. And a lot of times you might as a player think, well, boy, if I ever am a coach, I’ll never do that.
you know, in the same way. But I think that a lot of times the coaches that we play for also have an impact on the kind of coaches that we become and the things that we learn and things that we eventually incorporate into our coaching style. So eventually. You get your next opportunity at MIT, correct?
Kevin Byrne: [00:48:37] Correct. Yup.
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:37] Okay. Talk a little bit about that transition, how that comes to pass, why you decided to leave your Alma mater and what was unique about that opportunity at MIT?
Kevin Byrne: [00:48:46] So, I was at Carnegie Mel for eight years and like I say, we got good. The last four we were, we were very good. and after eight years, I wasn’t quite getting the head coaching looks that I wanted and eight years. And [00:49:00] I’d been with Tony for four as a player. And I think it just was a good time for us to for him to get somebody new in there with him and for me to go work with somebody else and do something else. and so I got to know Larry Anderson a little bit, over the years, kind of recruiting in similar circles.
and he needed a guy and we talked and I talked to Tony about it and it just seemed like it was the right time to do something different to branch out a little bit. You’re really comfortable at Carnegie Mellon, but to do something something like that.
And, and again I, obviously I was in athletics at MIT, but it’s still kind of it’s MIT, you’re like MIT. Right. Okay. Let’s go. Right. Let’s go do it. And so, went up and started helping Larry out. And again, I just been so blessed and so fortunate to just be around such great coaches and great guys.
And again, same thing. We just worked well together and he’s [00:50:00] a really good guy and I’m trying to think what that just talked to him the other days, 32nd, 33rd year at MIT, you got the job really young. He’s the youngest alderman in the history of the state of Mississippi.
And they, he was at Rust college and they hired him out of Russ college and assistant Russ college in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and they hired him to MIT when he was probably 28 or 29, maybe. and he’s been there ever since, and just maybe something that wouldn’t look like the perfect fit for MIT, but he’s the perfect fit for MIT.
And getting spent four years with him, again, just learned so much and, and was really blessed. We, we had kind of a really fun first year and then was able to parlay that into some really good players. And, and my last year there, we were really, really good and, Yeah, it’s just a unique place and it just was a really fun experience.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:51] So when you eventually in your next job, you get your first head coaching opportunity at Ohio Northern. So you think back [00:51:00] to all of your time as an assistant, and now you get the job at Ohio Northern and you got to put together. Your staff, you’ve got to get somebody on that is going to help you. So when you look for somebody to hire, what qualities were you looking for in somebody that was going to join your staff based upon.
The things that you felt you had learned over the course of your assistant and your time as an assistant coach, how did that help you in hiring a staff when you eventually got a head coaching job?
Kevin Byrne: [00:51:30] Yeah, so it was a little bit of an unusual deal. When I got hired at Ohio Northern and I got hired late, kind of in the summer, I got hired in the summer.
the previous coach, left to go to Duquesne as an assistant. And, it took them a little while to fill the spot. And so I didn’t get the job until I believe it was in the June of that year in actually inherited the assistant coach who had interviewed for the job and was an alum of the school.
and [00:52:00] it didn’t end up getting it. And he and I got along very well. I liked him a lot. And so I was cool with, it was kind of part of the deal was that, that I would keep him on. And, and I was fine with that. Like I wasn’t trying to unemploy the assistant. So we were together for a few months and then as it turned out, I think he’s probably a little bit I think he was kind of looking to get out once he didn’t get the head coaching job.
and so in September, he took another job, actually, not in basketball. He got out to go into sales. And so I was we’re getting close to sort of year and there was a, so the guy ended up hiring as my full-time assistant was a guy who was around, who was, had been a successful high school coach in the Cincinnati area.
And I hired him for a couple of reasons. One. I didn’t have many JV games, Carnegie Mellon, things like that, where you don’t really play a ton of JV games, a handful here or there. It was really my only head coaching experience, that I coached like the [00:53:00] County team in England to make a little extra money.
The North Hampton team 10 years before that, when I was playing over in England, we’re really kind of my only head coaching experience and, And so he had head coaching experience and he knew Cincinnati and ONU is kind of a weird place in that. If you drive there from here, it looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere.
it’s just, you see every, every bit of agricultural Ohio, Driving from Northeast, Ohio to Ada now coming from the West, it’s kind of not that far from 75. It’s not that far from Lima. so if it has a little less of that feel to it, but, but it’s like two hours from everywhere in the state of Ohio, except for the Southeast corner.
And there’s nothing really in the Southeast corner. So I knew kind of Northeast Ohio pretty well and, and was going to be living in Northwest Ohio. But Cincinnati and Dayton were not areas that I was super familiar with. And he was from those areas, coached in the Cincinnati area for years. And so it seemed like a good fit as far as what we were going to try to do recruiting and that kind of thing.
So that was, that was [00:54:00] kind of the way that I thought about it. Trying to find somebody who complimented what I did, and maybe brought something to the table that I didn’t necessarily have at the time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:08] What was the biggest revelation for you when you got the head coaching job? Compared to what it was like being an assistant.
Kevin Byrne: [00:54:18] Well, obviously the, yeah, that one step over to the big chair is a big step. I mean, you go from being the suggester to the decision maker I mean, it kind of comes down to what you want to do and there’s no hiding it behind it now. I thought we should do this and we didn’t do it so, or whatever you tell yourself as an assistant when things don’t work out.
but you know, the buck stops there. I mean, it’s on you to kind of do kind of get it going. And it was a weird time for an Ohio Northern basketball team over the years been really successful. And they were in kind of a little bit of a lull, when I got there and so we were.
Trying to fix a couple things that it kind of [00:55:00] maybe kind of corroded a little bit over the previous five or six years. And so it was, it was a full deal. It was a challenging, challenging situation given that really passionate alumni group or division three school guys that won national championships in that kind of thing and, felt very strongly.
And it was a little bit of a tough deal too, in that, they passed over an alum for the job as well. So that didn’t sit too well with some people. And so you were dealing with a little bit of that as a first time, that coach as well. So, just kind of managing all of that just kind of negotiating your way through all of that.
I think as the assistant, you kind of talk to the head coach about things that he’s going through and that kind of thing, but you’re not really the one going through in some ways. And now you are you’re the one that’s trying to keep the alumni on board and all those types of things.
And then on top of it being your first head coaching job. So it was, yeah, it was eye opening and it was definitely a challenge.
Mike Klinzing: [00:55:58] So how do you rise up and meet [00:56:00] that challenge? Do you reach back out to people that you’ve worked with before to pick their brain? Do you go back and refer to. A notebook, a journal, a computer file of things that you put together that you’ve sort of collected to prepare yourself for being a head coach.
What did you fall back on when times got tough to help you to be able to build the type of program that you want it to be?
Kevin Byrne: [00:56:26] Yeah. I speak probably a little bit of all of that. Ohio Northern had a nice niche, has an engineering school. I coach engineers. That’s kind of what I have done over my life.
So that was a nice thing to have. So it’s definitely a school you could sell. And we’re just trying to bring in the best players and best students that we could. It was kind of the way I thought about it as far as what we did on the court. I actually, when I was at MIT, we played in the first round of the year, we went to the final four.
My last year at MIT, we played a team, in the first round of the tournament is getting more college [00:57:00] from Schenectady, New York, maybe, or Poughkeepsie. One of those, one of those towns over in New York in, They did a really unusual kind of high post offense. And I actually ended up stealing a lot of that.
We didn’t have any size my first couple of years at MIT or at Ohio Northern. I’m sorry. And, and so couldn’t really post or any of those types of things, but we had some bigs that could put it on the deck a little bit and tried to take advantage of all that. And actually did pretty well with it.
We probably were a little better than people thought we were going to be the first couple of years there. And, and so that, that was kind of just trying to find something that fit the talent, the best we could as far as playing wise and then just trying to get back to competing every night and, and, and then working on trying to help the guys that we inherited to have a good experience and also start bringing in some, Some, some good players that could compete at the highest end of the OAC.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:47] So two things there related to let’s talk the recruiting piece of it first. How do you go about identifying and finding guys that you think are going to fit your program and what are some things that. [00:58:00] Obviously there’s a certain level of talent that you have to have in order to be able to play at that level border.
Maybe some things that were more intangible that you specifically look for or questions that you wanted to ask about the players that you were trying to bring in.
Kevin Byrne: [00:58:12] I think as far as the type of kid that you’re looking for and this is kind of a guideline much more than a rule, but I’ve always found the guys that work hard in the classroom and work hard in general tend to be our best players.
So that, that piece is always important to me, finding guys who were good students who were, and again, that doesn’t mean you had to be as a straight a student to play I don’t want to make it sound like it was something like that, but looking for guys who were grinders, who were willing to kind of punch the clock every day.
And putting the work in the classroom, putting the work guys that you could kind of see evidence of that and their coaches would kind of speak to that type of thing. you know, and, and again, obviously you’re looking for talent as well, but in division three, we don’t have athletic scholarships, so you don’t have to be quite as fine as you do [00:59:00] with that at the scholarship level, as far as making a determination as to whether or not if it could really behind or that felt like the right place to him. And, he, he seemed like a good fit you didn’t necessarily have to say, okay, well, I’m not quite sure he’s good enough.
And so we could carry an extra guy or two, like the security and extra guy or two for enrollment’s always an issue, especially these days, some of these schools, So looking for the kid that kind of fit in with that kind of general mold. And, and then obviously looking for guys who are, who just, and as far as identifying them any way you could you’d end up at showcases and it ended up at, shootouts I’d call my buddies and if you have a shoot out do you mind if I come over and just take a look and people could always come over. I’ve always been not every kid’s for you. And I wasn’t trying to hide people like, I’m recruiting nobody.
Else’s maybe if I can sneak in step through when nobody’s looking. And I [01:00:00] wanted kids to have an opportunity to see different places. So I think people knew that about me. So they were pretty, pretty open to those types of things. And just try to turn every, every leaf over that you could to find what you’re looking for.
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:12] All right. So once you have kids in the fold and you bring them into your program, and obviously as a brand new coach, you have to build the type of culture that you want to have in your program. So how did you go about building the type of culture that you want it to have? Is that something that. You had a formal plan for, was that something where it was more done day by day, just through personal individual conversations with players, staff, administration.
How did you go about trying to put in place the things that you believed in, in terms of the culture that you wanted to have?
Kevin Byrne: [01:00:49] Yeah, I would say it was more of a day-to-day thing and just kind of trying to. To do it every day is kind of how we would talk to the kids about it. And that was, it was [01:01:00] all aspects of it.
That was certainly the classroom was a big piece of that. And then, so that everything became kind of a habit forming thing. Like you work hard every day in the classroom, you come in and we work hard in basketball. So we have a good day in practice. And we try to stack good days and then the game is just a continuation of that type of thing.
And so that’s, that’s why you were looking for that type of kid so that if somebody was falling off and you’d see the grade struggling. Okay. Something’s not quite right here with what it is that we’re trying to get him to think about and think about doing so we, then we can sit down and talk about it and we had a kind of formal academic plan in place and try to carry it through all aspects of what we were doing every day.
And I think we were fairly successful with that and we’re able to have a pretty solid program in my time there, but it was more that it was more just kind of showing up every day. You know, how, how are you doing in the classroom, checking on all that. And how are you looking at practice today?
You’re out there working, you’re performance level [01:02:00] may have been flow a little bit, but you’re out there everyday doing the things we need you to do. and eventually it kind of becomes the habit that everybody expects and then your older guys can help the younger guys sort of get it.
You don’t have to at first you probably have to drive it a little more. but then hopefully at some point you can begin to pass some of that off to your players and they can kind of show the younger guys how we think about doing things?
Mike Klinzing: [01:02:23] What does it look like in terms of style of play on both ends of the floor?
How much of it is you go into your season with a philosophy that you believe in. And then how much of do you take that philosophy and adjust it based on the personnel, obviously in college, compared to in high school, you have a lot more control over the types of players that you bring in that can kind of fit the system and the style of play that you want to have.
Whereas on the high school level, it’s more, you get kind of what you get, but just talk a little bit about how you adjust. Your style of play on both ends of the floor to what your personnel is capable of [01:03:00] doing?
Kevin Byrne: [01:03:00] Yeah. I think for me, it’s more tweaks and even at the division three level, you’d be surprised.
I mean, if you get a really good player and he doesn’t exactly fit your system, you find a way to make him fit your system. We’re not Kentucky where we can be like, Oh, that kid’s really, really good, but he’s not quite what we’re looking at with this other, really, really good kid there aren’t that many of them.
So you gotta kind of take what you can get. I definitely have some ways that my teams tend to play. And then you kind of tweak it a little bit to, to fit your talent. Like I say that one year we played with, no, I’m not sure we threw the ball in the low post one time the entire year.
and I like to throw the ball a low post, even if it’s not to score, but I just think getting the ball down there, it’s a different garden place for when most guys are working on defense, it’s kind of the balls on the perimeter and you’re in the gap or you’re on the line, on the line, up line, whatever it is you’re doing.
But you get that ball behind people and their heads start turning and you can, so I like to throw the ball in the post and I don’t think we threw the ball in the post once. So again, you tweak it that way, but I [01:04:00] think we always try to get the ball up the floor pretty quickly. You know, the only wet time I wouldn’t do that is if we just couldn’t do it, like without turning the ball over.
I just think even if you’re not very good offensively, like we’ll get down there and maybe. We can steal a basket or two, if we do those things and try to find a few advantage possessions in the game where we can get something easy maybe, and the only way you can really do that is to be consistently trying to get down there to see if that’s there.
And then obviously we can play from there. so that stuff rarely changes. the way I think about defense has changed over the years, probably like most coaches, I do things a little differently now than I used to as things have evolved and caught something that we like. And, but I pressed the same way.
I’ve always pressed. And if I have a team that can press them, we focused a little more. If we have a team that can press and we press a little less, we play more zone, probably the most people. I have a zone that I like that works pretty well for us. So, but th those things I, I put that stuff in every year and then just depending on the team, No some years we might play 90%, man.
In some years we might play 50%, man. The personnel has a lot to do with [01:05:00] that. But what we do doesn’t really change a whole lot from year to year again, maybe sometime there’s a squeaker, the new kind of idea, defensively that you’ve talked through with somebody that you might change. But, in general, we start pretty much the same way every year and then, and then kind of tweak it as we go.
Mike Klinzing: [01:05:16] Understood. All right. Your next opportunity after high on Northern is at the University of Akron at the division one level. So you’re going through a little change there from the division three to division one level. Talk to us a little bit about that transition, what it was like, and then maybe just describe your experiences with Akron.
Kevin Byrne: [01:05:33] Yeah, no, and again, it’s a different deal, right? I mean, it’s a division one college level is a different, is a different animal. Like I say, the first thing is there’s 10 of you in the office every day. I mean, it’s a difference. Where in division 3 three, there’s two or three of you.
I’m doing all of it now. There’s a there’s just more people, which is a really cool thing. I mean, really good. really good coaches. They’re fun guys to be around. And, and then in my two years at [01:06:00] Akron were, were unusual and fun and that I was there for the transition from, from Keith Dambrot to John Groce.
So I got a chance to work with both of them. And if ever there’s a way that you can see that there’s two different ways to do it. I mean, they are two different coaches. They do things differently. yet they’re both very successful and so for me, just getting to see that to get to work with two guys of that caliber, and being there with them every day and, and working at it was, it was really fun in my first year, there was with coach Dambrot, that we had a really good team was at the school record for wins and Akron had been good for years.
Unfortunately we got beat out in the conference championship game, but ended up. I ended up another funny story. We ended up at Texas for about a week after that. Cause we had to play Houston the first Sunday in the nit and beat them. And then we thought we were going to have to go play BYU, but they lost to UT Arlington. So we had to play UT Arlington the next round and the way the timing worked, we weren’t going to be able to like, But it was a game. It was like an hour down the road. And we were going to fly all the way [01:07:00] back there. There’s no direct flight and it was going to be like this whole thing. So we ended up staying out there for like four or five days after we lost the Kent in the Mac conference championship.
And then the next year as happens with coach and changes in the division one level, a lot of a lot of the players, a couple transferred to Duquesne and then some other guys decided to go to something else. And so John came in and had to put a team together on the fly. we weren’t as good, but again, just watching him work every day.
I think we got the most out of that team. even though it was not nearly as talented as the team that we coached the year before. but again, just being around guys who. I just really like and respect both of them so much and just getting a chance to be around them. And we’ll think of it, see a different way about how they think about things and how they go about things and, was just an incredible experience and, a lot of fun and, and, yeah, another again, just really fortunate.
Like I say, I guess a recurrent theme in my life is how fortunate I’ve been to kind of work with some of the people I’ve worked with.
[01:08:00] Mike Klinzing: [01:08:00] Everything that you’ve done over the course of your career kind of comes full circle. And you end up back at your Alma mater your own high school, where you graduated Walsh Jesuit here in Ohio.
Talk a little bit about how. That opportunity comes to pass. Why you decided to jump from the college level where you had been since the very beginning of your career to the high school level, and then what, what you’ve enjoyed about it, what’s been the positives of making that change.
Kevin Byrne: [01:08:28] Yeah, so I really hadn’t thought about getting into high school.
I really liked coaching college and really liked being in college, but, my wife had gotten a really good job in the Solon area. And the job opened up. And again, there’d been no indication that it would, the previous coach John Norris had gotten the job when he was in his twenties and had been the coach, I think he was there the head coach for 13 years. And he’s still at the school. He still teaches in the social studies department at wall. So I see him talk to him today for 20 [01:09:00] minutes. And, but it was one of those things while shooting almost 50 years of existence, it only had really two or there had been one or two guys right.
At the very beginning. And then Frank Lupica was there forever. And then John took over Frank. I mean, they’d had two coaches in the last forty years, pretty much. And there was no reason to believe that John wasn’t going to do it for another 20 or 25 years and just had a, He and his wife had had a little girl and she’d had a couple of health issues and she’s doing great now, but I know he’s having to drive back and forth to Cincinnati a fair amount and decided you needed to spend more time with his family.
And so out of the blue, nobody knew who he was even thinking about it. He just decided it’s time to step away. and so the job came open and because it was Walsh and it’s such a great experience playing there and, and going to school there. It was kind of like, well, let me, let me see if they’d have any interest in me coaching the team and it turned out they did. And so it just kind of worked out that with where my family was at at the time. And my wife having had, having gotten, [01:10:00] being in a settled position, it just seemed like. The right move at the right time. For me, it was just kind of the right thing to do, even though I hadn’t really thought about doing it before.
And so that’s kind of how that worked out. I ended up getting the alumni directors, job at the school as well, which I really enjoyed and was kind of goes hand in hand with some of the stuff I’ve done is a division three coach you’d certainly do a lot of kind of alumni engagement and some low-level fundraising.
And, and so I had some experience with those types of things. And so that job really sent me well and what, I really enjoyed it I didn’t know how it would be. And, but I don’t really do things that much differently. Maybe, maybe here and there kind of tweak it a little bit.
Maybe simplify it just a bit, but. You know, like I said, beating St V’s as hard as anything you’re going to do. Right. I mean, it’s not like this isn’t full challenges playing Medina in the district championship last year it’s a full deal coaching wise and playing Shaker Heights.
And then it seems to be played with that and played St. Xavier and, I have more in my mind, but not [01:11:00] more Elders, the other one going down and playing these teams is legit challenging. And so it’s I certainly don’t care any less, you try, just as hard it’s. it’s just as exciting when things go well, it’s just as disappointing when things don’t go well, so I’ve really enjoyed it.
It’s been a lot of fun and, you get a chance to work with. Been really fortunate. My first few teams the line I use on my teams the last few years. I mean, it is everybody tries to do what we’re trying to do. Like some nights we do it better than others, but everybody’s out there kind of pulling on the rope in the same direction at the same time.
And that’s a really fun way to coach. And so like I say, it’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Mike Klinzing: [01:11:37] Something that’s been different about coaching high school compared to college that. You’ve really that you’ve really enjoyed something that is not something that maybe you experienced in college, or maybe it’s just something about the age of the kids or the impact that you can have just think about maybe one thing that is different that you really have enjoyed about the high school.
Kevin Byrne: [01:11:57] Yeah. I think that you, you sort of hit on it. [01:12:00] It is a difference. You know, it is a different experience. You know, you have some sophomores on your team. You’re the 15 years old, the youngest guys I’ve ever coached before that were 18 or 19 years old. And it’s a different time of your life, at that age.
And so I think working with the kids, you get them at a more formative time. and it’s not to say that the college kids I’ve had almost all of them almost to a person I’ve really enjoyed coaching too. So I don’t wanna make it sound like you get them when they’re a little older and there, but there is a little more of.
and maybe it’s been some of the places that I’ve coached too in a place like MIT. Sometimes those guys kind of want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s a little bit more, they don’t mean it to be disrespectful. It’s just the way they are.
Mike Klinzing: [01:12:41] That’s the way their brain works.
Kevin Byrne: [01:12:43] Absolutely. Absolutely. A little more, Carnegie Mellon’s the same way. And maybe a little more explanation necessary where at this level you can kind of be like, Hey I try very hard not to be the guy who’s like I told that just because I told you so. They don’t really question it as much you say, Hey, this is, this will work.
I think you do this and that you [01:13:00] kind of get the kind of the nod of the head and they go out there and they try their very best to do it. and so I think that aspect of it has been, it has been an enjoyable one and having grown up in Ohio getting to.
Getting to play in the, in the, the OHSAA tournament and getting to compete for district championships and all that. It’s really fun. I mean, it’s a really fun thing to do. And then, I think it’s fun for the players and it’s fun for me I really enjoy doing it. So it’s getting to be a part of that has been, cause it’s the UAA is the one league I think is the only in the country now that doesn’t have a conference tournament.
So. now the OAC did, and it’s not like I never participated in a conference tournament. We made the NCAA tournament from time to time. and, and like I say, made a final four run before, but I’ve got a lot of years where there was nothing like that at the end where you play and you finish, hopefully you have a good year, but if you’re not the best team in the league, your season ends right there.
And so to be able to kind of keep building. I think it’s been a strength of mine as a coach that we really try to get that if there’s three days left in the season, we’re trying to get better. You know, we’re going to find the thing that we don’t do as well as we need to, we’re [01:14:00] going to work on it and then we’re going to try to get better.
And when you have that carrot at the end there to really try to let that manifest itself in a way to try to win some exciting games and to pull it off set or something like that in the tournament’s really been up.
Mike Klinzing: [01:14:14] Yeah. And have that tournament, carrot waiting at the end for you. I think without question is something that makes it fun.
And I know that when you think about there’s all different ways that you can look at it in terms of a coach and scheduling a play into it and how you try to prepare your team for the tournament. And I know I’ve always kind of been at the mindset that I’d rather. Have a little bit worse record during the season and be more prepared to play in the state tournament.
So maybe play some tougher teams again, it depends on what stage your programs at, but nonetheless, I still think that ultimately to me, both as a player and as a coach, the tournament was always kind of what you were pointing to and you want it to sort of be peeking and figuring out if your team was going to be at its best.
In March and that’s when you could really have fun and make a run, whether it’s to the district finals or the [01:15:00] regional or whatever, getting if you’re lucky enough to get down to the state. So when you look at. Now haven’t had a couple of years under your belt. What do you think is the key to being able to build a sustainable high school program?
Because it’s not the same at the college level where recruiting is kind of the lifeblood of your program. And if you can be a good recruiter, you’re going to continue to get good players in the door, and then it’s maybe a little bit easier to sustain. So how do you try to build that same thing? In your program there at Walsh to be able to have sustainable success over the longterm, what do you think is going to be the key to be able to do that?
Kevin Byrne: [01:15:37] Yeah, I’d say it goes back to what we talked about before. Just, just trying to every day we come in and like I tell them life’s for the grinders. Like we come in and try to try to put in the work and again, Try to make it fun too. Now like I said, there’s certain aspects of being good that aren’t necessarily quote unquote fun, but being good, is fun and coming in and being willing [01:16:00] to, to go through the things that it takes to be good every day being able to do that heavy lift every day.
That’s kind of what we’re looking for and the same thing with academically guys want to go in and work hard in the classroom. And then basketball just becomes kind of an extension of that. We just had to come out and we’re going to, we’re going to endeavor to be as good as we can be.
Every day. And then if we can do that and keep getting better I think at Walsh we can get, we have good enough players most years that we can, that we can be good. And if we get a year where we have a special player then we can, we have a chance to be really, really good, but it’s a year in and year out.
We have a chance to compete at a high level. And, and so that’s what that’s, what we’re trying to do is just kind of that mindset of this is what we do every day. Whether we. Last last night or one last night, know we’ll come in and try to do a post post-mortem on it. And then back at it County and ready for the next one.
And to me, that sort of, [01:17:00] it just kind of that everyday attitude that says that we’re going to if we’ve lost three in a row or three in a row, you walked into our practice. Hopefully you wouldn’t really know you’d see us out there doing, doing what we do, working hard and getting ready to be the best thing we could be that day.
And be the best that we can be tomorrow and the day after that. And, I think if you can get that going, you’ll give yourself a chance every year.
Mike Klinzing: [01:17:23] So to talk a little bit about the day to day, how do you put together a practice plan? What’s your philosophy for organizing that, do you do it by time?
Do you do it by, these are the skills we need to work on. Just what’s your process for putting the practice plan together. And then what does your typical practice plan look like? Let’s say on a pre maybe a pre-season practice. So not maybe in preparation for specific opponent, but just maybe in the the three weeks of kind of opening the season where we are.
Kevin Byrne: [01:17:51] Sure. so there are three or four things that I think are really important and we’re going to do most of those things most days now, as the [01:18:00] season goes along toward the end, we’ll probably do one of those things each day. And then, and then kind of just start getting into team stuff faster, to work on whatever it is.
We need to work on our press breaker or get ready for our opponent. But at this time a year kind of the rote activities of basketball. I say to the guys all the time, the stuff, that two equal teams play, the guide, the team that are better at these things are going to win the game most of the time.
Now, if the other team has the four best players on the floor, it’s not going to matter what we do. But, but even to that end, it might, my guys hear me say this all the time. Part of what I was talking about before, kind of that attitude is. Look, if we, if we played the Boston Celtics 22 times, we’d go, Oh, in 22.
And if we played a fourth grade CYO team, we’d get 22 and Oh, but we’re not going to let that impact us too much. We’re going to run and try and play our best game every night, regardless of who we’re playing. So to that end that’s, what we’re trying to do is build up to being able to play our best game.
And we’re in a lot of that is some of those again kind of rote [01:19:00] activities, which I think are like 90% of basketball. Now, the reason you play is kind of the other 10% where there’s some individual expression and some ability to go do those things. But again, all things being equal, the team that closes out the best team, that boxes out the best, the team that passes the ball the best.
is going to win the game again, assuming two, relatively evenly matched teams. And so we spend a lot of time working on those things in the preseason and then build them into kind of a team concept. But we’ll start with just one or two guys in a drill, working on whatever technique it is.
We’re trying to work on. And then try to kind of build that out as we go. So, I don’t reinvent the wheel either. We did format all of that tried and true way to spend some time trying to work on your defense. So that’s kind of how I think about it. And so, like I say, as the season progresses, we’re going to work on at least one of those things, probably almost every day.
So we’re still going to be doing rebounding drills. We’re still gonna be doing passing drills. And again, we might not do all of them every day as the season progresses, but [01:20:00] we’ll do at least one of them. The day before we play our last tournament game, we’ll be doing one of them, at least kind of whatever it is that we think we need to get better at.
And, and again, it’s worked well for me. I think our teams continue to get better. And some of that is we stick with kind of, I think those core things. throughout the entire season we don’t ever stop.
Mike Klinzing: [01:20:19] Yeah, I think that’s, I really do think that’s a key. And I’ve said this before on the pod that I feel like myself, one of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two years, coaching my own kids and little different situation where you’re coaching.
you know, more of a youth team and your practice once or twice a week. But I find myself because I’m always looking at stuff on the internet or talking to coaches now through the podcast, I’m always getting new ideas. And so I tend to be the guy who kind of chases after like, Oh, I want to try that. Or I want to try this, but I think that what you just described in.
Keeping something as part of your core philosophy in St. Louis, these are the four things that we need to do really, really well, because these are the things that impact winning [01:21:00] we’re going to do on day to day out and get really good at them. To me, I think if you’re going to sustain success, which we just talked about, I think that that is a great way to be able to do that is just by continuing to focus on the fundamentals and do it day after day after day after day.
And eventually it just becomes ingrained. It becomes habit. We all know that when you have good habits, Usually leads to good results, again, as you said, if you’re playing against opponents that are of a similar talent level as you. So
Kevin Byrne: [01:21:28] I mean, my guys laugh, I I tell them on my tombstone, it’ll read guards rebound I mean, we spend a lot of time working on those types of things that make the difference in these games that sometimes come down to a possession or two.
Mike Klinzing: [01:21:42] Absolutely. All right, we’re coming up towards an hour and a half Kevin. So I want to wrap up with my question. That’s kind of become the traditional ending of the podcast at this point. And that is, I want you to share one, what you think your biggest challenges moving forward, and let’s kind of throw COBIT to the side and just, just imagine [01:22:00] that we’re going to be back to normal at some point, at some point, we’re going to get there.
So your biggest challenge moving forward. And then the second part is your biggest joy. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Excited to come in and go to work and work with your kids there at Walsh.
Kevin Byrne: [01:22:14] Yeah. our, our biggest challenge, if you’re talking about sort of success of the team our biggest challenges is kind of the location where we’re at and the teams that we play and the teams that we have to be such good coaches, such good players. Like it’s just, it’s really it’s, it’s hard night after night after night. I mean, you gotta, you gotta play well to have a chance with a lot of the games that we play.
And so, Again, just kind of preparing for that grind every day and being ready to go out and play and play at our best every day, I think is challenging. You know, it’s hard to say, okay, we just played somebody we just played safety and you know, we’re playing Benedict in the night or we’re playing Like I say, we put Shaker and then went down to play Elder where every night. And like you say, it gets you, it gets you battle-tested, but it’s [01:23:00] challenging when things don’t go well, when you lose three in a row sticking with it and all those types of times.
Mike Klinzing: [01:23:05] That’s tough as a head coach. I completely understand
Kevin Byrne: [01:23:10] no doubt. And again, I try very hard to say, okay. We’ll just show up in a good mood the next day and say, we’re going to learn what we need to learn. We’re going to get better at what we need to get better at. But when things aren’t going well, and you’ve got two more, really tough games coming up that week.
It’s you know, that, that can definitely be a challenging aspect of it. the thing that gets me out of bed to go coach them, I like our kids. I like them so much. I like being around them. It’s why I do it. I’m happy that I get to have the impact, a positive impact on them. That is important to me.
And I’m really happy that I think I do that and do that pretty well, but really for me, it’s it’s more, it’s more, more about me. Like, I’m really like, it’s fun for me to go be around them really. That’s what this is, with this. I mean, I’m just kidding, sort of, but it’s, but I, I do mean it when it like, just.
It’s just a fun endeavor. It’s [01:24:00] just I coach because it’s just so much fun to do it. It’s so much fun to be around our kids at Walsh, especially they’re just a fun to be around. They’re fun to work with. And so I feel like we start, we get better as a team. And then at the end we’ve been able to kind of celebrate these really good years and the friendships that we’ve made and the hard work that we’ve put in that’s, that’s manifested itself in very real ways.
And we’ve been able to get kind of some signature wins in the tournament the last couple of years. And. just getting the, the excitement of being around to be able to be around that every day and guys that want to be good and want to work at it just makes it it’s I love doing it it’s it’s, it’s why I do it.
I really enjoyed it. So, so that would be my answer. Just getting to work with them every day. I hope, I believe in hope that it’s, it’s a good thing for them, but I know it’s a good thing for me. And, And so that, that will give me continuing to do it, I think, for the foreseeable future.
Mike Klinzing: [01:24:56] Absolutely. It makes a ton of sense.
I think the experience. That [01:25:00] you’re providing to them and that they’re providing to you. It’s kind of a weird everybody that you’re getting that experience, that, you’re getting to work with kids that, that want to be there that want to be a part of what you’re trying to build. And conversely, you draw a lot from them just by them bringing their energy and enthusiasm.
That’s the kind of situation that I think any coach wants to be in where you feel like. It’s a positive experience for everybody that’s involved in it. And 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, when they look back, when you look back, it’s going to be nothing but fond memories.
And as you said, a couple of times during the podcast, it’s fun to be good. And there’s some things that you have to do that maybe are fun in order to be good, but I’m guessing that just like anybody else, when you look back on your basketball experiences, both as a player and as a coach, I do, I do the same that.
When I look back, I tend to remember the good things. And I tend to remember the, your teammates. You tend to remember the positives and some of the things that maybe were a little less fun or a little less enjoyable, those things kind of melt away and you’re left with the good memories. And to me, [01:26:00] that’s really what the basketball experience is about.
Both from a planning standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, that’s really what you’re trying to provide to kids and to yourself again, if, if, if you’re coaching and it’s not fun and you’re not enjoying yourself, then it’s probably time to go do something else. So
Kevin Byrne: [01:26:14] yeah, no doubt.
Mike Klinzing: [01:26:16] Kevin, we cannot. Thank you.
We cannot thank you enough for joining us tonight and spending an hour and a half of your time talking to our audience and talking with us and spend a lot of fun. Get a chance to know you. We’re looking forward to being able to follow your program here in the future. And we can’t. Thank you enough for that.
I want to give you a chance before we wrap up to just share where people can find out more about your program. Maybe share your social media or the website where people could find out more if they want to reach out to you and just maybe talk some basketball.
Kevin Byrne: [01:26:45] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anytime. I was always happy to talk, talk to anybody about, certainly about basketball or, or whatever else you’d like to talk about.
And the best place to define this as just at our school website right now, you can find me on the, on the website [01:27:00] there and then find out about our team, and our schedule and, anytime we’re around for anybody. Anybody wants to ever come to a game or anything like that.
Just email me. And, just let me know that you had, you heard the podcast, something like that, and definitely leave you some tickets forever coming to the area that you’re at. But, yeah, it’s a, it’s a fun fraternity to be a part of the coaching community. And I’m happy to be here tonight and I really appreciate you guys having me
Mike Klinzing: [01:27:24] absolutely.
It’s been a lot of fun, Kevin can’t thank you enough. And to everyone out there, thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.