Larry McKenzie

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Twitter – @coachmckenzie

Larry McKenzie is the Boys’ Varsity Head Coach at Minneapolis North Community High School. He is the first coach to win four straight state titles in the 100-year history of the Minnesota High School Boys Basketball Tournament.

In 2017, Coach McKenzie became the first Coach in Minnesota High School Basketball History to lead two separate schools to multiple titles, both Minneapolis Patrick Henry and Minneapolis North.

Larry is a long-time community and youth advocate with 20 plus years of experience working with urban youth. His service to young people has earned him numerous awards and recognition including KARE 11’s Eleven Who Care, KTCA’s Everyday Hero, the Minneapolis Park Board’s Volunteer of the Year, and Positive Image Father of the Year.

In 2014, Larry McKenzie became the first African-American Coach selected to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

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Be prepared to listen and learn from our conversation with Coach Larry McKenzie from Minneapolis North Community High School in the state of Minnesota.

What We Discuss with Larry McKenzie

  • The influence of his Father and his Uncle on his love of basketball
  • Magic and LeBron
  • His friendship with his high school teammates
  • Figuring out your role as a player so you can get on the court
  • How being a “Big Brother” helped lead him into coaching and mentoring
  • Using basketball and coaching to teach life lessons
  • His daily creed: “This is the beginning of a new day. I have been blessed with this day to use as I will. I can waste it. I’ll use it for good, for what I do today is important. I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. I must decide good or bad, gain or loss, success or failure, I’ll never regret the price that I pay for it.”
  • How he grew and evolved as a coach
  • Tips on how to delegate to your assistants
  • The number one thing he looks for in an assistant coach – commitment to the kids and the program
  • Why your entire program needs to be speaking the same language
  • As the head coach you must model the behavior you want, you can’t just talk about it
  • How he organizes his practice planning
  • Advice for engaging parents with your program
  • Tips for helping players understand their role
  • Getting a “touch” with every player, every day
  • Why making an impact on kids is so important to his mission as a coach

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight. We are pleased to welcome to the podcast from Minneapolis North Community High School, Larry McKenzie. Larry, welcome.

Larry McKenzie: [00:00:10] Thank you.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:13]  we are excited to be able to have you on and get a chance to dig into all the great things that you were doing in the game of basketball and helping kids.

Want to start out by going back in time to when you were younger and just talk to me a little bit about your upbringing in the game of basketball. What made you fall in love with the game?

Larry McKenzie: [00:00:31] What else? A long, long time ago.  higher, but you know,  My recollection is, I mean,  so I grew up in a basketball, what would be considered a basketball family?

 my dad was kind of a high school legend in Miami, Florida.  played at Booker T Washington high school.  people always talked about his game.  Eve, your last [00:01:00] name was McKinsey.  when I was coming up, you played the game. So, since I can remember probably about seven or eight years old.  getting up in the morning, Saturday mornings,  going up to the park.

 mainly outdoors, but always,  me and my dad shooting free throws, you know, working on my shot, you know, just kinda, you know, like, like father sons do. I’m the oldest of four kids.  and then,  what really kind of pushed me to the game. I think when I was bought in. Sixth grade, around sixth grade, I got a chance to go to a high school basketball game to watch my uncle play.

 Stan McKinsey. And,  he was a pretty good player. Went on to play at NYU,  played over in Italy for a year. Then he went to play for the Baltimore bullets, played for the Phoenix sons’ Portland trailblazers, and ended his career with the Houston rockets. So, [00:02:00]  that always kept me going. As I got older,  I would spend my summers with my uncle.

 and so as he was getting ready for training camp, obviously I was doing a lot of basketball stuff and going to basketball camps.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:14] So what was it about the game other than obviously your family connection? What was it about the game itself? Was there one particular part of it that you were drawn to at that time?

Were you excited about the X’s and O’s? Was there a piece of you that thought, maybe someday I want to be a coach? Was it just purely the love of the game? Getting out on the court, shooting the relationships? What was, what was it at that time when you were a kid?

Larry McKenzie: [00:02:37] I mean, I think it was just really the, the love of the game.

One thing about basketball, you know, it’s, it’s one of those sports where, you know, you can play by yourself.  you can play one on one. You could play two on two, three on three. So, you know, some days you just pick up the ball, you go to the backyard. I mean, obviously back then,  [00:03:00] basketball, you know, on Saturdays,  we saw all of the SCC basketball on Sundays.

We got our,  NBA basketball, but, you know, you can just go out in the yard. You could imagine,  I was one of those kids that set on my. Front porch and dreamed about planning the NBA for whatever reason. I always wanted to be a New York knick.  and so when I was growing up, I mean, every time I was out playing,  I saw myself playing with, you know, at that time, Walt Frazier and Willis Reed and those guys are later Earl Pearl Monroe.

But I was always a big New York Knicks fan.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:39] I, you still a Knicks fan.

Larry McKenzie: [00:03:41]  no, but I guess, you know, it’s funny, I was having this conversation the other day with my mind. I’m more, I would say I’m a LeBron James fan, so, you know, grew up in Miami.  when he was there, I was a heat fan. Went back to Cleveland.

I was a Cleveland fan, you know, [00:04:00]  and I would tell you, so I was a big magic Johnson fan and, and my, MJ is magic Johnson. So,  he was a Laker fan. And now again, like a fan.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:12] Yeah. I think that you, obviously we had the here in Cleveland and Jason, I have talked a lot about just how, I guess grateful we are for him bringing such great basketball here for so many years and,  obviously brought us a, an NBA championship that I think that somebody,  just turned 50 years old.

I’d never. Never would have thought that we would have gotten any championship at all. So the fact that he was able to bring us one,  was just,  a special, a special, special thing. And obviously the, Brian, a great, great player and somebody who, if you’re going to be a fan of somebody in the game today,  I think that you think about somebody who plays the game the right way.

And as a coach and somebody who. Respect somebody who has a great basketball IQ. I think LeBron of any player in the game today, [00:05:00] and you think about magic Johnson in the same way, guys who just saw things and angles and passes that other guys just didn’t see. And I think that’s what made those two guys special,  as basketball players.

For sure.

Larry McKenzie: [00:05:15] Yeah, I mean, as you said, I mean, both of those guys. I mean, I always say,  they just, they do things that you can’t necessarily teach, you know?  and I guess the amazing thing for me, I mean, in particular, when people talk about, you know, the greatest of all time, I mean, magic Johnson at six foot eight and again, LeBron, you know, at six, eight.

You know, 240, 50 pounds.  but his ability to handle the ball, the S the the to do the things they do on the court. To me, it’s simply amazing.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:48] Yeah. Those two guys, and magic clearly was the forerunner of what eventually sort of became guys that could handle the ball at all different sizes. And of course now we’ve gone [00:06:00] to, or the NBA, you’ve, you have this positionless.

Sort of situation where guys,  you know, need to be able to handle the ball and do multiple things and guard multiple positions. And, you know, magic in his time was, was way ahead of the curve as a six, nine point guard. Nobody had ever seen anybody that size to be able to command the floor the way he did and get up and down and run Showtime and hit worthy and hit Byron Scott and Michael Cooper and Kareem and that whole group.

 you know, I grew up as a fan of the, of the Showtime Lakers. I’ve had this conversation with him. Jason on the podcast before,  we had to pick our favorite.  we did a, we did an episode a week or so ago where he picked our favorite player from each NBA team, and I said there were four. Teams that I had a lot of difficulty with, and one of them was the Celtics because I didn’t like the Celtics back when they were going against magic.

And so I couldn’t pick anybody from that era. And I continued to not like the Celtics. So [00:07:00] I facetiously picked my favorite Celtic as Kyrie Irving just because I couldn’t bring myself to, to pick any of the, any of the Celtics that went against the. The magic Lakers, although I have a,  although I didn’t like Larry Bird when I was a kid, I’ve grown to certainly appreciate him at the older I’ve gotten and how just how talented he was, but I was always a magic guy in the, in the Celtics Lakers rivalry.

It sounds like you were the, you were the same back in the day, so

Larry McKenzie: [00:07:28] without a doubt. Yes.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:31] All right. So as you keep moving on, you think about wanting to play in the NBA and, and obviously that’s a dream that lots and lots of kids have. Just talk about some of your fondest memories as a player. What are things, when you think back to some of the best times, the best memories that you have in your playing career, what are things that come to mind for you?

When I say,  give us your best memory. Well

Larry McKenzie: [00:07:57] when I, you know, when you say that, I mean, I think about, [00:08:00] so after, you know, once I was able to get to, to own enough to play organized basketball, I played for the boys club in Miami. And,  that group of guys, I mean, just the lifelong, you know, I mean, I still communicate with some of those, some of my teammates from doing,  that time.

And so. The friendships that I developed,  with that group of guys I made. And even though we would end up going to two separate high school, I mean, those were, those have been lifelong relationships,  for me.  so, you know, I think about that. Then,  I ended up going to,  I didn’t attend my neighbor’s hood high school.

I went to,  Miami beach, senior high.  I think a lot of, of what I learned about the game. I think my high school coach,   Chuck Filson.  the other thing when I talk about relationships,  I continue to, I mean, I on a regular [00:09:00] basis,  communicate with my teammates through social media.  when I’m visiting places, whether that be Miami or Las Vegas or any place that, that I have a former teammate, I always make it a habit to, to make sure that we get together, that we have dinners.

So.  you know, these, it’s been 30, 40 years, but these are, you know, some friendships that have stood the test of time.  I think, and I’m probably my fondest memory,  there’s, there’s two.  I remember as a sophomore in high school,  trying out, I was,  kind of in between being a JV player and a varsity player, and we had a couple of guys who were really, really good.

A couple of guards. Oh by the name of Oscar Martinez and Susan SISA you buy. And,  I knew that these guys got a lot of shots. So what I started to do, just kind of thinking ahead kind of stuff that I heard my dad and uncle mentioned, I figured out that if I could [00:10:00] just get five rebounds of so they shot and miss,  that I could get the ball, put it back five times,  that would put me at 10 points.

And five rebounds a game. And, and as long, and I’ve always been one of the, I prided myself with being in the best shape. So with that, I kinda stood out, coach recognized who I was,  and I was able to get into the,  starting varsity lineup as a sophomore,  just because of my work ethic. And I was willing to do, play a role that most other guys didn’t want to play.

I mean, they wanted the ball, they needed the score, and I just figured out whenever they shot, I just get on the other side because I knew that they wouldn’t shoot a hundred percent. So,  that was my,  sophomore year.  so that, that was, that’s, that’s a major memory for me too. It just, in terms of playing,

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:55] have you shared that story?

I’m sure with. Players and teams that you’ve coached over the [00:11:00] years. Cause I think that that’s something that when I think about coaching a team, and I think about dealing with kids, especially kids in today’s world with social media and a you, and just the focus on getting to the next level and, and the different things that we know go on in the basketball world today, I think that there’s, there’s relatively few kids who have learned that lesson that you described, which is you looked at the situation on your team.

You tried to figure out, what does my coach need or what does our team need in order for us to be successful and how can I fill that need so that I can get an opportunity to play? To me, there’s a great lesson there that I’m sure you’ve used and I’m sure any coach could use to be able to tell kids, Hey, look, you can get out on the floor.

You may not be the leading score. You may not be able to take 15 shots in the game, but you can become a very, very valuable part of this team. If. You’re willing to fill the role that we need you to fill in. So have you used that with your [00:12:00] teams over the years as a coach?

Larry McKenzie: [00:12:01] Oh, I showed up with my kids. I share that when I get that opportunity to talk to kids,  you know, that are trying out for various teams.

All the time. I mean, and the other choice was, I mean, the year before I, you know, I led my,  JV team in scoring, you know, at about 18 points a game. So I could’ve went back. It had been a Lincoln score and on a, on a JV squad. But, you know, I had my goal that summer. I worked really hard,  to,  wanted to play varsity basketball.

And so figuring out a way to make that happen. And again, I mean. You know, I guess I recognize early on, I’ve always felt I was a little bit more mature than most kids for my age. And so I recognized early on that that was a way for me to play. And interestingly enough, I mean, the kid that I was competing, again, it gets for that particular spot.

I mean, he was one of those kids that, you know, even though we had two kids that were, you know, previous had been all city basketball players. And. Was really, [00:13:00] really good at being recruited at a high level.  he wanted, he thought he was going to come in and be a star right away. And of course that didn’t happen.

And so,  he ended up, I think being like maybe the. Seven or eight guy that season. He was a junior,  playing on varsity, but,  you know, I was able to beat him out just because I was willing to accept the role when it didn’t. It didn’t need any plays ran from me or any of that kind of stuff. I, like I said, five rebounds a game.

If I could put those back.  you know, that’s 10 points and five rebounds. Not too bad for a sophomore.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:34] Not too bad at all. Not too bad at all. So I’m assuming that as you went on in your career, that your role expanded and you got to do a little bit more with the ball as you became a junior and senior.

Larry McKenzie: [00:13:45] Yeah. Yeah. And actually, you know, my, my junior year, I was one of the leading scores on the team. My senior year, I was the leading scorer on the team. And I tell you,  one of the other great memories that I had my junior year.  we lost,  and I’ll never [00:14:00] forget it.  we lost,  in the section finals.

Against Michael Thompson and the great high school team that they had in Florida, Miami, Jackson high school.  you know, all five, six of those guys went on to play division one basketball. And of course we know Michael Thompson would become the number one pick in the league and play, you know, have a hall of fame career.

In the NBA, but,  playing against him and actually having one of my better games that night.  I think I had a double double,  as a junior, 14 points, 10 rebounds.  so,  that’s probably another one of those great stories I’d like to share with the kids.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:38] So while you’re playing is coaching it all on your radar, it’s something that you’re thinking about that at whatever point, my coaching, my playing career comes to an end that.

I may want to coach, or was that something that came to you later? Because what we found is there’s kind of two camps of coaches or somebody. There’s some coaches that know right from the very beginning that, Hey, I always know I want to coach, and [00:15:00] there’s other guys who get done playing, or it’s time to quote, get a real job.

And they think, and I got to stay with the game of basketball that I love. So just talk to me a little bit about how you came to coaching and what it was about coaching that attracted you when it

Larry McKenzie: [00:15:15] did. Okay. So I, so I have to tell you the story. So,  I grew up in a household with two educators.  my mom was an elementary school teacher.

My dad was a special ed teacher. And I tell people never, ever in my wildest dreams that I ever thought I’d be working with kids.  and so when I got out of college,  I went into the insurance business. I was a sales mind. I was trying to make,  As much money as I can. I mean, you know, I thought that was what I really, really wanted to do.

 I had a friend of mine by the name of Clive Turney. Clyde is a legendary basketball player in the state of Minnesota.  played for the Minnesota gopher Clyde is also [00:16:00] probably,  was the first big guard in the big 10 at six, seven.  playing for the university of Minnesota. He was a six, seven,  point guard played with rhombi Hagan and all of those guys.

And you probably, I don’t know if you, well, you being in Cleveland, remember him, remember Luke witty and Ohio state and the big

Mike Klinzing: [00:16:19] fight.

Larry McKenzie: [00:16:20] Yes. Yeah. So client was one of the players,  during that time. But anyway, cloud was working for big brothers. And so Cod,  kept encouraging me to become a mentor of,   and get involved with big brothers and which,  he finally convinced me.

And so I got involved with big brothers and,  I got introduced to a young man by the name of Jules and,  as, as Jules and I began spending time together. The thing that we discovered that we both had in common was a great love for the game of basketball. And so one day, believe it or not, Jules is walking through the hallway of [00:17:00] his middle school.

 and he overhears the principal talking to some of the teachers saying that they,  probably wouldn’t have a basketball team that season because they couldn’t find anybody to volunteer to coach. And Joel jumped into the conversation and he volunteered his big brother. And,  That was my entree into coaching.

And so,  I coached his team that year.  we had some success.  and I always tell people,  the crazy thing is I got involved with coaching,  looking to impact the life of a 13 year old young man. And my life was forever changed. So,  it is because of Jules and I started coaching. I went on to coach a park board team coach those kids for six years.

When they went to high school, I went looking for a coaching position as a volunteer coach. But,  that was a life changing [00:18:00] moment for me when he volunteered me to coaches middle school team. And so that’s how I got it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:18:05] What do you remember about standing in front of that group of kids for the very first time as their coach?

Larry McKenzie: [00:18:10]  well, you know, you know, the thing about it is the first, I guess I love the game and so.  you know, knowing a little bit about the game. I remember just jumping right in, you know what I’m saying? And, and try getting things organized and, and really just going back and reflecting on,  some of the things that I learned from my high school coach and my dad and,  the folks around me.

So,  it really came pretty natural.

Mike Klinzing: [00:18:40] What was it about once you got into it, what did you like. The most initially right out of the gate. What was it? Was it the relationships with the players? Was it the games? Was it the practices? What is this some specific aspect of coaching or what was it about it that made you say, Hey, I want to come back and do this again?

Larry McKenzie: [00:18:59] You know what, [00:19:00] really the probably for me, and I always tell people, for me, coaching has always been a ministry.  and so what, what really.  probably was more exciting for me, what the opportunity every day,  to talk about life lessons too. If, you know, I was coaching,  inner city kids, and so to be able to share with them how they could either use the game, a lot of game to use, use them, but, but it was more having basketball as a tool to be able to mold and change lives.

And I guess that’s what I really, really.  found intriguing about the game.  it was about building those relationships. A lot of those kids, I became,  you know, not only coach, but like a surrogate father. So, you know, and at that time,  I didn’t have any kids. So, you know, I always tell, like I told Jules, I mean, we, I just kind of used him to experiment a little bit.

 [00:20:00] or what it would be like once I had kids.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:03] Yeah. I think that’s something that when I, when I think about. My own coaching journey. I think the fact that you were able to come to that realization early in your coaching career, and obviously you had already had that in you with the, you know, with the,  being a big brother and all those things and the mentoring and that, I think it was already clearly an important part of your life and what you want to do.

But I know for me, at least early on in my coaching career, it was more about the basketball and the X’s and O’s and. Maybe to some degree the relationships, but I don’t think it was about using basketball as a vehicle to improve kids’ lives. It was a vehicle for me to improve kids’ ability to play basketball and to help their team to be more successful.

And the things that you were just talking about are things that didn’t come to me or didn’t become apparent to me. Until I was older,  certainly than what you were at the time. So I think that that’s something that [00:21:00] if you look at the totality of your coaching career, I’m sure that you’ve continued to build on your ability to.

Teach those life lessons through the game. And so just tell me a little bit about how you go about incorporating that into what you do day to day now as a high school coach, when you’re teaching life lessons, is that something that you intentionally sit down and think about when you’re putting together a practice plan, or is it more looking for the opportunity to teach people moments to be able to jump in and something happens?

You’re say, Oh, here’s an opportunity that I can demonstrate to my kids how this applies. Outside of their life. Just talk about your process for using basketball to teach life lessons.

Larry McKenzie: [00:21:43] Well, so it’s all of the above. So for me,  one of the things that I do that I’ve been doing since I been a high school coach, a lot of,   it starts with,

My own personal mantra or creed that I use [00:22:00] every day. And so it’s something that I share with my kids. We do it before practice every single day. We do it before games. It’s the foundation of everything that we do.  my CRE, it goes like this.  and so I’ve changed it wherever I’ve been.  you know, was the Patriot CRE,  stars created.

Now is the polar CRE. But, but it’s something that I do every single day.  I start my day with this. It goes like this. This is the beginning of a new day. I have been blessed with this day to use as I will. I can waste it. I’ll use it for good for what I do today is important. I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.

I must decide good or bad gain or loss, success or failure in order to, I’ll never regret the price that I pay for it. So along with the creed every single day,  I choose a motivational quote,  that we begin with. So we have what I call the thought of the day. Then we do our CRE, but also in our program.

I mean, so it’s a highly structured [00:23:00] program with. Mandatory study hall three days a week.  so we, we spend,  three days a week,  one hour with,  academics, and then we do,  life skills. And so I use chest,  we, you yoga,  we have speakers come in.  we talk about leadership, but I incorporate all of those things.

And one of the things I have to say is, you know, it kind of skipping through my career,  I was a talented athlete. But I had some, some personal challenges around,  some anger issues,  as I was coming through in high school and in college. And so when, when I really got to the stage of coaching, I kind of looked back and saw what I thought was God had actually prepared me along the way to coach the kids who I was.

One of the things I say is that Larry McKenzie  like coach McKenzie, could have never played for Larry McKenzie.  [00:24:00] and I’ll be honest, I mean, I was one of those kids,  because I was talented.  you know, some,  coach often, you know, would say,  well, my kids that you feel like you want to practice today or, you know, so,  I got away with a lot of stuff that, that,  I don’t know.

It was in my best interest.  because I was a fairly talented athlete.  but it also cost me in my recruiting.  even though I was talented, had some division one offers, I ended up going to NAI school in Wisconsin.  didn’t play for four years, only played.  two years before I ended up,  just being a part of the intermural squad,  because I couldn’t get along with the coach.

 I wasn’t a good teammate, any of those kinds of things. And so,  as a coach, I was able, I’ve been able to take some of my own personal shortcomings that I always tell people. I think it’s important that you share your movie. And,  I, [00:25:00] it’s, so, it’s just been one of those things that I do with my kids, but it’s,

When you talk about life lessons, I mean, I literally, you know, look, every single day, kind of go into a look for looking for an opportunity to,  to talk, to talk about,  things that are going on in the community, may be going on in the school, but things that are going to impact them. And,   on and off the basketball court.

Mike Klinzing: [00:25:28] Yeah. I love that you’re able to use your own story and use your own flaws to be able to impact kids and tell your story. I think that’s something that is really underrated when it comes to being a good coach is. Being human, being vulnerable and letting kids know that you’re not perfect, and as we all know, it’s far better if you can learn from someone else’s mistakes, learn [00:26:00] from your own.

If you can avoid the mistakes that somebody else has made because you’ve had a conversation with them and you’ve had a relationship with them, I think that ends up really speaking to. The kids directly. And so I think by you sharing those flaws that you had when you were a player, I think you’re better able to get that message across.

And I’m sure the kids in your program take that, you know, take that to heart when they hear it from you as their coach standing in front of them that, Hey, I’m not perfect. I did some things when I was younger that maybe I look back on them and I wish I’d have handled it differently. And I think those first person accounts can definitely help kids to grow and learn and get better and improve.

So I like how you talked about your creed and I think that that’s something that, wow, it’s a powerful, that’s a powerful statement that you put out there when you think about it in terms of, you know, what you’re spending for that day of your life. I’m sure that that has an impact on you every morning when you get up.

And I know it has an impact on your kids.  [00:27:00] talk about when you got your first high school head coaching job and. What that was like and how you improved from your first opportunity to be a head high school coach to the point where you are now. Give us some things that, boy, when you look back, you weren’t very good at it at first, that you’ve gotten a lot better at over the years.

Larry McKenzie: [00:27:22] So, so I think early on, so I,  I actually started, got a high school job. I went in my first year,  As a volunteer assistant coach. I’m a medic, met the coach in church.  told them I had been coaching some young guys.  we’re looking to get into high school coaching. Did he have any openings on his staff?

He said, well, you know, you can come and help. I can’t afford to pay you. So at the time I had time on my hands. I, as I said, I was working in corporate America. I was making a pretty good living. So I ended up volunteering one year,  built a relationship.  [00:28:00] with those kids,  it was a program,  ended up having a major impact.

He ended up getting a position to go to Dayton, Ohio, become a youth pastor. And the kids all walked into the office and said, we want you to hire a coach, McKinsey. So,   never interview for the position.  ADA said, if you want the job, it was yours. So I was tell folks that, that, that was the beginning and the rest is being kind of history.

But,  I’ll tell you early on, I,  I was one of those guys who,  was it,  even with my assistant coaches,  wasn’t very flexible.  it was, you know, my way or the highway. Oh, those, that, that kind of thing. I think I was,   you know, like crazy stuff when I look back now, like I didn’t allow the kids to play music in the locker room.

You know, I just had all of these, these rules and, and, and different kinds of things. And, [00:29:00]  as I looked back,  you know,  I’ve learned,  as a coach,  you, you, you gotta be what you want. You know, you gotta be what you want to see. And so therefore,  being a much better listener.  I think I’ve learned to incorporate and use my assistant coaches a lot better,  than I did in my early years.

  and I think that the other thing of it is too, is, you know, as I got older and I had my own kids, I also learned to pick my battles. You know what I’m saying? Like, not making a big deal. Out of everything that a kid does.  just kind of knowing,  learning,  that you can’t coach every kid the same, that you have some kids that you need to wrap your arms around and give him a hug, and then some kids that you can really get into and that’s the way that they’re going to respond.

So,  I see so [00:30:00] much growth and, and here’s the other thing I’ll tell you even as more recently as the last couple of years, I always considered myself. As somebody who I would say, you know, I talked a lot about empowerment and empowering my staff and empower my kids. But,  I kinda started doing some, you know, self-reflecting.

And what I discovered is I would tell them a shot, empower them, but always also told them how to do it.  and if it wasn’t done my way, I had issue. So as I look back, I was like, I had a real trust problem. And so what I’ve grown now is a couple of years ago,  I just kinda started letting my assistant coaches, you know, if If I gave him something, if they made a mistake, it was okay.

And then we talked about, and got to the point, it didn’t have to be done exactly the way I’ve done it, or the way I would have done it.  [00:31:00] and what I’ve, and over the last couple of years, I’ve just seen a one hour staff come together and be a lot closer.  and I’ve also seen my, my coaches just flourish, and that, you know, taking on things,  not, not waiting to be asked, all of those kinds of things because,  I’ve learned to, to, to trust them.

And I don’t think I had a lot of trust.  even with players, you know what I’m saying? Make a mistakes.  you know, w especially when you have talent, it’s easy to the dispatcher, kid for turnover and those kinds of things. So I think over the years I’ve grown through those kinds of things in terms of becoming a better coach.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:39] Yeah. I love what you said about empowering your assistants, and I think that that’s something that I can definitely relate to. I think people who. Are driven and are ambitious and want to have success. I think that those types of people tend to be very control oriented. And [00:32:00] because you have such high expectations for yourself and what those outcomes are going to be, you want to make sure that it’s done exactly the way that you want it to be done.

And I know that for myself,  whenever I have to delegate something, it’s difficult. It’s hard to. Let go of that control and let somebody else, as you said, do it, and maybe they do it in a slightly different way than I would have done it, but there’s no possible way that you can get to the level that you want to get to, whether it’s in coaching or business or whatever it is that you do in life.

If you try to do every single thing yourself, there’s no way to. Manage a high school basketball program all by yourself. You have to have people that you can trust and that you can empower. And so I think that’s the message that I take away from your story. And I think it’s a great one for coaches out there, especially coaches who are maybe new to the profession who are just taking over their first job as a high school [00:33:00] coach.

I think it’s really important that you empower your staff and that you give them responsibility. And then as you said, people, if you have the right people in those positions. They’re going to flourish and they’re going to come through and they just start doing things that maybe you didn’t even realize they could do or that you didn’t expect them to do.

And that’s when you know you really have something. And I’m going to follow up that little statement with a question for you, and that is when you’re putting together your staff and you’re going to go out and you have an opening and you’re conducting interviews. If it’s not somebody that you already know that you’ve kind of pinpointed for the position, but you’re looking for someone new, what are some of the qualities that you look for in a good assistant coach at this point in your program?

Larry McKenzie: [00:33:39] So I’ll tell you my number one criteria I always tell people I’ve never had hired anybody because of their exits. And Knowles,  what I look for in particular, the majority of my career has been spent,  coaching,  inner city,  with African American boys. And so. A number one thing. I want [00:34:00] someone that has shown a history of being,  committed to, to kids.

 not somebody that, and when I say committed, not somebody that,  think they’re going to be able to just show up,  in March. I mean in November and be done in March, or somebody who shows up for two hours of practice and think that’s the end of,  of what we have to do. So I’ve looked for people that have a history of,  working,   in education,  but who’ve been involved as mentors or, or, you know, some role working with kids and showing a high level.

Of commitment of going above and beyond. So that’s my number one criteria when I’m looking for someone on my staff. I figured, you know, w with all the camps and clinics and all of those kinds of things, I mean, if you truly, you know, like basketball, we can get you those things, but I can’t get you [00:35:00] to, you know,

Be committed to the level that we need you to be committed,  in our program. Going back to the things that you were talking about, I mean, if you got a high level,  of, of standards, if excellent is your standard, then I need somebody to be committed to that and willing to do the things that,  that’s going to make that happen.

So that’s my number one criteria.

Mike Klinzing: [00:35:23] I think that’s a great point that. When you think about hiring an assistant or you think about somebody who’s part of your staff, or you think about just yourself as a basketball coach, there’s a lot of things that you have to get right, and there’s a lot of things that have to be a part of it.

Being committed, I think is critical, and I think you made another good point when you said that the X’s and O’s piece is something that you can teach people. As you said, especially in today’s world where pretty much any coach that you want to find is. Accessible and amenable to having a conversation with you.

You can go online and search and watch videos and find [00:36:00] plays and do all those things, and if you, as you said, are interested in the game of basketball, you’re going to be motivated to go out and find all those things and you can, you can figure that part of it out. It’s, it’s the people part of it that I think.

Is the key to making sure that you get it right, that you find a coach who’s committed to building relationships with the players on your team, building relationships with the other coaches on the staff, building relationships with the school community. And then as we talked about a few minutes ago, that coach has to also buy into your philosophy of being willing to impart life lessons too.

The players, and if they can do that, then I think you found the right person. And so as a head coach, how much do you find,  or how much do you take responsibility for helping to develop your assistance? If. They have the desire sometime to become a head coach. What’s your role in helping to develop your assistants?

There are some coaches obviously, that are happy being an assistant and may not want to advance in their [00:37:00] career, but if you do have someone who eventually wants to take over their own program, what do you feel are your responsibilities to, to help that coach, to be able to get to that level where they can take over their own program someday?

Larry McKenzie: [00:37:11] So, so I mean, in a simple way of asking that question, I think I wouldn’t get it wrong, but I think it was Napoleon. He’ll on Napoleon stone one, but I once read someplace that having knowledge without sharing it is like having an atomic bomb and never dropping it. And so for me,  I walked my kid, my, my coaches,  you know, to be able to pick my brain, I have,  a couple of young guys.

I take them to. Oh,  the, the meetings that I go to with administrators, I want them to learn what it’s like to do,  the bus schedule, but with the crate for me, and this has been the blessing that I’ve had.  you know, so this is year 22 for me as a high school coach.  [00:38:00] I have one of my assistants has been with me for 20 years, who’s more than capable of running his program?

My associate head coach.  the current position that I have. He was the head coach.  the school was having some, some challenges. He stepped down so that I could become the head coach and became my assistant coach.  so that we could,  turn the basketball program around and, and basically save,  Minneapolis North high school through,  athletics,  getting kids to come in through enrollment.

But,  my staff,  I think the, well, I got a couple of new people that I bought in this year, so they was with us one year, but the majority of my staff has been with me for 10 years or more.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:48] How important is that from a continuity standpoint? How does that help you? I can answer that. I was an assistant coach with the same staff.

We had the exact same staff for I believe, 11 or 12 years. [00:39:00] Same head coach, same varsity assistant coach, same JV coach, same freshmen coach, and we were all together and it just really worked well. We felt like year after year that continuity. Just gave us such an advantage to talk a little bit about how your comfort level with those guys that you’ve been with for such a long time.

Talk about how that impacts your program really helps you to sustain your success year after year.

Larry McKenzie: [00:39:21] Well. Well, I mean, I think the biggest thing of it is, and you know this coach is, it’s so important that from the ninth grade level, through the varsity level, that you all are speaking the same language so that you know, the kids are hearing, you know, the same plays that you’re talking about out of bound plays and all of those things, defenses all the same.

I think that’s it. That’s critical. But the thing for me, what it does, it just, it really allows me to continue to grow and do some other things because. You know, like with my coaches, I could be running late,  with a meeting and when I walk in the gym,  I mean, I know, right? [00:40:00] No matter where they are, they know what we would be doing at that particular time.

I jumped right in on the practice plan.  it doesn’t change. I mean, it’s, I don’t know if you can get a smoother kind of operation, but also I like it. The, the, the thing that I think is, is critical is, you know, you’re, we have to be coaches in particular, so the coaching staff have to be a team and we got to model the behavior of the team.

And so I like,  the longevity of our staff because I also know that even if I’m not around. That my staff has is messaging the same thing the same way?  and it’s funny because my JV coach is one of my former players who’ve now been with me for eight years. And,  I mean, if I, and I’ll sit behind the bench, and if I close my eyes, I think I’m hearing coach [00:41:00] McKinsey, you know?

And, and so, I mean, and that could be a good thing and a bad thing, but, but it’s just like, like I said, I’ve been blessed on. It’s, it’s a, it’s a well oiled machine.  and I think it’s one of the reasons that, you know, we’ve been blessed. Like, you know, this group, you know, we, I came into a situation where my sister, my head is,  associate coach.

He had this position, as I said, he stepped down. He had won three games in three years.  the school was down to 68 kids.  and he sought me out to comment and, and take the position.  we’ve been city, we’ve been city conference champ the last seven years in a row. We had, you know, six division one kids.

I mean,  two state titles. And I think it’s because of the continuity of the staff.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:54] Yeah. I think that we had recently just had mano Watson from PGC [00:42:00] basketball, and one of the things we talked to him about was. Building a culture and he said something to us that totally just reminds me of what you’re describing.

And that was that one of the most difficult things for him in building PGC basketball was when it was small. He was at every single event. He was at every single camp, and he said, what he had to do is he had to be able to figure out how to make the culture. Exists, even when he, as the leader wasn’t there.

So if he wasn’t at a camp, there had to be no difference in that camp, whether he was there or not. And what I hear you saying is basically the same thing, that if you’re late for practice, for whatever reason, for a meeting, or if you’re sitting on the bench behind the JV team, you’re hearing and seeing and.

Your staff and your players are doing the same things that they would be doing, whether you’re there or not. And to [00:43:00] me, that’s really the definition of what a great culture is. Because as we all know, as present as you might be as the head coach, there are moments where you can’t be there. You can’t be at every moment in the locker room.

You can’t be in the hallways at school. You can’t be with those kids, with their families in the community. Every single moment. And so when you built the type of culture through the people that you have, and through the way that you’ve set up your program and through the life lessons that you’ve taught, when you’ve taught that culture.

To the point where you don’t need to be there in order for the culture to be present. Man, that’s when you’ve really accomplished something. It sounds like that’s when what you’ve been able to do. So can you talk about what did you do? What was the turnaround to go from one in three games in three years?

What was it that you think you were able to do well, that enabled you to turn the program around to the point where you’re a perennial winner?

Larry McKenzie: [00:43:56] I think so. So one is,  [00:44:00] Going back to what you just said, I mean, is early on. And so I went into a situation, so when I went into the school, Willa had 68 kids and our kid, and we had two classes, a, a freshmen class and a sophomore class.

 and so I think everything had to start at with,  our coaching staff, modeling the type of behavior that he wanted. But also I can tell you, I don’t think there’s anything more important in terms of building your culture,  then your locker room. And so,  one of the things that I immediately done is, you know, we told our kids that they were going to have to be student athletes, and if you didn’t take care of business in the classroom, you’re not going to be able to represent the school and community by wearing a Minneapolis North Jersey.

 and so we set those systems in place.  and one of the things that I always tell our kids, so I said, if I could change your mind, I could change your life. And [00:45:00] so we just talk about learning to believe, learning to believe. And so every single day, and I want to go back to my high school, and there are some words that.

 my point guard, Oscar Martinez told me as a sophomore in high school, he, I’ll never forget the day.  you know, one of those days when I just didn’t feel like giving a hundred percent. And you know, he, him being the leader of that squad, he came to me and he said, Matt, let me just tell you something.

If you’re not going to give a hundred percent, don’t tighten up those shoes and don’t step across that line. And so for me as a coach, every single day,  when I put on my shoes and I walk into that gym, it’s about giving a hundred percent. And that starts with the coaches. And when I tell the kids, if I give a hundred percent, my expectation is you’re going to give a hundred percent.

And so that’s a culture that we built, that we built.  and I’m not one of these guys that, that do a lot of, you know, killers and all of those kinds of things.  we [00:46:00] create an expectation.  and,  I always say what we do is not for everybody.  and if you value being a part of this family, then you’re going to follow the rules and expectations that we have as a family.

And so to me,  it’s creating that kind of a culture that have allowed us to win and have the success that we have.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:21] I love what you just said, which is. It has to start with you as the head coach. And I think that that goes to something that we’ve probably all heard this before, but I think it’s applicable right here with what we’re talking about.

And that is that you can talk to kids all you want about how important it is to work hard or whatever your cultural values are, the pillars of your program, and you can talk about those things as much as you want, but if you’re not living those things. On a daily basis and you’re not demonstrating those things with your actions or with your words.

Those kids aren’t going to buy into [00:47:00] what you’re trying to sell them because the words that you say don’t mean anything if they’re not backed up by action. And I think when. Your program that goes, your assistance, your players, the people in the school, and they see that you’re a hundred percent committed that you’re doing the things that you say you’re going to do.

Then that builds the kind of trust that’s required in order to be able to build the type of culture that it takes in order to be successful at whatever it is that you’re going to do. That could be in business, that could be in coaching, that could be in any walk of life. You’ve got to walk the walk first before you can talk the talk.

And if all you’re going to do is talk the talk, you’re not going to have much success.

Larry McKenzie: [00:47:40] Especially these days though. Cause I think kids recognize that, you know, I mean, kids know, recognize that right away and, and you’re absolutely right. One of the things I tell my coaches all the time, kids don’t care what you say.

They watch what you do. And so we’re very conscious. And when I tell our coaches, I mean, I always use this thing, I don’t want my coaches to be role [00:48:00] models. I want them to be real model. And so know that our kids, you know, they’re, they’re watching the way that you approach practice. They’re watching how you talk to your kids.

They’re watching how you treat your wife. And, and, and at all times, you have to be conscious that this is what we signed up for.  and so one of the things, you know, I, and I’ll always say this even to our kids, when you join a T. You’re giving up you. And so I use this thing all the time, every year with the kids to remind them that, you know, if something was to happen, if I was to go out and, you know,  get intoxicated and hit somebody, the headlines wouldn’t say Larry McKenzie, it would said Minneapolis, North head boys basketball coach.

And so I’ve given a lot of me up to be a part of this program. And so I just tell our coaches we have to be real models and not role models. And, and that’s taken it to the next level.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:55] Absolutely it is. And I think there’s no substitute for that. As you said, the [00:49:00] action speaks far louder than the words and kids today.

They know it. I always say that kids can sense when you’re not genuine. Kids can sense when you’re trying to cut corners and if you do, you’re not going to last very long in a coaching profession. Cause kids, kids are pretty good at sniffing out. People are telling them the truth

Larry McKenzie: [00:49:19] in a heartbeat. All right.

Mike Klinzing: [00:49:21] So let’s go and talk a little bit about how you go about putting together,  a practice plan. So what is your practice planning look like? How long does it take you? Where do you do it? When do you do it? How do you organize a practice for coaches out there who are maybe struggling to figure out, how do I put together a good effective high school practice?

Just give us the procedure that you use to put together your practices.

Larry McKenzie: [00:49:47] So, so I’m gonna tell you, for me, my planning starts after the last game,  in, in March.  so typically, you know, my season I would say, goes through the end of the final [00:50:00] four,  after the one signing moment. You know, I try to take a little time for myself, but then I begin the process.

And so initially it’s,  going back and,  looking at, you know, games or things that. What happened last season? It starts with my season meeting with my coaches, and then I always say I start in September and October putting together what I call the puzzle. So what I do is on a sheet of paper, I’m going to write down what I want to do, man to man offensively, right?

So I want to put in a, I want to put in swing, I want to put in motion, I want to put in.  these various sets. And so I write all of those down now. Then I’m going to spend some time talking. Okay? So I want to play man to man defense, but also want to do some running jumps. I want to,  put in a diamond press.

I want to put in a, a one, two, two, one, three, one. So I write all my defenses [00:51:00] down, right? Then I start thinking about, okay,  how effective was my outbound plate, my sideline out of bounds by baseline, out of bounds. All of those kinds of things.  you know, looking at my personnel. So I call it putting together the puzzle.

And so I start with a master,  practice plan, writing down everything that I want to do. And then for me,  I use, so November and December, it’s a two hour practice.  January, it’s a hour and a half.  February, it’s an hour and a half, and then I kind of go down to an hour. By the time we get to March, it’s a 45 minute practice.

 and so I look at that and I put together that plan. So what do I need early part of the season? So I was, so people, if you watch, my team will never be the same team in November that we are in March. And [00:52:00] so I’m gonna, I’m gonna spend the. Beginning of the season. So I’m going to break out my practice schedule.

So I usually, if I’m going to hours, I’m going to have about 45 minutes off. It’s 45 minutes defense. Then I’m going to have a special, what I call special teams or sideline out of bounds, special plays last second, all of those kinds of things. And I practice everything.  I’m one of these guys,  at the beginning of the season, I practice how my kids, I want my kids to run out of the locker room.

I practice what we’re going to do in warmup. I have my kids sit on the bench.  the way I want them to sit, doing time outs. I,  I go every single year. We just go back to the very, very basic, and I put all of those things,  in my practice schedule. And so what can I get in two hours,  in my 45 minutes of offense?

So I’m gonna start with my basic motion offense. Oh, I’m going to start [00:53:00] building my man to man defense. And I just add something all the way through. And, and I’m looking at that massive schedule on a daily basis as I’m putting together my daily schedule. So I’m looking at those things that we’ve done, what we haven’t gotten to,  whether or not, you know, there’s some things I want to eliminate, but that is my process,  in building my practice schedule.

Mike Klinzing: [00:53:24] So if you put together your practice schedule and you start thinking about. Again, breaking it down into what your drills are for this particular offense or this particular set that you want to run and that kind of thing. Do you have, how do you keep track of your drills, your sets, your sideline based on out of bounds?

What’s your process for keeping those things together? Obviously in the olden days, lots of guys had a three ring binder today, lots of people have files on their computer. What do you use to. To keep track of the things that you want to include on a daily [00:54:00] practice plan.

Larry McKenzie: [00:54:01] So this is crazy, right? But I guess you talk about, I guess I’m stuck in the older days because even as of today, I mean, so part of the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking all of my practice plans, put them in a three year binder.


Mike Klinzing: [00:54:16] it’s old school there.

Larry McKenzie: [00:54:18] So in my garage on the top shelf is. Oh, 20 years of binders with. And so, to be honest with you, I can go back. It’s crazy because I can go pull the binder and say, what did I do on practice number four at this school this year? Look at, look at what we did, you know,  that year.

And so I kind of look at all of that kind of stuff when I’m putting together that master schedule to see what I need to change.  and then you gotta look at personnel too, you know, so like, you may have a group, a group of kids that. You know, some are more athletics than others. I can do more precedent when we’ll maybe with this,  this group, we got to spend [00:55:00] more time just working on the basic,  of, of our man to man, you know, defense and those kinds of things.

And so,  but all of that. Yeah. So I look at all of that, but I’m an old school guy, so they’re all in three year, but I haven’t gotten to that part yet. Oh, in terms of getting

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:15] them on the computer, I like it. I like it. I think that it’s a, there’s a lot of good things about having stuff on the computer, but there’s also something to be said for.

Having a piece of paper or something physical in front of you. There’s, there’s a lot of times where as good as the computer and the technology is, there’s times where it’s nice just to look at an old school book or an old school, three ring binder and be able to flip through it and actually feel what you have in front of you instead of just staring at a screen on a screen.

So I can. I can definitely relate to to what you’re saying there with the old, with the old fashioned three ring binder.  let me ask you this about

Larry McKenzie: [00:55:52] just real quick. So I’ll share, I write my practice plan every day. Every day and at the end of practice,  just going back [00:56:00] to, you know, being inclusive of my assistant coaches.

So I do have one of my coaches that I consider like an officer coordinator. I have one, I consider a defensive coordinator and I always ask them at the end of practice, is there anything you want to put up? More of an emphasis on tomorrow as we come back? And so I’ll put that in to the practice plan every day.

But. I literally like clock work. I mean we practice. So study hall starts at three 30 I write my practice plan three 15 every day.

Mike Klinzing: [00:56:32] So how long? So, so they have a one hour study. All of that’s immediately following the school day.

Larry McKenzie: [00:56:36] So we actually have a, we, we, we practice from three 30 so we have a two hour, a one hour study hall, and then what all was life skills.

So the, the first hour you’re getting all of your academics out of the way. And then, like I say, the second hour where we’re teaching them how to play chess or doing yoga, [00:57:00]  in the weight room or leadership.  we use this year, we use a giant Gordon’s,  curriculum training camp. And so we would have a lesson, you know,  once a week.

Out of our John Gordon’s book on training camp. How did that

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:14] go? Did you, did you like that? Did that go well?

Larry McKenzie: [00:57:17] I loved it. Yeah. I loved it. I become a big John Gordon fan.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:21] Yeah. He puts out a lot of great stuff. His books, I love the books because they’re so simple to understand and you can get through them so quickly.

And yet the messages are so powerful in his books,

Larry McKenzie: [00:57:31] and the kids loved it too. So. All right.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:35] I wanted to ask you a little bit about how you engage the parents of your players in your program, because I know that’s one of the things as you talk to coaches at all levels of the game. That parents more so today in the year 2020 than it has ever been true in the past.

Parents are obviously involved, invested in their child’s athletic career, so we know they’re going to be around. And [00:58:00] it’s important to be able to get them on board, to be able to engage with them, to be able to help them understand what it is that you’re trying to accomplish with their son or their daughter and your program.

So talk a little bit about what you do to engage the parents of your players in your

Larry McKenzie: [00:58:15] program. So we have a parent handbook,  that we distributed at the beginning of the season. And what that talks about is, you know, particularly for the freshmen that are coming in, we talk about how high school basketball is different from travel or park bore and what the expectations are.

 we give them. Oh, the practice schedule in there.  and all of our kids and their parents have to sign a contract.  so we, so what the expectations are, so we get, give them upfront.  and then in part of that, one of the things,  I don’t allow parents in practice. [00:59:00] So,  we do have occasions where we open it up to parents, all parents, but I don’t allow parents to sit around.

 I tell them that they have to,  you know, notify me if they want to,  show up at practice. But we have a closed practice policy.   also in a joking manner each year I tell kids I was blessed.  I’ve raised two kids who are,  fairly successful. Both, both of my kids played division one basketball.

 and so I tell the parents in that parent meeting that,  I will agree not to tell you how to raise your kid, your son. If you agree not to tell me how to run my basketball program, and if we do that, we’ll get along just fine.  I think I have some pretty good parody skills and,  but I’ll keep my advice to myself,  as long as you keep your basketball advice to yourself.

And I’ve been blessed. I mean, I don’t see it, you know, I also [01:00:00] have a 24 hour rule.  no contact,  after a game,  in regards to anything.  I stole something from,  J billers. If you want to have a meeting, I’m open to meetings, but if you want to have a meeting and you’re going to come in and talk about somebody else’s kid, we have to invite that kid and their parents into the meeting and you have to say what you want to say in front of that kid and their parents.

 I’ve, that’s never happened. So I don’t have a lot of meetings.  but, but so I put all of those things in place.

Mike Klinzing: [01:00:32] So if you do have a situation where a parent wants to come in and have a discussion with you about playing time, what are the ways or what are some of the things that you would talk about to explain to the parent why their son isn’t playing?

Maybe as much as they feel that. Their son should be playing. Just talk through with me a little bit about how those conversations, how do you like to handle those particular conversations? Cause they’re obviously ones that every coach out there faces on a [01:01:00] semi regular basis.

Larry McKenzie: [01:01:01] Yep. So, so, so in part of that parent handbook, it’s a,  kind of a three step process.

One, I asked them if there’s an issue, you know, because we’re trying to help. Your,  son,  grow as a young man.  we asked that he come in,  and, and advocate on his own behalf. If he doesn’t feel satisfied, then I will sit down with,  myself and I always include one of my assistant coaches or our staff,  in those meetings.

 and to be honest with you, I always start off with this. So, you know, you, you, you tell kids, I mean, obviously,  Playing time is, is something that, that you earn.  you know, and you know, we’ve offered all of these opportunities and I always tell every kid and every parent, I want you to start this meeting off this way, coach, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do [01:02:00] and I want to know why I’m not playing.

And if we can’t start there.  you know, I mean, in terms of, you know, have you asked someone to put up extra shots? Have you asked the coach to come in early in the morning? Did you get your 10,000 shots up?  you know, when the other kids were in the weight room,  where are you? Those kinds of things.

If we can’t start with those conversations, then you know why you’re, you’re not playing. But I, you know, but I want to sit down and I want to hear the, the, the kid has appeared out. And usually, I mean, when I’ve had to have those, those kinds of conversations, I can’t think of any time that the parents, and it’s usually mainly the dads,  you know, who kind of living,  living it, living through their kids.

 but they usually understand, you know what I’m saying? So I’m a big stickler on defense and, and I’ll, I’ll go to the point [01:03:00] of having one of my assistant coaches, if I know that I’m meeting with Joe Smith. I want you to pull up all,  Joe’s turnovers or his,  deepest possession a couple nights ago as to why he didn’t play.

And so I’ll sit down and have a film session with them, help them understand what I was looking for.

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:21] Yeah. And I think that’s important for kids to be able to understand. I think sometimes this is where parents, there’s maybe a disconnect in the communication sometimes, I think between parents and players, because I think the reality is, is.

In 99% of the cases where there’s a conflict about playing time, I think deep down the player knows why that, why they’re not playing, and sometimes sometimes they just have a difficult time having that conversation with their parent. And so there’s a disconnect between the parent and the kid and then the parent comes in with one.

Point of view, but the [01:04:00] kid, if you can inject them with truth ser the kid could probably tell the parent why they’re not playing in most cases. I’m guessing.

Larry McKenzie: [01:04:07] I agree with you. I think, I think almost in all cases, like, and I say that, I mean the kid knows,  when they go home, but it’s hard when you’re sitting at a dinner table with, you know, the thing about the game is, is this, we all know like.

You know, when you get home. I mean, I’m sure our parents did the same thing. I mean, nobody talks about, you know, how many times a little, little James or Johnny,  dove on the floor for a loose ball or, you know, he boxed out or he held the other teams.  You know, best player to, to, to point, you know, when you’re, when you’re talking to your uncle or your neighbor or whatever, it’s, wow, you only had two points last night.

What happened? And so, you know, if you didn’t score,  you know, then I mean, at the most time, [01:05:00] I mean, w when parents are coming in, even when they’re talking about playing time, it’s not really about how much they play. It’s about how many points their son is, is his score. I think that’s

Mike Klinzing: [01:05:11] really true. I couldn’t agree with you more on that because if the kid is on the floor for 30 out of 32 minutes, but they’re not getting the number of shots that the parent thinks they they should get, then at that point, the playing time piece of it becomes irrelevant.

It’s almost like it’s just this hierarchy of if I’m not playing, I want to play a little bit. If I’m playing a little bit, I want to play a lot. If I’m playing a lot, I want to get more shots and in theory. That’s a good thing. If the player is continuing to aspire to get better and increase their role, I think that’s really, really important.

But you just have to make sure that there’s not a disconnect between what’s expected and what, you know, what the coaches expectation of the player’s role is and what the player or the parent’s expectation of that role can be. [01:06:00] And I think sometimes where I, as I said before, that lack of communication between.

Player and parent can sometimes make it make it a challenge. And so I guess my follow up question to this situation is obviously not every kid on your team is going to get to be the leading score and take the most shots on the team. And you’re going to have kids that either a have to play. A smaller role than other kids, and you’re also going to have kids at the back end of your roster that aren’t going to play very much.

So how do you keep those kids engaged? How do you keep them buying into the culture? What do you do to make sure that the kids who are not the stars of the team, the kids who are not getting those opportunities that everybody in the public sees? How do you keep those kids engaged and keep them feeling like valuable members of your team?

Larry McKenzie: [01:06:50] So, so one of the things that we do as a staff is, so every year we, we, we begin our season, we do what we call our team retreat.  and,  at [01:07:00] that retreat, usually, I mean, we are, we sit down as a team and one of the things I do is I have all of the kids go up to the white board. And I have them write down, you know, what’s your personal goal for the year?

How many points you want to score, how many points, you know, rebounds. You want to get, how many assists you want an average, and you, you have, you know, I keep anywhere from 13 to 15 kids. So you have 15 kids go to the board. You know, everybody, you know, of course you got the one guy who wants to average 20, then you know,  even the guys who are not going to play, they want to get 10 and you know, five assists.

And so what I do is I add it all up. And if all of you guys did what you say we’re going to do with average 220 points a day,  do you think that’s realistic? And so we really sit down and say, we kind of break it down, you know?  I mean, here’s kind of what the pecking order, and I honestly, so what I’ve done over the last few years, I have a couple of kids.

[01:08:00] What I, so in addition to. Captains, I called them my bench captains. And so their job is to keep the team engaged, keep the bench in gate, those kinds of things like, and so I’m honest with some of our kids, like, the best way that you’re going to help this team is in practice helping the guy that you got and get better every day.

 some of you guys are gonna, you know, we’re going to give you minutes when we can.  but, but you know, we’re going to need you to, to, to really.  how, you know, be the keepers of the team spirit.  and then one of the things I constantly say because, you know, I mean, injuries and things happen and I’m reminded my kids at various points during the year, you know, the worst thing that could happen in one of the things my mentor used to say to me often is the worst, one of the worst things that could happen is for the opportunity to come and present itself.

And you not be ready. And you not be ready. And so we just, I, [01:09:00] you know, I, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m talking all the time that everybody matters from one to 15, one through 15, everybody has a job to do.  and you know, your job could change.  but when you’re talking about life lessons and those kinds of things.

We, we spend a lot of time incorporating those kinds of things into our daily discussion about, about roles. You know what I’m saying? And even, you know, I talk about being a family a lot. And so for me, you know, I’m kind of like the father of the household. My assistant coaches there, they’re the uncles.

Everybody has a different role,  to do. And so, you know, if, if we,  you know, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So we, if we do our jobs as a collective. From, from the top to the bottom, then we’ll be successful. And ultimately it’s about our four goals every year, and that is being conference champs, twin cities, champs, all section champ and state champs, [01:10:00] and that’s what really matters.

Mike Klinzing: [01:10:02] Yeah. I think when you’re having those conversations on a daily basis with kids, and you’re able to demonstrate that. They are valued and you keep communicating that. I think that’s when you have success. I know that I’ve seen, and it’s happened in programs that I’ve been involved with sometimes as a player, sometimes as a coach, where those bench players get neglected is maybe too strong of a word, but they just don’t get the attention from the coaching staff that the players who were out on the floor a lot.

Are getting, and that makes it really difficult to continue to keep those kids at the end of the bench engaged. And I think by what I hear you saying is a, you help to define the roles for those kids and help them to understand that even though they might not be contributing 12 points a game out on the floor on Friday night, that.

Their contributions are valued. And then [01:11:00] you’re doing that on a daily basis and you’re reinforcing it and you’re letting them know that you see them and that they’re valued. And a lot of times, I think. That’s something that doesn’t happen, and when it does those kids at the end of the bench, although it’s tough and we all know that they want to be able to be out there and they want to be able to contribute out on the floor during games.

I think when they see that their contributions are being recognized by the coaching staff. That makes such a difference in their attitude and constantly, you know. Consequently, that also permeates through the rest of the team because it’s very easy. As we know, all it takes is one or two kids to get disgruntled and start talking about things and you can very, very easily upset what previously had been a great locker room by having one or two kids that start getting upset and not feeling like they’re valued.

Larry McKenzie: [01:11:49] No, no question about it. And that’s why I say locker room is up. Most important thing. But the other thing that I do, I mean, and when you have a staff like ours who’ve been around, so as, as my coaches are [01:12:00] running various drills, I make it a habit. Every single practice. To get wit to touch every kid. A 20 to 32nd.

How was your day in school? How things going? Keep working hard. You’re doing this. I’m seeing you. So, you know,  I’m just, every kid, when I get a chance, I’ll,  I’m standing by a different kid I’m having, you know what I’m saying? So, it’s not, I’m not just spending my time with my leading score or my, or my top rebounders  every single day.

 I use my assistant coaches in a way that allows me to have, you know, some personal time with every kid in our program and practice.

Mike Klinzing: [01:12:39] Yeah. I think that’s critically important. I think of the same thing. If you think about what an effective teacher does, it’s very similar,  in the classroom. Teachers got to get around and get to know every single student.

You can’t just focus your attention only on the kids who put their hand up and are always answering questions. You got to find the quiet kid in the back in the corner, and you’ve got to figure, figure out a way to [01:13:00] engage. That good. And when you do,  like you said, sometimes it only takes 20 or 30 seconds a day to just check in, Hey, how are you doing anything going on?

And, you know, maybe you notice something different about the kid’s behavior during practice, good or bad, and then you get a chance to go over and say, Hey, what’s going on today?  you know, tell me about what’s happening at home, or tell me about what was going on at school today. And, and as you get to know your kids better, you start to get a read for that.

And I think. It’s all about that daily contact, as you said. And it could be as little as 20 or 30 seconds. It could be a 15 minute sit down conversation. It could be a quick text. Who knows? But regardless, when you’re having that touch with kids every single day, to me that makes a huge, huge difference.

All right. I want to ask you two more things,  as we start coming close to,  close to the end of our time, and that is number one. Let’s start out with this one. What is your biggest challenge that you find day to day of being a high school coach in the year 2020 what is the thing [01:14:00] that you find to, I don’t know if struggle with is the right way to say it, but what’s, what’s the most challenging aspect?

Do you feel that being a high school coach in your day to day life?

Larry McKenzie: [01:14:09] You know what I mean? To be honest with you, for me is, I honestly think at times,  that the rest of the people are the folks that are. In the building, don’t understand the importance of athletics and the impact that we have as coaches on kids.

 that for some reason, the, when the kids come into the gym,  that is my classroom, but it’s not always looked upon as that.  I coach in an urban community and then just the resources, you know what I’m saying?  being able to provide my kids with with the same things that their, some of their suburban counterparts may, may have, or just, you know,  last year I had five homeless kids.

So, you [01:15:00] know, it’s, it’s, so, there are days that I wish I could just. Walk in and I could simply be a basketball coach, but I guess to answer a question that,  the biggest challenge is that people not understanding all of these other hats,  that we have to weigh where whether we want to or not.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:22] And I think, and I’m guessing that for you, based on your past, based on our conversation of what’s important to you, that you almost look at those challenges then as things that are, if you flip it around, those are things that almost become a mission for you, that we’ve got to overcome these challenges.

It’s so important that we are there for those kids who are homeless. We’re there figuring out a way that we can. Fundraise or get the resources that we need to be able to build the kind of program that we have, that the kids that are part of your program deserve to have and that you want to be able to provide them [01:16:00] with everything that anybody else has.

And so I can see where if people within your school setting aren’t valuing what you’re doing on the, on the same level,  and they don’t think of your gymnasium as a classroom, I can definitely see where trying to overcome that could be a challenge. That would. Would drive you.  and based on what I know about you and the two conversations that we’ve had, I’m guessing that that’s something that fuels your fire every single day.

Which leads me into my next question, which is when you get up in the morning, what is your biggest joy? What’s the thing that, when you think about being a high school basketball coach, what is the thing that gets you out of bed? Get you smiling and saying, I can’t wait to get to my job today. What is it about coaching that you love.

Larry McKenzie: [01:16:48] Well, I mean, so one you, you pegged me correctly.  you know, it does fuel my fire and becomes a challenge and,  we try to make it happen. But I think I always say this, I think, you [01:17:00] know,  Billy Graham says they, a coach will impact more lives in a year than most people in a lifetime. And what I often think about every morning when I get up, you know,  somebody is going to go to work and they’re going to build cars.

Somebody going to go to work and they’re going to build computers. Somebody, somebody’s got to go to work and they’re going to put together some tables, but for whatever reason, out of all they, you know, billions of people on this art, the good man above had tapped me on the shoulder to say, I want you to mold the lives of these young men that I’m going to put in front of you.

And he’s given me the tool of the game of basketball to do that. And I just think that that’s,   I get up to be honest with you, I’m so thankful every day, like, man, what an awesome responsibility and, you know, just how special,  I have to be, to be, to be, you know, for all of us. I mean, you think about it.

I mean, [01:18:00] it’s, it’s, it’s a,  it even, it’s not a lot of people that do what we do. And so to be tapped on the shoulder to be given that responsibility, I just think that’s super, super special. And I just take that with me every morning that I get to,  make a difference in the lives of these young men,  through a game that I love.

 I just, I just thank the man above every day,  for being,  tapped on the shoulder and given that responsibility.  

Mike Klinzing: [01:18:32] so that’s a fantastic answer and I want to. Wrap things up by talking about two other things that are part of your resume that I would be remissed if we didn’t talk about at least briefly.

 talk a little bit about your, let’s start out first with your,  your consulting business, your speaking business. Just talk a little bit about what you do,  at that and how you try to bring value to people through that particular Avenue as opposed to just strictly your coaching.

[01:19:00] Larry McKenzie: [01:19:00] So, so one of the things that we do is we go out and we share with them.

With the nonprofits, business coaching clinics or whatever.  it just,  I just think that, that, that sports athletics,  in particular basketball.  has, has taught me so many positive life lessons,  that crossover into, as you’ve already said, business and sales and all of those kinds of things. And so,  one of the things I tell people simply,  my consultant business about is teaching you how to think like a winner at like a champion.

Mike Klinzing: [01:19:36] I like it.  I think that it’s something that. I’ve had the opportunity,  through a friend of mine to get an opportunity to hear a variety of speakers,  talk on the theme of excellence. And every time I walk away from getting an opportunity to hear somebody speak,  I’ve always had my notebook in front of me [01:20:00] and I’m always taking notes and trying to learn and trying to grow.

And that’s kind of been a theme of. You know what you and I talked about over the course of this hour and whatever, 20 minutes that we’ve been talking is just the need for you to continue to grow and improve. And, and I think that by getting out there and sharing the things that you’ve been able to have success with as a high school basketball coach, it’s tremendous that you’re able to then pass that on and pass that knowledge on.

So that again, as you said, what you’re doing. Is going to continue to live on outside of you when you share your knowledge. And the last thing I want to talk about, which as I look through and learn more about you, it was the most interesting piece of information on your resume is when you are the general manager and head coach of a professional team.

So talk to me a little bit about how. That came to pass and what that experience was like. I think it’s a fun way to kind of wrap things up here.

Larry McKenzie: [01:20:55] So, so I got an opportunity to coach in the ABA,  which has now [01:21:00] become a minor league professional.  basketball league. And so,  I’d had a lot of success in high school.

A friend of mine reached out,  actually made me offer that I couldn’t refuse,  offered me the opportunity to run a,  ABA team. And so we pulled together a lot of guys that I coached again in high school with finished college. Some who had been playing overseas,  team was called the Minnesota ripped knees, played a season in the,  ABA.

 Went up right to the championship game. It was in 2008, right as the last,   what do you call it?   the, the economy, you

Mike Klinzing: [01:21:44] know, last, last recession.

Larry McKenzie: [01:21:46] Last recession. Yes. So recession hit and the owner had put in a significant amount of money, and so he just,  decided that we couldn’t move forward.

But you know what? I’ll tell you what I got from it though. I [01:22:00] learned as much as I liked it.  and it was fun being a general manager and making trades and coaching and doing all those kinds of things. But I learned that I’m a high school basketball coach and that my true purpose that I had put on been put on earth to really take those 13 and 14 year old boys.

 they come to me in the eighth and ninth grade and turn them into young men that leave me at 18 years old. So,  that as much as I love that,  what I really love and what I’m really good at is taking boys and helping them become men,  to the game of basketball.

Mike Klinzing: [01:22:39] That’s fantastic that you were able to have that experience.

And then not only enjoy the experience itself, but then it also helped to clarify for you where you should be and what you should be all about. And I can tell from talking to you tonight, the passion that you have for the kids in your program and for just [01:23:00] making a difference in their lives come through loud and clear.

And to me, that’s really, as I said from the beginning,  I’ve matured as a coach over the course of time and I’ve thought about the game of basketball differently.  from the start of my career when I was first,  in the coaching profession up until now, where early in my career, it wasn’t necessarily about using the game as a vehicle to improve kids’ lives.

And I think as your story illustrates, you’ve sort of had that as your focus from the very beginning and it comes through loud and clear. And we can’t thank you enough for spending this time with us tonight. Larry, it’s been an absolute pleasure for me getting a chance to know you and have this conversation.

We thank you for spending the time and taking the time out of your schedule to join us here on the Hoop Heads Pod and to everyone else out there, we appreciate you listening and we will catch you on our next episode.


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