Email – CoachLukeStuckey@gmail.com
Twitter – @coachstuckey
Luke Stuckey is the Boys’ Basketball Head Coach at Yuma Catholic High School in Yuma, Arizona. Stuckey has experience at all levels of the game from high school to the NBA. Collegiately he served as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at NJCAA D1 Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois from 2016-2021. Prior to that he was an assistant for one season at NCAA D2 Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Stuckey began his career at La Jolla High School in California as a JV coach and varsity assistant from 2004-2008. He served as the Head Coach at San Dieguito Academy from 2004-2008 where his school hosted summer pickup games for NBA players including Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. Luke developed a relationship with then Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland who eventually recommended him to Orlando Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn. Stuckey was hired by Vaughn in 2012 and worked primarily in player development with the Magic until 2014 when he decided to leave the NBA to pursue a college coaching position.
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Jot down some notes as you listen to this episode with Luke Stuckey, Boys’ Basketball Head Coach at Yuma Catholic High School in the state of Arizona.
What We Discuss with Luke Stuckey
- His two biggest basketball influences growing up – his Dad and Michael Jordan
- How a chronic knee injury led him to coaching
- Getting his start as a freshman coach at La Jolla (CA) High School
- Why patience is so important as a coach
- “I’ve never understood the yelling and screaming… that whole technique.”
- Getting the head coaching job at San Dieguito Academy
- It can be hard to see the end game when you’re losing
- “A big mistake a lot of young coaches make is you want to be confident in yourself. You want to command the gym and those are all great things, but at the same time, you have to know, we all have a lot to learn.”
- “The NBA just gave me a doctoral degree in the game of basketball.”
- “There’s a million different ways to win basketball games.”
- Hosting NBA pickup games in the gym at San Dieguito Academy and getting to know Kawhi Leonard
- Hosting Kawhi’s camp and becoming friends with Chip Engelland who eventually recommends him to Jacque Vaughn, head coach of the Orlando Magic
- Flying in to Orlando to conduct a workout and then waiting to hear if he’d get hired by the Magic
- “The game moves fast at first, especially when you bump up levels, but the more you see it, the more you study the game, it eventually slows down for you.”
- “We don’t need you to do everything. We need you to fill a role.”
- “Very few guys roles are going to remain the same as it was at that lower level.”
- “The guys that made it weren’t always the most talented, they weren’t always the most physically gifted, but they understood a role.”
- Communicating with players about their role
- His relationship with James Borrego
- Keys to gaining the respect of NBA players
- Keeping players fresh throughout the season
- Why E’twaun Moore was one of his favorite players to coach
- “If you don’t have the buy-in, if you don’t have strong relationships with your players, I don’t care what you do. You’re not winning consistently.”
- Why he decided to leave the NBA to pursue a college job
- “I found over the years the more we’re able to simplify things, just the better we get, the better our players are, the more freely they play, the more fun we have and the wins just follow.”
- “It’s not about me looking smart and look at this complicated system we’re running here on both ends of the floor. It’s about what your players can comprehend.”
- Don’t overcomplicate things
- Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a coach
- Hiring a great staff and delegating responsibilities to them
- What he loved about coaching at the JUCO level
- Teaching players to be college athletes
- “It’s hard to be a great coach if I’m not a good dad at home.”
- “As long as you have great kids that, that buy in to what you’re, what you’re teaching, you can be successful.”
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TRANSCRIPT FOR LUKE STUCKEY – YUMA CATHOLIC (AZ) HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 690
[00:00:00] Mike klinzing: Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, and we are pleased to be joined by Luke Stuckey, the head boys, basketball coach at Yuma Catholic high school in Yuma, Arizona. Excited to have you on looking forward to diving into all the things that you’ve been able to do in your coaching career.
You’ve got a wide variety of experiences at lots of different levels in the game. So I think for our coaches that are out there, you’re going to really enjoy hearing Luke’s story and just the different things that he’s been able to do throughout his career. Want to go back back in time, Luke, to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about some of your first experiences that you remember with the game of basketball.
What made you fall in love with it?
[00:00:44] Luke Stuckey: The fall in love part of it was really for two reasons. The first being Michael Jordan and the second my pops you know, I grew up just south of Chicago, right during the Jordan years and being a young kid right place, right time, man.
I just loved everything about the Bulls, Michael Jordan, it was just something to watch when you’re that age I just idolized you know, Mike and everything about him, the way he carried himself, his swagger, how he played the game and many, many, many nights in the backyard trying to be Michael Jordan posted up my little brother
So he, he was one of the big reasons why I fell in love with the game. And then the second reason like I mentioned before, my dad, he was a, a brief college basketball player allegedly a good high school player, although I’ve never seen the game film. the only thing I’ve seen is some, some newspaper clippings, I guess he scored 18 points on Jack Sikma.
But if you read further down the column, I think Jack had like 34, his team won by 20 or 30. So my dad was a big influence.
[00:01:55] Mike klinzing: Did he have as good a hair? Did he have as good a hair as Jack Sikma?
[00:02:00] Luke Stuckey: Not and, and nowhere near the post game either. So, yeah, so he was a big influence he loved the game, he coached a little bit and you know, he took me to just a lot of different games.
Every year it was kind of a tradition with me and him. We would go to Illinois high school basketball tournament. And those are some of my greatest memories as a little kid going and watching these great high school players in the state, Illinois. Kevin Garett, Ronnie fields, those guys were just like heroes to me.
And yeah, it was a little tradition we had. So being around the game all the time and then just growing up during those Jordan years that it was easy to fall in love with the game.
[00:02:41] Mike klinzing: All right, let’s talk a little Michael Jordan. I can’t let that pass because anybody who listens to this podcast knows that I am probably one of the biggest Michael Jordan fans, supporters, advocates of him being the greatest of all time.
And to me, it’s not even a discussion. So gimme your case for Michael Jordan, greatest of all time. Your experiences with being a fan of Jordan, just what makes you believe that he’s the greatest player of all time? Just gimme your memories, things that stand out to you as a basketball coach.
[00:03:12] Luke Stuckey: It was never a question of if the bulls were going to win or if Michael Jordan was going to come up with a clutch play at the end, it was like, well, how is he going to, you just knew it was going to happen.
And man, he didn’t let you down often. He came through just so many times and that was just amazing to watch him do that. You know? And you know, as a kid, your memory’s probably a little skewed, but he was just, you were shocked almost when something happened. I remember when they lost to Orlando when he made his, his comeback and, and you were just shocked that, that he didn’t come through for you.
And so just time and time again, how he came through in the clutch with big shots, even though everybody knew or big plays, he was going to have the ball. He still just came through. And as a kid, that was just so fun to watch.
[00:04:01] Mike klinzing: I think the thing for me, the word that I always use, and I think it goes to exactly what you just talked about was when you watched Michael Jordan play, you just felt like he was inevitable.
And whether that was him individually coming through with a big shot or a big play or whatever needed to be done in order to win a game, you just knew that that was going to happen. And then conversely, with his team, same way, you always felt like somehow some way Jordan was going to get it done and the bulls were going to win games and I’ve never watched any other athlete in any other sport where I could sit and feel as confident that no matter what the game looked like or what the situation was that somehow some way he was going to get it done and he was going to win.
And I just think there’s never been another athlete and there’s never been. Certainly another basketball player that combines the athleticism and then just the incredible will to win and thrive under pressure that Michael Jordan has. And as great as guys in the game today are, and obviously there’s a lot of people that feel like LeBron is.
Encroaching on Michael Jordan’s territory is the greatest of all time. I think if you live through both eras and as you said, maybe we’re skewed and maybe you look back and the guy that you followed as a kid, you’re probably partial to that person, but we live here in Cleveland. And so we rooted for LeBron as, as a fan of the cavalier and as a Fran huge fan of LeBron James as well.
But to me, I just don’t think that there’s anybody that’s approached that level of skill and the mental side of the game better than Michael Jordan. It’s hard to imagine anybody ever will. Luke, I just, I find it hard to believe.
[00:05:59] Luke Stuckey: Watching that that series that came out about the bulls and Michael Jordan there during the pandemic, it just confirmed everything that I already kind of knew going into it, but yeah, I there’s been a lot of good players come along before after Mike, but yeah, you just.
That feeling like when you, he was watching that, I like the word use, it was inevitable even watching LeBron he’s great, but you don’t have that same feeling that it’s inevitable, you know? And yeah. That’s why I love the guy.
[00:06:30] Mike klinzing: Yeah. I could have watched 50 hours of that documentary. I, they could have just thrown it all together, whatever, whatever was left on the cutting room floor, I could have watched hours and hours and hours of that thing.
It was just, it was incredible. So going back to your experiences, obviously, Jordan has a big influence. Your dad has a big influence on you and just the opportunity to go and watch games with him and him putting that love for the game. Instilling that in you. When did, when did coaching get on your radar?
Was that something that you started to think about as a kid while you were still playing? Or was that something that didn’t come to you until after you were done ith your playing career?
[00:07:12] Luke Stuckey: I think I always kind of analyzed the game a little bit, growing up as a kid watching, but I think one of the best things that ever happened to me is an injury, honestly where I, during my high school, my college career, I just had kind of a chronic knee injury.
And it kind of slowed my career down to the point where it’s like, well, man, I’m probably not going to be able to stay in the game as a player. I’m probably nowhere near good enough to earn a living as a player, but I have to stay in this somehow. I love it too much. And so the next best thing is coaching.
And so during my college years is when I really started to think about it and, and really get into it and know that this was going to be a path forward for me and, and a great way to just stay involved with the game.
[00:08:04] Mike klinzing: Did you initially think when you were. Started to, to think about coaching.
Were you thinking about it from a high school coaching perspective? Were you thinking, Hey, maybe eventually I’d like to coach in college. Where was your mindset or was it more, I really don’t care what the level is. I just want to get into coaching. Where were you with it when you first started?
[00:08:23] Luke Stuckey: I played junior college basketball and I thought my college coach, he had a great gig he kind of taught a few classes and coached some pretty talented guys.
And at first I thought, man, that would, that wouldn’t be a bad way to make a living coaching, recruiting your own team. And as I got a little older the high school level was very appealing. That’s where I got my start was at the high school level. But yeah, I guess I really never honed in on one specific level and definitely the NBA was, was never on my radar.
But yeah, I think to start I would’ve loved to just been a small college coach. But you know, my past kind of taken me all over and you know, I’ve been really fortunate.
[00:09:08] Mike klinzing: So was yourvfirst experience as a coach when you coached at LA Jolla high school as an assistant coach, or did you have some experiences before that maybe on lower levels before you got into the high school level?
[00:09:19] Luke Stuckey: My first true coaching experience, I would say my, took me five years to graduate college and that fifth year I put together a little travel team. And that was kind of my start of coaching and did it in my hometown. Got some, some kids together and played some tournaments, which was a lot of fun.
And you know, that’s kind of where I got my feet wet, got my start in coaching, but my first true coaching experience was at La Jolla high. And you know, I was so lucky to have that opportunity. My brother was living out in San Diego. He’s a Navy seal out there still is out there.
And he just kept telling me what a great place San Diego was and he have to come out here and see it. So the first thing I did when I graduated was got my car, packed my stuff and, and moved out to San Diego. And just by pure coincidence happened to meet one of my coaching mentors, a guy by the name of Kamala.
And you know, he was just a great mentor for me. He was the head coach at LA Jolla high. He was his first head coaching experience. He brought me in as a freshman coach my first year. And he was just such a great teacher of the game. I learned so much from him and yeah, it’s, it’s where I really got my start.
[00:10:32] Mike klinzing: What did you like about coaching right from the start? If you can remember back to that first year, what’s something you’re like, oh man, this is, I love this aspect of coaching?
[00:10:42] Luke Stuckey: You know, especially with young kids that are just learning the game you know, you’re teaching new things to them and it’s real raw and they, they really don’t know what they’re doing yet.
There’s a lot of work to be put in it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of practice hours, a lot of reps to get anywhere near where you want your team to be, especially when you’re coaching at that freshman level, but just the process and seeing the kids buy in to your program and what you’re teaching them it’s just so rewarding to see that and to have that take place right in front of you like that.
So I really enjoyed that process and the teaching aspect of it kind of sharing what I learned along the way. And just teaching these young kids how to become basketball players and young men
[00:11:34] Mike klinzing: Early in your career, where did you go for. Education in terms of becoming a better coach, were you talking to your coaching mentors?
Were you talking to your head coach as you, as, as you mentioned, are you reading, are you watching film? Where are you going to improve your craft as a coach early on in your career?
[00:11:56] Luke Stuckey: I think the biggest influence when I was a young coach was was again, the head coach at LA Jolla, high Kamala soft. You know, I spent a lot hours, pretty much every single practice with the varsity squad, sometimes playing against them.
You know, a lot of open gyms, but he was just such a good teacher and you could bounce any idea off of him. And you know, he was open to listen. But you know, he was just a great teacher of the game. He had some great coaching mentors as well that I had access to through him.
And I was just able to soak up a lot in my early twenties and just really learn how to run a program, how to treat people you know, how to, how to coach kids you know, you just had a way about getting kids attention and teaching. So I really learned a lot during those first few years of how to run a program and I think that’s so important when you’re getting your start to be with someone that that’s good it can go either way.
And you know, I know you can learn from some mistakes, but it’s a lot easier to learn from a guy who’s really teaching the game at high level and, and having some success. So you know, I got to see that program kind of get built from the ground up. You know, we, weren’t very good our first couple years, and in the last few years we won CF championships and so that was just great to be a part of and see that process unfold.
[00:13:19] Mike klinzing: What’s something that when you think back to that time that you’ve taken with you, that’s still part of your. Coaching today.
[00:13:29] Luke Stuckey: You know, I was just amazed at you know, the patience coach would have at certain times, you know a lot of mistakes being made the process to develop a program and get to a high level it’s slow.
And you know, he probably had a lot more patience than I did with it. And so watching him be patient and just kind of watching things take place and you know, how, how he handled that that’s something I’ve always taken with me too don’t cheat it don’t rush. You know, there’s a order kind of how things have to happen.
And he was just so good at that. And that’s something I’ve always taken with me to believe in your system, teach your system, be patient with kids, let ’em make mistakes. And you know, just treat ’em good. You know, I’ve never understood the yelling, screaming that whole technique.
I know it works sometimes, but other young kids, they’re not trying to make mistakes and to, with, and just keep teaching, keep coaching them.
[00:14:29] Mike klinzing: I think that’s a great point. It’s certainly a way that the coaching profession has changed. You think back to what the model was of a great coach in, let’s say the seventies and eighties, you had this model of sort of the Bobby Knight school of you have to be hard nosed and you have to yell and it’s kind of my way or the highway.
And clearly the coaching profession has evolved or the better. And you think about how much more you can get out of your athletes when you are motivating them with love, as opposed to fear. And it’s, it’s been, I think one of the things that’s been. Such a positive for the coaching profession is that evolution where coaches and people realize that you don’t have to beat your athletes down in order to be able to get the most of ’em.
And I, I get the most out of ’em and I think that’s exactly what you were able to see earlier in your career. And then obviously that has a big influence on the way you coach movement forward. After lo JOA, you get an opportunity to take over and become a head coach. Talk a little bit about how that experience, how that opportunity came to you and then how prepared or unprepared you were when you first sat down in that head coach’s chair.
[00:15:51] Luke Stuckey: Yeah, my, my first head coaching experience, I think I was about 27 years old at the time. And going into that way, I thought I knew it all as we all knew at some point when we were young coaches but I took over a program that Was I guess the best way to say it.
It had a glorified intermural program before that not very competitive. The school, it wasn’t a big focus athletics weren’t that, that important on campus. And I, I knew that going into taking the job, you know but a new athletic director had just came in. He came from a school that had a lot of success and so I felt like Hey, it’s a school with not a lot of tradition, not a lot of history with basketball.
And I liked that challenge of kind of starting something new, something fresh. And I did think there was a lot of potential at, at, at this name of the school of San Diego academy. And so you know, I thought it was a great opportunity for me had no clue what I was doing that first year.
Just kind of you know, went by what I had learned before you know, from, from my coaching mentors and Tried to instill that and, and build a program from the ground up. But you know, those first few years was when the patience really was tested you know, I think we had all of five wins maybe my first year, and I believe three of them were against the same team, so good scheduling, but you know, it was definitely challenging.
And you start to question the things that you really believed in before it’s like, man, we were winning CF championships before and running a similar style, a similar program, and now we can’t win a game. So, you know the patience was definitely tested, not only with the losing, but also just challenging your beliefs as a coach.
You know, what you believe in the values you want instill in your program, it’s hard to see that end game when you’re losing. But you know, we were fortunate and you know, one of the, the things I’m most proud of as a coach is, is what we built that, that Santo over those four years there.
So you know, it, it was tough. And you know, I think one of the key things for me was just keeping an open mind of just knowing as a young coach, I don’t know everything I think that’s a big mistake. A lot of young coaches make is you want to be confident in yourself. You want to command the gym and, and those are all great things, but at the same time, and you have to know you, we all have a lot to learn.
You can learn anything from anybody you can learn from a fifth grade soccer coach, just anything. So taking that approach I think was, was key for me, kind of maturing as a coach and just Constantly trying to soak up new ideas and find any way to improve our program.
[00:18:34] Mike klinzing: At what point during your tenure there, do you feel like you had things turned around?
If that makes any sense, was there an aha moment where something happened? You’re like, oh, we get it now or, oh, I think we got this thing going in the right direction. Or was it more of a gradual type of process? Obviously it was gradual, but there was there a moment where you’re sitting on the bench and all of a sudden something happened.
You’re like, wow, we get it.
[00:19:01] Luke Stuckey: I believe the thing that popped in my head when you’re asking that question was, I believe was the start of the first game of my third year. We had a group, good solid group of young players. Several of them went on to play college. One of them still playing professionally right now in Europe, but had a great group of, I think it was sophomores and juniors that year.
And our first game was against LA Jolla high, my old mentor coach soft. And you know, he’d still had a strong program. They were still winning games and went into their gym first game of the year and just put it on ’em. And that was such a great feeling to go in there and kind of beat a program that was well respected.
And at that moment I kind of felt like alright, the tide is turning. We can go out and compete now. And our program is, is definitely moving in the right direction. So that, that was confirmation for me was that first game of my third year.
[00:19:55] Mike klinzing: Yeah. It’s fun to see things. Actually get to what you envision when you first take the job.
And obviously, as you said, it takes a while. And I think that’s one of the challenges that coaches face, right? When you take over a program, that’s losing to me, one of the biggest challenges is how do you continue to sell your program, your philosophy, the things that you’re doing when the wins aren’t coming.
So when you remember back to that, those early years where maybe you didn’t win as much as you wanted to, how did you. The faith of the players, the families, the ad, the school community, what are some things that you tried to do to continue to help them to maintain faith in you and your program? Cause I know it’s, it’s easy to do when you’re winning.
It’s harder to do when you’re losing. So how do you go about doing that? Getting people to still believe, even though maybe the results on the scoreboard, aren’t showing that you’re moving in the right direction, but you know, internally that you are because of the things that you’re seeing every day in your program and in your practices.
[00:21:00] Luke Stuckey: There’s a couple things I think number one is just being honest with your longterm vision for your program and for each individual kid so there’s a individual aspect of it where the kids want to want to see improvement individually too.
And you know, you have to put that sweat equity into, get in the gym, work with kids individually, put that individual skill work in. And you know, from a team perspective you know, we might not have won a lot of games, but the improvement was obvious where we were competing against bigger schools that we had, no, we wouldn’t have never even been able to compete with in previous years.
So we were shortening that gap. No doubt. I think the kids, the parents all saw that they saw what was on the horizon with our youth. We were a young team and because we, we put that time in just to development wise and you know, I think when, when kids know, Hey, I’m getting better, our team’s getting better.
You know, it was it was an easy sell. I don’t want to say it easy, but we could definitely see it. It was obvious that you know, it was going the right way and time was just crucial for that. We spent so much time in the gym together. We were fortunate too, it was a medium sized school in California, but we didn’t have a football program.
And we had a lot of our kids committed all summer long to basketball. And so we were really able to make a lot of gains. And a lot of those kids just really developed most. And I think everybody saw that.
[00:22:31] Mike klinzing: I think that when you can point to that internal improvement and you can see where your players are getting better and they feel it, and they know the amount of time that you’re putting in.
I think that’s when you really can start to find that success. When you think about what you did as a head coach in that first experience, what’s something that when you look back on. When you first started as a head coach to where you are now, and obviously we’re going to get into some of the other experiences you had at the college level and the pro level, but just when you think about where you are as a head coach today, versus where you were, when you first took the job, can you point to one or two things?
And I’m sure the answer is probably well, everything, but if you can point to one or two things that you think you really improved upon over the course of your career, that boy I’m a much better head coach. I’m a much better coach in this particular area, compared to when I first started, what were those, what would those areas be?
[00:23:34] Luke Stuckey: Like you said to everything, but if I had to pinpoint a few things just from an Xs and O standpoint, the NBA just gave me a doctoral degree in the game of basketball that was just such a great experience to learn from just outstanding coaches. And so I know just looking back at some of the things we did back then, and kind of my understanding of different actions we ran during those early high school coaching years it’s almost kind of funny, I thought I understood, but I just, I didn’t yet not to say what we did was wrong.
But I just think I have a much better understanding now of you know, how to design an offense, how to fit your offense to your talent. And the same thing, defensively I just think both sides of the ball, the attention to detail now has grown From where it was back then. And again, that’s just from my NBA experiences and just learning from some of those coaches at that level.
So yeah, the Xs and those would be the biggest part. And I think the second thing is just understanding too, as a coach that there’s a million different ways to win basketball games. You know, you can win games, playing a two, three zone. You can win championships playing a two, three zone. You can win games and championships running a pack line.
There’s a lot of different ways to win and you know, understanding that. And you know, I think when I was a young coach, I was almost A little arrogant about you know, our system and we had pride in what we did and I think that was a good thing, but it was almost like if anybody did anything different than what we did to me, it was like, oh, that’s wrong.
You know? And maturing as a coach is learning, man. There’s a lot of ways that people can beat you. And you know, I definitely came a long way with that. I think there’s, there’s a few things in every program that that are winning characteristics. But overall, I mean, we’ve all seen it, man.
You can win games, doing a lot of different things.
[00:25:41] Mike klinzing: Experience is a great teacher. And I think this is something that I’ve said on the podcast numerous times, but I think back to myself as a young coach and basically everything that I did or knew. I took from the coaches that I had played for. And I played for one high school coach and one college coach.
And so when I first got the opportunity to be a head JV coach, and I kind of had those semi control over my little team, and we basically just did everything that I had done as a player and being an egotistical young guy, just like you described earlier. Like I thought I knew everything and you look back on it now.
You’re like, man, I knew nothing and I wish I would’ve taken. I wish I wish I would’ve taken some more time to educate myself and, and really go out and, and take more advantage of, of learning the game. But I just, at that point, I think my ego was still in the way and just felt like, Hey, I’m I did all these things as a player and that’s good enough to make me a good coach.
And the older you get, obviously the more you realize that very, very little, and you also realize what a disservice you did to kids that you coached earlier in your career, where you just didn’t, you just didn’t put the time then. So you obviously had a really good experience there as a head coach for the first time at San Gito.
So you get an opportunity. Anybody who’s looking at your bio. He’s going to go now, wait, hold on. This guy was an assistant coach at the high school level. Then he gets a head coaching job at the high school level. And then the next thing on his bio is he’s working for the Orlando magic. So how does that take place?
Tell us the story of how you get connected to Orlando and then we’ll dive into what your experience was like in the NBA.
[00:27:29] Luke Stuckey: Yeah, it’s a story of right place, right time, I guess you could say. And you know, a lot of coaching opportunities are just that being in the right place at the right time.
Cause there was so many people that were just obviously more deserving probably of, of that job than, than I was. But you know, the, the NBA had just got done with that lockout season. And you know, back I was a little younger, it could still play a little bit. And so got to know a lot of NBA guys that spent their, their off seasons out in San Diego Chase Budinger Kawhi Leonard and a few other guys.
And so we had some great open gyms open runs in our gym there at Santo during some off seasons there where man, I think back on it now, and it was just amazing Klay Thompson and there Darren Williams you there’d be six, seven bonafide guys on the all at once. And so it was a lot of fun, but I got to know Kawhi Leonard a little bit.
And he had asked me if I would host his youth basketball camp there in our gym at, at Santo and you know, that was a no brainer. And we did that. And was a five day camp, I believe. And during that time, one of the assistant coaches from the San Antonio spurs Chip Engelland, he was in town and he was there at the camp the whole time you know, he would work with before and after the camp.
So watch that, but and I got to, to develop a relationship with coach Engelland the assistant coach with spurs. We talked a lot, he kind of got to see during that week, how I ran my program, ran the camp and we just kind of developed the relationship and you know, at the end of the camp you know, we talked about maybe an opportunity for a unpaid internship with their GE team.
And as a high school coach, we would never dream of coaching at that level. You know, I was all in. I said, absolutely. And I would love to do it. What do I have to do? I’ll be there. Tell me when, tell me what I have to do. So a little bit of time passed and you know, nothing more of that opportunity has really talked about.
And so I was a little bummed out, but it’s the way things go sometimes. And there’s probably a month or two that had passed since the last conversation. And I’ll never forget. I was in the shower one evening in my, my little apartment in, in San Diego and get out and I have a weird phone number that had called me with a message.
And I listened to the message and it’s Jacque Vaughn head coach of Orlando Magic. You’ve just been named head coach several weeks before. And you know Previously was an assistant coach with the San Antonio spurs. And for anybody who’s been in the NBA circle coach England who had got to know was just so well respected.
He’s just such a, a great coach, just a kind man who’s always looking to help people who generous trying to give other young coaches opportunities. And so when jock got that job he talked to coach Engelland and coach Engelland said, Hey, I met a young guy out in San Diego.
You might want to talk to him about having him come on your staff. So I listened to the message immediately called coach Vaughn back. You know, my heart rate was probably double what it is right now. and you know, we had a full on, I want to say, hour and a half, two hour phone conversation, just about a lot of different things.
And you know, the next thing I know, I think it was 24 hours later, I’m on a first class flight to Orlando and never flown on a, a first class flight in my life. It was just kind of all a whirlwind at that point. But I got some feedback from some other guys who had coached at the NBA level.
Eric Musselman was a guy, I knew him a little bit from his ties in San Diego. So I gave him a call and just got some good advice from him on what prep work do I need to do going into this? And my coaching mentor coach given me some good advice on what to kind of what to expect.
And so flew to Orlando and spent a whole day there in the practice facility and the big thing that was a bit of a curve ball, but I was definitely prepared for, it was, I went in and I ran a full workout with a group of young guys. It was kind of a mix of guys that were NBA vets kind of looking to get in and get back in.
And then some young guys who you know, were just drafted. So it was a group of hungry guys looking to find their way into the league. And I think that was great because you know, they didn’t know who the heck I was and you know, they just, they went hard. The workouts went really well. And you know, the conversations with the general manager coach Vaughn, it just clicked.
And so flew back, waited, waited, waited, had a few more phone conversations and that was probably the longest three or four weeks of my life just waiting to hear one way or the other, right. You know, is this going to be, is this going to happen or, or, or is it going to be a heartbreaker?
And you know, finally I got that call from coach Vaughn and he asked me if I was ready and I couldn’t believe it just in shock to go from coaching a bunch of high school knuckleheads to you know, shortly after being on the floor with JJ Redick and Jamir Nelson. And it was just you know, crazy, crazy story.
And again, just so lucky to have that opportunity that you know, like I said, a lot of coaches were probably more deserving
[00:33:02] Mike klinzing: Right place, right time, as you said, did you have. I’m sure you had some, some self doubt as you went into it. Cause I think about an experience that if, if I was put in that position or I think if anybody was put in that position, you’d probably think to yourself for what you just said out loud.
Right? I was, I’m just coaching some high school knuckleheads. And now here I am out there on the floor with the very best players in the world. When you went into that, how did you go about and think about preparing yourself to make sure that you were at your best so that you could provide what the magic was looking for.
What did you do in the, in the intervening moments from when you thought it was a possibility you’re going to get the job to, as you’re getting started, what did you do to make sure, Hey, I, I have to be as prepared as possible. What were some of the things that you did.
[00:33:58] Luke Stuckey: Biggest thing that alleviated some of that pressure was coach Vaughn was just so honest with me about, Hey, I know you, I know what you don’t know.
And you know, he just gave me the confidence then to be like, okay, that’s okay. I don’t need to know everything yet. And I just think he saw potential in me to, to learn that to learn the NBA game. And I think he just liked the way I taught the game and approached the skill development part of it.
And so he just, he was so good with me just giving me the confidence to Hey, you belong here. We know what you don’t know, and you’ll learn it along the way. So that was a big part of it. But asking a lot of questions I think back. Our staff those first few years there just a tremendous staff of coaches who went on to have great success.
So James Barrego who did a great job at the Charlotte Hornets here the last few years he was on our staff west unseld Jr. Who’s now the head coach in Washington just unbelievable coaches and just so willing to share a game with me and teach me what they had learned, because they’d been around that NBA game for so long.
And so just being able to, to sit with them hours on hours a lot of flights just sitting next to those guys, watching game film and, and learning from them. You know, I would say it was a process, the game. I can remember watching the first few practices and first few preseason games that first year, and it just moved so fast.
And you know, that, that took a long time to get used to but you know, slowly the game slows down, just kind of like it does as a player it moves fast at first, especially when you bump up levels, but the more you see it, the more you play the game, it eventually slows down for you.
And it did. And you know, a lot of that was just learning from those guys.
[00:35:53] Mike klinzing: Describe your role. What was it that you did? How, what was the discussion like the conversations when you were given your responsibilities?
[00:36:03] Luke Stuckey: Yeah. And that’s something I’m just so grateful that I was with coach Vaughn.
He threw me right into the fire. I remember our first practice in training camp. We’re sitting in our coaches meeting. And he looks at me and says, coach you got our pin defense today. Take the guys through it. And so him having that confidence in me was just was big but, I think they just kind of lined up and having the guys that just were very patient with me and were able to help.
[00:36:37] Mike klinzing: When you think about the opportunity to work with NBA players and what makes them so special in terms of their ability to succeed at the highest levels.
Obviously there’s a level of physical tools that a player needs to have to be able to play at that level. And there’s a certain skill set, but there’s things I think that go beyond that. So when you think about the opportunity to work with those guys, that you had a chance to get out on the court and actually coach what sets them apart from a player who doesn’t make it in the NBA, or I’m sure you work with players who try to compete and couldn’t, couldn’t stay at that level.
So just what’s from a, from a, from an intangible mental side of the game, what sets apart an NBA player from, from an average college player, or maybe can’t make it in the NBA,
[00:37:32] Luke Stuckey: Two things. And I think the biggest thing, and I would talk to my college guys about this all the time. I think the guys that make it in the league that aren’t superstars.
They understand the role not everybody has to go out and be a superstar but you have to have a tool that, that gets you on a roster and is valuable to that team. And I think that’s a lot of mistake, a lot of well, young players at that level, they make the mistake to think, well, I have to go out here and do everything and I have to be a great rebound or a great three point shooter.
I have to do this, that you don’t we have very specific roles we need filled. And if you’re just kind of average at everything, it’s going to be tough to find your way onto an NBA roster. Whereas, man, if you can, if you can go shoot 40% from three point line or you can guard at an elite level, you can rebound at an elite level.
We don’t need you to do everything. We need you to fill a role. And you know, so it’s tough for, for a lot of young guys coming out of college where maybe they did do everything for the college team to make that transition to, okay, now I’m a role player here and, and I have to be great at this role and the guys that stick, they get that early.
They thrive at it. They accept it. They take pride. And you know, I think that’s true at every level, whether it be a, a JV kid moving up to varsity basketball in high school, your role’s not going to be the same or a high school kid moving onto college. You know, very few guys roles are going to remain the same as it was at that lower level.
So you have to adjust you have to be able to and willing to accept that role and be great at it. So that was one big thing that I think made certain guys stick in the league. Because believe me, I saw a lot of talented guys come through our training camps, our mini camps and the guys that made it weren’t always the most talented, they weren’t always the most physically gifted, but they understood a role. And then the other thing that was just so incredible about NBA players is just the, the slim margin of error that there is when you’re guarding some of these guys, you know you’re coaching high school kids and Hey, you tell a guy.
You have to go over this screen with this kid, he’s a great shooter. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t sometimes it’ll, but you know, as long as you play hard will be okay, you know? Well at that NBA level not only do you have to go over the screen, but you have to do it with great technique, you have to be great at it or else you’re going to get scored on.
And so seeing that at that level was just amazing to watch how good those guys were, how if you make a mistake, the ball’s going in the bucket and that just that that’s one of the big things that improves you as a coach is you’re going to get tested and you really have to have that attention to detail at that level where, because the guys will make you pay and it really makes you think about okay, what are we doing here?
How can we improve it? And it just gets out of these little nuances where you tweak them. You know, it might only help you one or 2%, but you know, sometimes that’s the difference. And so yeah, that margin for air offensively and defensively at that level is just so small.
[00:40:45] Mike klinzing: It’s really interesting that you mentioned about the, the role player piece of it, and just making sure that you understand your role and having one or two elite skills.
We talked to Lyle Wolf last week. He’s an assistant at Texas a and M and he brought and something that we’ve talked about it a little bit before we had Mike Procopio on who was with the Mavs. And I’m sure you know who Mike is, but he, he talked a lot about how you have to dominate simple as his mantra and that he said the same thing that you did that basically in the NBA, you have 20 guys or 30 guys, one guy per team, maybe that kind of gets to do.
What they want to do and get as many shots as they want to get. And then everybody else has to be good at one or two things. They have to make sure that they’re fulfilling whatever their role is. And, but what Lyle talked about, which I thought was interesting, and I think it kind of speaks to your experience, especially when you go down to the younger levels of the game, right?
And you see kids working out with trainers or they’re working on their game, they’re kind of working on everything. And most, everything that they do is with the ball and playing one on one. And the the dribble moves and the, the, the shooting and all those things that everybody likes to play.
And they’re trying to develop and become an all around player and rightfully so, but as you move up in levels, as you said, the kid who’s going from JV to varsity, or the kid who’s going from varsity to college, you’re probably not going to be that guy. Who’s going to have the ball in their hands, orchestrating everything all the time.
And what becomes important. You said it at the NBA level that you have to be really, really good at one or two things, and your team needs you to play that role and you need to be able to execute that role perfectly or as close to perfectly as you possibly can. And if you can’t accept that, then it becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to stick in the league or to be able to find a role on your college team or your high school team or whatever it is.
And yet I think so oftentimes the mentality, especially again, as you’re younger, everybody’s working on all aspects of their game to try and improve it. And you would think that it would make sense for that to continue, but yet if you go up the ladder and you think about NBA players, It doesn’t make sense for every guy on the team to be working, to try to emulate the skills that Steph Curry has, or try to play like LeBron, or try to play like Kauai and cuz you’re going to be a lesser version of those guys, no matter what you do.
And so to your, to your point, you have to find, you have to find your role. And I think that it’s something that a lot of times players, especially, they don’t think about that as they’re transitioning from one level of the game to the next, I think it’s important for coaches at all levels to, to help players to understand that even if you’re a role player, your role can be very, very important.
And that communication piece, I would guess on the NBA level is really important as well.
[00:43:44] Luke Stuckey: And kind of piggy piggybacking on what you were saying there too. I think in another big mistake that a lot of guys make at all levels is they hear what they can’t do all the time. You have this great college player. He couldn’t shoot the ball in the perimeter or whatever it might be. And so these guys would come into these workouts and they would try so hard to prove, Hey, I can do this. And you know, I heard veteran NBA coaches all the time, take these young guys aside and say, buddy we didn’t bring you here to watch you shoot threes.
We know that’s not what you do. Right. Do I got you here? You know, be great be you. And these guys say, well, we can’t do this. They want to prove so bad that they can do it. And they end up losing kind of losing their identity as a basketball coach and or excuse me as a basketball player.
[00:44:35] Mike klinzing: Definitely, that’s hard though, right? I mean, as a player, you think about what you’ve done your whole career. Look, if you’re good enough to be in the NBA at some point. And who knows when that point was, but at some point you were. Probably the guy. Now, there are some exceptions to players who maybe if you’re a big guy and you know, you didn’t have the ball in your hands all the time, but certainly most players, if you’re good enough to be even entertaining, an opportunity to play in the NBA, you were probably the guy at some point.
And so to be able to tamp down your ego to understand that look, yeah, there are some things that I can’t do, but here’s what I’m really good at. I’ve have to double down on those. I can see where if you’re not in the right frame of mind and it’s not communicated to you in the right way, and you don’t have the right team of people around you that are telling you the right things that I can see where that can go, that can go south in a hurry and maybe not be players not being as receptive that as they should be, if they want to stick around.
[00:45:40] Luke Stuckey: That’s the coaching aspect is so important we have to find those roles for the players and show them, Hey, here’s where you fit in. Here’s where you help us and you know, get them to buy into that role no matter what it is. And I think that the teams and the players that have the success you have the majority of your guys, if not all of them buying into that and it might not be the role they wanted.
And that’s fine I, every, it’s great to have to want more of a role to have more responsibilities on your team, but as a coach, Hey, here’s where you’re at now. And you know, here’s how you can get there. Here’s how we can give you more of a role, but this is what we need you to do now.
And I think if you don’t do that as a coach, eventually somewhere along the way you’re going to butt heads with that player and it’s going to cause more problems. If you push that down the line it’s better to address it right away. And you know, get that buy-in early.
[00:46:41] Mike klinzing: Yeah, I think that early communication and being proactive, I think you can talk about that in pretty much any situation in life, right?
As a teacher, it’s much better to have proactive communication and build a relationship with a parent before you have problems with the kid. Same thing. When you’re talking about coaching at the high school level, I’m sure that you’ve had plenty of conversations with parents where it’s good. If you have a positive relationship with the parent.
And then if there is something that arises along the way with playing time or whatever, if you’ve already established a good line of communication, it makes those more difficult conversations along the along the road, come a little bit easier. And same thing with a coach and player, I’m sure at the NBA level, if you’re talking to that player and you’re helping ’em to understand where they are right from the get go.
They’re going to be more accepting or you’re going to know right away that they’re not going to accept it. And then you can figure out what to do with that relationship. But you have to be honest, I think that brutal honesty is something that’s a theme that has come through the podcast over and over and over again, talking to coaches that look, what players want from you is they don’t want you to sugar coat it.
They want you to tell ’em the truth and you get in trouble when you don’t tell the truth, because eventually the truth is going to play itself out. If the coach doesn’t think you’re good enough, well, guess what? You’re probably not going to play, but if they keep stringing you along and saying, yeah, you’re doing great.
You’re doing this, you’re doing this, but then you’re still not getting in the game. Players start not to trust their coaching staff. And that’s when you, I think as a coach get in trouble and you don’t have that proactive communication. It’s just, it’s so important when you are there in Orlando. Was there one particular coach that had some experience that when you get down there on staff, That kind of took you under their wing and that sort of looked out for you in those you know, in your, in your early months there.
And who did you develop the closest relationship with?
[00:48:38] Luke Stuckey:Closest relationship I had was with coach Borrego. We were both had a background. We both lived in San Diego coach Borrego and coached and played at USD. So we knew a lot of the same people. You know, we had a lot of familiar things, familiar things to talk about.
And he, he was just so good to me taking me under his wing and many, many flights sitting next to him, just breaking down game film of him pointing out to me why I’m on the court. And he was just so good with, with his time and treated me so well. So he spent a lot of time with me and he, he was so good to me and another guy was Lauren prophet.
He was also you know, assistant on our staff, did a lot of player development and he had a different experience. You know, he was a former NBA player and he played with, he was incredible. He had the opportunity to play with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. And so hearing those stories and being able to talk to him and see it from a player perspective you know, cause that’s something as a coach when you don’t have that NBA background as a player it’s hard to establish relationships as player with the players.
It’s hard to gain their respect. And so the more things you can soak up from a guy that’s been there that that’s played in big games, that’s played with some of the greats and was in the lead player. You know, you’re better off as a coach. So it’s great to talk to him and just learn from him from more of a player’s perspective of what the guys are going through, because he’s lived that he’s been through that as a player.
[00:50:14] Mike klinzing: What’s something that he shared with you that benefited you as a coach from a player perspective. When you think about what you may have overlooked or what the staff may overlook, that he was able to bring to the table. And obviously coach Vaughn was a former player as well, but just what do you think that, that player perspective, what are some things that maybe they, that they bring to the table that a coach who hasn’t played, maybe just might not be aware of something that you remember him telling you that you were like, oh yeah, maybe that does make sense.
And we hadn’t thought of it that way.
[00:50:49] Luke Stuckey: You know, a couple things. I think the first thing is how many different ways each player is pulled, how many different directions, how many people have their hands on every player in the NBA? You know, they’re being, they have an agent there, they have family like a wife or a girlfriend.
And at the high school level, every player, they might have a family member or whatever, but they don’t have agents. They don’t have alumni of the college. They went to, they don’t have a fan that’s rooting for them necessarily. And so these guys are getting pulled a lot of different directions and as a coach you know, you have to be able to sift through that and be able.
You know, make things make sense to the player and get him to buy in you know, to a team perspective. And so having not played at that level and listening to him talk about where the guys’ heads might be after a certain road trip or, you know just different things.
He had lived as a player. I remember one time we were playing in Toronto and it was a two o’clock game. And that was kind of a tradition. You know, you play on the weekend. I believe it was a Sunday. It’s always an early game in Toronto and he warned me, he’s like, guys, better be ready to play.
I hope people weren’t out having too fun of a night in Toronto on Saturday night and boy, sure enough, he was right. You know, he knew exactly who he’s talking about from that perspective. Cause we did not play well that next day, but you know, he just gave so much good insight on you know, what the players emotionally are going through, what their bodies are going through as, as a coach.
You know, man, I would be tired sometime being on the floor, working out with the guys, but you know, you have no idea the miles on the legs the, the demand that their bodies have with you know, playing heavy minutes for some guys working out as much as they do as a coach, sometimes we kind of lose track of this guy might need a break or we might need to cut this guy’s workout down.
And having been there, he was able to give great perspective on that.
[00:52:50] Mike klinzing: Wish my college coach would’ve thought about that.
[00:52:55] Luke Stuckey: Yeah. But that’s another way to game has evolved too, is I think is, is coaches. Now we realize that if you don’t have it by mid season or late season, there’s no point in having a three hour practice.
We just, we ain’t getting it. so there’s better off being fresh at that point than having that three hour practice.
[00:53:15] Mike klinzing: Yeah. There’s no doubt. It’s funny because I mean, I think about that to some degree as a player, but when I was early in my career, when I was first teaching and I was an assistant varsity coach and at the time our staff was all young and most of us were single and we’d have these practices and this is with high school kids and there’d be times we’d start practice at two 30 and we’d get done at like six o’clock and you think we were practicing for three and a half hours with high school kids?
Like what, what could we have, what could we have possibly have been getting out of them in that last half hour of a three and a half hour practice? It’s just, I mean, it’s crazy. When you think, when you think back on sort of the way that we used to do things and you think about the NBA and just how advanced.
They’ve become in the league with the number of people that are monitoring again, recovery and just where they’re at and how, how important it’s become for players to be able to have rest and the whole load load management piece and all that stuff. But when you were there, how difficult is it during the season to not be able to, to not be able to practice in between games?
Obviously you’re doing a lot of film work, but just what’s it like to play all those games and not practice.
[00:54:32] Luke Stuckey: That was something that was just totally new to me because at the high school level even at the college level you’re playing once, twice a week and you know, you’re able to get one or two good practices in each.
You know, at the NBA level you’re lucky if you get one light practice and a couple walkthroughs in, so a lot of your teaching is done just differently. It’s done you know, with video it’s done with you know, just some individual work on the court especially with those younger players.
And you know, it’s really difficult for, for your young guys that are out of the rotation, especially mid, late season and not getting those minutes, but you know, those are guys that still need to develop. So you have to recreate game situations, they still have to be learning. They still have to be getting those, those game like reps in order to develop.
So in the next few years they’re in that rotation, they’re working their way up. So you have to learn and, and you have to learn how to teach, how to, how to keep that progression going. Even though the practice time is not going to be there. You know, video is really your best tool for that?
[00:55:39] Mike klinzing: What’s your favorite practice moment from your time at the magic
[00:55:45] Luke Stuckey: I know one memory that I’ll have with me for the, the rest of my life was we were in, I believe it was Portland and you know, tough road trip, not winning much. And so we go into Portland, it’s a shoot around that morning.
And we kind of had a routine. We go in watch some clips you know, of what we’re going to see that night with Portland. We get out on the floor shoot the ball a little bit, go through some things. So that’s totally what I was expecting. The video guys, get the, the screen ready there in the locker room, coach Vaughn is there, ready to to go over the clips.
And all of a sudden I see highlights of me is a little guy running around, out there. And little did I know somebody went behind my back and found some old video footage of, of me as a young guy playing and they put it up there. And so it was just a way to kind of break up the monotony and get guys to loosen up a little bit.
And we, we did that with several guys along the way, but yeah, I’ll, I’ll never forget that. And you know, that’s a fun memory. That’ll stick with me.
[00:56:54] Mike klinzing: Was there a particular player during your era there that you felt like you really connected with and somebody that you’re still in touch with today?
[00:57:03] Luke Stuckey: E’twaun Moore was one of my favorite guys I’ve ever coached. And I spent so much time with him and just got to see him develop from a guy that was out of the rotation, we picked him up as kind of a free agent from Boston and he was just looking for an opportunity and you know, Eaton just worked his butt off, just spent countless hours in the gym.
And you know, he, like we talked about earlier, he was a guy that wasn’t the most talented guy, no doubt. But lot of guys that have went in and out of NBA gyms that were more physically gifted than Ewan, but he knew a role. He accepted a role and he, he was great in it. And so yeah, really had a great connection with him.
We spent a lot of time in the gym together. He was receptive to the things we taught and worked on and bought into that role. And he had a long NBA career made a lot of money.
[00:58:00] Mike klinzing: Yeah. It’s a really good example. As you said of a guy that you just figure it out and if you can figure it out and you’re a guy, who’s a team first guy, and you can play your role and you can be someone who’s a positive member of the team.
Like guys, staffs don’t want guys who are headaches, who are going to be guys 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. You want guys who are good team guys who are going to work and put in the time. And I think there’s a good lesson there for players at all levels of the game, right? If you’re, if you want to be a part of it, you have to put in the work, you have to be a positive team player.
And if you can do those things, then you got a chance to stick around and, and be a part of something special, which obviously he was able to do at various stops along his career. As you look back on your time with. The magic. And you think about that experience with NBA basketball. What’s, what’s your fondest, what’s your fondest recollection as a coach?
When you think about what you learned from that experience, that’s made you a better coach in your next few stops, which we’re going to talk about on the college level, and then eventually back to high school.
[00:59:09] Luke Stuckey: I think it’s the, the biggest thing is just the relationships and how you form those bonds with your players.
You know, cause again, there’s a million different ways to win basketball games. But you know, I know one thing if you don’t have the buy-in, if you don’t have strong relationships with your players, I don’t care what you do. You know, you’re not winning consistently. So learning from coach Vaughn, he was just so great at establishing those relationships.
You know, being truthful with guys like we talked about earlier, defining roles clearly for people you know, those were all great things to learn at, at that level. And I, you just learn it, I think quicker at that level, because again, the margin for error and how competitive that level is it’s going to speed that process up.
And you know, you’re just able to learn at a really high level
[01:00:05] Mike klinzing: Ehen you leave the magic and you go to the college level and you go to Cameron, talk a little about that transition and why you made that move to go to. College basketball. Obviously now you’ve been at the high school level. You’ve been at the pro level.
Now you’re going to go and coach the college levels. Just talk a little bit about that transition from Orlando to Cameron.
[01:00:31] Luke Stuckey: At that point, I kind of started to see where my strengths were as a coach. And I knew at that point, I want to be a head coach at the college level or at the pro level, but there’s only a handful of those jobs at the pro level.
And they’re hard to get. And so I knew my path forward was going to be as a head coach and probably at the college level. And the other big part of it was I met my, my future wife not wasn’t my wife yet while I was in Orlando. But that family aspect of it played a huge role where it’s hard to start a family and start your NBA career or, or invest the time that it’s going to take.
To be a head coach someday. I think it’s a lot easier if you’ve established a family, maybe your kids are a little older. It’s tough when you don’t have that yet. And you know, you’re going to have to put those hours in to, to get to that level, not impossible, but you know, it’s really hard. And so I knew my path forward was going to be as a college coach.
And you know, I think kind of like we talked about earlier with players accepting their roles I think that’s something that’s important as coaches too to understand is being a head coach and being an assistant coach are just, they’re totally different. And as a coach, we all have different strengths.
We all have different weaknesses and. You know, there’s guys that are just built to be assistant coaches. They’re great at it. And they know where they fit in. They know that it, it maybe is not as a head coach. And then there’s other guys that they’re just born to be head coaches, they’re born to be leaders.
And it’s so understanding where your strengths lies as a coach. And I just kind of felt that’s where my future lie. That’s where my strengths were just from a, a teaching aspect. I love teaching the game and I love teaching my style it’s hard to teach someone else’s style or someone else’s philosophy with convict.
And it was easy for me to teach my style of conviction. It’s hard to do that when you’re learning at the, especially at a new level at the NBA level. So I knew I wanted to be head coach and I knew my path forward just made more sense at the college level.
[01:02:52] Mike klinzing: When you make that transition from the pro game back to the college game, what was it like in terms of you’re looking at obviously a different level of player? Was that an easy adjustment, hard adjustment, something that it didn’t take very long for you to get adapted back? Just what was it like to go from coaching?
Obviously the best, best players in the world to coaching college players who were still obviously very skilled, but not at the level of NBA. Just talk a little bit about what that was like.
[01:03:28] Luke Stuckey: So it was one of the toughest transitions I had made, believe it or not it was just as difficult as the jump from high school to the NBA.
Because you know, it’s you want a coach you have all these ideas flowing through your head and you know, it’s really easy to overcomplicate things and that’s exactly what happened. And I found over the years the more we’re able to simplify things just the better we get the better our players are, the more freely they play, the more fun we have and the wins just follow.
And that was something I had to learn was you have to dial it back and you have to understand that it’s not what I, as a coach can understand. It’s not about me looking smart and look at, look at this complicated system we’re running here on both ends of the floor.
You know, it’s about what your players can comprehend. And obviously these college players, they haven’t, they don’t have the experience that these NBA guys have. They haven’t played the games, they haven’t had the same experiences. And so you can look pretty foolish as a coach when you go out there and try to put all these different things in and you just overcomplicated.
So dialing it back each and every year from, from everything, from what we do on the floor, how we run our practices to even just the scouting reports that was something at the NBA level. These scouting reports were very detailed and you know, and why they should be those guys, it’s their job.
It’s our job as coaches to have them prepared. You know, it’s a hundred percent basketball all the time, but you know, at the college level, guys are going to class and it’s, it’s, it’s basketball 10% of the time. And so you really have to scale that back as well where we’re not able to put a half a page on the eighth guy on coming off their bench you know, it’s not, that’s not going to help us win.
You know, we’re going to have to simplify this and, and make it easy to understand, but still be organized.
[01:05:30] Mike klinzing: In your time as an assistant coach. What did you learn about putting together the right staffs? The, when you got the opportunity to become the head coach at Lincoln trail, after a season at Cameron, what did you learn about assistant coaches and when, what you were looking for in an assistant coach, when you put together your own staff.
[01:05:54] Luke Stuckey: The biggest thing you have to take into consideration is you have to know where your weaknesses and where your strengths are as a coach. Because if you hire a clone of yourself maybe my strength is, I’m a great teacher on the floor, I can really get a lot out of a practice and I go out and hire staff that does the same thing.
We’re going to struggle in a lot of areas. So having the maturity to understand, I need help here. I am not a great recruiter or I’m not a great fundraiser or whatever it might be. Your staff has to be able to fill those voids and plug in where you’re not strong.
Because you know, I have yet to meet the person that has it all under control. There’s a lot of good coaches out there that do a lot of things really well, but nobody is I would say the complete package. So I think that was a big thing is just number one, knowing where your weaknesses are, but then number two, not micromanaging those guys you brought ’em in to do a job, let ’em do their job and again, that’s something coach VA allowed me to do as a young coach is he gave me a lot of responsibilities from game scouting, running drills and practices, running shoot arounds you know, putting films together, clips together.
He gave me those opportunities to have the chance to learn. And that was something I knew as a head coach when I hired my staff, I wanted to give those guys those opportunities. So they could grow as a coach and you know, not micromanage their every move.
[01:07:31] Mike klinzing: When you put together that staff, what was your philosophy on dividing roles and responsibilities amongst the staff? Did you have a discussion with them about, Hey, what do you like to do? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Did you have offensive defensive coordinator? Just, what was your process for putting together the roles and responsibilities for your staff?
[01:07:54] Luke Stuckey: Another thing that the NBA was just a great learning tool for me was how to do that. So yeah, we divided up a lot of different things. You know, we divided up our schedule where I would give each assistant coach and usually our staff would be two assistants and then one student assistant.
But we would divide that schedule up and just allow those guys to focus on a small group of teams, four or five, six teams, where they could kind of track them throughout the year and, and have more of their thumb on the pulse of that team. Whereas having every coach focus on the whole schedule.
So I like that idea of giving a guy six teams, Hey, when, when we play Vincennes sends this is your, this is your scout I’m going to lean on you for everything. And you know, I thought that that worked really well. It was something I enjoyed as an NBA coach was having those teams and just following ’em and having a real good idea of what they were doing.
And you know, not having to focus broadly on that. The other thing was the player development part of it. So we would break down our roster and give each assistant three or four guys, and we would rotate it as well. But you know, three or four guys just to get in the gym with individually four or five times a week and, and just do skill work with, and I thought that was good for our assistants to develop relationships with those players to, to be in the gym with them one on one or one on two and you know, be able to do that skill development. And so that was another thing picked up at the NBA level. And then just all the other things that go into running a program, the recruiting part of it you know, I had one assistant coach Spencer Cook, who was just phenomenal with recruiting.
That was probably one of the biggest reasons why we were able to have some success that Lincoln Trail was just you know, our talent was upgraded every year. And you know, he just was so good at number one, identifying the talent and knowing that, Hey, he’s going to fit our system.
He’s going to fit our style of play. So he kind of took the lead on recruiting. You know, I knew I trusted him to kind of narrow our list down and you know, he, he was just so good at that. We all had a hand in it, but he took the lead in that. And then just all the other aspects of the program the fundraising you know, the making sure guys are getting to class on time the, the academic aspect of it we broke that all down and just empowered each coach to take the lead on those different areas and with the head coach overseeing it all.
[01:10:32] Mike klinzing: What was the most fun part of being a head coach at the college level?
[01:10:36] Luke Stuckey: I think one thing that’s unique about college that’s you just don’t get it anywhere else is you’re able to recruit to what you want.
You don’t get that in high school. You have a bunch of community kids and you got what you got you might have 10 guys that are six foot tall it’s, you don’t get to determine that when you’re a high school coach same thing kind in the NBA, especially as an assistant you lean on your general manager, your assistant GM to, to make those personnel moves.
We don’t pick who’s out there. Maybe some of the veteran coaches that have been around a long time, they do, but we didn’t. And so you’re coaching the, the group of guys that are put in front of you, but at the college level we’re able to, Hey, here’s how we want to play. This is the style.
This is how I think we’re going to be able to win in our league. And you’re able to go out and recruit that. And I really enjoyed developing an identity as a program and you know, kind of seeing that flourish on the floor and, and recruiting to what you thought would be able to win.
[01:11:40] Mike klinzing: What was the most enjoyable part of coaching at the junior college level and what makes the junior college experience unique for both coaches and players?
[01:11:54] Luke Stuckey: Very unique level because you’re getting these talented guys in there. But you know, that hopefully is no one’s final destination.
Everybody is trying to move on and get to that division one level. And so that that can be difficult to manage that sometimes when you have a roster of 10, 12 guys who all have aspirations of being a scholarship player at the four year level and that’s difficult.
But again, being able to be honest with those guys and say, Hey, here’s where I see you. And here’s what we’re going to be able to do for you. But the most enjoyable part I is recruiting that young man that needs the help that isn’t a, a finished product that has maybe had some struggles on the court as a player or academically and getting that young man to a place his sophomore year where he he’s improved as a player.
He’s matured as a, as a student athlete and he’s ready now where he wasn’t ready coming out of high school. And the, the list of guys that we were able to move on is just You know, it’s the best feeling in the world as a coach to have that kid earn that scholarship and be able to change his life, his family’s life.
There’s no better feeling a as a coach to watch that happen. And you know, it’s, it’s great too then to go watch that, that player go on to have success and kind of represent your junior college. It is a great feeling.
[01:13:19] Mike klinzing: Talk a little bit about the difference between your process as a coach at the high school level and at the college level, when it comes to.
Practice planning and sort of the way you design your practices to maximize both what your players are going to get out of it individually and what you want to get out of it from a team standpoint,
[01:13:46] Luke Stuckey: One of the biggest differences is just the manpower, you know at the high school level, especially last year there’d be a lot of practices where it was just me in the gym with the team.
And so when you have that situation it really changes what you’re able to do in a practice. And you have to be prepared for that. But at the college level when you have two, three guys that you trust and that are good, you’re able to do so many breakdowns.
And a lot of just diving into a lot of the little details and practice that at the high school level, when you don’t have the, the staff you might not be able to get into all that. And so that was big having a great staff at the college level that you know, you can trust and, and, and be able to you know, have a breakdown on both sides or three or four baskets.
But then, yeah, just the skill level like, like I said before at every level you move up, your margin for error is different and you know, you teach the game different You know, you, you have to have a attention to little details you know, in order to be successful at the college level.
So it’s very enjoyable. Being able to take a young man from a high school program and show them, okay yeah, you did that in high school, but you know, here’s how we’re going to do it at this level. Now this is going to help you be a better player. And you know, I really enjoyed that about the college game and it’s something different you know, your, your players in a different place, skill wise, athletically, and it’s almost a different sport sometimes.
[01:15:22] Mike klinzing: Yeah, I could see that. What about the relationships that you build with players? Obviously? No matter what the level is, whether you’re talking about your experience at the NBA, or you’re talking about college, or you’re talking about high school, you’re trying to build those relationships with your players.
How is it different. In your college experience versus your high school experience in terms of how you go about spending time with the players, investing in them. And then as a result, building that relationship, because obviously you have different situations where they’re in college and they’re living on campus and you’ve got access to ’em in those ways.
But then at the high school level, they’re living at home and there’s, there’s just obviously differences. So talk a little bit about building relationships with players that built the college and high school level.
[01:16:15] Luke Stuckey: You started to bring it up right there, where in high school, the kids go home to mom and dad every night.
And when those kids step foot on campus it’s totally different. When you go out and recruit a young man you’re bringing them onto campus and that parent’s trusting you with, with their child. And you know, there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with that, where.
Mom and dad, aren’t cooking them dinner every night. Now, mom and dad aren’t checking and waking them up in the morning. It’s time to grow up now when you’re on a college campus. And so it’s a lot different when you players are not going home now you’re responsible for those guys.
And you know, one thing I was a big believer in at the college level was we told this to every parent when we recruited their son was, we’re not in the, in the business of babysitting, you know we believe a hundred percent that it’s not for everybody. And there’s some kids that are going to come in and they’re going to fail the first time, you know?
But you know, the best way I know how to learn is by sometimes you have to fail. So you don’t wake up your 8:00 AM in class, I’m not coming over there and waking you up you’re going to learn the hard way and not having that your mom and dad to set that alarm clock for you, cook your breakfast, roll you out of bed.
That’s a tough transition for a lot of kids. And being the coach at that level it’s up to you to teach these guys how to be college athletes. Cause they have no idea it’s their first experience with it and you know how to manage their time, how to just survive on their own.
You know, it’s difficult and so you can never underestimate how little guys know sometimes it’s amazing just some things that you’re like, wow, okay. I have, I guess I have to teach that, you know so yeah, it’s a big differencemthey’re out on their own the first time.
And you never, even when you’re home with your family at night, you know you know, in the back of your mind, you’re still hoping the guys are getting it done, doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re in those dorm rooms.
[01:18:27] Mike klinzing: Yeah. I can imagine that can be, I don’t want to say scary, but I’m sure that’s something that as a college coach that you’re constantly trying to remind and then think about just making sure that those guys make decisions.
We’ve all been 18, 19, 20 year old kids and our decision making processes at that age, aren’t always as good as, as maybe they should be. And when you think about being a college coach and the responsibility that you have to make sure that your athletes are, are doing the right thing for themselves, most importantly, and then.
Also for, for your program really, really important. Talk a little about the transition then back to Yuma Catholic to, to leave the college level, come back to high school. What was the thought process there and kind of just give us an update on sort of where you are career wise with, with your current, with your current job, and kind of maybe where you think you, you, you might see this going in the future.
[01:19:30] Luke Stuckey: When things end at the college level you know, most of the time it’s, you’re either moving up or moving laterally or you’re getting fired. And you know, that wasn’t really my case. You know, we had a great three year run where every year a program is really improving. But for me it was just a family decision where we had two young kids and we just nowhere near family and that was tough to kind of be on your own in the Midwest with family on each coast.
So that played a big factor into it. And just feel like it was time for a change, a new challenge. It was time to move on and it turned out to be a great decision from both aspects. I really enjoy my time so far here at Catholic, it’s a great community, great school.
And just having the opportunity now to be around family has just been such a, a great transition for me and my kids and my wife to go along with that.
[01:20:29] Mike klinzing: One of the things that we’ve talked with, lots of different coaches about is how you balance your coaching with your family.
And obviously you have young kids and it’s always a challenge to build the kind of program that you want to build and put in the kind of time that we all know you need to put in today in order to be able to have success. So how have you thought about, how do you think about the balance between building that successful basketball program and being dedicated to your players and your team, and also being dedicated to your home team, your family, how do you divide that up?
And how do you think about that?
[01:21:20] Luke Stuckey: The family has to come first and I think for me, it’s hard to be a great coach if I’m not a good dad at home. So knowing that’s taken care of and my young girls are getting what they need that makes me a better coach.
So you always have to put that first and as a looking back at it I think as a young coach, you have to be strategic about you know, what do I want as a coach? What do I want to get out of this? And then what do I want from a family aspect? I think the more you can plan that out, put those years where man, you have to grind, you have to put a lot of time in, away from home. You know, if you can get that and get to a position where now maybe you don’t have to put the 60, 70, 80 hour weeks in and then you can start your family. You know, I think that the more you can plan that out and be strategic about it, the better you know, I wasn’t smart enough to do that.
My path was kind of weird bouncing all over the place. But it worked out for me. But you know, if I could look back and talk to young self I would I think the more you can plan that out, the more successful you’re going to be, not only as a coach, but as a father, as well,
[01:22:39] Mike klinzing: When you think about the three places that you’ve been as a high school coach, and you look at the success that you’ve been able to have at each of those places, can you put your finger on one or maybe two things that you feel have enabled the programs at the high school level that you’ve been a part of to be successful?
[01:23:00] Luke Stuckey: I think the biggest thing is just the kids. I’ve been fortunate to coach great kids with great families and the coaching has changed my style, what we teach on the floor that that’s changed over the years, but the kids as long as you have great kids that buy in to what you’re, what you’re teaching, you can be successful.
And I think that’s been the one consistent thing now at all, three stops that That we’ve had is just the kids buy in. They’re fun to coach there’s nothing better than the feeling of walking into your gym and wanting to coach the group of kids. You know, you’re with you don’t get the eye rolls all the time and the bumping heads and fighting kids to buy in, it happens.
And that makes coaching so enjoyable. And I think I’ve been very fortunate now to have that all three stops at the high school level. And in college we had great kids at the college level too at Lincoln trail. But yeah, just makes the coaching so enjoyable when you have that.
And we’re really fortunate again, this year to have a great group of kids, super young team, but a great group of kids that that are hungry and that want to learn. So it makes it fun.
[01:24:15] Mike klinzing: How do you engage the families that are a part of your program? Do you have anything special that you do to.
Get parents bought in and get them on the same page. Obviously we talked a little bit earlier about that proactive communication, but tell us a little bit about what you do to make sure that you have parents on board and buying into you and your basketball program things.
[01:24:39] Luke Stuckey: And I think this goes to the players buying in as well as you just, you have to be prepared.
You have to just like any teacher, if you walk into the classroom and you’re scrambling, you’re unprepared. You’re not confident in what you’re teaching. Parents are going to know that your players are definitely going to know that and getting that buy-in is going to be next to impossible.
So just having a plan in place, being confident with what that plan is. And just being organized when parents see that they’re going to be a lot more they’re going to place a lot more trust in you. They’re going to believe in what you’re doing with your program and with their son.
So being organized having a vision for where you want to take the program and being honest and upfront, like we talked about before with. You know, where the players fit into that? I think is big. Like we talked about before, if you kind of sugarcoat it and, and lead a kid on it, it might not happen right away, but eventually that’s going to backfire.
And I think the more honest you can be about where kids fit into your program you’re going to be better off in the long run. And I think the players and the parents, the families are going to, they’re going to respect that. So presenting a vision for what you want that program to be promoting it, having pride in what that vision is kind of Hey, this is our system, this is our program.
It’s unique, it’s special. I think players buy into that and the parents do as well. When they see their son having a great experience it’s hard, any, parent’s going to love that. And so that’s the main thing. When a high school kid graduates. Especially if they’re part of a JV team, they’re not going to remember what their record was on that JV team.
You know, when they’re 27, 30 years old you know, they might remember some varsity games or whatever, but what they’re really going to remember is this experience. They had the camaraderie, the feeling you get of being part of that program. And so that’s what we try to create at every stop is just a feeling of a building program and being part of something that’s special.
[01:26:51] Mike klinzing: What does that look like in your mind when you talk about building an ideal experience? Cause I think as a player, as a coach, you sort of have an idea of what that feels like, what that looks like, but I’m always curious to hear, what do you think makes for a great high school basketball experience?
Like if you talked to one of your players five years from now, or 10 years from now, how would you hope that conversation would go? What do you think they’d share about your program that makes it special and makes it that unique experience that you’re talking about?
[01:27:27] Luke Stuckey: It’s just the little traditions you develop.
I think it’s just the different things you instill in your players. You know, it can be as simple as you walking on campus and you see a candy wrapper on the ground, you pick it up it’s how you treat the janitors. It’s how you treat maybe the non-athletes that are in your English class it’s doing things and kind of branding it.
Hey, this is. YC or the Yuma Catholic way. We do things and it’s different than other schools. We do things different here and we’ll go the extra mile and it’s what sets us apart. It’s what makes our program unique. And it can even be your on court things Hey here, here’s how we rebound the basketball.
Here’s how we run hard and transition. Here’s how we defend. And you know, when you, you package that and say we’re going to demand more of you than this other school kids buy into that. And I think you have to have that to, to have a special program.
[01:28:25] Mike klinzing: Yeah. There’s no question about that.
I think if you can do that, then you’re really on your way to having something special. We’re coming up close to an hour and a half here, Luke. So I want to wrap up with one final two part question. First part, when you look ahead over the next year or. What’s the biggest challenge that you see in front of you.
And then number two, when you think about what you get to do each and every day, coaching basketball, and being with your family, what brings you the most joy? So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy
[01:28:55] Luke Stuckey: Biggest challenge right now, we’re going to have a talented team coming back. We’re coming off a, a very successful season region champs.
And you know, the, the bar has been raised this year, as far as Yuma Catholic basketball goes. So, you know living up to those expectations this year is going to be a huge challenge and still doing it with a, a relatively young team that maybe hasn’t had some of the pressure situations and some of the big games that they’re going to need.
We’re going to have to learn on the fly and, we have a group this year that’s talented enough to possibly win a state championship, but we’re going to have to learn quickly. So that’s going to be a huge challenge for us this year with a heavy sophomore junior group.
But I really like our team this year and it’s going to be a fun year. The thing that gives me the most joy, the great mix right now of the family and work life, being a college coach man, you miss out on a lot of things you’re away recruiting and you’re just burning both ends of the candle.
A lot of times it’s difficult to have that balance. And like we talked about earlier you know, having that work family balance just makes you a better coach I just it re-energizes you, so that’s something that’s been very rewarding and just being part of a special community has been very fun.
[01:30:21] Mike klinzing: That’s well said, and I think. We’ve learned a lot from all of your different experiences at all these different levels of the game. And I think your journey, not only have you been able to grow and then experience these different levels and share that with players, and now getting a chance to share this with our audience.
Again, we’re very, very appreciative before we get out. Can you share how people can reach out to you, how they can find out more about you, what you’re doing in your program, whether you want to share email, social media, whatever you feel comfortable with, and then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
[01:30:56] Luke Stuckey: I kind of started doing a few videos on YouTube, it’s called Stuck on Hoops. I just have a few things on there. Just some simple breakdowns of some you know, some basketball things on there and hope to expand on that in the future. Yeah. And if anybody ever has any questions, man, I love other coaches, fellow coaches reaching out and people were so good to me as a young coach and something I’m really looking forward to as I get a little older and hopefully a little wiser is being able to help other young coaches out in the business.
So email@example.com, shoot me an email anytime and love to connect with other coaches.
[01:31:34] Mike klinzing: Fantastic. Luke, can I thank you enough for taking the time outta your schedule tonight to jump on with us, really appreciate your time and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode.