Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @Lyle_Wolf
Lyle Wolf is entering his fourth season as a Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach at Texas A&M University. Wolf has spent the last 10 seasons with Coach Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech and Marquette.
Lyle was Virginia Tech’s director of men’s basketball operations and previously served as the assistant to the head coach and director of student-athlete development.
Wolf began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Marquette. He assisted in the day-to-day operations of the program and supervised the team’s managerial staff before obtaining a Master’s degree in sports leadership in the spring of 2014.
Lyle graduated from Transylvania (Ky.,) in 2010 with a degree in business administration where he was a member of the basketball team in 2006-07. Following graduation Wolf served as the junior varsity basketball coach at Sayre School.
Wolf earned his Doctorate of Education in global sports leadership from East Tennessee State in March of 2018.
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Grab your notebook as you listen to tis episode with Lyle Wolf, Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach at Texas A&M University.
What We Discuss with Lyle Wolf
- His first experience as a middle school basketball coach in Kentucky
- Realizing he wanted to leave his first career in finance to look for a college graduate assistant position
- Working college camps on the advice of Brad Autrey, who was an assistant at Marquette at the time
- “If you want to be a GA, you need to go meet a whole bunch of people, build your network and outwork everybody.”
- How working camp at Marquette led to an opportunity there as a GA
- His day-to-day responsibilities as a GA at Marquette
- As a GA, you want your presence to be known, but you don’t want your voice to be heard
- Using Notability to keep his coaching notes organized
- The best players he’s ever coached against
- Why most players need to be elite in a narrow lane and how skill development changes from youth levels to the NBA
- Why the structure you’re in and the environment you’re surrounded by determines so much of your success
- The keys to finding the right types of players in recruiting
- Getting answers about a player from other players you talk to
- “prospects that show high major potential are identified pretty early in grassroots basketballs through AAU or high school coaches.”
- “To actually get players to commit and to get them to sign the letter of intent. That’s by far the hardest part.”
- “If you can get a kid that you really like to sign a letter of intent after a two and a half year recruiting process, that’s a big time accomplishment.”
- “You need to be an elite problem solver to be an assistant coach.”
- “Can the head coach trust you to do your job?”
- The characteristics that make Buzz Williams a great head coach
- “Everybody is a head coach of their own responsibilities.”
- The breakdown of staff responsibilities at A&M
- “How do you get the players to be on the same page without a direct play call?”
- “Having an unbiased lens on what you can be good at is very important.”
- “It’s way more about the standard of their pace than it is like the accuracy of their decision.”
- “If it’s a high volume act in your offense, then it’s worth the time and attention to stop and to fix it.”
- “Quit talking and just more reps.”
- “Being elite at what we’re good at.”
- “You’re going to makee mistakes, just play through mistakes with the right level of energy and attitude.”
- “I would much rather work with people that I trust that I like. Coach Williams is one of the best leaders in my life.”
- “Coach Williams is one of the best leaders in my life.”
- “We have to help them be the best version of themselves, but at the end of the day, we have to win and we are doing that.”
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THANKS LYLE WOLF!
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TRANSCRIPT FOR LYLE WOLF – TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL ASSISTANT COACH – EPISODE 684
[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 welcome from Texas A&M University. The men’s assistant basketball coach, Lyle Wolf. Lyle, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
[00:00:13] Lyle Wolf: I appreciate you guys having me. Thank you for your time.
[00:00:16] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. We’re excited to be able to have you on and dive into all the things that you’ve been able to do in your career and what you guys are continuing to build there at Texas a and M with coach Williams. Let’s start by going back in time to when you were a kid. Tell me a little bit about some of your earliest memories of the game of basketball.
[00:00:31] Lyle Wolf: Well, I appreciate that. I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, so I grew up watching Kentucky basketball. So as many listeners know it’s definitely a high level of basketball, so it was always a basketball fan. Grew up playing then played a little in high school, mainly played football in high school.
And then I went to Transylvania University, which is in Lexington and I had the opportunity to play for a very good basketball coach and a good human being. His name is Brian Lane, the current head coach at Trans. And I played for him for a year and I loved it. I ended up not playing anymore. I was not a good athlete or a good basketball player but I still enjoyed the game, enjoyed watching.
So I did graduate from Trans and then I got really, really lucky on kind of how I got into coaching, kind of followed by my mom and my dad’s advice on following a passion in life and not to get too long winded. But at the end of the day, I had a boring eight to five job.
I was working as a middle school basketball coach and the following summer. I ended up working a whole bunch of summer camps, got the itch to get into coaching. And sure enough, a year later was fortunate enough to join Coach Williams at Marquette as a graduate assistant. So I got extremely lucky at the right time.
[00:01:52] Mike Klinzing: When you went to college, did you know that coaching was something that you wanted to do? Were you thinking teaching and coaching, or was it something more that just kind of snuck up on you?
[00:02:02] Lyle Wolf: Yeah, not at the moment. I was getting a degree in finance just because numbers necessarily didn’t scare me.
And I thought I was going to get into business. And like most college kids, I kinda had an idea on at least a subject that interests me, but had no idea what I was going to do with it. The second that you graduate. So I was kind of just typical college kid hanging out with friends doing what college kids do.
And no, I did. Have the realization or the desire or the impulse to get into coaching until about six months after I graduated, once I figured out I couldn’t sit behind a desk and work spreadsheets. So that’s kind of when the desire kicked in.
[00:02:43] Mike Klinzing: So what was that first coaching experience like for you? Was it something that right away when you started, you were like, oh man, this is, I could see myself doing this. This is something I should consider or did it more, was it more of a slow growth?
[00:02:55] Lyle Wolf: Yeah, so I would say I had, I had a lot of excitement, so I was actually a seventh grade, middle school team.
And so a as all seventh graders, do they have organic energy to listen and to learn. And you know, if you say, Hey, I want you to dribble 10 times and spin around on your head. They actually would attempt it, you know? So like there was a lot. Joy that first year of coaching and kind of getting after it and messing around with different concepts.
So I do remember that first year, I was like, yeah, I can definitely get into this. I have a lot to learn. I was kind of understanding my communication style of their listening and their communication style as well. So it was definitely a little bit of a jump in the deep end method.
Ted Hall. Who’s a very good high school coach in Lexington, Kentucky gave me the opportunity and he gave me a lot of structure and a lot of guidance and has been a great mentor in my life. But that first year it definitely gave the excitement. It kind of started the fire. And then obviously it’s built from there.
[00:03:57] Mike Klinzing: What was something that you were good at right out of the gate. And what’s something that you look back now and you’re like, man, I was really bad at that.
[00:04:02] Lyle Wolf: I was really bad at, at coaching basketball. in seventh grade like it’s funny, I looked back and at the time I was like, okay, I’m doing all the right stuff.
And if I had to talk to myself where I am now to back then, I did a terrible job. But I’ve even said that about myself over the last 16 months too so a good thing is, is that means there’s been some degree of growth, but I would say at the time we did a really good job, at least in seventh grade at keeping it fun.
You know, heck we put it out balance play one time in, when we were getting, we were losing by 40, with about two minutes left and getting your typical stack alignment, four guys. And we had three guys dive to the corner just to everybody, visually distract them. And the other guy went backdoor and dropped it to him and laid it up.
And so just kind of fun stuff like that. But no, there was definitely a lot looking back that I could have improved or done a better job with, for sure.
[00:05:00] Mike Klinzing: As you were going through that and you’re in the middle school was the thinking that, Hey, I’m going to continue to hopefully progress and stay with this and stay at the high school level or was when you went to the camps over the summer was the idea that, Hey, maybe I want to try to coach at a higher level.
Just what was the thinking when you went out to camp? Was that to be just, was it going to be for fun? Was it career advancement? Just where was your mindset when you left that summer to go and work those various camps that you did?
[00:05:28] Lyle Wolf: So about mid-fall of, I guess it was 2011. I recognized that maybe it was 10. Yeah. Fall of 2010. I recognized I didn’t want to do that finance job anymore. I got into coaching middle school coaching, et cetera. But then I was like, okay, I want to do this at the college level. I think I had to have interest in doing that. So what is available? Like what could I do? Obviously being an assistant is not realistic.
So within the research, I found out something called a graduate assistant position. And which at the time I didn’t even know existed. So like a typical naive, I don’t know what I don’t know, individual. I sent a whole bunch of emails out to all division one. I don’t think I sent any to division two. I probably sent 300 emails and just said, Hey, I want to be a graduate assistant.
Do you have anything available more or less? Can I have it, like that was a dumb question. so thankfully a lot of people did not respond. A few people did say, I apologize. You know, we don’t have anything coming. But one individual, his name is Brad Autry and he’s a very close friend of mine and a mentor as well.
He was more or less the director of operations at Marquette. And he responded saying, Hey, your intent is right, but you’re going about it the wrong way. You need to build relationships. You need to meet as many people as possible. You need to outwork everybody. That’s doing it. There’s millions of people emailing every single day and you have to stand out.
And so I’m extremely thankful for that email because I responded saying, okay, more or less, I said, okay, thank you. Can I work your camp? Because he said work a whole bunch of camps, get to know people. So thankfully because of that email, that led to, okay, I need to set up a whole bunch of summer camps. I need to try to do ’em back to back to back to back.
And so that kind of kick started the whole, okay. This is the thought process on how to run down a graduate assistant position. So the following summer I had, I worked Trans. I drove from Lexington all the way down to Waco. I worked Baylor’s camp. When that finished, I drove from Waco to Minneapolis worked Minnesota’s camp, drove from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, worked Marquette’s camp had like a week or two off.
And because I did a halfway decent job, went back to work a second camp at Marquette. And I canceled. I think I had scheduled to work camp at Syracuse, but no, the camp gauntlet was because of that email saying, Hey, if you want to be a GA, you need to go meet a whole bunch of people, build your network and outwork everybody.
[00:08:12] Mike Klinzing: So then what did that look like day to day for you at camp, as you’re thinking about, Hey, I want to try to build relationships. I want to make sure that I’m. Working hard that I’m impressing anybody who may or may not be watching me there while on that camp. Just talk a little bit about what your mindset was or how you tried to approach each day.
Cause we’ve all seen coaches, no matter what camp should work, there’s guys that are into it. And guys that are doing more than their fair share. And then conversely there’s guys that aren’t. So just talk a little bit about what your mindset was at that point.
[00:08:40] Lyle Wolf: So I definitely think it was a moving target for me by no means that I walk in knowing that I’m going to be the best.
I think thankfully I’ve had good influences in my life with, with my family and different mentors kind of feeding me the right stuff, but ultimately showing up extremely early, always offering, Hey, is there anything else I could do, not having my backpack on, not having headphones in, putting my phone away.
Having really, really good energy with kids. And again, some of this, I didn’t really know day one when I walked in, but I just kind of picked up on it based on, Hey, that guy looks like he’s doing a really good job. Like how can I mimic that? But mainly just spending the energy and the effort and kind of doing the little stuff and doing extra.
And again, I was given that advice when you chat with different people on how to go out and capture an opportunity. Not necessarily just kind of wait for one, but I got lucky and I was blessed that the director of ops at the time of Marquette kind of recognized the effort I was putting in.
And there’s a lot of really good guys that were, that worked camp with me. So it wasn’t like I was the only one doing well and everybody else stalked that wasn’t the case. You know, I think there’s a significant degree of luck that plays into everybody’s life. And so I think I was lucky enough to have that opportunity when it came.
[00:10:04] Mike Klinzing: What was that conversation like after the fact, when the opportunity comes your way at Marquette, do you reach out to them? Are they reaching out to you after dealing with you at camp and, and having you around or just, what was the process like to get you there?
[00:10:16] Lyle Wolf: So, I knew that the current graduate assistant at that time only had one year left.
So when I was working summer camps, I knew that he was going into his second year. So I knew that they, they would be hiring for a GA the following summer. So that GA knew my interest. The director of basketball operations knew my interest. I had met majority of the staff. I had met Coach Williams once, but that was kind of it.
So mainly all the support staff knew that I wanted the position. So I stayed in contact with them throughout the entire year. I took the advice of a lot of people, and I wrote coach Williams on a monthly basis. I think I met and saw Marquette play Cincinnati one year at Cincinnati just to stay connected.
And again, all that was advice that was given to me. By Brad Autry at the time. And then actually receiving the position that year later when that current graduate assistant was leaving, Brad Autry said, Hey, I don’t, you just come early, help set up camp. If it wasn’t for Brad Autry I would not have that GA job.
Hey, come early, help set up for this camp, be around, et cetera. And so there was a couple conversations randomly with, with coach Williams kind of asking different things, just to kind of have a better pulse on who I am and my character, et cetera because he’s the head coach. He’s not supposed to have that sort of daily interaction with somebody who’s not in the program at that time.
And so it was kind of funny a lot as the conversations were building, as the interest from both parties were continuing, one of the first questions he asked me is, Hey, you graduated from Transylvania. And I said, yes, sir. He said, is that a real school or one of those made up schools? I was like, yeah, that’s a good question.
It is a real school, so it was kind of funny, but it actually happened very quickly. It was literally in a two day window. I was kind of having, getting a pulse that I have a chance at it. And thankfully I had met, made friends and built relationships with everybody on the support staff, the GA’s, the managers and kind of everybody was kind putting their vote in for me as that GA and then coach Williams had a pretty short conversations with me.
Hey, this is my expectation level. These are the things you can’t do to get the program in trouble. Be the first one to arrive the last one to leave and you start tomorrow. So it was a very surreal moment. I kind of remember being extremely overwhelmed emotionally for about 10 minutes after that, after I called my folks because that was the first time I ever like chased something down and it was good. I had no idea it would turn into this, but I’ve been very fortunate.
[00:12:58] Mike Klinzing: So you get the job and now you have to move. And I know you had a huge salary as a graduate assistant that you could just have yours. That’s right.
Whatever kind of house that’s you wanted, you could live wherever, whatever, whatever community you decide to do. So just talk a little about the process of sort of upending your life and what you remember about that.
[00:13:11] Lyle Wolf: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of sacrifices. I was dating a girl pretty seriously at the time at Lexington.
And so I had to say, Hey, I’m chasing this dream of mine. And she didn’t want me to leave. So that was unique for however old I was 21, 22. And so I did do that and you know, moving away from Kentucky for the first time ever, I think potentially can be exciting for most and can be nervous for others, but I kind of had a lot of adrenaline at the time, so I actually didn’t think anything of it.
I pretty much stayed there. Majority of the summer came back. Packed my stuff up in like a three or four day window. And really, I didn’t bring anything. I stayed in the dorms where our players stayed at Marquette. So the furniture wise, everything was there. So honestly, I don’t know how much I brought, if anything, but a handful of bags, maybe a mattress.
And then you’re going to spend 80 to 85% of your hours at the facility. So from a packing standpoint, there wasn’t a lot, it was unique saying bye to family, but it, because you’re excited about the passion and the dream that you’re chasing there, wasn’t it wasn’t like a, a home sickness window or anything like that.
So you kind of hit the ground running go back. I did have to apply to get into grad school. I was already in, thankfully that was good advice from, from Brad Autry. I was already in grad school, went back, packed my stuff. I came back about a week before the players came back in the fall and hit the ground running kind of full speed.
[00:14:47] Mike Klinzing: So how did you balance going to school and getting your graduate degree with the responsibilities that you had with the team. So talk a little bit about making that equation work, and then also maybe add in what you did day to day. I’m sure there was a bazillion things, but just what you remember about some of the tasks that you did in that first year?
[00:15:07] Lyle Wolf: So I definitely for me, but I was not married and I was 20, 23, probably or 24 at the time. So being not married 24. So I could work long hours. I could stay up late studying for my masters. Like there was all that. So I want to say, and at the time I just muscled. Allocated time, stay up late crammed in papers, like found a way to make it work.
And I definitely know, as you get older and you have family and kids, it’s not as applicable, but at least at that time I had the flexibility with no other dependents, no other responsibilities besides being a really good graduate assistant and making sure that I have good grades. And so from the how to manage both, you just have to make it.
You pretty much wake up really early. You go to bed really late and then do it again. But heck at all of us at 24, we could easily pull that off. And then from a responsibility standpoint, I think being a graduate assistant is different based on which program you’re in or which school you go to for me, I was a little bit more of Coach Williams’ right hand man. Not just myself, because it was me, but any GA for coach Williams, that’s kind of who you are. So you’re helping him with anything that he needs. I mean, I’ve done a, a laundry list of, of personal things from getting his car clean, to helping him with some dry cleaning, to helping getting his kids from a, to B to then on court as well, where I have a pad out there kind of pushing players around and I’m helping players make sure they get going do they make it to class?
Okay. Are they in study hall? If they’re running late because an individual workout ran late, how can I help expedite that process? When there’s guests that come in and they need a tour, I’m that person I’m helping doing laundry, I’m helping manage the managers. So you’re kind of a catchall in a lot of different things, but it’s funny, it’s at least within our program, you’re definitely a gopher and you’re definitely a pack meal.
So I learned to, to carry a lot of different bags at once. And I also learned to get things done in a very fast manner.
[00:17:19] Mike Klinzing: In addition to doing those types of tasks, obviously one of the things that as you’re going through this process, you’re trying to learn. You’re trying to improve yourself as a coach with the idea that eventually you’re going to be able to advance and be able to do more things out on the floor.
Get more involved with the Xs and OS get more involved with coaching on the floor. So. In those first couple years, what were you doing? Obviously, you’re trying to absorb as much as you can from coach Williams and the staff and the guys that you’re working with on a day to day basis. But what else did you do to be able to increase your knowledge of the game?
Are you reading, are you watching film? Are you talking to mentors, some combination of all those things? Just where was your growth coming from at that point in your career?
[00:18:08] Lyle Wolf: So it definitely a lot of it was just kind of being a fly on the wall, or I guess it was an interactive fly on the wall, in the gym. So during practices and what is coach Williams saying when he stops practice?
What is coach Autry saying when he stops practice? You know, what was coach Jerry Wayne Wright saying when he stopped practice? So there was definitely a lot to be learned in the actual practice segment. And then in addition to that, I definitely worked hand in hand with a lot of the assistants on the scouting reports.
So whether it’s. Watching personnel and typing the tendencies or even Jeff Reynolds is a former head coach and a good friend of our program in mind he did a lot of the Scouts and so he. He’s a little bit old school. He would do a lot of handwritten stuff. And so I would type out his notes to make it electronic.
And so there was a lot that I learned just on his own film evaluations, just by strictly being the person that typed up his handwritten notes. So there was a lot that I learned just because I was a part of some degree of the process with assistant coaches and support staff in the, the basketball decisions.
Now I was thankful enough that coach Williams and the staff allowed me to sit in on like coaching staff meetings. And so as they talk basketball, I’m just writing stuff down, listening, trying to retain typically would not ask questions in that setting. You kind of have to be, you know I think there’s a phrase and I’m going to blank on the right way of saying it, but like even managers and GA.
You want your presence to be known, but you don’t want your voice to be heard or something along those lines. So you’re kind of there in support, but you’re listening to as much as you can. So I would say those are your 80% of how I learned is just kind of through the process. And then 20% is, yeah, you’re definitely you’re looking at pick and pop, which was a popular site of the time.
Podcasts were not as interactive as they are now, but you’re just looking for resources to learn. So a lot of articles, coach Williams is a big time reader and he would pass along a lot of articles to the staff as well. So I learned a lot in that regard as well.
[00:20:20] Mike Klinzing: Did you, and do you currently have a way to catalog the notes that you might be taking or the articles that you come across or now, obviously with video and that kind of thing, do you have a formal system for how you kind of keep track of things?
[00:20:32] Lyle Wolf: It’s so funny, like our staff always argues about this. Cause you always it’s like you get the, you can find like the best system for you and all of a sudden something else comes around and like, oh shoot, that might be better. So when it comes to like paper or actual content I currently use, and so does TJ, Ryan, who’s our video coordinator.
Who’s an very intelligent individual, both on the court and off the court. We both use Notability. But Notability is just another form of all the different apps out there that you can use to help organize things. So I believe Coach Williams uses not key, but whatever, the, whatever the Mac version of organization one is one note, sorry.
He uses one note. Gotcha. Okay. And so yeah, we use Notability he uses one note. Other than that, I would say everything is kind of on a external and I would say that’s. Pretty much, it, there’s not one spot that has both video and non-video content, but if it’s a non-video content, it’s probably Notability got it.
[00:21:37] Mike Klinzing: Got it. Yeah. It’s interesting. Just talking to different people, how they go about organizing that because anyone who’s in the coaching profession, obviously you’re always being exposed to new ideas and new thoughts. And one of the things that we found with the podcast, the number of coaches that are constantly, as you said, with coach Williams or yourself, you’re constantly reading, you’re constantly looking for things.
Yes. And it’s so easy to come across it and you’re just sitting there reading it. You’re like, oh, this is a great idea. Or, wow, I’d really like to incorporate that or whatever it may be, whether it’s leadership or it’s exo O’s or whatever it, whatever it is that you’re looking at. And yet you have to have a system because it’s really easy for that stuff to get lost.
So I’m always curious when I talk to coaches, Hey, how do you go about doing that? And everybody seems to have a slightly different way, as you said, and you have to find what works for you without question.
[00:22:21] Lyle Wolf: I think you’re right on that. And I think it’s hard too. If somebody can figure out how to like.
Make all systems like the same, like for example, you can go through Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, and you can save all the stuff you want to save. But is there a way to like streamline that all into one spot there’s currently not. So I think somebody can make some money that way. If they can fix it.
[00:22:44] Mike Klinzing: That’s a good idea. I wish I was a tech guy because that’s a really good idea.
[00:22:48] Jason Sunkle: Because yeah, he’s going to start a new, Mike’s going to start a new venture now, way to go Lyle.
[00:22:58] Mike Klinzing: I don’t think I have the expertise. I’d have to be the I’d have to be the general idea guy and get somebody could do some technical stuff, but yeah, that’s a good that’s. That’s interesting because again, there’s just so much stuff out there and you can easily just compile a ton of it. And I can’t remember why I read this, but just somebody talked about, Hey, you can, you can read all the great ideas you want, but.
What really matters is which of those ideas you actually implement. Yeah. Which, which one do you implement into your daily life? And so it’s one thing to have, it’s one, one thing to have a hundred ideas, but unless you’re putting ’em into, into action, they’re not really helping you. And I think that’s really the way that I try to look at it is yeah.
If I’m reading a book or find something, an article or listening to a podcast, I try to find something, Hey, can I find one thing that I can actually implement as opposed to a hundred things that are like, oh, that sounds cool, but I never do anything with it. And sometimes that’s hard to do, man. We’re busy.
Right. And you’re doing stuff and it’s hard to sometimes go and say, Hey, I’m going to make this change or I’m going to incorporate whatever it is. It’s always, it’s always a challenge. But I think when you, when you’re organized, it definitely makes it easier. Yeah. It makes, it makes it a lot easier. When you think back to that time at Mar when you think back to that time at Marquette, what’s a highlight, what’s something that stands out to you about the time, your time, your time in, in Milwaukee with Marquette.
[00:24:18] Lyle Wolf: Well, our first year in Milwaukee at Marquette was my year one as a graduate assistant was coach Williams’s year five as a coach at Marquette. And so it was 12, 13, and we made it to the elite eight. And so obviously we have not been back since, so I don’t know how good of a coach I am, but yes, that was probably the biggest highlight was making it to the elite eight and the NCAA tournament.
And we played against some good teams in the tournament and in the big east, because it was kind of the old school, big east at the time. So there was a lot of big time highlights, but the relationships I built with those guys was awesome. But when it comes to actually moments, I, I would probably say winning the sweet 16 game and then playing in the elite eight was pretty special.
[00:25:06] Mike Klinzing: All right. Following up on that, who’s the, you can look at the totality of your career. Who’s the best player that you guys have played against, and I’m not necessarily saying the guy who had the best pro career or whatever, but just in the game, in the moment, right there in front of you, who’s the best player that you’ve seen play against a team that you’re coaching?
[00:25:23] Lyle Wolf: That’s a really good question. Hmm. So I would say whether or not he turns out to be the best or not, but one of the most, like in the moment, holy macro, how do you guard this guy is, was probably Cam Thomas at LSU. He, he literally torched us and we had zero answers for him. He was extremely good. He was only there for maybe a year or two, and I know his, his future is still TBD in the league and I know you can really score and who knows, you know what he will do, but I tell you what in college and what he pulled off, it was, it was pretty, it was pretty amazing.
I’m trying to think the five years at Virginia tech Grayson Allen was, was good. I remember from duke, I’m trying to think of other duke guys. At the time RJ Barrett was really good. He kinda had a bad game against us, but but he was special at the time we played against a lot of really good players.
But I, in at least recently, since we’ve been in the sec, cam Thomas just torched us. Yeah. There’s some guys
[00:26:32] Mike Klinzing: It’s kind of funny when you think about just the the level of talent and how many guys there are that are out there that are just so good. And I think people you watch on TV and I think that the average fan doesn’t really have an understanding of how good these guys are and regardless of what their pro careers turn out to be in a lot of cases, I mean, there’s guys of just fantastic college players and, and the level of talent it better than anybody, the, the depth of talent today and the skill sets that oh yeah.
College players have it’s. I mean, it’s incredible how good players are. It’s one of the things we kind of have talked about a lot here on the podcast is just how even going down to the youth and high school levels, just how much more skilled the players are. The number of kids that can put the ball on the floor, the number of kids that can shoot threes, whereas you go back.
15 or 20 years ago. And I just don’t think that was the case. And I’m sure from a recruiting standpoint, being able to go out and see guys that have skill, and then you’re looking for the athleticism. And then obviously then you get into some of the intangibles and things that you’re looking for there when you’re, when you’re out on the road recruiting, but the talent level across the board is just, it’s incredible.
It’s so it’s so high right now across, across the board in college basketball.
[00:27:46] Lyle Wolf: Well, and I would say even onto your point about youth basketball, and I know you guys can speak to this better than I can, but you know, the fact that it’s streamlined on social media and it’s so popular I would say kids probably pick up a ball a little bit sooner and they get into a little bit more.
Basketball that’s attractive. And I’d say to say the sexy part of basketball, a little bit of the over dribbling they want to do a couple different moves. So I would say this probably leans to them being a little bit more skilled with the ball at a, at a younger age, but what’s kind of funny about it.
It kind of does. I’m going to blank on the name of the graph, but potentially you’re kind of more skilled than normal kids are at a younger age. And then by the time you get to high school or college unless you’re an outlier player of somebody who is good enough to play at either division one division, two division three, you at least need to be really good in one thing, whether you’re an elite shooter or you’re an elite rebounder, or you can really guard the ball or you can never turn it over.
And then at the college level, it’s the same thing. And at the NBA level, it’s the same thing. So at a young age, everybody wants to be really good at a whole bunch of stuff. And I think there are 20, 20 to 25% of players at the college level that are really good at a whole bunch of stuff. But the other 75% just need to be elite in a few things. And then when you get to the NBA, it’s even more polarized. There is 10% of the league is allowed to do whatever they want. and then 90% is literally, you better be elite in whatever that narrow lane you are in. If not, they’ll just find somebody that will. And so it’s weird how, like, it kind changes as you get older.
[00:29:22] Mike Klinzing: I’ve never heard it expressed exactly
[00:29:25] Lyle Wolf: in that way. When you kind of think about that pipeline from youth basketball to professional basketball, because you’re right. When you think about youth players and you even think about high school players and you think about the way kids work on their game, and everybody tries to work on the things that, where I have the ball in my hands and I’m the man and I get to do what I want.
Right. That’s what everybody’s working on. And you can understand why, because obviously all those skills are things that are hopefully going to enable you to maybe do that as a high school player. But to your point, as you move up in levels, the opportunity. To do that lessons, the number of guys that have the capability to do that lessons.
And we talked to Mike Procopio who? Yep, yep. Was with the Mavs and does a lot of work. And so when we had him on, he talked about just the exact same thing that you said, he’s like, look, there’s, there’s maybe 20 guys in the league that as you said, get to do whatever they want. And those are the guys that are obviously household names that everybody knows, and everybody else you’re wasting your time.
If you’re not working out, correct. The things that you’re good at and you just have to be like, okay, here’s what I do in a game. Here’s what I need to do in a game in order to stay on the floor and in order to stay in the league. And he’s like, some guys figure that out early. And those are the guys who have long careers and, and make a niche for themselves.
And then you have other guys who still may be fancy themselves as, Hey, I’m a do it all type of guy. And so they never really accept that, Hey, this is my role, or this is my niche, or this is the one skill I’ve have to perfect. And a lot of times those guys fall out of the league because coaching staffs just don’t have the time to battle with a guy to be, Hey, you’ve have to play your role.
And so when you’re talking about professional basketball, you’re talking about, as you said, this guy, isn’t going to do what we’re asking him to do. He’s not Giannis, he’s not LeBron, so we can find somebody else who’s going to perform that role. And it’s really interesting. I never heard it express quite that way.
Where as you said, during the pipeline, younger ages, everybody’s working on everything and then you get more and more specialized as you get up through the higher levels of basketball. It’s an interesting way to look at it.
[00:31:35] Lyle Wolf: Well, what’s also hard too, and I get it. The only reason why basketball is that popular is because of those players, but making it to the NBA. I mean, you almost got a better chance of making it, like winning the lottery. Like it’s extremely hard to do, like it’s, I mean, you all can spit percentages at me better than I can, but it is very, very hard to do. And so you’re trying to aim for something, not saying it’s unachievable, but it’s more unachievable than it is achievable.
And so it’s kind of like if I had like, and I’m not saying here’s just one scenario, but like, let’s say you had a, a physically and a physically gifted kid at a young age that was not afraid of contact, but showed a little bit lack of coordination here and there, but love basketball, et cetera. We almost need to do like the, Hey, I need to teach my kid how to be a kicker or a punter in football.
All you work on is being an elite level, rebounder and catch and shoot and make a shot. And you just be stupid good at those. Who cares if you can dribble. Who cares if you can pivot, who cares at anything, be an elite level rebounder because you’re not, because you’re physically like you doesn’t bother you to bump into people and then be able to catch, shoot and make a shot.
And you might go to college for free at minimum of division two somewhere. And so why try to learn how to be Kevin Durant? Like there’s no reason to the odds of you being Kevin Durant stupid low. So why not figure out a way to go to college for. It’s just, but there’s a lot of luck involved too.
Like Anthony Davis, isn’t Anthony Davis, if he wasn’t six foot majority of his life and he had to be a guard and all of sudden he gets a growth spurt out of his ass. And now of a sudden he’s six 11, and he’s the best player in the world. So it there’s a lot of luck too. So it’s a hard equation.
[00:33:22] Mike Klinzing: I think when you look at the highest levels of the game, right, when you’re talking about NBA basketball, or you’re talking about guys that go and play professionally overseas, or you’re talking about high level division, one basketball, there’s some physical tools that players that are playing at that level have that if you don’t have those physical tools, and again, there’s a variety of what those physical tools can look like.
It could be size, it could be speed, could be eye, hand, there’s, whatever. There’s a lot of different things that you could have, but the fact remains is that you better have some of those things at a pretty high level. And that’s before you even factor in the basketball side of it’s just like, there’s some physical characteristics that.
Enable you to do things that other guys just can’t do. They may have similar skill, but I may have been able to shoot the basketball pretty well, but I couldn’t jump like Rex Chapman. So my ceiling of being a basketball player was capped because I didn’t have a 42 inch vertical in the way that other guys did.
So it’s just, you have to have those things.
[00:34:24] Lyle Wolf: So you did shoot 39% on 144 attempts your senior year.
[00:34:30] Mike Klinzing: I did shoot a little, I did shoot a little. It’s funny because it’s funny that you say that and you know, sometimes we’ll get into these discussions, but what’s interesting is the what to me, looking again as a 52 year old guy, looking back on the way that kind of, I grew up in the game, it was just a completely different, it was a completely different game.
And I think about the way that, the way that we played the game back when I was in school. So I was in college from 1988 to 1992. And I think about what the type of shooter that I was. And you think, man, if I was playing college basketball in the year 2022, like how many threes would I have been firing up there in a season right now, compared to what I did in the era that I played in.
I think that’s one of the things that for me at least is kind of interesting to go back. And sometimes I watch games. I’m like, man, I don’t even recognize, I don’t even recognize what’s happening. I might have, I might have been involved offensively and defensively, Lyle in five pick and rolls over four years as a college basketball player.
And I can honestly tell you that I don’t know that I ever in my career drove to the basket and threw the ball back out to the top of the key. Maybe I threw it to the corner. Maybe, but I certainly never kicked the ball back out outside the three point line after having driven all the way to the rim.
And you just look at the way the games played, it’s completely different.
[00:35:57] Lyle Wolf: So it’s funny you say that we could get down a rabbit hole on this. I want to say it was the book called outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. And he talks a lot about the whole luck component, but a lot of it is like your structure.
So he used an example and I’m going to all the way butcher the example. But there was a study there for a while that like all of the NHL hockey players came out of Canada. Yeah, that’s right. But cause their age was yeah, because, because of their age they were, they got the more resources they and how it was broken down.
They just had the advantage. So it’s funny you say that because there are things that are out of our control that influence the outcome of our pursuit and same with you. So like you’re an elite level shooter, but yeah. You came out the ball screen four times. So you could have been even better player or even worse.
Because of the, just the system that you grew up playing in. So it’s that, that is one thing that I’ve learned and not a lot of people give credit to, but so much of what occurs. You have no idea that what happened to you rather than what you did to get there. And it’s a marriage of both, but it’s unique right?
[00:37:05] Mike Klinzing: It’s so true. I mean, you just think about, let’s say on the college level, depends on which program you go to. Right? You get a coach that fits the style of play that works for you. Or maybe it’s even just as simple as a personality conflict between a coach and a player or a, a, a good mix between coach and player.
And so that’s one of the things, when I think about my own career, like I ended up in the right place for me at the time. Cause my coach liked the things that I did. There were probably lots of other places I could have gone where maybe the things that I did wouldn’t have been. As valued. And so I think about that all the time that, Hey, I just ended up in the right circumstance and that allowed me to flourish and there could have been other places where I didn’t.
And that makes you think too about guys who get drafted into a professionally, whether that’s the NBA or you’re talking about the NFL or major league baseball, whatever. So much of it depends on your situation. Now there’s guys, again, you talk about the top 20, 25 50 players in the league. Those guys are probably going to succeed no matter where they are.
[00:38:08] Lyle Wolf: Agreed,
[00:38:09] Mike Klinzing: But you look at the other 300 NBA players and so much of that is interchangeable that if you’re not in the right situation with the right coach and the right staff and all those things that. It really does make you wonder about, Hey, here’s a guy who he’s quote unquote, he’s a bust. Well, maybe if he had just been all the way with a different coaching staff.
Yeah. And maybe if he had, instead of getting off to a rough start, losing his conference, maybe he got in with the right player development guy and that guy said, Hey, you have to do this and that. And they hit it off. And now suddenly that guy’s career takes off in a totally different direction. And so I think the general public doesn’t understand, as you said, how important that structure is around players,
[00:38:54] Lyle Wolf: For sure that and people have to recognize too on this.
And I’m not saying I’m perfect with this, but typically, if somebody makes it to a level and they climb the mountain and they go on top of the mountain. They point to themselves saying, Hey, I climbed the mountain because of my work, but then if the mountain beat them, they couldn’t climb the mountain.
They blame it on the out outside circumstances. And it’s not always as clean as that marriage is. Yes. There are things you could always blame and yes, you had the energy and dedication to fight, but there’s so much out of our control, almost more out of our control than that in that is rather in our control.
It’s just, it’s too hard. So I agree with the hundred percent that that’s a different rabbit hole though, for sure.
[00:39:38] Mike Klinzing: No I think you’re a hundred percent spot on. I think what’s interesting is that growing up and then being a coach and experiencing it as a player and then experiencing the game as a coach and then.
You get to experience the game. Once you have kids and your kids start going and you start looking at things. And so there’s all these different perspectives. And I, one of the things that has, has struck me a lot is I’ve talked to parents and kind of gone through it as myself is just that how fast your athletic career goes by and is gone.
And sometimes I think as a coach, it’s really easy to look and say, okay, this is, this was a quick four year period, and now we’re in year five or it’s, I’ve been there 10 years or this season’s over. Maybe it didn’t go quite the way we wanted and we’re moving on to next season. And when you’re a player you realize, or when you’re the parent of a player, I think you realize even more, that that time goes.
Really quick, like you turn around and you’re like all of a sudden, and I’ve talked to parents who have been in situations, I’m talking probably more like the high school setting, where the structure, the personality with a coach, it didn’t work. And for whatever reason. And then it just happened to coincide that this coach was here during this time when their kid was there.
And all of a sudden you’re like, man, like their high school career’s over. Like it, it went so fast and you only get, you only get one chance at it. And I think sometimes as adults there’s always we got, we have more time, but kids and players, their time is their time is much more limited.
Like you, you can coach until you’re 65, 70 years. A player’s career, even if they’re LeBron, even if they’re LeBron, at some point, that career is going to end. So it’s it’s kind of interesting. So let me ask you a question just about this. So thinking about what we’ve just been talking about here, one of the keys I’m assuming to recruiting is you’ve have to find guys a, obviously there’s a requisite level of talent and basketball skill and whatever that they need to have in order to be able to play at the level at Texas a and M where you guys are coaching in the SCC, but there’s also the piece of it.
I have to find guys that are going to mesh with coach Williams. I have to find guys that he’s going to be able to coach and get the most out of. So when you think about that and you’re out on the road recruiting, and you’re watching video, you’re talking to players, you’re talking to high school and AAU coaches.
What are some of the things that you’re looking for beyond the raw ability and basketball skill? That again, it’s obviously not a perfect science, but what are the things that you’re looking for that make you think that a player could fit with what Coach Williams does.
[00:42:27] Lyle Wolf: So good question. So I would say that you are spot on I, I would say a player for coach Williams might be different than a player for Tony Bennett doesn’t mean right, wrong or indifferent. Both are really good coaches, but whoever you are recruiting for finding a player that fits their system is, is important. So identifying kind of who that person is for sure the right thing to do. I do think there’s a combination. I think I heard one coach say, I forget who it was like, there’s kind of hard skills and soft skills or hard skills is like your passing and shooting and your soft skills is a little bit of leadership your ability to overcome a bad call, stuff like that.
And so I do think there’s a marriage between it all. Even to your first point, yes. You have to be skilled enough, but like, okay. Let’s say I find an outside dog who is physical he’s mean he’s a competitor. And he’s extremely skilled. Well, there’s not going to be one college in the country that doesn’t want that guy.
So like it, you can always, like, we always talk about how our grandparents can pick out the best players in the gym. And then like the other ones, the ones after that, like, okay, they’re missing they’re not as developed in certain areas. Or they don’t really verbalize a lot on the floor and they don’t really talk a lot and, and they don’t really bark a lot on the floor.
So are they tough enough to play for coach Williams or they just haven’t had an opportunity to show it. And so the rest of it is are we have to dig a little bit more to kind of find out if, if that individual is right for coach, but I do think it depends on your current makeup of your team too. So like, let’s say we have nine guys on our team that you would pick that get into a fist fight.
Like they are mean mother jammers, but none of ’em can shoot the ball. Well, then we probably need to take somebody that can really, really shoot. Even if he has some soft tendencies, just because at the end of the day, we still have to put the ball in the hole. So I do think it depends on what you’re, what you’re looking for.
But we, if you had to pick out like certain characteristics that we’re always discussing we are discussing toughness that does not mean you need to verbalize it, but are you tough enough to play for a coach that will hold you accountable? Physical has to be one, right? They have to have the physical attributes to be able to pull it off.
We’re big on coachability because we are going to coach Williams is a great job of pushing our players to limits that they’re not used to playing at. So are, are, are you willing to do that? And then fit is really important. Like, does he fit our culture? Does his family fit our culture? Do our, do our values match as people.
And so fit is a very important piece to that equation as well.
[00:45:16] Mike Klinzing: Let me dig into that coachability piece that you mentioned. When you’re looking at that, how are you going about trying to discern whether or not this player is coachable? What are you watching for when you’re watching them? And then what are the conversations like?
Cause I’m assuming that part of that coachability conversation has to be had with their high school coach, their AAU coach, people that are around them. So what does that process look like? It tries in terms of trying to determine a player’s coachability.
[00:45:46] Lyle Wolf: Yeah, definitely a lot of Q and A for sure. And whether it’s with the high school coaches and you can get a lot of information too from like, from like other players.
So we always say players, no players. So even if you’re chatting with them, Hey man, like great game, keep it up. You got a chance to play in college maybe not this level, but you got a chance. Hey, what’d you think of, of John? How do you like playing with him? He’ll tell you the truth. Oh, I love he’s great.
Exactly great teammate, man. He’s really good, but I just, I hate playing with him. He never passes the ball he’s got an attitude. So like you can like steal some real good concept from other players. Because they’re not trying to like throw him under the bus or they’re also not trying to overly praise ’em they’re just being kids and telling you the truth.
So you can get a lot of good Intel from them. And then honestly, and I know all coaches will say this, but it’s very true, but, and when you tell high school, middle school, coaches are sorry, when you tell high school kids and middle school kids, this, they kind of roll their eyes, but body language is significant.
You know, how’s your body language when you’re getting yelled at how’s your body language. When do you turn the ball over or Are, are you being deterred on the bench when you get pulled out because you got a second foul and it was 65 feet away from the rim. And again, you’re not supposed to be perfect.
They’re still young, they’re still maturing. So we understand that your maturity level at age 16, it’s not going to be what it’s supposed to be at 22. So we know that there’s areas like that, but you just have to pick up on signs and it’s all the way moving target. And by no means, do we have the equation perfectly picked?
Cause we’ve gotten a lot wrong. We’ve gotten a lot right? And so if you just try to keep your system evolving with data, as it comes along.
[00:47:30] Mike Klinzing: Can you walk us through the entire process for identifying a player? In other words, getting them on your radar, where you go from, you don’t even know the player exists to how do they get on your radar through the process of being evaluated?
Eventually getting the opportunity to. Be connected with coach Williams to the, to the moment where they sign their letter of intent. Just what’s the process that you guys go through. Is it, is it pretty similar for every player or is it different depending upon just again, proximity, just what’s the process from start to finish of identifying a recruit sure.
Until they sign that letter of intent.
[00:48:13] Lyle Wolf: So the one thing I will say, if there’s a diverse group of listeners, is it depends on what school that you recruit from. So high, major basketball compared to mid-major basketball compared to low major basketball compared to junior college, compared to division three, compared to NAIA division two.
So the process for us is much, much different than the process for division two or division three. And so. Just knowing that it’s tailored based on the levels important, but at least at the high major level, typically prospects that show high major potential are identified pretty early in grassroots basketballs through AAU or high school coaches.
And so there’s a lot of scouting services out there that put a lot of reports together and put a lot of Intel and randomly, if there’s a 6’6” sophomore that either can shoot the brakes off the ball or is extremely athletic or kind of has an outlier skill set that is a significantly stronger than his peers at that age, that word usually spreads pretty fast.
It is just a common thing. And so even other high school coaches know, Hey, you. Number 12 at XYZ high school is he’s a freshman. He is good. He’s got a chance like that word, just, it catches fire so quickly. Because everybody wants to be known as the person that told somebody about somebody right? It usually gets to our desk somehow some way.
So I identifying the players, I would say 80% are kind of either through scouting surfaces or you’re watching grassroots basketball at the AAU level. This is all for high major basketball. Or even a high school events in the summer that’s I would say identifying and that’s usually where it comes from.
And then the other 20% are either late bloomers or guys that live kind of in rural areas that don’t have the exposure. That’s kind of where 20% come from. Where you’re at a random event or you happen to know a guy in a random small town that nobody knows about because they don’t get exposure.
So identifying that that’s more or less where it comes from evaluating, I would say 70%, at least at the high major level comes at the AAU organizations. And then 30% comes from the high school teams, at least at the high major level. I would say when you drop down levels that changes a little bit, especially de division two and division three, probably get more from the high school level and then getting connected.
There is a lot of rules and regulations to getting connected. NCAA is heavily regulated as it should be. So the bit based on their age, there’s certain rules and regulations on how you can contact them or how they can contact you. So the simplest thing I can say is division one programs are not allowed to call and communicate via phone with recruits or anybody related to the recruit, which is called an IAWP.
Individual associated with the prospect until June 15th of the summer, sorry, June 15th, between their sophomore and their junior year. And so there’s a lot of other rules even after that date. And before that date on, when you can talk to ’em when you can’t how to talk to ’em, et cetera, but that’s probably your biggest clean cut line and communication.
And then from a sign of letter intent, that’s the hardest part to do for all levels is everybody recruits, everybody they want, they probably have a tier on guys. They have to prefer over others. How gettable is player a compared to player B? When is player B making his decision compared to player F so like there’s a lot of decision making involved and not just decision making, but there’s other schools recruiting the same kids too.
To actually get them to commit and to get them to sign the letter of intent. That’s by far the hardest part, identifying the player semi easy to do, unless they’re a hybrid, are they good enough? Are they not? But overall they’re probably good enough if you know who they are evaluating their talent.
Yes. Do they fit? But that’s kind of the easier part. None of it’s easy, but easier part staying connected. If you’re really good at your job, when you work hard again, you can pull that off. You can get it done, but actually getting the player to say yes to your program, especially if he’s a high, major or high major plus player.
And you have a lot of other real dudes at other real staffs chasing the family and the kid down the same way you are. That’s by far the hardest thing to do. So it’s, it’s an art. It’s, it’s a moving target. We can’t say we have it perfect. By any means. We have a system that works for us. And if you can get a kid that you really like to sign a letter of intent after a two and a half year recruiting process, that’s a big time accomplishment
[00:53:28] Mike Klinzing: For sure. Yeah. Putting in that investment of time with a kid and getting them to sign I’m sure is a moment of celebration in the coach’s office.
[00:53:38] Lyle Wolf: Let’s put it that way. Well, and a lot of kids, a lot of coaching staffs will say this too, you’ll miss on 12 to 15 kids to everyone that you get.
And so rejection has to be a comfortable pattern in your life. Not that you’re ever comfortable with it, but you almost have to allow it to just be all right. That’s one, let me figure out the lessons I need to learn and move on to the next one. That’s definitely a skill that’s has to be evolved at least from a staff standpoint.
[00:54:07] Mike Klinzing: All right. Let’s talk a little bit about that. When you think about the characteristics of. What makes an outstanding let’s go without assistant coach first. What do you think based on your experiences, the people that you’ve been around and then your own experience as an assistant, what do you think make for an outstanding assistant coach? Give me maybe the top three characteristics.
[00:54:24] Lyle Wolf: So it’s funny. I don’t view myself as an outstanding assistant, so it’s going to be hard to speak on that. However, from what I could gather, you won’t be able to be a good assistant coach. If you’re not very good at problem solving, you need to be an elite problem solver to be an assistant coach.
Now that can be a, a wide variety of things. You have a kid having patterns of not showing up on time. A kid can’t manage his time management. I mean, more or less all assistant coaches have to be elite problem solvers. That has to be the number one important thing. Or at least a top three thing.
Another thing I would say is a skill, oh, I don’t know if this is top three, but I have noticed that assistant coaches need to be very good at following up and following through even support staff members. So whether a head coach ask you to do something or, Hey, I need you to do XYZ, making sure that the task is completed accurately.
And also following up with the head coach on that task. That’s probably not a top three, but it is an over, it’s probably an underrated skill set that more people probably should adopt and adapt. And then honestly, it’s going to sound cliche, but it’s true. Is can the head coach trust you to do your job?
And to be loyal to the program, there’s a lot of people in our industry and heck this is probably every single industry that have. Selfish desires and selfish ambitions. And that will say a lot of petty lies. And so I think if you can be a loyal soldier that works really hard, that could be trustworthy.
That that will go a long way as an assistant coach.
[00:56:20] Mike Klinzing: All right, let’s take it the other way. What’s something that you admire about Coach Williams as a head coach that you think have made him as successful as he’s been able to be.
[00:56:32] Lyle Wolf: He’s extremely good with people. He is he’s very much a player’s coach.
So players really enjoy playing for him and the relationship they have with him. It’s not necessarily a head coach to player relationship. Obviously it is for pure basketball reasons, but it is way more of a mentor relationship. So a lot of his success sas been dictated on the fact that players will play hard for him.
And he’s not the only coach that that happens for that happens for many coaches across the country. But the reason why he is been successful is because his guys are talented, but they also play hard for him. So none of it’s possible without the belief that players have in him. So he’s very much relationship driven and actually from a day to day, he’s extremely well organized.
He’s by far the most well organized person on our staff, he has his own personal calendar. It’s extremely detailed. In addition to being organized, he’s also extremely disciplined. We all want to, we all pursue to be more disciplined in whatever that may be, whether it’s our spiritual world or it’s our exercise world, or it’s our spend time with our family world.
Coach Williamsis probably the best I’ve ever seen in my life at being disciplined to what he wants to do on a daily basis. And so by far, I would say those three things, he has a lot of attributes, but he is extremely good with people. He is very disciplined in what he does daily and, and he’s very, very organized in addition to be, to being a, a visionary and a question, asker, he’s just, he’s a very intelligent person as well.
[00:58:16] Mike Klinzing: How do you guys, as a staff determine roles within the program? So is that something that comes from coach Williams? Is that something that comes from a discussion of, Hey, here’s where I feel like I can add value and then coach Williams delegates certain parts of the program to each of you, just, how do you delegate roles on the staff? What does that look like?
[00:58:41] Lyle Wolf: So Coach Williams usually does identify each individual’s buckets. So Coach Williams has a spreadsheet. He pretty much says that everybody is a head coach of their own responsibilities, which I think is a good way of saying it. It allows ownership, sorry. It gives ownership to each of our staff members of, Hey, this is what you all are the head coach of.
And so we each have an understanding of our obligations to the program, our responsibilities day to day. What we need to manage. And does he determine all of those? Ultimately he has the ultimate say he checks the box, say yes, I agree. But I do think there is similar to a male, female relationship or a marriage.
There’s very much a discussion on how the marriage can best work. And so he, he talks often to our tire staff of, okay, who would be best at this? Can he manage those five things and also manage number six and seven? So it’s definitely a discussion, but ultimately coach Williams does check off who’s responsible for what aspect of our program.
[00:59:52] Mike Klinzing: When you guys are on the practice floor, let’s just talk about your role. During a practice, what are you doing? How do you guys divvy up the, what you’re watching and, and what you’re focusing on, what’s your role in a practice setting?
[01:00:05] Lyle Wolf: So everybody does a different like you’ll go to different programs and it’s only the head coach that talks et cetera, et cetera, technically by the letter of the law for the NCAA standpoint, there’s only four individuals that are allowed to coach and teach basketball.
That’s your head coach and your three assistants. So A&M specific on our staff, we break it down a little bit football related. So our associate head coach, his name is Devin Johnson. He’s a very, very gifted coach and individual. He handles all of our defense. And so everything defense related goes through coach Johnson.
He teaches it a to Z everything. And so myself, I handle everything offensively. And so anything offensively I work very close with TJ Ryan, who, who is kind of my ACE in the whole. From a figuring things out standpoint him and I work together on the offense and we try to figure it out.
And so specifically to our staff, I handle the offense and coach Johnson handles the defense and there’s other people on staff that support those two large buckets. And obviously there’s special teams and there’s personnel and there’s other aspects to basketball, but specifically for us and what we do right now that’s kind of how it, it outlines a little.
[01:01:20] Mike Klinzing: So when you’re putting together what you want your offense to look like, so let’s say again, go back to the end of last season. You sit down, you look through and, and think about, watch a film. Think about what you did this past season. What’s successful for you. And then you look at okay, what do we have coming back?
Obviously you get new guys that are coming in. You’ve got the summer, you’re working with players to help them improve on an individual basis. You’re also working on team stuff as you go through your summer. Where are you right now on September one, as far as having a handle on what you want to do offensively, obviously there’s a core philosophy.
How much do you guys tweak that year in, year out? And what does it, what do the conversations look like inside the coach’s office between you and coach Williams and the rest of the staff? When it comes to figuring out what are we going to do offensively?
[01:02:11] Lyle Wolf: So I do think an identity of what you want to be about as a program obviously is important, the foundation, what do you believe in your principles, your values, your culture, and that bleeds down to what sort of identity you want to have on the court as well.
And so at least at the high major level, and for sure at the mid-major and low major level, you used to be able to hold stronger to an identity on the court, but now with transfer patterns and the new rules the makeup of your roster At the end of February, it could look completely different than the makeup of your roster on June 1st.
And so I do think staffs have had to adapt to being a little bit more, okay. I need to see how this is going to play out and how can we best leverage the skill sets that we have on our team to win games. So we still talk as a staff on how we want to still hold on to themes and have an identity offensively and defensively.
So we can recruit to both of those. And I would say this past year and a half, we’ve done a good job of landing on an identity defensively. And this past year and a half, I’ve had a little bit of a searching offensively, maybe it’s because I’m not as good of a coach as I need to be on the offensive end, but we are getting more comfortable with what we want to do offensively.
And a lot of it’s been through trial and error. A lot of it’s been the addition of, of six to seven new faces in the spring that allow us to do certain things and. we are closer as of September 1st, as of today, we are about 80% sure on the direction that we’re headed. And then ultimately coach Williams does a really good job of creating structure that allows our players just to be who they are.
And so a good thing is we’re not going to dive into a great deal of Xs and O we’re going to try to put everybody on the same page offensively and allow our players to be players. And we give them the trust to make the right decisions is ultimately the goal. It’s just, how do you get the players to be on the same page without a direct play call?
And so that’s kind of been the discussion.
[01:04:22] Mike Klinzing: So what does that look like in practice when you talk about, okay, we have our way we want to play, we have the way we want our players to see the game, the types of actions that we want to have in there, but yet we don’t want to be standing on the sideline. Calling a set play every time down the floor.
So then what does that look like? Teaching the game in practice when you’re on the practice floor, how do you go about making sure that the players learn the actions, the reads, the things that you’re trying to get them to see without walking the ball up the floor and saying, okay, now we’re going to run number one, then we’re going to run number two.
How do you do that? What does that look like?
[01:05:03] Lyle Wolf: I do think you have to paint the picture and what it looks like. So are you dribble drive? Are you Calipari at Memphis or Kentucky? Like, do you have four or five guys that can always get downhill with the ball or are you more like a maybe a Virginia or an Iowa?
Or even like a Lipscomb or Furman where you guys are a little bit more pass heavy and can shoot at more positions. And so I think having a firm. Identity and being able as a team, we are self aware that we are very good in these things and not as good in other things that that’s for sure, the starting spot.
And so having, having an unbiased lens on what you can be good at is, is very important. And then I think you just build soft structure around that. And so whether it’s ball screens or it’s continuity, I do think you identify, Hey guys, as we’re bringing the ball in transition, or as we’re bringing the ball across the half court line, we’re looking at certain things.
And if this is our alignment, we bleed into this. If this is our alignment, we bleed into that. And then we kind of give ’em soft reads and we mainly want them to understand what good basketball is in regards. The ball movement, body movement, how to read the defense. And there are things that you have to break down, right?
So setting an off ball not a on ball screen, but an off ball, like away from the ball screen. So like a pin down or a stagger or a fade, like reading the defense on how to play it. That’s all broken down in smaller segments. But then as the balls bringing up, how does the five and the four and the opposite wing know to stagger away, like when do they know that’s the right time versus coming to set a drag?
And so you kind of have to build a little bit of guidelines into, Hey, as the balls being dribbled across, or as it’s being thrown ahead, this is what you’re looking to do. But we do say we never do absolutes. I think we stole this from Lenny AKA. Who’s an extremely intelligent coach at Lipscomb and he mentioned there’s never, it’s never, always and never, right. There’s always degrees of maneuverability. And so our guys kind of understand majority of the time this is going to occur, but we want them to just be players. And it’s way more about the standard of their pace than it is like the accuracy of their decision.
And we’re kind of big on that. We want them to know the right reads, but we, we can’t do any sort of good offense without elite level pace in a practice setting.
[01:07:45] Mike Klinzing: When you’re going up and down, or maybe you’re doing some small sided stuff to work on the skills that you just described or worked on those reads that you just described.
How do you guys balance how often you stop play to make a teaching point versus. You let play continue, and then maybe come back to something that you saw. I think that’s one of the things that especially young coaches I think sometimes struggle with is how do I teach what I want to teach and yet allow my practice to continue to flow so that the players aren’t being stopped every 15 seconds and interrupted by somebody coming in and giving ’em a one minute soliloquy about what read they should have made.
So how do you guys balance that?
[01:08:28] Lyle Wolf: So for us, I think it’s different than the high school level for us. We have resources. We have video, we have 12, 13 people on staff. So like we can avoid or sorry, we can afford to avoid in the moment air because we have the ability to bring him in and he can sit down with our video coordinator at two o’clock that day and like, re-watch it and understand it at the high school level, when you, you can’t necessarily afford to do that. I do think it boils down. And we talk about this a lot too, like the frequency of whatever, just occur. How many times is that going to happen? So like, let’s say they set the cross screen wrong, or even cross street defense.
Let’s talk about cross screen defense. So we used to rep that what outta cross screen defense, how do you have the right alignment? Do you make contact? Do you put your butt into the screener legs? And do you read which way it flows and do you roll off of them? And then we got to thinking about how often do we even guard across screen?
And so that’s something too I would say is if it’s, if it’s a high volume act in your offense, then it’s worth the time and attention to stop and to fix it and to always make it a vocal point or a focal point. But if it does not occur that often, even if it was you set a fade screen, At the end of a ball screen, let’s say you set a ball screen in the channel and you happen to say a set, a face screen at the same time on the wing.
If that happens in two of your plays and you have 30 plays well for the screener who sets the fade to know he can, he should slip. If those two are going to pre switch, like that’s going to happen once every three or four games. If you call it at a high frequency at most. And so therefore it’s not worth stopping to talk about.
And I would say most coaches know that, but the biggest reminder that we’ve had in our world is to not over coach or over talk, just because we’re over teaching. It makes us feel like that we’re coaching, but ultimately you’re losing reps at high volume stuff. And so that’s an argument that our staff has a lot like coach Williams, even at one point made somebody track.
How we allocated our practice time. So like when it comes to like, not just like what we do, like offensively defensively drills, but like what’s occurring is coach Williams talking, is it rambling? Is it teaching? Are we repping? Are we live? And we kind of did a pie chart on how are we allocated our time?
And so our staff has been way more intentional about quit, fucking sorry to curse, quit talking. You’re good. and quit talking and just more reps, more reps, more reps. But I do think if it’s a high volume thing, it’s worth it. The attention at the time.
[01:11:20] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. I think that high volume piece is a good way to look at it because if it’s something that you’re going to see over and over again, if it’s something that that’s right, you want the players to be able to read and be able to execute on the floor.
Then obviously you want to make sure that that’s something they’re going to do 20, 25, 30 times in a game, then they better be able to do that. Right? The majority of the time versus it’s something that, Hey, we’re we’re we might see this once in a while and yeah, if it doesn’t go quite perfectly, it’s not going to, it’s not going to kill us as a team.
So I could see where that’s a, that’s a huge part of it. When you guys are planning practice, what’s the, what’s the pro the, the process for planning a practice. How do you guys sit down? Lets coach Williams come up with it on his own, run it by the staff. Do you guys sit down after the previous day’s practice and talk about what you need to accomplish for the next day?
What’s the process look like?
[01:12:05] Lyle Wolf: So we’re definitely different than probably most. It’s evolved a little bit. Coach used to do it by hand, and now it’s turned to electronic with the staff. So like, that’s kind of like the spectrum on how it’s, it’s evolved over the last 10 years, but it’s definitely a discussion amongst everybody on staff, on what do we need to retouch we’re big on, let’s be really, really elite at what we do.
And then in the season, when it comes to the. Let’s make sure they understand the high volume stuff, but other than that, we’re not diving into them. Let’s hold on to being elite at what we’re good at. So I would say, especially before the season we’re, we’re really big on getting five on five reps as often as we can.
And we have drills that we like, we have buildups that we like, so there’s definitely themes. And Hey, this is how practice is going to flow, because this is how coaches always done it. And this is how we’ve been successful. And when it comes to the actual makeup of, okay, what’s the first thing we do. What’s the second thing we do.
We usually work pretty closely as a, as a staff and either bring it to coaches’ attention or vice versa, he’ll say, okay, these are the things that I’m thinking we need to focus on. And we just kind of have a 30 to 40 minute discussion on it and then move on. Usually we’re not introducing new drills. I mean, there might be 20% throughout the year.
That’s new, but usually 80% holds true.
[01:13:28] Mike Klinzing: All right. So to go along with that, how long does it take your new guys? To get caught up kind of on, Hey, we, we yell at the name of this drill and everybody knows what it is that we’re doing. How long until those freshmen or your new guys transfers, how long until you feel like they, they kind of get it,
[01:13:44] Lyle Wolf: Depends on what it is, but I would say four or five attempts, they at least know what to do now.
Whether or not they’re good at it’s a different discussion but at least they know like how like the lines rotate and how they switch, stuff like that. And, and again, we’re also, we also know that they’re not supposed to be really good at it as a freshman either. And that’s what a lot of kids don’t understand is they have such a high expectation for themselves where they almost get down on themselves, that they’re not perfect.
And we look at ’em and say we don’t expect you to be perfect. You’re not supposed to be as a senior or a junior right now. You’re, you’re a freshman. Like, and we always try to use the analogy with them. Like, if you right now were a high school senior, and you were talking to yourself as a high school freshman, and your high school freshman told you, Hey, I’m going to come in here.
I’m be perfect. You would laugh at him because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And so we always tell our guys, especially when they’re their newcomers or their transfers, you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re going to have mistakes, just play through mistakes with the right level of energy and attitude.
And you’ll be perfectly fine.
[01:14:53] Mike Klinzing: It’s hard though, right? Because kids, especially today with social media and just the buildup, especially at the level that you guys are at Texas A&M oh yeah. And these kids have been here and how great they are for years and years and years. And now suddenly they’re coming into an environment where they’re no longer, clearly the best player on the floor when they step out there.
And so that’s an adjustment. I’m sure how much of your job is being a psychologist.
[01:15:18] Lyle Wolf: So it’s well, and maybe I can ask you guys that even more, I would say a lot of it’s definitely generational. You know, rightfully so there’s way more focus on, on adolescence, mental health. I do think it’s an important part of the younger generation is the ability to kind of handle the mental side of life and adults do the same thing.
You know, it’s funny. We knock the younger generation for being mentally weaker or but they’re just ill equipped to handle life the same way we are. I mean, there’s still alcoholism. They’re still people cheating on their spouses. There’s still people mismanaging their money.
There’s still people that are depressed at age 30 and 40. So it’s funny. It’s just, it’s unique just because dinner generations change problems kind of always be consistent, but. The younger generation just happens to be more exposed to distractions and to demands and to things a part of their life that we didn’t have at our age and not to get down to even further rabbit hole, but you know, when 9/11 hit, at least at least I know I’m semi young.
So I was in middle school. You know, adults could protect kids from certain exposures based on what they can and can’t handle. Well, nowadays I don’t, if you guys have kids, but your kids are getting the information before you do for sure. And so, yeah, they’re not supposed to be able to mentally handle a potential bomb threat or a school shooting.
Like adults are messed up by that adults freak out. Like how do I handle that? There’s no way a 13 year old girl can handle the news of a school shooting a mile from her. And. That’s all to say that what I hate about the generation now is it’s almost not their fault because there’s so much information that they’re just ill-equipped to handle that creates this psychology demand.
And, but it’s not their fault. It’s not their fault at all. It’s just how social media and the access to quick information. It’s just, it’s the, it’s a unique, melting pot tornado of stuff that is very difficult to manage. And it’s, it’s difficult for adults to manage too.
[01:17:37] Mike Klinzing: There is no doubt about that. We are coming up towards an hour and a half. Believe it or not. It’s amazing how fast Todd goes. I want to, I want to wrap this up by asking you a two part question part one. When you think about the next year or two, what’s the biggest challenge. You have ahead of you. And then second part is what’s your biggest joy when you think about what you get to do every day. So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy.
[01:18:04] Lyle Wolf: So I’ll start with my biggest joy from a work standpoint, I get a lot of joy from the people that I work with and I tell people that all the time that ask are well, what’s your next steps? Are you looking to be an assistant for somebody else to diversify your resume?
Do you want to be a head coach? Have you started looking? And usually I always respond with. You know, God’s got a plan. Whatever happens will happen, but ultimately I really, really, really enjoy who I work with and who I work for. And I would much rather work with people that I trust that I like. Coach Williams is one of the best leaders in my life.
And so I’m not running from anything. So from a joy standpoint, I enjoy working with our staff and our players, and that ultimately feeds joy on the work standpoint. And obviously my, my wife brings the joy in my personal standpoint. And then the biggest challenge the next two years, at least from a basketball standpoint is at the end of the.
We have to make the NCAA tournament. So we’re going into year four here at A&M, we’ve got a really, really good team. We feel that we can make a great run on the court and into post season. We feel that we are in a position to be a very, very good team in the SCC and the NCAA tournament over the next two to three years.
And at the end of the day, it is a business we do get paid and we are employed to win games. We don’t lose track at that. We have to win. Yes, we need to help our student athletes become elite level student athletes, and we are maximizing every resource. We have to help them be the best version of themselves, but at the end of the day, we have to win and we are doing that.
We are moving the right direction, but the biggest challenge for us is to maximize the number of wins we can have over the next two to three years.
[01:19:57] Mike Klinzing: Makes complete sense. Makes complete sense. That’s ultimately how you’re judged rightly or wrongly. that’s the way at the division one level clearly. That’s an important reason yet.
That’s what it’s all about. That’s, that’s how you’re judged and the other things that you do and the impact that you have, unfortunately, as long it goes, it goes along really well when you win. But if you lose some of those other things, unfortunately, sometimes get lost.
[01:20:20] Lyle Wolf: Yeah, well, and it’s not overlooked by, I mean, we have a great administration.
We have a great school. They definitely recognize, and this is for all schools, they recognize how good of a staff you are and how you help your student athletes graduate, et cetera. But at the end of the day, because the demand on the sports from a TV from a fan standpoint is so high, you have to win.
So for example, if nobody cared well, then yeah, you’re fine. Stay losing. Be really good mentor, help your kids. Graduate. Coach basketball have fun, but because the demands so high, well that’s when their jobs are in jeopardy. And so it’s a double sword, right? The reason why college athletes is awesome is because the demand’s there.
You know, if there was no demand and I don’t want to call out another sport, but let’s pick a random sport that doesn’t have the demand. Well, you have no idea if they’re winning or losing, you have no clue because the demand’s not there. And so, yep. It’s good. It’s good and bad
[01:21:18] Mike Klinzing: Makes sense. All right, before we get out, I want to give you a chance to share how people can reach out to you, whether you want to share social media or email, whatever, let us know how people can contact you.
And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
[01:21:30] Lyle Wolf: Awesome. My email’s probably the best thing it’s LFWolf10@gmail.com and then Twitter and Instagram. I wish I could tell you what it is.
I would say it’s, if you just type in Lyle Wolf on Twitter, it’ll pop up and same thing with Instagram. So either Twitter or Instagram or email, or by far the best methods of communication.
[01:22:01] Mike Klinzing: I got your Twitter right here in front of me @Lyle_Wolf. So there you go. Beautiful. And we’ll put that in the show notes as well.
So again, Lyle, can I thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule? To jump on with us tonight. Lot of fun diving into what you’ve been able to do in your career, working with Coach Williams and what you guys are going to continue to build and do there at Texas A&M and to everyone who is a part of our audience.
Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.