Mark Cascio

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Twitter – @coachcascio

Mark Cascio is the Boys’ Head Varsity Coach at Catholic High School in Baton Rogue, Louisiana.  As a head coach, Mark’s teams have won seven district titles, appeared in five final fours, and captured a state championship in 2012.  Coach Cascio was a head coach at the age of 21 and is the youngest coach to capture a state title in Louisiana at the age of 26. 

Mark started Courtside Consulting in 2019 to continue fostering his love of the game by sharing with colleagues in the coaching profession.   Cascio partners with coaches to provide professional advice, first class resources, and a system to improve, refine and apply new concepts in any phase of the game. His uptempo style of offense blends concepts to create pace, spacing, shooting, and attacking.  This style of play allows players freedom to use their individual skills to create plays for themselves or their teammates in a fun, fast paced system. However, Mark and Courtside Consulting are committed to implementing any system that suits their client’s style and personnel.

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Have your notebook handy as you listen to this episode with Mark Cascio, Head Boys’ Coach at Catholic High School in Baton Rogue, Louisiana.

What We Discuss with Mark Cascio

  • Growing up with Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball
  • Competing with his brother and learning from his work ethic
  • Staying connected with his players during the pandemic
  • Building a Drill Library
  • Learning from one of his mentors, Kemper Todd
  • You can try to be ready to be a head coach, but you’re never prepared
  • Most coaches coach the way the game was played. Some coach the way the game is being played presently and a few coach the way the game will be played.
  • How his coaching style and tactics have evolved through his career
  • Getting the Head Coaching job at his alma mater
  • Making “visual” changes when you take over a new program
  • Pouring into his assistants to help them improve
  • Setting goals for the coaching staff during practice
  • Coaching with questions
  • Being self-aware and intentional in his coaching
  • Getting out of your comfort zone as a coach
  • Having another coach or consultant watch your practice and offer suggestions for improvement
  • Developing a player-led team
  • The challenge of delegating when you’re a head coach
  • His uptempo pace and space offensive style
  • How he changed his approach to practice when he changed his system
  • Creating opportunities for players to make decisions in drills, creating advantage/disadvantage situations, eliminating on-air drills
  • Putting players in situations during practice that they will see in the games
  • Using a competitive cauldron in his practices
  • Carrying over scores from one drill to another to keep practice competitive
  • Using end of game situations from NCAA games to teach end of game situations
  • His Courtside Consulting Business and how he helps other coaches

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 [00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host, Jason Sunkle tonight, and we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Catholic High School. Mark Cascio, Mark. Welcome to the podcast.

Mark Cascio: [00:00:13] Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] We are excited to have you on and get a chance to dig into all the great things that you’ve been able to do in the game of basketball.

Want to start out by going back in time to when you were a kid, just give us an idea of how you fell in love with the game, maybe your first introduction to it. What you loved about it when you were younger.

Mark Cascio: [00:00:33] Oh, so I was born and raised in Baton Rouge. Into a basketball family. I’m fortunate to have an older brother that loved the game too.

So really, I would say some of my earliest memories of basketball would be,  At my house and my brother would have Pistol Pete’s homework basketball on. He would have a notebook out like counting how many [00:01:00] reps he got in a certain amount of time and writing it down. And,  when we moved, when I was about nine years old and we poured a slab of concrete in the backyard with a hoop and,  so just always grew up with a basketball handy and,  You know, my mom grew up watching Pistol Pete.

 so we heard those stories. I grew up in like the Dale Brown, Chris Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal era.  so just basketball family. And I would say,  Pistol Pete is responsible for me, really, really fallen in love with the game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:36] That’s a pretty good role model. I know I spent a lot of time when I was younger watching the old videos and doing the.

Stationary ball handling routine that probably every kid of our era did when they were younger. And pistol. Pete is certainly a guy that, you know, you look at, you see some of the highlights, but I think that people today don’t necessarily appreciate them. And then same thing that, you know, you mentioned Chris Jackson, and I [00:02:00] think he’s, he’s one of those lost careers in the NBA of a guy.

When you go back and watch. What he was like at LSU and how good he was. And obviously you had the issue with Tourette’s syndrome and all that. But man, that guy was that guy was fun to watch and super talented.

Mark Cascio: [00:02:16] For sure. Yeah. And just LSU basketball history as a whole isn’t as decorated as other, you know, as like the main blue blood programs.

But if you look at the players that have come through that program, they just had some special, special players. So really lucky to be able to just be around, you know, in Baton Rouge, around great players and great coaches.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:36] Did you find yourself chasing your brother around a lot and trying to keep up with him?

That was that part of your development as a player?

Mark Cascio: [00:02:43] Yeah.  you know, he’s four years older than me, so we’re close enough to where we can compete against each other, but far enough apart to where he was always taking my butt.  and he was always, you know, the, the best player on his teams. [00:03:00] Just saw his work ethic.

And I think just that, and he probably doesn’t even know this, but just at a very early age, just seeing him work and,  just be so detailed oriented.  at the time being that young, you don’t realize that he’s teaching you away. You just kinda think that that’s normal.  we have always admired that and,  I really think, and that was the only sport he really worked at like that.

So,  it just came natural to me just to grow up, loving the game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:28] Did you play other things when you were younger besides basketball or was basketball always the focus just because of your brother?

Mark Cascio: [00:03:34] We always played everything.  that’s just kinda how it was, you know, I’m 35 years old, so I’m not old, but I’m old enough to where all the, you know, travel baseball wasn’t quite as big.

And the specializing in sports, wasn’t really a thing until later. And,  so we grew up, we would just go from one season to the next, not even really thinking.  about not playing a sport, you know, that’s just, that’s just who we [00:04:00] were, you know, especially,  down South sports are big.  and then also, like we just thinking about growing up and I’ve never really thought about this until thinking back to like homework basketball.

There’s a lot of like legendary movies that I’ve never seen. Like I’ve never seen Star Wars or Indiana Jones, which people my age would. You know, it’s kind of crazy. I’ve never seen

Star Wars or Indiana Jones, not one of them. Why not? I was going to say just because sports were always on in my house, like, that’s just not something that we got into. It was, we watched TV, I guess, just normal TV, but if it was. I don’t know, it was just, there was always games. It was games or homework, basketball, something like that.

We just never got into.

Jason Sunkle: Have you seen space jam?

Mark Cascio: I have, yes, well, no, so here’s the thing though.

Jason Sunkle: [00:05:03] We were talking about it like space jam. If you go back and watch it now is terrible. Like really it’s really, really bad. So I don’t know when the most, the most recent time you watched it, but I watched it with my two kids recently.

Mark Cascio: [00:05:14] Oh man. Is it, is it terrible? So I’ve got a daughter that loves sports and basketball and we watched it recently and you were right. It is horrible, horrible, bad, all around. Yeah, for sure.

Jason Sunkle: Alright. I’m gonna see myself out of the conversation now, bye.

Mike Klinzing: It’s funny though that you say that, because I think about, I wasn’t necessarily that way as much when I was younger, like I definitely was attuned to pop culture, but what I found is, as I became a parent, But those things went away. So they gotta be times. And this is, this will tell you how old I am. But when I used to thumb through the newspaper, I’d see like the TV [00:06:00] listings.

And I would look and I would see a movie list and be like, Oh, I remember that movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. Then I look at it. It’d be like from 1996, you know, be from like 20 years ago. Like I’m like, yeah, I haven’t really seen too many. I haven’t really seen too many movies. So star Wars and Indiana Jones I’ve seen, but I’m sure people would be stunned if you went through a list of movies that I haven’t seen, same way.

It’s kind of like you have to pick and choose where you spend your time. For sure.

Mark Cascio: [00:06:23] Exactly.

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:24] And so I think that when you’re, when you’re focused on sports and on getting better and doing those things, and I grew up in a sports hall household too. And you just think about, I don’t know, just the amount of time that you put in as a kid.

And I think about this current situation that we’re all in and. In a lot of ways. My life was almost like this when I was, when I was younger, because I would just spend hours and hours and hours in my driveway when I was in elementary school, just shooting baskets. And you know, now that’s kind of the situation we’re all in because we don’t have many other options based on this whole situation.

[00:07:00] So just this’ll be a good tangent at this point. What are you doing with your players right now? Just to kind of stay in touch with them.

Mark Cascio: [00:07:07] We’re connected through group me.  every day we started as coaches, sharing workouts to do and for our team and they would video themselves doing it and turn it in.

Wasn’t really mandatory. It was just encouraging them to participate.  I think a lot of coaches are focused on. You know, their players getting a workout in whether it’s strength and conditioning or skill development. And we are two for sure. In fact, our players are now it’s a player led workout there.

They’re sending the workout to the team and everybody kind of follows suit. But on top of that, I think at the top of my list was. Team chemistry and team building too. And I think at this time that can get thrown by the wayside with us, just so focused on what we can’t be in the gym. We can’t be in the workout.

So we got to get bigger, stronger and [00:08:00] better. I think at this point in the season, one thing we get a lot of is just that comraderie with. Yeah, you’re juniors are now seniors, so they’re there, they look around the weight room and there was the whole disguise, or if you go play pickup, you know, they’re the the alpha dogs in there.

So just giving them a chance to, to have that cool, first experience of their senior season. And,  and just try and, you know, we’re meeting over zoom, I’m FaceTiming with my players, just as much things that we can do to stay connected,  whether we’re getting better or not. I mean, that’s kind of up to them at this point.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:34] Yeah, everybody’s  kind of in the same boat. I know that that’s one of the things that we’ve kind of been talking to coaches about is everybody’s got their own way of going about trying to stay connected. And clearly people are using a lot of zoom meetings and share workouts. Like you talked about and just trying to keep the team together and keep it cohesive and keep that unity.

But everybody I think is just kind of flying by the seat of their pants, trying to figure out what’s the best way. To [00:09:00] go about doing it. I guess that, like I said, the saving grace is that we’re all kind of in that same boat. Everybody has to figure it out and kind of make it work on the fly. And as you said, in a lot of cases, it could be, you know, you think about the old saying of, you know, player driven teams are, are, are better off than coach driven teams.

And this is an opportunity again, for a lot of kids to kind of step up, as you said, into that leadership role and kind of take control over, Hey, we need to be getting things done when we can’t all be together as a team.

Mark Cascio: [00:09:28] Right. And one, one cool thing that’s developed is I think as coaches, we’re all trying to get our players to be comfortable coaching each other, given constructive criticism, or just encourage them in any kind of feedback.

And throughout our group me with our team is when players finish the workout, they’ll send, you know, some feedback. Like I really liked this part of the workout. It really challenged me.  so I think that’s really cool. I think. If we weren’t in a pandemic and all quarantine, I don’t think they [00:10:00] would go to the locker room and talk about how much they really workout.

So there’s some, you know, just like everything. There’s some positives that we can all take away from this. And I know just from a coaching standpoint, there’s a lot of big projects that it’s hard to find time for a lot of things that I do in the fall. I’m knocking out now, just so I can be ahead of the game when we do come back.

I just,  I’m a guy that I can’t sit around and do nothing. So I’ll either be walking around my house, cleaning up or downtime. I’m going to my home office and there’s always something we can do.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:39] Alright. So what’s something that you’re doing right now that normally you would be doing in the fall things that you can kind of get ahead of.

Mark Cascio: [00:10:46]  so we I’ve been putting together drill libraries. You know, sometimes as coaches, we reference these things sometimes it’s, you kind of learn as you do them, whether you go back and reference them [00:11:00] or not. I found a cool way to do a drill library is to link everything, to your, do a video of your drill.

So we’ll cut up our practice drills. And then that way, if I, if I hire a coach, I can just hand over this drill library, where if he wants to learn on his own, he clicks on a drill. He sees the drill, he could hear the teaching points. So I’m doing a big upgrade of that. Cause I just, I’m a firm believer of there’s always a better way to do something.

So even though we had a pretty good system for updating that,  

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:33] How many drills you have in there?

Mark Cascio: [00:11:38] I don’t have them numbered. I mean, it’s, it’s a lot, it’s a, you know, like a 10 page document, but a lot of them are,  we do a lot of the same thing of, we use a lot of the same drills with different emphasis.

So it might be one drill, but these are 10 different things you can hit on with this one drill. So,  Yeah, just always [00:12:00] finding ways to do something better. We,  I’m breaking down a lot of film, a little bit of a deep dive that I probably wouldn’t have done at this point. And,  and then also, you know, like in the fall,  it falls on me to make our media guide or seasoned program that we do.

We sell ads and they are use it as a fundraiser.  I’m usually always scrambling in September, October to get it done for November. And now I just. I want to go into the summer with it done, where I just got to plug in some pictures and I’m good. So,  I just, you know, we’re all about gaining advantages in our program where we’re not always the most talented or the most athletic team.

So we try to be the most hydrated team, the most trusted team, the most prepared team. And then now I’m just trying to gain any advantage that we can. Cause like you said, We’re all experiencing this. And I just think the coaches and the players that do the most in this time, we’ll be in better shape when we all come back [00:13:00] at the biggest thing I’m telling my players.

If we, if we’re fortunate enough to get summer basketball, I think the guys that are gonna play the most are just the ones that show up in shape. So just any advantage that we can get, we’re always preaching our players, that we got to find it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:16] Yeah, absolutely. I think that if you can impart that to your players, then I think it goes to what you would just be talking about for yourself as a coach.

And I know how important it is as the head coach and a leader of a program to be modeling. That hard work and that growth mindset and that work ethic. And if you’re able to demonstrate that to your players through this time through just the things that you’re doing and putting them through workouts and going in and studying film and letting them know what you’re doing on your end of it too, to keep up your end of the bargain, then players again, they see what their leader does, and they’re much more likely to follow.

Your lead, as opposed to, you know, if you’re a coach and you’re just kinda depressed cause of the whole situation and you kind of shut it down, I think your players probably tend to do that same thing. [00:14:00] And I think you’re right. That players would come back and hopefully whether it’s the summer or whether it’s the fall or whenever we get back, the players who have put the time in and have been led in the right way, I think are going to come back.

As prepared as they can possibly be without clearly having the opportunity to get out and play and get up and down the

Mark Cascio: [00:14:17] floor. Yeah. And I think we’re lucky as basketball coaches that you don’t need somebody else to work with to get better. Obviously, if you’ve got a defender out there helps, or if you could play some, some organized games, it would help, but you can go out there with a ball and a hoop and get a lot done.

So I think other sports, baseball, football. You can do some things, but at a certain point you need more equipment, more space and more people. So I think we’re lucky in that regard.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:47] I agree with you. And I think that goes back to what we were talking about off the top, where you think about why as basketball people, why we fell in love with the game.

And I think that’s one of the things that when I think back on my childhood, one of the things that I [00:15:00] loved about basketball compared to the other sports that I played was just what you said, that there’s always an opportunity to get better. I didn’t need somebody else who wanted to practice basketball for four hours in order to practice basketball for four hours.

If I wanted to be. A better football quarterback. I would have had to have at least one other person that was willing to run patterns. Or if I was going to be a baseball player, I needed somewhere to pitch to me or do, there’s just, it’s more complicated, I think, in other sports to become good. And with basketball, I think that’s one of the things that appeals to kids at a younger age.

So going back to you as a time when you were playing. Talk a little bit about your high school experience as a basketball player, maybe give us a highlight or two, and then maybe talk about some of the things that may have shaped you as a coach from your experiences as a player.

Mark Cascio: [00:15:47]  Well, good question. So,  yeah, my high school was,  I went to Catholic.

 just [00:16:00] all of our sports are very competitive. We’re very good at what we do in a lot of sports, just because the school has really high standards for everybody. And,  so I just thinking back on my high school career, just competing and,  you know, I played freshman football and had a really good experience.

I was the only year I played, but,  just going back to just experience as a player, that one thing that stuck out when you said. It experience as a player that can make you a better coach. I remember it’s actually an AAU basketball game. My dad really, he actually did a very good thing for me. And he made me go play on a team with a bunch of guysI did not know they were all from a different neighborhood and they all knew each other and they had all played together. And I was kind of the new guy on that team. And,  I remember playing a game and I air balled  a shot and I didn’t shoot anymore. I just thought, and I thought I was doing a good thing.

Just like, Oh, [00:17:00] this is not my day. Like I’m going to not shoot anymore. And no one said anything for a while. Until later in the game coach said, like, why are you not shooting? And I just thought it was really obvious. I was like, did you not see that air ball up?  But I think as, as a player, you just see things in a vacuum and you just see things from such a different perspective as a coach.

The coach at Catholic High School that has a big impact on me was Kemper Todd,  just been a big mentor to my coaching development. He is a great, really great practice coach, very organized, very efficient.  so just to be able to see that system, we were a man in motion team and I think the practice organization efficiency, and then.

Doing things the right way, breaking down film, preparing your team for every single game and then learning a man in [00:18:00] motion system. We run, man, primarily we don’t run motion anymore, but I think learning that at a young age is so valuable for players and coaches. It’s positionless you’re cutting, moving screening.

Everybody’s got a handle. And as a younger. Player and coach, you don’t know really other offenses, you know, I mean, you think you do, but you really don’t. So you don’t really know what else is out there. You kind of dive into what you’re doing for better, for worse. And I thought that was just a really good learning experience for me.

 and I started coaching at 19,  started coaching a sixth grade team and moved up with them to the seventh grade and. Once I did that, especially I think coaching kids for two years in a row and really getting close to them, I just kind of fell into that, like, man, why would I choose to do anything else?

So I went back to Catholic and,  spent two years as an assistant. [00:19:00] And,  I had really dealt, this was back in the days where we had spring practice for two weeks in April. And I remember I was just watching the varsity group. And Coach Todd came up to me and said,  Hey man, I like this is practice two of the Springs.

Like I just gotta throw you to the wolves. I got too many guys in my group. And from then on, I was coaching. I was the third group coach when we’d break into three groups. And that was huge in my development, just at a 19 year old coaching, 18 year olds or 17 year olds, but having to be the head coach of my group, where you really learn by teaching,  I didn’t have to just be an observer.

As an assistant, I had to really go out there and teach, which took my understanding of the game to a whole new level at a young age and fast forward two years. I’m really just hoping I could get a teaching job at Catholic. When I graduate to where one day, [00:20:00] 15, 20 years down the line, I could be the head coach there.

 I was 21 and we were just finished up a summer league game and my. Former freshmen football coach had left and he was an AD now and just called and offered me a basketball job. And I said, well, Hey man, look how cool this is completely blindsiding me. Let me, let me just come talk to you about it. And, you know, look at the school and cause it was a school, a little outside of Baton Rouge.

So one day I went and  and I met with him.  Met some of the players and he was just showing me around the campus and he introduced me to the principal as the new head basketball coach. And for better, or for worse, I don’t even know if I’ve shared that with him. That’s what I heard. He would probably say he didn’t do that, but.

 in my mind, I was like, well, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this. I guess I should just take the job. And then they had to teach and stop waiting on me. I graduated in December. They had a [00:21:00] job waiting for me in January, so made a lot of sense. And,  it was a great place with very low expectations for the basketball program, which as a 21 year old had 21 year old head coach.

That’s exactly what you need.  I equate being a head coach to having kids. It’s like, you can. You can try to get ready, but you’re never prepared.  you don’t know what that seat feels like until you’re in it. And,  and that was just a great place to get started for me. And,  I learned a ton just coaching on the fly as an assistant, and then having to do it as a 21 year old.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:36] Alright. So two things that I want to pull out from what you said, first one is going back to thinking about when. You were playing. And you just mentioned about some of the things that you saw your coach doing when you were playing. Were you looking at those things through the lens of, Hey, someday, I want to be in coaching.

And so I’m noticing some of these things [00:22:00] that my coach is doing, or was that something that you look back retrospectively after you were done playing. And said, Oh yeah. Now I see these things that he was doing and which one I think better describes you.

Mark Cascio: [00:22:12] Definitely the latter. I remember sitting in a high school classroom looking at, you know, my, my teachers that were coaches.

In saying, like, I think I can do this, you know, like I can see myself being a coach and,  and then quickly being like, Hey, I can’t wait to get out of school. Like, what am I to go to school for the rest of my life? And it wasn’t until I started coaching that I was just like, all right. Yeah. Like I can’t picture myself doing anything else.

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:44] Got it. That makes a lot of sense. And I think that it’s interesting. I love hearing the stories of when coaches come to the realization that coaching is what they want to do. Cause I think what they fall into two camps. You either have the person who’s like. Eight years old and is [00:23:00] drawn up, plays on a napkin and everybody’s telling them, Hey, someday, you’re going to be a coach.

And they are thinking about that. And maybe they have a parent who’s a coach and they just kind of see that as their career track. And then you have other people who they go through and they love the game and their players, but in the course of their playing career, they’re never really thinking about.

Coaching as an option. And then at some point the playing ends and they start looking around and they want to stay involved in the game and they kind of fall into coaching and then fall in love with it. And then the other thing that you mentioned while you were talking there was how. You talked about just your coach and you play man, and you run your motion on offense and you have the drills and kind of the things that your high school coach is doing.

This is something that I fell into as a young coach. And I probably didn’t handle it nearly as well as what it sounds like you did. But I look back on my time early as a coach. And basically the things that I did were the things that I learned that my high school coach did. And the things I learned that my college coach did and pretty much my [00:24:00] knowledge of coaching and what coaching was both from a culture relationship standpoint and from an X’s.

And O’s drill standpoint was the programs that I had played in. And I really didn’t as a young coach, do a great job of going out and trying to. Learn about other places and other things. Other ways of looking at the game from a coaching perspective. So talk a little bit about how you went about that as a young coach, expanding your horizons, as far as what you were going to do with your teams.

Mark Cascio: [00:24:33] I think. Early on just being a loyal assistant coach and you’re, you’re so bought in to what you’re doing. Especially as an assistant, I was learning so much that I was just a sponge and really believed in and running motion and playing man. And that’s what I did my first few years. But. I think being such a young head coach, I realized I didn’t have all the answers.

[00:25:00] So I would just, I would attend clinics anytime I could. You know, I was fortunate that my head coach would take me with him to clinics where I would get. A new perspective, where if I wasn’t really trying to push myself to grow and get better, I probably wouldn’t have found at such an early age. And I think coaches get comfortable.

You’re most confident, you know, coaching, which you know, but I heard a quote years ago that really stuck with me and most coaches coach the way the game was played. Some coach the way the game is being played presently and few coach, the way the game will be played. And man, that just resonated with me.

It’s just like, what camp am I in? You know, which one of the three  am I and I just fell in love with gathering information just, and this was, you know, mid two thousands. So. Information started circling, circling on the internet and you could [00:26:00] find some things. And,  social media was starting to kick up to where more information was accessible.

Networking with coaches across the country became a thing.  so I think I, I got into coaching at a great time where with technology really helping, but, but also I think just being young, you realize you don’t know very much and there’s, there’s other things out there. And I just think I am wired to always find a better way.

So, and that’s really how. The system that we run now really on both ends of the floor has evolved.  I started, I was  a motion coach and then dribble drive came out. And that was really cool when I started thinking like, man, that goes against everything. I believe teaching. But it kind of looks cool, you know, and, and like I said, I was at a program that didn’t have very high expectations.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. We made it better. And we poured into those [00:27:00] kids and poured into our program.  I mean, I, I I’ve refinished the floor myself. I’ve painted the entire gym by myself. I painted our locker room by myself. Just anything I can do to make it better. So we were kind of at the point where we’re going to win X amount of games, kind of, no matter what we do.

We experimented with dribble drive and was fortunate enough to get a pretty big time job at the age of 24. The school had just won four state titles in the last, for the last five or six years. And I just threw my name and I had randomly thinking no way I get this job.

Well, they were. They were dumb enough to hire me.  and then it was like real. So then it’s like, okay, well we did motion. We played around with dribble drive, but like, this is a job where you don’t play around with.  so I started trying to blend [00:28:00] those two things and then, you know, 11, 12 years later, we kind of, you know, hit on something that’s, that’s pretty fun to do, but even in.

Even going back to that second job we were in my second year, we want to stay title. And I think another kind of aha moment in my coaching career was I went back and just, it wasn’t really from a,  it wasn’t really breaking down the film. I wasn’t evaluating anything. It was more of like, man, we just want to stay championship.

Just want to relive it. So I just went back and I watched every game. I would just, every day I’d throw on a different game. And what started sticking out to me is like, you know, We’re really not scoring a whole lot on, on what we do authentically. We were running motion because this member, this was the job I wasn’t playing.

Like I gotta go back to my roots, what I know. And we played up-tempo,  And we had really good players, but when we got settled in the half court, we would pass, cut, [00:29:00] screen away, flare screen. And I noticed like when we’d hit a bad cut or a curl cut or a flare screen for a three, it was beautiful, but it probably accounted for about 20% of our points.

25%. We went, you know, we’ve turned people over, we’d get out and transition, and then you just have these unscripted, random moments of the game where. I was fortunate to coach some really good players that could play in that environment and make plays where I remember, like, I remember reading a book about Phil Jackson, sacred hoops, and he talked about how very fitting with the last Ansul one.

But he talked about like, I’m not quick to call a time out. My players will figure it out. And with that state championship team, I was just like, you know, we just, we just gave up a six O run. Yeah. If I let it go one more possession, we’ll probably get an, an one it’ll be six, three. And so they bailed me out of a lot of coaching decisions, but,  but yeah, so I, I kinda, that, that was my, my next moment of just, you know, what we do in the half Gore [00:30:00] is a small part of the game.

As long as we’re creating advantages, creating great shots. Does it really matter what we’re doing? You know, how we’re finding those shots?

Mike Klinzing: [00:30:09] Yeah. I think you hit on it in that you have to, as a coach, Evolve over time. And I’d like to quote that you shared about just where, where you are in the timeline of coaching argued in the past or in the present, or are you thinking about the future?

And I think that’s one of the things that good coaches really do is they try to adjust to a personnel. They try to adjust to what’s happening in the game. You try to see and anticipate what’s going to happen. And we all know that there are coaches out there that. Are stuck in, they’re stuck in their ways for whatever reason, because they truly, and honestly believe that the system that they have is the best, or maybe they’re just closed minded, or maybe they’re not as willing to get out there and be educated author.

Although I think that type of coach is going away something because of the, the access to information that everybody has. I mean, there’s certainly degrees of how [00:31:00] much time people put in just like there isn’t any other profession, but I think that there’s no excuse out there for coaches anymore. You can’t.

Hide behind the fact that, well, I can’t get the information that I need, because again, we all know how accessible information is out there. For sure. I wanted to ask you about that transition from your first head coaching job to your second, because I think this is something that there’s probably quite a few coaches out there who have gone through a similar transition where their first job is maybe at a program that is not quite as good as maybe what they hope.

And so you build that program up and then you get an opportunity with a better program, or maybe there’s a little bit more pressure. So what was that like? Not necessarily from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but just from maybe a handling expectation or kind of an outside influence standpoint between those two jobs.

Mark Cascio: [00:31:55] Definitely a challenge. That I [00:32:00] knew I was getting into and it was a little intimidating. And I think when you’re genuine and you care about the kids, you care about the program, you’re not there just to win. Winning’s gonna be a byproduct. I think it takes some of the pressure off because. You’re you’re sitting in your office and whether you make mistakes or not, you’re trying to do good.

And the expectations were definitely there. I mean, Langston Galloway who’s been playing in the NBA for several years now had just graduated. They had a historic season,  and we were in a transition year. My first year they’d graduated seven seniors. That all played on the state championship team prior to the year that I got there.

So it was, I came at a good time where our expectations were extremely high players were used to winning and expected to win. So we had that going for us, but. These guys, it hadn’t been their turn yet. It was just starting to be their turn. And my first year we had some injuries going into the playoffs.

[00:33:00] We got ousted in the second round and I’m like, Hey, this is the furthest I’ve ever been. You know, it feels good. And they didn’t have the same feeling. So,  I quickly felt the expectations of that program the next year. And,  You know, looking back if I could do it all over again, I think I’m a 10 times better coach than I was back then.

Some players that reach out to me from there. It’s like, I want to hug them and apologize and be like, man, I was, I was so bad on so many levels. If I could do it again, you’d be a much better player and we’d had so much more fun.  but we,  you know, my second year we won a state title. My third year, we lost in the final four at the buzzer.

And then the next year I moved on to Catholic. So I just, it was kind of baptism by fire, but I think that brings out the best in you.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:55] And so the opportunity to come back home to Catholic, obviously for [00:34:00] you, the enticement is where you went to school. How did that job come open? And how did you get that opportunity?

Mark Cascio: [00:34:06] So,  I remember though that week into the final four, when we lost in the,  the playoffs, we lost on a Thursday in the semifinals. And I think the job came open on Saturday. And,  I think I interviewed on Tuesday, so it, I mean, it slipped really quickly. It was a job for me was a no brainer. I mean, I went up in classifications,  more resources, more students just,  obviously alma mater, all those things going forward.

 it was a no brainer for me, but, you know, from a basketball perspective, when I took the job, I had a lot of coaches reach out and be like, man, what are you doing? Just with the success we were having, where I was at. And I always viewed even years before this job as a sleeping giant. Truly [00:35:00] got into coaching at the high school level to coach at Catholic high school is that’s what I knew.

That’s what I loved.  so it was a no brainer for me,  for me to take the job. And when I took the job, they were, they were a little down the previous years. We hadn’t made the playoffs in three years and,  We’ve done that every year, since I’ve been there and we’ve grown in so many ways on and off the court and just being at Catholic high school, it just makes you a better person.

And it’s made me a far better coach.

Mike Klinzing: [00:35:36] All right. So what were the, some of the things that when you came in and took over, what were some of the things that you felt you needed to do or to add to the program? At the time when you first took it over, what were your priorities when you first got the job?

Mark Cascio: [00:35:52] I felt like the program was on autopilot in a lot of ways, you know, guys would come in and they worked hard and it [00:36:00] just, like I’d said earlier, high expectations.

Whether you’re a janitor or the principal, you know, so we’re always, they’re always going to lift and they’re going to practice and practice hard and they’re going to work, but it just had an autopilot feel to it. And I, when I first got the job, I just met with each player and,  really just wanted to get the pulse of them in the program.

And it was just a little lukewarm. So try to reinvigorate a, I think when you take over a program, just some visual changes. Nice.  so just we ordered a gun, we got some new uniforms. We, you know, we spruced up some things just so they could see change before they had to, to work, to, to make more change.

So that was one just wanted to build excitement with the alumni and the community and the school.  and then we wanted to play a much more exciting brand of basketball. So, [00:37:00]  play up tempo. We started implementing the style play that we play now, and every year just started to grow and, and really even.

First year, we were a little bit above 500. The next year we won a district title, which was, I think our 11th title and like the last 125 years of the school. So pretty big, big deal in our districts. Very competitive. So we had success early, which, which kind of propelled us a little faster than I probably even imagined.

 and then honestly, we’ve been blessed. I’ve been blessed to have a really good coaching staff. That’s really loyal, hardworking, and we’ve been blessed to get some good players that always makes us look far better than we actually are.

Mike Klinzing: [00:37:45] Understood, players always help. There’s no question about that.

Let’s talk two things. I want to talk to you a little bit about building a staff and then come back and dive a little bit into the X’s and O’s side of it. And talk a little bit about the style of play. Cause I know it’s something that. You’re really passionate about and that you [00:38:00] love share with other coaches.

So let’s start, first of all, with coaching staff, talk about your philosophy for building a staff, what their responsibilities are and your mind to the program, and then conversely, what your responsibilities are to them as their head coach. Sure.

Mark Cascio: [00:38:15] So,  I’ll start with, at the end there, my responsibility as them as a head coach, I think is to make them better.

So I’m really dedicated to. To improving them. Cause it’s only gonna make us a better program. And I hope to have assistants that want to move on. In fact, one of our assistants just took a head job this off season.  so ideally a staff, you know, I would, I would love to have a veteran guy. That’s kind of been in a lot of fires and seen a lot of.

Different things and have to navigate some different issues. And,  but I’m, I’m blessed with guys that I get along with really well. We’re all about the same age so we can joke and have fun, but we [00:39:00] all love the game. We’re all really competitive.  I think some ways to develop the staff is one, give them ownership.

I think a very unique way to do this. And I just started doing this a couple of years ago and I love it. I have them write down their job description and our program. So I used to be the guy that would make my coaching manual and say, you know, you’re going to be in charge of this and you’re going to be in charge of this.

Some of it’s common sense. You know, I have one assistant that really gravitates towards offense. I have one that gravitates towards defense and other towards skill development that stuff’s easy, but from a job description standpoint, I, they tell me how much they want to watch. They tell me if they want to be responsible for scouting report.

 I have a young assistant that I’m really trying to pour into and mentor and. He in his job description said, like, I don’t feel comfortable scouting opponents. Like, I, I feel really comfortable breaking down our film, but I don’t really know what [00:40:00] I’m watching when I watch somebody else’s team play. So if I wouldn’t have asked for that information, I’m probably thinking I’m doing him a favor.

And making him feel important by saying, Hey, these are your scouts for the season. And he’s thinking, Oh crap, why am I doing this?  so I think that’s one thing. That’s an easy way to give them ownership. And my philosophy is whatever this stuff is that y’all don’t want to do, I’ll do it. So. If it’s scouting or if it’s, you know, whatever part, if it assistant coach one, two, three, four, doesn’t write it down in their job description.

My job description becomes very clear too. I get to do all this stuff they don’t want to. So that’s number one. I think number two, we try to meet as a staff before every event and I’ve really challenged them to take ownership in everything we do. So as you know, there’s a million things that can come up in a, in a day, whether, whether you’re coaching high school, college, [00:41:00] I’m sure.

Professional. Yeah. There’s always fires that you’re putting out. So I tell them all the time, like on the itinerary, if it says we walk to the bus at four 44, if I’m not there at four 44, That doesn’t mean we just leave late. Like you guys have the itinerary, get them on the bus, you know? So we’re, I’m always challenging them to assume that I’m not there because there’s going to be a day where I’m not going to be there.

You’re going to need to take control. Like I had to as a 19 year old,  we have after action reviews, after every practice where we’re giving each other feedback, we talk about giving honest, hard feedback and one on one conversations. So it’s. Non-confrontational, we’re not trying to big league any body.

 and we set goals for our staff in practice. So coaches we’ll set goals.  we have 24 players in our program. I’m going to have, I’m going to make really [00:42:00] good eye contact with 12 today, or I’m going to physically touch. 18 players today at practice. And,  so we’ll reconvene after and it’s pass fail.

It is like, what did you ever really good eye contact with 12? No, but I got eight and if we’re not shooting for 12, we might not add any, got eye contact with our players. And so we’re just always looking for ways to challenge each other.  because that’s, you know, that’s the point of a staff is you cover all your bases, but everybody has so many unique gifts.

Like when I think of mentors for me, Hard for me. That’s such a hard question for me to answer. Cause I learned from everybody, like I’m going to learn from doing this podcast today, you know, and I learned from my assistance with his they’re better at things than I am. I always talk about like I, in fact, I had a one on one meeting with my assistant yesterday, before a staff meeting and I just told him like, man, I think you need to start leading more drills because when players [00:43:00] hear my voice, it’s just, I gotta, I gotta.

I got a rough tone to my voice. Like I can’t sing. I always joke. I sound like a garbage disposal. So sometimes when I’m just like very, I’m trying to give a player, a notification or very easy feedback, they could feel kind of attack just my tone. You know, I think one thing I’m learning now is it’s not what you say.

It’s not what you mean. It’s how that player feels after you give feedback. It doesn’t matter where, you know, you can’t say what’s coming from a good place or that’s not what I meant. It’s just bottom line is however that player feels when they leave that conversation. That’s all that matters. And I think my tone can just be harsh.

Sometimes I’m telling him you got to take over more because I think here in a different tone would be really good.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:49] Two things that jump out. I mean, from what you said, one is. I think it’s really, really important. And I think this is a lesson for all coaches and I had never heard anybody say what you just said, which is sort of setting [00:44:00] these mini goals within a practice for your staff.

To me, that makes just a ton of sense that you focus on some of the things that we all know are important, but that oftentimes get left by the wayside. We may not think about putting our hand on 18 out of 24 players shoulder, or making that eye contact like you describing the word that comes to mind that we’ve talked about with other coaches is.

Being intentional. And a lot of us, you think about what coaches are doing now during the off season. And during this time, when we’re all shut down and everybody’s learning and going to virtual clinics and listening to podcasts and getting involved, and just try to do some of the things that you talked about earlier, and we write those things down, we kinda think about it and we say, Hey, we want to do that.

But when it comes time for us to reconvene with our players and our coaching staffs, it’s, if we’re not intentional about making those things happen, I think it doesn’t happen. And so I hear you talking about having those meetings and setting those mini goals. And to me, that’s something [00:45:00] that just popped out as wow.

That to me is an actionable thing that me as a coach, I can do every single day and that’s something that it doesn’t even necessarily have to be as formal as. What you guys are doing, you could just have that conversation from the locker room to the practice, you know, to the practice court. Hey, what are you going to focus on today?

What are you gonna focus on today? What are the things that give us one thing? And now you’ve got something to be intentional about it. I think that’s where good coaches really do a great job is being intentional with some of those little things that we all know we could make a difference, but sometimes within the course of a practice or a season.

They can kind of get lost.

Mark Cascio: [00:45:38] Yeah. And, and honestly, when we set those goals, you know, some of them are lead with questions. So like I talked about my tone, just being harsh,  when a player makes a mistake, instead of saying, you know, Hey, you should have set the screen here. Just, Hey Daniel, what could you have done better?

And if he says, [00:46:00] Oh, I should have set the screen two steps higher. Well then, one, he’s taken ownership for his development. He arrived at the conclusion. So he’s going to remember it. And then now all I did was ask a question. I didn’t have to coach him or correct him. And I find that when those things became the focus, like when I was focused on saying every player’s name within the first five minutes of practice are touching every player.

 I had the best practices and our team had the best practices. I wasn’t putting pressure on myself or the players to, to execute really well. I was just putting pressure on myself to connect with my players. And if you’re doing that, it’s likely going to spill over into your practice.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:44] So when did you start to come to the realization that these were some of the things that you needed to do?

Like I’m thinking about the questioning piece of it. And when I go back to the way I was coached, The way I coached early in my career when I was still coaching at the high school level, [00:47:00] compared to the last four or five, six years, I’ve coached my kids. A few teams. That’s been the bulk of my coaching, but I just think about how different I am as a coach in the things that I’ve done that I wouldn’t have done in the past.

And coaching with questions is one of the things that as soon as I heard that. I said, that makes a ton of sense to me. And I started doing it and I started seeing good results. So how do you come about and come to some of these things that you know, were important? And then going ahead and implementing them, just talk about how the process goes for you when it comes to that.

Mark Cascio: [00:47:36] Great question, and you, you actually answered, I’m going to have a very similar answer to that answer that you did.

And I think I’ve got a different little different perspective now because I do some consulting as well. And so I see it from both sides. I’m a lifelong learner. I don’t have all the answers, but when I find something, you really, you don’t know what you don’t know and. [00:48:00] You get that, that, that moment of clarity where it’s like, I didn’t even know this existed.

I thought I was doing the best that I could. And I thought I was doing the best method and I didn’t even know this other method was out there. And man, it is so much better than what I’ve been doing. So I think that’s part of just growth mindset, lifelong learner,  JP Nerbun, who is a consultant that I hire on a regular basis.

Doesn’t care about X’s and O’s, he deals with all he’s a basketball background, but he deals with all sports at all levels. And I bring him every year to watch my practice, just to coach how I run my practice and how I interact with players. And he has had a huge developmental in me because when I hired him, I didn’t realize that I didn’t know these things.

I thought we were running good practices, technically and tactically. But man, were we missing out on so [00:49:00] many, so much better systems and behind the scenes, things that really elevated our program. So now as a consultant, I see other coaches have that when I’m sharing something with them, they’re just like, Oh man, that makes so much sense.

 I think it’s just, when you get new information, the next part is you really have to challenge yourself to let your guard down and be vulnerable. And just say, I’m going to give this a shot because it’s going to make me better. And I think it goes back to what we talked about earlier is some coaches are just comfortable there.

We ask players to get outside their comfort zone on a daily basis, you know, be comfortable being uncomfortable, push yourself until you’re out of your comfort zone. But. Man, how many coaches do that on a daily basis or even a yearly basis? I think sometimes once we get that head coaching title, we have some success we think we’re done, but success is never final.

 you know, success is not an [00:50:00] event. I’ve won a state title of one, my fair share of district titles. And that doesn’t fulfill me. I get far more fulfillment at, out of being a better coach than like cheating. Getting getting trophies.

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:14] Yeah. I think that’s true for anybody who truly is motivated by being outstanding at their craft is it’s the old adage of, again, it’s the process that is exciting.

And that’s not to say that what that pot at the end of the rainbow, that state championship, that victory, that success story isn’t satisfying, but there’s more to it. If you really want to continue to be successful. It’s an ongoing process. We just had JP on about,  I guess I probably did the interview about three weeks ago and his episode went up about 10 days ago and I was blown away by some of the things that he had to share.

And I actually saw him on the virtual coaches clinic. And as soon as I listened to his presentation there, I’m like, I gotta get this guy on. [00:51:00] And then I went and read some of the things on his website, which were just outstanding. And he and I are right now working out. I think we’re going to do. Four podcasts a year just to have him come on and talk about some of the things that, you know, kind of take a deep dive into some of his culture, building things and transformational coaching and all that stuff.

So I’m just curious, what were one or two things that he pointed out to you when you brought him on that you’ve made changes in terms of the way you run a practice or your culture, or just some of those things that he’s an expert at?

Mark Cascio: [00:51:28] Leading with questions was definitely one,  getting the player to arrive at the same conclusion himself.

 also we, we referenced player led program. I think we always want our players to take more ownership. We want to develop better leaders. And I think as coaches, it’s so easy for us to say, Oh, it’s a different generation or, Oh, we just don’t have leaders this year. But what he really opened my eyes to is I wanted those sayings.

I preach those things, but I wasn’t giving them the [00:52:00] systems to do it,  to, you know, we we’ve developed a leadership council. Mmm, we’ve developed, you know, we’ve changed the way we’ve started practice, where our practices start completely player led where I don’t coach at all, and this is not a new concept, but the way we enter, the way we execute, it’s a little different where,  we’ve got a drill.

We’re going to do this drill. One minute. We set the success criteria before the drill starts and it’s usually something not to do with,   like a certain amount of makes in a certain amount of time. It’s really just, Hey, we’re gonna, we’re gonna sprint to the back of the line or we’re going to give high fives every time we pass a teammate or we’re going to communicate on every pass.

And the only thing that coaches can say is reset. And if we say reset, it means it wasn’t to our standard. And the clock goes back to a minute and we’re going to do this drill [00:53:00] until we. Or loud enough in our communication for that one minute to move on to the next one. And it spills over into the rest of your practice.

And one huge eye opener to me was I was so vocal at practice of. What you said earlier, trying to model energy and intensity and communication. But when the coach is screaming the whole time, you’re not opening the door for players to say anything. So if you imagine an assistant coach sitting on the bench and the head coach is coaching every pass, throw it here.

Cut hard, no jump to the ball wall up. Well, as an assistant, you can’t say anything because there’s never a moment. And we were, we were stifling our players communication.  so one me being quiet, opened the door for them to talk and then giving them the ownership of I’m not going to give you [00:54:00] reminders.

I’m not going to give you notifications. It’s your job to do it to each other. So when I said reset, I wouldn’t say who didn’t communicate. So it was up to players to say, Hey Johnny, like, I didn’t hear you over there. Like you need to be louder.  or just reminders. So two types of communication we really talk about is notifications where,  the good thing about notifications is they lack judgment.

Like, so when you get a notification on your phone that you have a text message, there’s no judgment there. It’s just saying, Hey, you have a text message. And then the next part is reminder. So notification is after something has happened. Or a notification is that something happened in the reminders is before.

So if our, if our success criteria was, we’ve got to call names on every pass before a player even passes. Other players on the sidelines are saying, Hey, call their name, call their name. So we wouldn’t mess up and have to reset. And as coaches, that’s what we want. [00:55:00] And we would start first five minutes of practice like that, and that would spill over to the rest of practice and really made a huge impact on our season this past year.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:09] I love that. It’s a great idea. And I think it goes to something that has always been a challenge for coaches. I think about my own experience, both as a player and as a coach and. You talk about wanting to develop leaders on your team and you talk about wanting kids to be able to communicate with each other and hold each other accountable and all these things.

And I think so often that, you know, we’re coaches, we don’t give those kids the blueprint. We don’t show them, teach them, mold them into what that actually looks like. So I say, Oh, we don’t have any leadership on this team. Or man, we need to develop leaders or our captains need to do more, but. What 17 or 18 year old kid has ever been taught what it means to be a captain or what it means to be a leader.

And then when you combine that with a coach who, as [00:56:00] you said, if you’re talking all the time and constantly. Trying to provide that energy. And you’re never just standing back with your arms, folded watching and giving somebody else an opportunity to have their voice be heard, whether that be an assistant or a player like you talked about, you’re just making it really, really difficult for those other people to step up into the roles that you probably ideally like them to have, which goes to my next question for you, which is.

Most of the time when we think of people who are successful as head coaches are successful in anything in life, those people tend to be very particular about the way they want things done, because they know in their mind what they feel like it takes in order to be a success. How difficult was the process for you?

Once you start to realize these things about yourself? How difficult is it to sort of step back and not be as vocal, maybe as is natural for you, and then how difficult it is for you to delegate [00:57:00] some of the things that you want to have be part of your program to delegate it to someone else who may do it slightly different.

Then you were, how much of a control freak, where you are you and how difficult is that process for you to let go of some of those things?

Mark Cascio: [00:57:17] I work on daily,  I am, I’m motivated by competition and I think I value concrete results. So like I just, I want to see the needle moving in the right direction. And I know the standard that I want to work at and I want to operate at so.

Which was easy to do, but hard to pull off is I’m going to do everything myself, because I know it’s going to be done to my level.  I delegate more and more every single year. And I think having the same staff year to year, they know what to expect, but they also, they have the knowledge of the, the content.

[00:58:00] So,  I find myself struggling to be quiet, honestly more when my coaches are talking, then when my players are talking, because when the players are talking, you’re just like, Oh, this is great. But then when the coaches are talking, I’m like, that’s not the exact teaching point. Or if I was operating this film session, I probably wouldn’t have shown this clip or, you know, and it’s not.

It’s just kind of learning to say, like, it’s not going to be the way I would probably do it.  but you don’t want to micromanage. I find myself, that’s the big, the micromanager in me wants to say, Hey, you can run this film session, but I would only use these clips and, you know, let’s keep it to these teaching points where I’m really doing the film session from the back of the room.

 but. I think that’s where I would struggle more is given the, letting an assistant run something and not feel the need to interject in there [00:59:00] because when you do now, they’re hearing two different messages, you know, delivered in different ways. And then I just think you kind of devalue what your assistant just, just prepared and showed it to the team.

Mike Klinzing: [00:59:11] Absolutely. That goes back to what you said with developing your assistants. You have to give them an opportunity. To have their voice and to be able to step out of their comfort zone and whether it’s leading a film session or leading a drill. And as you said, I think no matter what, you’re never going to get somebody who does things exactly the way do you do.

It’s just not reality. And so you have to end up being comfortable. And especially as you said, getting to know your staff over the course of a number of years, if you’ve worked together with them, you sort of get to know what they do, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they’re capable of doing, and then continue to push them.

So that. Again, you want them to fill in the gaps and fill in areas where maybe you’re not as strong or maybe you need some help in a particular area, or maybe they just have a particular strength that getting a point across to players in a certain way. And I think all of [01:00:00] that, when you start thinking about the process of being a head coach, and ultimately you mentioned it right off the top about not really knowing what it’s like to be in that head coaching position until you’re there.

And then once you get there, I think. The idea that overwhelms you as a head coach is this is my program. My name is  on it, and I want to have a hand in everything that goes on. And especially if, as I said, you’re sort of a control freak because you’re. A successful person, which a lot of people who are successful want to have control over their environment.

It’s difficult. I think to let that go. And it’s something that good coaches, I don’t think you’ve learned that overnight as a head coach, as you said, I think it’s a process that goes on over the course of time. I want to shift gears a little bit and give you a chance to talk a little bit about your offensive system.

Talk a little bit about how you came to it. Plan to uptempo the pace and space game. Just talk a little bit about give [01:01:00] coaches an idea of what it is, why you came to it, why you think it’s a great way, a great style to be playing in the year 2020.

Mark Cascio: [01:01:09] Oh. So it goes back to after that state championship year, watching our film and realizing we, we really scored in more random moments of the game transition.

I found that we’d be up by 10. We would get a little spark where we got four or five, six points in transition. We had a couple of just unscripted plays that we converted and all of a sudden 10 was 20. And then it was like, okay, we’re going to, we’re probably gonna win this game. And I just felt like we needed to be much better in those situations.

So,  I actually met up with, with Coach Todd, former coach, and we went and watched a practice, a division one team.  I met Doug Novak who just was so willing to [01:02:00] share everything with me. And we developed a relationship in 2010. And he, he, they were doing some things that really just sparked my interest.

So I started trying to, to blend the motion background with the verbal drive stuff and, and really pre-practice, I’m like, okay, well they run dribble drive. This is perfect. I’ve been experimenting with this. And then they started screening. And not losing flow and dribble drive. So I was like, well, that’s really unique.

And coach Novak has kind of gone a different way with his approach from, from where he was at, they’re doing something a little different and we kind of blended some other things to create this style. But I think one is, you always have to remember why one, we fell in love with the game. And I just, for me, I’m watching eat marriage or I’m watching Michael Jordan growing up and passing the torch to Kobe Bryant.

And I don’t think. We’re watching those games being like, [01:03:00] Oh man, that’s a great set by Phil Jackson. Like, man, I’m a player I want to set that screen. You know, we want to just play the game. It’s why we love playing pickup.  I still, to this day, love playing. I’m always the guy like, Hey, one more game.

Let’s go.  just cause it’s fun. It’s fun to just go out there and play. And so I think players would rather play that way. I think that’s why they show up to your trials. It’s not. To run your play that you found on Twitter. So,  always try to keep that in mind. What’s fun. Cause if the players enjoy showing up every day, they’re going to give you more and we want to keep things pretty simple and really focus on skill development, creates space for players to.

To have opportunities to make plays for themselves or a teammate, but also I find no knock against dribble drive. I just found for me personally as a coach, when I ran it, I wasn’t giving my players quite enough. I felt like sometimes our point guard felt like he was [01:04:00] on an Island. Wasn’t connected with his four other teammates on the floor.

 so we really found a way that we have great ball movement and player movement, but we’re creating space to where our players feel unleashed, but they also are really connected with the other four players. And we’re all working together for that player to make his play. And even if the play is yours, it might not be the shot, but it’s either play to me.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:29] So when you start putting that system in and you start designing your practices around that system, how did your practice planning change? Was there anything that you did differently with your skill development, with your drill work, with the things that you tried to do day in and day out with your practices?

How did the style of play that you went with? How did that impact your practices?

Mark Cascio: [01:04:55] So in a big way, huge change.  in several [01:05:00] ways I would say the one thing that was constant is since we were motion, we were already doing a lot of small sided games. Just two, one, two, three on three. I think we changed a lot of those to give off the advantage, to start the drill and.

It was foreign to me, I’d always think like, if you want to work on offense, you start neutral or put off instead of disadvantaged to make them rise to the level. But when you pull it off inside of the advantage, you force defense and the help in rotation, which means you’re forcing offense into decisions.

They have to read defense and find the right play. So that was a huge change. We shoot 10 times more than we used to run in motion. And that goes to, you know, the five out game. You have single gaps all over the floor and a traditional five out alignment. So it just leads towards the passing game because not a lot of driving gaps.

So, and then back then teams weren’t shooting the three so much. So it wasn’t that we were, we were probably coaching in the present slash [01:06:00] maybe a little bit of the past at that point. But now with the way the game has changed, where everything’s off the balance and teams are shooting a lot of threes. I find that coaches are trying to blend their old office with that new style.

And it’s not that you can’t have success doing that, but we’ve stripped away all the fluff, all the things that don’t matter. And don’t equate to making plays in space to where now we have. So much more time for skill development shooting. And really, if we’re not doing those two things, we’re competing and now our practices are harder, but they’re shorter.

 we practice more in the jungle than the zoo. So we’re preparing our players to play against pressure in the free flowing unscripted moments of the game, where before. I as a coach and I don’t think my players were comfortable in that game. I know just from a motion perspective, if we were facing a team that was just going to get up in our Jersey and pressure us, [01:07:00] we knew it was going to be really tough.

And now whether your pipeline pressures zone it, honestly, it doesn’t matter. Like I’m just so numb to what they’re doing and what they’re preparing for on numb to us go and over five from three to start a game, because it’s what we do. Doesn’t mean we don’t tweak and prepare our, you know, we’re not ignorant to our opponents,  strengths or weaknesses.

We’ve just, we have a clearly defined style of play and we’re prepared for any moment. Any, any scheme defensively that we’re going to see? So it’s really just being a resource for our players, reminding them going into a game like a, this is going to be better against this team, but we’re not scrambling on a Wednesday, Thursday to install something for Friday.

Mike Klinzing: [01:07:52] All right. So you mentioned that in a, from a practice standpoint, you took out a lot of the fluff and you just focused on [01:08:00] things that your kids are going to be doing in game situations. So what is, what are some examples of that fluff that you took out? Things that used to be a part of your practice planning that you take that you’ve taken out now that you don’t spend time on?

Mark Cascio: [01:08:13] More things on air, more, more drills that involve no defense or no reads or decisions. So just hate to say fundamental drills, but I find, you know, maybe we were doing drills at works fundamentals that we’ve really already mastered. And we were just staying in that comfort zone of the drill or of the skill.

Rather than adding defense and making it more competitive,  knowing that it’s gonna be ugly, but. When you go on a Tuesday, Friday, there’s going to be defense out there. And if you don’t practice ugly, you’re not going to be prepared for it. So I find just,  I thought good coaching was clean practice.

 now I, I just think good [01:09:00] coaching is, is making sure that everything you do in practice directly correlates to the game. And it’s something that’s going to show up. So we really just focus on what happens a lot in a game. We better be doing that a lot in practice and then watching film of where do we break down in a game, and this is where we’re going to start from in practice.

Mike Klinzing: [01:09:21] All right. So that’s what I wanted to ask you. That’s part of my next question. When you start looking at and thinking about either what you do in games, or when you’re looking at a specific opponent. When you’re setting up a small sided game, you try to set it up advantage, disadvantage, offense versus defense.

Just maybe give us an idea or maybe one example of something that you do that sets up a particular action in a small side of game, if that makes any sense.

Mark Cascio: [01:09:48] Yeah. So if we’re,  we don’t really change our defense to play like our opponent. But like you said, we can manipulate the look that we give our players.

So [01:10:00] for instance, in running a drive in space attack or dribble drive,  teams can get weary of playing against pack line because they’re going to, they’re going to be in gaps and take away your dribble penetration, which is your main way that you create advantages. So,  what we would do is set up a small sided game where.

Maybe we have to get to paint touches before we score, or probably even better than that. Just put them in a position where we have small advantage. We’re going to draw help,  where that first attack isn’t going to get it done, but can we find the big advantage on the floor? And then would I like even better against the pack line is drive, kick.

And have an extra pass out because now we’re getting multiple close outs out the paint we’re and I think if you could get, we look at it through how can we get them in rotation if their pressure, if they’re pack, if there’s zone paint, touches, compromise any defense. [01:11:00] So how are we going to play? Once we get the paint touch.

I find coaches to often focus on the stuff around the perimeter. When I was emotion coach, I’m focused on the screens, the flares that cuts and not really focused on. Okay, well, what if we curl it, get it? What happens next? Like in my mind, I was like, okay, we lay it in for a layup, you know, but there’s going to be help there.

You’re going to be catching it in traffic. So we focus so much more. Or what happens after we get inside the three point line, because if you lined up and played pick up against your opponent on Friday night, no rules, no coaching. Your guys are going to get in the paint. It’s not like they need you to get them into the pain against the defense.

So I think those random moments, your create actions will get you in the paint. And then what happens after that? So what are we going to do to get defense and rotation? And then what are our concepts that we could really emphasize? Out of rotation, for instance, [01:12:00] against the pack line, we want to drive, kick and get extra passes out.

If you get any defense in rotation, you get them out of their defensive philosophy. So if a pack line team gets compromised by getting flattened or deep paint touch, then they’re going to be in Oh, crap, close out mode and not pack line mode. So then we’ve got them and we just have to make sure we’re creating enough of those advantages to create opportunities.

Mike Klinzing: [01:12:27] Makes complete sense. How do you go about then? The other thing that you talked about was working and spending a lot of time during your practices on shooting. So what does your. What do your shooting practice? What does that look like when you’re shooting in practice? Give me again, just to maybe a general overview and then something specific that you do to work with your players on shots that they’re going to see in a game.

Mark Cascio: [01:12:48] You know, so we, we do some stationary shooting and we do shooting on air.  I think like everybody does and we just kind of, we kind of categorize, those are individual [01:13:00] shooting drills. I think. A lot of there’s a lot of merit to giving them confidence in their shot. We’re developing, you know, stroke and rhythm and confidence.

Those are like your feel good shots. But then I think what we do is beyond those drills, try not to isolate shooting. So if we’re shooting, there’s always a footwork element involved. It could be, we take three perimeter shots. And then on our fourth one, we’re going to attack the room. So we’re going to work on our catch, look for our shot, attack, a close out, and then give me this type of finish.

We’re going to go off two feet every time today, or it could be, we’re going to shoot. Once we get the rebound, we’re going to take two hard dribbles. We’re going to. Stride stop pivot. And we have to pass to a new line to where now we’re, we’re not spending five minutes on stopping and pivoting, and we’re not spending five minutes on shooting.

We’re going to work on those [01:14:00] things together.  so we just, we do that a lot. I mean, I just, when we’re repping offensive stuff, if we’re doing like three on, Oh, just working on some timing and execution of some actions we always end with, everybody’s getting a shot. And that way we’re getting those game shots in.

 we also chart every shooting, drill and practice. So not only are you chasing your peers on a shooting ladder, but you’re also chasing your personal record.  for each drill. So one of our younger assistants as a clipboard, every shot that you shoot, when you finish the drill, you go give him your score.

 so we have a sheeting ladder it’s it gives more meaningful reps, I think. And then in our competitive college for practice, for instance, let’s say we have a shooting drill that if you, you and your partner make 40 makes in four minutes, if you all accomplish that, Then you’re going to get a skills win in our competitive college, which is weighted a [01:15:00] certain amount of, so just always competing for something.

But if we’re, if we’re not playing live, there’s typically a shooting element in there. Our passing drills always end with a shot. We very, very rarely do a quote unquote passing drill. We’re usually passing, catching, shooting.  so I think that’s a way where we have found, we used to shoot 30 to 45 minutes every single day.

There’s always something else that we’re working with it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:32] How do you use the competitive cauldron and the charting? What do you use that for from a coaching standpoint? What do you look at when you’re looking at that? How does that influence. Decisions that you make as a coach. And then how do you feel like that impacts your players?

Day-to-day you already mentioned a little bit of, you know, again, they, they see that they know it’s there, so it, it motivates them to continue to work. But how do you use that as a coach?

Mark Cascio: [01:15:59] Yeah, [01:16:00] I think one thing that’s important is make it really visual. So players do see it every day. I think I coached guys that if we didn’t.

Create an environment that was competitive. They wouldn’t really fight for it and be competitive. They would work hard, but I think there’s a huge difference between working hard and competing. So I think just having the competitive cauldron builds that intrinsic motivation to compete and want to win, it builds personal responsibility and team responsibility and accountability because we know there’s going to be a winner and a loser.

We don’t run for losing the reward for winning is winning, you know, winning breeds, winning. It pays to be a winner.  we don’t use it to set our starting lineup either.  but I think from an outside of those things, from a coaching standpoint, it can validate what you’re saying. So like, man, I just, I don’t know that this guy is getting it done and he’s 15th [01:17:00] on the competitive cauldron.

Like. Probably validating what I’m seeing or, you know, assistant coach is saying, I think this guy needs to play more. Like I just give him a shot and then you look at the college and he’s like third and you’re like, Oh, gee. It’s like, okay. Maybe so, you know, like, and even if it’s not like, all right, tomorrow’s game, we’re throwing them in there.

It’s going to change the lens that I’m going to look at him as a coach. If you look for the good, you’re going to find it. If you look for the bad, you’re going to find it. So if I’m looking for the good in Johnny, Because he started on the competitive cauldron and I’m going to find it, but if I’m looking for the bad and a player, cause he’s at the bottom, I’m probably going to find that too.

And I think you can have those bottom guys try to rise to the level of the top and really push the guys at the top. And.  another thing that we’ve experimented with is,  carry scores over from the drill. So we like to play all of our drills to eight by twos and [01:18:00] threes. That way it’s quick games. You can’t take a play off or you’re probably going to lose.

And if you’re out of the drill, it doesn’t take very long for you to get back in. But what we’ll do is maybe put three small sided games in a row, and we’re going to carry the score over to where, if it’s two varsity groups playing against each other, then maybe the score is 24 to 20. And you could say, all right, let’s put two minutes on the clock.

Let’s play it out. Like it’s the end of the game, or that has so much more weight to it than a coach putting,  you know, 70 to 74. Let’s. Let’s recreate this situation. They haven’t really fought for that 70 to 74 score, but they have fought for that other score through those three small sided games,  or.

If you’re going varsity versus JV, we try not to do that very much, but let’s say varsity’s whooping the JV 18 to six. We can say, okay, we’re going to do this. We’re going to go five on five and play, but flip the scores, [01:19:00] varsity, all F six JV all at 18, and just find ways to challenge our players. Because we are keeping score.

I just think it makes things so much more competitive and fun.

Mike Klinzing: [01:19:13] Yeah. I love it. That’s a great idea there with the scores carrying over and just making everything have importance in what’s going to happen next rather than just artificially coming up with, as you said, a score, which we know lots of coaches do that have done it probably will continue to do it when you’re working on special situations or end to game type things.

But I think what you just shared. Makes a ton of sense to me, how that would be something that the kids are going to, again, start to understand after you do that a few times, they start to realize that, Hey, this isn’t just impacting this section of practice is going to have an impact moving forward on what’s going on.

I think that connection makes it even more game-like and tries to get them into an experience that is like what they’re going to have to go through when they’re actually playing a game.

Mark Cascio: [01:19:57] We’re coming close. Sure. As I say, one more [01:20:00] thing with special situations, always a hot topic. We did not do this last year, but we did it the previous year.

We would, I find when you watch your own film of special situations, if you won the game, that’s kind of all they care about. It’s like, all right, coach, like we won. We all feel good if you lost. They they’re just hurting and they’re aggravated that they have to relive it and that’s, you’re going to point out all their mistakes.

So we started pulling up like NCAA tournament games that were really close and we would go recreate that. So we would watch, like, we watch Memphis, Kansas, like I think 2008.  and we were looking at like, I would pause it and say, well, what should Memphis have done there? And they’re like, they, they waited too long, the foul.

And I’m like, exactly right. Like that’s great point or. I found that when I wouldn’t lead with questions, it was cause I was scared. They weren’t going to have the answer and they were going to miss the point. But even if they don’t have the right answer, you at [01:21:00] least know what your players, how they’re looking at the game.

So we would, we would start it from the split, the score on the clock and start the game from where we started watching in the locker room. And I found that just it depersonalized. Some special situation, coaching points, and then just made it fun. Like let’s go recreate Kansas Memphis. So I thought that was pretty cool too.

Mike Klinzing: [01:21:22] Yeah, that is very cool. Because like you said, they don’t have obviously a personal stake in what you’re watching on the tape. If they’re not watching themselves play versus. You’re watching your own situation and yeah, if it goes in, everybody’s excited, regardless of what the execution or the situation might have been, it’s just like, Ooh, we won.

Conversely, you could do it. Conversely, you could do everything right. And an end to game situation, and maybe opponents just makes a great play or one of your kids misses an open shot and the takeaway should be, Hey, we did everything. Right. It’s just. You know, sometimes the shot doesn’t go in where you take that out of there when you use it with a neutral game that they’re, they’re not [01:22:00] invested in.

So I could see the value in that for sure. As we start coming towards the end of our time, I want to give you a chance to talk a little bit about your consulting business and just. Share with us a, how you came up with the idea, what made you want to do that? And then just talk about some of the cool opportunities that you’ve been afforded as a result of that.

Because I think that you’ve obviously got a chance to travel and talk to coaches all over the country, which we’re kind of getting to do on a similar scale, not without the travel piece of it, but just being able to talk to coaches for Jason and I has been tremendously valuable and interesting and exciting.

So just talk about why you started it, how you started it and what’s been, so what you’ve enjoyed about the consulting piece.

Mark Cascio: [01:22:38] Yeah, so it really started organically.  the way we play, I felt like is really unique. Although more teams are shifting to that style, but I think, you know, 10 years ago it really stood out to where we’d go to a team camp out of state or just, I would get feedback from coaches saying like, Man y’all were y’all were a bear to prepare [01:23:00] for because we’ve never seen a team with y’all spacing before.

 you know, just get all kinds of feedback and it breeds some curiosity. And especially with social media, you know, now everything’s accessible, so coaches would reach out and,  and I would just give information and I felt like just shooting them. Some diagrams was like, I was really being a help, you know, but you know, this stuff without the context.

Falls flat, you know, if you don’t, if you’re not able to troubleshoot it, cause there’s going to be issues with anything that you’re running, especially when you’re running it your first year, you haven’t been through the fire yet. You can’t anticipate problems or,  you know, it might take some losses to figure some things out where I started getting filled with coaches I was sharing with and I was just like, Oh man, like.

This isn’t it like, there’s so much that I could share with him. I just don’t have time. Or maybe I had time early and then as more coaches reached out, it just became like a hobby of mine is just reach out, [01:24:00] share, you know, network with coaches. And,  and then I, I hired a consultant and it showed me how much.

Value that could really bring, and I’ve always been the type to just, if I see something that could be better, like I have to really hold back to not give that feedback just cause I want things done at a really high level, whether it’s my program or not. And so just being able to meet with coaches and have coaches that have me on a retainer to help.

Implement and all offense, but also just everything. You know, we talk about everything underneath the sun. I’ve traveled all from coast to coast, from LA to Boston, a lot of places in between,  Sharon basketball and observing practices. So that’s been really fun is to, to network with likeminded coaches, but help their program.

That’s really, the only goal that I have is for. Meet up to help you any way I can, but [01:25:00] the awesome thing. And you would probably,  share this sentiment is just carrying those relationships. You know, like if I go do a clinic in Tulsa or Lexington or Florida, it’s just like, you have a community of coaches that whether they’re in there working directly with me or not.

I just can follow them and their program and we reach out to each other and that’s been really cool because, you know, just relationships are what we’re in this for, with players and with other coaches.

Mike Klinzing: [01:25:27] Absolutely. I could not agree with you anymore on that particular statement, Mark. One of the things that has stood out for Jason and I, since we started doing the podcast and really, we had no idea when we started it.

The whole idea of our show in the beginning was it was going to be a basketball. A youth basketball parenting podcast is kind of the way we started. And then we ended up doing some interviews. And then before, you know what those interviews said, Hey, we’ll open up our contacts to you. And because we really enjoyed what you guys are doing and we think you’re in it for the [01:26:00] right reasons.

And then before you know it, as you said, you’ve kind of been able to build this community around what you do and the opportunity. To talk to people, not just in your own local area, but people all over the country and in some cases all over the world is just, it’s incredible. And then the thing that we’ve been struck by, and I think you probably agree with this statement is just how open and willing to share everybody in the coaching profession has been since we started.

It’s just, it’s incredible to me, just how open people are about sharing the things that they do in their program. The things that. They feel helped to make them successful. And then not only sharing it with us on the podcast, but then being willing to say, Hey, anybody who has a question or wants to know more, just has something they want to reach out and just connect the amount of times that people have said it.

It’s just, it’s incredible. And I’m sure you’re seeing that same thing.

Mark Cascio: [01:26:55] Yeah. I mean, coaches reach out all the time and,  I love it. [01:27:00] I mean, I, in fact, if you’ve ever reached out to me, I’d be surprised if I didn’t respond by saying thanks for reaching out. Because just when you get different questions, it makes you better as a coach and it makes you evaluate why you do things.

And I’ll say this, like as a consultant, the hard balance is you want to give things away. You want to share and you want to, you know, Publicize what you’re doing, but at the same time, it’s like, you have things that are of value to you that you want to protect. And really the only things that I don’t give away are the things that, like, I really don’t have time to walk you through this step by step.

Or if I just gave you this, like, it’s really not going to help, you know, like we’re all good enough coaches to see a set play on Twitter or YouTube or from a, you know, a podcast and say like, okay, we could run that set. This is such a different animal. You know, this is a style of play where your defensive [01:28:00] system plays into this, your transition system where.

 there’s a million decisions that you have to make and you don’t even have to do it my way. I’ve got coaches that have me on a retainer that don’t even run what we run on offense, but they want the other pieces to it. So there’s so many variables in it that,  I share a lot and I’ve benefited by so many coaches that share.

So that’s the hard balance is trying to give these things away while doing it the right way.

Mike Klinzing: [01:28:30] Yeah, I think that’s true. And I think that you also have to take whatever it is that either you’re getting from someone who’s sharing with you or conversely, the things that you’re sharing and understand on both ends of that equation, that.

You also have to fit what works for you, your program, your style of coaching, your staff, your players, which again, we all know there are subtle differences, even for you in your program from year to year, depending on who the kids are. And if your staff changes, there are just things that may be applicable one year [01:29:00] that may not be applicable in another year.

And so I think you’re a hundred percent spot on that. It’s the sharing. It’s that interaction between two coaches, it’s kind of hashing things out that helps you. Not only it really, it doesn’t matter which side of the equation you’re on. You could be on the side that sharing and then get some feedback from the person you’re sharing with.

And that can kind of get you to think about things. And then obviously, conversely, if you’re the person who is gaining information, you’re also. Sort of starting to question the way that you do things and just look at everything. And it goes back to what we talked about earlier, which is being intentional.

I think if you’re a coach and you’re focused on the process and you’re intentional about trying to improve at what you’re doing, ultimately, what that does is it leads to this exchange of ideas that helps everybody to grow in the profession of coaching. And to me, that’s really what it’s all about. Mark before we wrap up is we’re just coming up on an hour and a half.

I want to give you a chance to share where people can [01:30:00] reach out to you. Tell them about the things that if they’re interested in the consulting piece of it, just give your social media anywhere. People can reach out to you, find out more about what you’re doing. And then if there’s any final points that you want to make before we finish, you can go ahead and do that.

And then I’ll jump back in and wrap up the episode.

Mark Cascio: [01:30:15] Yeah. So quickly what you just said about the sharing part. I think as coaches, when we find new things, it reinvigorates us in our players, in our program. Encourage everybody, no matter what you’re looking for, find new things, get all the ideas you,  I’m always available on Twitter.

Direct message @CoachCasio.  pretty active on there. My email is Mark website,  love when coaches reach out, love sharing the game. As far as the consulting thing goes, it could be whatever you want. I’ll have some coaches that just come and they want one webinar just to kind of see what we’re doing.

 I have some that just scheduled [01:31:00] webinars as they see fit throughout the year. And then I have others that really want to take it to the next level one. Basically I’m on retainer as an assistant to you.  any resource that I have is directly yours, all you have to do is ask for it if I haven’t already shared it with you.

 so I have some things available on coach tube as well,  for sale, which is a new thing for me.  but the bottom line is like we’ve said, I like meeting coaches and networking, and there’s always a process that we can find that,  work for you and your program.  nothing that I do is cookie cutter.

It’s all a hundred percent for you. And what works for you.

Mike Klinzing: [01:31:42] Awesome, Mark. We can’t thank you enough for spending some time here with us tonight. It’s been a lot of fun and very educational to get a chance to learn about what you’ve done, building your program, building your consulting business, and to everyone out there.

Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.