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Paul O’Connor is the City Director for Pro Skills Basketball in Columbus, Ohio. He is also an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio.
Paul pursued his passion for coaching in college by working with the Ohio University Men’s Basketball team as a manager and video coordinator.
After graduating OU he went on to Providence College as a graduate assistant coach. Paul also served as the Director of Ops at Central Connecticut State University and as an assistant coach at Kennesaw State University before leaving the college ranks to become the Director of Business Development & Basketball for Kids in the Game, a youth sports program based in New York.
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Grab your notebook as you listen to this episode with Paul O’Connor – City Director in Columbus, Ohio for Pro Skills Basketball.
What We Discuss with Paul O’Connor
- His upcoming Coaches Clinic in Columbus, Ohio on August 29
- Growing up in a family of coaches
- Why he always kept coming back to basketball as a kid
- What he learned from being in his Dad’s gym every day after school from 3rd through 9th grade
- The lack of pick-up basketball today leads to lower confidence and limited ability to resolve conflict
- How he felt in the summer before his senior year in high school when his game began to flow
- The challenge of coaching confidence into a player and what makes it so hard
- Connecting with players off the court
- His #1 recruiting pitch today would be “Look how many guys come back to the program in some capacity after they graduate.”
- Building better alumni relations as a college coach
- Invite former players back to campus to build connections
- Getting his start in coaching as a student manager at Ohio University, first under Tim O’Shea and then John Groce
- Why Duke, Florida, and Villanova were the best camps he ever worked
- How his role as a manager changed over time as he gained the trust of the coaching staff at OU
- Developing relationships with players in the film room as a GA at Providence
- Learning the x’s and o’s through hours and hours of film study
- Watching the game like a coach
- How to create an effective scouting report
- Focus on taking out what the other team is best at
- Teach your principles and then keep things simple for the players
- His original career goal was to be a high major assistant coach, not a head coach
- Getting fired at Kennesaw State along with the entire staff
- Feeling as though the relationships he had built didn’t help him to land another job after the firing
- Changing gears and working in youth basketball with Kids in the Game in New York
- Leaving New York City and working for Pro Skills Basketball
- The challenge in building an AAU Program in Columbus
- “Ego is the root of almost every problem we have.”
- “You’re in it for the right reasons. You love coaching basketball and helping people period.”
- His desire to create a “Czar of Youth Basketball” and what he’d like to see in an ideal world
- Wishing there was more communication and collaboration among youth basketball organizations
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THANKS, PAUL O’CONNOR
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TRANSCRIPT FOR PAUL O’CONNOR – PRO SKILLS BASKETBALL CITY DIRECTOR FOR COLUMBUS, OHIO – EPISODE 510
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, but I am pleased to be joined by the Columbus City Director for Pro Skills Basketball. Paul O’Connor Paul, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Paul O’Connor: [00:00:14] Thanks so much, Mike. I appreciate you having me on. I’m looking forward to it tonight.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:17] Absolutely, excited to have you on, get an opportunity to talk to you about all the different things that you’ve been able to do in the game. You’ve had an interesting career path through the game of basketball. I want to start though with a special event that you have coming up that you’d like to share with our audience of coaches, specifically coaches who may be listening in the Columbus Ohio area, but certainly people can travel in to the clinic.
It’s going to be a great one. So just give us an idea of what the clinic’s all about, how people get signed up for it, and then we’ll jump into your story.
Paul O’Connor: [00:00:45] Yeah, for sure. So pro skills, basketball is a youth basketball organization that has a presence nationwide. Like you mentioned, I’m the Columbus city director and we’re hosting a coaches clinic this summer, August 29th down here in Columbus.
We have coaches [00:01:00] from Ohio state, Kent state, Xavier Malone, and Eastern Kentucky coming to talk. It’s going to be great where we plan to host these you know, this is our first one. We plan to host these moving forward but really excited about it. Really good opportunity to kind of get a ton of coaches from across the state of Ohio together.
And just, just spend the day together and network and learn a little bit. I’m so super excited. You guys can register. You can go to pro skills, basketball.com and register, or you can go to any of our social channels PSP Columbus on Instagram. The link is in there as well. Or you can email me Paul@proskillsbasketball.com.
And we can get you signed up.
Mike Klinzing: [00:01:40] That’s going to be great. I know that everything that pro skills does is done in a first-class way. We’ve had Brendan on twice and we’ve had Logan out with us, the founders of pro skills, basketball and. Everything that they do is done well from a youth basketball perspective.
Every time I talk to those guys, whether they’re on or off, they’re always just tell them, Hey, you guys are doing the right thing. And it’s, [00:02:00] it’s refreshing to see an organization that is trying to do all the things that I’m constantly trying to preach and talk to people about in terms of youth basketball.
So if you get an opportunity to go and register here to be in the Columbus area or live in the Columbus area and to get a chance to go to the clinic, I would highly recommend sign up with Paul and pro skills basketball. So that being said, we’ll get into how you got connected to pro skills basketball as we move our way through your journey.
But let’s go back in time to when you were a kid. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball and what some of your first experiences were like with the.
Paul O’Connor: [00:02:33] Yeah. I mean, I think I have a lot of you know, that, that traditional stuff, I worry that I think a lot of your listeners and probably a former guests had where I was just indoctrinated into it.
I grew up in a basketball family. My father coached college basketball for 10 years. My uncle coached for 10 years. I have uncles that are arrests. I have aunts you know, have the most wins New York state history. Have like I mean, it’s just, it’s just in our blood. I’m probably the least successful [00:03:00] coach that we’ve ever had.
So I got that going for me. But no, yeah, it, it, it was just in our, in our family, in our DNA. We started playing at a very young age and, and it, it probably went a little too far to be honest from a parent perspective because I just quit all the, all other sports. I couldn’t do baseball. I had no interest in soccer.
I didn’t get into golf until way too late. And it was just basketball or bus for me which is great. I mean, I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, but nowadays you want your kid to play a million different sports and get exposed to a different things. And yeah, it was, it was basketball or nothing for me and my family growing up.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:36] It’s interesting because when we think about youth basketball today, and obviously things are starting to skew towards that specialization piece. I think, like you just said as a parent, one of the things that you try to do is to expose your kids to lots of different things and multiple sports and help them to figure out what they like and what they don’t like.
And yet there’s so much pressure on kids and this isn’t just a basketball [00:04:00] problem, but it’s a soccer problem. It’s a tennis problem. It’s a golf problem. It’s any sport that you want to name that there’s more and more pressure, whether it’s from the perception of people out there, parents, coaches that, Hey, if I don’t specialize early, I’m going to fall behind.
So you have that. And then you also have obviously the business model where it’s in the interest of a basketball business to keep kids playing basketball year round. And what I always tell people. And what I kind of believe is that as long as whatever is being done is being done at the. Direction of the child then I think you’re okay.
Like if you’re a kid who loves basketball and I think back to myself, like I played everything up until I was about probably 10 or 11 was my last season of baseball. And from that point on, I was all basketball, but it wasn’t my parents saying, Hey, you got to drop these other sports. If you want to be good at basketball is me saying, Hey, I love basketball.
This is what I want to do. And so it’s interesting when you talk to somebody who [00:05:00] had an experience that was similar, where it just became all basketball at the time, and it sounds like you were similar to me where yeah. You played all those other things, but ultimately basketball. Became your passion, everything else fell away.
Is that kinda how it went for you? Was that how you described?
Paul O’Connor: [00:05:15] Yeah, a hundred percent. Yeah. I think you described it perfectly where it my parents put me in those other sports, but it it just didn’t last, it didn’t stick. And I was always coming back to basketball. I was never practicing those other sports, which is probably why I quit because baseball game would end and I would go play basketball.
So yeah, I never really got good at anything else. And you know, my basketball career was pretty mediocre as well, so I, I practiced, but you know, I, I think I’ve maxed out my potential that’s for sure. Sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:44] What did it look like? What did practice look like for you as like a middle school, high school kid?
Playing pickup games. And where were you working out on your own? What did those things look like as you try to improve yourself as a player?
Paul O’Connor: [00:05:56] You know? It was definitely more, I mean, I played a ton, don’t get [00:06:00] me wrong. So my father was an executive director of a nonprofit in Bridgeport, Connecticut that had two full court basketball gyms.
So I was there after school. I mean every day from like third grade through ninth grade, you know? So I was playing all the time, but I was also very lucky because like I said, my father was a coach. My uncle was a coach. So we were doing Mikans at age, like eight I was teaching other kids on the playground like, Hey, no, this is how you’re supposed to do it.
This is what my dad said, you know? So we had the fundamentals down without a doubt. And we, we practiced by ourselves. You know, we had a hoop you know, outside in my driveway that I was always playing on. So I would say. It was more one-on-one by by a slim margin call it like 60, 40 that I was working out on my own.
And this was way before the word trainer. And now look like I’m, I’m not the old guy in the pool. I’m 31 years old. So I’m not the old guy yelling out a cloud, but this was still [00:07:00] way before the concept of a trainer. You know, you just worked out that’s, that’s just what you did now. Maybe your high school coach is your a, you go to your dad, whoever, but yeah, I mean, I feel like we were always working out, always playing and it was just unstructured.
I think that’s really the big difference. You know, we, I didn’t play AAU for 11 months out of the year. You know, I, I played in the spring, maybe a little in the summer you know, through high school obviously, but then it was high, then it was high school hoops, and, and that was it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:29] What do you think kids miss out on the most because they don’t play as much pickup on structured basketball because so much of what they do is structured is either with their school team or with a travel team or with their AAU team, just from what you’ve seen your experience at the various places that you’ve been and the kids that you’ve interacted with and dealt with, what, what do you think kids miss from pickup basketball?
What’s the one or two just things that kids might’ve had in their game [00:08:00] when they were playing more pickup basketball, as opposed to what we have. Now, I’m just curious.
Paul O’Connor: [00:08:03] I would say it has nothing to do with the sport. I would say confidence and conflict resolution. I gained confidence because I had to play with older kids.
I had to. Make I had to make the five I had to get chosen. Like I know that this seems kind of like this urban myth now that like people were like, oh yeah we used to go to the playground and if you lost, you had to wait three games. Like that was true. And it was awful. It was miserable.
If you lost, like, it was miserable. You had to shoot on the side who you got tight, like it sucked so confidence and conflict resolution. If it was a foul, you had to argue that it was a fat and you had to figure it out. And if it came down to you shooting a three to see if you got the ball or not, that’s what you did now.
I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. But I would say that my experience in the youth basketball world, which has been for now the past six years or so. Conflict [00:09:00] resolution is just not there. You know any adversity that these kids face the, the first option is always flight. It isn’t fight.
You know, I gained my confidence through sports, through basketball, through trial and error, and through just a lot of embarrassing moments let that sucked and that you would go home and be like, man all they think I can do is go to my right. Like I need to, how am I going to fix that? I need to go to my left are all they think I can do is shoot or whatever, whatever it is in the basketball game.
That’s where I gained my confidence is, is those one-on-one sessions. So I would, I would narrow it down to those two things, man. Like you just, I just don’t see the confidence or the ability, like conflict, conflict resolution slash just adversity, like Kenya handle any little like headwinds your way, just don’t see it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:49] Yeah. That’s so true. I can speak to that as not only a coach, but also as a teacher that. In my phys ed classes, whenever there’s a dispute amongst the rules, or somebody has a [00:10:00] controversy, there’s never any attempt to solve it between kids it’s immediately. Those kids are running to the adult in the room, which in that case is me trying to get me to make a judgment about what happened.
And I think about the ways the same as you, that I grew up playing. And again, not just backyard basketball, but backyard football and backyard baseball and backyard tennis and backyard games that we just made up on the fly that had rules that we all had to agree on. And you just learn how to stand up for yourself.
You learn how to negotiate. And those are skills that I think are again, they’re tremendously valuable to all of us in our real life, the ability to stand up for yourself and the ability to negotiate with others that are things that kids, I think used to learn in a different way through sports. And we’ve taken that away from them with the sort of adult suffocation of youth basketball and youth sports in general.
So I definitely agree with you there. And then the confidence piece, I think is true as [00:11:00] well, because when you look at getting an opportunity to play against older players, getting against, to play against people who are from a different neighborhood than you, and you could do it without a coach watching you.
So like, to your point, when you’re saying, Hey, I got to improve because all they think I can do is shoot. So all they think I can go do is go to the right. So I make, got to make sure I go left. One of the things that I always trying to do with pickup games is if I was playing with better players, you kind of have to fill a role, like, okay, this game, I can’t really this game.
I’m not gonna be the leading score. So I gotta figure out how can I help my team? And then conversely, I might play in a game where I was the best player. And now maybe not, maybe to my challenge myself, I might say, Hey, I’m only going to go left here. I’m not going to call any files in this game, or I’m going to make sure I work on this particular thing.
And I think kids today, They always have to play in front of parents and coaches and adults and with a scoreboard, it makes it a lot harder for them to develop that confidence that you talked about and to develop sort of the, the [00:12:00] freedom to try things it’s like in a game, you really only want to do the things that you’re good at.
So you don’t ever kind of extend yourself the way I think kids did when they were playing pickup games. And that’s not to say that kids today don’t have benefits. As you said, nobody had heard of a trainer before, and there’s obviously good and bad trainers, but generally speaking kids are more skilled today than they were 10, 15, 20, certainly 30 years ago.
For sure. When I was playing, when they’re way more skilled, the number of kids that can shoot threes and handle the ball and do all those things is, is much, much higher. But I do think some of those intangible things that I learned at the playground playing pickup basketball are not there nearly as much as they were back again as the old man off my lawn, back in mind, back in, back in my days, Tell me a little bit about your favorite memory from playing high school basketball.
Paul O’Connor: [00:12:50] Oh man. Favorite memory? I, I, you know what, it’s funny. It, the best basketball that I have ever played in my life was the summer. I, as I [00:13:00] was going into my senior year and we played in you know, a couple summer leagues around the, in the, in the Fairfield county, Connecticut area, and we’re playing different scrimmages and practice and, and do whatever we were allowed to do back then.
But that honor, it’s a weird answer. I know, cause it isn’t a game I, I didn’t hit it. Like I did like one game winner in my whole life. It was in like eighth grade. It was meaningless, but you know, I, yeah, sure. I definitely remember that, but I just remember it again, it was one of those, it was just like a feeling from may until I I wish it continued in the season.
It obviously didn’t, but the summer I was just on a tear I was, you want to talk about confidence. You couldn’t tell me anything. Like I was as confident as I’ve ever been on the basketball court. I was playing as well as I ever had making more shots, like making all the right reads in the ball screen.
Like people can’t see me, but I’m a five 11 white kid. So I was always the point guard. So I was, I was just, I was just on the top of my game and it was just a feeling that [00:14:00] I had never had before. Like everyone has a good game. Everyone has a bad game, but I probably play. As well as I possibly could for like four straight months, it was something that I had just never expected.
And I’m not saying I I played horrible my senior year. I played. Okay. But that, well, that will always stick with me. I don’t know what it was there wasn’t like a beginning or like a hard end. It was just like, man, everything was clicking. Every time I picked up the ball, I felt extremely good about it.
And I’ve just always remember those couple of months. It’s like, okay man. I wonder if I could ever get back there not that I ever will, but you, it was just, it was just a remarkable, like sense of every time you walked on the court, like. Like, I’m confident I’m going to do well. I’m confident my team’s going to do well.
And I’m confident we’re going to win. Like those three things. Every single time I touched the ball for about four or five months were there. And that was just a fantastic feeling. That’s that flow
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:52] state, right? Yeah. Like everything’s just going to go. It’s just, you just know things are going to go well, and obviously anybody who’s played [00:15:00] particularly basketball, but I’m sure any sport you kind of get in that flow and you have that feeling for a game or two, but I can kind of relate to what you were saying in terms of just a period where you feel like you were at your best, like you were playing like, this is, this is as well as I can ever remember playing.
I know I had stretches in my career where I felt like, Hey, things are coming together and it wasn’t necessarily one hot streak or one great game, but it’s just like, Hey, I feel like I’m kind of getting it kind of understanding and really maximizing what I can do. So why do you think that didn’t carry over into your school season?
Was it just,
Paul O’Connor: [00:15:31] you know, good question. I don’t think I could pinpoint it to one thing. I think I got off two again, like come right back to that confidence thing. I got off to a tough start my senior year in terms of like the actual games. I think I had like a, I play, well, my first game I, I had probably like 10 and five, something like that, just solid.
And then the next three games, I was terrible. Like, couldn’t make a three. Just that [00:16:00] just really bad. And I remember at one point, like getting subbed out for someone who I thought should not be subbing in for me. And that just kind of like always, I was like, oh, no, like what happened? You know, why, what, how did I get here from, like you said, that flow state of everything feeling really good.
And I think that always stuck with me. I now it was, again, it was fine. I wasn’t playing horrible the whole year, but I never got back to that. And I don’t know, like there really wasn’t this, this moment or this thing with like a. It just never got back to that summer period. So I don’t know. I don’t know.
I didn’t have a good answer.
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:36] Speaks of the power of your mind though, right? I mean, when you think about, I mean, when you think about it as a coach or you think about as a player when you’re playing well, or when you’re not playing well, like so much of that, it’s not like physically you are any different from July to November.
I mean, you were the same, you were the same person physically. It’s just, you get in that mental state where [00:17:00] you can get inside your whole, your own head. And you think about as a shooter or just in general, how you’re playing and you get the confidence piece. And when it’s rolling and everything feels right, it just seems easy.
And then conversely, when things don’t go your way and it gets, it gets tough. And you wonder, like, what’s that, and you know, to, to your answer, to my question, when you think about, okay, when. When did that switch flip and it doesn’t really flip, it’s much more of a gradual, like you don’t even notice it kind of happening around you and that’s kind of almost goes, it almost goes both ways.
Like when you’re going from good to mediocre or mediocre to good, you don’t necessarily always notice those changes, but it’s so much of it is in your mind. I think as a coach, it’s one of the things that you try to do with your players is how do I give my players the confidence? How do I instill in them the ability to get to that flow state easier?
And it’s, it’s tough. I mean, that’s one of the biggest challenges. Have [00:18:00] you experienced that as a coach in terms of helping a player specifically with their mental game, something, is there an, is there an incident that you remember a particular player that you can maybe share a story about that?
Paul O’Connor: [00:18:10] Yes. A hundred percent. I’m so happy you asked that because I was going to talk about it. So I coached at Olentangy Orange this past year with the varsity team was just a school down here in Columbus. And we had a very talented team. We had two really good seniors. One is going to play in college division to the other, had the potential to play D two, but it’s just choosing to go.
Think he’s going to bowling green actually he’s just kind of hanging it up, which is totally fine. Do whatever you want to do. But just to say that, like we had some really good talent, but anyway, the kid that I’m talking about, it was a sophomore. He’s now a junior, he’s the best player on the team.
And mentally he was all over the place this year, confidence wise. And to speak to that question, I, I struggled mightily as a coach this year, [00:19:00] trying to coach confidence. I had never had to coach it as hard as I had this past year. And it was a real challenge for me because. The past five years, I was in New York city and there’s no shortage of confidence.
And there’s they’re just not even for kids that don’t like, Hey man, you shouldn’t be that competent. I love it. You know, like you don’t, you’re not, you’re not that guy, but that’s to be that guy you kind of have to have, and that competence, right. So I get it. But there was a sophomore here that we had and the talent was off the charts, the potential off the charts, he’s a shooter and streaky, right?
Like if the first one went down, he’s, he’s liable to give you 20. If the first one missed he may go one for eight for the whole game, which I can relate to. And so I, I, what I really tried to do is when he was playing well, I left him alone for better, for worse. I just I, now I was still coaching and tell them whatever about a play or defensively, whatever it was.
But if he was making shots and playing well and had a [00:20:00] rhythm, I left him alone. If he was missing, I made it a point. Almost after every single Ms. Shot to say Elias, great shot. That’s a good shot for you. Good job. Next one’s in, right? Like, Hey, next time maybe one dribble pull he’s, you know that guy’s going to go for your, whatever it is, but never negative reinforcement because I just, I know that feeling as a shooter, that if a couple of don’t go and then you get pulled, even if most of the time you’re not getting pulled because you missed a shot.
Right. Like kids just think that naturally, even if he weren’t in and pull that way, they think it, so that I go, man, like now I’m one for four. Like I’m going to be nervous about my mic shot. I was always trying to avoid that with him. But it was a struggle, Mike, like I really, really for the first time in my career, like I didn’t really have a good answer or a strategy for it, but that’s what I ended up with.
If they’re in a good rhythm, leave him alone. I mean, this isn’t like earth shattering stuff, obviously, but just try to really be positive on every miss, especially when they were struggling and like bringing him in the huddle and [00:21:00] saying, Hey, what’d you think on that last shot? That was a good one. Right?
Good luck. Yeah. You’re going to be able to get it again. When we run duke or carrot whatever I play, it was like, you’re going to be able to get it again, be ready and shoot it. So just that’s what I tried, but it’s hard.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:13] That’s that process versus outcome to some degree, right? Because you’re telling the kid, Hey, that’s a good shot for you.
Hey, things look good on your shot. Just keep it going. Even though the outcome was he missed, you don’t want to say, well, that’s terrible. What are you doing? The shot that shot didn’t go in. You don’t want your players thinking that you want them thinking, Hey, I’m taking good shots here. I’m doing the things I’m supposed to do.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in the basket. And that doesn’t mean that you stop doing what you know, that you’ve been successful in the past and that you’re going to be successful with in the future. But it’s hard because. When you try to coach a player’s mind. So many of us approach things differently inside our own head.
And you think about how, when you try to get to know somebody as a coach, try to get to know the players, what buttons do I have to push and how do I have [00:22:00] to motivate them and what works? This is one need a little bit more of a push from behind is this one need more of an arm around them. And I think that goes doubly when you start talking about, okay, now I’ve got to figure out not only how do I motivate them, sort of in a physical way, but now I’ve got to get inside their head and understand them.
And most of the time we have a hard time, enough understanding our own minds and how those work let alone trying to get into somebody. Else’s I think as a coach, to me, that’s one of the things that man, if you could figure out how to do that well as a coach, you could really tap into some things with players and I’m sure there are guys around the country that spent a lot of time, even maybe unknowing.
That they’re just really good at being able to tap into and helping players build their confidence.
Paul O’Connor: [00:22:43] Yep. Yup. A hundred percent. And it comes down to caring and, and again, like most people practices, like you said, across the country, guys are doing this all the time, but like spending time with them off the core, finding ways to talk about [00:23:00] things other than practice, the scouting report, the game you know coach one, I can’t remember who it was, but somebody along the way in the past 10 years or so said to me, the most important times are walking to and from practice.
And I never forgot that. Joking with them in the hallway or talking about class or whatever it is. That’s honestly, it’s more important because if you don’t get that part down, then you’re never going to get to them on the basketball court. So I always took that to heart. You know, we had like a funny thing at, at orange where you know, I was like, I always coached the orange team and then the other assistant coach the blue team.
And if, if our team went undefeated, we always had different challenges throughout the practice. If they didn’t lose for the day, then immediately after practice, again, not the healthiest thing, but we went to Krispy Kreme. So like like they, they would be like five. Oh. And they knew that there was only one more drill and they’d be screaming.
Like we’re getting Krispy Kreme tonight, baby. We’re going to go, you know? So like just [00:24:00] little things, you got to find those little things where you can just connect with them outside of the, of the court of practice.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:06] Absolutely. That small talk is really where you forge the relationship. Because when you think about what goes on.
On the practice floor. Yeah. You have interaction, but most of it is involving coaching instruction. Right. And yeah, maybe you’re on the sideline. You can have a little quick conversation, but for the most part, if you’re coaching, you’re trying to pay attention to what’s going on out on the floor. And so during a water break, walking to, and from the locker room after locker room time after the game, putting your arm around somebody, having those small conversations, if you’re a teacher in a high school setting and you’re in the hallway, you get an opportunity to talk to a kid in between classes.
I think to me, that’s really where you build the type of relationship that then allows you to push your kids when it comes to being on the basketball floor. And it’s just, it all comes back to, you have to care about them, not only as basketball players, but you have to care about them as people. And I think that [00:25:00] that’s something that it’s, I think it’s always been there, but I do think that there is more awareness of it.
I think there’s less coaches who are strictly about. Hey, when you step between the lines, you have to do X, Y, and Z. And it’s more of a transactional type situation. Those coaches, I think, were more prevalent 30 or 40 years ago. And I honestly think that they’re few and far between anymore, just because people are so educated on what it takes to be able to reach kids.
They didn’t get the most out of which ultimately is your job as a coach is to get the most out of them, both as an athlete, but then even more importantly as a person, I think there’s just more awareness of that in the coaching ranks. Have you seen, have you seen that become an even bigger emphasis at some of the programs that you’ve worked at?
Paul O’Connor: [00:25:50] Yeah, and I, and I think the coaches that are doing it best highlight there. I don’t. I mean, some, some of them alumni, [00:26:00] other ones if they’re going like one and done, but just, just the players that were returned to the program. Honestly, if I was still in college, that would be like my number one, as long as it was, it was good, obviously, but that would be my number one, recruiting pitches.
When you leave here, these are the amount of guys that come back in the summer and work out. These are the guys that come back and get treatment. These, this is how many guys came back and finished their degree or came back and got a job with us or whatever it is like to me, that’s the full circle.
Like of course the number one priority for an 18 year old, who’s going high. D one is hopefully to have a very good time in college, get a degree if you’re going to be there for years and then go to the NBA or overseas. Like that’s a lot of, if not the vast majority of players goals, if they’re going to high major D one route, but after that, it’s, it’s gotta be.
A lifecycle, right? Like, okay, how am I taking care of you for life though? And I think the, that the coaches that do [00:27:00] that are going to succeed in the next 10, 20 years. And, and I shouldn’t say be the most successful in the next 10, 20 years.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:07] How do you see coaches doing that and your experience?
What have you seen coaches do to foster that kind of connection with alumni? Because I think that’s one of the things that I look at my own experiences. And for a lot of years at Kent, there was like a disconnect between the alumni and the program. I think it’s way, way better coach center office done a much better job of keeping guys connected and having people back in the program, obviously he’s been there now a lot longer than anybody else in that we had a huge stretch of time where guys were there a year, two, three years.
And so it’s hard to build that continuity, but I think building that alumni, those alumni relations to me are so critical because there’s nobody better. To sell your program, that people who have gone through it. So what have you seen some of the coaches that you’ve worked for? What have you seen them do to engage alumni that you feel has been successful that other coaches or other [00:28:00] programs could maybe emulate even at the high school level?
Paul O’Connor: [00:28:02] Yeah, so, I mean, first of all, you hit the nail on the head. Like you have to be there for a little while, right? Like if you’re only at a school for four or five years, it’s very hard to build what we’re talking about. The guy that I worked for that did a really good job was coach Cooley at Providence.
He invited every, everybody. I mean, if you went to Providence, if you played at Providence, if you were a cousin of somebody who was a fan of prop, like it was, you could come, like he wanted to open the doors he won because prior to that, It was very closed off. It was very much like men’s basketball is over here and the rest of the athletic department is separate.
And so he just kind of opened the doors to everybody. You know, he even brought God Shammgod back on staff as a player development guy, and now he’s in the NBA. I thought that was very smart. That was huge. He hired former players. My, I was a GA there with Mikey Bonovitch who played for coach Cooley at Fairfield.
[00:29:00] That’s another way to do it. Those things. And then, and then just, I mean, this is the simplest one. It’s just events. Like you need to invite people back to campus, invite people back to games, introduced the guy that graduated in 96 to the guy that graduated 2006 and maybe he’ll give them a job. You know what I mean?
Like those are those like synergies and connections that you need to foster as a head coach, as long as you’re there for a while. I do think that’s super important. Like I just don’t know if people will buy in, if you’re there for four or five years and then you leave, like it’s impossible to do. Yeah.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:30] It’s really tough. I think in that case, because you don’t have those connections to multiple sort of generations, multiple classes of players that you have that direct connection with it, you can reach out to, because I think it starts with building the network with guys that you really know, or that you get to know by again, having events, whether it’s an alumni game or whether it’s just inviting players back to, Hey, this is a night where we’re going to have everybody come in and, and watch our games.
We have a golf outing or whatever it might be to me, those are huge ways [00:30:00] to be able to engage. The players who played in your program. And again, there’s no better salespeople for your program than the people who’ve come back. And you described it really well when you just talk about, Hey, when we can help guys get jobs, maybe it’s on staff or maybe it’s other connections that we have, or we’re just, we’re always thinking about how we can help and build the relationship again over time where I graduated from Kent almost 30 years ago now.
And I tried to get back to at least one game every year. Cause I feel like it keeps me connected to the program, even though I’ve been gone a long time and they’ve probably been through 10 or 11 coaches since, since my time was gone, but I still go back and I walk into the gym and I still feel, I still feel that connection.
And to me, that’s really important. I think it’s got to be important to the program itself. When you start thinking about where you want to go and the impact that you want to have as a coach on the people who play in your program, including you want to have success on the quarter. You’re not going to be there very long, especially at the division, especially at the division one.
[00:31:00] Ultimately, there’s also other things that go along with that that are ancillary benefits when you not only went on the court, but you also went off the court and you have an impact on the student athletes that you get an opportunity to coach. And really when you think about it, that’s what it’s all about.
So kind of along those lines, let’s work back in time. When did you know that coaching was going to be something that was in your future? You mentioned right off the top, that you were demonstrating the Mike and drill for your buddies when they were, when you were eight years old. So I’m guessing that coaching was probably something that was on your radar from being a young age, but just talk to me a little bit about when coaching became a thought in your mind.
Paul O’Connor: [00:31:36] Yeah. I mean, it was always, I think it was always something that I thought I would get into at a young age, but it didn’t become. What I knew I wanted to do until about sophomore, junior year of high school. When you start going on college visits or starting to think about a major, all that type of stuff.
So from there, I was like, you know what, I’m going to dive in. I’m going to go into this college basketball world and see what I can do. And so when I was [00:32:00] looking at schools, I was looking for schools with really good sport management degrees and majors. And then I was looking for any connections that I had, that I could go be a manager.
And you know, during the summers, like I was working basketball camps across the country. I was, I was one of those kids. So from junior year of high school till junior year in college, so almost four or five years there I was working camps. I worked duke, I worked Carolina, Florida Syracuse, Sienna, I mean it D like you name it on the east coast.
I was trying to work it. And so I had a one-off connection to Tim O’Shea. Who was the then head coach at Ohio U. And I knew I was going to be able to have a spot and be a manager. So, and then you visit Ohio university and it’s like, yeah, here’s all my money. You know, I’ll, I’ll sign on the dotted line.
It’s just the most beautiful campus. And it’s just unbelievable. So I had a, I had a great time as well. But I knew sport management and then coaching and got the start as a wiping sweat man. And that, that [00:33:00] will not that I not that I was a cocky or, or arrogant, but that’ll humble you real quick you’re, you’re coming up you know, high school and playing and you’re like, ah, man, like this is going to be so much fun. And, and then you wipe up sweat and fill up water bottles and you do laundry and you break down film and you’re there late and they’re early and it’s like, oh God, Is this what I want to do and yeah.
I mean, you, you quickly see like, yeah, this isn’t the whole I’m not going to be doing this forever. But yeah, that was the start. That was the start with coach O’Shea. And then after my freshman year, he went to Bryant to help them rebuild from the . I shouldn’t say rebuild, but transition.
And and John Groce came in and I was with Coach Groce for three years. And we were lucky enough to you know, beat Georgetown in that historic run which was funny. We actually played in Providence. So that was a little forthcoming, but yeah, we, we beat Georgetown and that shocker 14 over three seed, which was just the most, I mean, if it didn’t set in, then that, that was just the most amazing [00:34:00] experience ever.
And I was like, yeah, this is what I want to do.
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:03] All right. So I got a lot to unpack. I want to go back first. I want to go back first to your camp experience. What’s your favorite camp you ever worked?
Paul O’Connor: [00:34:09] Well, this is unbiased, man. I’m sure people are going to, if you’re still listening to the podcast.
Thank you. This is probably while you’re tuned out, but I’m a duke fan. So I had the opportunity to work, do basketball camp and meet coach K and the staff. And I did that for two straight summers. It was, it was surreal. You know what I mean? We got to play at Cameron indoor at 10:30 at night after we put the campers to bed and stuff.
And that, that was surreal, but I will say the best camp I ever worked was Florida. Billy Donovan was unbelievable. The staff was unbelievable. You know what I would say, Villanova and Florida are tied because Jay Wright was also unbelievable. Like every night they would have cheese steaks and wings for the staff at night.
Like again, they, I couldn’t drink. I mean, I was drinking beer, just not at camp cause I was in college, but they wouldn’t let [00:35:00] you cause I was 19 or 20. So I had you know, I don’t know a ginger rail. But that you just tell, you can tell right. They take care of their camp, their, their staff, they pay more than a freaking hundred and $75 for five days of work.
And you know, they feed you, they take care of you. They give you a whole bunch of gear like they talk to you like I had an opportunity to speak with Jay Wright and speak with Billy, that like that, that goes miles that goes a long way. And one of my buddies who was a manager at Louisville, when we work Florida camp, like that’s how he got, he was a video coordinator after Louisville at Florida.
Cause he worked camp cause these guys talk to you. So it works like dude, like working that, working the camp circuit and you know, flying all around the country and all that, like it works. So I’ll say I’ll go, I’ll go Florida and Villanova for best camps.
Mike Klinzing: [00:35:47] Yeah. Those connections are invaluable.
I think that if there’s any advice that has been universal for young coaches, with everybody that we’ve talked to, it’s get out and meet and talk to as many people as you can work [00:36:00] camps. Obviously the camp circuit is a little bit different now even than when you were kind of going. Yeah. Just you have more of the showcases and the elite camps and that kind of thing, and sort of the old school fundamental type camps that at least that I grew up with, those are not quite as prevalent.
Although most schools are still doing some version of it. They’re not quite the same. It’s not quite as easy to get that conversation going with staff and that kind of thing, the way that I might’ve experienced the way you might’ve experienced. But I do think for any, for any young coach out there, if you really looking to get into the business, especially when you start talking about college coaching, the more college camps you can get into work at the volunteer at to just get yourself in front of people.
I think that’s a great way to be able to meet people, to be able to network. And as you said, one of the best ways to get jobs is somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows you. And before you know it, that at least gets your foot in the door. And so camps are a great way to be able to build your network.
When you think about, when you think about. [00:37:00] Being being there at OU what were some of the, as a manager, what were some of the things that you were privy to that, that the coaching staff was doing? In other words, did you get to sit in on any, was there specific meetings that you were able to sit in on and specific meetings that you were excluded from sitting out?
What were some of the things from a coaching standpoint that you got to take part in, even if it was just observational, right. From sort of the beginning, and maybe that was different under Timo shave versus John Gross, but just what were some of the things that you got to see?
Paul O’Connor: [00:37:35] Yeah, I mean, freshman year it was, it was really nothing.
You know, I was the low man on the totem pole. We had probably like eight managers. I was the brand new guy, so nothing. Truly like not in one meeting, like it was like, we need to feel this kid out. Like we we don’t really like, we know them and like, you’re, you’re good to be here, but like, we’re not going to invite you in the scouting room quite yet, which was, which is fair totally get [00:38:00] it.
And then sophomore year you kind of had to start all over. So it was like, all right, like, let’s do this again. But I had at least been there a year and you know, they, they Groce is well, he’s, he’s a lot now I call him at Ohio state guy. Some people would call them, but Xavier he’s in Ohio, he’s, he’s been coaching for a long time.
And so they had a whole process like I had to interview like with coach O’Shea I did meet with him and talk with them, but it was like very, it was just informal and like, yeah, like here’s the deal with coach gross. It was like, no, like, why do you want to do this? And there was just much more about it.
So it felt a little bit more like, oh, damn, like this is, this is a real deal. So sophomore year you kind of start to build that rapport. And as a manager, How you build it is just by showing up, like, there’s so many unreliable people out there because it’s no pay. It’s long hours. You’re in college, like who wants to do this right now?
You know, so like you really got to want to do it. And once they see that very quickly, I was [00:39:00] like, I was on every single road trip. I was starting to be with like the ops guy. Who’s Erin foods is actually at Kent state and coming down for the coaches clinic. Like I would be with him all the time.
Right. Or like we would be talking much more. And then by the time junior year hit that’s when I would be able to like, essentially, I just wasn’t getting kicked out of rooms like if I just was happy to be cleaning something up and it was like a post-game meeting, like they weren’t like Paul get out.
It was just like, yeah, it’s okay. You can be here. And then by senior year on road trips, like. I mean it is what it is like I was the gopher to go get if we we had a long road trip you know, let’s say we had to go to Kent state, like Ken state in the winter is not exactly fun.
You know, the coaches wanted a six pack or maybe a 24, who knows. And so I went and got those and then we sat in the room and we talked about the game and you know, the manager and the GA it’s very, it’s, it’s a precarious situation because you’re [00:40:00] closer to the players. Like I was, I won’t say this for everybody, but I was very close to the players.
So when coach Groce realized that he basically was like, Hey man, like the allegiance, if you want to be a college basketball coach, like you gotta the allegiance just to the coaches. Like, and I don’t mean that to say. People don’t care about the players. It just means like, if something’s going down, like you got to tell us, man, like, if you’re close with them and there’s a party or someone’s about to get in trouble or somebody skipped class.
So it’s very, it’s actually really tough when you start to get closer with your staff, because you’re with your, your guys all the time, you’re eating, you’re going out, you’re hanging out, you’re traveling all the time. So you, you form really strong bonds with these players, but at the end of the day, the coaches are like, yeah.
Okay. But like, did he go to class? And you’re in this tough spot, like, man and sometimes you, maybe I did lie and then I would text the player and be like, yo, man, I just lied. I don’t know if you’re going to get caught. Like I, I don’t know. Sometimes I I’m sure I did. But sorry, long-winded answer to say [00:41:00] it gradually increased from nothing to helping with scouting reports to full-time by senior year, I was basically a video coordinator and really like involved and like could give my opinion.
Not to coach roles or but to the ops guy maybe, or to the GA and be like, Hey, like, this is what I see. And, and I just watched nine games of Miami, of Ohio. Like I think, you know what I mean? Like here’s what I’m seeing and, and they may listen and then they pass it along. And so it certainly grew for sure.
Mike Klinzing: [00:41:28] Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ve said this before on the podcast, but I honestly, when I look back on like my playing career and I never once during my entire playing career, did I look at the guys who were managers and I was good friends with a couple of them, and there’s still one guy that I talk to occasionally.
And obviously if I ever ran into somebody that there’s a couple that I see every once in a while, like I still consider those guys to be, to be friends, but I never, once in my life, [00:42:00] then I look at them while during my entire four year career and go, oh, these guys want to get into. Like my, my, my thought honestly, as a player was, oh, they just like hanging around the team.
They want to be around the players. The, I never, I never considered it to be a track for guys that wanted to coach. And it may not have even been as much of that back again. We’re talking 30, some odd years ago. Obviously the, it changed, I think a little bit, it’s become much more of a route into coaching than probably it was when I was playing, but I’d never even, it never even crossed my mind.
I think it’s interesting. Like what you talked about that here you are as a college student, just like the players are college students and you’re hanging out with those guys and you’re eating with them and you’re going out. You’re you’re right there, kind of with them going through it.
And yet when they go away from practice, you’re going to walk in and sit down in the coach’s office and you kind of then become that conduit puts you in a kind of a difficult spot. Was there a particular player or players that you, that you bonded with that you became better friends with over the course of your career?
And then just, how did [00:43:00] you develop those relations?
Paul O’Connor: [00:43:02] Yeah, there definitely was definitely was. I mean, even, even to the point where you know, we’d be like hanging out over the summer or people would like trap, we would like travel to see each other, things like that. I honestly, I think it just happens naturally where you’re around them all the time.
You start to vibe with certain guys or whatever it is. And yeah, it just, it just kind of happened naturally. Now I will say it did change pretty quickly from Ohio U to Providence because you know, the GA it’s, now it’s a slight step up above a manager, but it’s still a, it’s still a step up in terms of you’re not, I’m not, I never went out with the guys at Providence.
Like I just wasn’t doing that. And so that was certainly a different dynamic and it was much more. You know, I was more tasked with of course, a ton of video and then just like backend operational stuff, travel and meals and all that stuff. But really my job was like, all right, of course I had to do all the film for the [00:44:00] coaches, but then I was a code school that gave me some rain to like show players, Phil.
And so that’s really where I developed my relationships at Providence was like Vince council was the point guard. When I was there and it was like, all right, Vince, like, look like, we’re going to go over your last you know, last four games, all your shots or whatever it was. And that’s where I started to build bonds there because to them, I think they looked at me and I’m sure maybe this happens across the board with gas is like, I’m, non-threatening like I don’t control your playing time.
I don’t control, I don’t control anything actually. So I’m just telling you from two eyes that here’s what, here’s what we see. You know, here’s maybe some tidbits, here’s some things to improve, whatever it is. And I think they just really appreciated the honesty because there was no reason for me, what am I going to sugar coat?
Like, I’m not, I didn’t recruit you. I’m not recruiting. You know, I, I’m not, I don’t need to like, keep you fluff you up and like, keep you happy. Like I’m not, I don’t need to do any of that. Like, that’s [00:45:00] all the coaches jobs, man. Like here’s what I see. Like you’ve been lazy on the ball screens or you’ve been phenomenal in the, whatever it is.
Like that’s where I really developed the relationships at Providence.
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:11] What did you learn in those, in that first year that you were at Providence? Just from a basketball standpoint, what were some things that you picked up as a coach that you could then relay to the players? Was it player development stuff?
Was it X’s and O’s was it scouting? What, what do you feel like you’ve learned. The most, or maybe what was the area where you came into coaching was sort of the least amount of knowledge that you feel like you were able to build up to speed quickly as you got into it more
Paul O’Connor: [00:45:43] I mean, that was a hundred percent I’m happy you said like up to speed or like, I didn’t, I didn’t realize how little I knew about basketball and I had been playing and around it and again, like managers have no impact in the coaching, so it’s not like we [00:46:00] were really doing any of that.
Of course, for watching video, we’re helping prepare scouting reports for sure, but we’re not coaches. And I didn’t realize how little I knew about X’s and O’s until I got to Providence and really got to sit because we had three GA’s, each da was assigned to an assistant coach and the Scouts rotated each coach.
And so you know, my first year I was with coach Bob Simon. My second year I was with coach Brian Blaney and the. Level of detail that these guys, no, go into make sure that, and again like this, probably another, another like side tangent that we can talk about like what players actually retain.
But again, like the coaches are going to go through it. Right. I mean, they’re going to prepare for everything. And I just, I just realized, man, I never watched basketball this way. And now it’s gotten to the point where like, I can’t watch basketball without like pausing it and being like, oh, that was a really cool, awesome rotation that they [00:47:00] did like, no it’s like torture.
But I, that was a huge transition for me. And it’s just because you sit there and you literally watch hours of film for two straight years. Like of course you’re gonna get better at it. So that was a big transition. I really, I just did not realize how little I knew until you just study and have to scout.
Mike Klinzing: [00:47:20] I think universally that, especially if you’ve played. I think you have this perception that you understand the game at whatever level it is that you understand it as a player. And yet when you realize, and you look at what goes into being a good coach and what goes into putting together an offensive and defensive system and all the X’s.
And O’s, I think most people quickly come to the realization that, Hey, I don’t really know a whole lot. And I think about my own experience as a player and then going to be a coach for the first time. And the only things I knew were the things that I learned from my high school coach, the things I learned from my college coach played for the same high school coach.
My entire career played for the same college coach for four years. Never went [00:48:00] to another team’s practice. Never really saw anybody. Yeah. Do anything from a coaching standpoint. So when I started coaching my first team, the only things I did from a drill standpoint from an X’s and O’s standpoint were what I had been taught and what I had learned and what I had done as a player.
And when you think about how limited that is, I mean, it’s kind of incredible that I survived at all in coaching. I just never had, I was never a person for whatever reason, I think whether it was ego or it was just the fact of, Hey, I’m good enough to be good enough that I was never somebody that unfortunately that sought out X’s and O’s and studied tape and done all do, did all those things, especially as a young coach, I just, I just didn’t do that then I, I think back on it and I just wonder that had my initial experience has maybe been a little bit different or if I’d have approached it a little differently, maybe that would have taken me in a different direction as far as coaching goes, and I’m not unhappy in any way, shape or form with what I ended up [00:49:00] doing and how I ended up doing it.
But you kind of look at it. Hey, there was so much that I didn’t know. And I was even a step behind you cause I didn’t even realize it. You know what I mean? You at least got into it and you’re like, oh man, there’s a lot of stuff I got to learn from these guys. Whereas I was kind of like, well, this is what I’m doing.
And I, I’m just, I’m just going to kind of go ahead and do it this way. And my first two years of coaching, I coached the JV team and the two guys who were the varsity coaches, one guy had been the coach for, I dunno, he might’ve been there for 40 years. It was his last season was my first season. So he obviously had very little he wasn’t looking to mentor a 22 year old kid who was coming into this program.
And then the next year a guy who did kind of watch out for me, but he was also, his veteran assistant would have probably been his assistant for like 25 years, took over the program. And so it just was, it just wasn’t on their radar and it wasn’t on mine for whatever reason. And to your point, I think that there’s so much.
Any young coach has to learn that you just, you have no idea until you get around the great [00:50:00] basketball minds that we have. There’s so many people that are so good at X’s and O’s at every level of every level of basketball, you can talk about all, all the levels of college basketball. You can talk about some of the high school coaches that are out there that are just tremendous tacticians and teachers of the game.
That, and there’s so much more opportunity, I think now to learn just because of the advent of whether it’s huddle or just being able to go on YouTube. If you’re not affiliated with a team, you don’t have a huddle account. And there’s just so many ways to learn now that weren’t accessible even 10 years ago.
Paul O’Connor: [00:50:30] Yup. A hundred percent. Yeah. I mean, I think that to talk to your like player point of view versus coach’s point of view, I think that’s spot on. I think a lot of players are thinking from a very surface level or like one checkers move and the coach has thought about. The next four moves of every decision that you’ve just thought of, right?
Like there’s a reason we’re doing it this way. I don’t have time to explain it to you in the game, but like, okay, if you want to do this on the ball screen, this is why we can’t do [00:51:00] it, but you know, whatever, whatever the situation is. But like, that’s what I learned too, is, is the strategy behind it and how in depth those meetings got if we’re playing you know, Syracuse on the road and we’re thinking about all the different like, looks we’re going to do, or are we just going to keep it simple and try and score?
I mean, it, like, we, we threw out everything and so. It’s about like having a United front and presenting it to the players, but the players just see that. So they’re like, well, why don’t we try this? Or why don’t we try that? And it’s like, well, we did all that. We tried all that on the whiteboard, or we tried this in practice and it didn’t, we’re like, that’s, I mean, like the, the really good ones they can see four or five moves ahead, you know?
And that was just, I mean, I never got there. I mean, that’s, that’s for the, that’s where the coaches that are so coaching
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:47] well, and ultimately I do think from a player perspective, even the most unselfish players out on the floor to some degree, when you’re thinking about what you do in practice or what you do in games, you’re mostly looking at it through the lens of [00:52:00] how does it affect me.
Sure. And even if I’m a great passer and I’m on selfish out on the floor, I still want to be put into positions where I can take advantage of that particular skill and make passes or do whatever it is that I do. And as a coach, obviously you’re concerned with a much bigger picture. And then just what impacts any one individual player.
And that goes to something that you mentioned a second ago, where you talk about the amount of depth that coaches go into on a scouting report and amount of film that they watch. And then you think about what a player can retain. And I remember we would get, when I was at Kent, we get like a two page scouter report that would have some stuff about the team.
And then there’d be some individual information about personnel that you might look at, oh, you’re going to be guarding this guy. So there’d be no four sentences about what that player like to do. And I think back to reading through that and just basically my eyes glazing over and just be like like just you’re like, I just, I this, this just clutters up my head.
I need to just go out and play and play my game and do the things that do the things that [00:53:00] I do. And you, I think you rely more on the, on the physical side of it. And maybe there were some players that found more benefit in a scout report than I did, but I always just felt like, look what I did out on the practice for, from a physical standpoint of working through it and thinking about.
Was more valuable than anything that a coach handed me on a piece of paper. And obviously it’s much easier to watch video than it was back in the day when I was playing when you were VCR and try to rewind and hit the button and all the issues that go along with that, it’s much easier for coaches to get, clip up the video and get guys certain sequences and things.
They want them to see both about personnel and different actions or whatever that they might want to see. But when in your experience like what’s, what’s the ideal amount to share with players. We know the coaches are going to do a ton of work, but I what’s the ideal amount to share with a player let’s say at the division one college level that they’re actually going to retain and be able to use.
Paul O’Connor: [00:53:50] Yeah, I think the best that I’ve seen it. And even in my two year period at Providence, like we adjusted because even in the beginning we were just [00:54:00] throwing the kitchen sink at them. And like you said they were retaining a little bit of it. So I think it should be very much player-focused and.
Sometimes we even did. I think my second year at Providence, we would do comparisons. So we’d be like, all right, this guy’s a, this guy’s a Reggie Miller. This guy’s a JJ Redick. Like whatever, whatever great shooter you want to compare it to, like, that’s what you need to remember. That’s it shooter like you can’t let this guy open, like long closeouts.
Can’t be short, whatever. And then vice versa, right? Like this guy’s a driver left-hand driver. That’s it? Let’s I think the best coaches. What they attempt to do is just take away whatever they’re strongest at. You’re never going to take away 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but if you can take away what they’re best at, then I think that your scouting report worked.
Now, if you get beat if the best, if you get beat and you’re playing the team full of three point shooters and they, they go lights out from a pump, fake one dribble long twos. Well, then you got beat, like, okay, fine. But they [00:55:00] didn’t beat you with their threes. Like, I think most coaches can live with that.
So to me, I think it should be very much player focused and then just drill down there. One offensive play, whatever they do, 50% of the time just do that. Because as long as you’re like, as long as you’re teaching, like basic defensive principles, you’re guarding the same thing all the time. You’re guarding down screens, cross screams, back screens, ball screens, like you’re D you’re guarding that all the time.
So as long as you put it in your principles, like a play as a play, like you’re going to go. All those screens. So to me, it’s, it should be player-focused and then like one, maybe two offensive sets and that’s it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:55:38] Yeah. I think that’s really a good guideline. When you start talking about what players can retain and then can you actually use, I mean, I might be able to retain some stuff, but in order for me to be able to recognize it and be able to clutter my head with that, plus what I’m trying to do with our team and the offense that we’re trying to run and the defensive schemes that we’re trying to run, forget about just what’s specific to [00:56:00] the opponent.
I like breaking it down and giving them, Hey. Here’s one thing for the personnel, the guy that you’re gonna be guarding. And here’s one thing that is their main action. If we can take away that and we understand how to guard and do the things that we do, then we’re going to be able to have success. But it’s hard to do, especially when your coach, you have all this knowledge part of you I know, wants to share and be like, oh, I just, let me, let me give him more and more and more eventually it’s just like anything else there’s diminishing returns when you keep giving them when you keep giving them so much stuff, a hundred percent.
All right. Talk a little bit about some of your other stops along the way through your college coaching career, and then maybe we can get into why you decided to step away.
Paul O’Connor: [00:56:36] Yeah, for sure. So after the two years at Providence you know, I would have, I would have loved to have stayed there, but You know, people were really happy, nobody left.
So there was nowhere to go. So I I went to central Connecticut, which was just about an hour and a half a way, which was actually really cool for me because obviously born and raised in Connecticut. So you know, to coach for a school in the state I grew up in was very, very cool. I [00:57:00] worked for the head coach there at the time was how we decrement.
He is a long time Yukon assistant who got the job call it eight ninety six. So he had been there for a very long time. Had a really good, really good run at central Connecticut. I was there as the ops guy and I was there for a year to make a very long story short. It was a tough year on the core and off the court.
And the entire staff actually ended up leaving obviously besides coach Dickerman. So one, one guy got out. Another guy became an a D at a high school. And that actually two guys got out. And then I went down to Kennesaw state and was the ops guy for two months and then got promoted to the assistant in August because our third assistant left.
So it was like, it started off as, as the most perfect perfectly timed move. I felt like a genius, even though it was just pure luck. And you know, at the end of the year everybody in this business [00:58:00] says you’re not in the business until you get fired. Our head coach got fired. So it went from man, this is going to be great.
You know, my girlfriend at the time now wife was in love with Atlanta. She was in love with her job. We were like, holy crap. And I, and I, I most people may not admit this, but I actually never wanted to be a collegiate head coach. I wanted to be a high major division, one assistant, and that.
That’s all I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be the guy doing the interviews. I wanted to be the guy walking past the head coach as he had to deal with the press. That’s that’s all I wanted to do. Now kind of saw I had not reached my goal, but I was a division one assistant coach at the age of 25.
And I was like, I mean, I made it like, this is it. This is all I want to be doing. I was, I was in love with it. I’m in love with the process. I loved every minute of it, but our head coach got fired. And yeah, I can tell you about what happened after that. I guess I keep going, keep going. Yeah. So I think this was my, this was my first real [00:59:00] bad experience with college hoops is where, so the head coach got fired.
You know, we, we were on the remainder of the assistant coaches were on a salary for like two more months or something like that. So we got to go to the final four and all that, but it was. It was honestly one of the toughest parts of my career because people that I talk to every day, every week, every month didn’t return my call or wouldn’t, wouldn’t get back to me or like weren’t re like I needed help like I needed somebody to, and I don’t care what it was like, let me go be an ops guy again or whatever, you know I needed help, but I wanted to stay in and I was willing to move.
And I mean, college coaches, they move you to probably on average, like every two, three years. So it didn’t really matter to me. I was young and it just didn’t happen to make another long story short. And I just had a really, really bad taste in my mouth for what I thought was going to happen [01:00:00] in terms of like the help, right?
Like, Hey, could, and by help, I mean like calls or emails or texts, the coaches or something, and it really just felt like, wow, This is it like you get fired and people were just like, and I didn’t even get fired. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like I did it. I did it, it wasn’t me. And I just, it just left me with this horrible, horrible feeling.
And I thought, man, this is going to happen again. Right? Like the odds are that I’m going to work for a staff. If I stayed in college basketball, my entire career, that’s another 40 years. I’m probably going to work for a staff that gets fired. And I don’t ever want to experience this again. And I don’t ever want to feel like all these relationships that I built over the past eight years.
Like I can’t call on like, why, like, why isn’t, why aren’t people willing to help. And so it just left this horrible feeling and I thought, you know what, let me let me get out of it for a bit. Honestly, the intention was not to get out altogether. And I could have gone probably like [01:01:00] to a junior college in Kansas and made $10,000 a year and gotten like free food.
But that just wasn’t just like. It just wasn’t in the cards for me at that point. And so I got out, I got a sales job. I made more money than I ever had. I experienced what Saturday and Sundays are, that’s called the weekend for college coaches. And you know, I just thought, okay, like maybe this is it.
And then I had an opportunity through actually college former college coach. His name is Michael Murphy coach that his last stop was at Columbia and he, and he formed a a youth sports organization up in New York city. And that was in 2016. We had gotten fired the spring of 2014.
So I took a year off. I stayed in Atlanta doing the sales job. I moved up to New York and I was back in like the youth hoops, AAU coach in high school thing. And once I did that, I quickly saw man, I, I really don’t miss it. And somebody actually coach Aaron foos. Who’s I can say too is again, coming to the clinic.
He put [01:02:00] it perfectly to me when I was, when I was fresh out a couple months, and I knew I wasn’t gonna get back in. And the season was starting. He said, listen, man, like the grass is not always greener. Like, enjoy where you’re at. Like take a year off. You can always try and get back in.
But he framed it to me like this. He said, I really work for 31 days out of the year. And I was like, what are you mean? And he’s like, I worked for game days. He’s like, because there is no feeling that can replicate that in like the normal corporate America where like real nine to five traditional real world.
He’s like, I worked for those 31 days. He’s like, there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like working and preparing and scouting to try and beat an opponent. And then you go out and you do it. There’s like no better feeling. And I was like, that is a hundred percent true. And I’m not all those guys that are like, oh, it’s a grind.
It’s a grind. It’s a grind. It’s like you work a lot. Don’t get me wrong. But like we coach basketball. Know, we’re not saving the world. We’re not rocket scientists. We’re not doctors like it’s a lot, but when he put it that way, I was like, man, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back after hearing [01:03:00] that, like, you’re you’re right.
You work for 31 days and you hope you get 20 wins. Right. Just survive. I was like, man. So it just, it just, once I got to the youth side and I could scratch the itch, cause don’t get me wrong. Like I always say coaching is a disease. It is in your blood if you need to do it and I need to do it, but I’m so happy that I do it at the youth and high school level.
It, that that’s perfectly fine with me.
Mike Klinzing: [01:03:26] So is it the, I don’t know, pressure’s maybe the wrong word. Is it the time commitment? Is it? What do you like about let’s let’s frame it in a positive way. What do you like about what you did with kids in the game and then what you’re doing now with pro skills.
What’s the positive part of that for you? What do you really enjoy about what you’re doing now and what you’ve been doing since you got out of college coaching?
Paul O’Connor: [01:03:51] Yeah, I would say there’s no nonsense. There’s, there’s college coaches joke all the time that [01:04:00] actually coaching basketball is like 10% of their job.
Whereas now coaching basketball is 100% of my job. Like that’s what I do when I’m coaching. Whether it’s high school or an eighth grade team here in Columbus or New York city, that was the best part. And yeah, I mean, pressure’s one thing like, yeah, you got to win and all that stuff, but it’s just, you kind of get back to the root of it.
You get back to the basics and you remember that you enjoy coaching because you enjoy helping people. You enjoy. I love the process. Watching a kid improve. And that moment that it clicks for him of like, maybe he’s been struggling for a while or he can’t go last or he’s not a good shooter or whatever it was.
And he puts in the time and we like work at it and work out at work at it. And then he succeeds in a game. He or she succeeds in the game. I mean, there’s nothing better than that. No matter what level, USA basketball, all the way down to third grade, you know CYO. So I think that it’s like, I really got down to the root of it and I was like, huh, like I love, I wanted to coach [01:05:00] college forever.
I’ve loved my experience in it. I hated how it ended. And I just didn’t want to go through that again. So I was like, well, if this is going to satisfy my, my addiction to coaching, then I’m, then I’m good. I mean, this is, this is, this is perfect for me.
Mike Klinzing: [01:05:15] Absolutely. A better schedule for sure. More, more conducive to being married and more conducive to family, for sure. Moving forward, the number of coaches that we’ve talked to, we all know the amount of time that it required. Again, no matter what, the level of coaching, it’s always, it’s always a challenge is to be able to balance balance your family and balance, balance basketball and the needs of your basketball team.
There’s no doubt about that. How did you get connected to Brendan and Logan with pro skills? Give us the story behind that.
Paul O’Connor: [01:05:45] So I was at kids in the game. I started there in June, 2016. You know, I helped launch their, their you know, basketball programming and then just re what I was really, my, my main job was business development there.
So it was really just [01:06:00] growing the youth sports startup as a whole. And basketball was one of the programs there. So grew a team from really nothing to about like eight or nine travel teams and summer camps and clinics, and everything that a youth basketball organization does. I actually got connected with them through a friend J D who was working with them in New York city.
And the original plan was for me to leave kids in the game and basically start pro skills basketball in New York city. And that was like June, 2019. I flew down to the J Billis skills camp that they help with down there in Charlotte and met with them and you know, had an unbelievable time.
Those guys were fantastic. Really everybody they hire, but, but Logan and Brendan specifically are amazing. And again, to make another long story short, it didn’t work out at the time. I stayed with kids in the game for another two years and then they always joked because I always doped at them [01:07:00] too.
I said, Hey, look. My clock is running out on New York city. My wife is from Columbus. I can only convince her to renew our lease a couple more years. Like my runway is running out. I was like, do you, are you sure you want me to like, launch this thing and then leave? And so again, long story short, like we were going to do it and it didn’t work out for whatever, but they always joked, like as soon as you move to Columbus, we’re launching it.
And lo and behold, I moved out here. In October I knew we were going to move out here a couple of months before then and called him and said, all right, like, here we go. Let’s do it. And and that was it. And so we launched a pro skills, basketball Columbus technically in October, but our programming started in March and here we are.
So it’s been a, it’s been a fun ride.
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:42] So what does it look like trying to build a youth basketball organization? I’m not, not completely from scratch, obviously, because pro skills has a lot of things in place to help you to be able to be successful, but still you have to go out. Hit the pavement and get people [01:08:00] to be aware of what pro skills is because it’s a new thing in a new city and the state of Ohio, I could speak for the Cleveland area and I’m sure Columbus is no different.
There’s so many different organizations that are out there. It seems like everybody hangs out a shingle and has an AAU club, whether they have 30 teams or they have two teams. And so how did you go about just getting things started? What was the process for making people aware of what you were doing and trying to get kids in the door?
Paul O’Connor: [01:08:26] Yeah, I mean, to be honest with you, it’s, it’s been a, a challenge. You know, I’m, I’m from the east coast, that’s where most of my connections were. So like me going from Atlanta to New York, I already knew a ton of people in New York that were able to. So it was actually much easier for me to do this in New York city, just due to the connections that I had.
And just the nature of what I was doing. Like that was my full-time job was to grow a youth sports organization. So I was focused on it from nine to nine that’s just what I did. Here I, I have a full-time job. I do PSP on the [01:09:00] side and I don’t know anyone. So honestly, the, the thing that really helped was me coaching high school at Olin Tangee orange and I got to meet a ton of different coaches and I really just learned, right?
Like it took months for me to learn the landscape who are the big players here, like you know, who do I need to meet? Where do, where do our players play, right? Like where do our JV kids play? Where do our varsity kids play? And I need to go meet them. And where are the big gyms here in Columbus and who do I need to talk to?
And, and that’s what I love to do. I love meeting people. I love forming partnerships, relationships, and kind of building things. So That comes natural, but it has been a struggle to get our foot in the door with coaches. For whatever reason, the, the two to three main clubs down here have, have done such a phenomenal job of scooping up all the middle school and high school coaches.
And then they coach for the, that particular AAU program. So, so many coaches that I talked to, right. In the, in the early days, they’re like, oh yeah, [01:10:00] man, like best of luck let me know I can help, but I coach for blah, blah, blah. And I coached for here. And I was like, man, like, okay, like, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board a little bit here.
So we started off slow. We have one eighth grade team you know, we have two coaches and you know, it’s, it’s been going well, but I, I was just surprised in terms of. You know, in New York city, like you walk out, like to your point, like you walk outside, you blow a whistle and there’s like 10 people who want to coach for you here.
It’s, it’s just much different it’s a little bit smaller, obviously. There are a lot of organizations, but I would say the organizations have more of like a stranglehold where like in New York city, there’s more, but there’s also more kids. There’s more opportunity, you know? So it’s, it’s just a little different, but yeah.
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:43] Yeah. I think that’s really, when you look at what the biggest challenges are in terms of trying to build something you’re right. That there, I don’t know for whatever reason, state of Ohio Cleveland area, Columbus area. I just think that there is, there is organizations that have huge teams. And [01:11:00] then what you find too with that is that parents are like, well, this, this organization has X number of teams.
And so just by default, they kind of. Good players. And so now if I have a good player while I want my good player to play with other good players, I want them to get into these tournaments. It’s just, it’s a very interesting world. I kind of laugh. When you said that you, you got to live with the college coaching, you got to leave behind some of the silliness that I was going to ask you.
You haven’t been to an AAU tournament to see some of that. Oh,
Paul O’Connor: [01:11:27] well, that’s a different
Mike Klinzing: [01:11:29] level of, yeah, that’s a whole nother, that’s a whole nother depth finishing of silliness, but it’s just a, again, it’s an interesting, the AAU world is an interesting one. I think that’s one of the things that I really like about what pro skills is trying to do is it’s not just about throwing it together in a routine.
It really is about coaching. It really is about development and their year round model and incorporating camps and training into what they do. I think it’s a, I think it’s a really great model. It’s just like anything else in the basketball world that [01:12:00] people have to be made aware and they have to be educated.
And as you said, I mean, that’s really a full-time job in all honesty.
Paul O’Connor: [01:12:07] Yeah, for sure. And I would say too about PSB, what I love the most about it. And besides like, even the mission statement where we’re like, yes, we want to change the culture of youth basketball, but everyone that works there drops the ego.
I honestly think the ego is like the root of almost every problem we have across the board name, an industry name. I mean, politics, everything, everything stems down to ego and you will never hear a PSP coach or administrator or anyone say, yeah, that’s my. That’s out like, like, and that’s just one example, right?
Like that, that, that is everywhere in youth basketball. Like I trained him, that’s my player. That’s my height. It’s like, no, that’s not the freaking point, man at all. I don’t care at all. Whether the kid is mine [01:13:00] or yours, how can I help? How can we help? Can we help him? Let me know, let me, what does he need?
What does she need? Like that is drilled into right? Whoever they hire. And Brandon and Logan has made that like paramount, like all the way to we run Steph Curry’s AAU teams. Like those guys, like it’s not about that. It’s about helping and truly buying into, okay. We can’t, apparently we cannot change the culture from the top down.
So we need to change the culture from the bottom up. And how are we going to do that by hiring really, really good people who don’t give a damn about getting. For anything, it’s just, you’re in it for the right reasons. You love coaching basketball and helping people period. Hard stop.
Mike Klinzing: [01:13:46] All right. So that’s maybe one thing that you would change about the youth basketball space.
Is there something else that jumps to mind when you think about your experiences and you look at the landscape in total, what’s something that if you could just take in wave your magic [01:14:00] wand, what’s something that you would change about our current youth basketball system that you could make better?
Paul O’Connor: [01:14:04] Oh, man. I may get in trouble for this, but you know, I think one of my, I have a, I have a lot of dreams, but I, I would say one of my dream jobs is to be like the czar of youth basketball and to actually create standards, qualifications, guidelines, and rules around it. Right now we have massive organizations and brands, the NBA, USA, basketball that put out good content and meanwhile, But they, and I don’t even think they can, so I’m not faulting them, but like there’s no enforcement.
So I would try my absolute best. This would be impossible almost to do national. You would need hundreds of millions of dollars and resources and people, but to actually enforce like strong, like just like high school does, if we can do it at the high school level, we can do it today. You level [01:15:00] guidelines around it and, and all the way down to the nitty-gritty of it.
Hey, like if you join one team, you can’t just play for nine teams in one year. You know, like that, that always bothers me. You know, like the Jersey show up on a
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:12] different team, different team every weekend, this year, my son’s team. But like, like, Hey, I just saw
Paul O’Connor: [01:15:19] different teams, equity, like, like nitty gritty details like that.
I, from a high level, I would just like to create that whatever it is from people from the junior NBA or a pro skill, like whatever, that, that I would love to create a true, like, I call it a governing body or new organization, whatever it is, or maybe what actual AAU was supposed to do when they were created 30 years ago or whatever, it was like, let’s have them do it, but I would try and create something like that, that brought like organization to it.
And then from like a grassroots level, I just wished we talked to each other more. It has become a what’s the right way to put it. [01:16:00] A ground game where it’s like scooping up as many like kids and parents as you possibly can to come play for us, which is fine. I understand that I’m in it. Like that’s the business of youth sports, but I wish we talked to other organizations more and again, I’m new here.
So maybe people in Columbus do, and I’m just not a part of it. Yeah. But in New York city, it was like hit or miss. I just wish like, even the big, the big dogs in New York city, right. Like the Rens and Riverside and whatever. Like they do some of it, but I I always wish that like, there were like meetings once a month or something that we’re just getting together.
Like, Hey, like what’s going on with you? Or, or what can we fix? Or what do we think about doing an event or just something more communication amongst the million of youth sports organizations. I think that’s huge. Like we see each other at some conferences, maybe we go to a professional development, but like, other than [01:17:00] that, everyone’s just kind of in their own lane operating, like doing whatever they want.
So those would be the two things I would love to.
Mike Klinzing: [01:17:07] Yeah. It’s super territorial. I think that that’s a really way, a really interesting way to think about it is just people, as you said, they scoop up coaches, they scoop up players, they scoop up families and everybody kind of want to protect. They don’t, they want to protect what they, what they have, which is again, understandable from a business perspective, if somebody’s paying your organization and not paying mine that’s one notch down for my, for my business.
But I do think to your point that we could do a better job of at least collaborating, talking, whether it’s sharing best practices, just combining resources to be able to have better tournaments. And just those kinds of things, I think are things that are, are doable. But the problem is, again, I think there’s just, everybody has sort of their little Fife them and they’re happy to kind of stay in there as long as their business is moving along [01:18:00] and going in the right direction.
And it, again, like I said, it’s understandable because there is that business side of it, but you wish for the good of the game and for the good of the kids and the families that are part of it, that, that there could be a better system, but it would, as you said, it would take a lot of resources. It would take a lot of manpower to be able to do that.
And I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, but nonetheless, let’s wrap up. I want to give you an opportunity again, to share where people can go to get registered for the clinic, share how they can reach out to you, how they can find out more about PSB Columbus. Just give us all the social media, all the information that you can about how we can connect with you and get signed up for the clinic.
And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Paul O’Connor: [01:18:41] Sounds good. Yeah. So we’re hosting a clinic down here in Columbus, August 29th. You can go to proskillsbasketball.com and get information about it. There, you can go to our Instagram PSB Columbus, or you can email me Paul@proskillsbasketball.com.
[01:19:00] And yeah, we can get you registered that way.
Mike Klinzing: [01:19:02] Terrific, Paul, I cannot thank you enough for jumping on the hoop heads pod with us. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Paul’s podcast, the green light, which they touch on a lot of different basketball subjects, mainly focused on college basketball, him and his partner.
Make sure you go ahead and listen to that. Check that out. And it’s everyone out there. Thanks for listening.