Website – dagsbasketball.com
Email – email@example.com
Twitter – @DagsBasketball
Steve Dagostino is one of the Top Skill Development Coaches on the East Coast. Since 2008, ‘Dags’ has trained Multiple NBA Players, Over 50 College Players, over 40 High School Teams, and 1,000’s of Youth Players. He has dedicated his life to finding the most efficient ways to help players improve their game.
Steve Dagostino has also worked as a Skills Trainer with USA BASKETBALL. In the spring of 2018 he was a court coach for the U18 National Team Trials under coach Bill Self. In October of 2018 he was called back to work as 1 of 2 Skill Coaches during the newly establish USA Junior National Team Camp.
Steve played his college basketball at The College of Saint Rose where he was a 2-time MVP of the NE-10 Conference, 2-time D2 1st Team All-American, and 2-Time 1st Team Academic All-American.
After college Dags played professionally in Italy, Spain, Hungary, UK, and Iceland.
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Have your notebook ready to go as you listen to this episode with Steve Dagostino from Dags Basketball.
What We Discuss with Steve Dagostino
- Making a commitment to get better when he was in 8th grade
- His experience as a player at Five Star Basketball Camp
- Teaching out of FIBA 3 on 3
- Asking questions and talking trash with his players
- His thoughts on competitiveness
- Teaching fundamentals and then putting players into actions
- His evaluation process with new players
- Dominating the gym you’re in
- How he handles group workouts with players of varying skill levels
- Has the “experience” been taken out of youth sports?
- Giving his players the opportunity to make decisions on their own and not coaching them through every moment
- Wanting to play D1, ending up with an awesome D2 career
- Players can control their productivity in high school
- The first question he would ask players if he was a college coach
- Building his training business on honesty and value
- Focusing on what he can control as a trainer and ignoring the rest
- Helping players learn they’re not going to be perfect every day
- How he got involved with USA Basketball
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THANKS, STEVE DAGOSTINO
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TRANSCRIPT FOR STEVE DAGOSTINO – BASKETBALL SKILLS TRAINER & FOUNDER OF DAGS BASKETBALL – EPISODE 306
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle, and tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast, Steve Dagostino from Dags Basketball. Steve, welcome to the podcast.
Steve Dagostino: [00:00:12] Thanks for having me guys.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:13] We are excited to have you on dig into all the things you’re doing with the game of basketball.
Want to start out by going back in time to when you were a kid. Talk to us a little bit about how you fell in love with the game when you were younger.
Steve Dagostino: [00:00:24] Yeah, definitely. So, I mean, I’ve basically been playing my whole life. I have one older brother who’s two years older than me. He was a basketball player.
My father’s been a high school basketball coach since man, he was in college, I believe in like the early seventies and he played at Castleton University in Vermont. And his senior year, they had a new coach come in and the coach decided like, Hey, you know, you’re not playing here anymore, but I’ll hook you up with a, a JV coaching job at a local high school.
And so he began his coaching career. You know, his senior year of high school and, [00:01:00] has kind of followed it all the way through with some, absences here and there for, you know, the birth of my brother and I, and, and some other, you know, life events as well. But, you know, so we’re, we’ve been a basketball family and, just growing up, watching my brother play and being able to play with him and his friends, I always knew that that was like something that I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until, eighth grade.
Basically where, you know, I really, I got a chance to go to five star and Eastern invitational, which is now hoop group. and then another, regional slash national camp, hoot mountain, as a middle schooler. And that kind of opened my eyes to, Hey, there’s a lot of really good basketball players out there, and there’s a lot of people that are dedicating, you know, every day to becoming a really good basketball player.
So by the time I was in eighth grade, I kind of. You know, sat myself down in the room and said, like, if this is something that you want to do, you’re not going to be big. You know, my dad’s five 11, my mom’s five foot two, you’re not going to be super strong, [00:02:00] but you know, you can be, you can be skilled. So,
I made kind of like a commitment to myself starting in eighth grade.
He’s like, listen, I’m going to do something every single day in order to get better and let’s just see where this thing goes. And so that kind of started my journey with, with actually with player development. So. I was just so you guys have like a reference to, and some people out there who, who kind of don’t know my story.
I was, five foot three as a freshmen. in high school, played JV five foot six, as a sophomore in high school, played varsity. and then, you know, my last two years, I was five, 11 as a junior senior, about 135 pounds. but. Why play in the highest classification in New York state. led my team to a school record 21 wins, average 21 points a game, you know, six assists as a senior, played on the Nike sponsored Albany city rocks, up here in upstate New York as well.
[00:03:00] and got to travel to all the big Nike tournaments and play a good amount on those teams as well. So, I was able to garner some, some attention despite my size for, from an early age.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:13] So go back to when you were in eighth grade and you’re in essence, your first player development client. So what does that look like when you put that, when you start putting together your plan, where do you come up with what that practice regime is going to look like?
Are you talking to your dad? Are you making it up on your own? Are you watching Steve Alford, VHS tapes to talk to me a little bit about what you’re doing and how your. Going about putting together that plan to get you where you wanted to go.
Steve Dagostino: [00:03:41] Yeah. So it’s such a unique time, right? It’s not like now where like you can just pop on YouTube and find a million drills or million different, dribbling moves.
So obviously, you know, my dad was a big help being, being a high school coach, but he wasn’t, you know, people ask me all the time. Because I train now and I’m connected with a lot of [00:04:00] different families. Like, man, your dad must’ve been crazy. My dad was literally the opposite of crazy. He wasn’t the guy that was like, you need to go out and and work out and and go get your reps in.
It was almost the opposite of like, you don’t want to, you don’t want to work out today like, okay, it don’t work out like somebody else was working out. Just don’t cry about it later. You know when, when they’re beating you. So that’s kinda how he was. But his big thing was always shooting, like, you gotta be able to make shots.
And this was back in, you know, 1998, before the whole shooting thing. It kind of exploded. So, I got a bunch from him. I took a bunch from the camps that I was able to go to as a middle schooler, and then I was huge into. Pistol Pete. Homework. Basketball.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:41] Nice. There you go.
Steve Dagostino: [00:04:42] That’s it. So I took a little bit, from each of those as I first got started in eighth grade.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:48] Tell me a little bit about your experience at five star. We’ve had a bunch of different people on with different perspectives, both from a planning standpoint and a coaching standpoint. And then we were fortunate enough to have. [00:05:00] Karl Blum and Peter Robert Casey from Five Star today who own the brand and just talking a little bit about what it was like in the past, and then of course, what they’re going to do with it in the future.
So just share a little bit of your experience at five star, what that was like, and then maybe compare and contrast it to what elite players get an opportunity to do today.
Steve Dagostino: [00:05:18] Yeah. So, so the old five star is what the players nowadays need. The food was horrendous. Like literally, I remember just eating like loafs of bread because the food was so bad.
Long days outside. Tough competition, tough coaching. So it’s like if you didn’t love playing basketball and you didn’t love to compete. Like there was nothing else for you to grasp. Like it wasn’t like, Oh man, like, okay, like that stunk. Like, I got my butt kicked, but I’m going to go to the cafeteria and have a great meal.
Like, no, it was going to be even worse when you got into the cafeteria or the dorms or anything like that. So, you know, it was awesome. I mean, you literally to get a chance, especially as a kid who loved playing basketball, was passionate [00:06:00] about it, to get a chance to play for 13 hours, get coached. Very, very hard and you know, to be around some of the best players in the regions, last country, there was nothing like it.
And you know, listen, I’m open to you all these different camps, they all evolve and they change. For me as a player, if you contrast that with Eastern invitational, which is now hoop group, I, I like hated Eastern invitational. We played three games in a day, didn’t really do skill development stuff. You know, sat around the rest of the day.
If you were, you know, if you weren’t like, you know, nationally known or highly recruited, you got stuck on just like random outdoor courts, but like five star. It was different, man. It was like, it was, it was real. It was very, very real. And to me, that’s what players nowadays need. It’s like, listen, you’re going to find out if you’re a competitor.
You’re going to find out if you really love playing basketball when it’s 98 degrees out [00:07:00] and, and you’re getting yelled at for not getting back on defense. So, you know, those were kinda my, you know, first couple of forays into player development, camp drills, all that stuff. I love that. I
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:12] think that when I think back to, I went one time to five star, so I graduated from high school in 1988 so I went between the summer of my junior and senior year and my experience was very similar to yours from a standpoint of like I was the kid who loved being out there in the a hundred degree weather for sure. 13 hours a day and going to station 13 and getting all the drill work and the skill development, and then getting the opportunity to play with great players from all across the country.
And I think a big difference in that. I don’t know how it was for you when you were growing up in terms of playing pickup basketball, but like for me, I always spent so much of my time. Outside playing basketball on the blacktop and kids today just don’t do that in the same way. That’s not to say that kids are never playing outdoors, but you start getting [00:08:00] into higher level play, especially at the high school level and kids just aren’t playing basketball outside the way it was done 20 or certainly 30 years ago.
The way I grew up, and I think to your point, I love what you said where he said, this is what kids today. Need, and I think you’re talking about it from the tough coaching, from just putting themselves in position to not only play games, but also to get that skill development side of it. Because I think that’s something that when you look at the situation that we have today, it’s like a balance between either kids or playing a few games, which are organized to some degree, depending on where you’re playing and who you’re playing with.
And then you have the skill development side where. Guys are working one-on-one or maybe in a small group. And then I think what kids honestly are missing is that pickup aspect where you can go out and just play and maybe you’re playing against players who are a little worse than you, so you can work on just, all I’m going to do is drink with my left hand are all I’m going to do is work on this particular skill, or you’re playing with players who are better, and then you’ve got to figure out how to play a [00:09:00] role.
So that you keep getting to beyond the court, and I think that’s something that if I look at the system today, it would be great, as you just said, if we could figure out a way to get that five star model back into the current basketball system.
Steve Dagostino: [00:09:14] If you just clipped your last two minutes of, of, you know, this conversation, that’s like the model for my player development. So like I think what we do a lot with our players and now we’ll have to go back to like the individual stuff. after this whole Corona virus thing is done just because of numbers you’re going to have in the gym. But we rarely do individuals anymore. A lot of our stuff is within groups where I teach a lot out of FIBA three on three.
So we’re teaching while they play. And like a lot of times what that looks like, cause I think guys are too focused on skill development. I think. You know, they can do all the cone drills. I can do all that stuff, but like, they can’t do it against a live defender. They can’t, you know, they don’t know how to be coached while they’re playing.
So like, there’s times [00:10:00] where we’ll take our better high school and our college players, like a, an hour workout with them. It looks like they come in, we do, finishing, ball handling warmup and shooting for about 20, 25 minutes. And then we pick an action and we wrap it out in FIBA three on three for the next half an hour or 35 minutes.
And sometimes like my coaching method varies. Sometimes it’ll be talking them through the actions, asking them questions on what they’re seeing. But a lot of the times it’s just me talking trash to them. So like they don’t get that. But what they do like, and some players can be overly sensitive, but it’s like, you know, a kid gets scored on twice.
Instead of being like, Hey, you need to drop your left foot and slide like, listen, players don’t care about that. They don’t want to hear that. Especially in a workout when it’s, when it’s, you know, the middle of the summer. But if you tell him like, yo Jordan, you’re going to let Joe like blow by you twice and get two easy buckets too.
That’s crazy. That’s, I don’t know how, I don’t know how your teammates are even, are even playing with you [00:11:00] right now. That’s, you know, they get that that’s real because now you’re calling them out in front of you. They’re their teammates. Guess what? It doesn’t matter how they drop their foot. They’re going to keep that guy in front of them the next time.
So a lot of this stuff you’re saying, we do try to teach in their model because there’s, there does seem to be like two sides of the player development spectr you know, ones like straight skill development and, and footwork and fundamentals and, and you know, pushing the boundaries on, on, you know, what you can do when you can pick the ball up, how many steps and like the other side is like.
You should only do stuff that translates to gain. So it’s only, you know, one on one and two on two in a games based approach. And like for me, I work with so many different levels of players and so many different types of players that there’s a balance. But the one thing everybody does need that. Like when you were growing up and continue, like when I was growing up, I didn’t play outside, but I used to go to the Y and play pickup all the time is guys don’t, and girls don’t get the competitive side of it now.
Like. You’re on the court. If you [00:12:00] lose, you’re gonna have to sit for 15-20 minutes and not do anything like that. It’s hard to replace that. Being competitive now is a skill, and I know that coach has always talked about like listening is a skill now. And you know, working hard is a skill now being competitive as a skill because in, in 1985 and I was, you know, you guys probably watched the Jordan documentary too, like those guys that are on the court are going to beat the crap out of you.
And, and if you’re not competitive, you’re not even going to have a chance to play at those different levels. Now it’s different. You can not be the most competitive person, but you can be six, seven, it’s skilled. Right and fly around the court and the coach has to constantly be on you to play hard and get back on defense and all that good stuff.
so, so, you know, trying to go back to your point there, like what you said is, is spot on. It’s exactly what kids need nowadays.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:52] All right. So let me ask you this. I heard you say that you have the balance between the straight skill development. When [00:13:00] people think of skill development where you’re just.
Working against a cone, or you’re working on footwork, or you’re working on specific movements with your body, and then you have the more games based approach. So does your balance within a workout vary depending on the age level that you’re working with? In other words, if you have a bunch of college players together, how does that balance look versus if you have a bunch of seventh graders together?
Steve Dagostino: [00:13:22] Yeah, it, I think it varies by age. It varies by, for our older guys, it varies by what each individual like actually needs. but I, I think it’s like for younger players, I think it’s really, really important for them to have the fundamental base. So like to build their foundation very, very strong so that, you know, they have the dribble moves, they can get by a defender, they can come to two feet in the paint.
They have pretty good shooting form. Once they have like that base, then you can kind of move on to like different one-on-one scenarios with them. Like it doesn’t. To me, it doesn’t have, and [00:14:00] I’ve done this, like I’ve spent so much time with young players on, Hey, like here’s how to set a screen and here’s where you slip a screen.
Like, yeah, that’s, that’s good. And eventually they’re going to need to know that, but a player needs to be able to dribble the basketball and make layups with both hands off at either foot and have that skill base. And then you can put them into the actions, right? There’s, listen, let’s be real. You guys watch college basketball.
There’s a lot of college basketball players that are horrendous at setting screens and can’t set a screen and don’t even understand when to slip it, when to hit all that good stuff. You know what I’m saying? So like, so, so yeah, it’s a balance. And like, so we had a kid, Joe Krema was his name and he used, and so this, this goes back to with him, I’m going to talk about like.
The fundamental guys like, Oh, Hey, you know, these kids need to come to two feet and they need to be fundamental. He was mr fundamental. to the point where they won two state championships in high school. His team was unbelievable. Pass the ball. Unbelievable. He played center and he was really like a shooting guard, but he played center for them.
We’ve posted up [00:15:00] and he spent his first three years at U Albany was a rookie of the year, all conference player, and then transferred to, to Villanova and you know, played sparingly last year for him, but one of big East champions, regular season and tournament championship. And like for him, his last two years, what we.
Like try to get him to do was add more, crap to his game. Like he was so robotic and so fundamental that to the point where like in high school we didn’t really shoot threes. We had to get him when he got to college to shoot threes on people because he never had to shoot contested threes cause they were a bad shot because he was mr fundamental, you don’t want to take a bad shot.
And it wasn’t until his junior year where he, he was 45% from three and that was one of the biggest reasons why he was able to go and play meaningful minutes for villain over the next year. Was because he added a little more like, Hey, you’re going to shoot contested shots. And every now and again it’s going to be a bad shot, but guess what?
You shoot 45% from three, so we’ll [00:16:00] take it, you know, and, and like, you’re going to have to have a little ISO in your game as well if you, if you want to really become a great shooter so that you can keep your defender off balance. So that’s, that kind of speaks to like, I see both sides. Yeah. You need guys.
And you wish that there were some guys that were super athletic, and flew around the court that they would be more fundamental. But. You know, you try to introduce and try and find what the proper balance is for each player.
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:24] All right, so what’s that onboarding process look like for you? When a kid first comes to you and say, Hey, I want to work with you.
Do you, are you watching their game tape? Are you doing a workout or two with them? They’re kind of putting together the plan, some combination of that. Just talk to us how you diagnose and figure out what is it that this kid needs that I can work with them on.
Steve Dagostino: [00:16:42] Yeah. So I think we have, like if you’re talking about middle school aged kids and like ninth and 10th graders, we have just kind of like a broad base of things that we touch on in all of our group workouts.
Cause again, we don’t do too many individuals for that age group, right? So we’re going to do ball handling. A lot of our ball handling, is having our [00:17:00] players have the ability to, you know, make one move or shift the defender and then get downhill. So we really work on. A lot of our stuff is with contact, so we’ll throw a defender on them, even if it’s just on their hip, that’s giving them contact all the time.
and so that they’re able to make, move, get downhill, come to two feet or finish. Then we work on like passing out of that. Then we do a ton of shooting drills. We do a ton of situational drills. We do a ton of finishing with, with kids off of both feet, off of, you know, inside hand finishes. Away from the back board finishes, floater game.
So we have like a broad base and then as they’re with us more and we start doing, you know, one-on-one. So we’ll put them into like driving kicks scenarios. We’ll put them into like a dribble handoff scenarios, all these games situations that happen a ton. And then from there, that’s kind of where we get individual with them, right?
So it’s like they’ve been with us for a couple of weeks and we know that [00:18:00] Johnny doesn’t like going to his left. Where now he’s coming off the handoff or like trying to, you know, you gotta do a better job going to your left. Or like if we have a guy, like we have a high school kid who’s going to Yukon next year, and when we go three on three, he’s not a great shooter.
And so he, and he literally flies like. Close to touching the top of the back board kind of athleticism and like, so when we play 303 there’s times where I tell them like, listen, if you have an open catch and shoot, I want you to shoot at every single time because I know that that’s what he wants to work on.
So I guess to answer your question, question, we have a broad base and then as we get into the playing aspect of everything, then we try to force the players to do stuff that we want them to work on within that game setting.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:38] That makes total sense. When you put together and you’re working in small groups, tell me how you go about balancing the playing ability of the players within that group.
So I’m assuming that with as large of a base as you have, just talk a little bit about how you. Put together, organize the groups so that you have kids, players of similar [00:19:00] ability. Just tell me what that looks like more from a business perspective as opposed to like a training perspective.
Steve Dagostino: [00:19:05] It’s interesting. We have what you would call like open groups like open registration. Anybody can sign up. Wedivvied them up by age and and and gender. and then for our older players, like our varsity level and above, we’ll have, it’ll be like invite only basically. So. You know that you’re going to have the same skill level.
And we, we allow, like, you know, some of the better players in the area, even if they’re younger, like we have a group of seventh grade kids that are really, really good. So their coach is like, Hey, we want to get these guys in their own separate groups. So like, you don’t have to worry about what those invite onlys or you know, that I’m hosting a group that’s always going to be the same.
A skill level, but it’s interesting. So we get a wide variety. So we’ll go like fifth through eighth grade is one group in ninth through 12th grade is a one group sometimes. And so it’s funny because you’ll get parents that come in and their kid’s pretty good, and then you get kids in there that like aren’t very good, [00:20:00] which I’m really good with.
Like I don’t, everybody can get better. It’s, you know, I don’t worry about that. But it’s interesting to see parents like panic. Like I don’t know if they should be in this room, but it’s funny because like, so what we’ll do, if there’s a big discrepancy, and again, let’s just say we have. 12 kids in a group.
We’ll keep it simple. If you have six that are similar, like pretty good and six that are like just okay, then that’s an easy split. You throw the six together that are pretty good, you throw the other six together that are just okay and you do all your skill work and competing out of that. Now, let’s say there’s.
You know, two that are really, really good and there’s 10 that are like just, okay. W what I’ll do is I’ll make sure that for that day we’ll have all of our playing. We’ll be out of one-on-one. So it doesn’t matter if the other 10 players could be the worst players in the world, and then you and your partner could be pretty close and are going to have good competition.
It doesn’t matter what everybody else is doing, you’re, you got to focus on the one guy that you’re going to be competing with. Every single day. The other thing, and I thought it was, [00:21:00] it was brilliant, what you said earlier is I think there is tremendous, tremendous value in both ends of the spectr
Number one, being able to crush somebody who is not as good as you, and number two, going against somebody that’s way better than you. That, that is going to crush you. So like, one of the things you guys have heard this too, it’s like if you’re the best player in the gym, like find another gym. I get it.
Like, that’s pretty good. It’s also a huge problem that kids have nowadays because they say they’re the best player in the gym, but they can’t even dominate that gym. Right? So like, I always try to tell people, you know, you’ll get it at camp a lot. Like, Oh, I want to move up. And you know, sometimes it camp, like whatever, move up.
There’s a hundred kids here, but. Like for players that I know, you know, have a future that like, listen, you need to be able to show me that you’re going to kill everybody here right now if you, if you’re just going to tell me and not show me, why would [00:22:00] I move you up? Like, why would I bring you to another gym?
You know, like, like what does that, that doesn’t make any sense. So I think that’s a huge problem with today’s generation as well too. you know, and that goes back to kind of what we were saying with not. Ever experiencing like losing a game and having to sit for 20 minutes. Cause guess what happens when you play a team that stinks and you know if you lose, you have to, you have to sit for 25 minutes. You’re not losing.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:23] you’re going to care. You take care of that game real quick.
Steve Dagostino: [00:22:25] Exactly.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:27] Well I think the other thing too, Steve, is that there’s a, there’s a mental component to those scenarios that you were just talking about in that if you’re. You got to learn how to be the best player on a team. If you’re really going to be good, then there’s probably a time when you’re going to be the best player on the team and you got to learn what that feels like, what those responsibilities are, and then conversely, this is a problem.
I think when you talk about players transitioning from the high school level to the college level, where you have kids who are high school stars, they go to college and all of a sudden they’re not the star anymore. And [00:23:00] even if they’re going to get on the floor as a freshmen, a lot of times they get on the floor.
In a role that’s significantly less than the role that they played in high school. Or they may get there and maybe there’s a senior ahead of them who’s just better than them or experienced, and then those kids don’t play at all. And because they’ve never played in a situation where they weren’t the best player, they’d never had to fit into a role.
They’ve never been in a gym where they’re the ninth best player instead of the best player. They have no idea how to adjust to that. And I think that’s something that when you look at the amount of transfers at the D one level in college, to me that’s a huge, huge issue, is just that mental side of trying to prepare kids for all different ways of looking at that spectr
Am I the best player? Am I somewhere in the middle? Am I a benchwarmer? Like I think you learn something from being at each one of those points at a team that you can take with you that can benefit your career no matter where you go.
Steve Dagostino: [00:23:54] And I think that goes back to like, experiences, right? So I [00:24:00] have this conversation with parents a lot too, is, you know, what is youth sports?
Like, what is youth sports like, why was it created? Why is it so big? how, why has it grown so much over that however many years? And it’s, the great thing about youth sports is that kids and parents. Get life experiences on the basketball court or on the soccer field or whatever it is, and you have to respond and it’s always teaching points, right?
So like, you know, you lose, how do you deal with that? The ref doesn’t give you a call. How do you deal with that? The coach takes you out. How do you deal with that? You have a terrible game. How do you deal with that? You win a championship. How do you, so like all these different things and what we’ve done.
As you sports has become such big business is we’ve taken the experiences out of it and it’s almost become like a controlled atmosphere. So like kids, they go and play and they play in a vacu Like I remember going and playing at the wire and I must’ve been like in 10th grade. And again, I was [00:25:00] five foot six, but I was, you know, one of the better players than my high school was on varsity as a sophomore.
And you know, there’d be days where I’d get on with my boys and we’d run the core and there’d be days where we’d go against like older guys and they would beat us. And I remember coming home one day and this older guy, and I say older, like, it’s so ridiculous.
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:21] Exactly. I know the exact feeling,
Steve Dagostino: [00:25:25] but he was talking crap to me, crazy and I, and it was the first time I’d ever really, really like experienced it and they were beating us.
I remember coming home and eat dinner. And I’m telling my, my dad, and we’re around at their table, I’m like, Scott, I’m going to shut up and blah, blah, blah. And he was just like dying laughing. And he’s like, he’s like, well, did you, did you win? And I was like, well, we ended up winning whatever, five games later.
And he stopped and like, and he’s like, well, then you know what you have to do in order to get him to stop. You don’t like players don’t have those experiences now because if they go someplace, they go to a gym to work out and there’s guys that they don’t think are better than them. You know, they’re not going to play or flip it [00:26:00] around.
There’s guys who like, if there are guys that are better than them, they don’t, they don’t want to go on and they’re scared to lose. You know? So like, and again, I think we’ve, we’ve turned into like, okay, here’s some issues with, with players nowadays. And my big thing is I always tell our players, this is.
Don’t give me your problems or complaints, just give me solutions. So like everything we’re talking about, I try and design our development programs and when I’m working with players to address all this. So like in an ideal world, a parent would come into the gym and I’d be coaching their kid on every single dribble and every single possession.
That’s what they want. That’s what they believe they’re paying for. But by me sometimes shutting my mouth and not saying anything and letting them work through it and figure it out, that’s how they’re really learning. That’s where the experience comes in, you know? So I mean, for me, it just keeps going back to when I first started.
You’re trying to organize a way for these kids to get developed to, to develop, and now it’s like, how do I reverse that and put them into more informal. [00:27:00] Situations where they’re kind of running the show, they’re making decisions, they’re playing for a half hour and talking each other through it, you know?
So it’s almost like the opposite of when I started 12 years ago.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:12] I completely believe it. So let me ask you this. When you’re talking to a parent and you’re using the technique that you just described, where you’re standing on the sideline and you’re not. Walking and talking through every single thing that’s happening on the floor.
So let’s say you’re in a situation where you’re going FIBA three on three and you’re standing, and maybe you’re not talking nonstop while you’re standing, the sign that you’re watching, and every 30 seconds or a minute, you’re interjecting some small set of directions or some, you know, whatever advice do you have to do you find yourself having to have conversations with parents, have to have those.
Explanations given to them so that they understand what it is that you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Cause I can see exactly what you described where there’s times where you’re working with a player and I know I’ve [00:28:00] done this. In the past when I’m working with somebody, you’ll be doing something and you’re standing there and the parents kind of out of the over on the side, you’re looking at them at the corner eye and you’re wondering, what’s this parent thinking while I’m standing here and you know what you’re doing and I know what I was doing, but sometimes the parent gets confused and then you have this miscommunication.
I’m just curious how you get that across to parents of the kids you’re working with.
Steve Dagostino: [00:28:21] So what I’ll do, and I don’t get that a lot. and I’ll tell you who I get it from the most in a second, but I don’t get it a lot. But what I’ll do is when I do end up interjecting, I’ll explain to the kid to, while the parent is obviously they’re listening, like I just let you guys go for a minute and a half and nobody’s communicating like, you guys can’t figure that out.
I want you to make the decisions, not me. Always have to tell you what to do and walk you through it. You know what I’m saying? So I explain it to the kid and the parent all at one. But who I get it a lot from actually, is our parents that are either youth coaches or you know, have coached or played before.
They’re very [00:29:00] eager a lot of times to coach cause they see their kid do something wrong and they want to correct it cause they want to help them. And like my whole thing is your not always going to be there. You’re not always going to be their coach. And like the last thing you want is your kid on the court looking at you in the stands.
You know? So like I saw the same thing you saw, I want your son or your daughter to figure it out on their own. I don’t want you to figure it out for them. You know?
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:26] That’s so true. And I think that if you look at youth sports and you look at the landscape and you just go to any game and you sit in the stands and you just watch people who are coaching their kids constantly from the stands and the number of kids that.
Anything happens out on the floor and they’re not looking at the bench at their coach, or they’re not looking at their teammates, they’re immediately, their head is on a swivel and they’re looking at dad, or they’re looking at mom to try and get advice. And it’s just something that I think, yeah, I mean, if you’re coaching, I can honestly say that in all the time that I played it, my dad coached me a lot when I was a kid growing up and leagues and [00:30:00] whatever.
But I can honestly say that when I played, I don’t ever remember once. Looking in the stands at my dad or honestly at anybody else ever when I played. And now you can go to any game and you’ll see half the kids at any given moment when something happens and the whistle blows, there’s like five heads that really turn and are looking up into the stands and it’s just.
If, if parents could only understand the damage that they’re doing by doing that, I think you’d see it go down, but people just, they just don’t get it. I, one of the things that I, we had John L. Sullivan who, is from the changing the game project and he, he coaches, he’s has a soccer background, but he does a lot of work with youth sports.
And he wrote a book called every moment matters, which is a great book. But one of the things that he said is that he tries to tell parents that, you know, the intelligence should be. In the game, not on the sidelines. And I think that’s what this conversation that you and I are having is all about. It’s like, good.
Yeah, I know. I can. I can stand over here and say all this stuff that I’m [00:31:00] seeing that the mistakes they’re making and things they should be doing, but if all they can, if they can only do it when I’m saying it constantly, then they never learn it and then they can never do it out on the floor when I’m not there.
When the parent’s not there. When the coaches there, we all know that basketball is such a split second decision making game that you got to give kids an opportunity to fail, to learn and figure out how to make good decisions.
Steve Dagostino: [00:31:20] Exactly. And I can literally, my dad was an assistant coach for me when I played at my high school.
And I can literally remember talking to him on the bench like four times. I played that game, the games or whatever. It was literally,
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:36] I believe it.
Steve Dagostino: [00:31:37] Crazy.
Mike Klinzing: [00:31:38] Yeah, it’s unbelievable. Alright, so let’s jump backwards since we took a nice tangent there and we’ll come back. We’ll come back to more of this and dig into it a little bit more, but let’s go back to your high school career when you were playing, talk a little bit about your recruitment, cause obviously as an undersized kid.
we know that there’s always a little bias. People are looking for size or looking for athleticism, and there’s this picture [00:32:00] that college recruiters, coaches have in their mind of what a guy looks like we can play at our level. So just talk a little bit about your recruitment, what it was like, and maybe there’s some lessons out there for kids who are kind of in your same situation.
Steve Dagostino: [00:32:11] A hundred percent. So, so I always kind of. When along with if I do the right thing, something good is going to happen. Right? I wanted to play division one basketball, just like everybody else. I was good enough to be on a Nike AAU team, which is a good start. I was very productive in my, in my high school career, which is another good aspect.
and so after my junior year. Spent the summer playing a U and had just like division three interests. Like I said, I was five, 11, 135 pounds. And I don’t mean like just division three interests. Like I had good division three interests from really good academic schools. really good basketball schools.
And as my senior year progressed, I took an, an official visit, stayed overnight at union college, which is a division three school in upstate New York. That’s, [00:33:00] that’s really solid. And like, I think what, what some players are doing now, which I I hate, is they say, okay, I want to play division one.
I think I should play division one. I’m going to wait for division one where like it should be the opposite. Like what do you have now? Number one, do you have anything? If you do, okay, you have a division three school that wants you to take a visit and likes you. Like that’s what you are right now. And so like for me, I wasn’t trying to be division one, I was just trying to be productive in my high school career and then see what happens.
So. I took that official visit, like during the basketball season, my team had a really good senior year, made it to the playoffs. I had two really huge games in the semis, and then the championship where we lost. And, a division two school in my hometown, finally offered me a scholarship. Now back it up.
My father. In the middle of the season sent out. It used to be like a VHS tape, send it out to, pretty much mid-major and down division ones in the Northeast. And then [00:34:00] every division two school in the Northeast as well. And I remember getting back a letter from American university. That said, we don’t think you’re good.
Basically like, we don’t think you’re good enough. Which I was pissed, but it was like, I wish every school would do that now to players that they don’t think is good enough, just tell him cause he knows they’re going to quit because they’re gonna be mad or it’s gonna make them better. Right. Do you still have that letter?
I wish I did. You know what? my other option out of, out of my senior year of high school was prep school. And my dad just gave me. the letter of acceptance to the prep school. I didn’t end up going, but it was Northfield Mount Hermon, which is one of the top ones in the country. so I got to ask him if he’s, he’s got it somewhere.
I don’t know where it is, but the other one was from Binghamton university, which is in the America East. And it was basically like, you know, we like your stuff, but we recruit at Atlantic 10 type players that don’t end up going to the Atlantic 10. So I’m like, okay, whatever, you know, whatever it is, what it is.
So. he also sent it out [00:35:00] to every school in the Northeast 10 conference, which, which is one of the best division two conferences in the country, which is where this division two school, the college of Saint Rose in my hometown. That’s the lead that they play in. So I had a really good end to my senior year.
They offered me after the year after they offered me one more school. Le Moyne, offered me as well, which is in the same conference. And I took my, my official visit to Saint Rose, loved it, wanted to go to school. And the one thing that the co coach Barry, who you know, was, was tops in the nation, and, wind percentage, is like a division two legend.
One of the things that he told me he was, he was the first coach to tell me like, listen, I’m not worried that you weigh 140 pounds. Like, like you’ll figure that out as you grow. Like, I just think there’s something special to your game. And he was the first one that didn’t say like, you need to get in the weight room.
I was already getting in the weight room. I would literally, my my training regimen was in the summers was wake up. [00:36:00] I had to work my family. It was a concrete product business, so I was stacking block from eight to 12 I’d get my workout in. I’m shooting and all that and ball handling with one of my teammates, like from 1230 to one 30.
And then if we had a summer league game, I’d play if we didn’t, which was most of the time, because when we played like two times a week, I’d, I’d either lift or I did a lot of boxing in high school too, that helped my foot work and my hand speed. And so I was already doing that stuff. I was just, wasn’t the guy that was going to put on a ton of weight, you know, so he was the first one to say that.
So I ended up, accepting the scholarship to go to the college of Saint Rose. and our first game of the year. Is an exhibition game against gesso, a big Hampton, Binghamton, perfect at big. We opened their brand new arena and and the kid they brought in who was a freshman, I forget his name, Mike, something he was playing too.
We ended up beating them. [00:37:00] And so I, and I played solid like first game as a freshmen, seven points, you know, a couple of no turnovers. And I’m like sitting there after the game and I’m like. Wait a second. They’re telling me that they’re taking Atlantic 10 type players and we just beat them. They had a kid who was projected at seven or was projected to be in the NBA draft and, and we just beat them like, wait, maybe there isn’t that much of a difference between like low division one and and high division two, you know?
So that was a super eyeopening experience. And just, you know, you want to fast forward just a little bit more in a conference where nobody would even return. My, you know, my letter, I guess you would say that I sent him with the tape, 16 teams, only one of them offered me a scholarship and then one more right after them.
You know, I ended up becoming a two time player of the year in the conference and a, and a two time all American.
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:52] It’s a great lesson for players, and I think it speaks to a lot of the things that you see out there today, whether it’s on social media or just [00:38:00] people talking about it and blogs and podcasts.
We’ve talked about it with a number of people is just that idea that the only level of play that exists is division one and people look at division two. They look at NAI, look at division three and they’re like, h that’s, you know, that’s below me. That’s beneath me. And I always tell people that, you have no idea.
How good you have to be to play division three basketball, NAI, basketball, division two basketball and clearly division one basketball. How good you have to be number one. So if anybody is interested in you, you should be flattered. And then number two, you look at the guys who are the best players in division two.
Clearly those players. Can play at the division one level, and if you’re playing and you’re one of the best players in division three, there’s a good chance you could probably play division two and you could probably play low level division one if you find the right. If you find the right program, the right coach, I think a lot of that is finding the right fit.
And you know, my situation was very similar to yours. I ended up getting a division one [00:39:00] scholarship, but I was the only one when I signed. That was the only offer that I had. So clearly there wasn’t a whole lot of people beating down my door saying this kid is a division one player, and yet I got an opportunity to go and play and it’s a three year starter and scored a thousand points and just ended up in the right place.
You know, I ended up with a coach that appreciated the things that I did well. And just like we talked about off the top, like I figured out. I was the, that was the big man on campus in high school. I was a score. It wasn’t much of a defender, probably just, you know, I was the star of the team and then I get to get to college and my first year I barely play.
I had a couple of their freshmen roommates that were in the same class as me. They both left after their freshman year cause they didn’t play there and they didn’t stick it out. I stuck it out to my sophomore year and we had a really good team coming back and I looked around and said, Hey, I’m going to get on the floor.
It’s not going to because I could score cause we’ve got four other guys who are returning starters that can all score. I better learn how to play defense to kind of be the glue guy. And that’s what I did when I was a sophomore and got me out on the floor. And I think your story is almost identical in that [00:40:00] you know, you, you had a situation that I’m sure in your mind, especially after that first game against Binghamton, you still believe that you probably believe till the very last moment of your career that, you know, I was a division one player.
I could have played at that level and been very, very successful. But you figured out in the situation where you were in how to maximize it. I think too many kids today. Don’t look at, as you said, what they have. If you have an offer from division three, take it. If you have an offer from division one and you want to give it a shot, take it, but you can’t.
You can’t wish your way into some other situation. Every situation has great things about it and every situation always has challenges and you just got to find yourself and sometimes you gotta just suck it up and be competitive.
Steve Dagostino: [00:40:43] A hundred percent it’s so like. The way I try to explain it to some of our players and parents is you can control your productivity, especially in high school.
You know, like I always hear these kids like I, if my coach let me do this, I’d be averaging 20 points a game. I asked him, I say, who’s the last high school [00:41:00] player that could have averaged 20 points a game that didn’t, and they were looking at me like, it’s a dumb question. Like, I don’t know. I’m like.
Nobody. Cause if you’re good enough to score 20 in high school, you’re going to go get 20 in high school. It doesn’t matter who your coach is. It doesn’t matter what system they run. Like if you’re good enough, you’re going to go get your points, right? It’s high school basketball. It’s not like you’re playing, you know, for the Atlanta Hawks.
Right. So, so that’s one of the things we talk about is like, okay, you can control your productivity, how hard you play if you play the right way, if you’re coachable. The other stuff of like, who likes you? Like looking back on my career. Well, let’s say I was a college coach right now at any level, like I don’t know if I would give a five 11 kid that was 135 pounds a scholarship, I don’t know that it would.
So like I get it, I understand, but like instead of me worrying about that, I just worried about, okay, I’m just going to be the best player that I could be and then cuts it to college. I think what a lot of college basketball coaches underestimate. Because they think there’s a science to recruiting is how passionate a [00:42:00] kid is about basketball and how much of a competitor there is.
So like even with your story, like if you weren’t passionate about playing basketball and a competitor and willing to put in the work, like you wouldn’t have tried to find a way your sophomore year to get on a court. Right? You would have just been like, ah, I don’t want to go here and I can, you know, it’ll be a little easier path and anything like that.
And it was the same way, kind of with me, of like, okay, I’m smaller, but like, I love playing, so I’m always going to be in the gym. I’m always going to be getting better. And by the end of my four years, you’re not going to tell me that I wasn’t a division 1. I couldn’t have been a division one player. You know, I was when I was five, 1,135 pounds, like I wasn’t, but at the end of it, like, yeah, it was, you know, it was a two time all American.
So I like exactly what you just said. The guys who are passionate, the guys who are competitive, the guys who don’t want to fail are the ones that’ll figure out a way to make it work.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:55] And I think you’re right in the sense when you said if you were a college coach, you don’t know if you’d give [00:43:00] that five 1,140 pound kid a scholarship because the things that made you successful, or I think the things that made me successful.
Are things that are much more difficult to measure than your height and your weight and your shooting percentage and you’re rebounding. It’s when you talk about passion and competitiveness, there’s no way really to measure that. And I think it’s, it’s an intangible. And yet I think if you have conversations with people around the player.
And this goes back to Ken. They are the people around them being honest and whatever. But I gotta think about myself and my college season would end and the next day I’d be in the gym playing. Yup. Yeah, because not because, and not even because necessarily even wanting to get better, just because I love to play, you know, like I’m like, I’m like, Oh man, this season’s over and go play pickup ball for a little bit.
You don’t like, I love that. Like that was like, that was great, but I didn’t have a lot of teammates necessarily that did that.
Steve Dagostino: [00:43:53] Yeah. And that’s, and that’s like a separator and, and I, you know, if I was a college coach, one of the things, like, [00:44:00] one of my first questions would be like, do you love playing basketball?
And then I’d have to try to gauge if they, cause everyone thinks they love it, but like really, really like, are you passionate about it? Are you obsessed with it? Because I don’t think that you can, like, that is such a big separator because. If you’re passionate and you’re obsessed with it, you’re going to do stuff that other people don’t want to do, especially during the hard times.
And like the other thing I wanted to touch on too, which is interesting, is so everybody wants to go. If you ask them, everybody wants to go division one, it’s, I don’t care what anybody says. That’s what they want, right? They want to go play for the big schools and all that. So it’s always interesting to me like when players say like, Oh, I’m a division one player.
Then they realize like, they’re not like, Oh, well I’m a division two player and then. No, they ended up going to, you know, like a division three or a Juco or, or a level that isn’t like a scholarship level. To me it would be, okay, you have a chance right now. So prove wherever you landed that you should have been at that other level.
And you prove that by dominating the level that you’re at. [00:45:00] You know, not all in one game or in your freshman year, but over your career. And I think that’s always interesting too, to like. To see these high school players like, Oh, I should have been division 2. And they’ll go and put up like mediocre stats or like not win a ton of games in college.
And you’re like, how would you even think that? Like you had an opportunity to prove it, but you’re still caught up in trying to tell everybody what you are instead of just doing it. You know?
Mike Klinzing: [00:45:24] Yeah. There’s no doubt. I think that the, the doing over the telling is a huge piece of it, especially with today’s social media.
Just everybody kind of knows everybody else’s business and it’s easy to be a big talker and it’s a lot harder, I think, sometimes to put up or shut up and do it on the court. And you see that. In a lot of ways. Part of that is what, what goes back to what we talked about before, just with the way that our youth basketball system is set up and you think about how involved parents are in kids’ careers, and then you have people who are in, we mentioned the youth basketball business.
[00:46:00] So you think about people who are in training, and I think this is one of the things that a good trainer like yourself, when you talk to a parent about a kid’s ability to play, you’re going to tell that parent. The truth because you’re trying to help the player to make the best decisions and help them to improve and get better.
But there are other people out there who they’re thinking, well, if I tell this parent that this kid’s not a division one player, or this kid’s not a varsity player next year, or this kid’s going to be a JV player, that they’re going to go and they’re going to leave me. And I’m going to lose their business and they’re gonna go work with somebody else.
And I think that’s one of the things that, you know, you got to watch out for as, as a player, as a parent. And then if you’re in the training business, you gotta make sure that you’re telling people the truth about what. They’re what level their kid is at right now at this moment so you can best help them.
That’s really what it’s all about. But I think you do see that out there with people that are, they don’t always hear the truth about their game. And I think that makes it tough when they get into like a high school varsity situation or a college situation where a coach is saying, look, [00:47:00] you’re not good enough to play.
And they go, well, my dad says I’m good enough and my trainer says I’m good enough. And that’s where you get into some difficulty.
Steve Dagostino: [00:47:06] I think it’s interesting, like, so when I first started, I always like the two things that I. Like built my business on and the whole training foundation was honesty and value.
So if I can provide value to players and parents, and I can be honest with them about what we’re doing, what I saw in their kid, their path, and let them make their decisions, then I could sleep easy at night. Now are there people even in our area that say like ridiculous things? Yeah. Do I think they do it on purpose?
I don’t know if it’s on purpose or they just don’t know any better because anybody can be a trainer. So there’s a lot of people out there that, that didn’t go through or have the same experiences that you were, I had. So what they think they’re telling the kids, they think they’re helping them, but they’re really not.
the thing that I go back to too, and I [00:48:00] used to get caught up on this a lot when I was first starting, and I see it all the time, and I think it’s part, part of it is with like the older generation that sees like some of these. I’ll throw up like air quotes, like newer training techniques where you know, you have props or a tennis ball or this or that.
We have like such a weird dynamic in the training world in the coaching world that like we want to say that that person is killing like players, right? But to me, the way I see it is as a player, forget the trainers. I’ll just take my career. I’m growing up. I have. Different coaches, a few youth high school, go to different camps, hear different voices there.
I’m the one and in a, in a, in a broader sense, my parents are the one that we’re making decisions together along the path of like, Hey, I’m taking that from this guy. I’m taking this from this guy. Oh, what? They said, I don’t like that. I’m not taking that. So like if we really look at it, [00:49:00] the players that want to go do stuff that we believe is terrible for them. Why do we care so much?
That’s a person making a decision that that is going to, it’d be like me as a player saying like, listen, I need to get really, really good at step back threes that I’m heavily contested at. Like, listen, if that’s the type of player you want to be, that’s a decision that you’ve made.
It’s not the trainer’s fault. I’m the one that’s doing that as a player. Right? And I think that we, we don’t take that into consideration that if all of this went away, the best players, which still figure out a way to be the best players. If there was no AAU and no trainers and they only played high school basketball, then they would figure it out.
You know why? Because they’re the ones that are going to make sound decisions. So like when people start getting into like. Like I always just go back to if that’s the way somebody wants to train, if they want to do all [00:50:00] the prop stuff or they only want to play like games based and not do a ton of skill stuff, like do it.
You’re in control of, you’re in control of how you develop as a player. Would I do that. Not necessarily, I might do things different. I might have like a different approach, but at the end of the day, the player’s gonna make the decision. so I always laugh at that. Like, I think we put too much into that.
We put too much into like what a player’s doing. Like listen, a player’s going to decide to do what they want to do. If there’s a trainer down the street from me and you want to go to him instead of me, like do it, I hope it works out. You know what I’m saying? But like, I’m not gonna sit there and say that that trainer’s an idiot.
Like maybe he is, but it’s not affecting me. Like I’m going to take the players that I have and I’m going to do what I believe is best for him and, and we’re going to try and have success and then we’ll, we’ll pitch back what we’re doing to their success.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:49] I think that’s so true in terms of if you figure out for yourself as a trainer, as a coach, if you figure out what you believe works for you and is best for [00:51:00] your players or your team, then you just got to keep doing what you’re doing.
And if people don’t buy into it, whether that’s parents, whether that’s players, whoever it is, if they don’t buy into it, then you just know that. They’re not right for your situation, your program, your team, however you want to look at that. And I think that’s something that if you’re a good coach, if you’re a good trainer, if you’re prepared and you’re working at your craft all the time, then as you said, if somebody leaves, you’re just like shrug your shoulders and move on because that person may be need something different from someone else.
And that’s fine. That’s fine.
Steve Dagostino: [00:51:34] And I’m not even so much talking about like a player, like leaving, going to train with somebody else, but more so like. On Twitter and social media where you see these guys like, Oh, that’s real stinks. And like, I can’t believe you’re having players do that and things. And not that they’re saying that to me, but I see it go back and forth and like, like, so for example, you’ve heard coaches say like, we want our guys to play the right way, right?
Like to you what is playing the right way?
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:58] So to me, it comes down to the [00:52:00] things that, those intangible things that we’re talking about. Like I’m not even talking about like skill development stuff and different like does, that to me doesn’t make any difference. It’s the competitiveness and the passion that’s playing the right way and the rest of it, we can figure it out.
Steve Dagostino: [00:52:12] Right? And so like, and I love that answer. And like, so like I’m, I’m looking at, and here in New York, the team that, Rick Pitino is going to coach for Iona. My brother actually played for Iona for four years, was a captain on their team, played for Jeff Ruland who was in the NBA. but they had a coach in the last like eight years.
Tim clues was his name. He was a division two coach when I was playing division two. Awesome. Coach literally takes like jucos and transfers and they get up and down like as fast as you could imagine. They pass it, but they’re just jacking up shots. They’re not playing great defense. And so like a lot of people would look at that and be like, they’re not playing the right way.
They won four straight MAAC tournament’s, the guy went to life like six to eight tournament. So like, it’s no different like in coaching where [00:53:00] you could have a million different styles, like Calipari w a one with dribble drive where they weren’t even really passing the ball and they were pounding the crap out of it.
It’s, it’s whatever works for them. And I, I think it’s the same thing for training. Like do I look at some stuff? And I’m like, that is ridiculous. And I don’t know why anybody would do that. And I don’t think that helps them in the long run. Yeah. But if that’s what they want to do, go for it. You know what?
What do I know how? How do I know what’s best for that player if I’ve never seen him? So those are just that. That’s just one thing. And I don’t know even how we got on that subject, but that’s always been like, it makes me laugh when, when. You know, other trainers and coaches, you know, rail on rail on people.
Mike Klinzing: [00:53:40] Yeah. I think that what I liked what you said, that makes complete sense to me, and it goes back to sort of the theme that’s been running through this whole conversation is when you said that the best players, you take all this away, you strip it down to the bare bones. And the best players are still gonna end up being the best players.
And it comes down to what we talked about, which [00:54:00] is those guys are competitive. They’re passionate about basketball, and they’re going to go out and they’re going to do, what you did when you were a kid is they’re going to go to a bunch of different sources. They’re going to go to a bunch of different people.
They’re going to find and figure out what do I have to do to get better? And they’re going to do it regardless of who their trainer is, who their high school coaches, who their friend is, who their parent is. It still comes down to ultimately that player has to do it and has to figure it out and figure out what works for them.
And I think that’s a great way that you just said about figuring out for that player what’s best for them and in this case, who’s best for them and not every situation is the same for every player. And so they got to figure out and find the right situation for them. Which let’s go back to, go ahead. Go ahead.
Steve Dagostino: [00:54:44] I was going to say, and so much of basketball, like we can’t leave this part out. Players that are physically gifted have a huge, huge advantage. Like basketball is one of the sports where. If you saw a kid in seventh grade, like you can tell the guys that move different, you know, you could tell the guys [00:55:00] that, you know, are dominating at that level that are going to grow another, you know, like Kevin Huerter, who plays for the Hawks.
I remember seeing him make a pass when he was a sophomore. He was six foot one through a full court lefthanded a cross court pass on the money and I like turned to the guy next to me. I’m like, Oh my God, Kevin’s going to be in the NBA. And he’s like, ah, yeah, right. And I go, dude, forget that. He’s like little Kevvy to you right now in Clifton park.
Like he’s going to be six foot seven. He already shoots the crap out of the basketball and he’s making a pass like that. Like he’s going to be in the NBA. So like you can see it. And I think it just goes back to like, like, what is you sports? Like what are we trying to do? We’re trying to build. A better human beings that have these experiences and learn through them.
So like if we took the end game out of it and was like, I want to play division one college basketball, and you’re like, I just want to get better every year. The guys who are going to go and play division one basketball, I bet you you could pick out by the time they’re in eighth grade, you could pick out 60% of them
[00:56:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:55:59] I would agree with you.
Steve Dagostino: [00:56:01] You know, so like that’s such a big part of it too. And like if you don’t throw that expectation, you tell these kids like, listen. You want to make your varsity team, you want to have a great, season with your boys or your friends on, you know, your friends on the girl’s side, whatever it is.
if that’s your goal and you want to become the best player, you can be great. And if it ends after high school, great. If it ends after college, great. If it ends after pro, great, but you’re not get rid of the stuff that like really, really matters. Because again, we strip it down. You know, the best players are always going to be the best player as well.
You know, the better players too, are. You can tell, you can tell early on, you know, it’s, it’s not saying that people don’t jump and make, but like you watch, did you watch the MJ? absolutely. So, so you know, they’re talking about Rodman and Pippin. Do they grew eight inches, right? Like they were, they were schools cause they were, they were small and like weren’t very good.They grew eight inches.
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:55] Yeah, that’s not really a typical, that’s not really a typical a growth spurt that [00:57:00] most people have. And I think the other thing, Steve, that I found to be the case with players that I’ve seen in situations that I’ve been in today where it seems like everybody, and you mentioned the word end game, and I think that so many people are focused on the next thing or the end game.
And so I’m in middle school and instead of thinking about, Hey, I want to enjoy my eighth grade year playing middle school basketball with my friends instead. I’m worried about, well, next year in ninth grade, am I going to be on the freshmen team? I can be on the JV team. Where am I going to be at? And then I’m on the JV team and what am I going to get to the varsity?
And then when I’m on the varsity, am I, am I going to be a starter? Next year I’m going to be the leading score and boy, here I am in high school and I can’t wait till I can get to college. And then before, you know, you turn around, you’re 23 and you’re done playing.
Steve Dagostino: [00:57:43] Yep. And you’ve been to seven different schools.
Mike Klinzing: [00:57:45] Yeah. It’s just that to me is one of the saddest parts of youth sports is that so much of everything that we do. Is focused on using what we’re doing right in this moment to get to what’s [00:58:00] next instead of enjoying the moment that I’m in. Taking it as a learning process like you described, where I’m learning about life through the game of basketball, and if those things that I’m pursuing come great, and that’s not to say you shouldn’t have goals and you shouldn’t be thinking about, Hey, I do want to play college basketball.
I do want to be a varsity player. But don’t let those things override the joy that you have in the moment. I see too often where, especially when you have an overbearing parent who’s putting so much pressure on a kid who’s 1112 1314 years old, that those kids, you could see they’re in eighth grade. They already don’t enjoy playing.
How can you be 13 years old or 14 years old and not just love. To play. That’s what, that’s what I do. That’s what I don’t get.
Steve Dagostino: [00:58:48] Yeah. I think there’s a lot of pressure on these kids. Like I see it and that’s where like the informal stuff helps where we just kind of let them play a little bit without fear of failure.
You know, they can smile and have fun and they can learn from [00:59:00] their mistakes cause they’re not getting that like everything. Right. Cause parents are paying for stuff now. So they want that return. They want you to be coached all the time. And AAU, they want to win and they want to play. And. And you’re like, you know, that’s not for these kids.
Like again, they just want to play. They just want to play. You know, especially when you’re talking about 13 and under. they need more chances to, to not worry about if they lose five games in a row and having to, and having to look over and their parent is pissed cause they just paid 40 bucks and they lost five games.
You know what I mean?
Mike Klinzing: [00:59:35] Oh, I know. Exactly.
Steve Dagostino: [00:59:38] You’re trying to get them to understand like you’re just trying to get a little bit better every single day and there’s going to be days like, like we’ll, we’ll go through a session and a parent will come up to you like, Oh, you didn’t do great today.
I’m like, yeah, what do you want him to be great every single day? Like, what do you mean? Like these are the days that he should be learning the most from are the days where he can’t make a shot or he can’t seem to get [01:00:00] focused. You know, you got gotta learn from that, you know, you’re not going to be perfect 365 days out of the year.
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:07] Yeah. There’s no doubt about that. And again, that’s a life lesson that applies, not just the basketball. You can apply it at the school, applying it to your job, flying into your daily life with your family. I mean, none of us are perfect every day, but. A lot of times I think we have this expectation, especially as parents, that things are always going to go perfectly for our kids, and we all know that that’s not the case.
I want to give you a chance to talk a little bit about your pro career, because I have a question that I always love to ask people, and that’s for their craziest overseas basketball story. But just before you tell that story, just kind of give us an idea of how you. Got the opportunity to play pro ball.
Maybe what your favorite situation was in favorite country you played in. And then we’ll get to your craziest story cause I know you have one.
Steve Dagostino: [01:00:45] Gotcha. so I was a two time all American in college. My mom was actually born in Italy, so I was able to get my Italian passport and it was always like, once I got to college, it was always in the back of my mind like, [01:01:00] Hey, I can get this Italian passport.
And I knew some guys who were going overseas to play. So I always kind like kept up with it and was and was like. I would love to do that. You don’t get paid to play basketball travel. Like amen. So when it kind of came to fruition, I had a really good junior and senior year in college. I had about, excuse me, five or six different agents that wanted me to sign with them.
I ended up choosing like a big agency, which over my five years I ended up having three different agents. I probably went with like too big of an agency, off the rip. but I, my first year I started out in, same thing too when I was trying to sign contracts overseas. Like the size always hurt me.
So like two examples would be, well, my first year I signed in in Iceland and a month in, it was 2008, all the banks collapsed and I, Iceland. That’s what started like the financial crisis. And so we ended up getting sent home before the regular season even started. I was home for [01:02:00] like a month and a half, and then I signed in Hungary to play, which is like a mid level league.
but I was on a terrible team. didn’t get paid on time and just, it was just like, just a crappy, crappy situation. so I ended up going there. I was playing really, really well. We, we weren’t winning a ton of games where I was like leading the league in scoring 23.7 assists. I was crushing it.
They brought in a new Hungarian coach and like, here’s a good story for you. Before they brought in the new coach, we had an interim coach and he was a guy who was like on the board of the team and he was like, he could be a coach, so we’re in practice. And we’re stretching out like, yo, like where’s coach?
And none of the Hungarians, there’s one guy who spoke English like one, it was crazy. And it’s such a, and I don’t know if you guys are Hungarian, like, I’m sorry, but like, Hungary is like a very miserable country. Like people just don’t seem happy. It’s just, it’s an interesting place. [01:03:00] and so we’re waiting for the guy to come in and they’re like, yo, like this guy is crazy.
We think he like boozes all the time. Like he’s just a wild man. And we’re like, all right, like, we’ll see. The dude comes in on rollerblades and he’s, he’s skating around and like, all right, here’s what we’re going to do today. And he’s like twirling around. And like a three 60 it was, and he was only the coach for like, for like two days or three days, but it was, it was wild.
We got a Hungarian coach and he hated the Americans. We had four Americans on our team. And, and. he, he, everything shifted to try to, to try to like, get the Hungarians, you know, more playing time, get them more shots. So let’s stop. And so, and we had, we had a big man from Purdue. We had a lot of really good players, and, we all kind of sacrificed and didn’t really win that many games when he came on.
although he thought he was gonna make [01:04:00] like a big difference. And, so, so like, just going back to, You know, some of the things that I faced throughout my career, when I got to hungry, first game off the plane played literally within 24 hours, had like 16 points and four assists against a solid team.
The next two nights later, we played against one of the top teams in the league and they had a point guard, Thomas Kelly from Michigan state, really good veteran point guard, and I ended up having like 33 points and nine assists. And after the game, we’re in the hotel and I’m sitting down with the president of the team, and I forget who else was there.
And he’s like, listen, I gotta tell you, like when you got off the plane and we saw you, one of our board members was like, what did we just sign? Like, this guy is tiny. And I had like long hair, like Steve Nash and like all that. And he was like, and he’s like, and so that presents like, and it’s funny because after this game.
The, the president of [01:05:00] the other team asked us if we would trade you for, for Thomas Kelly, who’s one of the best point guards in the team cause they loved you. And I’m like, what’d you say? And he’s like, no, we’re keeping you. We love. And I like look back on. I’m like, I’m so pissed that they didn’t trade me.
We were literally the only losing season I’ve ever had in my whole career. We were like five and 22 terribly funny.
Jason Sunkle: So we have a question. I have a question. Yeah, go ahead. Are you sure the guy in the rollerblades wasn’t from the movie semi-pro with Will Ferrell. Oh, because then it sounds directly like they should, he should be the coach.
Steve Dagostino: [01:05:31] When I look at semi-pro, like. So much of that can go over to a lot of these clubs into Europe, just like, like in Hungary, literally we, and there’s guys like getting paid and hungry that are like making good money and like we would, we got on a bus trip, we’re going six hours away to play and this dude comes on the bus with a huge like white see-through garbage bag.
And he like, shucks, it. So the [01:06:00] middle of the bus. And I’m like, what the heck is that? And they’re like, Oh, it’s the sandwiches for later. And I like looking, it’s like all these like, like loose sandwiches, like in this huge garbage bag. I’m like, yo, I’m not eating that.
And another thing with that, so I had a teammate who was a division three player, was an all American. Had an Italian passport, was bouncy, really athletic. He averaged like 11 points and three assists our year and hungry like good dude, great dude. And like a solid player, like he’s pretty good.
He had an Italian passport like I did, and so like the next year we both signed in Italy. I averaged in Hungary, I think like 17 points. I’m like five assists a game. He average 11 whatever. He got double the amount of money that I got in my contract in Italy. I believe it crazy, and I’m sitting there and I’m like asking my agent, I’m like, how is that possible?
We literally played on the same team and I had way better [01:07:00] stats than him and had more accolades or whatever. Even in college it was, and they’re like, Oh, you know, he dunked and he knew exactly 60 and this. I’m like, dude, that’s wild.
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:09] I think back to when I got done playing, I went to a couple like minor Try out camps and there just wasn’t at that point, it was still pretty much most everywhere you went, you can only have two Americans on a team. And so it was a little bit tougher and I probably wasn’t, you know, I probably wasn’t up at that level at that time, and just thinking back to it, but I remember hearing those same things that I would go to these camps and there’d be guys that.
I’m like, this guy isn’t any good. And, but, but he could dunk and he’s got these six, seven, he’s got long arms, like, but he can’t play. But, but he could dunk. I’m like, they got lots of six, three white shooters over in Europe. So it’s probably not the best situation for you to try to break in there. So it’s just, it’s just interesting.
what decisions are sometimes based on?
Steve Dagostino: [01:07:57] Yup. A hundred percent.
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:58] Alright. So [01:08:00] when do you start thinking about. Coaching. When does the idea that you’re going to focus on skill development? Just talk to me a little bit about your entry into the coaching profession.
Steve Dagostino: [01:08:12] Yeah, so when I got done playing in college, the summers that I was still playing overseas, I started doing like group workouts.
I had a couple kids and in high school that wanted to start working out. So I, you know, my first year I had maybe like two or three groups. Second year I ended up doing like a youth camp, and having groups. And then by my third year. I, I linked on with two of the high school teams in our area that, wanted me to work their teams out for, for the summer.
So I did that. They ended up. they won state championships. And not because of anything I did, but it was, you know, it’s a Testament of, you know, there, they were already one of the better teams and they knew that they wanted an edge and wanted to get a different voice in. And their coaches were very secure with bringing somebody a, you know, a skill development guy in who was from outside the program.
[01:09:00] And so after they had their success and people found out that I was working with them, then other schools wanted to do it. And that just led to. Our name getting out even more. So it just kind of grew from there to camps and clinics and, and training. And, you know, my thought was always, you know, my brother was a college coach for a handful of years, coach at the junior college level for I think four years, and then an AIA for three years.
And, I just, I didn’t want to go be an assistant coach. I just did. I just didn’t want to do it. And I always thought like. My player development really started, like I told you guys in eighth grade. Like I taught myself how to put myself through workouts. Like I had great coaches that, that you know, helped me along the way.
Like I played for three national team coaches in Europe. My college coach was, you know, is one of the best all time to do it at the division two level. My high school coach has over 500 wins. So, So I had great coaches, but like at the end of the day, like we said, like I was the player. I was the [01:10:00] one making the decisions.
I was the one to put myself through the workout. So I always figured that if I could overachieve at such a high level, with myself and the work that I did, imagine if I did have a six, five kid who could fly around the court. You know, imagine if I did have, you know, a guy who was, who was, you know, maybe like a six one point guard who was super strong that just needed, you know, better IQ, like, I could help all these guys.
So I always figure that that would be my path. and it just kind of took off, especially when I stopped playing professionally in 2012. And I, and I did it full time. It just gave me more time to dive in deeper to the team aspect and the, and the individual aspect.
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:44] All right. So how do you go about then building your training business?
How do you go from an unknown commodity to somebody who’s building a base of clients and building what turns out to be a real business?
Steve Dagostino: [01:10:58] Yeah, so it’s little by [01:11:00] little, like. No. I said, I started with a couple of groups and then it got into the team stuff, and again, just with the pillars of honesty and value, there wasn’t that, especially in our area, like you’re talking about like 2009 it wasn’t, the world wasn’t right with trainers yet.
You know, especially ones that were doing it full time. And then a lot of the AAU guys, people weren’t used to just getting honest feedback and getting value where when they went to camp, it wasn’t a babysitting camp. Right? Especially locally. and, and when they were going through a workout that the guy wasn’t sitting down while doing it or didn’t check his phone a lot.
Right? So I just kept providing value and honest feedback and to the teams that I worked with and the coaches, and we were literally word of mouth, like my first year and a half to two years, I didn’t have an email list. Like, I’m an idiot. I don’t know why I didn’t have an email list. And then, and then I started building that email list.
And. To the point now where we have [01:12:00] over 3000 subscribers to our email list and when we have something going on at camp, but an event, we’ll blast it out and, you know, I’ll throw it on my Facebook page, but I’m not doing any advertising forward and we sell out most of our stuff. so just, just word of mouth and starting small and, and again, just trying to provide honest feedback and value
Mike Klinzing: [01:12:23] as we start to head towards wrapping this thing up, I want to ask you a little bit about how you got involved with USA basketball. Just talk about how that came to be and then what are some of the things you’ve had the opportunity to do with USA basketball?
Steve Dagostino: [01:12:35] Yeah, so that’s a good story actually. So I’ve, I’ve always searched, I’ve done it the opposite way of a lot of trainers. Like a lot of them start and they try to do the MBA thing or they’re college coaches and then they get into it.
And like I started small, like I went with the young kids and have built my way up to now I have an MBA client and I’m doing the USA basketball stuff. And so. I was working a, I helped direct for the Albany city rocks, which is the AAU team I played for their Nike [01:13:00] team. they have an event every year called the top 24 where they invite in the fall at the top, like it’s actually like top 35 players in the state that they might want to play for them to follow a year.
and I implemented our FIBA three on three, this was like five years ago, and there was a Nike guy there who saw it. And was like, I love that. I’ve never seen that happen in like a camp atmosphere. And I don’t know if you guys know FIBA three and three, but it’s basically just regular three on three, but it’s fast paced.
So like when the ball goes through the hoop, you don’t check it up, you grab it out of the net, you cleared out and you play as if it was a miss. So like it’s fast paced. You can’t stop. Like I can’t make a basket and start flexing on somebody. You know what I mean? I know exactly. It’s a great game. So, and it’s great.
We use it as a teaching development tool, which I think everybody in America should use it as a development tool. But, so he saw that, put in a word with the guy, Samson Kot, who runs the USA basketball junior [01:14:00] national team with, basically with Sean Ford. And I was able to get a phone call with them and their thing and Samson’s thing, who’s a good friend of mine now, it’s like, they hate trainers.
They just. They don’t want to trainers around their guys. They just want, you know, people who are going to be team players. They want, they want guys that aren’t only want to help the kids, right? All these kids, especially the best players in the country, they have so many people that want something from them.
They only want people at USA basketball that don’t want anything for the kids. They just want to help them. And they’ve done a really good job of getting people like that in. So him and I kind of came to the conclusion like, Hey, let me come out there for the under 18 trials with bill itself and I’ll just kind of hang, you guys can get a feel for me and you can see that I’m not like everybody else.
I’m more of like a coach than I am a trainer. and we can go from there. And so when I got out there, I was in, all the meetings and I was in a meeting with. Bill self was a coach. Danny Manning. Mike [01:15:00] Bray was a core coach and all these guys, and they were talking about traveling in Europe. They’re like, when we get over there, we always get called for a lot of travels.
What’s the rule? And I kind of raised my hand and was like, I don’t even know if I was supposed to talk, but I raised my hand and I was like, you got to put the ball down before you take a step. And it’s changed now. But, otherwise they call it a travel. And so bill, self psych. Alright, great. During shooting, you teach that to the guys and then you just finished the shooting out for us.
I’m like, all right, cool. And so we’re like walking out of the meeting and Sampson psycho. So I guess you’re like gonna run part of practice today. And I’m like, sorry. You know? So, I did it. I did a good job and you know, obviously I would try to be as good of a team player and just was myself and they, they really liked what I brought to the table.
So I’ve, I’ve been with them ever since for. They’re a new creation of the G, a USA junior national team, which is, which has been great for the players and all the coaches involved as well.
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:57] That’s awesome. It speaks to a lesson that we’ve talked to lots of [01:16:00] coaches about, which is do the best job that you possibly can wherever you’re at, and if you do that, then the next opportunity takes care of itself because it’s a hundred percent so often we see people that just like we’ve talked about with players, that coaches are looking out of the corner of their eye for what’s the next job, what’s the next thing I’m going to do.
And to a man of the people that we’ve talked to who have had tremendous success in their career. It’s amazing how many times that advice comes out to, Hey, just do the best job. If you’re the video coordinator, if you’re the freshmen coach at a high school, be the best person for that job that you possibly can be, and if you do, somebody will take notice of that and that’s how you get your next opportunity.
You won’t get your next opportunity. Doing half a job where you’re at and having the other half of you already out the door looking for the next opportunity. I think that’s a great lesson in your experience there with USA basketball certainly puts that right, you know, puts a point on that for sure.
Before we get out, Steve, I want to give you a chance to share for people [01:17:00] how they can. Reach out to you where they can find out more information about what you’re doing with the training side of things. Just share all your social media contacts, and then if you have one final point you want to make before we wrap up, go ahead and do that and then I’ll jump back in and finish things up.
Steve Dagostino: [01:17:13] Yeah, so, our website is dagsbasketball.com. Our social media, I’m on Twitter, which I do a lot of separate a lot of stuff for coaches. and building a good network. There is at dagsbasketball, and then on Instagram. we put a lot of like different, especially now during this time, we’re putting a lot of like daily challenges up for our players and we’re starting this new hashtag of winning players.
I think on Instagram. It’s interesting, you know, you get a lot of these skilled trainers that are, are working on, you know, detailed skill stuff. And I, I look at all these guys working on their foot work and she’s similar to like what we’ve been saying today is like, yo, you need to learn how to play harder.
My man, like it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, my heart at all. So we’re trying to put up like little video clips of guys like running the floor [01:18:00] hard and things that aren’t sexy but are what great players do. So, that’s Instagram at Stevedags and then the number zero. we have a pretty good following on there too.
And, and if anybody wants to email me as questions, you know, email@example.com is, is my email address.
Mike Klinzing: [01:18:20] Steve, we can’t thank you enough for spending an hour and 20 minutes or so with us tonight. It’s been a lot of fun to have a conversation. There’s a lot of parallels, I think, between the two of us in terms of our history as players, and then your philosophy in terms of coaching, I think dovetails nicely with a lot of the things that we believe in and that we’ve talked to lots of coaches about.
And it’s great to see people out there who love the game, who are doing things that are. Good for coaches, good for players, and ultimately good for the game of basketball. So we appreciate you spending that time with us tonight and to everyone out there, we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.