The Basketball Podcast: E19 Steve Donahue on Cutting off the Ball

RELEASE DATE : 12/12/2018

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Steve Donahue joins the Basketball Podcast with Chris Oliver to discuss a career in coaching and the lessons from coaching in the Ivy League and ACC. 

Steve Donahue is the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the 20th head coach in program history and the only men’s basketball coach in Ivy League history to lead two different Ancient Eight programs to conference championships, Cornell (2008, 2009, 2010) and Penn (2018).

Donahue is a native of Springfield Township, Pennsylvania and a former player at Ursinus College, where he helped the basketball team reach the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal round in his freshman season and the quarterfinal round in his sophomore year. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in economics and business administration.

Donahue began his coaching career as an assistant at Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University) under Hall of Fame coach Herb Magee. He then spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Penn under Fran Dunphy, helping the Quakers win six Ivy League titles and make five NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2000, he became the head coach at Cornell, where he led the Big Red to three consecutive Ivy League titles and NCAA Tournament berths, including a historic run to the Sweet 16 in 2010.

After four seasons as the head coach at Boston College, Donahue returned to Penn in 2015, where he has revitalized the Quakers program with his innovative and analytical approach to coaching. He guided Penn to its first Ivy League title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years in 2018, and has developed several All-Ivy players such as AJ Brodeur, Ryan Betley, and Jordan Dingle. Donahue has also earned several coaching honors, including the Clair Bee National Coach of the Year and NABC District 4 Coach of the Year in 2010.

Steve Donahue The Basketball Podcast

Listen Here:

Steve Donahue Quotes:

“All of us love to play fast . . but the hard thing is finding kids that can do that and make the right decisions.”

“We get back to playing fast . . that has very little to do with athleticism.”

“. . how are we going to get better? I think if you continually grade yourself on how well we didn’t turn it over, you’re missing the big picture. For us to improve, I want guys to try things.”

“I’m really hesitant to jump on a mistake if I feel they did it trying to make a great play.”

“I think the team that wins the majority of the time is the team that’s willing to make mistakes . . if it goes wrong and you can handle that, then I think we have a chance to be really good.“

“I just think it’s critical that you really evaluate yourself as you’re coaching your team.”

“The more you cut, the more critical re-spacing is.”

“We have what we call a 95% rule . . when a guy drives to the rim I want them for 95% certainty . . to score or get fouled.”

“How do you get stand-still threes? . . Most people say that’s why we drive it . . but if you consistently cut hard. . we’re going to get a lot of what we want without having to put the ball on the floor.”

“Villanova’s great for a lot of reasons . . they play like their not that talented, yet they have four NBA guys right now . .”

“We talk about exaggerating the points that we just emphasized . . I think that’s a good teaching tool for young kids.”

Steve Donahue Breakdown:

1:00 – Introduction
1:40 – “You don’t need to be athletic to be fast, you need players who can make decision quickly”
3:00 – Player Evaluation
5:00 – Hard Skills and Soft Skills
8:00 – Playing with Better Players, Players become Better.
9:30 – Give the Player a Freedom to be Who They Are 
11:10 – “For us to improve, I want my guys to try things.”
13:20 – Positive Coaching
17:00 – Communication
20:00 – Record Yourself in the Game
22:00 – Dribble-Pass Ratio
22:40 – Basket Cutting
26:00 – Decision-Making on Cuts
29:40 – Catching is Critical
32:00 – “The More You Cut, The More Critical Re-Spacing Is”
36:00 – How Do You Get Stand-Still Threes?
39:00 – “Play Like They Are Not That Talented”
42:00 – Adapting Your Offense From the Ivy League to the ACC
46:00 – How Coach Steve Watch Films?
50:00 – Final Thoughts

Steve Donahue Links:

Steve Donahue



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