The Basketball Podcast: EP300 with Doug Novak on Coaching and Teaching

RELEASE DATE : 27/12/2023

In this week’s coaching conversation, basketball coach Doug Novak joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on coaching and teaching.

Doug Novak is currently an assistant coach for the Northern Kentucky women’s basketball program.

Novak was last on EP21 of The Basketball Podcast and possesses nearly three decades of coaching experience, most recently serving as the associate head coach for the men’s basketball program at Army West Point during the 2022-23 season. Before West Point, he was the interim head coach for the women’s basketball program at Mississippi State in 2021-22.

Prior to his lone season with Mississippi State Women, Novak served as the Head Men’s Coach at Bethel University from 2013-21. There he composed an overall record of 131-68 in eight seasons. He left with the highest winning percentage (.658) of any Bethel basketball coach in program history. In 2017 he led the Royals to a share of the program’s first ever MIAC regular season championship, second-ever MIAC Playoff Championship and second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Doug has previously been an assistant coach at the NCAA D1 men’s level and has produced one of the most popular all access product of all time with his video series – All Access Basketball Practice with Doug Novak that gave access to his practice teaching methodology as well as unique and exclusive access to a team film session. It is available at

Doug Novak

Listen Here:

Doug Novak Quotes:

“Too often we try to write the end of the stories too soon, whether it be with a player, whether it be with a season. You don’t know the end of the story. Stop trying to write it. You don’t know when that ‘Eureka!’moment is going to happen for you.”

“I think there’s a confidence that you get when it is about learning, when it is about experimenting, when it is about trying something. You want to promote that as a father or as a teacher. ‘How did that feel?’ And then listen. They’re giving you feedback. Listen to what they’re saying instead of maybe being so rigid with how we want to have something done, whether it be swing a bat, skating, making a layup, shooting a jump shot.”

“I come back to coaches all the time and I talk about, ‘We don’t need to teach them moves. They can stare at TikTok. They can stare at Instagram. They can learn these moves.’ We need to better help them apply it in whatever context we can. Or, in a lot of cases, [help them] refine it, to be able to apply it.”

“All of a sudden you’re watching a game and you’re looking at a scoreboard, and maybe a parent is yelling and screaming from the sidelines. There are all kinds of things. And, all of a sudden, this beautiful thing of athletics that we started out with has become chaos. The reason people start something and the reason people stay in something can be completely different. So how do you keep that joy of learning and gaining wisdom through losses? How do you create that environment where, as a coach, you’re not distracted by it? We don’t get to coach if we don’t win enough games. I totally get that.”

“Be relentlessly patient teaching, regardless of results . . The reason that you’re here in the first place is to help people get better and enjoy the experience. Now, winning does help enjoy the experience, but you can’t get there right away sometimes.”

“I like the quote, ‘You can’t tug on a plant to make it grow faster.’ It’s going to grow at its pace and there’s a proper nurturing that goes with it. And yes, we are under the gun, but at the same time we are the adults and we need to act like adults in terms of maturing players.”

“Life is trying to knock you off balance. It’s hard. I think there are so many distractions, not just for coaches, but for kids, so you can get scattered. And, if you’re not tethered to something, you’ll go with anything. So, it’s worth the time to think deeply about things that matter the most to you. And then the things that don’t, they’re just not going to get as much of my attention.”

“Maybe my greatest gift is just being a noticer and being open to the fact that I may not have all the answers. You want to be definitive on your napkin, but I’m okay testing, I’m okay looking if there is there a better way out there.”

“Providing players with hope, teaching like crazy, taking information, taking the pain, being grateful for a result. It’s huge to be grateful for a result, good or bad. So many times, we have to use grateful for something good. And I know it sounds counterintuitive, but we need to be grateful regardless because that’s where all the good stuff is. You’ve got to be tough enough . . have this mental toughness to take that information and then put it on a practice plan and then give those players a little bit of hope.”

“The more we can teach people how to use information and then . . as a coach, can you create that space to be bad like you’re supposed to be bad right now? You can help these kids grow, but if it’s just screaming and yelling and demeaning, ‘You got to finish that shot.’ Well, do you think he went up there trying to miss it? No, he did the best he could, or she did the best they could with the knowledge they had at that particular time. That’s it. So, it’s on you, too. For whatever reason, we have not been able to impart what we see to them and how do we get there? So, it’s not just their miss, it’s our miss. And we’re in this thing together. And I think that’s important. I wanted to know that as a player, ‘Do you have my back? Does it have to go in for you to have my back?’ Because that matters in terms of growth.”

“You’ve got to fight for that [desire to learn] as a parent. You’re trying to protect it, and you’re trying to develop it, and you’re trying to promote it, and then you’re trying to teach them the toughness so that when the outside is trying to do something to you, you can hold firm to what you believe.”

Doug Novak Breakdown:

1:00 – Introduction
5:00 – Having Daughters
7:00 – Idea of Tick Tock
9:30 – Mimicry
14:00 – All Learning is Nonlinear
17:00 – Program on a Napkin
20:00 – Quotes from Music
24:30 – Norms in Coaching
30:00 – Acquiring Skills
36:40 – Offense vs Defense
46:30 – Choosing One Path
53:30 – Freedom from Decision Making
1:00:00 – Learning The Game
1:05:00 – Concept of Rabbit Hole
1:12:00 – Winning Record

Doug Novak Selected Links from the Podcast:

Doug Novak
Don Meyer
Tom Petty
Rick Rubin
Phil Knight

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