The Basketball Podcast: EP 328 with Greg Kampe on Wanting to Win

RELEASE DATE : 10/07/2024

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Oakland University head coach Greg Kampe joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights from his 40 years of coaching and his “I just want to win” philosophy.

Kampe’s coaching career is marked by numerous achievements and milestones. He is the current longest tenured coach at a single school dating back to 1984 when Oakland was an NCAA D2 school. Kampe has coached five NBA players, led four teams to Division 1 NCAA Tournament and has a chance to win his 700th career game this coming season.

The 2023-2024 season was particularly noteworthy for Greg Kampe and the Golden Grizzlies. Under his leadership, Oakland won the Horizon League tournament for the first time, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. As a 14-seed, they achieved a remarkable upset victory over 3-seed Kentucky in the Round of 64, marking Kampe’s first win in this stage of the tournament.

Oakland’s only previous NCAA tourney win came in the First Four in 2005. Over the years, Kampe has led Oakland to multiple conference championships, including three Summit League tournament titles and two Horizon League regular-season titles. He is the third-longest tenured men’s college basketball coach currently active, a testament to his dedication and leadership.

Kampe’s dedication to the program and his players is evident in his long-standing commitment to Oakland University. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including four Summit League Coach of the Year honors and an induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. Kampe’s coaching philosophy emphasizes consistency, hard work, and the development of student-athletes both on and off the court.

Greg Kampe

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Greg Kampe Quotes:

“As coaches, we all have . . things that we believe, things that we value, and we try to teach that to our kids. And every team’s different. But I think that a consistent effort in everything we do in life is all anybody ever wants for you . . You want to know what you can expect from a person on the floor, just like in life, you want to know what you can expect from your spouse, you want to know what you can expect from your boss. You want to know those things and you want a consistent effort.”

“I think game planning is an overlooked skill in the coaching world. I think that when people interview coaches or when they’re deciding on who they’re going to hire, they look at so many of the other sides of it and they really don’t dive into how do you prepare for somebody? How do you get ready? Because the fact of the matter is, game planning and understanding, scouting, and that is one of the highest rings that you have to climb for success.”

“When I get interviewed, people ask me, ‘What is your offensive philosophy?’ And the truth of the matter is, my offensive philosophy is I just want to win . . And at our level, I’m not at Duke, I don’t get to go out and say, ‘I want you and I want you and I want you’ and they come . . What I’ve got to do is I’ve got to go out and get the best players [I can], and then I’ve got to figure out how to win with those best players. What does this kid do well and put him in a position to do that.”

“The team I had this year was one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had but we didn’t have a true point guard . . We had size . . and we could really shoot it, and Townsend could score it in the post. And so, we had to maximize every possession. For us to win, we wanted to make sure that you had to play against our defense, because our defense was really good and you couldn’t get up and down and not play against it.”

“You’re in an area 27 feet deep and 54 feet wide and you’ve got ten guys out there. You want to use all of that square footage. You have to. If you don’t, you allow good defensive teams to take away what you’re trying to do. So going into it, we try to teach our players the importance of using all of the square footage in that 27-foot by 54-foot area.”

“The easiest way to get a three-point shot is through a help-and-recovery type defense. Right. You make the defense help and then they’ve got to recover to a shooter and you can make a direct line pass to him where he can catch and shoot. What we really try to do in that defense [Oakland’s match-up zone] is not allow you to make direct line passes . . it’s weird looking sometimes because we’re playing passing lanes, not people.”

“Show me the best defensive team in the country  . . and I’ll find 50 easy baskets they gave up. Good offense always beats good defense. Always. Ball goes in. It is what it is. So, you’ve got to believe in it [the match-up zone defense]. You’ve got to understand that it’s out of the norm, so people are going to question it. People are going to criticize it. People, if things aren’t going well, are going to say it’s because you play that defense.”

“The biggest thing is that you’ve got to believe in that [the match-up zone defense]. And then the second part of that is, you have to structure it. It’s a process-driven defense. You’ve got to understand the process of teaching it and not worry about the results until you get to the point when games are ready to start. Last year, at the beginning of the year, we did not look like a very good defensive team. But as the process went on, by the time we got to Christmas, we were really good.”

“Most teams, if you play man-to-man, you guard your own offense in practice, right? So, you’re running your offense in practice, you’re guarding it. Our practices, every day we’re playing against our opponents and it’s one of our opponents. Every day in pre-practice meetings, we decide who we’re going to play against today and our scout team runs that offense against us. So, every day of the year we’re prepping. Making adjustments is easy because we play the zone different against every team there is.”

“Our practice plan pretty much looks the same every day. We open practice with shooting because we believe in shooting; and then we rebound because if you can’t rebound, you can be the best defensive team in the world but if you can’t get to the rebound, they’re going to shoot layups anyways. And then we go into what we call our defensive breakdown and it could be 30 minutes, it could be 15 minutes. And we’re going to work on certain slides, maybe closing out, because in a zone there’s a lot of closing out going on. So, we’re going to do a closeout drill every day. We guard the ball every day because, even though it’s not man-to-man, we still have to guard the ball, we still have to put pressure on the ball.”

Greg Kampe Breakdown:

1:30 – Coaching Consistency and Its Impact on Success
3:30 – Game Planning and Strategy
8:30 – Coaching Decisions
11:00 – Coaching Philosophy and Offensive Strategy
17:00 – Finding Player’s Strengths
20:00 – Unique Matchup Zone Defense
23:00 – Adapting Zone Defense
29:00 – Practice Plan and Emphasizing Repetition
32:00 – Offensive Strategies
39:00 – Values
42:00 – Personal Growth
46:00 – Self Awareness

Greg Kampe Selected Links from the Podcast:

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