The Basketball Podcast: EP123 Mike MacKay on Transformational Coaching

RELEASE DATE : 18/11/2020

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Basketball Canada’s Women’s High Performance Manager Mike MacKay joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss applying transformational and evidenced based ideas.

Mike MacKay, a long-time basketball coach, mentor and educator, is Performance Manager of the women’s high performance program for Basketball Canada. In his roe MacKay is primarily responsible for the continued development of the women’s program’s high performance athlete profile and the identification of standards against which Canada’s female athletes at the senior, development and youth levels can be measured.

Through his deep knowledge base and familiarity with Canada’s player pool, MacKay provides technical leadership to the women’s Targeted Athlete Strategy (TAS) program. The native of Truro, N.S. will also be counted upon to assist and guide the continued development of Canada Basketball’s development and age-group women’s national team coaches.

Mike MacKay returns to the organization after a two-year absence. He previously served as Canada Basketball’s Manager of Coaching Education and Development. He was Manager Coach Education for Canada Basketball from 2004-2010. During this time he lead a team that developed CS4L and New NCCP.

Mike MacKay has coaching experience at many levels including Junior High, High School, Club (mini – Juvenile), University, Provincial team, and National teams.

Mike MacKay

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Mike MacKay Quotes:

“One of the most enjoyable things that I do is keep growing by learning more and more about the game but by using what I call the science part to it.”

“I’m a big believer in science but I also believe that you’ve got to get in there and pilot things and try things and use some of that anecdotal evidence but then back it up with science eventually.”

“I’ve always believed that my job was to help change people’s lives . . how do I help this person become a better person more than just a basketball player.”

“Four key things I really believe in . . one is you have to be a role model; . . the second is treat them as individuals . . instead of treating players as a position ;. . and then challenging them to think, I’m a huge believer in asking questions; . . and inspiring them by believing in them . . and this one has that playing time [component].”

“In today’s FIBA game especially, you need to play all 12 players . . that doesn’t mean they play every game but I have to be able to be honest with those players and say this is what you bring as a unique individual to our team. These are the situations in which you’re going to play.”

“The number one thing that I’m still challenging myself on is, how do I get the athlete to focus on the right thing at the right time?”

“The only way I know to get them to improve is to get them to improve their awareness on something. So, I have to come up with a way that’s not transactional, to get them to focus . . I’m rewarding them for focusing on the right thing at the right time.”

“Somebody . . is going to remind you of what you committed to before what happens, we’re going to encourage you during when it’s happening, and then at the end, we’re either going to have a breakdown conversation or we’re going to praise and have affirmations over feedback on what you did.”

“There are certain times you have to check for understanding. I may be just sometimes letting them lead the drill. Let them be the one who gives the key points for the drill, let them hold each other accountable. Stop a drill sometimes and ask another player, ‘What did you see? How do you think we can make this better?”

“We’ve come to an agreement that you’re committed to working on this, you’re probably going to get stopped sometimes in practice on that.”

“The biggest issue I see with the games approach is coaches don’t know how to make error detection correction or they don’t know what it is they’re going to make the error detection correction in.”

“We need to give people a structure and then let them be free within the structure . . if we call an inbounds play, that’s to get us into a structure of our formation or position. Now, from there we want them to read and make decisions.”

“If I’m not having mistakes made in my practice, I’m upset because that means you’re not challenging yourself.”

“If I’m trying to improve my offense, I’m really going to coach up my defense because they’re going to give the cue that’s actually going to happen in the game . . [I’ll constrain the defense] if I’m trying to work my offense, but if I’m trying to work my defense, I’m going to do it vice versa.”

“One of the biggest issues I see today with coaching is people who talk about people and not to people . . you have to make sure you’re very clear with people and direct . . this is what I expect of you and I know you can do it.”

“We’re trying to create world all-stars. I don’t know any world all-stars who are not deceptive on offense and disruptive on defense . . so, we’re trying to work now a lot in every drill we do, adding in deception.”

“What are we going to be better at at the end of this drill? . . That’s our outcome, go play.”

“The more you make me have to store and retrieve information, the more I’m going to remember it and show my understanding. And that’s what we’re trying to do in practice.”

“Transition, by far, in the FIBA game is one of the most important things that we do. And yet, we still dominate with that half court start with everybody in perfect spots . . and they don’t learn that ability to quick change . . to attack.”

“The most important thing I used to do with my high school players was have them come in in the morning and work one-on-one with them on skills. It was by far the best thing to build confidence and for us to have a connection.”

“The more you keep growing your skills as a coach to keep meeting the challenges of what you do, the higher you’re going to take those players. You never know who you’re impacting.”

Selected Links from the Podcast:

Mike MacKay

Alex Sarama

Sefu Bernard

Don McCrae

Knute Rockne

Bryce Tully

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow in Sports

Steve Konchalski

Jack Donohue

Rick Majerus


1:00 – Facts Without Support
3:00 – Trial and Error
5:00 – Transactional vs Transformational Coaching
7:30 – Transactional Coaching
10:30 – Improving Players with Transformational Coaching
13:00 – Check for Understanding
15:00 – Fast, Open Environment
17:00 – Stopping to Correct and Teach
19:30 – VHS
21:00 – Discovering Unstructured Practice Environment
24:00 – Freedom comes from Structure
27:00 – Breaking Down Inbound
29:30 – Decision Making and Finding Solution
33:00 – Creative in Solving Problems in Practice
37:30 – Constraints for the Defense and Offense
41:00 – Guidance in the Learning process
45:00 – Green Eggs and Hams
48:00 – Who plus Y Equals Y plus How
51:30 – Layering and Loading Drills
54:30 – Starting Point
56:00 – Disruptive Side
58:00 – Start with Live
1:00:00 – Applying the Rule of Three
1:02:00 – Individual and Team Improvement
1:05:00 – Skill Equals Confidence
1:06:30 – His Big Three
1:10:00 – Stimulate Thinking
1:12:00 – Conclusion

Mike MacKay:



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