In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Washington Wizards assistant coach Ryan Richman joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss moving from an assistant to a head coach and back to an assistant, and what he learned from those experiences.
Ryan Richman enters his eighth season with the Wizards in 2020-21 as an assistant coach on head coach Scott Brooks’ staff, having served in a variety of roles during his tenure with Washington. Richman spent the 2019-20 season as the head coach of Washington’s NBA G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, leading the team to a 22-21 record in the pandemic-shortened season. Capital City recorded its first winning season under Richman, also helping two players earn call-ups with the Wizards.
Coach Richman served as an assistant coach on the front of Brooks’ bench in 2018-19, after spending his first three seasons with the organization in the video room before transitioning to a role as player development coordinator/assistant coach in Scott Brooks’ first year as head coach (2016-17). In that role, he assisted player development during pre-practice, pre-game, and after-hours sessions while also analyzing game film and holding responsibility for game scouts and preparation.
Ryan Richman also served as the head coach of the 2018 Wizards’ Summer League team, where he led current Wizards Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant to standout performances.
After playing one season at Skidmore College Richman transferred to the University of Maryland and served as a scout player for the women’s basketball team under Head Coach Brenda Freese, where he learned player development, scouting, and film. Richman then worked as a graduate assistant at Maryland under Head Coach Mark Turgeon, where he assisted in day-to-day basketball operations before joining the Wizards’ staff in 2013. Richman is a native of West Hartford, Connecticut. He holds a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland.
Ryan Richman Quotes:
[On being a head coach in the NBA G League] “It was really the best experience I’ve had . . the best investment in myself . . And I learned so much . . about myself and how I handled certain situations and leadership styles . . it was the best thing I ever did, by far, from a professional standpoint.”
“The University of Maryland . . Is where I first learned and saw what holding players accountable actually meant . . Brenda Frese did an incredible job.”
“I know it sounds cliché but . . the attention to detail is really what separates everyone in the business . . it is how you present yourself to the team .. it’s really an opportunity for the team to see you in a lens, they see you in an assistant coach or a head coach lens, or a video person lens . . And you can change the perception in a lot of ways if you’re able to go in with an attention to detail and a confidence about yourself because you’ve done the work.”
“Before I present a scout, I make sure to highlight just one thing . . if we do this one thing tonight, . . we have a great chance of winning; if you don’t, you can’t beat them . . For me as a coach, I want to know . . the main thing and then maybe two more things . . that we need to do tonight to put us in the best position to succeed.”
“Player development really is critical because the players need to feel like they’re getting better and it’s a daily process . . If they feel like they’re getting better . . and everyone is improving on a daily basis in the weight room, on the court, even in the classroom, all those things lift a program up.”
“There are two years out of my eight years in the NBA that I’ve grown the most exponentially. The first one is the first year in the video room . . And then the second . . was my first year as a head coach.”
“There are so many assistant coaches in the NBA that are incredible that people will rarely even hear of . . I just take what I like about what other coaches did and just try to put my own spin on it.”
“I think the first time you actually get put in charge of running a team, you realize that you have to do less . . what I wanted to put in and what was actually in offensively and defensively was less than half of what I thought”
“In a lot of ways less is more . . the simplicity of running something like pistol or dribble and the spacing of it, and the screening angles. And if they go under, it’s an automatic re-screen . . you don’t need 30 different early offenses, you need . . three that you do really, really well. And from there, you can just create out of that, and your players can create.”
“As a young coach when I did the summer league, I got myself in trouble trying to do too much. So to your point, whittle down what’s essential? How do you put your players in the best position to be successful? That’s the job of a head coach . . that’s what we need to do better.”
“You need to travel with a board or travel with a marker and a pad and just draw plays . . draw up five plays a day or two plays a day or put yourself on a clock . . another thing is drawing up the ATO that that coach ran [while] you’re watching it live . . just try to draw it up right after . . who was in which place . . that’s hard to see.”
“When it’s your drill, you’re the head coach. So all the coaches around you are helping you be successful in that drill and that is very important. But it also gives you a snippet of being a head coach . . it’s hard managing staff.”
“For me, I feel like I have a responsibility to help them [assistant coaches] the way that I was helped in my career. So, I really want to put them in position to be successful, but also challenge them and try and meet with them every month to just say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? Do you like what you’re doing? Do you want to do other projects?’ I found that to be a difficult but rewarding part of my job as a head coach.”
“It can’t be just about you . . I think it’s important to hire the right people, but also empower them to be their best.”
“After the first 10 games I started to have so much more fun when I realized that, in the game, you have way less control than you think . . practices are your games as a coach and I started to love practices as a head coach because that’s where . . you have that control aspect of different aspects of things you want to get better at.”
“Shot selection was something that our players probably wanted me to control more. And it was something that, moving forward, I think we need to check in with every single week.”
“All players want to be held to a certain standard, they all want to be treated fairly. And I think they need to hear the head coach say players’ names when you’re holding them accountable.”
“The thought process as a head coach is always macro. The big question is always what is best for the team. ‘When are we going to leave for this trip? What’s best for the team?’ But as an assistant coach, you can think in a more micro lens you can say, ‘What’s best for the three players I work out pregame? How can I help them during the game?’”
“Competence, reliability, and trust . . all those things factor into whether or not you are viewed as an essential member of the staff.”
“I think at its core, if you love the game, the game will love you back.”
Ryan Richman Breakdown:
1:30 – Opportunity to be a Head Coach
5:00 – Takeaways from Experience as Head Coach
7:00 – Applying Scout
10:00 – Video Animation
13:00 – Impact of Men’s and Women’s Programs
16:00 – Type of Film other Coaches Wanted
20:00 – Potential Head Coaching in G-League
24:00 – Preparation as a Head Coach
27:30 – Court Coaching
31:30 – Court Responsibilities
34:30 – First Preparations for G-League
39:00 – Managing the Players
42:00 – Mindset as a Coach
44:30 – X’s and O’s
47:00 – Coaches Template
50:30 – Feedback
53:00 – Improvements
55:30 – Macro and Micro Thinking
59:00 – Better Understanding of Coaching
1:02:00 – Enlightenment to Other Coaches
1:07:00 – Game is Visual than Verbal
1:09:00 – Conclusion
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