In this week’s coaching conversation, University of North Dakota head coach Paul Sather joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on heart touches, Don Meyer, and effective terminology.
Armed with a collegiate coaching résumé that includes 24 years and a head coaching record of 303-169 Sather has built a pair of national-contending basketball teams at his two head coaching stops, Black Hills State and Northern State. Prior to that, he was a five-year assistant at Northern State, his alma mater, under legendary head coach Don Meyer.
Paul Sather had tremendous success at Northern State University. In his last year as head coach, the Wolves were the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament champions, finishing the league schedule with an 18-4 record, part of a 30-6 league mark in the past two seasons. Sather’s team led the NSIC in scoring defense, scoring margin, 3-point field goal percentage defense, and assists. In addition, NSU sat sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.
A year prior, an early 18-game winning streak propelled the Wolves to a program-record 36 wins and all the way within a missed buzzer-beater of an NCAA Division II championship. He was named both the NSIC and NABC Central Region Coach of the year. His team was again among the elite in the country in a myriad of statistical categories, finishing in the top 20 in scoring defense (66.1) and rebounding margin (+7.8), in the top 10 in scoring margin (+14.1) and in the top five schools in field goal percentage (51.2).
Sather launched his head coaching career at Black Hills State (Spearfish, S.D.) in 2005. In five years there, Sather was instrumental in turning the BHSU program around from a 10-19 season in 2006-07 to an NAIA Final Four contender in 2008-09. The Yellow Jackets also qualified for the national tournament in 2009-10 and compiled an overall conference record of 46-25 in the five years under Sather, including winning two Dakota Athletic Conference championships.
“Anytime you become a head coach for the first time, you’re really trying to find your identity . . you’ve got to find who you are and be true to yourself.”
“You build a program by recruiting quality young people . . that really want to buy in and be something bigger than themselves. You build it and it takes a little bit of time.”
“We will keep track of our ‘heart touch’ possessions and our ‘non heart touch’ possessions . . and we keep track of our shooting percentage in the heart and what our shooting percentage is when we didn’t get a heart touch.”
“You want to play low, but you can’t play too low. You’ve got to find the spot that works for you to move and have balance and play at a high rate of speed without losing balance.”
“We’ll work a ton on just catches, getting your feet set, and really being efficient with your steps, being efficient with your jabs, not taking extra steps in your shot, not taking extra steps defensively.”
“With some of these young people that don’t have good footwork, let’s try to get some consistency, because I do think it’ll help not just your shooting, but your ability to attack and the ability to be shot ready on catches and attack defenses.”
“You don’t have to have a million moves. We really believe in getting your work done before you get a catch. And so we work a lot on timing,”
“The quarter turn is a really important teaching tool on a post touch Plus, when you do catch and get your feet shifted to the middle a little bit more, you see the floor so much better.”
“At the end of the day, you want them to have to get a catch well off the block where you can shrink the floor somewhat to have some sort of impact and take that post out of his rhythm.”
“A lot of times I think you find when your gap defense isn’t very good, you’re probably not guarding the ball very well. And when your help side is late, a lot of times, you’re not guarding the ball well enough. And so, I think we can get lost in other things. But at the end of the day, keeping it really simple: Are we guarding the ball? How’s our stance? How’s our awareness?”
“Our best defensive teams weren’t always just the best five athletes, a lot of times they were the best five guys that were tough and that could figure it out.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not about you as the head coach. It’s about what can we do?. . How do we bring out the best to make our team the best?”
Paul Sather Breakdown:
1:00 – Work with Don Meyer
5:00 – Favorite Quote
7:00 – Coaching at Different Levels
11:00 – Heart Touches
14:00 – Heart Touch Goal
16:30 – Footwork
19:00 – Getting to the Paint
22:00 – Developing a Post Player
24:00 – Motion Concept
28:00 – Fronting the Post
30:00 – System of Talk
33:00 – S.V.P.T.A.M
36:00 – Emphasize Communication
38:00 – Three Point Shooting
40:00 – Wall Ups
42:00 – No Angles
45:00 – Know Your Personnel
47:00 – Dork and Opponent Terminators
52:00 – Giving Structure
53:00 – Changing Defense
Paul Sather Links from the Podcast:
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