In this week’s coaching conversation, Columbia head coach Megan Griffith joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on developing people, creating culture, and building community.
Griffith has ushered in a new era of Columbia women’s basketball. Her six-year tenure as head coach has combined to be the winningest six-year stretch in the NCAA Division I history of the program. Over that time, the Lions have earned seven power-conference wins, including their first victories over opponents from the ACC and Big East. Columbia has also qualified for the Ivy League Tournament in each of its last two seasons, playing in the championship game in 2021-22 before accepting the program’s first bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).
The 2021-22 season was a landmark year as the team had its winningest season in program history, going 25-7 overall with a 12-2 Ivy League record.
Griffith captained the Lions for three seasons and was a two-time All-Ivy League selection (2006 and 2007). Prior to her return to Columbia as a coach, Griffith spent six seasons at Princeton, including her last four as an assistant coach and the team’s recruiting coordinator. She also served as the Tigers’ director of basketball operations from 2010-12.
Megan Griffith Quotes:
“Where we were, to now be where we are, has only made it that much sweeter. And I think that’s why our senior class are such great leaders because they went through the change with us.”
“I always really believed you need to play with an energy, to play like you’re trying to go out there and prove something. That really has resonated with me in my career as a player and a coach.”
“How do you compete and stay competitive? Stay communicative. The sign of a really great program is when you’ve got people competing and communicating at a high level.”
“We needed to be able to get the players to play the way that I hoped we could play. So, it was (1) What can we be the best at in the league? and (2) Where are we right now?”
“We want to put them in situations where they can create and they’re free to do so. I always tell them, “If I don’t have to make play calls, then we know we’re playing well because you guys are just reading what you’re getting and you’re just playing off one another.”
“[Changing culture] is a three-step process. The first step is just buy-in. Are you bought in or not? You want to come play here? Do you get what we’re doing? The second step was believing that we could do it. Believing in what we were talking about, and just being, ‘We’re all here to do it.’ So, then the last piece is for culture to sustain itself and to be bred within the program. And that’s not on the staff anymore; that’s on our players talking the talk, walking the walk, and being able to pass that on to each other in a meaningful, tangible way.”
“We really help our players understand, if you want to be average, you’re going to do average things. If you want to be great, you’re going to do the above the line things. Average is the line. Below the line is anything that’s below a championship standard.”
“We define it as being a great teammate. You’re either taking or giving at any point; you’re never just existing . . we try to help them understand those responses to things and the way that you can affect your teammates with your responses are what makes the team go right. It’s . . how you fill each other’s cups back up.”
“That’s what basketball is. That’s what sports are. That’s what life is: doing hard things to get to the goals that you want.”
“You have to remind them what it takes to be successful. These are the things that you said you wanted way back when I recruited you or when we started the season.”
“It’s so important for our staff to have a voice because, if they [the players] just hear me the whole time, they’ll tune me out.”
“For our team, they have to know why we’re doing this together. We need to be able to say, what are we doing here? For them, it’s always we want play for each other, we love each other, and so we just have to remind them of that at times.”
Megan Griffith Breakdown:
1:00 – Columbia Basketball Program
3:00 – Culture and Core Values
5:00 – Communication
9:00 – Defensive Communication
12:00 – Foundation Things on Offense
15:00 – Changing the Culture
20:00 – Conversation
24:00 – Better Practice
24:29 – 25:03 – Basketball Immersion AD 2023
27:00 – Journaling
35:00 – Wellness Check
38:00 – Greetings and Handshakes
39:30 – Buddy System
43:00 – Journey Meetings
48:00 – Unbalanced as Coaches
51:00 – Multiple Experiences
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