The Basketball Podcast: EP256 with Nelson Terroba on Functional Coaching

RELEASE DATE : 22/02/2023

In this week’s coaching conversation, Texas Legends associate head coach Nelson Terroba joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on modern functional coaching.

Nelson Terroba has filled many roles for the Texas Legends, an NBA G League Affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, including Defensive Coordinator, player development coach and associate head coach. He has been with the Legends since 2019.

Terroba has coached at the professional level for the Saskatchewan Rattlers, Saint John Riptide, Erie Bayhawks, and Bakersfield Jam.He has also been an assistant coach with the Congo National Team, and a head high school coach.

Terroba started his coaching career at the University of Texas where he first served as a student manager and later became the special assistant to the head coach under Rick Barnes.

Listen Here:

Nelson Terroba Quotes:

“Modern functional coaching . . starts with authenticity . . You have to be really good at what you do, you have to be a confident leader, you have to be a dynamic leader, a dynamic communicator . . but you also have to retain this kind of unique humility about you. So, for me, the modern functional coaching model starts with a leader who truly is okay with pushing all the credit out to everyone around him or her.”

“Besides being authentic, the feedback has to be diagnostic, specific and measurable. When I go to the doctor, I don’t want him to say, ‘It looks like you’ve been having a couple of tough days.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m having a tough day, I just want to know, ‘Why does my stomach hurt?’ So, just be diagnostic, ‘Hey, you’re not blocking out right now. When the shot goes up, I’d like you to put a forearm in the chest, I’d like you to push out two steps behind the ball, chin it and then let’s go the other way.”

“The second part of it [feedback] is now you’ve got to be prescriptive. I’ve told you what’s wrong. You’re doing this behavior. Now, I need to tell you the substitute behavior that you need to fill into that space so that we can eliminate the bad behavior and replace it with a good one.”

“You can’t be a great teacher, if all you can do is reach the loyal soldier, the student who sits at the front of the class, the great person who pays attention and picks up all the concepts the first time . . the best teachers are the ones that can reach those challenging students. They know a way to engage the students in all kinds of manners, because they have such a command over the curriculum.”

“[We talk about] really focusing on the specific behaviors. This behavior is what’s going on; this is the behavior I want you to do. Behavior substitution, right replacement behavior, that whole concept, don’t get emotional. Don’t get up and down with it, just simply identify the behavior. and direct what you want the replacement behavior to be and insist on it until the behavior changes.”

“I started to figure out that it was less about big speeches, and less about losing my wits and getting out of control, it was more about being better about identifying what’s going wrong, and how we can fix it.”

“You’ve got to find a way to surround yourself with people who are going to give you real feedback that lets you know, ‘Hey, I’m noticing this, watch out for this, this player is having this kind of reaction to some of the things we’re doing. You need to constantly be asking people around you, what do you see? What are you noticing, and create an environment, in your workplace or in your staff, where everybody knows that you really want to hear what they’re seeing and the truth.”

“The best weapon against arrogance and ignorance is lots of truth and constant, honest feedback coming your way. You have to build systems in a way where people around you are willing to share that with you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to do everything they tell you . . but you’re creating an atmosphere where, when something’s going wrong and people see it, they can bring it to your attention because as a leader, there’s no way you can keep track of everything.”

“Beyond diagnostic and prescriptive, the next part would be EQ based. So emotional intelligence. Now, I’ve got to take note of who this player is, how do they receive information the best? When’s the best time to do it? What’s the best manner? Maybe it is through video in a private conference, maybe it’s right there and then on the spot.”

“I want to make sure as I go through the cycle of diagnosis that I gave a solution, I thought about the person and how they would best receive it, and how they are as a learner. But now, was it clear? Did they pick up on it? And so that’s the check for understanding part as well.”

“Early in a training camp . . I watch them play. Their play shows me where the gaps are . . So, instead of assuming that everybody has no knowledge when they run into the building, especially as a pro but even with young kids, let their play tell you what needs to be worked on as opposed to you administering instruction over something that may or may already be known.”

“We’re 4-on-4 live play with rules. And you have your loads, and you add the loads, but the best teacher is the rules. The rules do the teaching. The way I structure the drill creates the accountability, not the volume in my voice, not the intensity of my tirade, that does nothing to create the desired outcome. All I care about is that they know how to do what I want.”

“I don’t need to worry about tactics and strategies with this person, I need to kind of bolster up the way they communicate with their teammates. That’s their sweet spot, that’s what is important to them in terms of their development . . I work with fantastic players that I could never do the things they do. But there are things that I can help them with in terms of situational awareness, how they speak to teammates, how they recognize certain situations on the court, how they can compose themselves when they have challenges. That’s the coaching that happens a lot at this level because they already have worked so hard at the skills.”

“I can’t scream and yell at professional players, they have to be held to account by the structure of the practice. For instance, with defense, everyone talks about being tough and smart and playing together . .but when I say ‘tough,’ I want it to be specific and measurable.”

“On the hierarchy of needs, how to teach has to be above what to teach.

Nelson Terroba Breakdown:

1:00 – Modern Functional Coaching
5:00 – Transactional Leadership
9:30 – Adapting The Model
14:00 – Individual Differences
17:30 – Authenticity and Humility
20:30 – Diagnostics
25:30 – Prescriptive and Diagnostic Nonstick
28:43 – 29:24 – Immersion Videos AD Jan 2023
29:00 – Recreate, Recreate, Recreate
35:00 – Point Guard College
39:00 – Losing
41:30 – Three-Auto Drill
46:30 – Player’s Parents
49:00 – Talent Code
53:00 – Conclusion

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