The Basketball Podcast: EP283 with Kevin Burleson on Buy In and Staying Present

RELEASE DATE : 30/08/2023

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Rio Grande NBA G-League head coach Kevin Burleson shares insights on buy in, staying present and NBA coaching

Burleson is currently the head coach of Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA G League. He was previously assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020 and served as the Timberwolves Head Coach during the 2022 NBA Summer League. Burleson has also worked as an assistant coach for Iowa Wolves and Memphis Grizzlies1.

Burleson comes from a prolific sporting family. Kevin and Nate Burleson are one of only two sets of siblings in which one played in the NBA and one in the NFL. Kevin played college basketball for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and began his professional career in the German basketball league. He played for the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2005–06.

Kevin Burleson

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Kevin Burleson Quotes:

“The way I thought about player development before, it was more just acquiring skills. I’ve got to make you dribble better or your shooting pocket needs to be better, and things like that. But now as I became a head coach and over the years of being assistant, it’s more about how do you develop this kid to be a role player? The role players are the new stars to me.”

“They [the players] want to get to that next level. So, I would grab him and certain guys in his category in terms of talent and I would say, “These are the guys that are getting paid more than you? Is he more talented skill for skill? . . Why is he in NBA? Why is he getting paid more than you? Is he doing this? Is he doing that? Is he a better defender?”

“Guys understand . . you’ve got to hold them accountable. There’s no you say it and then they don’t do it and no one says anything. Everybody has to know, ‘I don’t care if you’re the best player, you’re going to be held accountable.’”

“One thing that I learned that you have to practice it [sending five players to the offensive glass]. If you don’t get your feet in the paint for offensive rebounding, then a whistle blows. So, there’s no random play that goes by and you didn’t do that . . If one person doesn’t do it, the whistle blows. You might keep playing, but we’re calling out the guy that didn’t do it.”

“I’m a big believer in really challenging your best players because you want to build a culture . . Role players are buying into everything and then, your best players that are with the ball all the time and making the plays,don’t. So, right away, these are the guys I’m going to challenge every day. And then you’ve got to figure out how to challenge them. There are certain guys that you have to just go right at, and certain guys, you’ve got to bring them to the office, put your arm around them, and figure out how to get to them.”

“We had a mantra this year, ‘stay present.’ We said that all the time, and that meant so many things. Stay present. If coach is yelling at you or your girlfriend just broke up with you or you had a bad night or the refs are terrible today or your teammate didn’t pass to you, what is the objective? We’re trying to win a game. Stay present. In that moment you’ve got to make this next shot or you’ve got to box out.”

“Especially at this level, a lot of coaches run the same stuff. There are some wrinkles; there are some things, the timing of it, when you run it and things like that. The teaching of it is different. But it’s all about the buy in part. How do you get these men to do this over and over again the right way, even if you lose? Because, if you do it the right way over and over again throughout the season, you should have a successful season if you have the talent.”

“It’s not about the answers. It’s about how you get this player to execute it. That’s the trick of it. And I think every day in practice, the mini-conversations, the proof, the analytics, the film, all that plays a part, if you get relaxed on one little thing, that chain breaks, it’s over.”

“So, the big thing is that with 5-out spacing, whether it’s 5-out or 4-out 1-in, You have to be thinking about sharing the floor with your teammate at all times.”

“I told my guys that they [the other team] have to be able to move the ball well, have great spacing, and be unselfish the entire game to beat us. They can’t just be 1-on-1 or they can’t just be one pass and shot. No, they have to be really good at that the whole game. And I think they kind of started to understand that concept.”

“We’ll talk for an hour sometimes on the phone just going through analytics and why this and why that? My job then is to bring the staff together and make it digestible for the staff, for all of us, so then we can make it digestible for the players.”

“There are concepts that as a coach that you want your offense to look like that you can work on every day with player development. Like playing off the catch . . anything that worked, tell me, and we’re going to implement it. But one thing I want to do is make sure every day we’re playing off the catch. That’s non-negotiable. We are playing off the catch, and we’re teaching the technique.”

Kevin Burleson Breakdown:

1:00 – Long Time Assistant Coach
5:00 – Player Development
7:00 – Winning
11:00 – Science Experiment for Basketball
13:30 – Buying Another Role
16:00 – Winning Culture
19:00 – Culture Piece
24:00 – Offensive Spacing Concepts
2:05 – 25:08 – Hoopsalytics Ad 3
27:30 – Holding a Spot
32:00 – Creating Space
34:00 – Managing Time
37:00 – Maintaining Pace
40:00 – Analytics
45:00 – Balancing Player Development
46:30 – Keep Growing
49:00 – Conclusion

Kevin Burleson Selected Links from the Podcast:

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