The Basketball Podcast: EP295 with Darris Nichols on Roleplaying and Coaching

RELEASE DATE : 22/11/2023
Radford head coach Darris Nichols joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on invisible ingredients, roleplaying and coaching responses.

Darris Nichols enters his second season as the Radford head basketball coach in 2023-24. The native son of Radford, Va. was named the eighth head coach in program history on April 21, 2021. Nichols’ plan to return the Highlanders to their winning ways came to fruition in just his second season at the helm, leading the program to a 21-15 overall record, including a 12-6 mark in Big South play, during the 2022-23 campaign. Radford came one point away from playing in the conference championship, but still earned a bid to the College Basketball Invitational.

With wins over Tarleton State and San Jose State in the CBI, the Highlanders won multiple postseason contests in the same season for the first time in program history. The team’s success can, at least partially, be attributed to the incredible recruiting effort Nichols and his staff displayed in the offseason.

Nichols began his coaching career at his alma mater West Virginia as a graduate assistant in 2010. He was named an assistant at Northern Kentucky in 2011 and spent two seasons with the team before spending a season each with Wofford and Louisiana Tech. He joined the coaching staff at Florida in 2015 as an assistant on former Louisiana Tech head coach Mike White’s staff. Nichols was named the head coach at Radford in April 2021. In year two, Radford went 21-15, finishing tied for second in the Big South Conference and advanced to post-season play.

Nichols played college basketball at West Virginia, where he was a four-year letterman who played in 144 games during his four-year career. After going undrafted out of college, Nichols went on to play professionally for Atomerőmű SE, a professional team in Hungary for one season that went 10-1 and won the Hungarian cup before suffering a knee injury that ended his playing career.

Darris Nichols

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Darris Nichols Quotes:

“A lot of times when you go into job, you kind of have an idea, ‘This is how want to play. This is what want to do.’ . . I think now with the transfer portal, the most important thing to do first is accumulate talent and then kind of figure it out from there.”

“I talked to some NBA coaches and said, ‘If you were college coach, what would you do?’ And all of them said the same thing, ‘I would play more. You guys practice so much, but you don’t play’.”
 “When you have grad transfer guys for one or two years, you don’t know how they’re going to respond . . you’re watching clips, so you don’t really get to know them as people like you would if you brought in the freshmen and develop them over the years.”

“I reenacted this in front of my guys, and said, the text you’re probably going to get after the game from somebody you love and loves you is going to say something like, ‘I can’t believe coach took you out for that air ball.’ And you have to tell them, ‘No, I took you out because your response to the air ball and then your response to getting taken out.’ So we educate them on our standards and how we want to respond.”

“Coaching shot selection is probably one of the hardest things to do. We don’t say it’s bad shot. We just call them
shooting turnovers. So, then it kind of registers. But lot of times you ask players, ‘What else could you have done?
What else could you have done better than shooting this shot? I think it helps them understand the game. It helps them see the game.”

“The main thing with all the ball screens is it doesn’t matter what kind of ball screen offense you run if your bigs aren’t creating separation by sprinting or getting screen, and it’s probably not going to work.”

“We’ll do lot of it [ball screen reads] out of 3-on-3 on one side and make the opposite lane line out of bounds because in our ball screen continuity, we don’t want to drag it over too far. So, you’ve got to make a better decision with limited space. But the biggest thing we drill is how fast and how much are the bigs changing speeds when they go ball screen.”

“The biggest thing is creating that [defensive] mindset.. you could do whatever schemes or whatever you want, but you  have to create that mindset. We sub for defensive mistakes early in the game, so then you don’t have to sub later in the game in terms of energy, effort,”

“A lot of times when people scout, they try to find the best players. We try to find the worst players who we don’t have to guard. It’s easy to find the best players, so let’s find the worst ones and don’t guard them.”

“We do lot of our teaching through the film. Our film sessions are probably ten minutes at most. But a lot of times we  give them opportunities to talk because don’t think they talk enough about basketball situations on their own as a team.”

“If 
want to add new play, add it before they stretch. We just walk through the play because don’t want to stop
practice and then say, ‘Hey, we’re adding a new play’ and then practice gets slow and stale, then you got to rev it back up.  Anytime we want to walk through something, we do it before we stretch and then we’ll reintroduce what we walk through.” 

Darris Nichols Breakdown:

3:00 – Accumulate Talent
6:00 – Unique Teaching
11:00 – Coaching Responses
15:00 – Ball Screen Continuity
20:00 – Importance of Invisible Ingredients
22:00 – Unseen Hours
24:00 – Play Different Ways
26:30 – Types of Concept
29:00 – Defensive System and Philosophy
31:00 – Teaching Points
34:00 – Making Shots
36:30 – Flow of the Game
38:30 – Walking Through It
42:00 – Acting Background
46:00 – Going Overseas

Darris Nichols Selected Links from the Podcast:

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