In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Matt Langel, coach of Colgate University’s men’s basketball team, joins The Basketball Podcast to discuss methods of helping players to find success. Decision-making, shot selection, player development, and teaching players how to play are all covered.
Langel has been running the Raiders’ program since 2011, and set a record in 2019 in wins (24), wins in the Patriot League (13), and home wins (15) at Cotterell Court in Hamilton, New York. The result was Colgate’s first Patriot League title since 1996. His success resulted in a contract extension until 2026-27.
Prior to Colgate, Langel spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Temple University (2006-11), working for head coach Fran Dunphy; he also worked for Dunphy from 2004-06, when Dunphy coached Penn—Langel’s alma mater. The just-retired Dunphy (from Temple) still means a lot to Langel. “There hasn’t been any important decision that I haven’t consulted him on, or thought deeply about what he would do,’’ Langel told the Philadelphia Inquirer after the Raiders won the Patriot League title.
Originally from Moorestown, N.J., Langel spent four seasons playing for the Quakers (1996-2000), and was honored as the Ivy League and Big Five Player of the Week numerous times and received the Big Five’s Most Improved Player Award. Langel finished his career in red and blue with 1,191 points.
Atlantic City of the USBL drafted Langel in 2000, and he went to camps for the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics and the Philadelphia 76ers. His pro career took place in Europe: Chene BC in Switzerland; ALM Evreux Basket in France Pro A; MBC and Hagan in German Bundesliga I; Eiffel Towers in Holland.
“The players have to make the plays in basketball . . As coaches we need to take those individuals . . and figure out how that group together is going to maximize who they’re going to be.”
“We don’t have a specific system . . we try to take the guys that we have and help them find success.”
“We don’t just recruit haphazardly, there are certain things we value . . over the years we’ve been a fairly efficient offensive group . . we tend to recruit guys who . . are good decision makers.”
“For us footwork is a big part of it, being able to play off both pivot feet, being on balance, not predetermining what you’re going to do.”
“If they’re going to ice or down a side pick and roll, I can’t tell our guy exactly what to do but we go over a variety of options in practice . . we build up to 3-on-3 what may be available.”
“It’s a decision making game . . You can’t run a play . . and guarantee success . . you have to be able to read the defense and make decisions.”
“Don’t turn the basketball over . . You’re going to have turnovers, especially if you play with freedom . . but it directly affects efficiency.”
“We talk about taking good shots . . I love to stop the film before the ball has gone in the basket and say, ‘What do you think? Is that a good shot? Meaning extra pass, feet set, on balance, good spacing . . it’s not a contested shot early in the shot clock . . ‘”
“The reason we’re running offense is to get shots that we believe are good shots . . there’s some variety within the team.”
“We want to shoot open shots . . if that presents itself early in the shot clock in transition . . that’s terrific but after that . . it’s hard to play defense for a full possession . . we know because we try to do it on defense . . let’s work to break the defense down.”
“We tell them to shoot all the time . . Let’s shoot open shots but I’ll also tell a guy, ‘Is that a shot you have been practicing?’ . . We want them to be invested in the concept of it’s the best shot for the team.”
“In order to best break down the defense, the ball has to change sides of the floor but . . I also believe in inside out basketball . .there are a lot of ways to get that done.”
“We need to try to teach guys how to play . . If that guy has a great advantage in the post and he’s an effective scorer down there we want to be able to get him the ball and give him space, so how are we going to occupy the defense while not cutting in his way?”
“I always try not to forget what it was like to be a player . . what I’ve learned as a head coach, especially early on, was that . . we were doing things so that I would feel comfortable . . in reality, sometimes less is more . . I always found, as a player, it was more enjoyable to learn by playing . . as opposed to learn by listening or learn by watching.”
“Decision making, to me, is the most valuable part of the game and you can’t do that [with] dummy offense, you have to learn by doing.”
“Basketball is a fun game to play . . Obviously, there are different roles within a team but when you talk about chemistry, camaraderie . . every guy has to feel like they’re a part of it and they’re invested and they’re improving and they’re contributing.”
“I think a huge part of our growth as a program . . has been the staff that I’ve been able to work with . . they’re deeply committed to the game and our program and, most importantly, to the individuals in our program.”
“Part of the reason why I was able to learn and grow as an assistant coach is that I was given a lot of freedom on both [the offensive and defensive] ends of the basketball.”
Selected Links from the Podcast:
1:00 – Playing a Lot of Basketball as a Coaching Staff
3:00 – Player’s Game
5:00 – How Players Leverage Their Advantages
8:00 – No Predetermined Movement and Decision
10:00 – Basketball is a Decision Making Game
12:00 – Things that Lead to the Efficiency of Offense
13:00 – Is a Bad Shoot better than a No Shot?
14:30 – Best Thing to Educate Players
16:40 – Character of the Players
17:30 – Things that leads to High Efficiency Offense
19:00 – Statistics and Freedom and Creating Shots of Players
22:00 – Players Practicing Their Shots
24:00 – Importance of the Post
27:30 – Specific Teachings inside the Post
30:00 – Moves done in the Post
32:00 – Learn by Playing in the Game and in Practice
35:30 – Involving the Whole Team in the Practice
37:30 – Adjustments to Make
40:30 – Coach Matt’s Offensive Concepts
43:00 – Automatics
45:00 – Disrupt of Flow to His Offensive Concepts
48:00 – Conclusion
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