How do you do justice to the career of Eric Musselman in just a few paragraphs? You can’t. His remarkable career in basketball is not just lengthy—at more than 30 years—and varied, but it is on-going and meaningful. His visit to The Basketball Podcast covers a lot of ground.
Currently, he is the head coach of the men’s team at the University of Arkansas. Upon hiring Musselman in April 2019, Arkansas’ Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said, “Eric Musselman is acoach that has had experience at every level of basketball from the NCAA to the NBA … He was
practically born into the game and his passion for basketball is unmistakable.”
Musselman jumped to the Razorbacks after returning the University of Nevada into a perennial NCAA Tournament team during his four-year stay, with a 110-34 record and .764 winning percentage. Previously at the college level, he had been as assistant coach with Arizona State and an associate coach with LSU.
Coach Musselman was born in Ashland, Ohio, and went to the University of San Diego, and played in two NCAA tourneys with the Toreros. But coaching was in his future, since his father, Bill, had coached in the NBA, NCAA, ABA, WBA, and CBA.
Eric’s first head coaching job was at age 23, working with the Continental Basketball Association’s Rapid City Thrillers. He also coached in the United States Basketball League and in the National Basketball Assocation’s developmental league.
In the NBA, he had assistant coaching gigs with the Minnesota Timberwolves (1990-91), Orlando Magic (1998-2000), Atlanta Hawks (2000-02), and Memphis Grizzlies (2004-06), and was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors (2002-04) and Sacramento Kings (2006-07).
Internationally, Musselman has coached the national teams of the Dominican Republic (2010-11) and Venezuela (2011-13), and worked with the American and Chinese squads at the Adidas Global Experience (2009, 2010).
“As you grow in the profession, you become much more of a sharer.”
“When you’re a head coach you . . learn on the fly a lot . . I was able to try a lot . . without being under that microscope of criticism and I think it really helped me grow as a coach.”
“How do you put together a team? . . What we’ve tried to do is . . use a model of the way that a [NBA] general manager and his scouting department would look at recruiting . . and how you’d build a roster.”
“I think it’s really important with recruits that you lay out the foundation of what their role would be in year one and then how you see that role evolving with a player’s player development plan.”
“At any level . . you’ve got to have great team chemistry and . . players have to understand their roles . . you don’t have to agree with a role that a coaching staff lays out for you but you have to buy into that role or it’s never going to work.”
“After we reached the Sweet 16 . . instead of worrying about the game in front of us and the 40-minute battle that you have that night, we started looking beyond that . . we stopped enjoying winning.”
“You’ve got to know how to manage [expectations] . . when you have a really, really talented team, those are usually the teams that are the most difficult to coach.”
“In the NBA, if you don’t have your best players taking the highest volume of shots in their sweet spots, you’re not going to win.”
“The college game is different . . at the end of shot clocks, why is the worst offensive player taking a shot?”
“One of the philosophies that we use . . is a soccer term or hockey term, you’ve got to get a shot on goal . . the worst thing in college basketball is a live-ball turnover.”
“I always tell the players, ‘I don’t define the roles. You define the roles in the off-season.’ . . I do think roles evolve during the course of the season.”
“We do have probably as big a play package as anyone in college basketball . . if you’re going to have a play call, you need to have that play call make sense to the player . . there’s got to be a rhyme or reason for the set.”
“You’ve got to simplify the game as much as possible . . we want to keep the basic identity of who we are but we have new themes each game.”
“If we’re getting ready for a certain team, I want to know that opponent’s strengths and weaknesses . . we want to take advantage of their defensive weaknesses . . we want to try to take away their strengths offensively with our defense.”
“One of the great lessons I got as a young coach was [from] Coach Chuck Daly. He said, ‘Don’t ever put in a play unless you know it works.’ . . don’t experiment in front of your team, do that behind closed doors with your staff.”
“We have an offensive script . . we try to put together a package that allows us as a staff to try to get a feel for . . what their game plan is against us . . we want to get as many as we can prior to halftime.”
“I don’t want my assistant coaches in practice standing on the sidelines with their arms folded . . I want them in the trenches coaching every second of every practice . . same thing in a game.”
“In college right now we have a real issue with developing our younger coaches . . it’s a point of concern that we have younger coaches coming up . . that know how to coach.”
“I don’t think you can walk in . . and think that you’re going to skeleton dry-run offense 5-on-0 . . you’re not going to get execution because you’re not going to get focus.”
Selected Links from the Podcast
Click below to listen in if you listen on:
2:00 – His Notebook
3:00 – Started a Blog and reading Articles on Coaching Profession
5:00 – Experienced in the NBA that helped him in Collegiate Basketball find Success
7:30 – How They Build Their Program
9:40 – Their Recruiting Process and Program
13:00 – His Relation to Transfer Concept
16:40 – Things that changed of proving himself and to be better as a coach
20:00 – Stop Enjoying Winning
22:30 – Energy of his players
24:00 – Expectations
26:00 – Matchup Oriented on Offense
28:20 – Live Ball Turnover
30:00 – Defining Roles to his Players
32:30 – Having Simple Plays and New Plays to his System
35:00 – Knowing the idea of why he does Simple Plays
38:30 – Offensive Script
40:20 – Assistant Coach Calling Plays to the Players
42:00 – Being an Assistant Coach
45:00 – How he practices his plays
48:30 – Things he learned from his readings
51:00 – We need to evolve
53:00 – Conclusion
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