In this week’s coaching conversation, Mike Sotsky, an assistant coach with Harvard’s men’s basketball team, joins The Basketball Podcast to discuss the less is more philosophy of coaching.
Sotsky is heading into his fourth season working with the Crimson under coach Tommy Amaker.
The 2018-19 season was a good one for Harvard, as the team won its second-straight Ivy League championship, and earned its second-straight trip to the NIT, scoring its first ever win in the tournament in program history, beating Georgetown (71-68).
A native of Wyckoff, N.J., Sotsky went to Ramapo High School, and then graduated from Duke in 2015, armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a double major in History and Public Policy.
He spent four seasons as the Blue Devils’ team manager, moving up to be a staff assistant, helping the Duke basketball staff with scouting, recruiting, video, and day-to-day operations. Sotsky was a part of Duke’s 2015 NCAA championship team, serving as the senior manager, and was a co-recipient of the Gopal Varadhan Award, presented annually to the program’s top upperclassman manager.
“Less can be more . . Coach Amaker talks all the time about keeping the main thing, the main thing which is how are we going to be at our best . . keep the focus on us what we do and not become overly consumed with the opponent and what they do.”
[On scouting] “Shorter is better. What are . . the essential pieces your players need to know and that they can act on during the game . . Something that we’ve done is walk through one of the plays and really take pride in ‘we are not going to give this look up’ . . “
“One of the best things I’ve learned is . . We show our players playing well all the time . . it enhances their confidence and . . it reinforces that what we, as a staff, are trying to do works.”
“I think it’s become . . even more important with this generation . . of shouting praise and whispering criticism . . and finding the right way to teach . . and get those lessons across.”
“We’ll never miss a chance to take a charge . . It’s the ultimate unselfish play . . People talk about being unselfish all the time on the offensive end . . being in an active, alert, ready stance on the help side is being unselfish on the defensive end.”
“What are the two to three, max, things on the offensive end or defensive end that are going to make you successful? . . Then be really fanatical about measuring those things, making your players aware that those things matter and then be maniacal about emphasizing them.”
“Try to find the things that have downstream consequences . . you can’t be a good transition defense team if you’re turning the ball over constantly and you’re taking bad shots . . so by emphasizing transition defense, you’re really checking off two pretty important boxes on the offensive end as well.”
“The game is the best teacher . . a lot of the correction that you feel needs to happen will organically arise.”
“If your guys can get good at making reads that commonly occur during the game in whatever offense you’re running maybe you don’t need seven plays that lead to a side ball screen.”
“Think critically about what is your philosophy, what do you believe in, how do you want to play and start there . . then pick the three things . . that are really good for your offense.”
“Players development is a lot broader than skill development . . player development, for us, goes beyond even things that ‘directly translate’ to their game . . We do a ton of events . . that we feel make them better young men.”
“We say all the time, not accepting roles but embracing roles. The best teams have players that embrace roles.”
Selected Links from the Podcast
Click below to listen in if you listen on:
1:00 – Introduction
2:00 – Being a Coach in this Era of Basketball
3:30 – Coach Amaker’s Influence to Him
4:30 – Less is More
6:30 – Simplified Scouting
9:00 – Opportunity and Time Cost
10:00 – Self Scout
13:00 – Desire to Help his Players
15:00 – Talking about Baseline Inbound
17:00 – Handling their Analytics
19:00 – Quick O-B
20:00 – Handling Consequences and Correction
23:30 – Dealing with Practice Design
26:30 – Working on Opening tip
28:00 – Happening in Intervention
31:00 – The Things He Do to Manage his Amazing Ideas
34:00 – More Concepts of Coach Amaker
37:00 – Managing Offensive Concepts into a Simpler Function
39:00 – Freedom of Making Decisions
41:00 – Things he Learned from Coach Amaker/Krzyzewski
43:00 – Changes in Ball Screen Coverage
46:00 – Simplify
47:30 – Player Development for his Players
50:00 – Skill Equals Confidence
54:00 – Post Development is Overlooked
57:00 – Focusing on the Fundamentals
59:30 – “Too simple is not good either”
1:01:00 – Conclusion
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