Basketball mourns coaching losses, but their lessons will endure
It's been a rough week for college basketball.
The men's game lost a coaching legend in Dean Smith and a coaching icon in Jerry Tarkanian. Smith, the longtime coach at North Carolina, and Tarkanian, the longtime coach at UNLV, died on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively.
In the last few days, we've heard from many of the people these two coaches have touched, including fellow coaches who have been influenced either directly or indirectly by Smith and Tarkanian.
In that vein, I thought it would be interesting to poll the boys basketball coaches in the Daily Herald's Lake County coverage area about the people who have influenced them most in coaching.
PBM: What coach do you admire or try to emulate most?
Pat Ambrose, Stevenson: I try to emulate the best coaches in terms of character and sideline behavior. Certainly Dean Smith (North Carolina men) was a model coach for me.
Scott Bogumil, Libertyville: Tom Izzo (Michigan State men) and Gene Pingatore (St. Joseph boys). Both have been wildly successful and both will always take the time to talk hoops with you and never come across as a big-time coach even though both are. I have not found two more down-to-earth and humble coaches who are willing to help or give you their time.
Todd Grunloh, Grayslake North: Don Tanney was my football coach for three years at Lexington High School. He has been one of the greatest role models throughout my entire life. Rarely does a practice or game go by where I don't think of how he would have approached it or handled the situation. It doesn't matter that he was a football coach and I'm a basketball coach. His approach and style can be applied to anything. He is the most detailed coach I've ever played for. We entered games so confident because of how well drilled and prepared we were. Another characteristic of his I always admired was the dedication and work ethic he demanded out of his athletes.
Scott Luetschwager, Wauconda: When I first got into coaching, I read as many books as I could from Coach (John) Wooden (UCLA men), Coach Krzyzewski (Duke men) and Dean Smith (North Carolina men). I learned that you have to be yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not. The kids will see right through it.
Matt McCarty, Vernon Hills: My brother-in-law, Rob Judson, is an assistant coach for Tom Crean at Indiana. He has always been someone I have looked up to as I was trying to make it on my own as a coach. He has been a great resource who has helped me network with other coaches and his basketball mind is one of the best in the business.
Billy Pitcher, Lake Zurich: Mike Krzyzewski (Duke men) and Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics head coach). But I really look more at high school coaches and the job guys like Phil LaScala (Lake Forest boys), Paul Harris (Highland Park boys), Dave Weber (Glenbrook North boys) and Tony Lavorato (Maine South boys) have done because I can relate to them. I learned a lot from going to clinics where Scott Trost (Lewis University men) was a presenter.
Zack Ryan, Carmel: My high school coach Mark Klingsporn (Tartan HS, Oakdale, Minn.), my college coach Terry Gibbons (Wisconsin-Eau Claire) and Dick Knar and Corey Knigge (Mundelein). I have taken drills and philosophies from all of those guys. It was easier for me to learn from coaches I was directly involved with.
Chris Snyder, Lakes: My high school coach at Wheaton North Bob Ward (currently coach at Wheaton St. Francis) has had a big influence on my coaching. He didn't encourage me through words, but more through his actions. I have always admired the way he builds strong relationships with players that are long-lasting. I really saw this at his retirement from Wheaton North. The school held a celebration for him during a game and I made it back and was amazed to see how many former players showed up from so many different teams. You could sense a bond between all the former players.
Jim White, Antioch: We do a lot of 4-out and high/low stuff seen at the University of Kansas. I've been to a couple of clinics with Bill Self and he does a good job of explaining half-court controlled action and defense in the half-court.
PBM: Is there a coach who encouraged you to get into coaching or who gave you your first big break?
Pat Ambrose, Stevenson: My high school coach Dick Whitaker (Naperville North and Peoria High) influenced me most to get into coaching.
Scott Bogumil, Libertyville: Without question (the late DePaul men's coach) Ray Meyer. As an undergraduate at DePaul, I went into his office my sophomore year asking about what it would take to become a coach. After about an hour talk about basketball and life, he encouraged me to look for a job in a high school the following fall while still being a student. He also walked me down to his son Joey's office. Joey was the head coach at DePaul at the time and Ray told him I would make a great volunteer for the program.
Corey Knigge, Mundelein: Frank Mattucci (former Stevenson girls coach) got me into my first full-time coaching position with a successful program. He saw me working youth clinics at Rising Stars basketball club and liked the way I interacted with the kids and offered me a job with him. It was an invaluable experience.
Kosta Kougias, Grayslake Central: I owe my opportunity to start coaching to Don Rowley (former Hersey boys coach, current Lake Zurich boys assistant) and Chad Freeman (Hersey assistant coach). Freeman encouraged me to get into it and Rowley gave me my first opportunity.
Scott Luetschwager, Wauconda: My older sister Amy, who got into coaching after she was done playing college basketball, and my brother-in-law Chuck Oliver, who was coaching at the college level at the time. My first big break was when Rich Wolf brought me on staff at Wauconda and gave me a chance to grow as a coach.
Matt McCarty, Vernon Hills: When I was a senior at Illinois and had to do my student-teaching, I wanted to work at a school in the area that had an excellent basketball program. At the time, Bob Trimble was the head coach at Monticello High School. During his 20-plus years, he won nearly 400 games and was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. Even though my student-teaching did not begin until late January, he allowed me to help assist the varsity the entire season. We won 20 games, but lost in the sectional finals to the eventual state champion.
Zack Ryan, Carmel: My grandfather, uncle and dad were all coaches. I always admired how much they enjoyed what they were doing and I wanted to feel the same way.
Jim White, Antioch: Chuck Ramsey and Bill Werly were a great duo (head coach/assistant coach) for decades at Warren. They meant a lot to me coming through there as a player and setting such a high bar of excellence on the court. Paul Harris at Highland Park. It was an invaluable experience being on his staff. They do so much right there and continue to be one of the most respected programs in the area year in and year out.
PBM: Do you have certain coaching philosophies that are similar to those of a specific coach you admire/respect?
Scott Bogumil, Libertyville: We definitely have a bunch of Michigan State influence on our sets, offensively and defensively.
Todd Grunloh, Grayslake North: I think if one of Coach (Don) Tanney's (Lexington football) former players were to observe one of our practices, he would notice that the organization and structure is very similar to (Coach Tanney's practices).
Corey Knigge, Mundelein: From Coach Frank Mattucci (former Stevenson girls), I learned what it meant to organize and run a high-level program. I learned what it meant to motivate players to be their best. From Coach Dick Knar (former Mundelein boys coach), I learned how to get players to do things that they never thought they were capable of. He showed me how to develop relationships with players.
Kosta Kougias, Grayslake Central: Coincidentally, my philosophy is founded on the late Dean Smith's 'Carolina Way: Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Together.' His book was one of the first coaching books I read and the testimonies of his former players made me appreciate the impact a coach has on people's lives.
Scott Luetschwager, Wauconda: A lot of what we run started 10 years ago when Al Marks was here with the previous staff. I grew up as a coach in the lower levels implementing the concepts that he brought to the program like our defense, transition offense and our press.
Matt McCarty, Vernon Hills: Being able to work under Ed Molitor at Palatine was like being at a defensive clinic on a daily basis at practice. Being able to observe his attention to detail and his ability to raise the level of effort of his players was very important in helping me set the foundation for what I wanted my philosophy to be.
PBM: What is a drill you always run at practice that you picked up from a coach you respect?
Pat Ambrose, Stevenson: I still use a passing drill taught to me by Bill Wandro (Hoffman Estates, boys).
Scott Bogumil, Libertyville: The layup drill we run every day comes from Paul Pryma (St. Ignatius) and the rebounding drill comes from Tom Izzo (Michigan State).
Corey Knigge, Mundelein: Coach Dick Knar's (former Mundelein boys) fastbreak system is, and always will be, part of my coaching philosophy. He picked that system up from his father, a long-time and highly successful high school and college coach.
Kosta Kougias, Grayslake Central: One of the most fun drills we run is a toughness drill from Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth). It's 'Iron Man,' where you take a charge, dive on the floor for a loose ball and save a ball from going out of bounds.
Scott Luetschwager, Wauconda: My varsity coach, Jim Murphy, had us run a version of the 3-man weave every day in practice. I have taken that drill and modified it to my team's needs and we run it at least once a week. In college, Coach Scott Blum (Trinity) had us do a drill called circle shooting. Today, I have my kids end every pregame practice with that drill.
Billy Pitcher, Lake Zurich: A 6-point drill from Duke, a defensive drill that hits all the most important parts of defense.
Matt McCarty, Vernon Hills: Any rebounding drill from Michigan State's Tom Izzo. Usually, we don't call fouls and there is no out-of-bounds. The level of intensity in practice is instantly raised.
Chris Snyder, Lakes: There aren't any specific drills, more so a practice mindset. I can remember tough practices in high school with Coach (Bob) Ward and how those tough practices helped our team bond. We earned that badge of honor by getting through tough practices together. I really want that with my teams.
Jim White, Antioch: We run a toughness drill every day in practice that we modify depending on our scout preparations at the time. Got that gem from (former Antioch boys coach) Tom Duffy, my mentor during my first couple years at Antioch.
PBM: What is the best piece of advice you ever got from a coach you respect?
Pat Ambrose, Stevenson: Mark Schneider at Proviso West really taught me to be my own coach and not try to be something you are not.
Scott Bogumil, Libertyville: Coach (Ray) Meyer (DePaul) said to me to always remember that it's about the players. Coaches are successful only as a result of the players following instructions and teaching, but that they have to win or lose the game. There has not yet been a jockey who carried the winning horse over the finish line at the Kentucky Derby.
Todd Grunloh, Grayslake North: Coach (Don) Tanney (Lexington football) just wants me to be myself. There is no perfect way to coach. Everyone has a different style or way.
Corey Knigge, Mundelein: Coach Dick Knar's (former Mundelein boys) father used to tell us about psychic income. It's the philosophy that coaching isn't about the paycheck, it's about the relationships you develop. It's about seeing those players 20 years down the road as successful men with careers and families of their own.
Kosta Kougias, Grayslake Central: This is from (Stevenson boys assistant) Paul Swan. 'It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.' Those words ring true every year. Enjoy and appreciate the time spent together and all the ups and downs that come with the season.
Matt McCarty, Vernon Hills: When Don Akers hired me at Tolono Unity High School to be his freshman coach, he emphasized how important it was for me to make sure that every member of the team had a role and that the players know you value their role no matter if it is the best player or the player at the end of the bench. Coach Akers was very good at getting his players to understand that every team member can contribute at some level. It has stayed with me ever since.
Billy Pitcher, Lake Zurich: Paul Harris (Highland Park) and John Camardella (Prospect) had the idea of meeting with each kid at their house at the beginning of the season to explain their roles on the team. We do it at school, but it has been great to get to know the kids and understand the family dynamics better.
Chris Snyder, Lakes: Coach Bob Ward (Wheaton North/Wheaton St. Francis) said to always move on to the next day, regardless of the outcome of the previous day. During my second year, we had a tough loss to Grant where we gave up a big lead. He called me the next day and was just focused on getting better and what was next on our schedule.
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- Adlai E. Stevenson High School
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- Lakes Community High School
- Libertyville High School
- Mundelein High School
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