June 2, 2019
What’s up, #FlightNation!
Jiaozuo was good for us. We played our last game of the tour. It was against Serbia, and we owed them one from a previous loss earlier. The last game against them was tough (see previously written blog from last week), so not only did we need to finish strong with a win, we also needed to make sure that last loss to them was seen as a fluke. We absolutely are the better team.
We controlled this last game from start to finish, much like our game 3 vs. Argentina. When you look at our games from start to finish, we showed much improvement from game 1. Our offense was much smoother, and our energy from top to bottom was higher. Losing brings out the worst in you, but also stimulates a hunger to do whatever is necessary for a win. As a coach, I was happy to have earned the trust needed by this group to execute and show that I’m able to make the adjustments necessary against opponents so we play smarter and win. For our guys, I think we really showed our true talents this last game. To be honest, it’s a bit of a shame we lost to any of these teams, but when you have 13 guys, all that think they are a top level player, but only playing 40 minute games (as opposed to our regular 12 minute quarters, 48 minute FBA games), there’s just not enough minutes for everyone. Pride, ego and selfishness crushed us early on as a team.
I’m just thankful our last impression in China was a winning impression. The great news is some of us will be back in August for the $100,000 Jump 10 World Hoops Challenge Tournament in Shanghai. For many teams in that tournament, it’ll be their first time playing in China. For us, it’ll be very familiar. We’ll also be finishing up our FBA season, so our team will be firing on all cylinders. We’ve got a great opportunity to play well in that tournament, and oh my…it will be so sweet to pull off that win and grab the $100,000.
Nevertheless, as much as this has been fun, it’s been the most challenging experience of my coaching career. Merging so many egos into a unified team is no joke. As a coach, I’ve been working hard and purposeful to build myself into a unique, eccentric , new age type of coach that’s much different than others. As a former player, I have a soft heart for my guys. I care deeply for them, and other coaches and basketball folks think it’s to a fault. It might be said that I care more for my players and their career than the players actually do themselves (at times at least). I’m an open coach that up to this point has accepted and even encouraged feedback from the players. In my opinion, no coach can possibly have a perfect feel for the game from the sidelines. Understanding the vibe on the court from the players’ experience is important. I look at coaching like I look at life: the more information you have, the more equipped you can be to win.
The deep, dizzying negative to this approach is that players all have their own agendas, and many of them don’t share the same respect for coaching that coaches do. The info and feedback you get from players is not always real and authentic. I learned that the hard way on this trip, and I’m very happy to have discovered this flaw to my coaching this early in my career.
Every player wants to have a good game while playing internationally against formidable opponents. This is crucial, ESPECIALLY for players needing to build their resume, to propelling a basketball career. Sadly, for most players, there’s a misconception that the only way to play well is to play 65-75% of the minutes in the game…and to be seen as a starter. So instead of seeing any minutes played as a chance to make an impact, I think a lot of times players were too worried about how long they’ll be in. On this tour, this mindset negatively impacted some of our players on this tour. I felt like the guys on the floor felt weary about being in (because everyone on the bench had an aura of feeling they should be in instead, and the guys on the bench were more concerned about getting in the game than being unified as a team, doing whatever was necessary to get a win. I’ve watched the film over and over, seeing all the different body language throughout the tour. The pouting when being subbed. The lack of engagement as energy from those on the bench. And if any of the players are reading this, know that it’s the main reason I had the camera ALWAYS facing our bench. I wanted…Needed To see that body language.
Honestly, I almost went back and deleted that last paragraph or two, but it goes back to me being the leader and Coach that I want to be…the coach that other people think is impossible to be and also be successful. I want to be authentic and honest. I have no problem whatsoever owning my own mistakes as a coach (and there are still many). I fight hard to balance being a coach that shows grace and compassion for player mistakes while also setting an expectation for excellent play that brings winning results. That’s tough when the mistakes are mounting, and it’s even worse when we are falling behind in games and losing. When my team is losing, performance gets super critical, so I can’t show the same grace and compassion when we are trailing. That’s been much of my burden this tour. We were trailing from behind in all 5 games we lost (and because if silly mistakes, too). I wasn’t able to build the type of player confidence I wanted to in those losses.
Don’t get me wrong. I was completely happy and confident with the guys we brought on this tour. All of these guys are talented. It’s easily been the most talented team I’ve had the privilege of coaching. I mean…we had an ex-NBA player in Jermareo Davidson, and a 7-6 giant in Mamadou N’Dyie. Couple that with the rest of our extremely talented, yet mostly unknown roster, and…well, I think we made a name for ourselves out here in China in our first of hopefully many more trips to this country.
One thing I must do – limit the voice to one voice…MY VOICE…to the team. I still want to get feedback, but it has to be on the side, and I also have to verify and credential that input before it gets shared with the collective group. Allowing for the shared insight to the whole group was confusing and not always helpful…sometimes even a bit manipulative and self-serving. That’s one immediate adjustment I’ll be making.
I’ve probably lost a lot of general readers in this blog by going so deep into the coaching and basketball stuff. I know you want to hear stories and details of the trip. I’ll likely keep writing specifically about this tour even when we get home, and I’ll DEFINITELY keep the blog going. Clearly everyone is reading and enjoying the insight and insiders look into the Florida Flight and the FBA.
I’ll end this by saying I’m super proud to get this last win. I’m lucky to have been given the opportunity and trusted by these guys to serve as their head coach. I hope they’ve learned a lot on this trip, and that their overall experiences on this trip help them further their pro basketball careers.
It’s like my wife reminded me: learning doesn’t come from perfection. It’s the failures and experiences that help you build you. The emotions of losing, the frustrations from trying to lead a large group towards one goal, and the feelings along the way (and how you respond to them) that motivate you towards higher evens of excellence is what this is all about.
I’m grateful for this entire experience. I got through one of the hardest coaching experiences of my life, and in my eyes, I did pretty well. Besides…if I go by all of the critics throughout my life, I’m not even supposed to be here. One thing I know for sure – I’ll be a lot better on the next tour. So much more to learn, but I think I’ve learned enough to create a foundation that fosters excellence and wins for the next time. I’m looking forward to that. Now let’s go finish up some Shanghai shopping and get ready to go home to our families! I love you all for following.
Until next time…