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June 30, 2009


Brian McCormick


Don't take this personally, as I like your stuff. Several articles have led to my angst, and yours happens to be the one that allow a comment without registering for a site.

Since 2002, plenty of people have written that the U.S. has a problem. But, nobody writes about solutions. I wrote my book, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development, because I tired of reading all these articles about the problems.

As for the EuroCamp, as we discussed previously, it would be great if the NCAA and NBA partnered on a similar camp so that players could attend and be evaluated without having to declare for the draft, possibly during the summer. It could overlap with the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas so NBA coaches wouldn't have to add to their travel schedules, and NCAA players could receive evaluations and feedback to use in the up-coming season. Then, they could make more informed decisions after the college season in the new shortened window.

However, when I spoke to Pete Philo, he wanted to make it clear that the camp was an exposure camp. The pro-Euro writers in the U.S. make it out like this is where Europeans go to develop skills. However, if it is the place they go to develop skills, and the U.S. is so bad at skill development, why are half the coaches from the United States? The U.S. has exposure camps and now we have exported the idea to Europe, while eliminating the camps from the NBA pre-draft process. But, that's another argument.

My point is that I wish writers would switch from the negatives to the possibilities and discuss the changes. I cannot remember reading an article from a major U.S. media outlet advocating for Long Term Athlete Development or talking about Peak by Friday mentality.

Instead, we get the "he said-she said" fights between AAU and high school contingencies as everyone tries to protect their own turf rather than fight for the best possible system or do what is in the best interests of the players' development.

The problem is not individual coaches, summer basketball, NCAA, time restrictions, etc. The problem stems from a lack of leadership and a lack of understanding of the talent development process by a vast majority of the people involved in the basketball process from coaches to administrators to parents. Decisions are made based on profit potential and slick marketing, not science and research. There is nothing guiding the development process from an organizational or pedagogical standpoint.

My goal, and all my writing, aims to create or lobby for more organizational and pedagogical research and guidance, but few other people seem interested, as those in positions of power in the basketball world resist change because the current system is set up so they (franchises, universities, shoe companies, AAU, etc) profit from it.

Marc Isenberg

I understand and agree with your proposed solutions, but help me understand your logic...In one sentence you criticize Pete Philo for running an Euro "exposure" camp (which there is clearly a market demand for and there is nothing wrong with), in another you absolve the "individual coaches, summer basketball, NCAA, time restrictions, etc." and in the next you blame the "lack of leadership and a lack of understanding of the talent development process." So who is to blame? And why is it not relevant?

You make some decent points about our system and what probably should be done to overhaul. Of course, I could solve a lot of problems far greater than basketball by waiving my magic wand... we would all put aside our differences and our desire to make money and we would all just do the right thing. Alas, this is no such Basketball Utopia.

Lastly, the main point of the above article is that we would benefit if we were more open minded to and learn from what is going on in other countries.

Andy Fine MD


Please consider: you should write out a grant proposal, as if starting a nonprofit, with a fully developed set of outcomes,curriculum,and political support for the concept across multiple interest groups (franchises, universities, shoe companies, AAU, USOC, USA Basketball) and go make it happen.

If you don't have the time, get funding for an executive director to do some of the laborious dirty work.Your idea can be promulgated and done with initiative and momentum. Also, someone who is a hoops fan, or NBA owner like Cuban, might fund it, as he is funding new entrenuerial endeavors in general anyway.

Brian McCormick


1. I was not criticizing Philo for the EuroCamp. My point in regards to his comments was that he admitted that it is just an exposure camp, yet people (not just you) characterize it as this great fundamental skills camp and something that is lacking in the U.S. There are exposure camps in the U.S.

Philo's camp may be operated better than the ones run here. And, as we have discussed before, I would definitely be a proponent of a Reebok EuroCamp in the U.S. for college players during the summer for players to get evaluated in terms of the following year's draft or possibly in the spring once the college season concludes.

So, my problem is not with Philo's camp - my issue is that people characterize it as something that he does not even claim it to be. If it is far superior to the exposure camps here, then maybe Reebok should hire him to oversee their exposure camps in the U.S., not just in Europe, and implement the same style of camps. But, isn't that basically what Nike is trying to do with the Steve Nash Camp and the Paul Pierce Camp?

2. I'm not absolving those entities. However, simply blaming them, as numerous articles from the WSJ to Wisconsin Journal have done this week, is not the answer. Some college coaches are great; some are terrible. Some AAU coaches are great; some are terrible. Some high school coaches are great; some are terrible.

The issue, and my point, is that there is no unifying thread among coaches, organizations, etc. If you look at other countries, while the coaches compete, they also work together for the benefit of the Federation. Other Federations create a philosophy and use programs to reach coaches and espouse their philosophy. USA Track and Field's motto is "Athlete-centered, coach-driven, performance-based." There is no such framework in the U.S. for basketball. Each entity has its own philosophy.

Most of the ire centers on the high school level and the battle between high school coaches and AAU coaches. But, the problems start much earlier. We de-value our youth coaches and then wonder why kids lack fundamentals when they get to high school. High school coaches feel the pressure to win, so they take the shortest path between today and winning the next game. There is no thought to long term development.

Andy -
I have spent three years emailing people from USA Basketball, Nike, adidas, Reebok, NBA, NCAA, etc. to get a meeting. I'm not looking to make money. I don't want to run an organization. I'm terrible at business. I have approached Mark Cuban. David Stern has my book. George Raveling ordered 8 copies to pass around Nike and then stood me up when we were supposed to meet. NBA scouts in Europe have my book. I sent the book to Jerry Colangelo and Mike D'Antoni. I attempted to interview USA Basketball. Jerry Krause from the NABC reviewed the book.

On my site, I do not have a complete business plan, but I have the idea outlined. The book outlines an individual coach-by-coach method. I have dozens of other articles discussing these issues.

I would love to meet with any of the entities and could easily put together a business plan in a day if any of these parties were to agree to a meeting.

But, without access or connections, I feel my time is better served doing more research and writing more books so I can reach individual coaches so individual coaches can make small changes at the local level, whether through reading one of my books and applying some new ideas or principles or by starting a Playmakers Basketball Development League to put the philosophy in action.

Ray Lokar

We've pretty much agreed that in a perfect world the club and HS coaches should work together in the best interest of the kid. In reality, we also realize that in a majority of cases that probably doesn't happen. So now what? How do we create change? We've pretty much identified the problems and rehashed them - now we need to do SOMETHING.

I spoke at Stanford University with Chip Heath, the author of "Made to Stick:Why some ideas Survive and Others Die", who came and visited with us at Positive Coaching Alliance (http://www.positivecoach.org). We talked about his new book coming out in 2010 titled "Switch:How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I read a manuscript and really like the concepts. Keep an eye out for it because it is pretty good. I think this situation applies because this is a very difficult change to make. I will attempt to briefly summarize and avoid his unique metaphors and examples that Chip uses to make the book great, but essentially it is this:

In order to effect the most amount of change in the shortest amount of time there are a few things we need to do.

1) Educate. Every discussion on developing a plan mentions the necessity of Coach Education. Brian's The Crossover Movement outlines a comprehensive plan. People need to know how.

2) Motivate. People need to be motivated for change and there are all kinds of reasons to do so. But the one that resonates with the most people is "what's in it for me?"

3) Simplify. In order to get the change started it is most effective to pick one thing that you think will have the maximum impact.

So we know we need Education. Now how do we answer the question, "what's in it for me?" For everybody involved, Why should I change? After all... I'm right! (isn't that what everyone thinks?) And finally... what is the one, simple thing we can do to provide a good developmental environment for the players

Absent blowing up the entire system and starting from scratch (which can't/won't happen) what ONE thing can be done? My hope is that iHoops will figure that out. With the joint efforts of the NBA & NCAA and the announced funding of $50M, we're light years ahead of where we were two years ago - yet haven't gone anywhere yet, probably because their is so much to do, and so many different perspectives. Some want more school involvement (Weiberg), others want to help fix AAU/Club (Coach K), and the shoe guys would like the camps protected.

Get all states to go along with allowing the HS coach with more year-round access, California being the latest to open this up. The NFHS should join forces as well. Create a summer culture that will convince the good HS coaches that the summer/club/AAU circuit is not "slimy & corrupt" so they will join the fray. Create incentives for those same HS coaches to join forces and develop "clubs" of their own with 3 or 4 team "coalitions" that would create a few levels to compete on the summer circuit. Top 3 players from each program form their top group, and divide the remaining players to create 3 or 4 groups that could compete in the summer showcase/evaluation events. The better players will get an opportunity to be seen and the bottom group will be in the secondary gym on court #8... but those same kids are there now anyway on someone else's club.

The simplest 1st step within the iHoops Web portal framework (if the NCAA is REALLY going to buy into this) might be to only allow their NCAA coaches to attend iHoops certified events. Certification may require at least a minimum of training - online or otherwise. The more education the better, but start somewhere. Clearly skills & drills can be, at least, superficially addressed but the "Art of Coaching" is what may be most lacking. All the Xs & Os are out there for everybody to learn - what separates the good coaches are those that manage the other side of the ball. At Positive Coaching Alliance we have the Double-Goal Coach model that discusses the importance of teaching Life Lessons while you are preparing your team to Win. If that creates a more "sterile" culture to convince good coaches that this is the place to be, we've addressed a bit of the education piece.

High School coaches that try to run a quality program play a bundle of summer games already anyway. They are in any number of meaningless tournaments and team camps (which most are mostly tournaments in disguise) often with their better players off playing with their club, so why not play somewhere else and be around your kids. A system that encourages them to get to these showcase/evaluation events may open their eyes to the value of players playing outside their "system" - of which many are skeptical. Yet they will still be around their players to a certain extent, so they can teach all the "fundamentals" that they worry the AAU coaches aren't teaching. The 3 or 4 team coalitions would allow them to align with coaches they trust and not fear the "transfer railroad" that they are so leery of.

This initial step would place more influence (if "influence"l is good?) in the hands of the HS coach, involve more coaches with the desired "education", and create an opportunity for those coaches to share some of that club revenue to get them through the summer (also answering the question "what's in it for me?") First step? A small one, but maybe the path of least resistance that can get the flywheel moving.

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