Written by Stefan Geigucz
Like every other young aspiring coach who did not play college basketball, the journey started as being the low man on the totem pole, Student Manager. Going into college, I had not yet figured out that coaching was my life’s calling. I picked a Mid Major that was in the heart of Chicago to study Sports Management with sights on becoming an Athletic Director at the High School level. Although this school has now made a name for itself; when I walked onto Loyola University Chicago’s campus the recent basketball history was non existent. Spending my first three years of six – aka the long route – I witnessed athletics from afar. I’d go to games here and there later interning in the ticket office my 3rd year where I started to get involved with the program. Then came the email that changed my life and career path for the better.
During Porter Moser’s first season (2011), he had four managers on staff, two seniors, and two sophomores. With the two seniors graduating and one of the sophomores not really into the manager lifestyle, that left one sophomore to rebuild the manager core that fit into Porter’s Culture. That new Head Manager, Ryan Sullivan, sent an email out to the Sports Management Club, seeking people interested in getting into the Sports Field. Being intrigued I sent Ryan an email asking for details on the job, which received a response of, “Just come into the facility and we’ll talk, but bring your resume.” And as they say, the rest was history.
For those who have followed the Loyola Final Four Run, one of the things that you learned about Porter Moser was his culture. From day one on the job, culture was a big thing. This culture has helped shape me into the coach I am today. At Loyola, working hard is not an option. Everything that you do is done to the best of your ability. From cutting up the film, to taping the floor at practice, to practices themselves. Everything that you did was done toward perfection. I remember my first actual practice with the team, we were forced to use Joy of The Game (AAU Facility in Deerfield, IL) because our gym was being used. Our Head Manager at the time could not make the trip. So first practice of my manager career I’m running it solo. Was told to make the funnel lines and driving lanes for our pack line defense using blue tape. Being new to the program I put the lines down thinking they were in the right spot. Then Assistant Coach – now Head Coach at IUPUI – Jason Gardner comes up to me and goes “Nah, that ain’t right. Needs to be over just a bit.”
The little things that show how impressive Loyola’s Culture was in the attention to detail. Most program would say, close enough. But when building culture you do it the right way every time you step on the court. Every time you cut film. Every time you wake up you do it the right way.
Part of working in a culture driven environment is hammering down the keywords that make the program run. When you hear about the famous Wall of Culture, you think, “Well OK maybe he just puts it in the locker room and hopefully the guys look at it.” That was not the case, every word on that wall was preached day in and day out until it became apart of who you are. The coaching staff would give you more than just the word, they give the reason behind the word.
This allows you to know the why behind every word.
• No Arm Check Offs: No secure box out allows the player to easily spin off of you.
• Fake a Pass to Make a Pass: Using ball fakes forces the defense to jump allowing you to create a passing lane that was not originally there.
• Get Out of the Mud: Players often get stuck in the “I’m tired” mindset and struggle to get into another gear. Forcing oneself to get out of the mud allows for a next play mentality. This was used when the players ran 22s. The first three steps of the sprint get you out of the mud. Focusing on those first three steps propels you to get down the court faster. Get Out of the Mud mindset is one of the many culture points that translates off the court. It gives you the mentality to get through it when things are hard. One of the most important aspects of culture that I got from Porter was Getting Out of the Mud.
• Eyes to the Rim: When receiving the pass – look up and be a threat. Another key aspect that translates into real life. Most of life’s greatest opportunities come when you are not expecting it, when you have your head down. Eyes to the Rim forces you to have eyes on the prize mentality. Didn’t matter if it was in our CBI Championship Run or when they went to the Final Four. Eyes to the Rim, always go for it instead of just passing it along.
• Give a Verbal: Communication is one of the greatest aspects of champions. Giving a Verbal on the court allows your teammates to adjust and not to be caught off guard. Giving a Verbal makes those around you better.
• Make it Hurt: The mindset to capitalize on your opponents’ mistakes. If your opponent gives up an offensive rebound, don’t just put up a quick bad shot because you can, make the defense work. Use the new shot clock to demoralize the defense into working and giving up an easy second-chance shot. The longer the defense works the easier it becomes to break them. Over time they will fold under pressure.
Being at Loyola as a Head Manager for two seasons and a Volunteer Video Coordinator for one, helped mold me into the coach I am today. Any players I coach have heard me reference concepts from the Wall of Culture. It helps with paying attention to detail when scouting a team or recruiting a player. During my second year at Algonquin Regional High School (MA), the players walked into the locker room to see every set that our rival Wachusett ran that year written on easel paper hanging on the wall. The attention to detail led to a Mid-Wach A League Championship, beating Wachusett both times we played them because we knew everything they were going to run when they would run it. We guarded it in practice, we walked through every play they ran, over-and-over and over again. The small things, paying attention to every detail or making it hurt when they made mistakes. Doing it the Loyola Way!