Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#006 Becoming Right For the Bus

Last week I wrote about finding the right people for your bus, so I thought this week would be a good time to talk about how to get on that bus...or for a lot of you young coaches out there...how to get that first interview.

I have often spoken to soon-to-be college graduates about this very topic, and I always make clear to them that the hardest part about coaching college basketball is getting the job in the first place.  For those of you who have aspirations (or know someone with aspirations) for becoming a NCAA Division I assistant coach, I attached the below article about that very challenge.  It is a great read that has been bouncing around the coaching fraternity most of the summer.
"Bounced Around"  http://t.co/JXy2hMcYTn

In the article, it states that there are less than 1000 D1 assistant jobs in the country, and my guess is that less than 20% come available every season.  I would also guess that 90% of that 20% are filled before the position is ever posted as vacant.  D1 Head Coaches always have a list of friends, former players, and associates ready at the first phone call if a position opens up.  When you have a 6-7 figure salary and responsibilities, you hire those you know and trust, or those who are known and trusted by those you know and trust.  Yes, it is a very tight circle.
I say this not to keep you from chasing your dreams, but to make the obstacles in front of your dreams a reality.  I wouldn't be much of a coach if I did not quote the late, great John Wooden before I get too deep into these writings:
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
Coach Wooden had such a great ability of expressing his wisdom in a simple but universal way.  This quote is good for those dreamers out there because it should keep you focused on learning and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.  If you are not good at following up and being persistent, Coach Wooden may have told you that chasing a D1 job may not be your best course of action.
Okay, so maybe your ties to the D1 coaching ranks are not great and your determination is not as strong as Coach McRoy (see article linked above).  Don't let that deter you from being a college basketball coach.  My first job out of college was as a Residence Life Hall Director at a small college in Iowa.  Two days into the job, I walked into the Head Men's Basketball Coach's office, told him who I was and asked if I could volunteer on his staff.  16 years later I am still thankful to Coach Shovlain for his generosity and kindness.  I have a coaching career because he said "yes."
I understand that everyone is not as lucky and those opportunities can be few and far between.  Because I understand the challenges of finding a coaching job, there are a number of things I recommend for getting an interview:
1.  Get out there and meet coaches.  Work camps.  Visit practices.  Ask Head and Assistant Coaches to go to lunch to chalk talk or talk about how they got into coaching.  You may get turned down here and there, but very rarely has a college coach ever told me no.  Most see their jobs as ambassadors to their University and the game itself and take mentoring and developing young coaches very seriously.  Don't forget they were once in your shoes.
2.  Write a dynamic personal cover letter that sets you a part from everyone else.  Talk about you and not who you think they want you to be.
3.  Write a clean, detailed, organized resume that markets you to the expectations of the specific job you are applying.  (Have an English major edit both for you!)
4.  Find at least 3 great references who have the ability and desire to write you a great letter of recommendation.
5.  Find someone who knows the AD/Head Coach and ask them to call on your behalf.  Feel free to have more than one person call on your behalf, but be careful not to hurt yourself by being overbearing with the person doing the hiring.  There's a fine line between standing out and being a pest.
Congrats!  You got the interview!  "Oh crap, I got the interview!"  I have seen the look on coaches' faces when they finally get what they are after but have no idea how to prepare for that interview.  Here's a few tips:
 1.  Be confident.  You should go into every interview with the idea that if you don't get the job that it wasn't meant to be.  Be okay with not getting the job before you walk into the room, but walk in knowing you deserve it.
2.  Know who you are and have a brief but significant response to these questions:
  • What is your teaching philosophy?
    • My answer is "Progressive but honest "
    • Nike says "Just Do It"
  • What is the best advice you have received?
    • My answer is "Be generous"
    • The Army says "Be all you can be"
  • How would you motivate your team in a significant situation?
    • My answer "Whatever we do from here on out, we do it together"
    • Vince Lombardi said "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up"
3.  Be humble (http://madcoachdiary.blogspot.com/2013/08/humility-is-not.html).  Talk about the student experience you want to create more than what you will do to create that experience.  Always be prepared with questions about how you will do it, but make them ask for the specifics.  The best interviews are the ones that become a conversation and not a series of questions and answers.  You want them to feel what it will be like to have you as their new colleague.
Other than that, stay hungry and stay humble...and always listen to Coach Wooden!
Have a great day!

Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary