Building A Staff

– Andy Igel, Former Head Coach at Vincennes Rivet HS, Frontier HS, and Eastern Greene High School

When I began my coaching career in 1981, I started as a fifth grade coach and I had no idea the importance of the job I was doing. It all sank in at my first coaching clinic, while attending the annual Basil Mawbey clinic, in the fall of 1981, at Connersville High School. Coach Mawbey talked about the importance of a strong feeder system and that good programs start with coaches teaching fundamentals. He also said the most important thing in building a program was to “surround yourself with good people”. That phrase means many things to people, but the biggest takeaway for me on that Fall day in Connersville was to hire people with high character and the rest will take care of itself.  Obviously there is so much more, but the character of your staff means so much to the direction and culture of your program. 

Before you hire your staff,  you must think about some qualities you want to find in your assistants.  When I hired my staff, I looked for many things that will help our school become a championship contender.  Applicants must have the following key traits, I want them to be loyal, ambitious, tireless, selfless, professional people. I want them to have an open mind and good communication skills, a good feel for the game and a passion for our program. In my 31 years of coaching, I feel fortunate that I, either a part of a staff or as a head coach, was able to put together the right mix of individuals. 

Loyalty-Total buy in of the philosophy of the program, is just as important outside of the gym as it is in the gym. Conflicts with beliefs will happen, but those are taken care of in the coaches office

Ambition-When possible, I think it is important to hire people who have ambition of being a head coach. They will work hard and be sponges for knowledge of the game.

Tireless-Building programs take extensive time. You want to hire people who are not afraid of long hours.

Selfless-The culture and development of players wins championships. No one can be above the program.

Professional-We all represent the school, the community and the program. 

Open mindedness-Everyone must be willing to look at different ways of doing things for the betterment of players and each team.

Communication-All coaches must be able to reach young people, know that the needs of each player could be different, especially in today’s society.

Along with the ideas I have listed above, I want assistant coaches, especially at the high school level that will challenge me as the head coach. I think sometimes we make a mistake hiring someone that has the exact philosophy as the head coach. You gain nothing by hiring a “yes man”. The reason I hire people who would challenge me, is to get me to evaluate what we do and think about “why” we do them. True growth for a coach comes from that process and I believe that should be an ongoing need. Head coaches cannot let their ego get the best of them by believing their way is the only way to do things. Through the years, my assistants have made me look at our program and our beliefs from another set of eyes. 

The next question is “Where do you find these people? I believe you start with your faculty, but be careful to not just hire them for that reason. Many older teachers lack the passion or the energy to help your program. If you are close to a university, reach out to the education department or the basketball programs to find people who have a goal of being a head coach. I have been blessed to find a few assistants in this way. Next step would be to advertise locally through newspapers or by word of mouth. Again, looking  for high character people, who have a passion for the sport and the school.  You can coach them up, much like a player coming out for the first time. Another source I have used is the popular coaching website, “Hickory Husker”,where many coaches subscribe who have contacts. Lastly, former players are invaluable because they understand the program and your expectations.

The three who have started “Feel for the Game”, Coach Jeremy Rauch, Coach Heath Howington, and Coach Nate Cangany all worked for me. They were all diamonds in the rough, and I was very lucky to have found them. They and many other good coaches are the reasons for the success I was fortunate to have as a head coach. As I close, I hope I have given you some things to think about as you choose your staff members. Remember “Surround yourself with good People” and you will be headed in the right direction. If you ever want to discuss building a staff or another topic pertaining to basketball, please call or email me. 812-327-4358/

“Don’t ever underestimate your value as a basketball coach”

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