THE FLIP SIDE OF COACH GRAHAM, Friday's Update

Greg Graham’s Blog

In the midst of a month long July recruiting period that will cover dozens of cities and thousands of miles, Bronco head men's basketball coach Greg Graham provides regular blogging updates from the road.


RECRUITING STAGE 2.

July 31, 2009 

Finished for now on the recruiting road.  It has been a grueling period, starting on July 6th.  I thought it went very well and was one of our better summers.  We saw some very good players, who would make great future Broncos. 

Reflecting, our staff covered several thousand miles and countless man hours this month.  Without their hard work and effort, we could never be successful.  Now for stage two.  We will be in a marathon of phone calls for the next week, as we are unable to talk with the kids until they’re done playing.  When they get home, the coaches are like sharks smelling blood, trying to get in touch with players, parents, coaches, counselors and anyone else with a tie to the players.  August is the period in which we try to find out who has interest in us, set up home visits, campus visits and make scholarship offers.  It is just as busy as July, without the travel.  Food and accommodations are much better. 

At the same time though we will have our overnight camp this next week, try to squeeze in a vacation, catch up with our current players again (they’ve been here in summer school and working out), get some family time, go through two weeks worth of paper work and get ready for the start of school (Aug. 24th).  Let’s see, did I miss anything on that list.  Oh year, summer is about over, where did it go?                                          

Top Five Sightings of the Recruiting Month: 

1. NBA players Drew Gooden, Deron Williams, Gary Payton and former Celtic Joe Kleine

2. Las Vegas at night

3. Hoover Dam (drove over it on the drive to Phoenix)

4. Lake Powell (flew over it and it looked like it was down about a hundred feet on some shorelines)         

5. And finally (drum roll), Mel Gibson in Las Vegas. 
 

AN END IN SIGHT.

July 29, 2009 

Nothing like an early morning wake-up call…at 4:30 a.m.  My flight left at 6:15 a.m. heading to Los Angeles and the final three days with 200 teams to finish the summer.       

At this point, we are getting our final looks at the kids we have seen.  The players are getting tired and the basketball is getting a little sloppy (coaches are tired too).  The thing you have to be careful of as a coach is to not over analyze the kids you like.  You get to the point where you like other guys a little bit more, and pretty soon you are spread out too much.  Even though our list was big, it gets cut down very quickly as we see the kids play.  As our program continues to get better, the pool of players that can contribute and make us better continues to shrink.                 

The early, short flights are used for a little extra sleep or to get organized for the day.  Also, a little reading time. Still working on Magic Johnson’s book.  He has done some amazing things in his business career and has/is building quite and empire. His company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has stock in, or owns numerous companies including Starbucks, 24 Hour fitness and TGI Fridays. 

Time to get to the gym. This tourney uses three sites and 14 courts.  Quite a spectacle. The NCAA has people here monitoring to make sure the tournament directors are following all the rules and that the coaches are as well.  Like most of the bigger tournaments, they are very well run and organized.  With so many coaches and scouts here the parking lots are full of the same size and types of rental cars. So after being in a gym all day you come outside and see a mass of cars that all look the same. We all laugh at each other as we wander around looking for our car.   

With that, here are the Top Five ways to locate your rental car: 

1. Remember where you parked

2. Use your alarm or beeper on the key chain

3. Pop the trunk

4. Rent an odd colored car so you can see it easier

5. Make your assistant drive and find the car

THE BEAT MARCHES ON.

July 28, 2009

Well Vegas is over and it is time to move on.  I thought we were very successful and had a great five days down there.  We spent quality time re-evaluating some kids, finding a few new ones and eliminating some as well.  One of those things, though, the results won't be known till the signings in the fall.  And, to be honest we won't probably really know for a year or two, once we get them in the system and they start playing. 

After watching the last games on Sunday, I had a quick change of plans and caught a ride with the UCLA coaching staff for a five hour drive to Phoenix.  Coach Howland (UCLA head coach Ben H owland) and I have been friends for a long time as he was an assistant at UC Santa Barbara when I was at San Jose State. His assistant Donnie Daniels (he rode with us as well) was an assistant coach at Fullerton at the same time, when we were all part of the old Pacific Coast Athletic Association (now known as the Big West Conference).  Coach Howland still remembers how great the Bronco fans were, supporting Northern Arizona when they played Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament in Boise.   Just goes to show if you stay in this business long enough, it seems like everyone crosses paths at some point.             

The Duel in the Desert is a new tourney which brings in some very good teams. I will be with Coach Mac for a day then off to L.A. again on Tuesday to finish up the July road recruiting.  It is midnight and we just rolled into Phoenix.  One thing nice about the trip, it gave me time to blog. 

Coach Howland's a movie buff by the way.  His top five all time list:

1. The Godfather

2. Good Fellas, Casino and Heat

3. Apocolypse Now and Platoon

4. As Good as It Gets, Forrest Gump

5. Star Wars, A River runs through it, Dancing with Wolves, Jerimiah Johnson and finally the Outlaw Josey Wales 

I don't think coach got the point of a Top 5.

A FAMILY TRIP.

July 27, 2009

Vegas never ceases to amaze me.  It just keeps growing and growing, bigger and bigger and more crowded than ever.  Driving around to the games, I’ve noticed a new project that is being completed in the middle of the "Strip" called City Center.  It is the largest commercial project in the world. Included will be a mall, apartments, condos, casino and probably anything else you would want.  It would probably take up most of downtown Boise.  Six towers on the Strip and two more towers on the other side of the freeway behind it.  To give you an idea, it dwarfs the Bellagio and the other resort casinos.

 

Our first two days were nonstop, with games from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.  Thousands of kids, hundreds of teams and tons of families making the trip to watch their kids play.  For some short amounts of time, I fit right into that category, as this trip has special meaning for me from a family standpoint.  My son (Marcus) is here and I’ve had a chance to watch him play.  During the year, I don't get to see him play much based on our schedule, so this is a little bonus time for he and I.

 

Now for the Las Vegas weather forecast.  Hot.  Big surprise there.  But, while it’s hot, it’s not as warm as usual.  Sounds like the heat has hit Boise as well.  Whether here or there, short sleeves and shirts is the attire.   

Top shows in town right now are Beyonce, Cher and several Cirque de soleil.  Steve Wyrick, the magician, is also in town.  I’ve tried to get him to make a few hundred other coaches disappear, but they seem to be multiplying instead.  For the older jet setters there is a Beattles rendition, Barry Manilow (we wondered where Coach Mac had been spending his time) and Donnie and Marie.  Here to recruit, so not going to get to see any of those, but the billboards are everywhere.  It is Vegas after all!

 

RECRUITING PLAN IN VEGAS.

July 22, 2009 

Here we go again!  It was great to be home, but it is hard to relax at the same time.  Our staff has been on the phone non-stop talking to recruits, seeing who we can get involved with, who has interest and who has the right academic requirements.  Basically, we’re trying to get to know them as much as possible.  With the limited number of evaluations and contacts we are allowed, sometimes it’s very difficult to really to get to know someone.  I think that’s one reason we see so many transfers in college basketball. 

We have narrowed our list down from about 350 to about 50 players.  We put them on an A, B or C list, and will go back out and see them play again.  NCAA rules do not permit us to talk to them while they are at a tournament.  So it’s a last look, then a mad scramble in August to set up home visits and campus visits. 

We have planned out our Las Vegas strategy for the first three days.  I will try to see our top guys again, while the rest of the staff will re-evaluate those on our list and look for new prospects.  Each school has a similar plan to some extent.  We are all trying to get one last look, so we feel as comfortable as possible with the prospects ability and to make sure no one slips by. 

Here is the quote for the day.  It’s from Mary Anne Radmacher, and I think very appropriate for our current state of affairs in the country. 

“Unexpected events can set you back or set you up.  It’s all a matter of perspective.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher

VEGAS BOUND.

July 20, 2009 

Las Vegas has become the Mecca of summer AAU basketball, and is the hardest and most time consuming of all the summer events.  For the next week, Vegas will consume our focus.  As a staff (3 coaches can be out at one time), we’ll head down there on Tuesday, with tournament games starting on Wednesday. 

To give you an idea of what this recruiting session is about, there are basically three tournaments going on simultaneously:  Adidas Super 64, Main Event and Reebok Summer Championship.  The Adidas Super 64 will be taking place at seven schools and 14 gyms and include 128 teams.  The Main Event will be at 14 sites and 28 gyms with 164 teams.  And, the Reebok tournament is held on 16 different gyms with 200 teams competing.  Add all that up, and over the course of five days, we’ll be trying to cover 58 gyms, 492 teams and roughly 5,000 players.  You have to have a plan to be able to be at your best from a recruiting standpoint. 

The games start at 8:00 am, with the last ones starting at around 9:00 pm.  We go in a day early to get all the tournament packets (each about a hundred pages thick) and plan our strategy for the first two days.  We have a lot of players to see and ground to cover, so we want to be as efficient as possible.  Drive time during mid-week in Vegas also adds to the craziness.  With so much back and forth between gyms, you better be settled in from 4:00-7:00 as you’ll be stuck in traffic.  Not looking forward to that. 

With Vegas being Vegas, even after a long day, it’s hard to go to bed.  The restaurants are great, there are new sites to see every year and of course there is a little recreation going on.  It might be the greatest place on earth to simply people watch.  It amazes me how big Vegas has gotten not only in the last 10 years, but over the past three years alone.  You would think this city would have to much of everything, but they keep building more and more and bigger and bigger. 

There is March Madness around the NCAA Tournament as we’ve all come to follow.  And then there is July Madness in Las Vegas.  Thousands of players and thousands of coaches.  Let the madness begin and over the next week, we’ll give you a little insight into this recruiting ritual.

BACK AT HOME…FOR A BIT.

July 17, 2009 

Boise to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Tulsa to Los Angeles to Boise.  For the past 10 days that’s been the itinerary.  Till next Tuesday, it’s Home Sweet Home and a small break from the recruiting road trip, but not from the recruiting game.  With some office time, the staff will be mapping out our plan for the next phase of July recruiting, which starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.  A thousand plus coaches converging on Vegas for three major tournaments, watching close to 5,000 kids over five days at 30 different gyms.  I guess it’s fortunate (or fitting) that the tournaments are held in the city that never sleeps.  It’s a mind boggling recruiting maze that we’ll talk more about in blogs to come. 

In the meantime, everybody loves countdowns or “top fives”, so here are a few I’ve come up with that describe the summer recruiting season. 

Top Five Places for Coaches to Eat on the Recruiting Trail:     

  1. Hospitality Room -  It’s free.       
  2. Concession Stand – It’s convenient.                         
  3. Fast food (Taco Bell) – It’s quick and easy.              
  4. Rib Crib - Great BBQ in Tulsa.                                        
  5. Chili's and Friday's - They have TV’s to catch SportsCenter.                                     

Busiest Place - In and Out Burger in L.A.                                  

Most Unique - Columbia Burger (largest menu and variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner I’ve ever seen).                               

Most Eatin’ Item - Peanuts on Airplanes. 

Top Five Best Things About Summer Recruiting:

  1. See Players.
  2. See Colleagues.
  3. Get New Ideas.
  4. Visit New Facilities.
  5. Late Night SportsCenter and HBO.
 

Top Five Worst Things About Summer Recruiting:

  1. Being Gone From Home.
  2. Travel.
  3. Food.
  4. 12-16 Hour Days.
  5. Expense.
 

Top Five Best Things About Coming Home:

  1. Seeing Family.
  2. Hopefully Job Well Done.
  3. Home Cooked Meals.
  4. Sleeping In Your Own Bed.
  5. Change of Clothes!

JUNIOR COLLEGE vs. HIGH SCHOOL? THE RAGING DEBATE

July 14, 2009 

A question often asked of myself is why a junior college player instead of a high school player?  I think most coaches would rather have high school players because you have them for four years, providing a longer time to coach and develop them.  Plus, you don’t have to replace them every other year in recruiting.  However recruiting is not an exact science and things don’t always work out the way you planned.  Which brings us to JC players and a number of reasons we recruit at that level:  we can find a good player who can give us immediate help, we need to fill a vacancy because a player may have been injured, transferred or just wasn't good enough.  And, there are times you find a really good player that can be a difference maker for you.  The one advantage of a JC player is he is older and more developed, so you have a better idea of what you’re getting.  The disadvantage is that he won't be with you very long, and by the time he really gets comfortable with your system and level of play, he is finishing up his career.  That’s where you really have to weigh those two things and determine the best fit for the program.   

Recruiting is a lot like a horse race, everyone likes someone else and thinks they know more than the next guy.  We all have our styles we recruit to.  Some coaches like size or speed or skill, while others like strength or athletic ability or feel for the game.  Each position requires a different set of characteristics we look at as well.  The great players and not good enough players are easy to spot.  It’s that other group of players which make up the majority of the recruiting pool, and lead us to what we refer to as the horse race.  That part of the recruiting challenge is definitely one of the things I love most about coaching.  Even though July is long and tedious, I enjoy evaluating players.  With the NCAA rules limiting how often we can be out and see players, the evaluations are made on less looks so you have to really be diligent.  If a player has one great game at the right time, he may get an offer.  If he plays poorly, the schools that watched him that day may back off.  You keep going no matter what.  People are not perfect and recruiting is far from a perfect system.  In the book I’ve been reading, Magic Johnson’s first business adventure was a sporting goods store that went under.  The failure, he writes, helped set the tone for him and in the long run to build his business empire.

ON THE GO! 

July 13, 2009 

Tulsa is a different world, as the players here are the top junior college players in the country.  They are much more physically mature than the high school players we have been watching the first week.  This is the same camp where we found Wes Perryman (our new guard from New York) last year.  Our fans are going to love Wes.  He is a very quick and explosive player that can score in a variety of ways.  All told, Coach Cleary and I watched 200 JC players, so long days.  It was also 105 degrees in Tulsa, which is hotttt! no question, but it’s the humidity that really gets to you. 

Sunday morning was from the frying pan to the fire as we were on the go again.  Early flights for both myself and Tim (Coach Cleary).  TC was off to Dallas and I headed back to Los Angeles.  One of the unique things about these July camps and tourneys, is that we get to see and visit with a lot of old friends and colleagues.   As a college coach changing jobs and moving around is the norm not the rarity.  I have coached at 8 schools in 27 years of collegiate coaching.  Marsha and I have been married for 19 years and have lived in 8 different houses or rentals.  That’s probably double the number of places a person may live in over an entire career (not to mention having to deal with everything that comes with moving to a new place).  You have to be married to a real trooper in this business and Marsha is the best.  There is no way I could do what I do without her.  It is good to see other coaches and old friends, but time is short.  They’re your friends but at the same time you are also trying to figure out how to beat them, out recruit them and get the edge on them.  It’s a strange culture, but we all understand it and still feel fortunate to be in it.


SPRINKLE SOME MAGIC ON THE BRONCOS

July 10, 2009

When you spend so much time in the gym and then have to catch early morning flights to the next stop, you tend to try and catch up on sleep on the plane.  But, for those who have flown a bunch, you know it’s not always the best sleeping accommodations.  So, you end up doing a little reading.  Currently, I’m working my way through Magic Johnson’s book 32 Ways To Be a Championship Business.  Safe to say from a success and even life trials standpoint, we can learn a few things from Magic.  His basketball ability wasn’t too bad either.

 

The time away also gives me a chance to look at new ideas for changing, upgrading and making adjustments as we prepare for next season.  We’ll talk about some of our guys during other blog opportunities, but as a group we’re excited about this upcoming season.  A strong core of players are back, and we have some very talented guys joining the program.  Everything we do is about building on the recent success.  We’ve been to national post-season two straight years and won some big games.  Keeping that momentum is important.




SO YOU LIKE BASKETBALL

July 8, 2009

 

I’m a couple days into the trip now, bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Day one was just your typical day at the office, watching 32 games and over 600 kids play.  From there, hopped a morning flight to San Francisco on Tuesday and nine straight hours of games.  What caught my attention in San Fran though was the weather.  One of the coldest summer days I’ve been in, with the temperature between 45 and 50.  Guess it’s a good thing the games were inside.

 

After spending Wednesday and Thursday in L.A., it’s off to Tulsa for a full weekend of games (1 pm to 10 pm on Friday and 9 am to 10 pm on Saturday).  The goal is to spread ourselves out as much as we can and seem like we’re in 10 places at once.  TC (Tim Cleary) is leaving Thursday morning and will make the rounds between Tulsa, Los Angeles and Texas.  Andy (Coach McClouskey) is up in Seattle and JB (Coach Bailey) is headed to Texas.  That’s the life of a college basketball coach in July.  You embrace it and brace for it at the same time.


THE BAGS ARE PACKED

July 6, 2009

 

Even though recruiting is a year round deal, July is a key time for all college basketball teams and players.   We have two 10 day periods to recruit during the month, with the first one starting this week.  To provide some perspective on what our staff is doing, we have an original list of 400 players to start with and by the end of the summer, need to get this down to about seven players we’ll have visit campus.  The NCAA allows us 12 total visits and we like to save four or five of those for the spring signing period.

 

I’ll end up traveling about 4,600 miles during this first 10 day period, while our assistant coaches (Andy McClouskey, Tim Cleary and James Bailey) will log similar miles.  It’s almost comical to think how many miles an hour we’ll literally be going.  There is an adrenaline rush to this whole thing, especially the first 10  days, with full 12-16 hour days consisting of early flights, lots of kids to watch play and unfortunately lots and lots of fast food, hot dogs and late night eating.  Good nutrition sometimes goes out the window.

 

 

 

 


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