Mike Calo: an Ode to my beliefs

There is little doubt that I love to shoot the ball and that I am super confident in my shot. If anybody saw the Lisburn teams play you would have thought all we did was just run around and jack threes (partially true) [Editor: completely true] but there was a method to what we did and a deep-rooted reason for my believing in playing basketball a certain way. I believe that all basketball players need to have a high level of confidence to play at a high level.  I was blessed to have played for a lot of coaches over my years in basketball and learned a lot about what I believed mattered to me as a player and what I thought was important about coaching the game of basketball.  I wanted to mention a couple of the most influential coaches I came across growing up and a player (who is now a great high school coach) that really taught me how to play.

My first high school basketball coach (Bob Krizancic, Mentor High School) pressed all game long and we had the green light to shoot the three almost anytime in the game with his team this year averaging 90+ points a game in 32 minutes.  Obviously there were shots that went up at times that a pass and running of clock would have been preferred but you can’t argue with results.  Coach K has won hundreds of games in Ohio and consistently has teams that reach the later stages of the Division 1 tournament and has won a high school state championship.

My second high school basketball coach (Bob Patton, Lakewood High School) also was fantastic!  He couldn’t have played a more opposite style of basketball than Coach K if they grew up in different parts of the world as opposed to the same town.  His teams played unbelievable half court D, moved the ball for 30 to 60 seconds each possession on offense and consistently won games holding teams in the 30’s and only scoring in the 50’s or 60’s.

Still to this day the best basketball player I have ever known (and a great friend) is Bob Patton Jr. a 5’10 maybe 5’11 guard who won Mr. Basketball in Ohio and played at Stanford.  One of the greatest trash talkers of all time and kicked my ass in one on one from the time we met when I was 17.  He had the tightest game and taught me the step back J.  I ate so many of those in my face and kicked so many balls into the ceiling after losing series to him but that is how you get better by playing with and against the best players that are around.

This article is about my experience with great coaches and with bad coaches.  The thing that made Coach K and Coach Patton great was the way they taught the game within the context of practice.  They each had their own style of basketball but a lot of the fundamentals of what they taught were exactly the same.  Be a threat on offense. Pressure the ball on defense. Pass the ball to open teammates.  Set solid screens.  Box out when a shot goes up.  Shoot the ball with confidence.  Be a good teammate. Contest every shot. Understand a good shot and a bad shot.  Most importantly understand that a good shot for one person on the team is not exactly the same for another person.  Take pride in playing your role. (everyone is a role player even MJ and Kobe)  Your role is important no matter how many shots you take.  Also always move without the ball – 9 people can’t have it at all times during the game.

The reason those facts are important is because both of them taught me more than anything coaching is about giving players a framework of how to play the game and an understanding of what aspects of winning basketball are important to win games in their eyes.  Every coach has his beliefs of what he or she thinks is important to winning games but I can assure you that most of them will communicate the above whether through screaming at you or talking to you or most likely a combination of both.  If they don’t you will be on a losing team.

Conversely I played JC basketball with extremely talented players who came from non-winning programs with bad coaching and we never shared the ball, didn’t make extra passes like this clip.

That was just offensively and defensively guys were just as selfish.  Boxing out was not as important as trying to swat shots and going for steals in the open court was a must because you could get a highlight dunk if you got it.  If you didn’t it was a layup for the other team.  We lost and lost a lot both years.  That was the worst basketball experience of my life but I would never change it because I learned even more about what I thought mattered to winning basketball games as a player and eventually a coach.

No matter how good a coach is he has to have talented committed players to win games.  Anybody who thinks a guy like John Calipari or Roy Williams just recruits the best players doesn’t understand just how great of teachers these guys are.  They teach the game of basketball (and life) as well as the best college professor teaches Chemistry or History.  These guys are an encyclopedia of basketball and motivational knowledge like my man Andrew Sanders is an encyclopedia of ALL knowledge!

I just wanted to chime in and let you all know that this clip below was all about coaching.  Coaches like Jamie Dixon and Jim Calhoun did their best to get the game to this point by having their teams ready to execute what they do and play with passion all game long.  Coach Cal did what was best at the end of the game….. He gave the ball to his best player and both of them had the confidence in what was going to happen.  Enjoy!

Mike moved to Northern Ireland 8 years ago and has been involved in several basketball clubs in the region and is currently playing for Down Tropics. Calo has coached and mentored Paul Dick and Keelan Cairns, who are competing at the college level in the States. A talented player who is notorious for sharing his opinion, The Courtside Collective are glad to have Mike on-board as a guest contributor.


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