Brad Stevens + Google = NCAA Championship (almost!)

At a coaches basketball coaching clinic, Brad Stevens shared he has a section at the end of his individual workouts with players called Dreamtime. This is when the player decides what to work on. When I first heard him say that it made me raise an eyebrow and think “wait… what?” Isn’t the coach’s job to be able to identify areas his players should work on, determine the necessary drills, and put in the hours to help his player improve? Isn’t it part of my job as a teacher to explain to my player how doing the drills I assign him will make him a better player as well as help the team? Why would I not take advantage of my time with the player, but give the reigns over to this teenager who could potentially undermine what I’ve been trying to implement?

Because freedom makes players better! Brad gave a great example of Matt Howard. Matt Howard was a forward/center for Butler University and played three years with at least one foot in the paint at all times. During Matt Howard’s Dreamtime, he and the coach would work on pick-and-pop three point shooting. The repetition gave Matt Howard the confidence to expand his game and become one of the team three-point shooting leaders his senior year. Howard went from attempting only 20 three-point shots his first three years in college to making 53 his senior year and shooting 40%. Wow!

It reminded me of Google’s famous 20% time. Google encourages its engineers to take 20% of their time and work on something company related that personally interests them. Since Google was it’s hands in every tech related cookie jar known to man, engineers pretty much can spend a day every week doing whatever they want… this could also be called dreamtime. Amazing products, like Gmail and Google News, have been created by engineers during their 20% time. It was, in my opinion, the best example of taking a founding pillar of one of the best run companies in the world and applying it to an elite basketball team.

When we read or hear about company employee programs that work, why do us coaches not apply them to our basketball teams? Brad Stevens has, and he has back-to-back national championship game appearances to prove that it works. I began to ask myself more and more questions and wondered what lessons I had missed out on at different coaches conferences. In my quest to improve my knowledge of basketball tactics, my colleagues and I sought out an organized a collection of notes from different conferences in order to discover what we could learn and apply to our respective teams. I decided I would no longer try to “figure it out on my own” and learn as I go. If others have already found different building blocks to success, I’ll start where they left off. Brad Stevens did it with Google and I can as well.