Gillispie: Practice like a national champion

Coach Billy Gillispie is a man with a plan, whether that be at UTEP, Texas A&M, or now at Kentucky. Join KSR in looking at what Gillispie's plans are to build a successful, championship team as he tells his secrets to fellow coaching brethren at various coaching clinics in this special second part of the two-part series.

It takes a lot to build a program. Gillispie should know, he inherited a Texas A&M program that did not win a conference game the year before he arrived, and in two short years, built the team into a Top 10 basketball team. Gillispie became the only college basketball coach to be in charge of the NCAA program with the biggest turnaround in two consecutive seasons. How'd he do it? What secrets, and what shortcuts did he take to get there?

Gillispie's list on building a championship program
  • Shortcuts don't work.
  • There are no secrets.
  • David was nobody until he knocked out Goliath.
  • Get good help. Let them coach.
  • Have an expert on each area of your staff.
  • No excuses.
  • Don't make rules you won't enforce.
  • Play to win your last game.
  • Set a starting and ending time for meetings.
  • Schedule time off to stay personally sharp.
  • Force assistant coaches to spend more time with their families.
  • Type your practice plan.
  • Have "specialists" managers (e.g., "Experts" —experts at laundry, experts at statistics, etc.)
  • Schedule like you want to win—prepare.

    So much for the theory that we'd learn what secret Gillispie used--since there are no secrets, according to him. And so much for the thought process that you can "shortcut" it--although one might have to question that with the near-instant turnaround Gillispie enjoyed at both UTEP and Texas A&M.

    Well, finally--how would such a coach approach his daily practice regime?

    Gillispie's "bullet points" in developing practice.
  • Work as hard as you can. Think about yourself. You must be there.
  • Prepare to win.
  • We wanted to practice like a national champion every day.
  • Stick with your decision—then evaluate.
  • Don't sacrifice your standards.
  • Study winning people, and the reason they win.
  • Watch and evaluate your game tapes.
  • Coach how you believe.
  • The Head Coach has to get involved.
  • You set the tone.
  • Practice in four quarters of 30 minutes each.
  • Practice situations every day—may be more important for the coaches than the players.
  • Practice hard on game day.
  • Tape games and watch (NBA games best for sideline out-of-bounds plays).
  • Have a player defensive week.
  • Develop special teams for substitutes.

    And there you have it. A dedicated, disciplined, hard-working practice program designed to instill winning in all players. We have already seen some of these techniques employed at Kentucky, such as practicing hard the day of the game. And if you play like you practice--and UK's players follow the prescription to practice like a national champion every day--Kentucky fans will love the result.
    KSR again thanks Coach Scott Peterman of Men's Basketball Hoopscoop for his invaluable assistance and providing of notes from clinics conducted by Coach Gillispie.

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