Rising Coaches Conference (2018)

I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Rising Coaches Conference in Indianapolis this past weekend. I had the opportunity to listen to some amazing speakers who have made it in the profession of college basketball coaching. Here’s a list of each speaker’s best words of advice, knowledge and takes on how to rise in the coaching world.

Matt McMahon (Head MBB Coach @ Murray State)

  • Be consistent w/: mindset + effort + actions = the process
  • Be an “Energy Fountain”
  • There’s no certain path to fining a way into the coaching profession — we MUST be SELECTIVE.
    • Prepare Now
    • Learn from Mistakes
    • Be Accountable
    • DO NOT Settle for being a Specialist

Qualities Coach McMahon looks for in hiring people:

  • Hungry, Humble, Smart
  • Does this person fit within the desire culture framework?
  • Can he trust/count on you?


  • “Everyday is a job interview.”
  • “Take care of your people.”
  • “Elite performance comes via Elite preparation.”

Patrick Blake (Assistant MBB Coach @ Coastal Carolina)

  • Listening is a skill — coaches should be listening to understand.
  • “To be successful: a coach has to learn to coach the unreachable kid(s).
    • Each kid is different in how he/she needs to be coached.
  • DO NOT allow outside perceptions to affect what you stand for.


  • “Relationships are only a tiebreaker” (a.k.a. work is MOST important).
  • Your program will be good at whatever the coach emphasizes to the staff & players.”
  • When you define the culture from the start, it makes those seemingly HARD decisions actually EASIER to deal with.”
  • “Culture is on a 1-day contract.”

Chris Oliver (Head MBB Coach @ University of Windsor)

  • Feedback = the problem + specific to a player + reasoning and/or WHY
    • Specific-Positive: Good job to whom and why
    • Specific Value-Info: This could be better directed toward whom and why
  • Just because a player makes the right decision on the court that DOES NOT mean the result will always follow suit — But, it is the RIGHT DECISION THAT MATTERS MOST!!
  • Put an emphasis on coaching the best players because it will elevate all other players on the team.

Melanie Balcomb (former Ashland, Xavier & Vanderbilt WBB Coach)

  • NEVER take a job for money.
  • Key points:
    1. Push past your fears.
    2. Plan for failure (what’s next…)
    3. You MUST live out the same demands that you ask of your players
    4. Get out of your comfort zone
    5. Fire fast / Hire slow
  • 45-Second “Elevator Speech”:
    • Who am I?
    • Why do I coach?
    • What are my goals?
    • What are my first objectives when I get the job?
    • What is my WHY?
  • If your core values do not fit with your boss’ culture — IT WILL NOT WORK.”

Michael Fly (Head MBB Coach @ Florida Gulf Coast):

  • Why stay at your current job?
    1. Am I consistent enough with/in my own job?
    2. Am I stable enough in my personal life?
    3. How am I going to sign the next “great recruit” if I keep bouncing around place-to-place?
    4. Am I the best player development, video, assistant on my staff…?

On Job Offers:

  1. Can you win there?
  2. Is your current coach trying to get out, or locked in long-term?
  3. Are you okay with players winning in spite of your presence?
  4. Where would you fall on new staff’s totem pole?
  5. Where do you really want to go?
  6. Is there significant value in that new role?
  • ** If the head coach asks you something have an opinion **
  • “If I’m not 1000% committed to whatever it is I’m saying to my players, then they WILL NOT listen to a word I have to say.” – Coach Fly

Bryan Mullins (Associate Head Coach @ Loyola-Chicago)

  • “Always becoming, Never arriving.”
  • “If you clear a path for the people above you, you will clear a path for yourself.”
  • “Be present where you’re at and good things will fall into place.”
  • “Enthusiasm is common, but Endurance is rare.”
  • “In order to have culture, you have to RECRUIT culture.”

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