Who is currently the best men's basketball coach in NCAA Division I? There are certainly quite a few candidates worth considering but any conversation on the subject has to include Tom Izzo of Michigan State University. Here are some of the things Coach Izzo has accomplished at MSU as of Spring 2011:

  • 364-146 Career Record (.714)
  • Four-Time National Coach of the Year
  • One NCAA Championship
  • 6 Big 10 Championships
  • 2 Big 10 Tournament Championships
  • 6 Final 4 Appearances
  • 13 Straight NCAA Tournaments
  • 6 All Americans
  • Graduates 83% of Players that Complete Eligibility

In hopes of gaining some insights into Coach Izzo's coaching philosophy I recently purchased his DVD, Basketball Smorgasbord. In his presentation he discusses many different topics including several quick hitters to use against a 2-3 zone defense.

Coach Izzo starts by showing an in depth 5 on 0 walkthrough and then shows the play being run against live defense. He concludes the DVD with footage of his MSU teams playing against some of the toughest zone defenses in the country. Besides some zone quick hitters, Coach Izzo talks about his favorite out of bounds plays as well as a few defensive drills that will help young players improve.

Maybe the best "secret" that he revealed was how he personally motivates and holds his players accountable. In his unique style, he has come up with a surprisingly easy but effective way to get the job done. At the beginning of every school year he has each of his players write down their individual goals on a 3 x 5 note card. They include all personal performance goals, team goals, academic goals, and off the court goals that they want to achieve over the next year.

Coach Izzo then has them turn the cards in for his safe keeping. Throughout the year when a specific player isn't doing his job or working as hard as he should, all Izzo now has to do is pull out the player's goal card and then discuss what was written. He simply explains to the player that he's not trying to be a jerk but is trying to be a friend. Coach Izzo reminds the player that the goals on the card aren't his goals but belong to the player himself. Does he still want to accomplish them or not?

He then goes on to talk about how the most important thing a coach can do is to hold his players accountable throughout the season so they can reach the goals that are important to them.

To shed a little more light on this subject, I started to research the idea of accountability. From Business Consultants Performance Solutions, I found an excellent definition of accountability - the act of holding others responsible or answerable for their actions whether those actions are good or bad. Emphasizing accountability is setting expectations, clearly communicating those expectations, and then holding everyone responsible for their actions and behavior. Emphasizing accountability is NOT intended to demoralize others or to promote fear of making a mistake.

Performance Solutions suggests that there are certain steps that can be taken to effectively help others be accountable. I've altered them slightly to make them more applicable to us as coaches:

1. Cleary Define Program Standards. As a coach you must first clearly define the standards and expectations of your program. Don't assume anything! Players cannot and should not be held accountable for anything that they have not been informed of or do not understand.

2. Share Expectations with Everyone. Share your standards with your staff, your players, and everyone else involved with your team. Some athletic and academic goals may be individual in nature but it is important that everyone in your program lives by the same basic standards and expectations.

3. Measure Performance. You must come up with an effective way to measure performance against established standards and expectations. Whether it's tracking hustle plays, distributing weekly grade checks, or conducting skills tests, nearly everything can be measured. If it's important to you and your team then it should be charted!

4. Performance Reviews. Regular meetings, either formal or informal, should be held to re-emphasize the program's standards and to review with the individual player how his performance is measuring up. In my own situation, I have short, individual meetings with every player every Monday to quickly review the previous week

5. Pat on the Back or Kick in the Butt. One of the important life lessons that athletes can learn through participation in sports is the principle of cause and effect. When they do good things, they should be rewarded. When they fall short in some area or another there will always be some kind of consequence, even if it just seems minor at the time. As a coach, you should not feel you have to treat every player the same. Treat them all fairly? Absolutely! Treat them all the same? No!

If you ever get the chance, watch "Basketball Smorgasbord" and don't be afraid to watch between the lines and look for ways you can apply parts of Tom Izzo's coaching philosophy to your own unique situation.

Author's Bio: 

Brad Stricklin is a successful basketball coach that currently works on the women's Portland State staff. To view more of his helpful tips for basketball coaches visit HoopSkills.com.