In this week’s coaching conversation, Northwest Missouri State head coach Ben McCollum joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights in his coaching, including how the defense will show you what to do and how love your player’s strengths. McCollum is quite simply one of the most successful collegiate coaches of all-time.
Over the past five seasons, McCollum has guided Northwest to a mark of 159-8 and three NCAA Division II national championships (2017, 2019, 2021). Over the past three seasons, Northwest has gone 97-3. McCollum has guided the Bearcats to eight straight MIAA regular season titles and five consecutive MIAA tournament crowns. In 12 seasons at Northwest, McCollum has an overall record of 300-78.
Northwest captured the program’s third NCAA Division II national championship in the 2020-21 season. McCollum guided the Bearcat to a 28-2 overall record. Northwest set an NCAA Elite Eight record by winning its three games by a total of 78 points – the most ever by a Division II national champion. McCollum was named the MIAA Coach of the Year for the seventh time after he helped guide the Bearcats to an MIAA record 21 league victories.
• Career record of 300-78 (183-55 MIAA)
• 2021 NABC Division II National Coach of the Year (4th time – most in NABC Div. II history)
• 2020 NABC Division II National Coach of the Year
• 2019 John McLendon National Coach of the Year (all divisions)
• 2019 NABC, Basketball Times, HoopDirt.com Division II National Coach of the Year
• 2019 Kansas City Sports Awards Coach of the Year
• 2017 NABC and DII Bulletin Division II National Coach of the Year
• Nine MIAA Regular Season Titles (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
• Five MIAA Tournament Titles (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
• 23-5 NCAA Div. II Tournament Record (2017 NCAA National Champions, 2019 NCAA National Champions, 2021 NCAA National Champions)
• Seven-Time MIAA Coach of the Year (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021)
The Basketball Podcast Quotes:
“It’s easy for me to be motivated on a daily basis, because my job is, ultimately, to make a difference in these kids’ lives and to make them successful once they leave our school.”
“Player development is really about developing the strengths that they currently have and making them better and better at those current strengths. And getting them to love themselves and love what they’re naturally great at.”
“From an offensive perspective, the ability to stop, the ability to pivot, the ability to change pace, screening angles, that sort of thing, we do develop those things . . we just try to teach guys how to play and then get them to play to their strengths consistently. And naturally, you see guys blossom in our program, because of the confidence that they get from that.”
“We play and we try to identify what kids naturally do, and where they naturally move and what they are naturally great at. And once we identify that, then we try to build our offense around their natural strengths.”
“Our objective is to get the best shot we can possibly get, which would obviously be a layup. And so, if I’m going to get a layup I have to be able to space the floor. Well the best way to space the floor is to shoot threes and be able to stretch you out as far as possible . . I’m not anti-midrange, I still think I still think it has value. It’s just for our level, we don’t need to take it.”
“We have a specific coach that literally matches our guys up based on their strengths in defending . . we don’t change a lot defensively, outside of just basic scout things . . it is somewhat personnel driven.”
“We always say anything on offense, the defense will tell you what to do . . With cutting, if your guy looks at the ball, then cut. It’s pretty simple.”
“We still want our best shooters to shoot as many shots as they can. But the problem is, we have to somehow create space . . and what we found was, it’s actually better to cut to create space, than shoot. As you cut, you actually clear more space for layups. But the issue was cutting is this, if you don’t have shooting with the cutting, cutting does you no good. And so you have to have a good balance of shooting and cutting.”
“The whole point about space is creating openings on the floor. If you’re not being guarded and your defender is in the lane, you have not created space, no matter how far out you are. And so, we want to space to the level of the defense. Cutting allows for that.”
“As long as you touch paint somehow, some way, then you’re able to manipulate the defense.”
“We want everything to be very read-based. We want guys to make decisions for themselves based on our teaching. We want to have to coach less throughout the season. Essentially, we want to teach more early on and coach less late in the season . . Late in the season, there’s a lot of teaching, a lot of scouting, and a lot of helping them and giving them information so they can make the decisions . . We’ve got to give you the information so that you can make the best decision for yourself when you’re on the floor.”
“If we’re going to a sidebar screen and somebody switches, then you have to change the sidebar screen. You don’t change the whole play, you don’t just run a different play . . Okay, so we’ve got this taken away . . There’s an overreaction somewhere. How can we now make this work? And, that’s kind of how our offense has evolved.”
“I think random offense is really hard to scout . . the more you enable and empower your players that have natural abilities and natural gifts, the more difficult you’re going to be to play against . . so you have to be able to adjust on the fly, without always having to call a different play . . we teach them, we show them stuff, and we give them all the information . . then they just have to figure it out for themselves.”
“Finishing to me is more about taking good shots, good layups. Not the 50-50 layups that are real body on layups, those are tough shots to make . . if you’re trying to finish at the rim, you really need to get fouled or make it and if you don’t, and they come over and help, it’s a drive and kick. Let’s make somebody else better.”
“The more you’re aware of what your defender is doing, the better you can create space for the ball.”
“Going in [to the paint] under control, the ability to stop is very important . . you don’t have to just fly in there and shoot it because you think that you have a layup. It’s not necessary because we can always get something better and maintaining that level of patience to really get what you want out of things, requires the ability to stop on your drives.”
“We really want to know our opponent so well that we itemize it down . . if you watch somebody for five minutes, that’s great. But you’re going to have to watch them a long time to be able to figure out exactly how to defend them.”
“How do I take away what they do? So, I’ve identified the problem . . he’s an elite shooter . . [We want to ask] What’s the solution? And help them [the players] understand the solution. So, my solution is: this is how we’re going to defend him, and then being very deep detailed with that solution.”
“[Switching] is by far and away the most difficult thing to attack. Part of what happens, the thing switching does to a ball screen offense, whether continuity or random, is it can stagnate it . . and both stop your flow and stop your offense. So, how do I maintain flow of an offense while I’m being switched? How do I keep the ball moving? How do I not just sit there and expose different mismatches through isolation situations? That is the really difficult part of handling switches and being able to attack them properly.”
“How do you put pressure on the paint? You do it through driving, you do it through post touches, and you do it through cutting. And those are your three best ways to be able to get to the paint consistently.”
“We want our players to come up with that solution for themselves and think for themselves.
“Defense is a little bit more objective. There are more rules, there are more things that you want to make sure that you have to do.”
“The most important thing is just understanding how to teach, having your heart in the right place, really loving your kids, and having that process approach. My objective as a coach . . is to make kids successful once they leave here, to make a big difference in their lives. You do that through basketball and teaching them basketball, teaching them to drive through goals, handle adversity, etc.”
The Basketball Podcast Breakdown:
1:00 – How to Stay Motivated
3:00 – Developing Competitiveness
6:00 – Loving team’s Strength
12:00 – Hunt Matchup Relentlessly
14:00 – Process of Cutting Off The Ball
21:00 – Playing Pickup
24:30 – Decision by the Screener
27:00 – Philosophy on the Cutter Emptying
30:00 – Compliment
34:00 – Teaching Shooters on Ball Spacing
36:00 – Scouting Report
40:00 – Communicate to his Players
45:30 – Attacking Switches
48:30 – Drawback
52:00 – Eliminating Unnecessary Progressions
56:00 – Teaching
1:01:00 – Talking Too Much in Practice
1:04:00 – Process of Connecting the Game
1:07:00 – Develop a Process Focus Team
1:09:00 – Conclusion
The Basketball Podcast Links from the Podcast:
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