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The Basketball Podcast: EP198 with Stan Johnson on Defense, Offense and Culture

RELEASE DATE : 12/01/2022

In this week’s coaching conversation, Loyola Marymount head coach Stan Johnson joins the Basketball Podcast to share his insights on defense, offense and culture or what he calls DOC.

Born in Liberia, Johnson played his college basketball at Southern Utah and Bemidji (Minnesota) State before embarking on a coaching career that would take him to such schools as Cal State Northridge, Utah, Drake, Arizona State and Marquette.

The 2020-21 season saw meteoric growths across the board for LMU men’s basketball. The Lions finished in the top three of the West Coast Conference standings for the first time since 2005-06. In his first season as head coach, Stan Johnson guided his team through the COVID-19 pandemic and posted a winning record in the WCC for the first time since 2011-12.

LMU has posted a top-100 ranking in the NCAA’s NET, college basketball’s comprehensive metric that takes into account record, quality opponents faced, and game location, among others. LMU’s 95 ranking is the highest NET (or RPI at that time) since the Elite Eight season of 1990.

Johnson coached five seasons at Marquette University and was promoted to associate head coach in June of 2017 after helping guide the Golden Eagles to a NCAA tournament trip in 2016-17. Marquette also made a run to the NIT quarterfinals in 2017-18 and returned to the NCAAs in 2018-19.

Johnson arrived in Milwaukee after working the previous two seasons at Arizona State and was on the opposing bench in a pair of matchups against the Golden Eagles. The Sun Devils, who went 16-1 at home, participated in the NCAA tournament in 2013-14 in his first campaign with the program and earned a spot in the National Invitation Tournament in 2014-15.

Johnson also spent two seasons (2011-13) at Drake University after a three-year stint at the University of Utah, which advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2009. Johnson came to Utah after a one-year stint as an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge in 2007-08. The Matadors finished 20-10 overall and earned a share of their first Big West Conference regular season championship with Johnson on the staff.

Stan johnson

Listen Here:

Stan Johnson Coach Quotes:

“I’m a big believer in our players leading our program . . Sometimes as coaches, we lead so much that the guys within your program don’t know how to do it.”

“Last year, because of COVID, practice was an outlet for everybody. It was the one thing everyone looked forward to, because you weren’t in your room . . and that’s been a huge thing for us, how can we get back that sense of excitement because, man, we get a chance to do this.”

“The thing we try to hit home with our guys is offensively, we want to slow down. It’s better to be late than it is to be early, whether you’re coming off a screen or whether you’re setting the screen. Defensively, we want to attack, we want to play on the edge.”

“Sometimes, . . especially with young guys, they want things to happen so fast offensively, and they’re playing at such a greater pace that you get out of control, you don’t make the right reads, you don’t take time to set up your cuts, you don’t take time to set up your screen, you don’t take time to come off a ball screen. The proper angles, all that takes time. It takes patience, and it takes you slowing down to see it.”

“They [the players] want to play more open and free. But within freedom, you still have to have certain rules, principles and fundamentals that you have to follow. And that’s what becomes harder. But I think, when you learn how to play that way, it actually makes your set offense better.”

“I’m a big believer, if you teach kids how to play, which is to make reads and react, whatever you put in offensively from a structure standpoint becomes better.”

“I think, sometimes, players predetermine what they’re going to do. And when you’re playing a free, 5-out offense, you’ve got to let the defense dictate what you do. Again, that goes back to making reads. How do you do that? You’ve got to slow down and see what’s happening.”

“Culture is a set of behaviors. It’s how we want to conduct ourselves. It’s a word that so many people use, but oftentimes, what I’ve found is we don’t really identify and show the kids how we want to live that culture.”

“I want this to be a part of who we are; every week we’re going to meet. And for us, the meetings are they’re structured, like a practice plan. I have a practice plan for our culture meeting.”

“One of the first things we do in [the culture meeting] is we give academic feedback . . then go to our habit share . . where all our guys can track the habits that they want to improve on, as well as the coaches.”

“And the last piece of it, we spend 30 to 40 minutes on the culture lesson. It could be the fear of failure or how you structure your day. It’s a lesson that that we can apply now. But hopefully, it’s a lesson that our kids can take with them for life.”

“Where we make them uncomfortable is on the floor . . I want our practices to be much harder than the games, I don’t know if we can always simulate that, but that’s the goal. I want to stretch these guys to where, when they get into a game situation, it’s nothing that they haven’t seen. I am unbelievably passionate about coaching them hard and pushing them to a place they can’t take themselves.”

“The DOC is something we use every time we’re getting ready to play: Defense. Offense. Culture. Here are three things in each category, we must do well to win this game. I do that for each guy, too. We go and meet with their families. Here’s the DOC for Jalen. And if Jalen is not playing this year, not playing as much, here’s why.”

“I put [the DOC] in front of them every meeting. We’re doing good here; we’ve regressed here. It’s constantly in their face. So they understand what it is that we’re doing good and what it is we’re not doing well. That message is constant.”

“I’m very honest with our guys . . I told them, one through whatever they [are] more talented than us. Yeah. And that’s hard, sometimes, for kids to admit. But the most talented team doesn’t win. It’s the team that plays the best that day. And that has to be the focus: can you play better that day?”

“When you’re playing a high level team, you can’t beat yourself. You’re going to have to beat them, because they’re not going to beat themselves. That is the focus and that’s the concentration.”

“[On closeouts] number one we talk about is H.E.H., high, early hand. And when we close out, we want to close out with a high early hand, meaning, I don’t want to hope you miss, I want to make sure you don’t shoot. So when the ball is up, we have a high early hand, when he drops the ball, we pop our feet back, we don’t change angles of our feet, we pop our feet back to take away the drive.”

“We want to eat space. Eating space means we want to use our length to be in our gaps hands out, inside foot up, and we shrink the floor.”

“This is the game plan. Here’s why. Here are the numbers. When you do this, and teams do this, here’s the outcome. I’m a big believer in how can we find an advantage? And how can we exploit that to win the game?”

“I evaluate myself the same way I evaluate my team. Everything starts first with our core principles. Am I living those? Our core principles are selfless, connected, relentless. Am I being selfless with my time and my energy? Am I connected? That’s relationships before championships. Am I connected to everybody within the program? And am I relentlessly attacking everything that needs to be attacked?”

“Here’s the goal that I started with at the beginning of the year, here’s where we’re at. Okay, we’re not there. Why? Okay, what am I doing to cause that? Are we too complex? Do I need to simplify?”

Stan Johnson Breakdown:

1:00 – Team Huddles
5:00 – Year Two
8:00 – Slow Down on Offense
12:00 – Concept of Structured Unstructured
17:00 – Positive Reinforcement Idea
20:00 – Organization
24:00 – Tone Change
28:00 – Defense Offense Culture
32:00 – Guarding More Against
35:00 – Defensive Drills
38:30 – Specific Play Calls
41:00 – Walkthroughs
45:30 – Exploit Advantages
49:00 – Interviewing Potential Staff Members
56:00 – Future Plans
58:00 – Conclusion

Stan Johnson Links from the Podcast:

Stan Johnson

Loyola Marymount Men’s Basketball

Steve Wojciechowski

Jim Boylan

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