Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coach Brian Katz and recruiting

* The genesis for this post was talking with a basketball recruit who truly appreciated the approach taken by the Sacramento State coaching staff, both before and after he made his decision to attend school elsewhere.

Basketball recruiting is just another big business regardless of whatever gloss and glitter the NCAA and the television networks apply when presenting college roundball. It's a scenario where fantasies are spun, dreamscapes sown, photogenic mirages portrayed and coming on hard and strong are utilized in order to achieve The Sell. But the flip side is oases are present in this sometimes harsh and always demanding and competitive landscape and one such happens to be located on the campus of Sacramento State, specifically the basketball offices of Coach Brian Katz and his assistants.

Now Katz is too modest to claim anything special about his recruiting modus operandi and it is a very basic approach: treat recruiting targets like you would want to be treated.

As he explained, "it's not like we have cornered the market on recruiting. We do what works for us."

He never forgets that "it's a very, very difficult decision that most adults would struggle with, yet it is made by kids. We do not let it become personal. A kid is doing what he thinks is best -- we get that and respect that. We're not in the business of changing minds.  If I have to twist a kid’s arm to change his mind, how good will he be for us if his heart is not in it?

Rather than snarling "this is the only place you can be successful" to a recruit, it's "I think you can be successful at all these schools but more successful here at Sacramento State and here is why.”    

What about those put-on-the-spot moments when a coach presses a recruit and says "you have to decide now"?

“We really don’t really like to do that. We think any decision made under pressure has a great chance of being wrong.

But if the answer back is 'I like your place but I really want to take another visit or two," such isn't necessarily a make-or-break moment in Hornets recruiting. "It doesn't mean you have to pull your offer off the table. The kid isn't ready yet but that doesn't mean he is dropping you or you're dropping him."

"A kid may like us but not love us," Katz continued, "but we don't get mad if a kid isn't enamored with us. That's okay. Now all of a sudden [because of that] he's supposed to be a bad kid?  However, we do communicate with the kid how our time frame is progressing.  Sometimes you are forced to draw a line in the sand, but we don’t do it as a general practice.  We try to avoid drop-dead dates if at all possible.” 

When a recruit does say no thanks, the response from Katz is: "we wish you the best and hope you play great. If there is ever anything that we can do for you, let us know. We hope you have 29 great games and are highly successful. But honestly, we hope you play horrible against us, and that usually brings a laugh."

Katz is also frank about player assessment, a very critical aspect of his craft. "We don't have all the answers. If our assessment is that a kid is pretty good, sometimes we're right and sometimes not."

Some of that is because "it's hard to evaluate the heart and brain. You think you know that and you try and know that."

But human biases, filters and the like all obviously provide a personal skew.

Katz believes that player appraisal is more important than recruiting as success in recruiting over-estimated talent or irregular pieces of the puzzle can quickly lead to a polishing up of a resume.. "It all starts with player evaluation and player evaluations are misunderstood because a good fit for one coach may not be for another. There's style of play to consider, personality, is this kid good fit, is he high maintenance? We've made our share of mistakes."

There is also the component of surety as judging an Anthony Davis or a John Wall is one thing, divining mid-major talent another wholly subjective matter.

And with Katz, it's "if I see a kid 99 times, I want to see him 100 times."

But there is always the exception.

"Take Dylan Garrity (193 assists as a Hornet freshman, +two per game over his nearest Big Sky Conference competitor and seventh in the nation this past season): "I saw him play one quarter [during high school] and I decided I would call him the next day and offer. My assistants said 'you never do that' but his skills components were off the charts. His leadership, his being unflappable, never getting off his game  -- the composure thing is a big deal. Dylan turned out to be a difference maker, a program changer."

But with a taste of humility, Katz offered, "You have to get lucky but also work hard."

His recruiting is summarized in this philosophy: "Be upfront and communicate in an honest way. If it was my son, I would want it to be handled like that. Don't let it be personal and you'll have a lot less anxiety."

1 comment:

  1. If I had a son being recruited I would want him to play for and be influenced by someone like coach Katz. He seems to have his priorities in the right order unlike so many other coaches who are only after meat on the market.