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  • Jack Fleming

7 Brian Goorjian-isms: Longevity in Coaching

I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days as team liaison working for Showtime Basketball with Brian Goorjian and his new team the Zhejiang Lions, which he was the Associate Head Coach. He is now the new coach of the Hawks (previously Illawarra) for 20201. As the NBL’s most successful coach with 6 championships, and the ex Australian Boomers coach, and longest serving international coach in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) — here are my takeaways:

1. Energy is Contagious

  • Even though Brian is 67 years old, he is the most energetic guy on the floor.

  • When he delivers a clinic, he OVER delivers. 60 minutes, he would go for 3 hours if you let him. That’s how passionate he is about the game of basketball.

  • You are always greeted with a big smile, a hand shake and it feeds off onto other people.

  • You will see all of these facets encapsulated in this small video!

2. Take Care of Your Health

  • You cannot have great energy on the floor, if you’re body and mind are not fresh to do so.

  • Brian has his own exercise routine of mostly weights, which gives him great energy for the rest of the day.

  • He eats well, he searches far and wide for decent food in China where it is not always accessible.

  • Longevity in the game, is only possible with a healthy body and mind. Find your own outlets!

3. Make People Feel Special

  • Every person he spoke to, ex players and coaches, some he hasn’t seen in 10–20 years he gave so much time to — asked about their family, life and outside of basketball.

  • The key to long lasting relationships, is your investment in asking great questions and remembering the small details about others.

  • His players — it’s always “you are really great at that, so keep doing it.” The ability to empower his athletes to trust their own strengths is his super power.

  • He never spoke badly or negatively about another coach or player EVER — that’s true integrity in the game of basketball.

4. Use Inversion

  • He teaches offence through the eyes and actions of the defence, and vice versa for defence.

  • While everybody else is thinking offensively where should we move — he’s always thinking about the defence first. What will they do?

  • During explanation — “this is what your defender will do, this is what will happen on the weak side.”

  • This creates great clarity in the small details that his players really buy into, about timing and spacing especially.

5. Coach in Labels

  • When you coach with a translator, you have to be very specific about what you want.

  • You never know how clearly the message is going through, so the more key words you use and less blabber the better.

  • If we all coached, imagining we had a translator delivering the message — we would all be better for it!

6. Have a LOGICAL Play Calling System

  • Simplicity in translation, Brian’s team uses an idea he got from Igor Kokoskov the ex Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns.

  • Series — Actions/Options out of that.

  • Creates a system of logic, where the players know why each play is called something and it can be figured out by anybody on the team.

  • Brian’s team used a different method, but for example in the NBA:

  1. Chin Series = 2 guard front, high post.

  2. “Chin Fist” = back screen, ball screen.

  3. “Chin Wide” = back screen, wide pindown.

  4. “Chin Stretch” = back screen, ball screen, pick and pop.

7. You Cannot Coach Everything

  • Especially when you don’t speak the language — practice would roll and if there was a big problem he thought would impact the entire team he would stop it and teach.

  • Offensively — always spacing and some timing.

  • Defensively — defensive transition.

  • Pick your big rocks — the things that will move the needle and roll with them. Try and fix everything else on the run, where necessary.

I wish Brian, and eventually his new team and staff all the best in the NBL for 2021!

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