Book Notes: "Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball"

Nearly two-thirds through the book, here are my unorganized notes thus far.

This book definitely makes my mandatory reading list for coaches. It provides incredible depth into the dynamics of mid-major budgets, scheduling, staffing, recruiting, facilities, AD roles, and the importance of post season play, the uneven playing field, and philosophies of successful mid-major programs. The financially driven decisions seem to dictate the direction most of these programs go.

Jay Bilas says "basketball is a game of resources"

He says the disparity in resources "makes it more difficult to recruit, to retain coaches, to get exposure, and to schedule quality opponents. Still, the coaches, players, and administrations seem to have the same expectations."

He outlines mid-majors have it tougher in 4 areas:

1. recruiting: "some coaches can lose with talent, but no coach can win without it". He notes that all the rules make it harder for mid-majors to outwork majors.

2. retaining coaches: unreasonable expectations contribute to the need for coaches to trade up quickly for a higher paying job rather than wait around to be fired.

3. television exposure: Bilas says, "television exposure, not whether a team can really play, is the most significant difference between the majors and mid-majors." He says TV exposure "affects everything from scheduling, to recruiting, to perceptions of accomplishment". Interesting to note that he points out several mid-major conferences including the WCC are one bid conferences and the power of having 2 bids is significant. Since the publishing of the book, the WCC moved into the late Big Monday spot on ESPN. They had 3 bids last season.

4. scheduling: the home team wins nearly 70 percent of the time. Big budget teams play at home and buy games. Thats what fills the arena and season tickets, keeps coaches their job, and playing a mid-major on the road is a lose/lose proposition. If they win, they were supposed to. If they lose, its a catastrophe.

Bilas says that kids leaving for the NBA draft helps level the field somewhat.

Other Notes:

ODU's Blaine Taylor frequently says it takes everybody "rowing in the same direction."

Tom Pecora of Hofstra listed 4 keys to winning a game:
1. championship possessions (he uses this more than once)
2. defend the post with passion
3. our stops will lead to scores
4. attack and handle pressure

"it's one thing to play a tough schedule and its another to lose those tough games."

Jeff Capel says winning is "the most important thing for job security." He says, "theres an old line: 'if your administration is complaing about your team's graduation rates, you're about to be fired"

Capel said his dad always said, "never lose control of your schedule."

"The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at last the mathematical form." -Henry David Thoreau

After a tough loss, Jeff Capel rode his team for being selfish. He corrected himself and offered an apology. He said if the team was being selfish, someone would've grabbed ten rebounds. Instead, he said, "you were all out for yourselves."

Blaine Taylor said mid-major ball is like a triple crown. The upped tier teams in a conference play twice in the regular season and will meet in the postseason tournament. "The idea is to beat the best teams more often than not."

Brad Brownell of UNCW said his home court advantage: "i think over the years, any place that's had success and is difficult to play, the first factor is because you have good players."

Tom Pecora says he was fortunate to be able to make mistakes on the JC level where he could hone his craft.

Pecora plays zone early in the year because teams have not had much time working on their zone offense. He doesn't go over other team's personnel directly but rather will work on what they will do against the other team in drills.

Pecora has a "no shoot around policy". He wants his guys to be excited to show up at the gym. He says getting used to the shooting background is coaches justifying their existence in a gym. He does walk throughs at pregame meal where they will go over video, get quizzed, then walk through on a court that is taped down on the dining room carpet.

Before games, Pecora has his team stand and join hands, and bow heads. There is no prayer, Pecora just asks everyone to close their eyes and take a minute to think about "win". Not winning, just win.

Christmas break is a good time to throw all the players out of practice. It breaks the monotony and attempts to refocus the players duing a time when finals, homesickness, holiday cheer, dorms are vacant, & bodies are breaking down. Its a good time for needed rest.

Hofstra was a classic example of how international recruiting ties can work. A Lithuanian commit said, "if one Lithuanian could play here and be comfortable, I figured it could be the same with me."

Pecora says, "when players come for an official visit and some here speaks their language, right away there is a comfort level and thats huge. And the their families back home feel more comfortable as well."

Jim Larranaga says, "As a coach, you cant get hung up on the end result. You have to look at the process. Are we rebounding, are we defending? Are we making our free throws? You're always dissapointed when you lose, but you have to evaluate: Did we do the things we need to do to win? We've adopted a philosophy: What we have to do is be great at what we do."

The biggest diffence in the CAA and Missouri Valley in 05-06 was that the Missouri Valley's teams won from top to bottom. The bottom third of the MVC didn't play big games (or buy games) but won some games. The bottom tier of the CAA got buy games vs. SEC, Big East games on the schedule but lost them all which hurt the conference RPI. In the MVC the top teams play the heavyweights, and the bottom teams schedule wins.

The CAA commissior Don Yeager said the secret is "just win games, really. I don't care who you beat, just win games."

Tom Percora knew he had to start a young freshman but alleviate the any nerves, he didn't give the kid time to think about it and told him only 5 minutes before the game.

Pecora teaches his kids time management, sense of preparation. He teaches them how to dress. He has a guy come in to talk about gambling and a guy talk about handling the media.

"The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them." - Woodrow Wilson

"When I was younger I didn't think putting four players on the baseline was coaching, now that I'm older it's great." Tom Pecora on how he exploits mismatches or uses a hot player.

A couple nice paragraphs about teams:
"The group eats, lives, trains, works, shares, and plays together for a significant portion of their waking hours. They fight for the same goals, both on and off the court. When one of them hurts, they all feel the pain."

"For the kids, the game is their bond. It is the great equalizer in any conversation, transcending backgrounds and upbringing. It is what each player, coach, trainer, and manager can point to as the basis for their togetherness. After all, the player have been doing this since they were about 5 years old. Coaches, too."

"It is an odd bound, too, since they compete for floor time. One man's sprained ankle is another man's oppurtunity. The competition is always there, and actually spawns togetherness. They all feel the pain because at some point in their basketball lives, each has felt that pain."

Blaine Taylor after one of his players was shot and the team had to play two nights later: "I'm proud of our maturity, our kids did a good job compartmentalizing [the situation]." He makes a nice point in that maturity can be directly related to how well kids compartmentalize different aspects of their lives and different parts of the game. Being able to separate a bad day at school and practive or separating a cold shooting day from affecting defense is maturity.

"The art of field goal precentage comes down to two things," Jim Larranaga says. "One, make a shot; two, get shots you want to make."

Blaine Taylor thinks coaches don't give other teams enough credit sometimes. He says, "the story is not what we did not do, it's what they did."

Blaine Taylor had a "take-no-prisoners" practice. He told his team he's "burning the stat sheets, burn the roles. I'm starting over."

"There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment...It gives warmth and good feeling to all your personal relationships." -Norman Vincent Peale

The author's main theme seemed to be hammered home in one line regarding George Mason's final four run: "It also serves notice. This is what happen with opportunity." He really waves the flag for giving the mids a chance to prove themselves vs. majors on level playing field.

"Win your games and everything else will follow."

Author rightly and consitantly argues that mid-major doesn't really define anything. Kyle Whelliston says the closest analogy is that mid majors are like AAA minor league baseball compared to the power conferences playing in the big leagues.

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com said George Mason received between $5 million & $10 million in marketing value by their final four run.

Tom Yeager, commission of CAA, said everything the conference does for the 20 sports it sponsors is run through basketball. He compared the attention he gives to basketball as compared to the success the CAA has in minor sports by saying, "Don't win warmups".

CAA coach of the year Brad Brownell left for a job in a smaller conference after feeling slighted by the 2 year deal offered by his AD. The AD was not happy that the X's and O's guru Brownell was unwilling to schmooze alumni and donors.

Tom Pecora said, "people get blind by ambition, but quality of life for someone like me is very important."

Tom Yeager said not only did the conference's check of 2.1 million for the tournament success help, the biggest thing was "that it provided credibility to the fan base of this league. For all those fans that love their team but in the back of their mind wonder...it translates into better belief."