On the Road with Mike: A Meeting of the Minds

Years ago, back when Frankie Sullivan, Ed Hockenberry, Mitch Buonaguro and I were assistants with Rollie Massimino at Villanova, our staff would go away for two or three days every year to strategize for the upcoming season.

Some of us returned to that tradition when Rollie, now the head coach at Northwood University, invited a panel down to Florida for a Coaching Strategy Session earlier this month. It was great to see so many familiar faces from all parts of the country who are part of the basketball community at various levels.

Back row: Mark Sanford, John Olive and Dwayne McClain Middle row: Dom Savino, Jonathan Tsipis, Ken Gabelman, Don Mackay, Ken Sullivan, Christopher Walker, Tommy Percora, Chris Champeau Front row: Mitch Buonaguro, Mike Fratello, Rollie Massimino, Dick Versace

We had high school and college coaches from both women’s and men’s teams as well as former NBA coaches including Dick Versace, who used to be Chuck Daly’s assistant with Detroit and the one-time head coach of the Indiana Pacers. The majority of us were head coaches and there were also some assistants and a couple former players who played for Rollie at Villanova and went on to coaching. John Olive played some pro ball for a couple of years and was Rollie’s assistant when Villanova won the 1985 NCAA Championship. Now he coaches at a high school in San Diego.

Rollie’s current assistant coach Dwayne McClain played in Europe for a number of years and was on the Villanova National Championship basketball team along with Ed Pinckney, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the historic win over Georgetown. Ed planned to attend, but he was named as a new assistant coach with the Bulls so he had to reroute to Chicago. Joining Thibodeau’s coaching staff is a great opportunity for him.

When we arrived in West Palm Beach we went over to the Northwood University campus and saw some of Rollie’s players working out on their own in the gym and playing pickup games. But the clinic was held at the Comfort Inn hotel five minutes from campus. We spent two complete days covering a variety of topics that Rollie had outlined before we came in.

Rollie assigned each of us a particular topic to present, though anybody could chip in. He had asked me to be ready to talk on trapping in the post and rotations that come out of it. They had a big room set up for us with video monitors so some guys illustrated their presentations with videos, which was very helpful. There was also a camera running the entire time while guys were talking, demonstrating or drawing on the board.

We went from about 11 in the morning until 10pm on the first night. Because we wanted to keep going we had lunch and dinner brought in – big trays of meatballs, sausage, pasta and salad. There were so many funny comments made during the course of the clinic – that’s part of the camaraderie that has developed over the years. Rollie and I are each other’s families. I’ve known Dick Versace for years. John Olive played for the Wildcats back when I was Rollie’s assistant so I got a chance to coach John back then. A shared history makes the group what it is.

It turned out to be a great basketball forum that hopefully will help those of us coaching this year win a couple extra games along the way.

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