How to Build a Championship Basketball Team

Published: Jan 19, 2009

With Randy Monroe, Head Coach, UMBC Men’s Basketball

Randy Monroe describes being a head basketball coach as “being a Tootsie Roll pop: he’s all good things rolled up into one. He’s the mentor; he’s the father figure; he’s the coach; he’s the advisor.”

Now in the midst of his fifth full season as UMBC’s coach, Monroe offered his blueprint for building the 2007-08 team that won an America East championship and took UMBC to the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship Tournament for the first time. As a man who takes all of his roles seriously, it’s no surprise that Monroe looked past game tactics and diagrams of plays and focused on how UMBC attracts and nurtures scholar-athletes who possess character, integrity and spirit.

— Joseph Cooper ’08

Step 1: Find Character in Recruits

As a head coach, I think you need to be involved in the recruiting process. Meet a recruit’s parents and see what kind of people they are. See how much support they are getting from their family. Make sure he can play with his teammates. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t play with your teammates, if you don’t play smart, if you’re not playing together, then chances are you’re not going to have much success.

Step 2: Hold Your Team Accountable

I have one rule: Don’t do anything that’s going to be detrimental to yourself, your university, or your family. And if you can read between the lines, that rule covers a gamut of things. I show them articles about players who have gotten themselves into trouble. They don’t realize the magnitude of influence that has on the university. They don’t realize the influence it has on them. They don’t realize the magnitude of influence it has on their families. I want them understanding poor choices.

Step 3: Instill a Fighting Spirit

You have to be ready to have heat or else you’re going to be left behind. If you don’t have that fiery nature, you’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get exposed. At some point in time, you have to draw a line in the sand and say, “I’m tired of getting exposed so I have to do something about this, I have to kind of develop this aggressive nature, this intensity, so I can be able to play with a sense of urgency and play to a point where I’m not going to get myself hurt because of another person’s hype.” Maybe you’re going to get knocked a couple times, but that’s also the beauty of it. You might not be responsible for getting knocked down, but you have to be responsible for getting back up.

Step 4: Offer Your Players Guidance

Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of coaches. We’re on the sidelines jumping up and down and yelling at refs but that’s not the only thing we do. We meet with our players on a weekly basis. We talk about academics and we talk about life and then we talk about basketball after that. We talk about careers and where they see themselves five years from now or six years from now. We want them to follow an organized plan of attack.

Step 5: Build and Nurture a Fan Base

You need to develop relationships with people. We try to be as visible as possible on campus and develop those relationships with faculty and staff. In the community, it starts with coaching staff and student-athletes doing clinics and speaking engagements, especially at our local middle schools. Our marketing department is also critical in getting the word out about UMBC basketball. People need to see that we are not just about basketball, but that we are good people that want to reach out to the community. And we get out to the resident dining halls and the Commons early in the school year and let the students know that we need their support in order to be successful. It means a lot to us when we feel the energy of the students. We always let them know how much we appreciate their fantastic support.

Step 6: Look to the Future

My goal is to have a successful program. What does that mean? I think it means a lot of things. My thinking can be very shallow if I say I just want to win championships every year. Yes, we want to win championships, but that’s just a part of it. To me, a successful program means that we’re graduating your youngsters. To have your former players come back to the games or call you up. To help a youngster when he’s down and when he’s out, help to lift him up, help him to see that he is better than he thinks he is. So, I look at this as a successful program that’s going in the right direction – a successful program that will stay on a consistent level for years to come.

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