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Beyond The Whistle 017: Kevin Sutton, Assistant Coach, University of Rhode Island

11 Jul

Beyond The Whistle with Odell McCants

Link to Podcast

BTW 017: Kevin Sutton, Assistant Coach, University of Rhode Island

I’m honored to have as a return guest to Beyond The Whistle, my friend Kevin Sutton, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Rhode Island. Kevin was my very first interview guest, appearing in episode two, “Persistence on the Coaching Career Path”. In that episode, Kevin shared his career journey and how he has woven a path from coaching at two nationally ranked high school programs, to a college coaching career in the Atlantic 10, Big East and ACC.

In some ways, this episode became an unplanned follow up to episode two. Last season at Pitt, Kevin experienced a season no one wishes to have. An 8-24 overall record and winless season in the ACC led to the dismissal of coach Kevin Stallings and the entire Pitt staff, including Kevin.

In this episode Kevin openly shares:

  • His excitement for the opportunity to join the staff of Rhode Island first year head coach David Cox
  • The professional and personal lessons he took away from an 8-24 season
  • What a “WIN” means to him in his coaching career
  • How he spent his time between jobs
  • Taking time to reconnect with family
  • Having the hard conversations with your spouse in order to have a plan for your career
  • The importance of staying relevant in your career
  • Having a plan for your job search so you are networking and pursuing the right opportunities

I’m thankful for Kevin and his candid conversation.

Mentions in this episode

Connect With Kevin Sutton

Connect with Odell McCants



21 Feb

A good teacher can teach students anything. A great teacher helps students discover it within themselves. I think this philosophy exemplifies the definition of a mentor.

Throughout my coaching career of 30+ years, I often reflect and take inventory of the people who have served as mentors to me.  Each poured into me as a person, and as a coach, helping me to grow.  They created a balanced learning environment by allowing me to learn from them, while also respecting my need to grow individually.  Throughout the mentoring, they supported some of my ideas and vehemently disagreed with others.  Regardless, their investment they poured into me was greatly appreciated.

Serving as a mentor is truly an honor!  The role comes with great responsibility, and therefor should be taken seriously.  Mentors “pour” into the lives of their protégés to help them reach their goals, chase their dreams, and most importantly, discover within themselves the talents and self-confidence to be successful.

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to speak at numerous coaching clinics or academies.  One such great event was the USA Basketball Coaching Academy in Portland, Oregon.  A young, female coach who heard me speak at the academy, emailed to ask if I would serve as a mentor to her as she successfully navigates her coaching career. I told her I would be honored to.

I really believe that it is important to share your experience and knowledge with others who you feel are passionate about and greatly respect the game.  It has been a privilege to have served as a mentor and spoken at clinics on this topic.

To me, a mentor is a person who is secure and confident – willing to share, educate and guide. Mentors are often training their successors.  Great leaders leave situations better than they found them by training their team to learn from the mistakes they have made.

How Bench Procedures and Time Out Management Impact the Game.

8 Oct

Written by Kevin Sutton

Assistant Coach at Georgetown University

I. Bench procedures:

– The bench must be totally engaged into the game (mentally and physically). Lack of engagement is a clear indicator to the coach that the player is more concerned with themselves than the team. Being engaged is sending a message to the coaches and the teammates that the player is ready to play and is invested in the game.

– The bench must cheer for their teammates and not sit as a spectator. The cheering must be positive and empowering. It must be the type of cheering that you would want to hear when you are on the floor.

– The players on the bench stand and extent their hand to the teammate that is coming out the game. This is a form of solidarity and a demonstration of TEAMWORK!

– The player exiting the game must “high five” with each member on the bench and pick up their water at the end of the bench from the manager and return to the available seat next to an assistant coach so that they can receive feedback on their performance. The touch and agreeing is acknowledging of their teammates.

– Never go to the end of then bench to sit after coming out of the game. This will only allow the player to disengage with the team and think of themselves. The player will invariably start to ask questions of themselves and others as to why he got taken out the game. Also by going to the end of the bench the assistant coaches can not give them the proper feedback that can be helpful to the player and, more importantly, the team.

– Be vocal, especially when the team’s defense is in front of the bench. This is a great way to start the game engaged. Communicating with your teams while you are on the bench is equally as valuable as the communication that is taking place on the court. Provided that the communication is the same and it benefits the team.

– When a time out is called, sprint out to meet your teammates who are in the game but do not cross half court (rule violation). Whether the situation is good or bad, the team must remain a team (a unit). Furthermore, it sends a message to your opponents that they are playing a TEAM and not a collection of individuals.

II.  Time outs:

Another aspect of the game of basketball that often gets over looked and is often mismanaged are Timeouts.  You can easily identify the most successful teams from the teams that do not win by their time outs. It is their structure and organization that allows for the maximum amount of necessary information to be disseminated during the timeout.  As soon as the ball is put into play you will know right away how much of the information was retained. Winning teams execute after timeouts (ATO).

Each team is given the same number of timeouts per game. How they are used and when they are used often have an impact on the outcome of the games.  I love the rules that the NBA and FIBA use regarding time outs in their games. Both the NBA and FIBA place a high value on timeouts which makes their respective games more interesting from a tactical standpoint.

There are two types of timeouts in the College and High School game; the 30 second time out and the Full time out.  Each must be handled differently by the coach so that the timeout is maximized positively and not wasted negatively.

A. 30 second timeout:

The players in the game must remain standing up and on the court. The players not in the game must remain off the court. So, it is imperative that the players in the game SPRINT off the court to the bench area.  The players in the game should remain in front of the coach standing from the coaches left to right (players right to left) 1-5 (pt.g, g, sf, pf & c). By lining up this way, the coach does not have to look around for each player, he can talk freely because he knows exactly where each position/player is in the huddle.

B. Full Time out/TV time outs:

These timeouts are longer. The managers will hand out the towels and water bottles while the coaches meet away from the team. When the head coach is ready to address the team all water and towels are taken away by the managers so that the players an give the coach their full attention. The players will sit from the coaches left to right 1-5.  Every coach should have a role during full/tv time outs: one coach should know the foul and timeout situation. Another coach should watch for changes in the opponents line ups and potential match ups. The coach responsible for the scout should assist the head coach the most during timeouts. The head manager must help to get the team out of the huddle after the first horn sounds.

III. Conclusion:

Winning is hard!  Consistently winning is even harder. The teams that consistently win have a bench procedure and effectively manage time outs with their organization. They win more games than they lose. They understand the impact that both aspects have on the game. Just watch how engaged their bench is during the game, look how the players coming off the bench perform,and finally, look how well they execute after time out (either offensively or defensively).

Rule of the 1/3

30 Sep

Written by Kevin Sutton

Assistant Coach Georgetown

One of today’s buzz words when trying to build a team/culture is “buy in”.  Every coach is trying to get their players to “buy in”. Early in my coaching career I had the unbelievable opportunity to attend a Temple University practice conducted by Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney.

The topic of the day for Coach Chaney was ” are you buying what I am selling?”. Coach Chaney said, ” if you trust me, if you believe in me and if you listen to me, then you will buy what I am selling you. If you don’t, then you won’t”.  He finished by saying, this is a fact of life. “Buy in” begins and ends with trust! “Buy in” is an indication of a person’s commitment level.

As coaches trying to get your players to “buy in” to you, your program, your style of play, your culture.  Remember the rule of the 1/3.

The rule of the 1/3 says that 1/3 of the group will “buy in” into the coaching staff right away. They trust you, they believe in you, they know that you want them to be successful. We will call this group 1.  Group 2 is the 1/3 of the team that wants to “buy in”. They do things the coach wants them to do, but they need to be convinced more, motivated more, taught more why “buy in” will not only help the team, but each individual as well.  We will call them Group 2.  The last 1/3 of the team is the group that does not want to “buy in”. They have trust issues, they question everything. They don’t believe in the coach, the process or anything about the program.  This is group 3.

Through my experiences as a coach I have learned that too many coaches focus on Group 3 trying to get them to “buy in”.  In actuality the group that the coach needs to focus their attention on is Group 2. The coach just needs to “sell” them more persuasively, or motivate them more creatively.  When the coach gets group 2 to “buy in” they now have 2/3’s of the team “bought in” to the staff, to the program, to the culture.

Now that 2/3’s of the team has “bought in” the coaching staff can focus their attention on getting 1/2 of group 3 to “buy in”. The coaching staff and 2/3’s of the team will see certain members of group 3 starting to believe in, starting to move in the direction that is more in line with majority of the team.

At this point it should clear to the coaching staff that those last members of group 3 are not going to “buy in” so they need to be “BOUGHT OUT”!  

The rule of 1/3 can be a helpful tool when you are trying to get “buy in”.

Speech for Point Guard College

27 Aug

Topic: Skill Development – Multiple Effort Offensive and Defensive Drills

I. intro:
Thank you Sam Allen, and rest of the people at Point Guard College for asking me to speak. It is truly an honor. I would also like to thank you for attending the clinic and choosing to listen to me.

My topic today is Skill Development -Using Multiple Effort Offensive And Defensive Drills. I want to give the disclaimer by saying that what I am going to share with you are my thoughts, beliefs and concepts that I have used to develop players throughout my 27 year coaching career. If you don’t agree or don’t like what I am showing it is ok.

II. Skill development:

A. Skill development has always been my passion.
B. It is the most enjoyable part of the game for me.
C. It gives you the opportunity to build a trusting relationship with your players/team through shared sweat equity.

III. What makes a good skill session:

A. workouts should be parts of the whole geared toward improvement.
B. Players must be taken out of their comfort zone.
C. all the players should do all the drills. Regardless of their position.
D. Weak hand development is a must and should be a part of every workout.
E. When teaching…using sound bites.
F. Each drill should not be more than 12 mins(2 mins of explanation & 10 mins of activity)
G. should have fluidity btw drill to drill
H. Name you drills after pro(players will connect w/the drill better).
I. Make the skill sessions about improvement and not punishment.
J. Come to the skills session with plan/schedule in hand.
K. Design your skill sessions to compete vs the participants. For the player the competition is:
them vs. coach
Them vs.the other ppl in the workout
Them vs themselves
L. Whenever possible chart shots.
M. Whenever possible use the clock.
N. Should teach secure players vs insecure player(being a great teammate).
O. Should teach leadership/Followship (by rotating your leaders throughout the workout).
P. Should develop/raise the participants Bball iq by teaching the y and just the how. By using imagination/creativity.
R. Teaches how to improve instincts through repetition.
S. Building of good habits
T. Build Up/never tare down

IV. Conclusion:
In all that you do as a coach/educator: pouring into your players, and investing in them as people is the most important. I challenge you to impact as many lives as you through the game of basketball. Create “LIVING TROPHIES!

Spring Basketball

24 Apr

Written by: Kevin Sutton
Assistant at Georgetown

The Final Four has been attended and The  NCAA champions have been crowned.  The questions we basketball coaches get asked are: 
1. Do you get time off now? 
2. What do you do with all of your free time now? 
3. This is the slow time of the year, right? 
The answer to all of those questions is NO! 

The Spring for a college basketball coach my very well be one of the busiest times of the year. So much is going on within the game and around the game that as a coach you may find yourself totally absorbed with it all. 

Here is a laundry list of things a college coaching staff has to deal with during the Spring. I have divided them into two categories:
I. Inside your program 
II. Outside of your program. 

Here are some examples that occur inside your program: 
-Academic issues from the Second Semester as they reflect to the determination if a player will return or not. 
-Player/Roster evaluations. 
-5th year players who graduating and could return to your team. 
-Players deciding to enter the NBA draft. 
-The starting of Spring Weight training and skill workouts
-possible coaching changes(either coming or going). 
-Spring signing period
-Recruiting of Juniors: home visit, school visits, Workouts, AAU tournament on the ONLY weekend of the month of April. 
-Implementing improvements that will make your program better. 
-Scheduling of games for next year. 
-Job placement of your Senior players and managers. 

Here are some examples that occur Outside of the program. 
-Studying the transfer list and determine the value of accepting a transfer. 
-Determine the value of accepting a 5th graduate student/player
– Keeping an eye on the “coaching changes”and it’s potential effect to your program.  

The outside perception that “Spring” is a time for college coaches to recharge their batteries just doesn’t match the reality. The truth of the matter is that if we are dedicated to making our programs better, college basketball is a profession that requires long hours 12 months per year. Of course, as deeply competitive and driven people, we don’t mind the “Grind”-coaching is a calling and working in college basketball is a blessing, and we love what we do.

Building your scouting report for the second time that you play an opponent

14 Feb

Written by Kevin Sutton, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Georgetown

When you are building your scouting report for the second time you are playing an opponent, the second report should be different than the first report. The focus of the report should be on what has happened in the last 5 games leading into your game. You should also look at the summary notes that you have taken from the first time you played the opponent. You need to look at the first game again on film and make edits of the games., as well as take notes from the film.

Here are several questions that I use to help me formulate the second scouting report:

1. What are the recent trends of their team? Are they now playing more man or zone? Offensively are they running new sets?
2. Have there been any changes in their rotation?
3. Are there any injuries? What role will it play?

Statistical Breakdown:
1. Look at stats of starters
2. Look at stats of substitutes
3. Look at the overall stats
4. Look at the stats from the conference
5. Breakdown of the stats from the last 5 games
6. Look to determine if they are shooting more free throws than earlier in the year.

Video Breakdown:
1. Personal edits
2. Offensive edits
3. Chart their offensive frequency and efficiency
4. Chart their out of bounds plays

Second scouting reports should focus more on the opponent’s personnel and not so much on their style of play. Knowing more about the individual tendencies can help you when you are defending them.

Second Scouting reports should focus on learning the keys to tipping off their plays.

Second Scouting reports should focus on figuring out trends of your opponents, such as play sequences, play frequency, substitution rotations, after time out tendencies. Offensively-calls for OB plays, set plays, Defensively – do they change defense from man to zone or zone to man.


The Second Scouting Report should put the players in a proper frame of mind for them to perform at their best by having a “digestible amount” of information. The outcomes of the game will more often than not be, determined by the team who plays there hardest together throughout the course of the game!