Coaching Nuggets with Coach Kelly Wells

Coaching nuggets. We are all trying to find the newest answers to our coaching problems; Coach Wells shares the right answers for us. Coach Kelly Wells of the University of Pikeville shares some of his championship basketball coaching philosophies and nuggets of wisdom. Follow Coach Wells @coachkellywells on Twitter.

coaching nuggets with coach kelly wells

Championship Coaching Nuggets


StrengthFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

UBUNTU, by Stephen Lundin (Tribal tradition of TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION. Philosophy of: I am because we all are! The success of the group MUST outweigh the success of the individual.)

The Little Red Book of Wisdom, by Mark DeMoss

Success is a Choice, by Rick Pitino


  • Hire GREAT coaches (only as good as the people around you)
  • Put your family ahead of basketball
  • Lifelong Learner (Coaches have to be Coachable)
  • Work Ethic, (Required Work vs. Unrequired Work) (Greatest Asset)
  • Power in Belief (In yourself, your players, your situation)
  • Dream bigger than MOST think is possible / Guarantee Little, Deliver Much
  • Relationships Matter: Care about your coaches/players and their lives
  • Shared Commitment: Players love when you sweat with them, more about what you bring than what you know.
  • Self Evaluation: Would you want to play for yourself (why/why not)
  • Take players where they won’t take themselves, best version of each player
  • Have a Philosophy and Beliefs that fit your situation (Be Flexible)
  • Organized
  • Handle Media, Parents and Community Relations (Own PR Department – staff, players, parents, fans, admin, etc.)
  • Communication (truth, upfront, often)


  • Must Defend
  • Eliminate Transition Baskets
  • Take away offensive rebounding
  • Play through runs (Resolve)
  • Eliminate turnovers and Vomit Offense


“Complexity is the enemy of execution” –Brendon Suhr, LSU

“Young men need more models, not critics” -John Wooden, UCLA

“Transactional Coach or Transformational Coach” -Jon Gordon

[bctt tweet=”“We can’t have a championship program without championship actions” -Bob Starkey, Texas A&M WBB” via=”no”]

“A coach will have more impact on lives in a year than most in a lifetime” -Billy Graham

“The greatest sin a coach can commit is to allow kids to slide by. In classroom as well as the court” -Hubie Brown

“Interest VS. Commitment” Interest = Doing it when convenient / Commitment = All the time -Shaka Smart

“No one is bigger than the team. If you can’t do things our way, you’re not getting time here and we don’t care who you are” -Gregg Popovich

“Empower the people around you, from the janitor to the AD. You do that by being sincere, caring about others, and then putting it into practice” -Sue Gunter. LSU WBB

“What we do as basketball players/coaches is abnormal. If you want abnormal results them give abnormal actions. NORMAL=NORMAL” -Billy Donovan, OKC

“YOU determine your value (wage) with what you bring to the table. Our paycheck is OUR responsibility” -Kevin Eastman


Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better BE RUNNING. –African Proverb

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. –Nido Qubein

There is no passion to be found playing small – In settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. –Nelson Mandella

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. –Walt Disney

[bctt tweet=”Never let the pressures take away the pleasures. –Kelly Wells, UPIKE” username=”@coachkellywells”]

coaching nuggets by coach kelly wells

FIVE Components to be ALL IN:

1. Unselfishness –
o Remove “Me-ism”
o Sacrifice
o “Check your ego at the door; the only stat that matters is team success.
2. Compassionate –
o Nobody cares what you know until they know you care
o It not the VALUE you receive, but the VALUE you give to others.
3. Goal Oriented –
o A ship with no port of call is sure to get there—NOWHERE!
o Put your plans in writing! “Bucket List”
4. Togetherness –
o It amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit
o Amway Philosophy: How many people can you help be successful? In return you will be successful.
5. Leadership –
o Action / Not Position
o Be an authentic leader: Show you care, lead by example, develop leaders

Culture – Step 1: Cast Your Vision

Culture – Step 1: Cast Your Vision

Create Culture with Vision

Culture. Ah, the buzz word for every high school, college, and professional team right now. Most people can recognize great cultures when they see them: the San Antonio Spurs, the Seattle Seahawks, the Michigan State Spartans.

One of the scariest things about culture is the fact that one exists whether you intend for it to or not. So, if you are not being intentional about the development, and advancement, of your culture; then the culture of your will reflect that.

There is always a culture to a team or program.

Angela Duckworth, notable grit and culture expert, recently had this to say in a Seattle Times article by Jayson Jenks:

“My sense is that great coaches are able to create, to forge, a team or identity that says, ‘This is the kind of person we want. This is what it means to be on this team.’ “

(Full article

There are four key pieces to culture: a vision for the program, the core values of the program, the standards in the program, and accountability within the program. Each is vital to a program reaching its full potential and must be consistently emphasized by the leader. If the leader isn’t capable or willing to sell the vision, to filter through the core values, and to uphold the standards set in the program with relentless accountability; no program will reach its potential. BUT … if the leader shares the vision with passion, lives by the core values, and refuses to waiver from the standards of the program; there is no limit to the impact a program can have on team members, fans, and the community.

We’ll focus on vision first. The vision should show team members what can be; it should stretch comfort zones and stir passion within the team. As Henry Ford said, “If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” Those following don’t know. The leader of the team or program must set the vision.

The vision must also clarify direction and purpose while setting a standard of excellence. Vision statements by big corporations often become too vague. And, as a result, are completely useless. Effective vision statements are easily understood by team members and provide a guide to where they are supposed to be going. If the program has no vision, or if no one in the program knows what that vision is, then team members have no idea of what they are working for or where they are trying to go. Great leaders will paint a picture that team members can see. It changes the daily work – making it meaningful, purposeful because the work is leading to something better than what currently exists.

CathedralBricks, Walls, or Cathedrals?

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.  He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!” –unknown

All three men were doing the same thing, but the vision of what the ultimate goal looked like completely changes the attitude, drive, and quality of the work being done – all because it is now purposeful work in line with an appealing vision.

Here are some examples of simple, clear, and inspiring vision statements:

USA Swimming            To inspire and enable our members to achieve excellence in the sport of swimming and in life.

Ohio State Athletics            We foster a culture that provides the opportunity to develop our student-athletes through success in academics and competition to achieve excellence in life.

George Fox University            To be “the team to beat” in NCAA DIII sports with the most formative athletic experience in the country.

Under Armor            To empower athletes everywhere.

Centerville Basketball            Hunt – better our best every day.

In order for a leader to create the team or program that others dream about; that can change the lives of team members; the leader must craft a vision that presses the limits of what seems possible. If you haven’t taken the time to create a vision for your team or program, I urge you to do so. And, if you have a vision for your program, examine it regularly to be sure that you are pursuing it daily.

Up next: Determining the core values for your team and using them as the decision-making filter for everything in your program!

Coaching Basketball: Intentionally Creating Your Culture

Intentionally Create Your Culture

How do great teams create culture? Have you ever been part of a great team? What made it that way? Was there a special bond among teammates? Was it a place of high energy and strong trust?  Did you win a lot? For most of us who have been on some great teams in our lives, the answer to those questions is usually a resounding “Yes!” Often the next question is, “Why don’t all teams end up being great?” It can’t be only about winning because not all great teams win all the time.  Of all the questions listed above, the concept of winning a lot is not necessarily at the top of the list when it comes to memories of being on a great team. Many people will look back on some of the teams they considered as being great and realize that they didn’t win a championship or even win a lot of games.  Some of the greatest teams in the true concept of a “great team” were teams that did not win a lot of games.

So, if winning a lot of contests is not the only pre-requisite for a team being great, why don’t “great teams” happen more often? I believe everything starts with the leadership.  In sports, that person is the coach. That may seem like a lot of pressure to put on one person, especially given the fact that when we are talking about youth/school teams, we are talking about the skill levels, mental capacities, behaviors, mood swings, etc. of children and teenagers. How can we put all the blame/praise on the coach when there are so many variables in any given team situation?

It all starts with the coach because if the coach is intentional about trying to create a great team culture and experience for the kids, the chances are much greater that it will end up that way. Coaches who are intentional about what they want to see happen have more success at seeing their goals come true. That does not mean that it is a guarantee, but they certainly create a situation that is much more apt to come true if they are intentional about it.

Unfortunately, most teams in the world happen by accident. The culture and the experience is left to chance.  There is no vision, no plan, no roadmap for getting to wherever they are seeking to get.  They wander through the season hoping that it will be a good experience. They let the ups and downs and the ebb and flow of the season dictate whether or not the experience is a positive one. Oh sure, many coaches (and team leaders and team members) will talk about wanting to win whatever championship is the ultimate for their team and set that as their goal. However, goals like that create a focus on a result – a result that has many variables that could create that result or keep it from happening. Focusing only on results creates a lot more pressure. While it is at least giving them a direction to go, focusing on a result means that there is only one way to succeed – achieve that one result.

The better method is to focus on creating the culture that you would like to have in your program. Focus on your team’s standards, your guiding principles. Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching calls these a team’s “Core Covenants.” In his booklet and presentation, “First Steps to Successful Teams” – Coach Brown says a covenant is “a binding agreement where action is physically visible. This takes the agreement beyond words to an actual vision of performance. It says, ‘This is what we believe, so therefore, this is what you will see.’”  The best covenants are focused on behavioral characteristics. When a team sets up covenants for behavior within the program, they are creating the culture that they seek. By focusing on behavioral characteristics, these teams are zeroing in on things they have control over – not results and outcomes that have all kinds of variables that influence them. For example, if a team establishes “Team-First Attitude” as a covenant, everyone on that team can make the choice to be committed to being a great teammate.  There is no pre-requisite skill, training, education, physical attribute, etc. necessary to be able to display a team-first attitude. Every single person in the program can have a team-first attitude. The same goes for work ethic, teachable spirit, discipline, mental toughness, integrity, and any other behavioral characteristic one can think of. Every player in a program can commit and live every single one of those kinds of characteristics with nothing more than acting and behaving in the proper way.

If a coach is intentional about establishing covenants, s/he creates a much more favorable chance of having them be lived in her or his program. But it takes work. Developing covenants with the leadership of the team, explaining them to the entire team, taking time to discuss them and work on them throughout the year, and doing all that they can to live the covenants must be intentionally and purposefully developed by the coach. It is a process, and the process takes time and effort. But if a great team is the goal, there is no clearer, better, more consistent and predictable way to achieve it than to work through this process with determination and purpose.  Coaches who do this in an intentional fashion create a team environment of success and excellence.

One major by-product of intentionally focusing on creating this type of culture is that these teams also have a much better chance of creating scoreboard success, too. And they are on their way to intentionally creating the “great team” experience that everyone wants to be a part of. For an in-depth look at creating an outstanding team culture, check out Proactive Coaching’s DVD Captains & Coaches’ Workshop, or better yet, have one of us out to do a Captains & Coaches’ Workshop for your teams. For more information go to

Do you intentionally create a culture in your program? If so, I would love to hear the kinds of things you do?  You can contact me through my website – or by email at [email protected]. Scott is also on Twitter @scottrosberg

About the Author of this Article

Scott Rosberg has been a coach (basketball, soccer, & football) at the high school level for 30 years, an English teacher for 18 years, and an athletic director for 12 years. He has published seven booklets on coaching and youth/school athletics, two books of inspirational messages and quotes for graduates, and a newsletter for athletic directors and coaches. He also speaks to schools, teams, and businesses on a variety of team-building, leadership, and coaching topics. Scott has a blog and a variety of other materials about coaching and athletic topics on his website – He can be reached by email at [email protected].

Scott is also a member of the Proactive Coaching speaking team. Proactive Coaching is dedicated to helping organizations create character and education-based team cultures, while providing a blueprint for team leadership. They help develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors and train coaches and leaders for excellence and significance. Proactive Coaching can be found on the web at Also, you can join the 200,000+ people who have “Liked” Proactive Coaching’s Facebook page at Scott can also be reached through Proactive Coaching at [email protected].