When I was writing about the way John Calipari relates to his players for today’s column, I got to looking for some other examples and went to a little book on my shelf by Adolph Rupp, “Rupp’s Championship Basketball,” published in 1948. There’s a chapter in it titled, “A coach’s relationship to his team,” that I consulted, but didn’t really get into in the story.
I thought about reprinting that chapter here, but instead will share a chapter that I thought was appropriate, titled, “Tournament Play.”
Enjoy . . .
EVERY YEAR as the mad month of March approaches, every coach in the United States wonders about the same thing: How can I win the tournament?
Perhaps the best answer to this could be supplied by the team’s record up to the time of the tournament. However, this is not always a true criterion. A good team that should win the championship is upset in the first round by a team that has a very spotty record.
In 1934 we took to the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Atlanta a team that had been undefeated during the entire season. Only eight teams were invited. The Mississippi team had had a bad siege of the flu and was unable to participate. A last-minute appeal was made to Florida, who had a poor record for the season, asking them to fill in for Mississippi. They got their boys together and were very happy to come. In the first round they knocked off Kentucky and progressed to the finals of the tournament, losing only in the last few minutes of play.
Therefore, what factors govern tournament competition? I would say that a team must not only be physically fit, but must also be mentally right for tournament play. The longer I stay in this coaching profession, the more convinced I become that a good athlete is good only if he is mentally right.
This is how we like to handle our tournament squad. In the ten days prior to the tournament, we wish them to maintain an absolutely strict routine. We try to arrive at the tournament with all the boys in good mental and physical condition. We work very little the last five days before the tournament except on shooting and on fundamentals. In other words, we want them to be in the mental condition of wanting to play when they get to the tournament.
We plan to reach the tournament site about eight hours before our first game. Usually there are a lot of fans following every team. They wish the team well, but at the same time bother the kids to death. We like to keep our boys away from the crowds. We allow them to see some of the games, especially if there is a team playing that we have not played or we have not seen play during the year. On the afternoon of the day we play, we prefer that the boys go to a show or rest in their hotel, rather than run around the streets or sit in the gym watching other teams play. When a boy is competing in athletics, it takes something out of him to sit there and watch game after game, because he is mentally playing the game too.
Should we be fortunate enough to win, we then maintain our daily routine. We get the boys up at 8:00 A.M. and feed them a light breakfast. In fact, all our meals are lighter on the day of a game than they are at other times. What do we feed them for breakfast? We like half a grapefruit, two scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast and coffee or milk. We eat at 12:00 and, again, we like half of a grapefruit, a small steak, a small baked potato, peas, toast, a dipper of ice cream, and a drink.
Then we like the boys to go to their rooms at 2:00 o’clock and take a nap. We call them at 4:30; at 5:00 we eat two poached eggs, two pieces of dry toast and tea. We let them walk around until 6:00 o’clock and then get them off the street and back up to their rooms.
We like to dress at the hotel. If the game is played at eight o’clock, we leave the hotel at 7:15 and go immediately to the dressing room. After the game is over, we get something light to eat, and go right to bed.
All visitors are kept out of the rooms during the entire period of the tournament, and we never permit more than the two boys assigned to a room to be there at any time. All telephones are blocked and no calls go in or out of their rooms. To sum it up, we want to maintain the daily routine. We don’t want the boys mentally disturbed by a bunch of well-wishers, card sharks and general nuisances.
Most teams eat too much on a trip. We like to bend over the other way; a hungry cat still catches the most mice. Then, we like the boys to get plenty of sleep and rest because it is good mental and physical conditioning and promotes a general desire to win which helps bring success at these tournaments.