Dave Smart

How Dave Smart Built a Basketball Powerhouse with Simplicity

Dave Smart’s coaching philosophy stands out as a refreshing breath of fresh air. Smart, the mastermind behind Carleton’s sustained success and now an assistant coach at Texas Tech University, prioritizes simplicity and accountability. This blog delves into how Smart’s focus on player development, consistent coaching strategies, and a culture of accountability has shaped one of the most successful teams in recent history.

Keeping It Simple

The guiding principle Dave Smart follows is straightforward: keep it simple. This might seem counterintuitive in a sport synonymous with complexity, but for Smart, simplification is the key to unlocking player potential. By avoiding complicated plays, Smart ensures that his team can focus on perfecting the basics of the game. This emphasis on fundamentals allows for a level of proficiency and confidence in players that complex strategies can’t easily replicate.

The Power of Consistency

Smart believes in sticking to a consistent coaching strategy. This doesn’t mean that his team runs the same plays in every game without adjustment. Rather, it’s about refining and improving those plays year after year. This approach not only allows players to master the specifics of each play but also instills a deep understanding of the game’s dynamics. It’s about knowing the rules so well that you know when and how to bend them.

Accountability Is Key

Another cornerstone of Smart’s coaching philosophy is accountability. He highlights the importance of holding players accountable for their actions and performance. This isn’t about punishment but fostering an environment where players can learn from their mistakes and grow. Smart emphasizes that to effectively hold players accountable, a team needs depth. This depth ensures that players are continuously pushed to improve, knowing that their spot on the team is not guaranteed and is contingent on their effort and performance.

Reading the Feet

An interesting concept that Smart discusses is “reading the feet” of basketball players. This is about anticipating and reacting to the movements of opponents on the court. It’s a subtle skill that requires players to be highly observant and responsive. This skill underscores the necessity of being mentally as well as physically agile in the game of basketball.

How Dave Smart Fosters Competitiveness

Despite the simplicity of his approach, Smart doesn’t downplay the importance of competitiveness. He encourages a competitive environment in practices, pushing players to their limits. This is not for the sake of competition itself but to prepare them for high-pressure situations in games where giving up is not an option.

The Language of Coaching

Clarity and simplicity extend to the language used in coaching. Smart underscores the importance of using clear, simple terminology when coaching. This ensures that all players, regardless of their background or level of experience, can understand the strategies and plays being discussed. It’s about making the game accessible to everyone on the team and ensuring that communication barriers do not impede player development.


Dave Smart’s coaching philosophy may seem deceptively simple, but its effectiveness is undeniable. At the heart of his success is a commitment to the basics—simplicity, consistency, and accountability. By focusing on player development, encouraging a competitive practice environment, and using clear terminology, Smart has created a winning formula that has not only brought success to Carleton but has also positively influenced the lives of countless players. In a sport often dominated by the pursuit of the next big strategy, Smart reminds us that sometimes, the key to success is keeping it simple and being accountable.

Get instant access to exclusive videos from Dave Smart available only at davesmartbasketball.com

Doug Novak

Doug Novak: A Basketball Coach’s 3 Principles for Success

Doug Novak has spent the last 30+ years on a basketball sideline. During that time, he has coached both men’s and women’s teams at every level from JuCo through NCAA Division. Regardless of where or who he coaches, he has 3 main coaching principles he emphasizes: the importance of clarity, handling the results well – both the wins and the losses, and modeling the behavior you want from your players.

Learn more from Doug Novak on The Basketball Podcast

Simplify Your Coaching Principles

Coach Novak believes in simplifying his coaching philosophy into a small number of key principles. He focuses on four offensive and four defensive principles. Why four? Because Coach Novak believes your philosophy should fit on a napkin.

These principles are the foundation of his coaching and guide his teaching. He emphasizes that these principles are the ones that he will raise his voice at, while everything else is addressed with a whisper.

The 4 offensive pillars are strong with the ball, straight line drives, consistent footwork and spacing for advantage. Novak believes in teaching players to make championship shots and to have the freedom to take those shots without fear of failure. He emphasizes the importance of players understanding that every decision they make on the court is the right one with the knowledge they have at that time. He encourages players to focus on the process and not be overly concerned with the outcome.

Defensively, Coach Novak focuses on principles such as denying straight line drives and providing weak side help. He believes in teaching players to communicate effectively on defense and to understand their roles within the team’s defensive system. He emphasizes the importance of teaching players how to lose correctly and gain wisdom from losses. And, he encourages players to be grateful for losses and to see them as opportunities for growth and maturity.

Model the Behavior You Want

Coach Novak knows the importance of coaches modeling the behavior they expect from their players. This is especially true when it comes to handling defeats. Coaches are just as competitive as players and want to win just as badly. However, he emphasizes the need to handle defeat in the correct way. He believes in teaching players how to lose and addressing defeat as the first topic of discussion. Tough experiences are a part of life but they can lead to growth and maturity if handled correctly.

Coach Novak understands the importance of coaching confidence. Players at all levels, including college and professional players, struggle with confidence. Novak believes in reinforcing positive behavior and decisions by providing players with a clear destination at which to aim.

Doug Novak’s coaching philosophy is centered around clarity, teaching and handling defeat well. Simplifying coaching points to a few key principles helps provide direction and confidence for players and coaches alike.

To see exclusive, unedited practice footage and team film sessions with Coach Doug Novak, visit dougnovakbasketball.com

For a more in depth look at Novak’s core principles and teaching materials, visit coachdougnovak.com 

For more exclusive all-access practice video series, check out immersionvideos.com


transformational vs. transactional coaching

This or That: Transformational vs Transactional Coaching

Transactional coaching and transformational coaching are two distinct approaches to coaching, each with its own philosophy and impact on individuals. Here’s an overview of the key differences between transactional and transformational coaching.

transactional vs transformational coaching

Transactional Coaching

Focus on Tasks and Goals

Transactional coaching is task-oriented and primarily concerned with achieving specific goals. Therefore, the coach sets expectations, and the athlete is expected to meet those expectations to receive rewards or avoid consequences.

Rewards and Punishments

In a transactional coaching model, motivation often comes from external rewards or punishments. Athletes are incentivized by tangible benefits or motivated by the fear of negative consequences.

Short-Term Compliance

The emphasis is on immediate performance and compliance. Coaches using a transactional approach may prioritize quick fixes and short-term results over long-term development.

Structured and Hierarchical

The coach holds authority, and the coaching relationship is often hierarchical. Athletes follow instructions, and the communication is more one-way, focusing on directives rather than collaboration.

Limited Personal Development

While transactional coaching can lead to improved performance, it may not necessarily contribute to the holistic personal development of the athlete. Often, it overlooks the emotional and psychological aspects of coaching.

Transformational Coaching

Focus on Individual Growth

Transformational coaching is centered around the personal and holistic development of the athlete. Coaches aim to inspire and empower athletes to reach their full potential, not just in sports but also in life.

Intrinsic Motivation

Motivation in transformational coaching comes from within. Coaches seek to tap into the athlete’s intrinsic motivation, fostering a love for the sport and a desire for self-improvement.

Long-Term Development

The focus is on long-term development, both as an athlete and as an individual. Transformational coaching aims to create lasting change by addressing the underlying values, beliefs, and attitudes of the athlete.

Relationship and Collaboration

Transformational coaches build strong relationships with athletes. The coaching style is more collaborative, involving open communication, mentorship, and a shared vision for the athlete’s future.

Personalized Approach

Each athlete is treated as an individual with unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Coaching strategies are tailored to the individual, promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Emphasis on Empowerment

Transformational coaching empowers athletes to take initiative, make decisions, and become leaders both on and off the field. It seeks to instill qualities such as self-confidence, resilience, and a growth mindset.

In summary, while transactional coaching is more concerned with immediate performance and external motivators, transformational coaching prioritizes long-term personal development, intrinsic motivation, and a collaborative, empowering relationship between coach and athlete. Many successful coaches incorporate elements of both approaches depending on the situation, but understanding the differences can help coaches choose the most appropriate strategy for their athletes’ needs.

Check out these additional resources for more information on Transactional vs Transformational Coaching:

3D Institute: Transactional vs Transformational Coaching

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