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Sweet 16: Top Advice & Inspiration from College Basketball Coaches


Throughout the years, PCA has worked with countless coaches at every level to spread the power of positive. But of all the coaches working to advocate for positive coaching, college basketball coaches are some of PCA's best champions. In the spirit of March Madness, we recently chose what we consider to be the "sweet sixteen" insights and advice from this group of eight coaches, who have supported PCA in various ways.

As you scroll through this list of quotes and insights from some of the top minds in college basketball, pay close attention to the way they describe the importance of character, positivity, and next play mentality.


  1. "We always use the phrase 'next play' (even after a good play!). The teams that can adjust quickly and move their emotions to the next moment will probably be the team that will be the most successful." - Tommy Amaker (Harvard)

  2. "Character plays an enormous role in recruiting. It should be a high priority for any college coach. Having character in your locker room is critical." - Tommy Amaker (Harvard)

  3. "Positive coaching doesn't mean never being critical or everyone gets a trophy. If you take the time to care about your players as human beings, you can coach them harder, and that's positive coaching." - Lindsay Gottlieb (USC)

  4. "I've interacted with A LOT of sports parents in my time as a coach. The number one thing I want to hear from sports parents is 'I love to watch you play." - Lindsay Gottlieb (USC)

  5. "Be a confidence giver." - Mike Brey (Notre Dame)

  6. "My feeling has been, when my guys look over at me, they can't see a coach yelling at the ref. They have to see poise, not panic, and sometimes you have to fake that a little bit." - Mike Brey (Notre Dame)

  7. "Always shine positivity even through negative moments. Never end a film session with a negative play. Even if you get killed that game, show the players a positive moment they can build from." - Mike Brey (Notre Dame)

  8. "More than anything, Tara teaches you as a player, as a coach, how to be. How to be as a person. How to be a mature, thoughtful, kind, hard-working, unselfish, goal-oriented person and teammate. I think that's her greatest legacy." - Stanford assistant coach and former guard Kate Paye on Tara VanDerveer (Stanford)

  9. "It takes great commitment, it takes great partnership with your employers and obviously great relationships with your players. You don't last that long unless people enjoy playing for you. She's a Hall of Famer." - Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Tara VanDerveer (Stanford)

  10. “I have always believed, that sport is the most powerful classroom in our country and in the world. There is nothing you cannot learn about life and who you want to be where you want to go and what you want to do . . . that you can’t learn from sport.” - Kathy Delaney-Smith (Harvard)

  11. “I truly believe the best coaches evolve, and learn and get better, and steal from one another. . . . I coached those women differently from how I am coaching now, the generations are different, technology is different, I’m still evolving, Black Lives Matter, equity, everything we have to keep learning. So I hope I do a good job with that, and it’s not without mistakes.” - Kathy Delaney-Smith (Harvard)

  12. "Culture within a team is one of the most important aspects of success. Culture is driven by accountability between players and cohesion between players and coaches." - Chris Collins (Northwestern)

  13. "I believe so much in the power of confidence and belief. In order to make that breakthrough and reach higher achievements, you need to have that. You need to find out what makes your player reach that breakthrough." - Chris Collins (Northwestern)

  14. "As the game unfolds, play after play after play, you have to focus on the effort and avoid distractions. Basketball is a game of decisions- you make a decision to live in the present, you make a decision not to be distracted, you make a decision to be unselfish." - Bob McKillop (Davidson)

  15. “Communication, verbal and nonverbal, has been something that I really emphasize. Nonverbal body language is very important. Verbal is too, but I pointed this out at dinner at my house the other day, touching each other, high fives, hugs, it is the little things you do to celebrate when something good happens that are really important to a successful team.” - Adia Barnes (Arizona)

  16. “We feed off Coach Barnes’ energy. With her laughing, cracking jokes on the side, it makes us even be more loose. Coach is not uptight at all. She’s like, ‘have fun, keep on smiling.’ Her rubs off on us. It’s contagious.” - Adia Barnes (Arizona) player Aari McDonald

University of Arizona's Adia Barnes on PCA Webinar

Davidson's Bob McKillop Podcast with PCA Founder Jim Thomspon

Tommy Amaker: "Next Play"

Lindsay Gottlieb on Sports Parenting, Positive Coaching

Notre Dame's Mike Brey on Poise

Kathy Delaney-Smith: Embracing Mistakes, Taking Risks

Chris Collins: How To Build Athlete Confidence

Tara VanDerveer: Character + Relationships Are More Critical Than Stats

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