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In its ads, UPS likes to ask, “What can brown do for you?”
Today at Lavietes Pavilion, it was Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker asking, “What can Brown do for my team?”
Amaker was joined by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown for his annual coaching clinic, in which both led the Crimson through drills and gave coaching advice to the couple hundred in attendance.
“I was told a long time ago that one of the greatest gifts that anyone could give another person is knowledge or wisdom,” Amaker said. “And we have some really special people here today.”
After opening warmups, in which co-captain Oliver McNally led the guards and wings and co-captain Keith Wright led the big men, Amaker delivered his opening remarks and then guided the Crimson through a typical two-hour practice.
The squad ran drills that focused on transition defense, the fast break, free-throw shooting, and shot selection, among other things, while Amaker explained the importance of each.
Amaker emphasized the necessity of working together even during practice, saying that, “When teamwork is our destination, victory happens on the way.”
After a lunch break, Brown, the only coach in history to win both an NCAA national championship (with Kansas in 1988) and an NBA Championship (with the Detroit Pistons in 2004), spoke about his coaching technique and career.
“Coach [Dean] Smith is upset I’m here this week with a Duke guy,” the former UNC guard joked.
Nonetheless, Brown had high praise for the Crimson coach.
“I’ve been to a lot of these clinics,” Brown said. “One of the neatest things about this morning for me is you heard Tommy teaching ... I told Tommy when he was a young coach, and I tell all these guys, teach what you know best ... This is the best team game when its played the right way.”
Brown instructed the Crimson—which received two Top-25 votes in the preseason AP poll last week—on a number of plays, saying he believed in emphasizing basketball-specific skills instead of conditioning. He continually pushed the Harvard players to go harder and faster, and did not shy away from constructive criticism.
The Hall of Famer also had powerful advice for the coaches in the crowd.
“Care about these kids,” Brown said. “Make it the top of your list every time they get in the gym that they’re going to respect the game, respect their teammates, play as hard as they can, and enjoy the experience.”
Brown also told stories about the challenges of coaching Allen Iverson, and he displayed how he created isolation for Iverson with McNally playing the role of the high-scoring guard.
Brown then concluded the event with a question-and-answer session.
“Coaching is a challenge, but I’ve never worked a day in my life,” Brown said. “Our responsibility is to make the game better, [and] that’s all that really matters.”
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