Entering his 14th season as head coach of the Division II USC-Aiken Women’s Basketball Team, Coach Mike Brandt shared with us some key points on his offensive philosophies, work-life balance, and recruiting. Upon graduating from Sterling College in Kansas, he entered the coaching world at the high school ranks. From there he transitioned to becoming a head coach at a junior college, spent time as a men’s assistant, and had his first head coaching job at the age of 26. In the past eight seasons his USC-Aiken team has amassed 162 wins, tallying a South Carolina best at any collegiate level.
“The Flex Master”
Introduced to the flex in the 5th grade, Coach Brandt decided to bring the offense with him when coaching at the high school level. Over the years he developed a passion for making small adjustments and evolving his flex offense, finding ways to counter the defensive strategies used against it. One adjustment his team, the Pacers, run is “Pacer No” where they simply run the flex without screening, or using “brush” screens. This change was implemented when other teams would try to get referees to call illegal screens. The ultimate goal of his offense is to force opposing teams into zone defenses and then having good enough shooters to execute on offense against the zone.
- The flex offense is a great talent equalizer. If your team doesn’t have as much talent, it can even things out.
- The flex can also help your team run down the clock if you’re looking for longer possessions.
- If you have the flex in your arsenal, opposing teams must spend practice time preparing for it.
Recruiting Players and Putting them in Places to Succeed
Although he does love the flex offense, he doesn’t look for players who he believes can specifically execute the flex offense; he’s looking for the best players possible. Once he has his team solidified and has seen them play together in the fall, he then decides upon an offense and defense that will work best with his personnel. With younger teams, the preseason is an optimum time to explain the program/system. For a more veteran team, the preseason can be utilized more as a time to work on skills used within the offense.
When it comes to evaluating players, Coach Brandt and his staff tend to utilize the recruiting services available. With an increase in tournament fees as well as the cost of travel, it has been financially advantageous for his staff to use the online subscription recruiting services. The Pacers have also done well in the recruiting aspect due to the strong reputation Coach Brandt and his program have earned. Successful recruiting is often due to knowing the right people and building trust. Great players have found their way to Coach Brandt through word of mouth from circles that trust him. Knowing the right people and having genuine relationships with them can make the recruiting process all the more efficient!
Balancing Basketball and a Family
As a head coach, Coach Brandt states that being able to set your own schedule is extremely helpful. Throughout his coaching years family has always been a priority. Morning practices have allowed him to spend afternoons with his family and attend his children’s games. His daughter, at the age of six, was already immersed into his program, eager to sit on the bench during games.
Other tips for new coaches:
- Connect! Make as many connections and contacts as you can.
- Prepare! Many of your job opportunities will be decided upon based on who you know and how your interview went.
- Be Yourself! Research the different philosophies out there and find which one resonates with you. Take job opportunities that you are a good fit for. If you’re happy somewhere, it will help with your coaching career longevity. Don’t necessarily just take a job just because it pays well or is at a division that you want. It needs to be the right fit.
- Be ambitious! Coach Brandt’s goal is to hire assistants that want to grow and eventually become a head coaches.
“Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. Keep things on an even keel.”