I like acronyms and I believe acronyms are a great way of learning. It’s basically how I learned all of the bones in biology. The acronym in basketball that I have used the longest is KISS which is short for Keep it Simple Stupid.

Since March I have introduced everyone to two acronyms that I believe in–the FOREST (this is my Shooting System which is short for Finger, Off hand, Rhythm, Eyes, Sway and Turn) and BADD (which stands for Believe, Apply, Detail and Discipline). Today I want to introduce you to another acronym (I promise it will be my last) which I believe are traits are in all great coaches.

Two years ago I was bored at a conference and started jotting down words that I believe quality coaches and trainers should strive for. After a few minutes I found my acronym: PAL. When I returned home I told my coaches, “You need to be a PAL” and would you like to be my PAL?” They thought I had lost my mind.

PAL is short for Passion, Action and Legacy. Three terrific words that every coach should try to attain each day. Let’s dissect the acronym PAL.

I believe having passion is so important in everyday life. It is my favorite word. I see people that wake up and complain about their health, their job status, the weather, their financial status. I see coaches that complain that they lack size, have no speed, and lack shooters. They complain about their facilities and their administration. Other coaches don’t complain, but literally show no passion in their body.

Passionate people are what makes this word go around. I remember being a young coach working Pepperdine Team camp and having Coach Jim Harrick come in and say, “Gentlemen, it’s great to be alive!” And I actually believe Coach Harrick meant every word.

I love watching coaches that have great passion. You have to believe in what you are doing, but more importantly, you have to get your players to believe. A passionate coach spreads the enthusiasm from one player to another.

If you want to see a great coach that lived everyday with passion, go to Google and type in Jim Valvano Survive and Advance. It may be one of the great documentaries I have ever seen. Jimmy V was a great coach who lived with passion every day. If you have an hour watch this 30 on 30 special.


Don’t procrastinate. The time is now. I love the word action because it means being in the present. There are many coaches that live in the past. “Remember when we were good and had great athletes.” There are many coaches that live in the future. “We might be ok in a few years when the 7th graders are seniors.”

The great coaches live in the present. They are about the now. Let’s get our players better now. There is no wait. There is no hesitation. Their view is “Let’s get better Now. Let’s work hard now. Let’s fix what is broken now.”

Action is a beautiful word.


Last and not least is the word Legacy. What is your legacy? What will you leave behind?

Coaches basically coach for three reasons: money (and maybe perks), power and teaching young athletes the game they love. If you ask all coaches, “Why do you coach?” of course they will respond “I want to give back to the community” or “I want to give back to the game I love.”

Unfortunately, there are many coaches that say one thing and do the opposite. I would estimate in high school 50% of coaches are in it for the perks and the power (I have an office and I am in control). That means 50% are in it for the right reasons.

You have to ask yourself–how will you be remembered? While winning is important in the game of basketball (we do keep score after all), high school and youth sports is all about growing people and affecting their lives.

Facebook is a great way to interact with people you have lost contact with you over the years. In the past year I have chatted on Facebook with players I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I wondered if they remembered me in a good light. I was tough on them, but I was always fair.

Having players comment, “I really appreciate what you did for us” or “You really taught me about life” is really special. While we would like every one of ours players to go on to play at Duke or U Conn, it isn’t going to happen. We coach basketball to build human beings. We should install work ethic, discipline and communication skills in each player so one day they will come back and say, “You helped me greatly to become the person I am today.” Now that is LEGACY


Hopefully you use my PAL acronym. Those are three HUGE words that great coaches are all about. I try to have these three qualities in my teaching every day.