Good stuff from a recent Athletic article about Eric Musselman at Arkansas, and how he learned from Chuck Daly to give the players a voice:
He adds this is a risky strategy, as that third game against UCLA showed. The team will have to live with the possibility that Hagans gets hot early and forces the defense to adjust. So Musselman asks his players to really consider this plan and decide in the next two days if they’re comfortable going that route.
That he gives them this option is mind-bending. College basketball programs, by and large, are monarchies, not democracies. The head coach usually dictates everything. But Musselman asks his players for input on all kinds of topics. He gauges them in timeouts over whether they want to switch ball screens or hedge them. He lets them choose where to eat on the road, what time to have pregame shootaround, what uniform combination they want to wear each game. The team’s leading scorer, Mason Jones, requested gray uniforms for the Vanderbilt game. But by the time Arkansas reached out, Vandy had already packed its gear, so the Hogs had to stick with the home whites. Musselman opened Thursday’s practice by apologizing for the mixup, then unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a new design specifically for Saturday: white tops with just a Razorbacks logo and numbers on the front.
“Is that good enough?” Musselman asks, as players holler their approvals. “Mason, is that a little outside the box for you?”
When the Razorbacks played at Indiana last month, they arrived in Bloomington the afternoon before the game and were scheduled for a shootaround at Assembly Hall. On the team bus from the airport, Musselman stunned his staff when he gave the players a choice between going to the gym or resting in the hotel. Three players opted to take a nap. The Razorbacks upset the Hoosiers the following night.
Musselman says he learned from Chuck Daly to give players a voice. But Daly coached pros, not college kids. Still, this helps explain why the Razorbacks have played so hard all season and quickly accepted the new staff. “Part of getting guys to buy in,” assistant coach Clay Moser says, “is making it a partnership. Nobody wants to be told what to do all the time.”