Dean Stark, Head Basketball Coach at Sacramento Waldorf, joins the podcast to discuss what he has learned throughout his coaching journey. Coach Stark has amassed over 650 wins during his career and touches on the aspects that have allowed his program to have sustained success. The value of challenging your athletes to tackle tasks they don't think they can accomplish and the idea of creating your own pyramid of success take center stage in this conversation. He is the author of two books on coaching which can be found below. https://www.amazon.com/UNCOMMON-Inside-Coaching-Sacramento-Waldorf/dp/109835480X https://www.amazon.com/Waldorf-Approach-Coaching-Team-Sports/dp/094580346X
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[00:09:01] One of the, not necessarily unique, but incredibly special things about a small school environment is the depth of relationship. You really get to know these kids well.
[00:09:43] I finally, I had to convince myself, look, I like basketball more than baseball. And that was really hard to admit to myself more than anybody, because I was a baseball guy that was my life for so many years.
[00:10:57] It was ultimately was enough for me to say, I think this is where I want to be.
[00:12:03] What's urgent, and what's important?
[00:14:54] My philosophy shouldn't change day to day based on the person that I'm speaking.
[00:15:15] After he was fired from some coaching position, he spent like six months just taking notes, figuring out what is his philosophy, what are the things that are non-negotiable that have to be there.
[00:15:46] He really had a system that he knew backwards and forward.
[00:16:00] What are the things that are non-negotiable? What are the things that have worked really well? What are the things that maybe I need to do better? Or some of the things that I could clean up or just throw away and add this?
[00:18:04] Often when you get into the grind of coaching and the day to day, that sometimes you forget to reflect consolidate, and refine, strategize at the end of the year, debrief what worked, what didn't, what you want to tweak and often until you're looking at potentially another job that would be the first time you really start putting that stuff together.
[00:19:44] I've always felt like a thing that could potentially set my teams apart was our commitment, was our passion for what we do.
[00:27:37] But what I did realize was, and you have to be yourself, it doesn't mean you can't look at people and see what they do and how amazing they are.
[00:29:03] I give a lot of latitude for my coaches as far as to be themselves to coach what they know. But just be a good role model. They have great energy. Always be early.
[00:29:23] I don't like people sitting, I don't think I've sat in a practice in 35 years, I like to have up and around and moving and the players feed off that.
[00:30:19] You might not have the same guys that I have. So how can I expect you to implement a system that may or may not work? Just go do your thing and here are the core values and principles that I need to make sure they have.
[00:31:35] I think the biggest thing that has haunted me is learning how many wins that I got, and counting them up one year.
[00:32:17] I just want to make the experience special, as that's been my overriding principle over everything, how can I make this experience the most special that my player has ever had?
[00:32:40] David Goggins' quote, and it's be uncommon amongst the uncommon.
[00:34:11] The outcomes will come as long as you pour into the process.
[00:39:19] It's letting go of the outcome.
[00:40:03] If you're playing against much bigger schools, whether the expectation is not there, it makes it in some ways, much easier to coach where I can just, I can get into that game and be fully committed and not worry about the scoreboard. And it's all about how hard we play and how much heart that we have and how well are we executing?
[00:40:34] My mantra was no more bad days, only good ones or great ones. No matter what.
[00:42:04] It's such a good reflective question no matter what the answer is to think about what is it that we have been willing to self-examine that we've changed our mind on something that we previously believed.
[00:44:37] Getting to know your players and spending extra time, they need to know that you care. To me, it might be the most important thing is, and I really feel like it's a big reason for the success that we've had is.
[00:45:15] I feel like if there is a separation, it's how I relate to my players and how committed I am and how creative I am and figuring out ways to show how much I love them.
Justin Clymo: [00:02:56] Welcome back to Contacts. We are joined today by Sacramento, legendary coach, Dean Stark, athletic director, head boys' basketball coach at Sacramento Waldorf school coach. Really excited to have you on here and talk shop.
Dean Stark: [00:03:12] It's great to be here. I really appreciate you asking me.
Justin Clymo: [00:03:15] So why don't we talk about how you got into coaching? What opened that door? What was the process like for you getting your first job and how your journey has evolved over the years?
Dean Stark: [00:03:33] Yeah, it's been a strange journey. I was a baseball player in college and I just finished two years of community college and I kind of recruited pretty strongly by Chico State and the fall year, my junior year at Chico state first practice blew out my knee and I had knee problems all through high school. And so, this was my third surgery and here I am 20, 21 years old or whatever. And so, I had surgery. Very shortly after that I go into the coach's office. I remember this a week later, we're on crutches. I go into the coaches office. I'm like a coach, man, I had surgery and he literally looked at me and goes, you're no good to me anymore. Exact quote. And I just left in tears and then the tears turned into anger and I was like, I'm going to make this guy pay.
[00:04:17] So that was my mindset is I'm going to make this guy pay. So, I transferred back to SAC State and I'm from Sacramento and went to Mira Loma high school, the whole thing. But if you transfer, you have to sit out a year. So now I'm sitting out, but I'm practicing with SAC state's team. And my brother Terry, who's a legendary football coach in Sacramento area. He played baseball at SAC state as well. So, I knew the coach very well and stuff like that. So, she's buying my time, but I'm also realizing here I am 21 years old, three knee surgeries. I'm five foot nine I'm left-handed. The odds of me playing somewhere are not very good.
[00:04:50] So at the same time, my oldest brother, Randy had just gotten a job. He was a musician and he just got a job as the orchestra director at this school called Sacramento Waldorf. And he's Hey, we're looking for a baseball coach and I'd never even heard of the school. So, I said I'll go check it out. I knew that if my playing days ended, I was going to coach. And at this time, basketball was never even a thought. I played two years of high school, but because of my knee, that was it. I didn't play anymore. So, I go to Sac Waldorf for the interview, and here I'm 21 years old, I get the job coaching, but they hadn't had a baseball team. They're starting a baseball. So, the hiring committee, they take me out on the field to show me their field and they don't have a field. They have a patch of grass and Beverly the cow was on the grass and there's no pitcher’s mound. There's no dugouts. There's no anything.
[00:05:39] And I'm looking at myself, going, you've got to be kidding me. But what else am I going to do? I knew I needed to start somewhere. And I said, okay this will be a good experience. I'll coach here for a couple of years, go to a big division one school coach for a few years. And then coach at the college level. At that time, I felt like I was going to be a college baseball coach. And so that's what I do. I get the job I coach and I ended up loving and I just really connected strongly with the kids. Most of them had virtually no experience, but just totally committed.
[00:06:09] And that's a funny thing too, the school, which is a private school, K through 12. In the high school we had about 120 students at that time. Co-ed so it was really small, but the administration and the faculty of the faculty run school. When I met with them, they were giving me a picture of what their sports program was going to be.
[00:06:27] And it was like we were hoping that we have a chance to win 50% of our games, and I was just like, and we're practicing twice a week. And I'm like first of all, we have to practice five days a week. That's non-negotiable it has to be. And I'm sure that you guys hope that your students don't get 50% on their tests, because that's an F you know? And they say, okay, that's a good point. So, I got them on that one. So, we ultimately agreed to four days. Because they were really concerned about the competitive nature of sports at that time and how crazy the student body might get into it, and would it take away from their studies because they're very rigorous academic program.
[00:07:04] So ultimately agreed on four days a week, the season went amazing. I really loved it. I said, okay, I'll come back again. And then the very next year they said, hey, can you coach basketball? I said, sure. So that was the time where that I realized, even though I coach, I played a couple years of high school basketball, I did not know what I was doing. The difference was night and day, even as a player from a baseball player to a basketball player instantly, I knew I was in over my head. Getting crushed the first year and I said, I don't like this. So, I need to do something to get better. And that was my introduction and how I got into basketball.
[00:07:39] Was literally by coaching baseball and then the school had a need. And I said, I would fill it. And I started coaching basketball in 1986 and now I'm at the same school. And now this is 2021. So, I've at 34 years. I took one year off and now this year I'm not coaching because of COVID, but 34 years.
Justin Clymo: [00:07:59] Wow. That's my answer to that one. And I think it's really interesting because like you I'm at an independent school and the story of how you got into basketball makes perfect sense to me, but may not make sense to the listeners as we are very dependent on our faculty to also coach and participate in, it might be something that you've never done. And it's Hey, go figure it out. You're a good teacher. You're good at what you do. Go figure it out. And so, the idea that you've been there doing this for 34 years, when initially you were going to be a climb the ladder guy to get to college baseball is really interesting.
[00:08:38] And I love to know, as you reflect in hindsight, what changed in your perspective that led you to almost become an institution at the school without looking at what else was out there. Maybe you did look at what else was out there, but you settled in on no, this is where my fit is?
Dean Stark: [00:09:01] Yeah. It, it kind of just happens slowly. It seeps in, I'm sure many coaches have had that experience were, okay. As soon as so-and-so graduates, then I'm going to go, because you have a special relationship with this kid and this kid. And that happened every year. Literally every year. Okay. So that kid graduated, but now there's this kid, and the relationships, and that's one of the,not necessarily unique, but incredibly special things about a small school environment is the depth of relationship. You really get to know these kids well. And as a faculty member, yeah. Can you coach basketball? Sure. I even coached volleyball for three or four years. I never played that game in my life. So, there's that too. And I started teaching PE and I became the athletic director and I uh, sponsor classes.
[00:09:43] So the position kept on evolving year after year. And then in 1995, I think was the year that I finally, I had to convince myself, look, I like basketball more than baseball. And that was really hard to admit to myself more than anybody, because I was a baseball guy that was my life for so many years. And so that was a big change when I let baseball go and just fully focus on basketball. There were times when I said, okay is this where I want to be? I had higher aspirations. I would play as many big schools as I could find, and I just loved it. I can remember going to the El Dorado basketball tournament every year. And the band would be playing right next to our bench and they would be as loud as they possibly could. And we'd be huddling up for a timeout and we'd always played the home team because they would schedule us thinking that we were going to be the weakest team. We knocked them off three or four times, which is pretty sweet. But I just remember the environment of yelling as loud as I could with my guys right here, and the band right here. Man, I wanted that environment that we didn't get as much in a small school environment. So, I looked around and there were people that would inquire every now and then about different things.
[00:10:57] My brother Terry tried to get me at Inderkum a few times, and it always was attractive because I just would be, man, it would be amazing to coach incredible athletes, but there was such a strong pull where I was because it was much bigger than basketball. It was the relationship of the kid, but the curriculum, the environment the, I can't think of the word anyway, just the entire feel, the comradery of everything. It was ultimately was enough for me to say, I think this is where I want to be. Community was the word I was searching for. Community.
Justin Clymo: [00:11:26] Yeah, I think from an objective outsider perspective that small schools don't get a bad rap, but they don't necessarily get recognized in all of the value that they add. And I think that you pointing out that piece about relationship and in a smaller school, you get to know the kids better. And because you're wearing multiple hats, you have more points of contact, which then allows you to build almost lifelong relationships. As a mentor and as a partner in their journey, which I would say I've been able to experience the same thing here.
[00:12:03] I'd like to understand more because you've already addressed when I got asked to be the basketball coach, I realized, I didn't know what I was doing. Then you became an AD, and there was probably more of that, but because you've been at a place so long and you've probably had a bunch of coaches come through that you've had to mentor and you had to figure out for yourself, I wonder what you would offer as these are the things that should be front of mind for you, when you're either stepping into a new job, you're taking over a program or you're hiring a new coach, and this is the advice you're giving them as what's urgent, and what's important? As Rich Shayewitz said on the first episode of this podcast.
Dean Stark: [00:12:50] Yeah. Urgent for sure. It's character, and what type of person are you and what can you bring to our program? I think that something that's really taken a big part of me the last especially five years or so is developing one's philosophy. So, I talked to the people that I hire and I'm hiring every year for multiple coaching positions, in all sports, and so somebody that's 21 years old, they probably haven't really developed their philosophy yet so it's a work in progress. But I'll tell you a story about this was I had the great honor in 2003 my team for an awards banquet, they got me as an, as a gift, a flight to Los Angeles to have lunch with John Wooden. Somehow, some way, my best players girlfriend's mother's sister was related in some way to John Wooden.
[00:13:44] So they worked it out. He was 93 or 94 at the time. So, I fly to LA and I go to his house, knock on his door and John Wooden opens up and greets me and we spent five hours together just talking about basketball, talking about life, talking about poetry, he can recite verse for verse at that time was still incredibly sharp. So that was an extraordinary moment, everyone has their people that they look up to and he certainly was one of those people as I was learning how to coach. And so, his pyramid of success obviously, is the biggest philosophy thing that when you think about coaches, that's probably the number one that you look to is the John Wooden pyramid of success.
[00:14:22] So I have it on my wall. It's signed, it's a special thing, but I look at it and I looked at it for years. Again, so this was 2003 when I got it. And how much of it meant anything to me, I would look at it, but that's his stuff that meant things too, and it's great stuff, but I would look at it and said nod my head, but that was it.
[00:14:41] And when people would ask me, what's my philosophy, how have you been successful or whatever. I would share to it, but I could tell you, and I know it would probably sound pretty good, but then the next day, if somebody asks me, I would say something would be a little different and that always bothered me.
[00:14:54] It always bothered me that my philosophy shouldn't change day to day based on the person that I'm speaking. So that was in the back of my head. And then I read a book by Pete Carroll, the coach for a Seahawks. And he was talking about a similar thing, how he read Wooden's books. He had met with many times and he started thinking about Wooden's philosophy.
[00:15:15] His pyramid of success. And Carroll was saying like, that was his aha moment. He needed to do that for himself. So that's what he did. After he was fired from some coaching position, he spent like six months just taking notes, figuring out what is his philosophy, what are the things that are non-negotiable that have to be there, and then he really felt prepared. And that was right before he was at USC and then he arrived USC and just crushed it. And I think he was even talking about, so this book came out, I think before he became a coach at Seattle and he was talking about winning forever.
[00:15:46] And then he goes to Seattle and wins the super bowl. He really had a system that he knew backwards and forward. So, when I read that, I was like, that was my aha moment, like, this is it. This is what I have to do. So, I really spent a couple months myself. And really trying to figure out what is my, some of the, you think about everything. At that time, I've been coaching, I think 29 years. So, I'd already been coaching a career, but I said, okay, what are the things that are non-negotiable? What are the things that have worked really well? What are the things that maybe I need to do better? Or some of the things that I could clean up or just throw away and add this? And so, I really thought about that a lot, and I came up with my own pyramid of success which I have right next to Wooden's by the way. Which is cool. And it was amazing, but I had it all in one piece of paper. So, then I can remember 2016 when I presented it to my team and I remember handing around, we're like a team meeting, the first team meeting of the year this is what we're going to strive to be. And then I remember going, oh my God, I'm giving him my entire career on this one piece of paper. And what happens if it falls flat? What happens if their eyes glaze over? It means nothing. And I was like, but that the apprehension went away in a blink, and I could tell that they really bought in and I was like, this is something special. So that moment was huge for me. And I think just for the listener to hear because I think it's important that, it's one thing to do that, but, okay. How did you do? There are certain ways to compare that.
[00:17:07] And one of them is results. Another thing is at banquets, my players are crying and talking about how special their experience is. So, I think that's another way to gauge it as well. But since I did it in 2016, we were league champions 2017. We were undefeated league champions, 2018. We were undefeated league champions, 2019. We were league champions all four of those years. We advanced to the final four. Twice we advanced to the final. And one year went to the Nor Cal final four. That was great success. So, any way you looked at it, you could say the way that things were working. So that piece to me, incredible value.
[00:17:42] And I share it with people as many as I can just about the process of it. I have of doing this for yourself. And again, if you're a 22-year-old it's going to maybe be a shorter process because you don't have as much experience with the bank on, but for somebody that's been in it for five or 10 years, I think that could be an incredibly important piece to figure out who you are as a coach.
Justin Clymo: [00:18:04] I agree with you 100%. And I think that often when you get into the grind of coaching and the day to day, that sometimes you forget to reflect consolidate, and refine, strategize at the end of the year, debrief what worked, what didn't, what you want to tweak and often until you're looking at potentially another job that would be the first time you really start putting that stuff together.
[00:18:33] And I think often you mentioned 29 years before you sat down and put this in writing, but a lot of this was probably things that you were doing. You just couldn't articulate. And I love the way you said. My answer shouldn't change based on the audience, which I don't think it probably was, but your answer wasn't as refined in regards to here's my philosophy. Here's my mission statement. This is what I live out every day, which probably provided great clarity, which then your team was able to go out and execute what those non-negotiables were.
[00:19:04] And since you brought that up, I would ask you, what's the best thing you do in your program. And it sounds like putting that together was a big part of that. For the listeners and for the other coaches on here, what can you offer that is a transferable, possibly tangible, maybe it's intangible, way in which you have found something that you do, or one of your other teams does maybe departmentally that has a large ripple effect on creating culture that you could offer other coaches based on your 30, 40 years of experience?
Dean Stark: [00:19:44] Yeah. Absolutely. It's my belief that most coaches, especially if you're a varsity head coach, you're probably pretty good with X's and O's, you probably understand how to teach fundamentals in a good way. I'm sure there's some that are better at it. Some that it could improve, but I think everyone probably has a pretty good knowledge and expertise of that. And so, for me, I've always felt like a thing that could potentially set my teams apart was our commitment, was our passion for what we do. I think one of the things that I feel like I do best for myself is inspiring my players.
[00:20:17] So I'm always searching for ways to inspire. And I'll give you an example. I don't know if you get, if you ever heard of a Misogi? A Misogi is a Japanese purification ritual and the definition has evolved over the years. And so, there's many different definitions, but the one that I'm most resonated with is one that you're trying to do an incredibly challenging physical feat, and you don't know if you can. So, it's going to be so hard, you don't even know if you can do it. And I heard about this by Kyle Korver, the NBA three-point shooter. He does one every summer. And the one that I read about was he and a couple of guys, they went out into a boat on the Ocean. They're out in the ocean waves, but they're only 10 feet deep. But they have an 80-pound rock and they tie it up on a piece of rope and they drop it to the bottom. Three guys. One guy is in the boat. One guy's treading water with a vest on, and another guy jumps in, gets to the bottom, picks up the rock and starts running. And he's running on the full ocean floor, as far as he can run until his air blows out, drops the rock goes up and the other guy goes down, starts running.
[00:21:23] They just rotate the three of them. They did a 5k, they did a 5k running with an 80-pound rock, took four and a half hours. And they didn't know if they could do it. So, it was an extraordinary accomplishment. I read that and it just blew my mind. And I'm really into like physical challenges to myself.
[00:21:39] So my first thought was okay, what can I do? But then I thought I don't want to do just a one-day thing. I want to do like a few weeks or something. And then I thought what can my team do? And so, I've had probably the last four or five years, I've had my team do these Misogi, these team Misogi where they determine what they're going to do.
[00:21:56] Something they don't know if they can do, and they have to complete it over X number of weeks. But I just took on the greatest challenge ever with my guys over the pandemic because I knew that we're shut down. What's the coach for the Clippers, Doc Rivers? And he said, we want to win the wait. you know, because everyone's waiting how he said that, and that really resonated me. So, I was like, okay, we need to win the wait. So, I had them do a 20-week challenge. And because it was a Misogi, which is a Japanese cultural thing, I had a Japanese theme on it. I said, hey, if we can do this for 20 weeks, I'm going to take you all out to Adimato, which is a Japanese restaurant. But you have to achieve X number of workouts over these 140 days. And I really believe with school being shut down, you're not working. You're staying home. You guys can do at least three workouts a day, and the workouts can be, they're not all basketball. You can be lifting weights, you can be running sprints, you can go for a run, you can get your shots up, whatever. And if you do that, and I had 13 players, if these 13 players do three, you know, it was going to be, I can't remember 4,000, some odd workouts, then you're going to accomplish it.
[00:23:01] And whoever gets the most is going to be like a samurai warrior. The next person is going to be whatever the other warriors are down the list. So, this was this amazing thing and we would zoom every Sunday and I would collect data, okay, Billy, how many do you get Bobby? How many did you get? And we would keep track of the numbers.
[00:23:18] I had 13 guys for 20 weeks. Totally committed. And they were totally on it to where we crushed our goal by a thousand. Each kid average three and a half workouts per day for 20 weeks. Again, you can, I don't know how hard they work. I don't know how long they were going. I don't know how much of it was basketball, that type of thing. But I said, hey, these have to be legit. And I'm hoping that you guys can, have some basketball in this, on a daily basis. But I thought by September 7th was when it finished that we would be back in school and we'd be getting ready to go for a season and we'd be fired up. And all of that was true, except we weren't ready to go back to school. You know what I mean? So that was an example of the culture that we have built here because they really know that I care, and they really know that it's important. And also, that, I am not just speaking it. I live it because I do those challenges myself, it's just maybe in different ways, because I can't run sprints anymore because of my knees or whatever, but I'm still pushing, you know? so I think that there's, that respect in there too. So, I think that to me, if there isn't anything that sets sack Waldorf from other small schools, it's the culture that we have that we really are committed to what we do.
Justin Clymo: [00:24:36] So many things I love about that story and I'm just going to touch on a couple of them. So, the story that you mentioned from Korver is traditional big wave training for surfers, right? Working on staying under, and they adopted that. And the listeners please don't do that with your kids in the ocean. That's probably not going to be a good thing or a pool, but the way in which you were able to get these guys to commit to something greater than themselves, it was a team effort. But it also had individual improvement for those that wanted to commit. There was inter-teamcompetition. We used to do something like that at El Camino is called the iron man, and it was this long challenge that was designed to do the same thing. And the other thing just personally, I just got propositioned by my assistant AD, yesterday, to tackle David Goggins’ 4-4-48 challenge, which is four miles, every four hours, 48 hours.
[00:25:30] So by the time this runs, hopefully I'll be able to say that I completed that, but it's definitely something that I don't know if I can do. So, I love that. And I think it's funny because the listener is not going to see it. But you have a poster behind you of that term. And it's awesome that it means that much, that it's prominent in your space and it's something you go back to help build your culture.
[00:25:54] It takes me to my next question. Which is as the athletic director, you're uniquely positioned to watch, observe, offer feedback, take notes on all of your other sports, all of your coaches, in addition to the traditional networking that we like to do as coaches to try to figure out how to get better. So, I'm curious if you have a couple of things, you can offer that you've learned by watching other coaches that may or may not be basketball coaches, because specifically I feel we often ignore the translatable aspects of coaching that may not be in line with our chosen discipline.
Dean Stark: [00:26:42] Yeah. And, I think I've been talking about myself this whole time, but I'll talk about myself again, just briefly. When I was a younger coach and I would play at all these bigger schools. I remember the one coach that really stood out to me was Terry Battenberg. And because one, he would play us every year and he was Ponderosa, he would always play us. And I just so appreciated that.
[00:27:02] If he could kill us, he was going to kill us. He was not going to all; we're going to have a little team. We're just going to be easy on it. Full court press, and fourth quarter up 18. It didn't matter. And I liked that and his team played so hard and so physical, but what really impressed me so much about Terry was, he was sitting on the sideline almost like John Wooden, he was sitting there without saying a word and his players are playing as hard as they possibly can. And that just blew my mind is like, how does he get his guys to play so hard? And if anybody has seen me coach, I am very animated. I'm up and down.
[00:27:37] I'm living and dying on every single possession. And so, I'm almost the opposite of that. And so that was a goal of mine was, can I be more like Terry? And here I am now I'm 50. I just turned 59 2 days ago. I haven't accomplished that goal, I'm not even close. But what I did realize was, and you have to be yourself, it doesn't mean you can't look at people and see what they do and how amazing they are and how they conduct themselves. And I certainly tell all my coaches, you need to conduct yourself professionally. You need to be, you know, you're certainly not going to be throwing bad words out there, and you want to be a positive role models to your players, but I tell them you need to be yourself. So, I want to give them that free reign. And even to the point where this doesn't happen often. I even have like my JV coach that coaches under me, he doesn't have to coach my stuff. And there's very few coaches, there are very few programs that do that. But I just feel like if I want him to be in his comfort zone, I want him to be able to teach the best way that he possibly can in the stuff that he knows the best. And it probably has hurt me in the past at times when I get kids now that are coming to my program and it takes all season for them to learn the stuff that I want them to. But I just feel confident that my system they're going to be able to pick it up pretty quickly and they're learning different things at a different level. So, I could just feel like it might add to my program also because they're, the practices are different, and the energy is different.
[00:29:03] So anyway, I give a lot of latitude for my coaches as far as to be themselves to coach what they know. But just be a good role model. They have great energy. Always be early. One of my pyramids of access is if you're not early, you're late, and that's a big thing for me is, you need to be early and have energy. I don't like people sitting, I don't think I've sat in a practice in 35 years, I like to have up and around and moving and the players feed off that. So, I tell all my coaches too, you need to be active. You can't just be sitting there, and so they have those expectations, but I don't know if that answered your question well enough, but that's what I thought of.
Justin Clymo: [00:29:38] It did. It actually gave a different perspective on it. You watched the Batman and all that he's done in his career, a fellow author the legend of post play, but here's what I would like to be. And I can't do that in that same way. So, what can I steal from him? And then how can I realize that if I can't be that guy, then it's not really appropriate for me to ask my coaches to be me. And while I think you mentioned that you don't necessarily force vertical integration of your lower-level coaches and that may have hurt you.
[00:30:19] I talked to someone the other day that was very firm on you might not have the same guys that I have. So how can I expect you to implement a system that may or may not work? Just go do your thing and here are the core values and principles that I need to make sure they have. And I've changed in that a little bit.
[00:30:37] I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that as a 46-year-old, whereas a 23-year-old, it was, no, this is what we're doing and everybody's going to do it, which leads me to my next question. 34 years at the same site. Volleyball, baseball, basketball, you've coached multiple sports. You've tried different things.
[00:30:56] How has your approach to coaching changed? And I know you talked about creating your pyramid and your philosophy, but if you were to point back and say, this used to be really important to me and now 34 years later, I think you just say you're 59. This is where I put my energy. What would you say that dynamic shift has been?
Dean Stark: [00:31:19] I wish I could tell you, there was some moment that I, the clouds broke through or the sun broke through and I was like, oh, I see it now. I really feel like in some ways I'm the same coach. There was a coach at Argonaut High a thousand years ago is a Manny Hernandez.
[00:31:35] And I remember him saying coach, if you coach like you do, every game, this I'm probably 26 at the time, whatever. You're not going to last five years in this profession. And I'm like, okay. And he got out way sooner than I did and I'm still going. So, there's that. I think that there's some people have just set ideas on how you should conduct yourself or whatever, but I never got into this with any expectation. I was a baseball guy. I was just like, okay, I'll do this and I gradually learned to love it. And so, I think the biggest thing that has haunted me is learning how many wins that I got, and counting them up one year.
[00:32:17] I didn't know until 2003 when I started counting them because I was like, man, if I get X amount, I'll have 300 in 2003. And so that's changed to some degree, but I still feel like I'm the same coach that, you know, I just want to make the experience special, as that's been my overriding principle over everything, how can I make this experience the most special that my player has ever had?
[00:32:40] So that's just, that's the biggest, it's a very general comment, but that's what spurs me. In fact, you mentioned. David Goggins', which I think is phenomenal. If you do that, props to you. That's amazing. But the book that I wrote recently is called uncommon and the title of that, it comes directly from a David Goggins' quote, and it's be uncommon amongst the uncommon.
[00:33:01] And when I heard that quote because I read that book, and it just stopped me in my tracks, wow. That's my mantra for this coming season. I need to be uncommon amongst the uncommon. And then I shared that with my players. And then I could tell that received it well as well.
[00:33:18] So then it evolved to at the end of it practice and every game, it was 1, 2, 3 waves, four or five, six uncommon, so that was just our theme for the year for 2020. So, it really is. I don't know. Well, I guess, to tie in the winning thing. So now, you can't escape it. So now for the last, 17 years, I can't escape. W I'm going to be honest with you, some coaches, I don't know how many wins I have. I do, and I can't escape it, so it just, and it creeps up. And then I think part of that is legacy. You've coached as long as I have, then you start looking, okay, where do I stand? And that type of thing. Okay. So that piece, in some ways has been unfortunate because I can't it's in the back of my mind, but honestly, more than anything, I feel like I'm the same coach at 59 than I was at 21 because every year I want to do it differently. How can I make this season special?
Justin Clymo: [00:34:11] Yeah. And I would say that based on that and how you got into it. Pivoting from baseball to basketball, you almost started in the place. Most of us get to later, which is the relational piece, making it special. The outcomes will come as long as you pour into the process. And I would say the idea of implementing the Misogi, the be uncommon amongst uncommon. Those are shifts in focus that had nothing to do with wins and losses that added to them based on where you put your energy, which was process-based. So, I would say, yeah, you've done the same thing the whole time. And you've made little shifts along the way to reinforce as there's this outside noise focusing on, oh, Coach Stark's, getting the win number X it's no, we're going to refocus on the process of what got us to this point to begin with.
[00:35:04] And I think that's actually really important that you're acknowledging that this is a distraction and I can't tune it out even though I want to, but here's what makes us special. And here's how we deliver that experience to our kids.
[00:35:17] It also makes me wonder. Since you've been at a place so long and again, a school like ours is so very different than the average school. If there are things, and let's call them stumbles that you've had some failures that maybe you look to that were transformational in the way in which you approach things. And maybe even not even basketball, but it's yeah, actually I can remember this moment, which was an aha moment for me and helping me have the success I've been able to have?
Dean Stark: [00:35:48] That's an interesting question. So, I bet if I sat and really pondered, I would come up with a better one, but the first thing that jumps in my mind and typically that's what I like to go with is the first thing that jumped to my mind with as far as a stumble and has made me rethink, and this is actually more X's and O's stuff, but, and it happened at a pretty big moment and it was a 2017 section championship game.
[00:36:14] About a minute left in the game. We're up one. And one of my guy who's having the best game of the night is on the line shooting a one-on-one. And he just got fouled, the person that fouled them fouled out of the game. And so, they're putting in a new guy, my guys at the free throw line I'm looking to see, okay. My free throw shooter is going to be covering the new guy that just went in. He doesn't know that he's covering that guy yet because he has to look backwards. And my entire career, I have always done, you know what? I'm not going to break this guy's attention on the free throws, but once he makes her misses, I'm going to let him know, hey, you got number 12, right away. And it's never hurt me. I've always been able to do it. But I always feel like I'm going to jinx this guy. If I tell him, Hey Bill, you got 10. And then he goes, and he misses the free throw. I feel like he missed it because I said that. So, he goes to the free-throw line, misses the front end.
[00:37:08] The other team does a phenomenal job of outlet, sprint ahead, pitch ahead and to that one guy who was spot, he just entered the game. He's been sitting for eight minutes. Here's a one-point game in the section champion. He catches it for 16 feet. Let’s it go, bam, knocks it down. And so, we lose the game by one point and I think, you know, yeah, we can say if he makes the free throws, we're all good. But anyway, that moment has haunted me, for sure.
[00:37:35] So to the point now where I'm like, I don't care. And I'm going to say, Billy, you got number 12, before you go with a freaking line. Or I could have had some other kid, hey, come over here and, tell so-and-so I there's so many other ways I could have done it. It never, they had thing to it. Hurt me before it hasn't even come up since, so I'm ready to do it, but it hasn't happened. So that one, I don't know how it's made me better, but it certainly haunts me.
Justin Clymo: [00:38:02] Here's where I think that story is important and it's a perfect segue into my next question, which is, what gets into our heads in regards to how we think things are going to play out and how we can somehow manipulate them through our behaviors and what we choose to or not do. Knowing that, hey, it's really important that we're probably matched up here and I don't want him to miss the three that's he's going to make it or miss it.
[00:38:29] It doesn't really matter. So, I think the idea of that. Hey, this was a failure on my part, as far as I'm concerned and moving forward, that's never going to happen again, which speaks to the self-reflection piece because often we don't even capture those moments as an opportunity to reassess what we believe in.
[00:38:49] And so my follow-up question and this, it could be about basketball. It could be about being a leader and an administrator. Heck it can be about parenting. I have no idea, but I think it's a great question that I heard on different podcasts, but it's what have you most recently changed your mind on? And it can be from a coaching standpoint or it can be something else, but where you, I used to be here and I'm over here now and here's why to quote, Coach Katz.
Dean Stark: [00:39:19] Yeah, man. And I wish I had a great answer for you. I honestly, I've wanted to go here and because I was there, but I have yet what I'm going to tell you about. I have yet to have been able to change from here to here I go there and I come back and it's and it's letting go of the outcome. And I think getting back to playing Ponderosa, Terry Battenberg, going into that game, we have historically about a 5% chance to win that game, you know, because at the time they were a division three, but they were a powerhouse. They were top 10 in Sacramento. And we were little Sacramento Waldorf. Now we did beat them once when they were ranked third in the area. So, I got to put that out there. So that was big, but
Justin Clymo: [00:40:00] I'll probably hear from Battenberg on that,
Dean Stark: [00:40:03] But the reality is, and you may know this as a coach. If you're playing against much bigger schools, whether the expectation is not there, it makes it in some ways, much easier to coach where I can just, I can get into that game and be fully committed and not worry about the scoreboard. And it's all about how hard we play and how much heart that we have and how well are we executing? And are we not afraid of these bigger guys and stuff like that? And that's a win, so I can reflect on that and say, man, that's how I want to be all the time. It doesn't matter. Let go of the outcome.
[00:40:34] I even had a season in 2000 where we were terrible the entire preseason, but we were playing all big schools and I was ripping into my team game after game because of the things that they weren't doing. Of course, it was never my fault. I kept on telling myself I'm doing amazing, but my guys aren't doing that. And then I finally just said, you know what? Over Christmas break. We're probably like 2-10 or something like that. That's it my mantra was no more bad days, only good ones or great ones. No matter what. I don't care if my guy is walking the ball up the court and there's not even being pressed.
[00:41:08] And it's a ten second violation. Cause he walked too slow. I'm not getting mad. I it's nothing negative is coming out of it. We proceeded to win 10 out of our next 12 games. And we made the playoffs knocked off somebody in the first round and it was an incredibly transformation. So, I, at that point in 2000, I was like, I did it.
[00:41:27] I learned how to let go of the outcome. I'm cured. So, 2001, I'm the same coach that's hanging on to it. And so, I fought it for 20 years, and it's a goal for 20 years and at least for 20 years that I've never been able to win. I've never been able to beat that. I've touched it and I felt what it looks like, but that to me is that it's still my goal because honestly, the kids want to have fun, they want to enjoy it and laugh after the game and high five, and that was great win or lose. So, I'm still trying to learn, man. So that's kind of the first thing that jumped out at me. There might be something else that's more profound.
Justin Clymo: [00:42:04] And I wish I could tell you; I had an expectation whenever I asked that question, but I don't because it lands so differently. For everyone else. And it's funny because when I heard it, I was on a bike ride out in Carmel Valley about 25 miles into this ride and I stopped and I was just like, pondering this question. I got home, and my wife and daughter were in the kitchen and I just hit them with this question. And it was like, what are you talking about? And I'm just like, it's such a good reflective question no matter what the answer is to think about what is it that we have been willing to self-examine that we've changed our mind on something that we previously believed. And the answer is what the answer is for all of us. And it'd probably be different as you think about this a week from now, it might be through a way in which you drive to school, who knows, but I think it's a really good question that we should all ask ourselves.
Dean Stark: [00:42:56] Yeah.
Justin Clymo: [00:42:57] Because you have so much time and experience and you've addressed some of these unintentionally in your answers. I wonder what advice you would offer your younger self as you got into coaching, baseball, volleyball, basketball, as you heard from the Chico state coach. You're no good to me anymore. Like what advice would you offer your younger self as you got into coaching to make sure that kids have this special experience that you're offering them. When you know, most coaches get in, get hung up on the X's and O's and the outcome and the strategy, and they don't get to the place you are at a small school where the relationship piece is front of mind.
[00:43:38] What can you offer as the Dean of the area, coaches, this is what you really need to focus on. And here's why?
Dean Stark: [00:43:47] Yeah, I'm such a great question. And I feel like I have alluded to it in different ways throughout this conversation, but part of it is, developing your philosophy and who you want to be. But to me it really is relationships. And, I feel like I look back as an athlete growing up, and still playing until my mid-twenties, semi-pro baseball and stuff. And have all the coaches that I've played for. And taking away some of the great things and some of the terrible things. I had a coach in college that I don't know if he ever praised me once in two years, but I also know that I was closer to him than any other coach or any other player. And he motivated me more than any other coach that I've ever had because I wanted to prove him wrong. So, I'm one of those people that you can do negative motivation and it works, but I don't know how many of those kids are out there.
[00:44:37] I just feel getting to know your players and spending extra time, they need to know that you care. To me, it might be the most important thing is, and I really feel like it's a big reason for the success that we've had is. I'm out there, at every lunch I'm out there and they're hanging out, just so if they want to come up and chat, I'm there, at break time, I'm there, PE I'm there.
[00:44:59] They call me after school, they talk to me about their workouts. I set up their weight workouts or whatever. It's all that stuff is just, it can't be just, and especially, I'm on campus coach, if you're off campus coach, obviously it's a lot more challenging. It has to be bigger than basketball. It has to be bigger than the sport.
[00:45:15] I honestly don't feel like my X's and O's or anything about me basketball wise is that much different than the average coach. I feel like if there is a separation, it's how I relate to my players and how committed I am and how creative I am and figuring out ways to show how much I love them. Whether it's sending them personal quotes on a regular basis, or just I used to write a little piece of a candy bar and I'd flip them and I'd walk down the hallway and they had their own personal note on a candy bar. And I can't tell you how, I mean after that, if there's a coach listening to this tonight, and that's one great idea. If you're going to grab it and just do it. And it's going to, it's going to be powerful. It's so powerful because it's not just because, oh, I got candy it's because that coach took the time to do this individually for me and it's personal message to me, man.
[00:46:02] Those things, I just had a zoom birthday party for a 50-year-old who played for me in 1989. And it was last night. It was a surprise thing. And they were just talking about. What special memories they had, in 1989 and how much I played a part in that, and how I made it special for them. So, to me almost never do they talk about the winning the league or, stuff like that. It's just the personal relationship.
Justin Clymo: [00:46:30] Yeah. And I would echo that in regards to, I got a text yesterday from one of my guys that's having his second kid and sent me the ultrasound and is super pumped about it. And we make mistakes and we've probably unconsciously sabotage some of those relationships, but recognizing how valuable that is and how that's, what these kids latch on to is really the best advice I think any of us could give young or older coaches shifting jobs, taking places on is that time is not only our most valuable resource, and unrenewable, but it's also the only way in which you're truly going to develop a relationship with our athletes. And even our coaching brethren is by spending time together and be it on zoom, be it in person. But that note you write to those kids, it's probably something they hold on to and will remember when times are tough. So, I think that's an awesome share.
[00:47:27] I want to ask one more thing before we get off, and I really want to do this because of the time you invested in putting this together. But your book, as you mentioned your second book, but what is the value add that this book offers to the reader? And what would you say is the best thing or the takeaway that you're hoping people get from this and where can they find it and how can they support this project?
Dean Stark: [00:47:57] Yeah, I appreciate it. So again, the book is called uncommon. I think I shared that story about the David Goggins' quote and it Chronicles my last 20 years as a coach. Just, just a little bit on the success of it, and what's different, compared contrast to the first to the previous book about competition and age appropriate, stuff like that, but it really does get into I had my players have read it, and the goal being that I wanted them to be super inspired going into their season. So, it was going to be ready to go this past November. And obviously that didn't happen, but they read it and they were super inspired. So that was a piece of it. But if you're a coach, I'm very confident that there's a lot of things you can take from this book.
[00:48:37] There's many different ways to inspire and motivate and things that I've done that have been successful over the years. And I've mentioned a couple of things about the Misogi and things like that, that really have made a difference. As a coach I go through, I think part of it's called the coaches list where I just talk about not just practice planning, what about pregame? What about halftime? What about post-game? All of the things that you would think about that you need to prepare for to be a great coach, and I remember reading a book by Dean Smith who coached North Carolina back in the day, and he said that every summer, when he was a younger coach, he would commit to one aspect of basketball, and so okay, this summer for me, it was rebounding because my last team was a very poor rebounding team. So, it was like, how can I get better in that? So, I think as a coach, you can expect to get a tremendous amount from how to inspire your players? What is it take to be a dynamic leader?
[00:49:28] All of the little pieces about becoming a complete coach. We've talked about developing one's philosophy. That's in there. My pyramid is in there. My experiences, my greatest wins, my biggest heartache losses. So, there's some really good stories that are some of my former players speak about their experience and what it meant to play at Waldorf.
[00:49:46] I don't know. I think that I wanted to get the word out because I know I've had coaches say why are you sharing your secrets? Blah, blah, blah. And I was like, I just feel I've been doing it for a long time. And I just feel like I want to give back. I want to see if I can share some information that I've learned. All of this is learned information, right? You're not inventing anything. So anyway, that's the gist of the book and I would love for the listeners to take a look.
Justin Clymo: [00:50:11] Awesome. It sounds like this is the Bible of coaching, according to Dean Stark, and it has all the secrets in it. So, anybody looking to be able to at least understand the success you've been able to have, it's all laid out. And I would say that like most of these things, if you're not a basketball coach, it shouldn't matter because the ideas presented in there are translatable if you're willing to look at them. So, looking forward to getting the copy that you're going to send me, and we'll definitely post the link to the book in the show notes and make sure people know how to find you so they can follow up and dialogue through questions.
[00:50:49] And I think when people ask, why are you putting this out there? That's how the community grows. Everything we've ever done is taken from someone. So how do we offer it up and share it back? And I think it's really valuable that you're capturing this in a way that's going to be accessible for the reader and for other coaches. So, I appreciate you doing that.
[00:51:08] Coach, it's been awesome and that hour flew by and looking forward to the next time we can chat. And after I read the book circle back and try to pick your brain on some of the more specific details that are in there and how you've created this culture.
Dean Stark: [00:51:21] Yeah. I would love to do it, man. I would love to speak again, and Justin, I really appreciate you having me on, it's been a lot of fun.