We sat down with Coach Brian Barone this week – by phone, since he’s on the road with his team in Illinois – to ask him how the season is going and what advice he’d give to young players.
Q: What are you enjoying about this particular basketball season?
A: We’re doing well. 3-3 in conference. It’s my first year with this team. The best part is being back on the court; I really enjoy that. I work for a former [Marquette] teammate, Coach Jon Harris. It’s a really good group of guys. As I get older or more tenured in this profession, I want to be around guys who are good people. We have a good group of young men right now that are good at basketball and are good people. I genuinely like going in the gym.
Q: What’s your coaching style?
A: I’m hands on. Sometimes it’s to prove a point, either on positioning or energy. If I make a shot I’m happy and I can say they should have guarded me better.
Q: Your dad is legendary hoops coach Tony Barone, whose career spanned 35 years including stints at Duke, Bradley, Creighton, Texas A&M and in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies. Do you ask your dad for advice?
A: He comes to our games. He’s coached at the highest level. Why would I not listen to his advice? He’s always done a good job of listening to me and then saying, ‘Well you know your team.’ I grew up where I had coaches at my house all summer. I had Dick Vitale at my house. We don’t do that enough as coaches anymore. Whenever you can have a little think tank, you use those opportunities. You might come to the same conclusion you had before but it’s worth it to have the process.
[My dad’s] name has provided me so many open doors, with boosters and recruiting, especially being back in Illinois. He came up as a high school coach and then coached at Bradley. There’s a connection and they’ll ask me about him. It’s another way to connect.
Q: As an assistant coach for SIU-Edwardsville, do you have a specialty?
A: We all do everything. We all scout, we all recruit. We all do academics. The one thing about recruiting is it’s got to be constant. You’re as good as the people around you. You have to have players who have the work ethic. You have to always be looking for good players.
Q: How do you encourage your student athletes to be not just great athletes, but great people?
A: The one way you encourage that – it’s a fine line of as I get older – is to try to not use “this is how I did it.” The best way to encourage them to bring a lot of energy is to bring a lot of energy yourself. I have to show them and then I can demand it. From a social or personal standpoint, you have meetings with them where you talk about stuff other than basketball. You try to get to know their family dynamic and you allow them to see your family dynamic. It takes time. I want to be able to use the players as examples to my children. You want to show them that we’re all in this thing together. Usually by the time they get to campus you’ve been in their home through the recruiting process.
Q: Do you learn from the guys you coach?
Yes, every day. You learn how to communicate, how to listen because you have to understand and listen whether or not it’s verbal, in order to be a better communicator. Everyone is a little different.
Q: Has the game changed since you played in the late 1990s?
The game has changed. The rules have changed, but the core, the crux of it comes down to the ability to communicate, play hard and play for one another.
Q: What’s your approach to recruiting?
A: You want the best player you can get but also who a guy who complements your team. You’ve always got to take care of your locker room first. Ultimately you want the positives to outweigh the negatives. Maybe this guy doesn’t jump as high but he plays hard like me. I was able to do things in my college career because I played hard. I bring it every time. You’re dealing with 18-22 year olds who are sometimes going to make mistakes.
Q: What’s your advice for a young kid who wants to play in the NBA?
A: You have to dream big. And then you have to be realistic about those expectations in terms of work ethic. If a kid wants to go the NBA, I’m not going to tell them they can’t; I’m just going to point out what it takes. I played with Dwayne Wade. I coached a kid who is now in the NBA. It is possible, but it’s rare, and there’s a long road of hard work involved to get there.
Brian Barone played basketball at Texas A&M University and Marquette University and holds a master’s degree in communications. He now coaches men’s basketball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.