I was able to meet with and interview many great Kentucky high school basketball coaches while researching for my book, How Sweet It Is. The experience proved to be so influential that it led me into the coaching profession. In an effort to learn the stories of more Kentucky hoops coaches, I am posting a series of email Q&As with a few of them as the 2019-2020 season gets rolling. You can purchase copies of my aforementioned book for just $5 (75% off) through my publisher by clicking here. Thank you to Male Boys Head Coach Tim Haworth for the responses below.
JV: Growing up in Graves County, what was the pickup scene like? Did you all have open gyms at the school, play travel ball, or play in parks?
TH: I played a lot on the playgrounds at Farmington Elementary and Eddie Williams park.
JV: You became a Head Coach at Hopkinsville, where there is no college team and where you are kind of on an island out in western Kentucky. Describe the passion for high school sports in that area to someone who has never been.
TH: At Hopkinsville our gym seats 5000 and I can honestly say that during my eight year tenure there the gym was packed out for our games against rival Christian County. The atmosphere for that game was always electric. Everywhere you go in town you could bet on someone complimenting you, giving you a dirty look (ha ha) or just striking up a conversation about basketball.
JV: Describe the pickup hoops scene there and why it breeds so many high-level players despite the fact that it is a small town.
TH: It’s absolutely amazing. During the summer there are so many games, leagues, etc. whether it’s outside or at one of the local gyms. All the college players come back to town and go up against the local talent. Pretty cool to watch.
JV: You rebuilt Hopkinsville High into a 2nd region giant that was a mainstay at the Sweet Sixteen. Being as specific as possible, what was it about the Male job that was so alluring to you to pull you away from that?
TH: The tradition of the school, both in athletics and academics, is second to none. An amazingly rich tradition. Then, I would say that John Kelsey, our AD, was the other main reason. I could tell he was on a different level. We had talked on the phone and then he drove two and half hours down to Hopkinsville to meet with me. Only he and I knew of the meeting. He told me I am not getting in that car and heading back to Louisville until I get a commitment from you. I knew at that point that he was on a totally different level. I was right. In my opinion he is the best AD in the state. He makes it fun for all the coaches to come in to work everyday. He is a great guy, but you won’t find anyone more competitive. Winner.
JV: What have been the positives and negatives of life in Louisville as opposed to Hopkinsville?
TH: I love everything about Louisville. The bigger city, more things to do with my kids, and just the overall fast-paced life. I loved my time in Hopkinsville as well. Great place to live. Very grateful for my time there.
JV: What have you done to fortify Male’s feeder program? How do you cultivate and maintain relationships with youth coaches in the city and how do you establish continuity between you program and those of the middle school that feed into Male?
TH: When I took the job the first thing I did was meet the middle school coaches that feed into Male. The one thing I am always focused on is doing what’s right for all kids and working as hard as I possibly can. I have a great coaching staff, guys that are committed to Male High School. We go to practices, AAU events, games, etc. to watch all of our kids.
JV: Take me through an average game prep for you. How many times will you scout a team? Does your team go through walk-throughs on game day? Do you all eat a pregame meal together?
TH: I will see a team on film and in person as many times as I can. Scouting is a big part of our success and we want to try and take strengths away from opposing players and coaches. So, a normal game day for us is to practice at 2:30 p.m. to go over the other team’s plays and our own. Then we will eat in our alumni room at 3:30. Our parents are amazing and do a great job of planning the meals each time.
JV: How do you stay in contact with your players during the offseason? What efforts do you make to make sure there are not extended pockets of time where you don’t see or hear from them?
TH: I have never had a problem with that, we love our players. One of the best aspects of coaching is building relationships with players and coaches. Other than the dead period, there aren’t too many days when we are not talking. To me that’s one of the easiest parts of coaching. Growing up, my coaches that spent time with me were the ones I always respected the most. They were also the hardest on me, which meant they cared.
JV: Your staff carries a lot of name recognition. How did you assemble such a strong coaching team and what was your sales pitch to those guys to get them to come aboard?
TH: You know I really leaned on Coach Kelsey with a couple of the assistants, and from there we just built the rest of the staff. I had previous relationships with a couple of them and Coach Cates and I grew up together.
JV: What responsibilities do you delegate to your assistants, and what do you do to try to empower them?
TH: I have a great staff. We are all on the same page. We want to continue to build our culture and work, work, work. That’s the only thing we can control. We are constantly talking about how to make the program better and how to get every kid into college. I give all my coaches a voice. These guys are working so hard and I trust them.
JV: What sorts of new relationships do you frequently seek out? Other coaches, motivational experts, community leaders? Why? How do you go about initiating new connections?
TH: We are constantly looking for people to speak to our young men. Just yesterday, Russ Smith (professional player, NCAA champion) came and spoke to our guys before we played Collins. I thinks it’s important for our players to hear other voices and from people who are successful.
JV: What advice to you have for young coaches or those trying to break in?
TH: Be loyal, don’t talk bad about anybody. Even if someone is talking bad about you, never stoop to their level. People are looking to see how you respond to other people’s negativity. I would tell young coaches to always put the kids first. You honestly cannot care what other people think of you. It’s a profession you choose. Everyone thinks they can coach and has an opinion about what you did wrong or right. Honestly, they have a right to that opinion, so don’t get mad just let it happen. Work as hard as you can and try to find advantages in work ethic.
JV: In a sentence, what does the Male Basketball brand mean?
TH: “Male Basketball is where you give in to something greater than yourself to find your greatest self” In other words: buy in to the culture, and the culture buys in to you. You can only become the greatest possible player if you always put the team and your brother first, especially if you’re talented and want to win. That’s us.