Pat Riley once said, “To have long term success as a coach, or in any position in leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.”
One coach in particular who is obsessed in his role, both as a coach and a motivator, to grow his players on and off the court is Abilene Christian Wildcats men’s basketball Associate Head Coach Brette Tanner.
Coach Tanner is currently entering his fourth season at Abilene Christian University on Joe Golding‘s staff. The Wildcats finished he 2015-16 season with a 13-18 record overall, and 8-10 in Southland Conference play. The team also put together an impressive record inside Moody Coliseum, going 10-4 on their home floor.
We caught up with Coach Tanner to discuss a wide variety of things, including how he got into coaching, what his roles are as associate head coach, his connection to Ron Slaymaker, and what a game-day environment at Moody Coliseum is like.
What do you try and teach your players outside of the game of basketball?
We are very unique being a Christ centered private institution. Our mission here at ACU is To honor Christ through excellence in Academics and Athletics. Our goal is to help all of our student athletes grow as men while they are here as well as grow into the best basketball player that they can be. We are training future fathers and husbands, not just talented athletes.
How did you get into athletics and coaching men’s basketball?
The game of basketball saved me at a young age from taking a very different path in life. I fell in love with the game and it became all that I ever wanted to do. I was very fortunate to have great junior high and high school coaches that showed me what kind of impact a coach can have on a young persons life. From that point on I knew that when I couldn’t play anymore, coaching was what I would be called to do.
You played for the legendary Ron Slaymaker at Emporia State University. What was that experience like?
Coach Slaymaker is a man who I truly admire. He got to know every player regardless of status on the team. This is why I believe he was so successful over the years. I was extremely fortunate to have my senior season also be his final season before he retired. I got to witness not only how special all of his current and former players were to him but how special he was to all of us. The amount of people that came back to honor him that final season was a true testament to how many lives he touched.
What are the typical duties for an Associate Head Coach?
Do everything that the head coach doesn’t want to do (LOL). I am very fortunate to work for a guy that allows me to fully throw myself into his program. I am able to help him coach and he values my opinion on most decisions. It is truly an opportunity to prepare myself to be a head coach some day.
Freshman Jaylen Franklin was in the College Court Report Freshman of the Year Fan Vote. Despite falling in the finals, what does the support mean to the Abilene Christian men’s basketball program as a whole?
It was awesome! We are extremely thankful to College Court Report for allowing Jaylen and the Abilene Christian community to be a part of it all. It was great exposure for the University as well as the city of Abilene. As a transitioning school it also allowed us to show that we have good players here at ACU. Regardless of the transition process. The future is extremely bright for this program and it is just one more thing that has allowed us to shine a light on that.
What are your early predictions for ACU men’s basketball in 2016-2017?
I think that we are a program that is continuing to grow. We were better this year than we were last season and we will be better next year than we were this season. We are fortunate to have great support from our administration and they are giving us the time that we need to do this thing right. When we finally arrive on the Division I level we will be here to stay because weren’t pressured to make a quick fix and cut corners.
What is the game-day environment like inside of Moody Coliseum?
Moody Coliseum is a special place. In only our third year in the Southland Conference we finished the season 5th in attendance out of 13 teams. That is only going to continue to grow and get better. We have a student group called Wildcat Reign that is just awesome! They are extremely involved in getting students to games and are even starting to reach out into the community as well. They help create one of the best game day atmospheres in the Southland without a doubt. We are also one of the only Division I programs in the West Texas region. We continue to see attendance and excitement surrounding our program grow with each year that passes.
Are there any particular players that you have coached that stick out?
The ones that we coach now are always the most important! However, there are a few guys that people like to talk about. This year’s senior class at ACU will always be special because of what they had to endure to make this transition possible. When our program cuts down the nets for the first time as a Division I program it will be in large part to what those guys did. They were here for the hard times. Year 1 when we had to play 10 guarantee games. The past two seasons as they helped us teach our young guys how to compete and truly be a player at this level. They will never get the credit but those of us who have been here will always know how important they were to this process. Also, because I have been in this league so long I have been fortunate as well to coach, at some point in their career, 6 out of the last 8 Southland Conference MVP’s. Coaches don’t win games without great players!
A coach also serves as a motivator. How do you know the proper plan to motivate players on and off the court?
I work for one of the best right now in Joe Golding! He understands that you have to look at each player differently! Some guys respond well to you chewing on their butt a little. Others need you to put an arm around them to get a point across. It is a skill that not everyone has but I am fortunate enough to witness every day in my current situation.
What are the top priorities that you, and the coaching staff as a whole, stand for at Abilene Christian for your players to learn?
We have two things that are posted on our wall and in each players locker.
- Do what HAS to be done. Do it WHEN it has to be done. Do it AS WELL as it can be done. Do it that way ALL the time.
If you want to be winners than you have to act like winners. That short statement is pretty much how true winners do things.
- Luke 16:10 and Mark 3:25
We are a Christian institution and we talk about these two bible verses all the time. If you can be trusted with little than you can be trusted with much. Be somebody that can be trusted. Be honest and truthful. And a house is divided against itself than that house cannot stand. We must be unified and together if we want to be successful.
What is the student support like at a home game?
It is great! As I mentioned before, Wildcat Reign does an awesome job generating excitement throughout campus. This is a smaller University as well. That allows our guys to know everyone. So when students come to our games they aren’t just rooting for their team. They are truly rooting for their classmates and friends that they see and spend time with every day!
Why should a basketball player come play for the coaching staff at Abilene Christian?
First and foremost this is a players program. We are interested in the entire individual not just the player. ACU offers a high quality education! The alumni base that you get introduced to at Abilene Christian is unlike any other at our level. You will be taken care of after you leave ACU, not just while you are here!
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What is the “Behind the Clipboard” Column?
It’s a column here on College Court Report that gives men’s and women’s basketball coaches a platform that fans or students don’t typically see. The platform allows the men’s or women’s basketball coach to discuss more of the philosophy of their program and some of the main goals of what they expect from their players. It also discusses with the coach on the court topics but more of a focus of the off the court message. The goal of the “Behind the Clipboard” column is to engage with men’s and women’s basketball coaches from Canada to the United States on all levels.