Larry Shyatt – Preparing to Be a Head Coach

Larry Shyatt – Preparing to Be a Head Coach by Hal Gullick

On July 1, 2016, Larry Shyatt joined the coaching staff of the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant, who will work primarily with the post players. Shyatt was previously the head coach at Wyoming during the 1997 – 98-basketball season, the head coach at Clemson for five seasons (1998 – 2003), and returned as head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys in 2011. He also had a seven-year stint at the University of Florida as an assistant under Billy Donovan.

In 2015, Larry Shyatt shared some thoughts and ideas at a coach’s clinic in Overland Park, KS about preparing for a head coaching position. He highlighted some valuable areas that I feel would be very beneficial for anyone preparing to become a head coach.

  1. Study the game and know your X’s and O’s. Players will always want to be certain that you understand everything you are teaching them everyday. Find a mentor to bounce ideas off.
  2. Force yourself to coach a team, either during scrimmages or practice, or at camps. A head coach’s position presents a different perspective and requires a different focus than sitting on the bench as an assistant coach, balancing and dealing with refs, substitutions, offensive and defensive stats, and timeouts.
  3. Speak at as many events, luncheons, clinics, community functions, and camps as possible while an assistant.
  4. Learn to talk directly and honestly to players, parents, and other coaches when things are going well and also hen things are difficult. Communication needs to include constant listening to those around you.
  5. Be mindful that the people you work with daily (administration, parents, staff, and community members) may have an effect on your future. The relationships you build may come back to you ten-fold.
  6. Time management is key to be successful. Focus on managing your time and becoming efficient in staff meetings, phone conversations, and daily tasks.
  7. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Constantly strive to work at your weaknesses, or areas you that you are least comfortable. Your staff down the road should complement these needs.
  8. As often as possible, start to daily prepare notes regarding staff meetings, individual workouts, practices, along with new drills and ideas to offer your coworkers or head coach. This will give you a sense of what each day as a head coach may be like down the road.
  9. Keep a notebook in as many different program aspects as possible.

The following areas are all vital to learn and gain experience in as you grow in the profession. Everyone is more comfortable and qualified in some areas than others are. However, you must find ways without it affecting your efficiency in your current role to become more prepared for operating a program in the future.

  • Compliance
  • Recruiting
  • Scouting and game preparation
  • Academic scheduling and mentoring
  • Game scheduling
  • Budgeting
  • Team travel
  • Public relations and promotions
  • Facilities coordination
  • Calendar of events and meetings for the year
  • Summer camps and clinics
  • Basketball preparation

-Individual workouts

-Preseason conditioning and training

-Practice organization

-Defense, offense, special situations

-Game day responsibilities



  1. Never be certain that your philosophy at the moment is the absolute, only right way. Be respectful and flexible enough to ask yourself the same that you demand of your players. Constantly study and analyze how you can improve.
  2. Take pride in understanding the rules and always ask your compliance department when there is any doubt as to how to proceed.
  3. Remember and respect the many different individuals who you work with and take no one for granted.
  4. Voice your opinions and stance when asked by your coworkers in a meeting. However, be careful and avoid personal comments to others regarding your basketball family outside those private times.
  5. Do not let your ego or vanity negatively affect your performance. Remember that you are representing yourself, family, and program at all times no matter where you are. Coaches are integral parts of each program, but not irreplaceable.
  6. Your reputation grows and follows you as each day passes, so work harder at being a good person.
  7. Make certain that you discuss problem areas rather than put them off or try and hide them. All successful groups need open dialogue and a servant’s mentality for the program.
  8. As a rule of thumb, character is a priority when evaluating players. No program needs to add problems, but everyone can utilize another good player who possess high character. Close games are often decided by teamwork and character, whereas blowouts usually indicate superior talent.
  9. Not every player will select your program. Leave parents with a positive feeling about yourself and your program. Try not to discredit or demean anyone, regardless of his position in the process.
  10. Constantly force yourself to think “outside the box” and creatively when approaching recruiting, the game, and everyday assignments.
  11. Lastly, but certainly not least, balance your life and make certain if the quantity of time is not there with your family, there is quality time with them. You may need to sacrifice other pleasures that you have enjoyed in the past to make certain that the people you love the most, and who love you the most, remain supreme.
  12. Two great books that may have an impact on how you approach your life on and off the court:
  13. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch
  14. Doing What Must Be Done, by Chad Hymas

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Hal Gullick is currently the Boys’ Varsity Assistant Coach at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma City, OK. Prior to McGuinness, he was the Lead Varsity Assistant/Junior Varsity Head Basketball Coach at Norman High School for two years. Coach Gullick also served as the lead Varsity Assistant/Junior Varsity Girls’ Basketball Coach at Bishop McGuinness for three seasons.

Coach Gullick started his coaching career at the MAYB, AAU, and Junior High ranks in Arkansas, where he served as head boys’ basketball coach for multiple summer teams and programs. Gullick has coached at various basketball camps and clinics throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma. He serves as a lead coach for the Kevin Durant Basketball ProCamps, and is also a USA Basketball licensed coach. Coach Gullick is a former student-athlete from the state of Arkansas where he also played high school basketball. While playing in Arkansas, he earned All-District, All-Regional, and Arkansas All-State honors. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience on and off the court as a former player and as a coach.

Coach Gullick is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma where he earned a B.S. in Education, and is currently attending the University of Oklahoma pursuing a M.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education with an emphasis in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration.

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