In order to be a basketball head coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), you had better love what you do. I guess that statement should be true for whatever career you’re in, but if you’re not striving for greatness in this league you’re not going to be successful.
Luckily for Brock University, we have someone who lives and breathes the game of basketball, and ever since day one on campus he has been motivated and committed to accelerating the men’s basketball program to his best abilities.
After Brad Rootes stepped down as the men’s basketball coach in May 2013, the athletic department had to find a new head coach quick. Fortunately, on July 18, 2013, the athletic department named Charles Kissi as their new head coach and the program has been in good hands ever since.
A day in the life of a basketball coach is a hectic one. There’s never much downtime and if you’re not always thinking about basketball, it seems like you’re a step behind. Kissi has experienced a lot in only a short time at Brock thus far, but the first day on the job is kind of a blur for him.
“To be honest, I don’t remember my first day here,” said Kissi. “I just remember the first few weeks…Lots of meetings [and] lots of getting to know people.”
Previously working in the CIS as an assistant coach with the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball program, Kissi was familiar at the collegiate level, but had never experienced it as the man-in-charge.
“I sort of had a plan coming in but you want to make sure you have the resources and the environment in order to reach that plan,” said Kissi.
After becoming familiar with the environment he was working in, it was time to put a team together as try-outs became the main priority. As a new head coach Kissi really enjoyed this opportunity because it allowed him to finally see the players that he’d be working with all season.
“We had a week long training camp before school started. With the week-long camp, we had about 25 guys out and it was just an opportunity to see guys play over a week, you know two-a-days and just watch guys work,” said Kissi.
Not only was it a great look at the players he would be working with, but the camp also allowed him the chance to meet many different people within the community.
“It was a good opportunity because we brought in some local coaches; high school coaches, rep coaches. It was an opportunity to meet them and it was an opportunity for them to be apart of the program and apart of what we are doing. It just sort of opened the door to anyone [associated with] basketball in the community to participate, and an opportunity for me to meet them,” said Kissi.
The try-outs were also very important to Kissi; since he was a late hire, he was never really involved in the recruiting process and didn’t have the opportunity to see those players play before they showed up at Brock. However, the one recruit that Kissi was credited for bringing to Brock turned out to be their best player on the team, as Dani Elgadi chose Brock as the school he wanted to attend. Elgadi went on to win the 2013-2014 OUA West Rookie of the Year award and was named to the CIS All-Rookie team as well. For only bringing one recruit to the school, he definitely made a great choice.
After try-outs were finished and the team had been established, it was finally time to get prepared for the season and to start playing exhibition games. With such a young team, Kissi was doing a lot of teaching as most of his players were not familiar with the collegiate game and thus had a lot to learn.
“Before you know it you’re planning games. You try to balance preparing for games and then trying to teach and learn. All of our guys are young so there was so much teaching… You would teach a little less if you had more of a veteran group. It was like a new teacher teaching grade one, and you have to build it from scratch,” said Kissi.
With the season finally coming together for Kissi, there was a lot of hard work that needed to be accomplished, but fortunately his commute to the university became a little easier.
“When I got the job, I was still a Police Officer. I couldn’t leave until Sept. 10. I owned a house in Toronto that I needed to sell and it sold at the end of August, but it took about two months to find a place here… I drove back and fourth until we found a place, it cost a fortune,” said Kissi.
With concerns of living arrangements behind him, the main focus was now on the basketball program. Continuing to teach his players on a daily basis, Kissi and his staff decided to take a defense-first approach and make sure that they were fundamentally sound heading into the season.
“We chose defense first and really implemented piece by piece the principles of our defense, not all of the intricate details of our defense, but the principles of our defense. And then we moved to the principles of our offense,” said Kissi.
From the end of training camp to the start of the pre-season, Kissi and the Badgers had a long three weeks to prepare until they finally played their first exhibition game.
“Not that the exhibition game mattered, but you want to plan accordingly, you want to be able to be ready to do certain things,” said Kissi.
Even though it was only an exhibition game, Kissi’s first game as a Badgers head coach was successful as Brock beat down Niagara College 91-51 to win their first pre-season game of the season.
With the first win under his belt, it was now time to find the right routine that would lead to success. Kissi acknowledges the importance of his agenda and without that agenda as a head coach the day would be chaotic. One major routine that is apart of Kissi’s daily agenda is film. Watching film and breaking down opponents and understanding what Brock needs to do better is a major aspect to getting better and learning from experiences.
“I think I do certain things everyday. Sunday nights and Mondays and sometimes into Tuesday, I will watch film. I’ll watch a lot of film for the week… An hour or two a day max. I’ll watch a full game un-cut and then I’ll watch a bunch of cuts,” said Kissi.
With film being a critical priority within the weekly agenda, there is so much more that gets done on a daily basis. Being a CIS basketball head coach requires a lot of hard work, even if it is not just basketball related for every second of it.
“[There are] so many different pieces to the program that aren’t basketball. Lots of player meetings, on court, lots of recruiting. It’s always one thing after the next. The calendar has been my best friend because it allows me to move through the day,” said Kissi.
Continuing to study the game of basketball and learning from different people in the department is also something that Kissi continues to do everyday. He takes a great deal of time trying to learn because in order to get better as a coach it is important to listen to other people’s methods and see how people do tasks differently than you.
I try to do an hour of professional development a day. Whether it’s watching coaches, listening to coaches…. Watching basketball, looking at different sets, looking at how different people teach sets, I still do that every day,” said Kissi.
With a month of pre-season games, Kissi continued to use this time for planning and preparing for the regular season. The week leading up to a game is all about watching game film and setting a game plan, but when game-day comes, it is all business.
“On game days, our guys would typically have a shoot in the morning. Usually on game days I am set, I don’t want to make any changes, because I’ve spent the whole week evaluating. I’m pretty comfortable with what we are trying to do and I have a pretty good idea of it.”
“Our guys will have a pre-game meal down at Alphie’s, which was amazing for us. And then time ticks away, I’ll spend a little bit of time with my little one. By 6:00 p.m., I’m usually back, watching more game film and then I get this edginess, like let’s start the game already…Then its meeting time with coaches, and we go over the plans again and any last minute thoughts,” said Kissi.
The game seems to take forever to start for coach Kissi but once the game is all finished with, it’s back to the computer screen to watch more film and evaluate the team’s either win or loss from that night.
“Depending on the game, sometimes I come back and watch right away. Some games we might have a post game reception, so I can’t watch right away, but usually I’ll watch the game right after its over. I’ll make notes about what went wrong and what didn’t, and evaluate it.”
“If we are playing the next day, which we usually are, I’ll have that plan that is already ready for the week, but reevaluate that and go to bed. It’s usually around 1:00 a.m. at that point,” added Kissi.
Game days, like most other days, are long and tough but Kissi loves his job, so at the end of the day the hard work is well worth it. One aspect of the job that seems to take up most of coach Kissi’s time is recruiting. Recruiting makes or breaks a basketball program and it is definitely one of the hardest parts of the job, but it is also one part that Kissi enjoys the most as his smile lights up the room when talking about potential recruits.
“Recruiting started when I got the job really. We really made a strong push on Dec. 1 right when we had our first break. We were on the road something like 20 of 28 days…I took Christmas off and I was recruiting Boxing Day in Toronto,” said Kissi. “That took up a lot of my time, about 50 plus per cent of my time was spent recruiting. Either on the phone, in the gym, by e-mail, whatever it was. I spent a lot of time recruiting,” Kissi added.
Recruiting can take anywhere from two to 12 hours a day if Kissi is travelling, but in order to build a championship calibre team, those long hours are necessary. Brock is only one of four programs in the CIS that has captured two or more National Championships over the past 20 years and by the way Kissi is continuing to learn, they have a chance to add to that number very soon.
With the regular season finished, the Badgers record wasn’t spectacular, but in a rebuilding season there were still many positives that will be looked to build on for next season. Even though the regular season is over, the work never really stops for coach Kissi and there is always something to work on or to look forward to.
“There’s [always] stuff to do, always trying to warp up recruits. Now you just spend all your time on recruiting [and] fundraising,” said Kissi.
The life of a basketball head coach is definitely demanding, but it can be very rewarding when all of the hard work pays off. As a head coach with less than a year of experience, that first-year of coaching is always going to be the hardest as there are so many new experiences and many new people to meet.
“I learned so much this year. I went from having two jobs [and] was working 90 hours a week; here I only work 60-70 hours a week at one job. You are always finding ways to be more efficient…I’m excited about next year. I am excited about taking the things I learned and moving forward.”