Doug Kraft interview
1) Give our followers your background in hoops:
I was an average player on some below-average Conestoga Valley teams, Class of 1981. Playgrounds and pick-up games made me a reputable player after high school. Started coaching in the Fall of 1984. Spent 16 seasons at the collegiate level. Have had a bunch of fun; won our share of games and helped a lot of kids, Chronologically, my stops were: assistant at Conestoga Valley 1984-92; head coach at Thaddeus Stevens, 1992-94; assistant at East Stroudsburg University, 1994-98; head coach at Marywood University, 1998-2001; associate head coach at DeSales University, 2001-08; assistant coach at Saint Francis (PA), 2008-10; assistant coach:, Manheim Township girls, 2010-11; CATS AAU, 2012-present. During my college coaching days, I got immersed in summer camp coaching and built quite a coaching network along the East Coast as well. Some of my coaching highlights include being part of L-L League championships with CV boys in 1991 and Township girls in 2011; Being named Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after guiding Marywood to its first-ever post-season appearance in 2000; winning three MAC Freedom Conference regular-season titles and being nationally-ranked four times in 7 seasons at DeSales; and getting asked to join Don Friday’s staff at the NCAA Division I level at Saint Francis.
1A) Who are/were your biggest influences for hoops?
I have had many at all stages of my career. Steal from one, it’s plagiarism. Steal from many, it’s research. Early on, it was Bob Swavely and Bob Borden at CV. Sal Mentesana at East Stroudsburg University gave me a shot at college coaching. From there I started branching out, Mike Brey, then at Delaware helped me get networked at Duke, so I worked Coach K’s camp for 11 summers and Rob Kennedy got me around many top-tier coaches while working his camps at Eastern and Pocono Invitational (now known as Hoop Group). I’ve stolen from everyone. Two guys that made a huge impression on me, especially in player development concepts, were then-Duke assistant Quin Snyder, now the head coach of the Utah Jazz, and NBA big man coach, Jim Todd, whose Big Man Camp I worked for a number of years. I became a really good post-man coach directly from JT. I really learned a lot from Scott Coval from DeSales as well.
1B) How did you get involved with AAU?
Back in the Spring of 2012, my step-son tried out for the Cats 11U. I happened to take him to his tryouts and re-connected with an old friend, Ken Shedleski, who was one of the founders of the Cats program, along with Rich Hinnenkamp. They asked me if I’d be interested in getting involved. I assisted Ken with the 16U that season and I took over the oldest age group team the next season. It’s been great for me.
2) What are the goals as you coach the AAU Cats?
I love to coach and help players so our goals are simple, we want to help players get better so they can have successful high school seasons. Our goal is to provide politic-free, agenda-free and honest coaching. Also, should someone have the ability to play in college, we try to assist them to get to the appropriate level. Having recruited with Division I scholarships: Division Ii scholarships and 10-years experience at the DIII level, I have a thorough knowledge of the recruiting process. We guide the parents, as well as the players, with honesty.
3) Sometimes AAU gets some bad press. Can you give us, from your prospective the good, bad and ugly?
First of all, I coach basketball, I don’t coach AAU. There are assumptions that AAU is bad and high school is good. AAU does have a lot of programs that use kids for self-promotion or financial gain, but there are lot of quality programs with quality coaching, especially in our area. A lot of folks have agendas and make promises to gain a competitive advantage. Our approach is to work in conjunction with the high school experience. Not all programs do that. We try to stay consistent to that and encourage guys to stay involved with school activities. We’ll work around conflicts. I can guarantee that the accountability and hard coaching our players get at practice doesn’t take a backseat to any gym in the area. I think if you’d ask our former players and families, they will concur. We will always do it that way.
4) How has the HS game changed since your playing days?
The players have more skills nowadays because of the year-round approach. Kids play so many games now. I am not sure if the teams are better or the players’ toughness is what it was. The coaches’ technical skills may be better now, but coaches aren’t really able to coach as hard as they could when I played due to political correctness, in my opinion. People have become uncomfortable with discomfort. Too frequently, when a high school coach truly challenges a player to become better, someone will resist, be it the kid, a parent or an administrator. I think this really impacts the overall culture of high school sports in general.
5) LLhoops knows you go out to a lot of LL games. How to you pick which ones to go to? and how important is it for you to be out and about for the Cats AAU team?
I tell our kids and families that if they work hard for me, I will work hard for them. Part of that is supporting the kids. Showing up for their high school games is part of that. Supporting the high school experience, the most important part, is vital to me. I try to get out to see our guys play as much as possible when my schedule permits. I try to pick games where we may have kids on both teams competing. I juggle it all around my personal schedule. There’s no science to it. It’s important because I care and the families appreciate it. There’s no real agenda to it.
Would there be anything you would change in HS hoops? Really, I wish teams would push the ball more and try to score more. Many of our local programs put in so much time year-round working on skills and developing players and then they walk the ball up and play games in the 40’s. I guess implementing a shot clock could help that, but philosophy changes would as well.