Coaching: The Wright School

stewart briggs
written by
Stewart Briggs,
Director Acceleration Australia

For those who have trained by me or worked with me know that I have a strong personality.  I am in your face and often my voice fills the room.  At a glance or within earshot, you may think I am over the top.  My style may seem too aggressive or you may think Stewart is awesome. To be honest, I get 2 types of feedback.  People love me.  Or they can’t stand me.  And you know, that’s ok. However, I have adapted my coaching style over the years to accommodate for the times but at the end of the day, I have to be myself.  If I’m not myself, I feel like I can’t be my best.  If I’m not my best, my clients may not become their best, my coaches won’t reach their full potential and my company won’t be able to help as many Australians as possible.

What drives me to act like this?  RESULTS. And I care a lot about you, my coaches, my team, my sport and on and on.  It’s that simple.  I will use humour, stories and demos to get across what you need but if you don’t listen… I may give you some hard facts.  I might raise my voice, too. Because it’s important.  Because it matters.

I think my colleague and friend, Joey Wright comes from the same school of thought.

Recently, he has been in the media for some of his decisions, comments, actions – whatever.  But there are a few things that you may not know about Joey.

 

 

1. Players Got Emotional – when he left Queensland to take the job at the Adelaide 36ers players literally cried when they heard the news that he was leaving. He was doing skills coaching for Basketball Queensland through Leonard King and the National Performance Program. I saw it first-hand as one of the girls involved with the program told me that multiple girls cried when he told them. She started to tear up as she was telling me even weeks later. These players felt like he had helped them so much and he was the best coach they ever had. One of the players he worked with was Kristy Wallace who is ranked as one of the greatest athletes to ever train at Acceleration. Kristy has since gone onto amazing heights in playing for Baylor and being drafted into the WNBA.

2. Method to the Madness – Joey pushes the buttons of his players in the hope to elicit a certain response. He believes strongly in the fact that every high performing TEAM needs to go through stages. If you try to skip the stages, you will pay the price later in the season. Some people these days do not want to go through all of the stages. They want to skip steps – those are the people who will not succeed and ultimately do not like Joey nor his processes. Joey is not ‘old school’ in his approach. He is flexible and has adapted his style significantly over the years. The cold hard fact is that some people do not want to do the work necessary to succeed, nor are they willing to adapt to what the team needs to do in order to succeed.

3. Widespread Influence – Joey has helped not just basketball coaches, but other professionals. For example, Will Markwick was the High Performance Manager for the Gold Coast Blaze with Joey and then went onto the Perth Wildcats in 2012 – 2014. This lead Will down a path of success with other professional team (Western Force Rugby Union – Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union).  – none of that would have happened without his start with Joey at the GC Blaze. Like anything great like this, the spread then went onto Josh Cavanagh who has been the High Performance Manager for the Perth Wildcats. Josh’s career has blossomed because of Joey giving Will the opportunity in the first place. Ben Brugman went from Acceleration to Adelaide to the Western Force and then to Western Australia Rugby mostly because of Joey. Byron Williams worked with the Cairns Taipans in two separate seasons because of his work he did with the Brisbane Bullets over the years.

4. Science behind the Madness – Joey has always been smart enough to allow the experts to do their job. He was the first coach in the world of professional basketball to implement and use Training Load data to make decisions about how hard to train a team in 2005. Subtle adjustments like going light on Mondays and having 2 days off each week were major findings we applied with great effectiveness. In the year 2020 – pretty much every team in the world uses training load to monitor their athletes. Joey still uses that science to this day in his planning of practice.

5. Friends Forever – Joey has launched careers, resurrected careers and nurtured young players to a stage that it would be difficult to imagine anyone in Australia doing more for players in the past 16-18 years in Australia. This is based on one primary factor – ‘Honesty.” It is a rare commodity in this day and age. Joey was the first coach I ever saw who simply called players out for not performing a task the way he wanted it done. Most coaches would skirt around the issue by saying nothing to the player and then just subbing them off with little to no feedback. The player would be left wondering what they had done wrong. So called star players would make repeated mistakes and not receive any negative feedback because the coach was TOO SCARED to say anything to upset the STAR. Not Joey, he would tell you how it is, whether you liked it or not. Guess what, his players got better, his teams got better and his teams won a lot. He would then acquire the most unlikely friends over the years because players would maybe realise years later that Joey really helped them. Even if it was not apparent to them at the time.

6.The Art – Joey is constantly trying to perfect the ART of coaching by asking the hard questions of the people around him. There is never one answer and the pursuit has no finish line, but people need to understand that Joey has started more trends in basketball in Australia then he is given credit for. In 2004 Joey stated that the best team in basketball in the NBL would be full of 6”5” players who could all move like cats and shoot the ball… sound familiar? The reason Joey felt that way is because players could interchange between positions and it makes your team more adaptable. Joey has used switching defences with great success in the past create havoc and it has helped many of his teams to overachieve. Some coaches try to make out they are cerebral but Joey is as natural as you will find. He could literally walk onto a court and run the best session you have ever witnessed from adjusting on the fly to the players, the team and the situation. It comes from surviving and thriving in the game of basketball as a not so athletic point guard who “out thought” many players around him for many years.

7. Balance is the key – Joey can be 100% absorbed into his basketball like any professional, but then completely shut off the world and relax the next. These unique traits are part of the reason he has been able to coach in the NBL for so long. This balance is something for athletes to aspire towards, because you will find that many struggle mentally due to the immense pressure they need to endure throughout the season. The three take away messages that athletes should be able to gain from working with Joey is: 1. Be flexible and adapt to the people you are with, so you can be successful in any environment. 2. Be smart with your money and this will bring calm to your life because you are not relying solely on your athletic income in the future. 3. Learn how to switch off from all the noise in the professional sporting world. You can see the many players who have indeed watched and learnt from Joey. Generally, they have carried on with a long a prosperous career in basketball.

I’m not the only one who believes Joey Wright is a significant person and coach.

“Personally he challenged me as much as anyone on the team and yes it was frustrating at the time. Now I can see he wanted the best for me and our relationship has transcended player & coach to friends for life. I have used the life skills I learnt from Joey to start my own real estate company, Noel Jones Real Estate (Wantirna).” Mick Hill

“Joey helped me in so many ways. He let me be myself and encouraged me to be brave. In my 14 years of professional basketball, Joey was the only coach that invited me and teammates over to eat, fish, or relax and hang without making it like a promotional thing. This stuff I am hearing will never make me look at Coach any different. He did any and absolutely everything to make everyone comfortable. I was sick and he personally brought medicine to my place. I got too much love for him. Easily the most personable coach I ever had. He tried to help anyone that reached out. There were a few SEABL guys that were practicing with us and he worked with them personally to help them get a job, same with Ben Ayre. Worked with him religiously to get him a college scholarship, because he believed in him. When Joey rings my phone I’m picking up first ring every time.  Adris Deleon  at the time was a street basketball player that didn’t have the college career to have agents for coaches to give him a job. Joey saw him once and hired a dude that couldn’t even drive himself to practice, because he believed in him. Adris has had a long and nice career because of this opportunity. There are so many examples of what good Joey has done. #rantdone.” Jamar Wilson

“Joey showed a lot of belief in me at a young age, starting me in a finals game my first season, playing me big minutes my second season in what was a Grand Final win for the Bullets. He put a lot of work into helping me be a better player, which allowed him to trust and the confidence to throw me out there in big moments knowing I was ready to handle it.” – Adam Gibson

“Joey has not just been an instrumental teacher of basketball to me over the time we’ve known each other. He has been a great life mentor for me.  Every day his passion and willingness to teach, guide and learn about various things has led me to where I am today. Through hard work, disagreements, laughs, courageous moments, failures and success I can’t thank him enough for being there as a coach and as a friend. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, thank you Joey.” – Mitch Creek
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