Zach Kuba(My Only Love Is Coaching)
Zach Kuba is currently the assistant video coordinator for UCLA basketball. He is originally from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and has coaching experience at Shady Side academy and IMG Basketball academy in Bradenton, Florida. He is only 24 years old, friends with s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg center Jason Boone and has big aspirations to coach.. German Hoops had a chat with the American about the NCAA and his dreams.
This is your first season at UCLA as assistant video coordinator. How exciting is it having a daily relationship with the UCLA team?
It is extremely exciting and I am grateful to Coach Howland for giving me the opportunity. Working for such a storied program with a tradition of excellence is inspiring. UCLA sets the bar high and that is a motivating force for me each day as I do everything within my power to help prepare our team the opponents that I scout and on a personal level as I aspire to become a skilled coach myself.
UCLA is only 7-6 this season. What have been the main problems with the club this season?
We are currently 11-7 in the PAC 12 and 18-13 overall heading into the final game of the season, Saturday vs Washington. It has been a challenging year; 5 games into our season we were forced to remove our leading scorer and rebounder from last season, Reeves Nelson. Since then we have become a more cohesive unit, but have let a lot of close games slip away. In my opinion we lack a true leader; a guy on the team who demands the most out of his teammates each and every day at practice, and/ or one who thrives in big game situations. It is difficult to win close games without guys like this. We have had guys try to fill this role at times, but a leader to me is someone who leads in everything they do on and off the court. We lack this right now and I believe our record is a reflection of that.
How much more challenging is your job with the current record of the team? Is your job different than if the team was having success and was 12-1?
It is challenging, but I also think it could be easy to rest on a successful record. Personally, I am very hungry to win and tend to lose sleep over losses. This motivates me, but it is also frustrating when the hours we as a staff put in do not translate to wins on game day. For me, early in my coaching journey, I am just embracing the opportunity to prepare for the next opponent and see myself using this season as a learning tool as I move forward.
Twins Travis and David Wear are in their second season and averaging double figures. How much potential do they have and what do you like most about their game.
The sky is the limit for these two, but they have a ways to go to get there. I love that they are 6’10” and can go outside and shoot the ball. They have obviously been trained well as young kids, which is evident in their ball skills. Their versatility makes them difficult match ups for any team. With more physicality (and about 20 lbs of muscle each) added to their games, I see no reason why they cant be all-league and All-American caliber players.
Lazeric Jones is leading the team in scoring in his second season. How much did he profit from having Derrick Rose as a teammate in high school?
Zeke only played with D Rose for one year I believe, but I’m sure he benefitted greatly from that year. Playing against one of the greatest players in the world can only make you better. Zeke, being from Chicago, has that “Me against the world attitude.” But it’s this same attitude that makes him likeable in my opinion. He is a player with great explosion, strength and athleticism who is hard to guard. A team would be lucky to sign Lazeric Jones, whether in the NBA or overseas.
Your first love is coaching. You coached at Shady Side academy and IMG academy. What kind of experiences did you have there?
My only love is coaching. There is nothing better than getting in the gym with a guy and making that guy better. Coaching at Shady Side was great; it was my former high school where I am 2nd on the all time scoring list. We had a successful season, winning the section and losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Coach Terrence Parham is a great head coach to work with. He gave me a lot of freedom to explore my persona as a coach and would often let me run a practice or a film session, knowing that I could communicate well with our guys. I miss working with Coach T. Perhaps even more beneficial to me was the post season where a few guys hung around the gym looking for me to help them get better. We have a freshman at Kenyon College, Cooper Handelsman, getting good minutes right now due to his hard work in the offseason. Shady Side recently lost in the quarterfinals of their playoffs this season, but may have qualified for States.
IMG Basketball Academy was an incredible addition to my basketball education. I spent a good amount of time working with Dan Barto, who does a remarkable job training collegiate and professional talent. Coach Barto (as he hates to be called) allowed me to be a part of all workouts, whether to just rebound, contribute or provide feedback. At times, He allowed me to orchestrate my own workouts for guys like Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks. It was a great experience being with these guys and seeing how they work to get better. These professional players operate at a different level. The game is fun to them, but when they get in that gym and it’s time to put in work, it’s all business. IMG is really a great training facility for both professional and collegiate athletes looking to take their game to the next level. The Strength and Performance Institute at IMG is like nothing I have ever seen; it is unique in its training of an athlete’s body towards a specific sport. Performance coach, Steffen Visk, does an incredible job transforming basketball bodies and getting them fine-tuned for the upcoming season. He would be a great addition to any collegiate or professional strength staff and IMG is lucky to have him.
Both places were great and provided me with different experiences that diversified my resume.
As a 24 year old guy, you are very young as a coach. What are your strengths as a coach?
One of my strengths is the vast number of basketball experiences I have already had. I’ve been involved in the game since a very young age and as a result have encountered a significant number of “basketball personalities.” I attended Drill4Skill camps run by the father of University of Arizona coach, Sean Miller; spent 7 summers at 5-Star Basketball Camp with “Garf” (Howard Garfinkel) and Will Klein; I was even fortunate enough to meet and spend time with John Wooden. In addition, I played AAU Basketball with and against a number of great players and got to be a part of that whole Basketball world. I went on to play Division 3 Basketball in New York and since graduating I’ve coached high school, worked at a Juvenile Detention Center, trained Professionals players (NBA and abroad), college guys , and elite level high school guys. Now I work with the most legendary college program in NCAA Basketball History. My experience is well-rounded and people at all levels like and respect me because of my work ethic. So to make a long answer short, I feel that my strengths lie in my willingness to work hard and the passion I bring to the game and my players. Coaching to me is more than X’s and O’s ; it’s about relationships. A coach needs to have a positive impact on his players and maximize their potential. I will continue to learn more as my journey continues, but right now my desire is to get on the floor and work with guys on a daily basis; preseason, postseason, and throughout the season- all are equally as important. My greatest strength is my desire to make myself and the people around me better. One of Coach John Wooden’s many great quotes states:
“Listen if you want to be heard” ―John Wooden
This is one of my mantras and I believe it adds to my strength as a coach. I listen to my players, listen to other coaches, and listen to anyone who takes time to speak with me. As a coach you aren’t above anyone on your staff or the team itself, you are simply an extension of these guys, and so listening to these men is important when it comes time to command the respect of the group. Another one I really like from Coach Wooden:
“Never try to be better than someone else. Learn from others, and try to be the best you can be. Success is the by-product of that preparation.” ―John Wooden
What tips have you picked up from Ben Howland at UCLA?
Coach Howland is one of the best Coaches in the entire country. Working for him has been great. His ambition to prepare and get ready for the next opponent is what I take from him most. We must know our next opponent inside and out before we even think about mentioning something to Coach Howland.
You can only play for Coach Howland if you are true competitor and take pride on the defensive end. That’s what we will see UCLA Basketball get back to as Coach Howland continues his tenure here.
If you could coach one player who would you like to coach?
Wow. That’s such a tough question. So many guys would be fun to coach. At the end of the day you want a guy with an incredible work ethic who inspires his teammates to be better and who allows himself to be coached. I would love to coach a guy like Kevin Durant because of his incredible skill-set and his will to win.
You are friends with s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg Jason Boone. I presume you met at New York university where you went. What kind of basketball bond do you guys have?
Jason is one of the main reasons I decided to go NYU. I spent my recruiting trip as a senior in High School with J and I feel like we automatically became friends after that. On the court, half of my threes made as a freshman were because J was doubled in the post and kicked it out to me for an open look. He is a great teammate and a great guy. Since our playing days together we have kept in touch working Columbia basketball camps in the summer and over Facebook. Apparently he lived in my apartment one summer too, but that’s another story. Haha. Jason is definitely one of my favorite people whom I have met through the game of basketball.
You have big aspirations to coach in Germany. If you could describe your coaching style to interested teams, how would you?
Ich bin eine Person mit viel Energie und Leidenschaft. Ich würde ein Coach mit diese Qualitäten auch. Ich werde langer und schwerer als anderen Coachen (Coaches) arbeiten. Ich werde erfolgreich sein.
I’m a guy who entering the coaching world will do whatever is asked of him. I know that in order to become a successful Head Coach you must pay your due diligence. My personality makes me someone who likes to get in the mix and work directly with guys, breaking a sweat myself. However, I also have great experience from a preparation standpoint and can be very helpful as far as video and scouting report work. My niche as a coach will continue to develop, but right now I would sell myself as a guy who is hungry to do what it takes to help his team win and make his head coach happy.
What do you know about German basketball besides Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Boone?
To be honest when answering that question, I do not know a great deal. I know the Bundesliga because I followed that a little in high school while I was taking German. I know some guys who I have seen or played with over the years play over there, but right now my main focus is on making a career out of the game for myself. I would love to be thrown into the mix in Deutschland and learn. I would pick things up real fast! Those guys over there care about the game as much as I do. That’s what I know about the German league and the players in it. I would love the chance to experience the country and still use the game of basketball as my means of life.
What is a hidden strength in your coaching ability that isn´t noticed right away?
You can’t tell how much I care/ how passionate I am. It is hard to read that in a person on first impression. I think because I care about guys and want what’s best for them allows me to communicate and use everything I’ve gained over the years. I am very loyal and trustworthy which I feel are important attributes as a Coach and are personality traits that can easily be overlooked. Also, I can still play a little bit. Since having back surgery 2 years ago, I am a new man and feel very comfortable showing guys a drill or demonstrating what I want from them and then jumping into the drill if need be to heighten the competition level.
If you ever had Jason Boone on your team and he had a bad game, would you be able to bench him?lol
Haha. I can’t really remember J having a horrible game. Even when J has a bad game, he still does enough for you out there where you can’t take him out. He’s always rebounding, making the right pass/ play, and altering shots on defense, and those are a lot of constants even if the jump hook is falling on a particular night. Not to mention his effort.
I could easily have answered Jason Boone on that earlier question about who I’d like to coach, but then I thought about who would win the one-on-one game between J Boone and Kevin Durant. Have to go with KD on that one. Sorry J.
Who are your early March Madness Final 4 picks?
It’s so wide open it really is hard to predict. Kentucky and Syracuse seem pretty tough to beat. UNC is always right there. Those 3 and then I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sleeper team like a Wichita State or San Diego St somehow sneak in there. It really all depends on the bracket,. Each round and match-up is different.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
I can’t even tell you. I keep up with Jersey Shore on TV right now. Haha. Yes, I watch J-Shore and love it. I went to see Denzel’s new movie Safe House the other day and it was pretty good. But, other than that my time revolves around watching game film. It’s the life I chose, though. lol
Thanks Zach for the chat.