7 Powerful Lessons in Coaching Inspired by Jerome Tang – K State Head Coach
Coach K relayed a quick story … “A college basketball coach had $10.81 in his bank account. During a job interview for a head coaching position, he used that money to cook a meal for another coach. Now, he’s Big 12 Coach of the Year.”
Here are 7 powerful lessons I learned talking to him about leadership, coaching, & success 👇 👇
For context, Jerome Tang, often referred to as Coach K, is the Head Coach of Kansas State University’s Men’s Basketball team. This week, he was named Big 12 Coach of the Year—in his first season as head coach. Before K-State, he was an assistant at Baylor…
When he interviewed for Baylor’s assistant job years ago, Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew invited himself to Tang’s house for dinner. But Tang & his wife only had $10.81 to their name. They scrounged up ribs & cooked a meal. He got the job—and the rest is history.
Now, to the lessons 👇
1. The person over the player
Tang cares deeply about his players — on and off the court. He says the true test of a coach is what type of parents, spouses, & community members the players become.
2. Be grateful for everything
Tang’s players thank teachers for preparing a great lesson plan. Because class is the teacher’s “gameday.” When they are in class, Tang asks his players to:
- Sit in the first row
- Make eye contact
- Say thank you
Always be grateful — and show it!
3. Be willing to perform any job
Tang’s mom was a custodian for 20 years. As a kid, he’d go to work with her at night. Everything he learned from her came in handy early in his coaching career when he also served as the school’s custodian to make ends meet. Things can’t be well at the office unless they are well at home Tang’s staff makes family & personal lives the top priority. After that, they can be fully present at the office. It’s a lesson he learned from Navy SEALs—who ensure their families are situated before missions.
4. Stack your micro-wins
Tang says everything is an opportunity to go 1-0.
- Win breakfast
- Win the weight lift
- Win the film study
The path to big success is stacking micro-wins.
5. Toughness is the ability to do the next right thing
Everybody makes mistakes, loses games, & faces adversity. That’s life. But Tang says tough people don’t let one mistake snowball into a bunch of mistakes.
6. Change the delivery, not the standards
A great coach doesn’t change their standards for one player. But how they deliver their message is always customized for each player. Tailor your communication, approach, & style.
7. Get to know the “why”
Tang’s players share their backgrounds & personal story. When players know each other’s “why,” it changes everything, he says. They care about the name on the back of a teammate’s jersey — as much as they do about the name on the back of their own.
About Coach K
Jerome Tang is a Trinidadian-American college basketball coach who is the head coach for the Wildcats of Kansas State University. He had previously been an assistant coach under Scott Drew from 2003 to 2022 at Baylor, where the Bears won the 2021 NCAA Championship. Tang started at Baylor in 2003 as an assistant coach, got his degree online in 2007, then went on to help the Bears win the national championship in 2021. He is known for his coaching philosophy and his ability to connect with his players on and off the court.
Inspiring Success. From The Basketball Court to NBA 2K.
Esports Tower coaches gain inspiration regularly by taking lessons from traditional sports and applying them to esports. The Esports Tower Coaches Academy instills the Esports Tower Approach to adolescent armature athlete development. Designed to convert great gamers into even greater coaches and leaders. At the Esports Tower Coaches Academy, great gamers who are ready to elevate their holistic coaching effectiveness come together, share success stories and learn advanced leadership skills and strategies that directly affect their personal and team success. Participants focus on non-sport-specific concepts in an environment that fosters inclusion across the sports community.
How can coaches better connect with and lead this generation of student-athletes?
It’s an overarching question for nearly 500 collegiate esports programs.
“Authenticity is the most important thing when it comes connecting with this generation of gamers,” says Ernst & Young Researchers.
What goes into authenticity is esports coaches need to understand the games their team play. Sadly, many after-school programs have esports club leaders whose game sense is lacking. Kids pick up on that quickly.
As a starting place in the hiring process, coaches are first assessed for their game acumen and then take a personality profile assessment to better understand themselves and how others perceive them. This exercise sets the stage for the rest of the academy experience, which provides full-time position coaches, coordinators, and assistant or associate head coaches the opportunity to build connections and develop leadership acumen to pursue their aspirations of having a full-time career coaching the next generation of esports superstars.
Throughout the academy, attendees engage with industry experts and valuable peers across a wide variety of topics to enhance their capabilities to serve as effective coaches and leaders of student-athletes both on and off the game. The topics include recruiting, crucial conversations, sports analytics, personal branding, interviewing, searching for their next clutch players, and holistic player development.
While we haven’t had Coach K come speak with Esports Tower players, guest session leaders included collegiate esports directors, pro-team general managers, and various subject matter experts and pro athletes.
“There was so much high-quality content, no fluff, just things that immediately help us as coaches,” said Andrew Wimer “We really have a group of people here who are committed to not only self-improvement but self-improvement for the right reasons, for the betterment of other people and the young men and women we get the chance to coach. Being around those folks is encouraging and inspiring.”