On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Coach John Mosley, star of the hit Netflix show Last Chance U: Basketball, and head coach of the ELAC basketball team. He has been named one of Top 50 Most Impactful JUCO 50, and is looking to continue his team’s 8-year continuous streak of making it into the CCCAA Championships.
On this episode of Bring It In season two, Coach Mosely sat down with Sam to talk about the psychology of coaching, forming and
Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Below are some of the insights Coach Mosley shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.
Sam: Why coaching for you? Why choose that as a career?
John: I came back from travels in Brazil, Australia, and was playing a little bit. And my college coach, I needed one more class to get my bachelor’s degree. I had like, took off and so I needed one more class and I was like, Hey, how can I get this Goliath class so I can finish off my bachelor’s degree? He said, Hey, why don’t you come coach? And I’ll pay for the class, help me out.
And so I did that. Well, what I realized is, I wasn’t done, I still love basketball. So I think, one of the first things is kind of loving it and then I love competing. And I loved a team, a locker room environment.
So those are the things that got me to be passionate about just going back and helping, and taking the class. And I needed the class, I was like, well, I’ll go back and help. But I had all these things in my head. I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 30.
I had worked on a license. I got an apprentice license to be a barber. I was doing acting. I mean, I was running around. I was in music videos. I was rapping. I don’t know what the heck I was going to do. I was going to own a business. I was just all over the place. I knew I did have passion. I knew I had some enthusiasm and I was energetic, and I was a social person. I can interact with anybody.
So all of the tools that most of us, or a lot of us have these different tools, and it’s just kind of like putting us into areas, these boxes. Right. Okay. Which box are we going to slide you in with all the tools that you have? We almost kind of have these common tools in mine, where my tools can be most magnified, I guess, was in basketball.
I can still have an impact on people’s lives in terms of mentoring, in terms of pouring into people’s lives. I can be competitive, I can wear a sweatsuit. You know what I’m saying? I can show up in a sweatsuit and be comfortable. It was so much of that that attracted me. I like the spontaneity of just every day, something was different.
You know what I’m saying? I felt like I really knew that I was not going to sit in front of it. Like right now, I’m miserable for the whole year. I’m sitting in front of a computer. But no, it’s good. It’s not miserable, but I knew that I was not gonna wear a certain shirt and tie. I didn’t want to do that.
I wanted to do something where I can be a little more free, can self-express. I didn’t know it was going to be basketball and I didn’t know up until the last few years that I was good at it. I just started doing it and I didn’t realize I was good at it. And I didn’t realize that, I felt like if anything I was going to do was going to be passionate, but I started out, long story short, the coach asked me to do it and I was kind of good at it. And I was passionate.
Maybe if I would have done something else, I would have been as passionate, but this allowed me to just have an extra passion because I just came off of being a player. I learned the basketball side. I learned the psychology and the leadership side.
When I was with my mentor, I had the best basketball experience with the mentor that asked me to come back and coach. So my best basketball experience and, not to my high school coach or my middle school or those levels. I had my best basketball experience with the mentor who asked me, Hey, come back and, finish your education and come coach.
And I guess he saw that in me as well. As a coach. And so I had my best basketball experience and now I saw from the leadership side and I said, wow, that’s why he did this, this, this, that’s why he used this strategy. Even in responses, that’s why he was crazy one day and then the next day, a day when I thought he should act crazy, he wasn’t, he was calm. And on the day when I thought he should be calm, he went off and he was emotional about and passionate about our urgency of getting things done.
So I kind of learned all that from there. And it was very intriguing to me. And I realized that I had a place in it just by asking me to come and coach, I realized that I had a place in coaching and he paid me for it. Then he said, okay, I’m gonna hire you. And I was like, oh, I can make money to do this? And then I was like, okay. And I wasn’t making much all the way up until now where I’m a tenure faculty member,, I was kind of job hopping, but I was still doing it because I was like, okay, I can make this little money and do this. Are you kidding me? So I think that’s kind of where it lands.
Sam: I played high school football, and I remember there was this one day where the coach, everything was perfectly fine in practice, we thought everything was okay, and next thing you know, a trash can gets thrown on the field and everybody off the field and the seniors were like, no, we’re going to stay out here.
And the coach was like, Nope. Out. Get back in the locker room, get your stuff, go home, see you tomorrow. And a few years later when I began coaching and after a game we were talking and I came to find out, you know, that was all orchestrated. This one moment, it just felt like that needed to happen that day.
And that’s what that scene kind of reminded me of. How much of coaching is the psych? I guess, talk to me more about the psychology of coaching and how you look at it.
John: Yeah, it’s a field, man. I’ll tell you what, I think I don’t even know if I can coach, I think the spirit of discernment, I think that’s the gift that I have and not to scare anybody, it’s something that you can’t kind of learn or kind of observe and see what needs to be done, but it’s just the feel. And part of that feel comes from the relationships you have with the players and with people and just kind of understanding people.
Not be so consumed with yourself and how you feel instead, just kind of realizing, and that’s why I say, rules without relationship equals rebellion. Because if you don’t know, if you don’t understand people and you don’t take the time to understand people and why they may be going through something, why they may respond a certain way, then you’ll never figure out how to change behavior or direct behavior.
And I just think that that’s one of the biggest to be able to direct behavior in the right way. You got to understand the people that you’re working with. Right. Everybody. If a kid comes from a better, more stable environment, you can say, Hey, you need to do this right now. Yes, sir. Yes, Coach. Someone who’s come from an unstable environment where they caught the bus and it took them an hour to get there and whatever issues they’re going through to get there. They’re not responding because they’re sabotaging their opportunity, but they’re responding because of what’s going on, maybe in their lives or maybe the damage or the abuse that they’ve gone through, the abandonment that they’ve gone through. That’s why they’re responding that way. And so they’re acting out because of something else that has nothing to do with wanting to perform well.
And so if you say you want to help people perform well, then I think it’s important to dig into those relationships and figure out what’s going on, where, where their head is, where their headspace is at that moment. And so when you talk about the psychological aspect of it, I think that’s really the root of it, to kind of understand what’s going on in the core of a person’s mind.
The 10% is the basketball man. I tell everybody, I think I mentioned it in the monologue that this is the easy part. The X’s and O’s are the easy part. But the hard part is to try to figure out every individual and bring it together, figure out what’s going on in their head. Not only what’s going in their head, but what’s going on in their lives to get them to perform better. That doesn’t necessarily take away from the performance, but it takes away from their response to adversity. And so we got to just help them get through that adversity that they’re going through because that’s how they respond most of the time, or a lot of times in a poor way because they don’t know how to handle the adversity.
Sam: What’s changed? I mean, over the years, as you’ve been coaching young men, what’s changed, and how have you had to adjust? There’s obviously a lot of talk about people complaining about millennial this, millennial that, now we’re complaining gen Z this, gen Z that. How do you look at that?
John: I think in a lot of ways, and I may be getting into another area, I think in a lot of ways, our society is trying to change instead of trying to change what makes up a performer. The toughness, the grit, what makes a performer? And we’re trying to change that. There’s nothing wrong with being competent and having swag and putting it out there.
But there is a problem with using that competence and swag to harm others. How we’ve gotten here and how we’ve created this level of success is because of those attributes that we’d had. The problem is the attributes are being used to harm people. And that’s what we have to stop, not stop the attributes of greatness.
Do not stop the attributes of greatness. Do not suppress power, do not suppress greatness. Don’t suppress it. What we have to suppress is the evil that’s within that greatness or that power, because that’s what’s created all of the successes that we’ve had and it’s trickled into our sports.
And because we don’t have the family structures broken down, I think we’re losing those values because the family structure is broken down. And so who I’m receiving, I’m receiving a lot of young men who don’t have that family structure. Who’s learned those values of, Hey, this is hard work, it’s okay to be powerful. It’s okay to be confident in what you do, but be respectful. Have class, have poise.
And we’re losing learning those. That’s where we normally would learn those, a lot of those values about hard work and about not wanting to receive. I think I sent out a tweet the other day and it was kind of controversial when I was saying, Hey, in my opinion, we don’t need another stimulus check, man.
We need access. We don’t need welfare, give us access, open the door so that we can create our own opportunities. Don’t give us hush money. We don’t need hush money. We need the doors open to our businesses, our facilities, for access. And I think it was a little controversial. And that’s what I mean, don’t control our access and that’s happening with our young people.
I’ll tell our players all the time. They’ll go and they’ll foul. We’ll play in practice and we’ll play hard, physical, and tough. And guess what? They’re looking at me, Coach, you didn’t call the foul, and I’ll tell them, do not look for welfare.
I said, don’t look for welfare. Don’t look for the referee to call a foul. You go and you explode through the contact. You play through the foul. You play through it because there’s a chance you may not get the call, even though you may have earned the call, you may not get it. And just the same, we don’t need the foul call to help us get back in the game, do not give us welfare that is to go and pursue. And even if we feel like we deserve that check, don’t give it to me.
Give us the opportunity to earn it. Give me the opportunity to earn it. That’s kind of what’s trickled down and I will press in here. And when my doors are closed, if you’re looking for a foul call, I say, Hey, don’t look for welfare at me. I’m not blowing my whistle, no welfare here, bro. You gotta fight through that and you got to play through that foul call.
Sam: You’re teaching life. That’s not just basketball, right?
John: Yeah. We’re trying to almost build, and taking it from the perspective of where I grew up, where a lot of those guys grew up. So I’m trying to manipulate the thought process and see it how they see it or try to relay the message how they were relayed. I mean, I can have these cute quotes and they’ll be like, yeah, whatever. I saw that on the internet or somebody posted that the other day, but I’m trying to say things or try to relay the message in a way that they can kind of understand.
I think it was one time where guys years ago, my guys always texted me and they say, coach, I don’t need no gas money. You know what I’m saying? And so there was this one kid who we had, he had a great mom, mom had a great job and he played force. And I think I teased him because he wasn’t working hard. I said, here’s the problem. Here’s why you don’t work hard. You got gas money. I said, you got gas money in your pocket.
I said, some of these guys ain’t got gas money when you ain’t gotta work, they gotta ride a bike. I said, but the problem with you is you got gas money in your pocket. You can afford to get from point A to point B. There are some people that are hungry that came.
And so all the players, they tease me, they still text me and talk about gas money. Because of the one player, and I was teasing him, and I do get players with parents that are doing well. And I said, man, the problem is you got gas money. That’s the problem. That’s why you’re not tough. You won’t go up and get the rebound hard.
Let me take away your gas money. Your mama probably gave you lunch and gas money at this point, right? There are some people in here that don’t have lots of money that don’t have gas money right now. And it was a figuratively speaking statement like even though you’re not rich, you still got enough to get by and you’re losing your hunger because you got lunch money this morning.
Somebody handed you $10 for lunch and then they paid your cell phone bill. I mean just the bare necessities you’re taken care of, even though you’re not rich, your bare necessities are taken, and that’s taken away your edge. But sometimes when you don’t even have the bare necessity, sometimes hunger just builds up anger, a chip on your shoulder gets built up because you don’t have it, and I want that chip for everybody. I want to find a chip that everybody can put on their shoulder. Even if your parents or you were born into wealth, what is your chip? Your chip on the shoulder can be that everybody thinks you, are spoon-fed, or were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Well, why don’t you get pissed off at that and say, you know what? I’m gonna create my own success. And forget the spoon, as a matter of fact, I do have the silver spoon and I’m going to show you a gold and a platinum, and I’m gonna show you several other spoons on top of the silver spoon that I got.
Sam: The one thing that just comes through to me when watching the show was the level of trust you got with your players. I mean, I was watching it with a few people at the office, and when it first came out and there’s, you know, a few people in the room who would say why, why is the coach still going after that player to try it?
Why, why is he getting so many shots? That kid would be out of here, I’d kick the kid right off the team. Why is Coach continuing to try to find a way to make it work with that kid? Can you share how that happens? How do you have that mindset that there’s so much care and love for your players to continue to come back and find a way to connect with them even when maybe they might be acting out in a moment.
John: I was that young man at some point. I can see myself. So I have 15 guys and they all have different personalities. They all acted out in different ways and you can only see just Joe Hampton. They only highlighted maybe four or five stories of these guys, but all 15 guys were the same. They all have these issues. When one kid acted this way, I’ve felt that before. I know why he’s acting out.
And I know number one, because I built a relationship and I found out what’s going on in his life. And then number two, I saw myself in him before, and I made a vow and you don’t have to do this, but if you say that you want to have this trust, then I think you have to build the relationship and know what’s going on.
And then say, I’m not going to give up, they’re going to have to give up on themselves. I’m not going to give up on him. I’m not going to give up on you. And that’s just what I take, the responsibility I’ll take on for me. Maybe it’s competition. Maybe it’s a challenge. My challenges I’m going to do just like for everybody, I want you to feel the same that I felt. That people gave up on me, that people didn’t think I was good enough and I proved them wrong.
And so I want that for everybody and I see me. So I’m dealing with young men that a lot of people have given up on and something about me is just burning like, no, no, no, no, no. Let’s prove the guy’s wrong, Joe, everybody that gave up on you, the abandonment you felt when you blew out one knee, and then you blew out the other knee, now where are all the people, where all the hanger owners, everybody who was hanging on to you, who thought you were going to be an NBA player and you blew out both knees, where all those people? Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s get you back to where you need to be.
And then I’ll look at Joe Hampton. He’s all over social media and he’s got almost a quarter of a million followers. It was just crazy. Shaquille O’Neal, He’s got all these like mentors and people that are calling him up. And we just look, and I can remember at the beginning, he just had all this doubt and he had me just suffering.
I saw a diamond, there’s a diamond in everybody, man. There’s a diamond in everybody. And what’s amazing is, and what’s crazy is I was, I was given the analogy about the diamond and then I had someone else add on to it, and the better the pressure, the better the diamond. Right? And so you get a young man like Joe, and he’s got all of this pressure, and all of this, that diamond that’s in there is going to be a lot better than, you talk about the ones who’ve gone through the most and then come out of that adversity. They got a better story. They got more resilience. They’ve gone through enough where there’s not much, that’s going to be able to knock them down now.
There is a diamond in everybody, man. And when you are working with people, when you are a leader, you got to see that. And I think that was the calling. It’s not something that’s just happened here as a coach. But I know I can see it and coming up. Just children in general, I just look at a child. And you could see a parent, Hey, stop. Don’t do that. No, no. And I’m just smiling and I’m looking like, man, look at that energy and look at the fearlessness and us as adults, we’re like, no, stop. I just look at the fearlessness, man. I’m like, ah, that fearlessness is gold and leads to greatness. Or we just gotta harness it and make sure we don’t let him harm himself, but don’t suppress the fearlessness. Just don’t allow him to harm himself.
Don’t say no, don’t make it a bad thing for them or that child too. I love it. I’ll sit there and watch the kids. I just smile. And the parents and adults, we have these team camps. And I got this kid who you have four kids out of like a hundred that is just, people will say, those kids are awful. They’re disrespectful. They’re mean. They’re like little 9 or 10-year-olds, disrespectful, mean. Looking back, those are the most on track. Those are the kids right there. The little smart-alec kid who you say, everybody’s sitting in the line and they want to jump out of line to show you that they’re non-conforming, absolutely, that’s the one I want to work with, you know?
Sam: That’s awesome. I got a four-year-old daughter and she’s definitely in that vein of anything she can jump off of she’s going to climb up to and jump off of it.
John: Exactly. Fearless.
Sam: There are companies out there with managers that are going to be responsible for coaching up people that maybe have been out of work for weeks, or have a lot of other things that they’re thinking about when they come into work. Many, unfortunately, don’t get a fair wage today. There may be companies and jobs that put them a little bit behind the eight ball. I want to ask you about practice because you do a lot of it, and I’m sure you have a philosophy on what makes a good practice versus a bad practice.
And I want to ask you that just through the same lens of, companies are going to have to onboard and retrain workers quickly when they get to work on day one. For you, what advice do you have to a manager for how to design a practice that’s effective versus one that’s ineffective?
John: So my, maybe, repetition is the key to success. And so here’s the thing. I was very fortunate. My mentor passed away last January. So January, 2020, and we believe, he was on a respirator, we believe it was COVID before the big COVID pandemic hit, but he was being mentored and he was close with John Wooden. And so all of the practices that I was able to get were from my mentor and he got his practice style and all of his practices.
I mean literally, 80% of my practice is a John Wooden practice. I still got, and it’s at my office now, John Wooden actually came and took notes and scribbled all over. I got it laminated. I have this written out, were notes John Wooden took on it for like 10 years, I had it written out and I just had it like in a folder.
And I was like, what am I doing? Laminate it. And I finally laminated like two years ago, it was crazy, but it was good. It was kind of old and laminated. But repetition is the key to success. And I think what happened, and I’m so grateful I’ve met him. I’ll tell you what because I talk a lot. I’m so grateful that I got a chance to go under my mentor.
Like I was sharing with you, I got a chance to see from a leadership side, because I was like, man, why doesn’t this dude talk much? We’re just going and going, how come I’m not getting a response from him? Like, I’ll do something great or I’ll do something wrong. In a sense, I’ll do something wrong and I’m looking over, no response. I do something great, I look over, no response.
You know what, let’s just go. Boom. Repetition is the key. Make mistakes. Make mistakes, have success, make mistakes, have success, make mistakes. Just continue to be repetitive and I really learned how to move through practice. And I don’t know if this will relate to business, but I’ll tell you something; that was probably the most instrumental component that I’ve learned.
In terms of the success, X’s and O’s success. In terms of basketball success, not the psychology aspect. Well, the psychology aspect of it as well, but to stop a mistake and correct it every time, we’re not getting the repetition we need, the physical repetition, so that we can learn the habit so that we can create good habits.
If I stop and I correct, and I’ll keep giving my, what I believe, I give this speech and yell and scream. So yeah. That’s why I really thought they didn’t have any content for the show because all the content that you should solve was really kind of it. And they took it and put it together because it’s just, boom, we go, oh, nonstop.
And before they can get bored, we would move on to the next thing. So I prefer to do something one 30 seconds, one to two minutes a day. I see a lot of coaches, they’ll spend half an hour on a defensive drill or 15 minutes on a defensive drill and they’re talking and going through it. And then the next day they’ll do another drill and replace the defensive drill.
Well, I prefer to do that defensive drill one minute a day, every single day, and move through it. And as they make mistakes, well guess what? They’re going to make mistakes for a week. And then the next week, they may make the mistakes on two less days. So now they’re only making the mistakes three days, but they’re going through it and I’m talking them through it as we go.
No, hand up top-down, keep it going, let’s go, let’s go. And now guess what? Now, four guys aren’t making a mistake anymore. And now all of a sudden, the next day, six guys are not making a mistake. And then eventually it takes maybe a month. But after a month, all 15 guys are not making the mistake. They’re all executing it properly.
So now as we get mid-year, we’re doing the same thing now, guess what? They’re doing it. I like to call it a zombie state. And I tell my assistant coaches and they don’t know what I’m talking about. I say, when they start to look like zombies, when we’re doing these drills and these activities, and we’re doing our offense now we’ve arrived because now when they get in the game, when the moment is at its highest peak, now when pressure and tension start to rise, what happens? Their body naturally moves in that zombie state.
So when the psyche, when it feels like the psychological is gone, when the pressure gets to him, guess what? Their bodies can no longer function from a mental standpoint, because maybe they’re afraid or they’re nervous, guess what, their body has got function out of that zombie state.
And so, because we were so repetitive because we move repetitively, and that’s why the great players are great, because even when there’s pressure when all that they’re still going to make a shot because they practice it thousands of hundreds of thousands of times that they practiced, that even when they mentally aren’t there, their body just naturally does it.
And that’s the state we want to be in. And so repetition is the key to success. And so when we talk about practice or talk about training overall, not over speaking over talking that information, we can only take so many notes. We have to act, we have to physically do it. And from a basketball standpoint, we have to continue to do it and put the hours in doing it.
And you know what, it’s going to be disappointing. It’s going to look like, ah, when you first do it and you have to let them work through mistakes. And I think that what they don’t show on this show is how we progress and how bad we look at the beginning. And how I allow them to keep working through mistakes and I don’t talk all the time.
I just let them go and let them go. Let them make a mistake. And then as they’re going, guess what? They made a mistake. But I didn’t stop and kill the momentum. You can’t always stop and kill the momentum just because one person made a mistake, kill the momentum for everybody else who’s making progress.
You can’t stop progress. That guy now has to come on. Let’s go. And then there are times where we stop, because guess what? You can get lost in boredom. So now we gotta stop and wake them back up. And now we do have to have a dialogue, but for the most part, it’s boom, boom. I call it a heartbeat.
Your practice has to move in a heartbeat. Boom, boom, boom, go, go, go, go before they’re bored, next drill. And so how do I keep them there? And I think even more so in the space that I’m in, because they’re so easily distracted, they have the attention deficit issues.
And so you got to go and keep them excited. I’m running off the wall because I got to make him say, whoa, this dude, and then next, whoa, he’s crazy. And it was like, okay, let me start picking my nose again. But before they can pick their nose, they’re like, oh, next, what do we do next?
So you gotta keep them stimulated as well. And that’s how we are in our society with all the social media. I mean, I just got on social media, and I’m looking at this crap and I’m like, oh my gosh, you literally can lose a day in social media. It is literally a necessary evil.
You can lose a day. You can lose an hour. If I’ve put this thing on right after I started talking to you, I can probably lose an hour in the day. So that level of stimulation that we’re getting from our social media that has gotten, we have to now move to that same level, we gotta figure out how we can stimulate the group to move like this? Boom, boom, boom. How can we stimulate that group? How can we go? Like this? Keep them engaged. Unfortunately, that’s what we’re dealing with. That’s what we’re dealing with.
Sam: I think there’s a lot in there that anybody in business can take. Because you think about how so many employee trainings and onboardings are, they lock you in a room and make you watch videos for eight hours. That is the polar opposite of the experience that you just described.
John: And it doesn’t take away from your fundamentals, the fundamentals of business, the fundamentals of basketball, you still teach. It’s just, what package do you put the teaching in.
Sam: Talent leaders to their future leaders, kind of the leader after you, that’s going to be coaching and mentoring them, what advice do you have for them? As they pick up so many young men that you’ve coached and have now the responsibility that you had and kind of carry the torch.
John: I think in order to get any group of people, young men, individuals, coworkers to buy into the vision, to buy into what it takes, I think you’ve got to care and serve. I think you’ve got to care and you have to serve. And that’s a part of the responsibility. I think that’s a part of the job. And I think that’s a part of the work and that may be the most important work. That just may be the most important work.
Sometimes we’re so consumed with ourselves that we want to hear ourselves talk. We want to hear ourselves teach. We want to hear ourselves show them how to do it. I know it all. When all you really have to do is you just serve them and care about them. When they walk through the door, everything’s busy, everything’s intense.
You know what really feels good is when you’re approached and you know that there’s a workspace that you have to go into, but before you can go into that workspace, there is someone who’s the perceived leader. They say, John, how are you doing, man? Hey, how was your daughter’s softball game? Remember?
And I’m like, oh, now I’m excited. Oh yeah. Yeah, she did well and now I’m excited. That’s great. Yeah, your daughter’s going to be great. Hey, you’re doing a good job with your daughter. Right there, I’m hooked. I’m hooked right there. And I’m not saying it as a trick or a clever way, I’m saying no, sincerely care.
Sincerely, that’s where the trust comes in. And that’s where the buy-in comes in is when you sincerely care, you gotta invest an interest because if I know that means something to you, and I’m asking you about your daughter, and now I’m trying to work around. I’m trying to work around how you can be successful and still have your daughter in your life, your daughter is still important, I’m not trying to just pull you away from all that.
Like, no, I believe that, but if you do that, if you care, you have a vested interest in others than the dream is easy to be sold. And we all have experienced that when we’ve been asked, when we’ve been made to feel good, like, Hey man, you’re looking good, it looks like you’ve lost weight. You look great, man.
That has always given direction, right? Hey, you need to lose weight and you’ll be great. I don’t want to hear that. How about man, you look awesome, man. You look good. Looking good. Hey, even if you don’t, you’re great.
And now guess what they’re going to ask, Hey, what can I do? Well, you know, what you could do is possibly lose weight. So just investing in others, caring, serving others, I think you’ll get anybody who’s working under you, so to speak, to respond. Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Sam: It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for taking time.
Topics Discussed: Sports, Coaching, Psychology, Repetition, Practice, Adversity
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