Coaches Corner: Stan Waterman
Stan Waterman is the head boys basketball coach at Sanford School in Delaware who has five times been tabbed to serve as a USA Basketball coach.
He was named as an assistant coach for the 2020 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team (which did not compete due to the worldwide pandemic), and he was an assistant coach for the 2019 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team, which he helped to a 93-87 win over the World Select, in Portland, Oregon. He also has served as a court coach at the 2018 USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team October Minicamp, and he was a gold medal winning assistant coach for the 2018 USA Men’s U17 World Cup Team and the 2017 USA Men's U16 National Team.
Waterman currently is in his 30th season (1991-92 to present) as the boys basketball head coach at Sanford School, where he has been the dean of students since 1993 and also is the assistant athletic director.
In 2019-20, Waterman led Sanford to a 20-3 record and the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association state semifinals before the season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018-19, Waterman guided Sanford to a 20-4 record and a state title – his seventh state championship overall.
USA Basketball spoke with Waterman to get his insight and perspective on coaching.
What things do you try to accomplish in the preseason?
I always say to my guys that the offseason is the time for individual improvement. So, we end the season with a sort of a closeout meeting, and we identify some things they need to work on in preparation for the upcoming season. So then when you come back, you are really just trying to assess how much they've grown, where the skill level is and just really an assessment of where they are. And, I think you have to always focus on conditioning in the preseason and strengthening. Strength and conditioning is always a focus.
Every season, you have some philosophy, some offensive philosophies and defensive philosophies that you stick with from year to year. So, when you're trying to assess what they bring to the table in terms of skill level and talent ability, it's helpful to know that, so you can make adjustments to those philosophies.
What do you wish you knew about coaching when you first started out?
Well, I started so young and thinking coaching was really all about X's and O's and running offenses and strategies and things like that. But, I’ve learned there is so much more in terms of understanding personalities, and building relationships, and trust and all those other things. I think the mental aspect of the game that comes with it is so important.
What is the most important characteristic you work to develop in your athletes?
I think it all starts with a work ethic. Obviously, when you get to the ability of a varsity high school player, or certainly at the USA Basketball level, you've already identified kids that are talented, and you know when you see a good or great basketball player. But, they have to have a strong work ethic. I think that's the most important characteristic – to be willing to work and to be able to be coached and have an interest in getting better. And that only comes through hard work.
To develop that, I think first of all, you try to surround them with that idea and you set the tone for your team. Let them know that is what is required of everybody, from the most talented to the least talented, that they all bring the same work ethic, and that your team is only going to be as strong as your weakest player. So, everybody has to bring that mentality to the table.
Is there one overall offensive principle you think is most important?
I would say one of the most important offensively principles is to always be aggressive. No matter what kind of offense you're running, you have to be aggressive and be on the attack. Otherwise, the defense picks up on that, and then you become passive and they attack you. So, no matter what you're doing, always be aggressive and be thinking of ways to score the basketball and put pressure on the defense.