NABC Insider goes one-on-one with basketball coaches and administrators at every level of the sport. Today's feature is Lamar Director of Basketball Operations Tommy Strine.
Why did you become a coach?
“To be honest, it was kind of out my control. I got hurt after my freshman year of playing at Anderson University in Indiana, and during rehab started working in the AAU scene with Spiece Indy Heat. With full intent of going back and playing, I started coaching in the summer of 2010 and started to fall in love with it. During rehab, I got hurt again and was going to have to miss a full season, so I stuck around Fort Wayne. As I started to coach more, I found that it was becoming my passion and I stuck to it.”
Who are your most influential mentors, and what have you learned from them?
“This is an endless list, as every coach, manager and player I have worked with has influenced me in some way. However, Kim Lewis at Mercer University is someone that took me under his wing. I worked with Kim at the University of Richmond during my first year in coaching as a video coordinator. Kim and I talk every day, and not always about basketball. When considering what I have learned from him, two things come to mind: loyalty and family. Being loyal to your inner circle is so important in this business, and when you are loyal to them, you are family to them. Kim has been such a positive influence on my life inside and outside of basketball.”
What was the transition from high school coach to a college staff like?
“The transition was actually pretty smooth. Being in the AAU scene gave me a little bit of an advantage, as I was around college coaches a lot and saw a lot of high-level players. It also allowed to me develop a multitude of relationships with AAU and high school coaches across the country. Working with James Blackmon and his son at a prestigious high school in Indiana like Marion also had its advantages, as I was not only able to learn from a great person, but work with a player like James Blackmon, Jr.”
“All of this helped with my transition simply because I wore so many hats and had so many different responsibilities at the AAU and high school level. Being able to juggle so many different tasks while working at these places helped me be able to take on any task that I was asked in administrative roles, and really helped shaped me with attributes that maybe were not my strong suits.”
What are your ultimate career goals?
“Eventually becoming a great on-court assistant and eventually a head coach. My first college boss, Ricky Yahn at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, gave me my best piece of advice: to bloom where I am planted. So currently, my ultimate goal is to be the best teammate, co-worker and friend that I can be to people I work with. That will ultimately help me reach my career goals.”
What impact do you hope to have on the student-athletes in your program?
“I hope for them to know that I truly do care about them. I am a believer in relationships. I want to make sure that student-athletes I come in contact with know that I care about them in all aspects. It is awesome to me when a former player reaches out to congratulate me on a new job, or tells me about their new job. It means even more when they write me on Twitter or text me to just say thank you. As I am getting older and my former players are growing up, this has happened more, and I am starting to see the fruits of my labor.”
You serve on the NABC Assistant Coaches Committee. What made you want to get involved on the national level?
“I was approached by Ken Dempsey, who serves as the chair of the committee. I built a relationship with Ken while he was at New Hampshire and I was at American. I wrote Ken a letter telling him it was nice to meet him when we played at their place in 2015. Over time we built a relationship, and when I took the job at Cleveland State, he needed a Horizon League rep and asked me to be involved. Now that I am at Lamar, I serve as the Southland rep and really enjoy the fellowship and discussion amongst the committee.”
What advice would you give to young coaches just starting out in the profession?
“Bloom where you are planted. I have really struggled with this over the course of my career, as I see some guys moving up quicker than I am. It is a fine line between becoming complacent and striving for your dreams. Ultimately, you must find your balance of doing a great job of where you’re at, while also positioning yourself to pursue your dream. Being great at your current role helps you achieve your goals.”
“Surround yourself with the right people and keep your circle small. When I first started out, I thought the more people I knew the better off I was. While there is some truth to that, genuine relationships are more important in this business than forced ones. Have a small circle of people that value you and your opinions, and vice versa. Find people that hold you accountable not only in basketball, but in life.”