Germany Law Firm - Mississippi Scoreboard

By Billy Watkins

It intrigues me anytime a coach makes a habit of winning, especially in high school when players come and go but the victories continue to pile up.

What is his or her secret? What does he or she know that most other coaches do not? 

Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s Richard Duease is one of those coaches. He’s won more games than anyone in state history: 1,764.


Once again, his boys team is primed for a run at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools’ 6A state championship and an Overall Tournament title. The Patriots are 30-5 and champion of the Junior Orange Bowl Classic in Miami, played over the Christmas holidays.

They play the winner of Jackson Academy and Hartfield at JA Friday night at 6 in  the state tournament.

I asked Duease if he would share some of his coaching tips, things he’s learned and applied throughout his 47-year career. 

“They’re probably different in some ways than they might have been 10, 20 years ago,” Duease sad. “The game has changed, and I have changed with it.”

In no particular order:

The better your players are skill-wise, the more freedom you should give them.

“These kids today have played so much basketball, you have to allow them to use their talent and imagination. For instance, (junior) Josh Hubbard does things on the basketball court that no other player in MAIS history has done. He’s about to become the leading scorer in the history of the association and still has another year to play. I wouldn’t be a very smart coach if I didn’t allow him a certain amount of freedom.”

Every staff needs a “good cop” and a “bad cop.”

“That is part of making sure that your kids are coached hard but also encouraged. I’m the bad cop — the one that gets on them, drives them, pushes them to be better. To me, that’s part of being a head coach. But you also need an assistant coach to come behind you and talk to them. Ask them, ‘Do you understand what Coach is trying to tell you?’ And to also remind them ‘He’s just trying to make you better.’

Photo by Robert Smith

“All kids are different. Some are tough-minded and can handle you fussing. Others are more sensitive and need more encouragement. That’s why I say we shouldn’t be called coaches anymore. We’re more like doctors of psychology. We have to know what makes each kid tick, what buttons to push to get the most out of them. You have to know your players.”

Be creative in how you get your best players good shots — and connect that with playing great defense. 

“You can’t win many games anymore going down and setting up a play every possession. When we do, we see a lot of triangle and two (Hubbard and Harrison Alexander being guarded man to man with zone help from the other three defenders.) That can make it tough. So you have to outrun the other team some. Get those guys out on the fast break, let them create.  Get some easy buckets.

“And you have to get your team to understand that a running offense is created by great defense. You don’t get many fast breaks after made shots. We were playing somebody the other night and I told our guys, ‘Our offense is going to have a great night because we are going to shut them down on defense.’ And we did.

“Most of our players have been here since elementary school. They’ve heard for years how much we stress defense. But when they realize offense and defense go hand in hand, they’ll really work to defend.”

Use your non-conference schedule to play good teams.

“What good does it do for your team to play poor competition and build up a few wins? We call that ‘hiding.’ That’s not doing your players any good. You’re going to improve more when you play good teams, and that will help you in your conference games and when you get to the postseason.”

Don’t allow your players to face a situation in a game that they haven’t encountered in practice.

“You have to cover every situation that might come up, from beating a 1-3-1 full court press to a half-court trap to man to man … on and on. All that has to be covered before the first game — and covered well. I want our players to be confident that they know how to handle every situation.”

Talk frequently about your team’s goals for the season.

“We aren’t shy about that. Everything we do is aimed at getting us ready for the state and Overall tournaments. We have one goal, and that’s to win the Overall championship. 

Photo by Robert Smith

“Just the other day, I handed out a sheet with team stats and individual stats. I wanted them to see how we’re guarding as a team, how we’re shooting as a team. And I wanted them to see in black and white how they’re performing. Is each one doing enough to help us win Overall? I want them focused on that. I think it helps to remember what you’re playing for.”

Use losses as an opportunity to teach.

“This is one that I’ve really had to work on through the years. Losses eat me up. I get frustrated. One time, we had a 20-point lead and wound up getting beat. Well, that’s our fault. What happened? Did we lose our focus? Did we stop doing the little things that we’re supposed to do no matter what the score is? 

“I’ve come to realize that you sharpen your sword on losses if you’re willing to learn from them.”

Never stop learning.

“I’m nearly 70 years old and I’m still going to clinics, hoping to pick up on something that will make us better, make me better. I’m speaking at a clinic in Philadelphia (Pa.) this summer. One thing about basketball coaches is that we’re willing to share information. If another coach has a great idea, why not use it?

“I went to a coaching clinic in Memphis early in my career. A former NBA coach, Hubie Brown, was speaking, and I learned more in that one session than I learned in most of the other clinics put together. What he shared made me a much better coach, and I’m still trying to be a better coach.”