In basketball, much attention is paid to the players, and rightfully so. But watching a good coaching duel develop can be like watching a work of art being created in front of you.
TheDribbleDrop has always appreciated all facets of the game and will be linking with a distinguished high school basketball coaches every week to discuss the ins and outs of the game and what happens in-between the lines.
This week, we linked with Manasquan Girls Basketball Head coach Lisa Kukoda. Due to her stellar performance during the 2015-2016 season, Kukoda won NJ.com Coach Of The Year award. During our sitdown, Kukoda discusses the blueprint to a successful offense, getting players to buy in on defense, managing relationships with players and parents and more.
By Christian Mordi / @thedribbledrop on IG and Twitter
TheDribbleDrop: Coach for those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about your coaching background.
Coach Lisa Kukoda: I played high school ball for Red Bank Catholic. After I graduated from college, I came back as an assistant coach at RBC under coach Joe Montano. I coached RBC for four years. From there, I took the head coach job here at Manasquan. I have been here for six years.
TheDribbleDrop: If you were use one word to describe your coaching style, what would it be and why?
Coach Kukoda: Energetic. I think I’m demanding in certain aspects, but I’m very active in practice and on the sidelines during a game when I’m coaching.
TheDribbleDrop: Offensively, what is your ideal style of play? Do you prefer a free flowing, fast paced transition game, or a more detailed and structured offensive approach.
Coach Kukoda: I would say a bit of a mixture of both. Our offensive sets provide discipline and structure. They also allow our players to make reads and plays based on what they see. We want our players to make decisions within the structure of the offense.
TheDribbleDrop: In the half court, do you prefer a "less structure is more" approach, or do you prefer a more layered offensive approach?
Coach Kukoda: Similar to my coaching style, we like to play a high energy game. A lot of work is done in the preseason in practice to prepare the players. I want them comfortable playing my style in any environment. That starts in practice. Lots of competitive drills. A lot of high intensity defensive drills. We also mesh in the conditioning so that the players are prepared to play at the pace that we want for the full duration of a game
TheDribbleDrop: Tell us a bit about the environment in practice and some things you highlight every day.
Coach Kukoda: We normally start with a skill developing drill as a warm up. We then build up to transition drills and focus on reads. We also spend time everyday on our man to man defense.
We also spend a lot of time on our offensive sets and offensive reads. We spend a lot of time in practice breaking down things and helping them see and choose the right reads we want them to make in spots.
TheDribbleDrop: You have standout guard Dara Mabrey. Tell us a bit about her game. What are some things you do to free him up?
Coach Kukoda: Dara is a special player. We have a great relationship. We are able to talk through things and she’s great at evaluating situations. A big thing with her is giving her a bit of freedom in those moments to make the right decisions. We allow her to be the creator, whether that is setting something up for herself or for her teammates. I think she’s done a great job creating for us by using right read in the right moment.
TheDribbleDrop: Tell us a bit about Faith Masonius. I’ve heard good things about her expanding her game offensively.
Coach Kukoda: Faith is a very smart player. She is very smooth around the basket, yet also has the ability to create away from the rim at a high level as well. She can hit the outside shot and can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. She’s also a great passer, which adds another element to her game. I see a player that has next level talent and is ready to takeover.
TheDribbleDrop: What piece of advice would you give a new coach?
Coach Kukoda: Understand your players. I think each player is different in the way that they need to be coached. If you don’t have that coach-player relationship it shows on the court. I focus on that and try to make a strong connection with all of our players. I coach all of them a little bit different when needed to get the most out of them on the floor.
TheDribbleDrop: How do you gauge success at Manasquan?
Coach Kukoda: We have been very fortunate to have some pretty talented next level players come to our school, which has translated to success on the court. The biggest thing when we walk away from the game is: Did we play hard? Did we play together? I think when we do those things the game often ends in our favor.