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Eric Reveno - Portland Pilots

Eric Reveno, took over as University of Portland’s men’s basketball head coach in April, 2006, becoming the 20thcoach in Pilot history. He previously served nine successful seasons as an assistant coach at Stanford. Reveno has had remarkable results building up the Pilots basketball team since he took on the head coach job. Reveno led the Pilots to a 21-11 record and second consecutive postseason appearance. The 21 wins matched a school record and the Pilots earned a top 25 ranking in the Associated Press Poll for the first time in 50 years.

Head coach of University of Portland men's basketball team

An imposing 6-foot, 8 inch figure, Reveno commands respect not with mere presence, but with his passion for, and teaching of, a disciplined style of play. Himself a post player for the Cardinals in the late 80’s under both Tom Davis, and Mike Montgomery, Reveno was described as a fierce competitor on the court. After graduating from Stanford in 1989, he spent four years playing professional basketball in Japan. He returned to Stanford and obtained his M.B.A.

SZ: Coach Reveno you played a major role on the Stanford men’s basketball team as a starting center in the 80’s. Years later you became an associate head coach at Stanford. What awareness/ideas from your previous playing/coaching days made an impression on you regarding the importance and structure of a team’s culture?

Coach Reveno: The most important thing I learned from my playing days at Stanford was the value of productive conflict.  The team I played on had the ability to confront each other with honest communication and move forward and grow.  As a coach, I am cautious when I see a team that always “gets along”.  Like any family, team working so hard together is going to have conflict.  We try to make sure that team members are always respectful of each other and that the goals of the team are always the top priority.    From this culture of honest communication, growth as a team can take place.

SZ: Since becoming the Head Coach of the Portland Pilots you’ve been recognized as a leader in the use of sport performance analysis technology. What types of technology do you utilize with the players in teaching player development? In what ways is this technology useful to you as a coach and for the player’s?

Coach Reveno: Digital video is the most valuable teaching tool that we use on a daily basis.   It starts with digitally capturing all of practice and games including individual player footage.  From there we log the video either from a team strategy or individual skill development perspective.  The objective here is to have the video log based on how you will use it to teach.  Sometimes it may be something like the ability to watch all of a player’s turnovers of missed shots.  We try to tailor how we use the video based on what the player needs.  Not what the technology allows us to do.  Therefore, we are always trying to be more creative in what we watch and how we watch.  We email clips, put video on in the locker room, post it on a server they can access and have individual meetings.   Each player has different areas to focus on and different ways in which they learn so we try to adapt to them.

SZ: Prior to beginning your career as a basketball coach you completed your M.B.A. In what ways was attending business school useful in preparing you for your future as a head coach?

Coach Reveno: The most fundamental way business school helped prepare e to be a head coach is it teaches how to run a business.  A Division 1 basketball program has all the challenges of a small business ranging from human resources to marketing to managing budgets.  All the nuts and bolts of a small business exist for a college basketball coach.  However, I think the most valuable lessons from business school had to do with defining and solving organizational problems. The training in strategic planning and market positioning are just examples of areas that take advantage of classic MBA training.

SZ: You’ve mentioned your passion for the game and look for this quality in your coaching staff. What are the signature qualities you look for in a staff member who fits your definition of “has a passion for the game?” How do these qualities add to the continued success of your program?

Coach Reveno: I think you have to be what Jim Collins calls “functionally neurotic” in the sense that you are truly driven to be the best you can be.  No little element is too small to correct if it will help you be the best coach you can be.  That approach is contagious and serves as an example for the players.  You also have to be hard-wired to believe that truly great things can really only be achieved with teamwork.

SZ: Some of the preparation for the team season involves, players embracing the team culture, physical training, technological analysis, does the team practice mental performance tools or do the above mentioned items create the foundation of mental conditioning?

Game time for Portland Pilots

Coach Reveno: Unfortunately, we do not consistently do mental training exercises.  We consciously work to establish pre-practice and pre-game routines and are very aware of the power of the language we use when teaching but I believe we could take it another step.  Part of the constraint has been time and the inability to adequately individualize it based on players needs given both time and expertise constraints.

SZ: You became head coach of the Pilots in 2006 and your leadership gave the program an immediate burst of success that has continued. It’s just as important for the coaches to be in shape mentally as it is for the players. What are some things you do to keep yourself fresh mentally season after season?

Coach Reveno: The thing I do the most consistently is study other coaches, either by going to clinics, reading books or watching games and practices.  Things do not get stale because I feel I can always be improving as a coach.  In addition, I strongly believe you need to adjust to each team each season and also be constantly adjusting to what each team needs throughout the season.  Therefore, no two practices are ever the same.  What a team needs on any given day to help achieve its goals is truly unique and you are always in search of that “perfect” practice plan

SZ: Do you have a favorite inspirational quote, story that has guided you on your professional path?

Coach Reveno: I love quotes.  Well thought out ideas that help guide us daily.  My favorite is the poem by Rudyard Kipling “If”  It seems to cover it all.

IF you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Coach Reveno, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule for this interview. Congratulations on another great basketball season.

(Guest interviews are not former nor present clients of Susan Zaro)

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