New coach plans to turn team around, starting with turnovers
Brett Isaacson, the new Park City High School girls varsity basketball coach, has never seen the team play live, but he knows he has his work cut out for him: last year, the team won a single game.
“But I’d love to be .500 in the league,” Isaacson said. “Will it happen? I have no idea. I’ve only seen film, so it’s hard to say until I really start working with them.”
However, he has seen a lot of film. The 39-year-old Washington, D.C. native plans on watching every Miners turnover recorded last season — all 511 of them. So far, he has watched around 140. Isaacson said he is looking for trends – anything that the team can improve upon that doesn’t require years of skills training, which is important for a team without a strong youth program.
In the longterm, Isaacson wants to build that youth program, but for the upcoming season, he is focusing on a single word: competitiveness.
“Forgetting wins and losses to start: how are we going to make them competitive?” Isaacson said. “Like, fourth quarter, four minutes left, and they’re in the game. Now, it’s a lot harder to close a game, but the first step is you gotta be in the game.”
For starters, Isaacson hopes to cut turnovers in half, reducing the team’s offensive turnover percentage down from 36 to 18. The Miners will also work on communication – “everyone can learn how to talk,” Isaacson said – plus positioning and ball fakes. And because the Miners were outshot by 400 field goal attempts last season, the team will also practice taking a shot during every possession.
“Just an attempt,” Isaacson said. “We’re not even trying to make it yet, we’re just trying to get the ball out there.”
He is confident the team can make these changes — he said the film and stats that former coach Sam White collected also show the players’ tenacity, though their effort was undermined by inexperience.
Isaacson said that, as a scrappy player himself, he is excited to develop a hard working team.
“We’re going to grind and grind and grind and annoy the crap out of the other teams,” he said. “I was never a great shooter, but I would say I was pretty annoying to play against.”
Isaacson has spent a lot of time around basketball, befitting a D.C. native. He grew up in Maryland, where he played three years on the Bullis Bulldogs’ varsity team, a private school in Potomac. He attended regular NCAA Tournament contender University of Wisconsin-Madison, and made what he described as a “feeble attempt” at a walk-on, before following the Badgers from the grandstands.
After graduation, Isaacson traveled the country,spent a couple years in Chile teaching social studies at an international school, then returned to Maryland and began working for One on One Basketball, Inc., — a company that provides basketball instruction — where he ran clinics, camps and leagues. Eventually he became the company’s regional director for Maryland and D.C.
“I was (coaching) preschool all the way up to high school kids,” he said. “A skills clinic would be 12 kids; an after school program could be 40. I’ve ran leagues with more than 100 kids.”
After five years in that role, Isaacson and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Vanessa, packed up an RV and convinced the management at One on One to let them travel around North America running clinics. Five months later, a friend recommended Isaacson come visit Park City.
Isaacson said he and his girlfriend thought, “Let’s just be ski bums for a winter,” so he put in an application to be a snowboard instructor with Canyons Resort, got the job, and came to town for what they thought would be one winter.
“Long story short, winter ends, then we had to stay for summer,” he said. “Then we were hooked.”
Their plans to move to Austin, Texas, after Park City, started to look less appealing.
“We kept looking at the temperature in Austin, and it was like, ‘do we really want to live there?’” Isaacson said.
Instead, the couple stayed in Park City and Isaacson kept working for One on One, occasionally running camps around the West while picking up extra work as a property manager through a friend and coaching a girls basketball team at Basin Recreation.
During the winter of 2014-2015, he contacted then-Park City High School boys varsity coach Caleb Fine and started working as an assistant coach. He coached the freshman boys team for two years, and recently left One on One to start his own company, Jump Stop Academy, which will teach basketball to kindergarteners through eighth graders.
“Basketball’s been good to me,” he said. “I’m at the point where — I’m turning 40 this summer — I love coaching no matter what the age group, but I was like, ‘Yeah it’s time to coach a varsity team.’”
Isaacson wants to see how his own ideas play out on the court, and said with a team to build, it’s a good time to try different options.
He recommended that girls interested in playing come to team meetings and join in after school strength and conditioning practices run by boys varsity coach Mike Doleac.
Isaacson said he is a fan of players that play hard and become a “star of their role,” meaning players don’t try to do everything for the team, but stick to what they are best at.
But effort is key.
“You shouldn’t ever have to coach effort,” he said.
If all goes well, the team will be the strong defensive team that Isaacson has envisioned.
But first, there are a lot of small things to work on.
“We’re going to be working on a lot of ball fakes,” he said, returning to one of his favorite topics: Xs and Os. “That’s going to be one of our rules: if they catch it and don’t have a driving or passing lane, it’s gotta be a ball fake. We’ll go from there.”
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