Meil, a 1982 graduate of Lehigh, began his coaching carreer on college level at Towson University. He also coached at the University of Miami in Florida, Wagner College in New York, and again at Towson University.
This summer he signed a one-year deal with Stepco BSW and after more than half a season, it looks as if he is the right man to lead Stepco BSW out of their long funk.
After some struggles this season, the team reached the FinalFour of the Dutch Cup Tuesday night, beating the high favourite GasTerra Flames.
In this EuroBasket.com interview, Meil said his team now has the confidence it needs to continue.
Jim, what were some of the reasons you felt that Stepco BSW was a good fit for your coaching skills?
I had been to Weert to see a former player of mine Mark Porter who was on the team during the 2009-2010 season. I got a chance to see the city, meet some of the people in the organization, and watch 2 of their league games. As I went through the interview process last summer it felt like the qualities they were looking for in a Head Coach were some of the characteristics that I possessed. Also I thought they were looking for someone who would implement a system of play that would help the team develop.
You guys started practice end of August. Whats the biggest difference you see from then to now?
I think our players are getting better adjusting to the style of play that I would like them to play. Their attention to detail is much better along with their level of intensity. As you know we had some recent injuries to Demario Anderson and Kenneth van Kempen that impacted our team. Also the arrival of Rahmon Fletcher has changed our style a bit. So you could say in some respects we are still making some adjustments.
You have talked about wanting to take the team to a level of competitiveness when you first got here.
Now that you have established a certain level, how do you take it to a playoff level?
I think as the season gets to this point there is quite a high level of familiarity teams have with each other and players have with each other. So I think it comes down to keeping the right mental approach along with paying attention to details. Small things can make a big difference in a game.
Stepco BSW has struggled in recent years in DBL play. What does your team need to do to improve on its showing in the league?
We must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of having ‘average expectations’ during the season. Everyone must strive to compete at the highest level each day. Certainly we must also continue to improve technically on the floor. That goes without saying. Staying relatively injury free also makes a big difference. Lastly we must continue to improve the infra-structure of the organization.
Wins and losses are always used to measure success in sports, but what do you look for, besides wins, to gauge your teams growth?
I think you look at the individual development of each player. Are they playing to their maximum potential given their talent level. Additionally, what type of mistakes are you making in games and are you eliminating them more and more each game. Good teams put together extended minutes of quality play in each game. This should then carry over from game to game.
As a coach what goes through your head after a loss?
First I always look at the game and analyze what I did as a coach. Such things as game preparation, substitutions, offense and defense play calls are just a few examples. I also try and analyze the mid set of our team and players. How was it before, during, and after the game. Lastly I take a look at what the opponent did and see how that impacted us.
I described you as ‘compassionate and passionate’ which I think is an amazing combination. Very powerful. Could you possibly describe your style of leadership?
I would say my leadership style is direct and to the point. I don’t think players have a hard time figuring out what I mean or where I am coming from. I tend to be more positive than negative. Additionally I try and remain on an even emotional level regardless of the outcome. Over the course of a season there are many highs and lows so I think its important to provide stability to the players.
Who are your role models in coaching and why?
I have been fortunate to have many role models in my coaching career. Many I have worked with and some I have just gotten to know from being in the business since 1982. All of these people have MANY great characteristics besides what I mention below. To name a few:
A) Pat Kennedy – Former coach of Towson University and Florida State – I worked with him at Towson – for his ability to see how a total program should run
B) Mike Deane – I worked with him at Wagner College – for his technical knowledge
C) Dereck Whittenburg – I worked with him at Wagner College; he was part of the NC State National Championship Team – for his passion and his attention to how to build a team out of a group of individuals.
D) Leonard Hamiliton – Current Head Coach at Florida State – I worked with him at the University of Miami – for his ability to develop players both on and off the court to the maximum. Also for his unbelievable work ethic.
E) Brian Hill – Current Assistant Coach with the Detroit Pistons – He was my college coach at Lehigh University – He game me a chance to begin my coaching career while I was in college. He was always in control no matter how stressful things became. That made a great impression on me.
F) Terry Truax – Former Head Coach of Towson University – He was the first college coach I worked for. He taught me to keep pushing as a coach no matter what takes place.
And who outside of sports do you draw inspiration from?
Without question my Mom and Dad. Both have always been there for me no matter what they were dealing with on a personal level. They are both very caring people who also have great determination in their own lives. Additionally I have great respect for people in general who are able to stay in their chosen profession for a long period of time and have success.
How has coaching affected your life?
In a large part I would say coaching has been my life. As most coaches will tell you it is a 24 hour a day job all the time. You don’t ‘leave it at the office.’ Also I have had a chance to work with a tremendous number of young people who have impacted me greatly.
Why is basketball different than other sport?
Basketball combines a certain degree of individuality along with a great sense of team play. I think it is very interesting to allow some of the individuality to come through without taking away from the team concept.
Do you think players spend less time learning the fundamentals than they should these days because they are all trying to do the flashy stuff they see the superstars doing?
I think that is the case. But perhaps that is due in some part because there seems to be a higher level of reward or recognition by the general public for the flashy things.
What are the main characterises you see in all good players?
Obviously they all have a certain level of talent. But with that comes the work ethic and attention to detail that makes them great. Additionally most great players have a high level of mental concentration and focus that helps raise their game. Also I see more and more great players having the ability to take constructive criticism to improve their game. This helps them when they self-analyze.
Speaking of the next few years, what do you have for goals for the coming year and for the five years after that?
I would obviously like to continue my career as a Head Coach and develop players and win games. This season coaching in Holland and specifically Weert has been very enjoyable. The coaching profession is very unpredictable and who knows what the future will hold. So I plan to take things season by season.
Jim, Thanks for your time doing this interview and wish you and the team a lot of success at the FinalFour.