Rashard Griffith finds his footing in the first season as Middleton coach

MIDDLETON — Senior guard Audrey Deptula was a part of the interview committee that scrutinized candidates for the vacant Middleton women basketball teaching job.

Deptula was impressed by Rashard Griffith’s power and basketball information.

She was unhappy to see longtime coach Jeff Kind step down. But Deptula has been excited to play this season for the 6-foot-11 Griffith, the former University of Wisconsin males’s basketball standout who was chosen to exchange Kind, a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

“He’s a teddy bear,” mentioned the 6-1 Deptula, a Loyola Chicago commit. “He’s very candy. He’s onerous once we want it after which offers us a hug once we want it. He’s the best-of-both-worlds form of factor.”

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This is the 48-year-old Griffith’s first enterprise into being a highschool coach and operating a program, after serving as a mentor and dealing to coach basketball gamers.

“I’m beginning to acquire my footing,” he mentioned. “My operating is getting stronger and stronger.”

Griffith mentioned he coached AAU groups and gamers in Chicago and abroad. He additionally served as a mentor to UW males’s basketball gamers, notably massive males in Badgers coach Greg Gard’s program.

Griffith acknowledged the studying curve he is experiencing as a highschool coach.

“It’s a course of,” he mentioned. “I’m in my first yr with them, making an attempt to vary the tradition, placing in a system, getting everybody to purchase in. That’s the key. We are on the proper path.

“There is a studying curve, not only for them, however for me. I used to be a coach and a mentor, so I wasn’t actually a coach. So, that is new to me. But it is like I’ve 17 daughters. I’ve one organic daughter (amongst three kids). They are good women; they work onerous.”

The Cardinals are 7-7 and 7-4 in the Big Eight Conference (tied for fourth place) coming into a sport Thursday evening at Sun Prairie East.

That, after Deptula scored 39 factors in main Middleton to a 78-47 victory over Madison Memorial at the Big Eight’s Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase Saturday evening in Verona.

“He’s nice,” mentioned Middleton junior Mackenzie Zimmerman, a 5-10 publish participant. “It’s nice as a result of, clearly, he is aware of the sport rather well. He can educate us that and maintain us accountable. But it is like he is at all times there for us exterior basketball as nicely. So, he is an ideal coach and individual to have in our lives.”

Developing college students, athletes

Griffith mentioned he is not simply centered on the gamers’ basketball growth. He mentioned he desires the workforce to attempt to be all-state academically and the women to develop as people.

“When it is time to observe, when it is time to play, we give attention to that,” Griffith mentioned after a latest observe and movie session at the highschool. “In between that, they’re younger women. They are looking for out who they’re.

“Part of my job is to attempt to assist them discover out who they’re and the place they match in this world we stay in and make them a greater individual. … If I can assist them in any approach to achieve success or accomplish their goals, that is what I need.”

Griffith, a Chicago native, performed at UW from 1993-95 and have become an All-Big Ten Conference performer.

Michael Finley, Tracy Webster and Griffith, throughout his freshman season, helped lead the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament in 1994 — UW’s first NCAA look since 1947. Griffith was drafted in the second spherical by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1995, however didn’t signal with the workforce and wound up enjoying abroad for 15 years, together with in Turkey, Italy, Israel, Spain and Romania.

“Basketball has opened many doorways for me all through my life and I need the similar alternatives for my women,” he mentioned.

However, he mentioned he actually hasn’t talked to his workforce about his basketball profession.

“I need them to get to know me,” Griffith mentioned.

Basketball IQ

The gamers aren’t in the darkish about his basketball enjoying days, though it may be their dad and mom who know extra about Griffith. He was puzzled at first when one participant informed him, “You’re in my basement,” previous to studying his father has a photograph of Griffith from his UW enjoying days on a wall at their home.

“My dad and mom have been very excited, for positive,” Zimmerman mentioned about Griffith being named Middleton’s coach. “He has such a excessive basketball IQ. For `Aud’ (Audrey Deptula) going into faculty subsequent yr or if any of our different teammates have been pondering of enjoying in faculty, figuring out that he has that have and has that underneath his belt can also be superior. He may be very keen to take any of us to the subsequent step, if we need to.”

Griffith mentioned he watches a variety of movie and talks to coaches he is aware of. That consists of his former UW coaches Stu Jackson and Stan Van Gundy, and Gard and his UW workers, together with Joe Krabbenhoft, Dean Oliver and Sharif Chambliss. Oliver’s son, Isaiah Oliver, is a freshman guard on the second-ranked Middleton boys basketball workforce.

“I’m in contact with my coaches,” Griffith mentioned. “They assist me out.”

The Cardinals are studying Griffith’s system, which Deptula mentioned options extra performs on offense than final yr mixed with a variety of motion, slicing and passing, and a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses.

“Right now, I believe we’re figuring issues out,” mentioned Deptula, a captain with Zimmerman and senior Addy Gmur. “At the starting, we have been younger and inexperienced. But getting extra reps and video games will assist us out.”

Said Zimmerman: “We are a younger workforce and I really feel like we’ve got a variety of items and we are attempting to place all of them collectively. … But I believe we’re doing fairly nicely at (that) proper now.”

Making changes

Griffith mentioned he tries to regulate to his personnel.

“The coaches that I’ve had, they’ve a system in place, however the system is ever-evolving as a result of yearly your personnel modifications,” he mentioned. “You might need one or two ‘Alphas’ (one season), however generally you won’t have the Alpha A and B, however you’ve got a strong workforce. You have to regulate to that.”

Just like Griffith is adjusting to his first season as the Cardinals’ coach.

“It’s an attractive expertise,” he mentioned. “I’m having fun with it. I’m having fun with the course of. My complete enjoyment is to see them achieve success academically and to see them after they begin bettering in basketball and their ardour begins to develop and their confidence begins to develop.”

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