Coaching Resource: Steve Prohm – Player Relationships

Associated Press (

Instead of trying to come up with the answer on his own, Prohm has turned to his biggest star, the Iowa State senior Georges Niang, for help.

Prohm has taken the unorthodox step of inviting Niang into his office for biweekly, private chats about the seventh-ranked Cyclones — some lasting as long as 90 minutes — in an effort to fully connect with the team that Fred Hoiberg left behind when he became coach of the Chicago Bulls.

“He’s won a lot of games,” Prohm said of Niang. “He’s a senior. He’s a leader. He’s a captain. He’s earned that opportunity.”

Still, it is unusual to see a college coach turn to a single player for advice multiple times a week — and nearly every day through texts.

Prohm quickly realized that changing things did not make much sense when he arrived from Murray State after piling up a 104-29 record over four seasons running a fast-paced, high-scoring offense. But Prohm also knew that he would not get anywhere if the Iowa State veterans did not follow his lead.

Prohm thought back to Bob Huggins during his first year at West Virginia, when Huggins had his seniors install his preferred 1-3-1 pressure defense as a way to build team unity.

Using that for inspiration, Prohm has made Niang a de facto liaison between the coaching staff and the players as they prepare for the season-opener Friday against Colorado.

At the heart of Niang and Prohm’s private talks is a shared desire to take the up-tempo offense Iowa State ran so well under Hoiberg and marry it with Prohm’s desire for more defensive toughness.

“I think it’s actually super cool that you have a coach that has no ego and really wants to sit down and understand what’s going through your mind,” Niang said.

“He makes you continue to keep thinking, keep probing, keep trying to find different things to challenge him,” Prohm said. “Great feel for the game. Great understanding of the game and how to make people better. I just think he’s a special player, and I’m fortunate to be able to coach him.”

Though Niang and Prohm’s talks typically revolve around basketball, they often expand to issues beyond the game. Niang said he had frequently lost track of time while in Prohm’s office, a place where Niang has found a mentor.

Niang said: “He’s always constantly like: ‘Forget this. Forget that. I just want to have a great year for you seniors and really send you off right.’ ”

He added: “They could have brought in anyone that said: ‘Forget what you’re talking about. I need to run a program. I don’t care what you think.’ For him to put that aside and want the best for us, that really just speaks volumes about his character, and that’s obviously a person I want to be around for the rest of my life.”

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