Talkin' with Trav: The difference between a good coach and a great one

By Travis Hansen

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18 2012 9:00 a.m. MST

Duda Ivkovic coached Travis Hansen during Hansen's professional career. Ivkovic, a legendary coach, made an immediate impression on Hansen and got Hansen to play great for him.

Travis Hansen

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These last few months have been one of the most rewarding times of my life.

My record to date is 1-6. Yes folks, that’s right, one win and six losses.

I am not playing for a team. I am coaching a team. Great record? No. But I am having fun. The biggest reward is watching the kids improve each practice and every game. From ball handling, passing, shooting and learning the fundamentals each child is improving. And that in itself is so exciting.

I wanted to coach my son, Ryder’s, third-grade team and give him and his teammates a head start learning the fundamentals of basketball. Our competition is fourth-graders due to the absence of a third-grade league. We have lost almost every game but I have seen tremendous improvement that comes from hard work and practice.

Recently, we lost by 30 points to a team from Mapleton. As my wife and I drove home to Orem we spoke about the game. We exchanged thoughts and ideas to improve my coaching and our team's play. I expressed my feelings about how upset I felt. With the determination I had I could have stayed up all night watching film and preparing a game plan that would help us improve.

A little crazy I know, because it is only third-grade basketball. But I hate losing. I hate it even more than I like winning.

That night as I laid in bed trying to fall asleep the question, “What is the difference between a good coach and great coach?” kept entering my mind. I began to reminisce about the coaches I have had in my life.

I have had many good coaches and a few great coaches throughout the 22 years I played organized basketball. I have played for a high school team that went 22-3, college teams that had great success and won conference championships, several European teams that have won cups and titles and even an NBA team that couldn’t make it to the playoffs.

In 2006, I signed with Dynamo Moscow in Russia. I played for a legendary coach named Duda Ivkovic. He was an old, wise man who had won many European championships. He was quiet, strong and looked like someone that could lead an army to battle. He was a natural leader.

I still remember the first words out of his mouth and more importantly the way he made me feel when he said them. He slowly walked up to me, put both hands on my face and told me, “I am so happy you signed with us. I love watching you play, you remind me of Drazen Petrovic." In that moment I felt important, that I had a big role to play and that he needed me. I felt instant loyalty and respect for the man and knew that I couldn’t let him down.

He gave off so much positive energy and got you to believe in yourself and think that you were better than you were. After winning the Eurocup, he hugged me, kissed me on my cheek and whispered, “I am happy because I believed you would win this old man a lot of games.” His kindness didn’t stop on the court but extended to travel from bus to planes, to his home for dinner and to every film session we ever had. He was a great coach and an even better person.

In 2008, I tore my Achilles tendon. I was playing a game against our arch-rival CSKA in Moscow, for whom former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko is currently playing. During the second quarter I was guarding former Duke star Trajan Langdon, when I jumped up to contest a shot and felt like someone had kicked me in the right calf. I fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes and knew it was bad.

After a trip to the hospital and an ultrasound I found out that I tore my Achilles tendon. I immediately flew back to Utah and had surgery. I began the rehab process and thanks to my physical therapist, Brett Mortensen, I was able to come back in less than six months.

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