695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
John Carroll's head coach Mike Blizzard agreed to answer some questions for 695Hoops. We chatted about his early days as a coach, his current gig at JC and his AAU experience as well.
695: Tell me about your coaching career...
Coach: Started in 1998 at Havre de Grace High School...spent 3 years there and took my lumps...Won my first game and should have quit then...I went 15-50 after that...tough being a 1A school playing all 3A and 4A schools...but I learned a lot and parlayed that into a college coaching job as Head Coach at Harford Community College. We went 18-3 in our first year...setting a school record for most wins in a season...the program had not won a game in their 3 previous seasons. I finished with a couple of teams that were nationally ranked and had some girls play at the next level and reach All -American status...it was a great 3 year run. After that I moved to Harford Tech to take over a program where the Head Coach left for maternity leave...she built the program from scratch and I thought I would just be there for a year and she would return...We posted one of the two winning records in school history at the time. After that I got an opportunity to coach at Aberdeen High School and took over a program that had fallen on hard times going 10-32 over the two previous seasons. We went 0-3 out of the gate but righted the ship and finished 13th in the metro polls that year. We also finished 12th in the polls in 2009. I left Aberdeen for reasons off the floor...it just stopped being about teaching and winning and more about personal statistics and playing time with some of the parents that took the fun out of it. Most of the parents were great there...but enough made it not fun any more so I left with no job waiting. I was hired as the coach of John Carroll in September of 2009 and have loved every minute of it since I first walked on campus. The players are great and the families are just as great...I have nothing but good things to say about my time at JC. We have come a long way since we lost our opening scrimmage to Aberdeen by about 40 points in my first year...Now we feel like we can play with anyone in the area and we are as we have taken on a brutally tough schedule and the players have responded. We are a really good team right now despite injuries and adversity. We have won 5 of our last 6 and hope to keep on rolling.
695: Did you play?
Coach: Depends on who you ask (laughing). I did OK but I wasted a lot of ability...which is why I think I push players so hard to be the best that they can be...I could have been better but I didn't want to pay the price in the weight room or doing the little things that make a player great. I have some regrets...but I never loved to play...I love to coach...I just happened to be 6'8" so it was a natural that I would play.
695: Where did you grow up?
Coach: Baltimore City...in a neighborhood called Lakeland...just off Patapsco Highway...Southwest side of the city. My family moved to Bel Air in 1973 and pretty much I have lived in Harford County since. Currently I live in Havre de Grace
695: What do you do besides coach?
Coach: I work full time at Harford Community College in Admissions...I have also DJ'd...owning my own business doing clubs and parties...I also have dabbled in radio and done PA announcing. I have done a lot of things over the years including being a Drakes cakes salesman. Ring Dings...Yodels...Funny Bones...you remember...
695: I sure do.
695: Who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and style?
Coach: I am a piece of everyone I have ever encountered in the game. I try to pull things from a lot of people. I don't try to re-invent the wheel. If I am going to teach man 2 man defense I will read up on the best in the business in terms of man defense. Bobby Knight gives me a lot of influence there. Our zones are based on Jim Boeheim and Don Chaney...who better to look to. Our fast break principles are based on Billy Tubbs teams from the 90's at oklahoma. Our offensive philosophy comes from Mike Kryzschewsk and Gary Williams...who better? There is a little Lefty in me when I stomp...and some watered down Gary when I am talking to the bench about what is going on on the floor.
695: What do you do to stay sharp and improve as a coach?
Coach: Mostly read and get away from the game in the off-season. I will get burned out if I try to stay in the game year round. I also owe it to my family to reduce my comittment March through August. I put a lot of time into coaching especially September through February so I need to get away and be a husband and father to my family and refuel for the next season.
695: Talk about this year's team....
Coach: All of my teams get out of the gate slowly and this one is no exception. I wish I could figure it out but after 13 seasons it is what it is. This team is really playing at a high level. We have lost our starting center to an ACL tear and right now the whole team is battling the flu or pneumonia. However this team plays hard right now and we are on a good run. We have played a brutal schedule and it is paying dividends now as we enter conference play. There are a lot of good teams in our conference. Mt. de Sales and NDP have had our number. We hope to do better in our upcoming games with them and take a shot at the IAAM B Conference title. But, until we can get past them...we are just a team with potential. When you talk about a teams potential it means they ain't done squat yet. If we win those games then we can start to say we are pretty good...but until then they are the champs and the elite teams.
695: How do you feel about the overall direction of girls basketball in the area?
Coach: It seems like the game is getting better...we along with Pallotti went into the DSC and played the number 1 team in the state of Delaware and gave them all they could handle. Pallotti lost by 2 and we lost by 5 with some of the most mysterious technical foul calls I have ever seen as a coach, fan, or player. We were called for looking at a player and I was flagged for encouraging my defense too loud! It's been 10 days...but I will get over it in a couple of years.
695. Is John Carroll moving up to the A conference?
Coach: That is the plan next time we are eligible....that is my goal and when the school hired me they made it clear that the A conference was a goal of theirs. We are recruiting with that plan.
695: Talk about the Shooting Santa's program...
Coach: This is a charity that we started back in 1998 in Havre de Grace to help 1 family at Christmas time. It has grown to a full fledged 5013C foundation that raises over 15,000 dollars a year and is helping 15 families each year in the area have a dream Christmas when they thought that they would have none. What we do is have the players get sponsors who donate a certain amount of money for each foul shot they make out of 50. On a selected date all of the teams participating get together at one of the schools and we all shoot 50 foul shots...logging how many we make. We then collect all of our donations and go shopping for the families that have been provided to us by Upper Bay Counseling Services who carefully selects the families along with us. Our goal is to make sure no kid wakes up Christmas morning thinking Santa forgot him or her again. We get a wish list from each of the families and go out shopping for each of the kids and parents buying them their personal gifts...it is quite a sight to see 30-50 kids in a Target or Walmart all shopping for their "adopted child". We then deliver the gifts to the homes along with wrapping paper, bows, food, household items, even a tree if they need one...whatever the need to make it a great Christmas we do it. It is awesome to see these young ladies walk into the homes and see the tears of Mom start flowing and then they start crying and hugging...it is very memorable for all involved. We love helping people but there is more to it. By involving the kids so heavily we hope that they will be inspired to do something similar in their communities when they are adults and the whole thing multiplies helping thousands in the future. If any teams want to get involved I hope they will get in touch with me and we can show them how they can make a difference in their kids and their community.
695: Great. I love it.
695: How did you come up with the idea for the Harford County/Baltimore County Challenge?
Coach: I saw the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and just thought why can't we do something along the same lines. I hope to see it expand to 12-16 teams next year and involve the JV programs as well. It is a great fund raiser and it is great to have teams that are used to being rivals suddenly be thrust onto the same team and rooting for each other. I graduated from Bel Air High School and have coached in the county for years and I have to say it was the first time I ever found myself rooting for Fallston (laughs) It was fun...Harford County won 7 games to 1. Next year I am sure Baltimore County will be looking for revenge...most of their rosters seemed to be young, so next year they will have most of their players back so it is good to be a tough task to hang onto the trophy.
695: You've been involved with AAU before. Would you consider that again?
Coach: I never say never but I really enjoy the break away from the game. I love to teach the game but AAU seems to be more about showcasing and less about team...I loved coaching in the Starz organization and met a lot of folks I now call friends. We had success winning the YBOA and losing the AAU championship in overtime to the Shooting Stars. It was a fun summer. It would just have to be the right fit...pretty soon my kids will be playing so who knows. I might like to be an assistant coach better...I enjoyed my one season at Harford Tech as an assistant.
695: Good luck and thanks for your time.
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