Don’t let Matt Kramer’s philosophy of shooting three-pointers and playing race-horse, up and down basketball overshadow his desire for a fundamental, hard-nosed basketball team.
“The team that gets the most shots in the game, usually wins,” he said.
But Kramer has coached basketball long enough – nearly 30 years – to understand his teams must also be able to hunker down and go toe to toe in a defensive battle if that’s what it takes to come out on top.
“We’re going to defend, there’s no question about it,” he said. “We’re going to build our culture off being willing to go out and compete. The best way to show it is go out there and defend. I would like to outscore people, but there’s a limit to that. If we get to the point where we’re giving the other team a basket, then I’m failing.”
Kramer pointed to his Fairless squad making a district championship run in 2007. Fairless scored 64 points in a double-overtime win then 74 points in regulation to win the next game. In the district semifinals, Fairless had 42 points and won by 12. They won the district title 64-63 in overtime.
“Every game is going to have its own personality,” he said.
And Kramer said he and his teams will adjust.
“A lot of times, it comes down to playing three minutes of solid defense and playing three minutes of solid offense,” he said. “If in the most important three minutes, you got it done, you found a way to gut it out and win … to me that’s success.”
Kramer’s also learned that losing – very much like winning – is not a be-all, end-all.
“I was never really afraid to lose games, knowing sometimes losing is a means to becoming really, really successful,” he said. “Making a Final Four is a bucket list item for a coach. It was awesome but I do not define myself with that Final Four. Just like I wouldn’t let 3-19 define me.”
That Kramer isn’t afraid to lose doesn’t mean he has fun or accepts losing. He knows it’s rewarding if you learn from a loss. Likewise it’s a failure if you don’t learn from a victory.
He co-authored a book with Wayne County legend Randy Montgomery titled “The Best-Laid Plans of A High School Basketball CEO.” It talks about the successes and failures of coaching.
“It made me aware of the kind of leader I want to be,” Kramer said.
In this case, CEO stands for Coach, Educator, Organizer. The books goes “beyond the hardwood,” which is the title Kramer would prefer for the book.
“It’s been a success; I’m proud of it,” he said. “It’s not a how-to book. A lot of memoirs, it shares successes and failures. It’s about things going on off the floor, making relationships, building ties with the community. The part that people don’t see is what makes coaching difficult. Game nights are always rewarding, but not always fun.”
While Kramer said he wants to take the Hurricane program “to the next level,” he admits his predecessor Michael Noszka has given him a rock-solid foundation to build upon.
“I think any time somebody is at a place 14 years, he is a special, special coach,” Kramer said of Noszka. “I think Wilmington is probably in better shape than any program I’ve taken over … the culture, the administrative leadership.
“This is a program that is ready to take the next step and it’s already in a good position. With me, it’s always been about picking up the pieces. With this (job), we’ve got some pretty good pieces in place.”
To take that next step, Kramer said his teams will play fast, shoot the three and work hard.
“I’m still going to push these kids,” he said. “I want them to have fun. I want them to have a passion for what we’re doing. I want them to feel free to go ahead and miss a shot and not feel bad about it. If it doesn’t go in, we’re going to get back and defend and then do it again.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports