Mason Schoen spoke with Austin Siegel of K-State Sports Extra about his new role with K-State men’s basketball, his road back to Manhattan after a season with Clemson and life as a young coach in the Big 12. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
AS: What are some of the responsibilities you’re going to take on in your new role with the basketball team as video services coordinator?
MS: My main role is to make sure I get all of the game footage and practice footage to our coaching staff and present it to the team so we can learn from it. There really isn’t a detailed job description, it’s basically just any and all technology and film responsibilities. Making sure the games are filmed, making sure Coach Weber gets that game film right after the game concludes and after he does his press conference so he can review it and we can meet on it tomorrow, getting all the scouting film to our assistant coaches and making sure practice is filmed every day so we can review that and learn from that in our coaching staff meetings.
AS: In an interview you gave during your senior year at K-State, you talked about starting your path into coaching as a graduate assistant and then as a video coordinator. It seems amazing that those first few years can be such a fixed path for young coaches. Were there any parts of the journey that you didn’t expect when you were a senior looking ahead to the next few years?
MS: I would say the one thing I may not have expected back when I was playing was how much work it was going to be. As a senior, I knew nothing was going to be handed to me. So, I don’t think that I went into it blindly, but having so much film responsibility last year and then this season with my promotion, it’s really taught me how to work hard and study the game more from a film standpoint. You think that you know so much about basketball just from being on the court. And then you step away from the court and go into the coaching role and you have to rely on your eye, on practice and on film. So, I’ve really learned how to work hard and make sure I get all of my tasks done with film, but also taking some time myself to study the game of basketball from a different perspective.
AS: You’ve been back at K-State for a year after your first graduate assistant season with Clemson, what was the biggest thing that you picked up from coaching in the ACC?
MS: I would say the biggest thing that helped me during my year at Clemson was just kind of getting over the learning curve. Whenever any young coach gets into a graduate assistant role, no matter what level, there’s always going to be a slight learning curve, just because as a player, I didn’t know what went on behind-the-scenes in terms of film. Whether it’s a certain software that they’re using or a certain process of how it’s done and completed, I didn’t know any of that when I was playing for Kansas State. It was all just already done as this behind-the-scenes work from our video coordinator, graduate assistants and our coaching staff.
At Clemson, I was very fortunate to work with a great staff that kind of took me under their wing and made sure I learned it the right way. It made for a really easy transition once I came back to Kansas State because I already kind of knew what I was doing whether it be film, on-court responsibilities and just helping with the day-to-day tasks where there isn’t really a job description but it just has to get done. I would say that Clemson really opened my eyes to what needed to be done and how a program is run from a coaching standpoint. I had never gotten that perspective as a player as Kansas State, and it helped me make a smooth transition last year, because I could make sure I was doing the same things to help out this coaching staff.
AS: I spoke with Coach Weber a few months ago when Shane Southwell was hired as an assistant coach and he talked about how important it can be for graduate assistants who are former players at K-State to go somewhere else first because, for a few years, you’re going to have your former teammates on the roster and be thought of as one of the boys. Was that an important move for your career?
MS: It was definitely beneficial, and I would second what Coach Weber said. It’s important to go somewhere else first, because it’s a hard role to take on if you try and coach guys that you played with. I was fortunate enough to kind of have that player-coach role during my senior year, so I had a special relationship with our guys that I played with and was fortunate enough to help out this past year at Kansas State as a graduate assistant. But, I would definitely say that going somewhere new, somewhere where I was not well known and didn’t have that player-to-player relationship as much, it was more of a coach-to-player relationship, that was beneficial to me and helped me grow as an aspiring coach.
AS: You were the only senior on the 2018 Elite Eight team, so looking ahead to the season that you have on deck with quite a few young players, what are some of the qualities you look for in leaders who might emerge from this group?
MS: I would say with the young team we have right now, it’s going to be very important for guys to lead by example. It’s one of those things that I had to find out from my freshman year to senior year, if I wasn’t doing the things that I was asking of all my other teammates, then there would be no reason for them to listen to me, buy into what I was saying and understand that everything that I’m saying and doing is to help this team win. I may not have been on the court scoring 20 points a game, but I made sure I busted my butt during every single practice, every single lifting session, every single film session, in the classroom and in the community. I just made sure I did it all and I think that helped me because it rubbed off on the other guys and they took me very seriously because they knew that I took everything very seriously. I was as vocal a leader as I could possibly be, while also backing up everything I was saying with what I was doing.
I think that’s going to be crucial to this season’s success. We need our best leaders to be our best performers every single day. That’s not necessarily just what they’re doing on the court, but it’s everything that’s tangled together between the weight room, the classroom, the community and on the court, as well. So, I would really hope that our best leaders are also our best performers and that they’re backing it up with what they’re doing on a daily basis.
AS: How do you strike that balance between relating to these guys as someone who’s not far removed from your own college career, but also providing strong leadership as a coach?
MS: I would say it’s just important for me to be that middle ground, kind of the bridge between the players and the coaches. Like you said, I have played with at least one player in Mike McGuirl as well as coaching the rest of the returning players as a GA last season. Obviously, we have a lot of newcomers. I think what I can bring to the table is to just try and be that bridge and close the gap between the players and the coaches. I can understand what the players are thinking because I’m not that far removed, but I also know what the coaches want. If I can help both sides communicate, figure each other out a little better, and grow closer together, then I think that’s definitely a job I’m willing to take on and I think that can help make us a little more successful.
AS: Looking back at last season, obviously it was challenging at times, but after playing on tournament teams and even going to the NIT with Clemson as a coach, do you think it was helpful for you to experience what it’s like to coach a team where the results might not be what you want on the court, but you still have to try and find opportunities for growth?
MS: No doubt, I think learning from mistakes is almost as important in this industry as learning from success. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to learn from success and it still makes everything look great, but learning from a loss or a failure can almost help more in developing and growing as a coach. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over these past two years and this team coming up has a lot of potential. I’m hoping that we can learn from last year and correct some of those mistakes. I don’t think we’re that far off, because we were in a lot of games last year until the very end.
AS: Back in Manhattan, most of your players are getting back to campus and some of the freshmen are arriving for the first time. What’s been the most exciting part of getting to know the new guys and welcoming back some of the upperclassmen who are returning this season?
MS: You know, Manhattan’s a special place. Obviously, having gone to school here, played here and not only getting a bachelor’s degree, but now a master’s degree from here, it’s just a very special place. It’s fun and exciting to see the new guys come in and get to experience it for the first time, as well as how important it is for guys who come back as alumni and how much they treasure it and have that passion for Manhattan and Kansas State. They’re willing to come back and spend time to help these young guys grow. They want to see us have success. Just bringing the whole K-State family together and seeing everyone have that passion is a very special thing. You kind of have to be around for a while to really appreciate it.
Source: Kansas State Sports