Summer School: Coach

As player development coach, Steve Hetzel will be hands on with rookies

Steve Hetzel's job is to develop the player's skill level and improve their skill set.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Editor’s note: Pistons.com continues its Summer School series – which tracks the off-seasons of last year’s three rookies (Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko) and the team’s two 2010 draft picks (Greg Monroe and Terrico White) – with observations this week from player development coach Steve Hetzel on Greg Monroe.

My job description, or what I like to tell people, at least, is that I’m trying to improve every player I work with. It doesn’t always work out that way, but some guys really buy in to what you’re teaching. Really, my job as player development coach – what it is around the league and what it is here with the Pistons – is to develop the player’s skill level and improve their skill set and get them acquainted with the offense we run and have them comfortable scoring in different spots that the offense creates for them.

It goes further than that, too. There’s also a lot of watching film and breaking it down. That’s a big part of developing players – making sure they’re seeing themselves, both their mistakes and the good things they’re doing out on the court.

I spent most of my time working with the three rookies last year – Austin, DaJuan and Jonas. Rodney Stuckey worked with our group a lot, too, and I became close with all four of those players. That’s a big part coaching – the relationships you develop with the players. I expect I’ll continue to work with them again next season, before and after practices and before games, but it probably won’t be quite as much as last season.

That’s because of our two rookies being here, Greg Monroe and Terrico White, and they’ll garner most of my attention now. It will be getting them acquainted with everything we do and everything they’ll need to know.

The one thing I like about both of those guys – something that our coaches noticed about both players in Las Vegas during Summer League last month – is their eye contact. That’s the first thing you look for. Both of those guys, during huddles, they kept their focus on everything we were telling them and then when they went back out on the floor, they executed it. That’s tells me that they’re good listeners and learners.

I’m excited to get going with both of those players. With Greg, the immediate thing right now is just honing his 15-foot jump shot – the elbow, the corner, doing our best to get that to be a consistent thing. We did a lot with our bigs handling the ball last year, anyway, and he falls right into place. He’s such an intelligent basketball player and such a good passer, we’re going to feel comfortable with him in that role.

So we’ll give him the ball around the elbow area and run our offense through him, but part of that is he has to be a threat. If he’s not a threat by making that jump shot, then that affects his ability to pass. That’s the No. 1 focus – to be consistent. He’s not a bad jump shooter right now, by any means. It’s just something that we want to make sure he has confidence in doing.

He went to a great historical big man school in Georgetown, so he’s got all the post moves. There’s not a lot I can teach him that he doesn’t already know in the post. It’s more working on his touch, working on that jump shot. He’s going to be a fun guy to watch film with because he’s so intelligent and he’ll be able to pick up what we’re trying to get across.

I really don’t know much more than the two weeks I spent with him in Las Vegas, but my initial feel is that he’s a very cerebral player and a very unselfish player. He’s somebody that we’re going to have to demand of him that he score, because he’s naturally looking to pass first. That’s not a bad thing, by any means.

By the end of the week in Las Vegas, he started to pick up that, hey, they want me to score, and he did it. At the beginning of the week, he was looking to pass – what was comfortable to him, fitting in, making the home-run play with the back-door bounce pass. It’s really fun to watch him make those plays at the size he is.

I think his strength in the post is his back to the basket, getting to his right and left hook shot. When these kids come in, you see so many things they can grow into. It’s what they latch on to and what they buy into. He’s got such a good frame and such good footwork, he can turn and face and I have every confidence he’ll learn to be a face-up jump shooter in the post. But right now, he’s most comfortable with his back to the basket, I think.

I’ll check back as we get closer to training camp and I get more familiar with both Greg and Terrico’s games. Enjoy your summer.