Coaching Insight with Doug Oliver

UC Irvine’s women’s head basketball coach, Doug Oliver, has an impressive coaching resume that extends over 40 years. Coach Oliver first came to UCI in 2008, working in an external relations position for UCI Athletics. He then served two years as the men’s basketball assistant coach; first, as a part of Pat Douglas’s staff and then Russell Turner’s.

Coach Oliver then served one year as the women’s basketball assistant coach for Molly Goodenbauer before acquiring the position of head coach in 2012. Prior to becoming the eighth head coach in UCI women’s basketball history, Coach Oliver was the men’s basketball head coach at Idaho State for eight years, from 1998 to 2006.

However, Coach Oliver is best known for his tenures at Stanford; first serving on Mike Montgomery’s staff as men’s basketball assistant coach from 1986 to 1998 and then from 2006 to 2008 as lead assistant coach for Tret Johnson. Coach Oliver also coached at Utah, Boise State, and at the junior college and high school level.

Throughout his many years of coaching various teams, Coach Doug Oliver has formulated a coaching philosophy that works well for him, covering everything from winning, discipline, and academics. However, not every team is the identical; “Every town, every situation, every philosophy, every student-athlete experience is different. [You] have to adjust with it,” Coach Oliver said.

For him, the keys to effective coaching regardless of where you are, is to “teach what you know and know what you teach,” have passion for what you are doing, and lastly, be an expert at it.

Having coached men’s teams his entire career, it was definitely a change for Coach Oliver to become the head coach of a women’s team. Coaching men and women is undoubtedly very different. “Some of my teaching had to adjust because my coaching eye, my teaching eye, was used to [coaching men]. It took me a little while to really feel comfortable that I was doing the right thing,” Coach Oliver said.

He explains how in regards to the visual aspect of the game, men use the floor from 8 ft. to 11 ft., jumping and passing in play; while women play more down on the floor. Those differences change the game, which ultimately change his coaching strategy. However, when it comes to the fundamentals, coaching men and women is quite similar for Coach Oliver.

“Having an offense, having a defense, teaching the ball that’s all the same. I don’t approach it differently. When I step on the court I see ten moving pieces that I need to improve,” he said.

For Coach Oliver, it is not a matter of who he’s coaching, but rather about how he’s teaching and how his players are learning. Having so many years of experience, coaching is not something that is difficult for Coach Oliver. The most difficult part about coaching for him is recruiting; it’s an “imperfect science” he says. “You can’t go out and measure with the little contact you have with young people how big a heart they have,” for instance.

Coach Oliver spent a year earlier in his career teaching English and coaching high school football and basketball in Whitefish, Montana. He admits that often times, tactics he used during practice he also used in his classroom. For instance, creating and keeping organized the practice schedules for his sports teams, and lesson plans for his classes.

For Coach Oliver, keeping record of practices and games is crucial.  “I’ll go back and look up some of the drills we did early on in the season. We see what doesn’t fit the team, take a note of it, take it out, or bring it back [if it works], he explained as he showed his binder of practice schedules for the women’s basketball season so far. By the time school starts in September, Coach Oliver has already planned his first ten practices.

Coach Oliver places tremendous importance on the academics of his players. “I have a few rules,” he says. “They’re basically, be on time, go to class, and don’t lie to me. That gives me flexibility, but also holds them accountable for everything they have to do.”

As a coach it’s important to know and recognize your philosophy on winning; whether or not winning is yours and the team’s main priority. Coach Oliver explained how winning is important, but being passionate about competing is what is even more important.

“When I was younger, it was not win at all costs, but winning was everything. [Now] I think we have to compete to be successful. Winning is important, but being a good competitor and doing the right thing is just as important,” he said. Coach Oliver further explained how his coaching method and philosophy has changed over the years. “I was volatile. I was ready to explode at any minute. I don’t think I was a good teacher at that time,” he said.

Despite losing three starters to injury early on in the season, the Lady Anteaters ended their season unexpectedly with 17-15 overall and 9-7 in conference play, falling to Cal State Northridge in the Big West semifinal. “If we stayed healthy, we’d be at the top of conference,” Coach Oliver said.

Coach Oliver is surely passionate about his job and loves the work and responsibility that comes with being a collegiate coach. “You have to teach and coach. And when you’re recruiting, you have to be a salesman. That’s the fun part about being a college coach; you’re always wearing different hats.”