Hofstra's Butch van Breda Kolff has coached basketball on the high school, college and
many times a guy jumped on the floor to
get a loose ball, or how many great picks a
player set," he says. "Too much of the emphasis is on the individual — the offensive
— side of the game."
Despite their concern over such problems, both men have been coaching most of
their adult lives, with van Breda Kolff returning to college basketball twice, after absences of 21 years and five years.
"What brought me back?" he muses of
his decision to return to Lafayette, the site
of his first college coaching job, for the
1984-85 season. "Have you ever taught
world history to tenth graders in Picayune,
Mississippi? That's what brought me back,"
he says, laughing.
"Actually," he continues, I would have
stayed, because I loved teaching the kids
and I enjoyed coaching at the high school
level. But when the Lafayette job opened
up, I decided to return because I had enjoyed myself there during my first tenure,
and I had a chance to rebuild the program."
Rebuild he did, taking a team that was 12-
17 upon his arrival and within four years,
finishing 19-10, winning the East Coast
Conference and being named the league's
coach of the year.
"Common sense would have told me to
stay at Lafayette, because the program was
successful," van Breda Kolff says. "But I
asked myself, 'How many more chances
am I going to have to rebuild a basketball
program at my age?' and I went to Hofstra.
That's just me — leaving one program to
Again, the van Breda Kolff touch was ev
ident as he turned a 6-21 squad into a 14-15
team in his first year back with the Flying
Armstrong faces the same kind of challenge at Niagara, taking the reins of a Purple Eagle team that struggled to a 9-19
mark last season.
"Level makes no difference
except for money. But if you're
in coaching for the money, you
don't enjoy it. And if you don't
enjoy it, get out of it."
Butch van Breda Kolff
Armstrong, though further hampered by
the fact that he was not named head coach
until less than two weeks remained before
the start of practice, is not fazed by the
magnitude of the job in front of him.
"This is not an intimidating experience,"
he says. "College basketball is a game, a
game that is played by kids and that is supposed to be fun for them and for me. It
gives me a chance to teach the value of hard
work and values.
"I'll tell you what intimidation is," he
continues. "Intimidation is having a wife
and four kids and no job. That's intimidation."
Armstrong is also nonplussed about any
disadvantages his age may present to him in
"In fact, I think it's an advantage," he
says. "First and foremost, the job of a
coach is to relate to the players, and I can
do that. The things they're going through
now — academically, socially, personally
— I went through just four or five years
ago, and I can talk to them about it at their
level. I'm not a guy in an ivory tower...I'm
someone who just went through what
they're experiencing, and I want to help
"If you can look a kid in the eye, let him
know you have his best interest in mind,
and be sincere and honest with him, then he
will accept you as his leader," he says. "I
want to be approachable, but I also realize
that there are times I have to be dictatorial.
However, I never want a kid to feel uncomfortable walking into my office or to leave
practice feeling badly. And, as much as
possible, I want to foster a family atmosphere at Niagara."
Van Breda Kolff, though chronologically
(continued on page 62)