Most people think that being a coach means being a boss, when it’s really a position of servitude in which coaches strive to enhance their athletes’ experience each day. This is what coaching for almost 13 years has been like for Marquise Kiffin, assistant coach of the men’s basketball team.
He started his undergraduate studies at NSU in 1998, when the school was nothing more than a few buildings and a lot of grass.
Kiffin came to NSU from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where he was named the basketball team’s Most Valuable Player during his senior year.
“I’ve been here since Moses parted the Red Sea,” he said.
Kiffin started at NSU as a basketball player while pursuing his degree in elementary education. During his successful four-year playing career at NSU, Kiffin averaged 7.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1 steal per game. A durable player, Kiffin appeared in 98 games during his NSU career.
Through his senior year, Kiffin lived the hoop dream of playing overseas, but unfortunately ended up tearing his knee and breaking his ribs that year.
“I would’ve had a few opportunities, but that happened, and I didn’t have a great year,” said Kiffin. “But, my coach at the time asked me if I wanted to become part of the coaching staff and be the assistant coach, and I agreed.”
Being in that situation, playing basketball wasn’t a realistic option for Kiffin. He settled with a coaching position that also allowed him to pay for grad school and get his master’s degree in business administration.
The biggest challenge for Kiffin was separating the athlete in him from the coach in-the-making.
“I found myself coaching a group of guys that I just finished playing with,” said Kiffin. “As I grew, I started to see the difference and that I had to restrict my relationship with them to being their responsible coach who tried to put them in the best situation.”
Limiting this relationship to the basketball court further helped Kiffin strengthen his relationship with the players.
“The biggest thing I learned from coaching is how to be a leader of men and watch their personalities grow,” said Kiffin.
Although Kiffin chose his career path as an elementary school teacher, he still makes time to coach. He continues to coach because coaching has allowed him to see the players grow into guys he can be proud of.
“I owe this all to my wife because she’s able to cope with my work hours, and she doesn’t get to see me as often. She supports me so that I continue leading these people to, hopefully, become something greater than myself,” he said. “It’s not only a great opportunity, but also a blessing,”
For Kiffin, there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that he had a role in the athletes’ change for the better. Mutual respect and effort are two factors that maintain his relationship with his athletes.
“They see how hard I work every day to improve their experience and how much I care about them and their efforts,” said Kiffin.
Kiffin describes his relationship with the players as that of a parent and his children.
“As children, we know that our parents love us but we’re unable to fully grasp the amount of love they have for us until we ourselves are parents,” he said. “I think it’s the same with the players.”
When it comes to motivation, Kiffin has a different approach to keeping his players going.
“You can’t motivate people the same way because they’re all different,” said Kiffin. “I need to yell at some of them and kick them in the butt to get them going, and others are motivated in a completely different way.”
Kiffin’s key to providing this motivation is providing them with a healthy environment that has all the components of success.
For Kiffin, coaching is a way of life; it’s not a job or a hobby.
“I can tell you one this for sure,” he said. “If I won the lottery today, I’d still come here tomorrow.”
Photo printed with permission from E. CANAL