Fatherhood Spotlight: Coach Eric Musselman, Nevada Wolf Pack

By now, people in northern Nevada (if not all college basketball fans) know Eric Musselman, head coach of the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team. Coach Musselman led Nevada to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18, his third year as head coach. But, while we know about his professional accomplishments, most people don’t know what life is like for Musselman as the father of three children – Michael, Matthew and Mariah. We had a chance to ask a few questions of the spirited and successful coach about his family life…

What lessons have you learned from coaching that help you as a father, and vice versa?

Being a dad and being a coach, you get help at both ends. When you’re coaching and you have a loss, you come home then you see your daughter, you have to flip the switch and be a dad. It helps put things in perspective. You still have to be a husband and you have to be a father.

You have to manage a team and you have to manage a family. As member of the family, you learn everyone needs attention. My wife needs attention. My sons need attention. My daughter needs attention. So you have to manage that. The same thing applies to a team. Your star players need attention just like your walk-on players need attention. You have to find that balance.

With one son in college and one in high school right now, I also feel like I have a better understanding of what’s going on in my players’ lives off the court. I know what bothers them, whether a breakup with a girlfriend or having struggles in school, or whatever it might be. I feel more in tune with what’s going on.

What lessons did you learn from your father that stick with you to this day?

Every day, my father wrote on my brown paper lunch bag ‘ENERGY, EFFORT, ENTHUSIASM.’ He did that every single day. Those are the things I talk about with my family and my players every single day. His big thing was that if you have energy, effort and enthusiasm, you can never fail at anything in life.

How do you handle the demands of your job with your three children?

First rule, we try not to stay in the office past 6 p.m. That’s big around here – we all need to get home by 6 p.m. for our families. And that helps me get home to see my daughter every night. And I also make sure to spend time with her every morning before school.

For my sons, with one in the Bay Area and one in San Diego, it’s daily phone calls. There are text messages too, but I make sure we talk every single day of the year.

coach musselman and daughter Mariah
Coach Musselman and daughter, Mariah, at home (photo from NCAA ‘Team Confidential’ series)

Your oldest son, Michael, will be on your staff as a graduate assistant next season. What will that be like?

It’s going to be really neat to have him here working. I got to work for my dad for one season as an assistant so it’s really cool to have him work for me and to see that trickle down in our family.

My dad and I were the first father-son duo to be head coaches in the NBA. And I know Michael’s goal is to make it a trifecta.

My dad never pushed me in to basketball – it was just what I was around all the time. And for my sons, it’s what they’ve been around all the time, too. But there’s other things that all of my kids have interest in besides basketball, like motorcycles, and that’s a good thing.

How does being a father help in recruiting?

It’s a benefit. I’ve had a son going through selecting an institution for school and you go through all of the things that are important in that decision like education programs, degrees, weather, housing, geography, and the right fit for him. As a coach, I understand what questions parents have.

There are schools that always try to pressure recruits and try to get a decision from them when they visit campus. That’s not what we are about. I know those decisions take time because the parents and the kid have to find the answers to the important questions. I wouldn’t want my son to be under that kind of pressure.

What advice do you give to players when they become fathers?

Time and love. Sometimes it’s as simple as those two words. You have to spend time with your kids and you have to give them love. That’s what your kids need from you. As they get older, there are more things, like discipline. But time and love are the most important.

What have you learned from your kids?

I learn from all of them every day.

Michael, he’s old enough to tell me now. He can tell me, ‘Hey dad, I think you’re too intense right now’ or ‘Dad, I think your team looks tired and might need some time off.’ He’s old enough to recognize more of those things and can tell me.

Matthew is a teenager still. I’ve learned that teenagers need advice. He’s constantly seeking advice and asking questions. He’s also challenging discipline, which teaches me that he needs more discipline.

My daughter Mariah, I learn every day about attention and the type of attention people need. It’s a need for a younger person to have total attention, not one eye on TV or one eye on Twitter. With her, it’s both eyes and total attention.

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