On Target: Hargett coaches shooting the basketball

Published on Tuesday, 5 February 2013 00:21 - Written by Travis Yoesting

Larry Hargett isn’t afraid to admit he used to teach it wrong. He was close, but not quite right.

Hargett’s been instructing long enough to have learned a few things from trial and error. Now, though, the results have stood the test of time.

A longtime basketball coach at all levels of college and high school, Hargett has been giving shooting lessons for more than two decades. He knows how to get the most out of a student and, more importantly, explain to that student how and why certain techniques are successful.

After a successful career in coaching that included a boys state championship in high school and an assistant gig with the Baylor Bears, Hargett retired from coaching in 1991.

However, he was soon leading a girls youth team in the Metroplex when a dad saw him and, realizing Hargett was more than just an average guy with a whistle, asked him if he could give his daughter shooting lessons.

At first, Hargett was unsure what to do, but when his first student wound up leading the league in scoring the next year, he thought he was on to something.

Others did too.

“Within a year my network is spread out where I’ve got 50 kids a week,” he said.

From there, Hargett became a shooting coach guru. He’s instructed players like Mike Williams, who owns the NBA record for consecutive free throws made, NCAA D-III All-American Daniel Whiteside and former Baylor quarterback J.J. Joe, as well as countless others who excelled in the high school ranks.

Though he stepped back into the high school coaching ranks, most recently at Van and later Bishop Gorman from 2008-2010, he continues shooting lessons at First Assembly of God in Chandler, where he’s currently coaching more than 50 area basketball players of all ages.

Hargett’s instructions have developed from years of studying other coaches and finding out himself what does and doesn’t work.

Hargett went to Stephen F. Austin where he developed a relationship with legendary coach Marshall Brown. Unable to make the squad himself, Hargett began studying Brown’s practices, something that became common for a young man with ambition to rise through the coaching ranks.

When he first started out as a high school coach, Hargett went to watch Texas coach Abe Lemons and Texas A&M’s Shelby Metcalf.

It wasn’t long before Hargett was going cross-country to seek out some of the most iconic names in the sport. He went to clinics and practices to learn from the likes of John Wooden, Bob Knight, Eddie Sutton, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski, who Hargett got two hours with to pick his brain one-on-one.

Hargett described coaches as masters of theft.

“You get better,” Hargett said of watching other coaches in action. “These people here sit on their butt, they don’t do anything. They sit on their butt chewing tobacco. You’ve got to get out and go do things. If you want to be good, you’ve got to see what other people are doing”

Hargett developed his method based on BEEF: Balance, Elbow, Eyes, Follow-through, but makes sure his students understand the why as much as the how.

“People talk about that but they don’t tell a kid why you need to be balanced,” he said. “A kid, when they leave me, they have an understanding of what’s happening in their shot.”

One way Hargett accomplishes that goal is through analogies to other sports. A batter doesn’t stand stoically awaiting a pitch, he has a rhythm. A hockey player winds up for a powerful shot.

Hargett said a shooter can’t be afraid to adjust.

“I’ve got my systematic approach, then I add these other sports,” he said. “Golf is such a great comparison because in golf, as a golfer, we slip into bad stuff.”

Additionally, Hargett does well to shape his lessons to the shooter.

Sporting an unorthodox shot, Brooke Lee sought lessons from Hargett. Expecting him to change her shot, he instead shaped the mechanics around her.

“What’s great about (Hargett) is he doesn’t have everyone shoot the same shot,” said Brooke’s father Mike Lee, assistant coach for Bishop Gorman. “He looks at the individual and shapes their shot to their strengths.

“Brooke’s shot is still unorthodox, but it is better.”

Brooke Lee, a junior at Gorman, leads East Texas with 46 3-pointers. She’s second on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game while hitting 91 percent from the free throw line.

But Hargett admits he didn’t always teach the right way, even going on facebook to apologize to former pupils for teaching them wrong.

“I think it was probably a process of saying the wrong things and teaching them wrong,” Hargett said. “I used to tell my players, when I was coaching high school ball, that when you shoot the ball, you shoot it and just get it over the front of the rim and left it fall in. Technically that’s fairly close but it’s not right.”

Now that Hargett has his own system with proven results, one remaining challenge is convincing coaches that he’s not trying to steal their players or go against the high school coach’s instructions. Hargett is merely trying to supplement by improving shooting.

“One of the reasons that I think shooting lessons are so important, having coached for as many years as I did … (coaches) just can’t afford to spend a ton of time on shooting,” Hargett said.

One coach who understands that is Gorman’s Katie Robertson, who was an assistant with Hargett. A handful of her player such as Lee, Susannah Williams, Allie Buzbee and Mandie VanderVorste has improved their game with Hargett’s help.

“I am always a fan of my kids being in a gym and having a ball in their hands,” Robertson said. “Some coaches don’t like other coaches teaching their players. I trust what he’s teaching them. I think it makes a world of difference with their confidence and just getting that one hour of having a ball in your hand.”

Hargett has also coached some of the Gorman guys, including Sean Goforth, whose shooting sparked the Crusaders to a win over rival Grace Community on Jan. 26. He’s instructed players from schools across East Texas, private and public, and loves to post videos of a pupil doing well on his facebook page, dubbed Hargett’s Targets.

Hargett’s passion for the game he teaches is undeniable, and contagious. Perhaps it’s a reason his students find so much success, though he laughs about the suggestions that his shooters don’t like him.

“It’s obvious that your kids do not like me,” Hargett has joked with a parent. “Because if they keep shooting like this they don’t want me to make any money and you guys are never going to come back.”

Nonetheless, the students keep coming back, drawn to Hargett’s expertise as a coach as much as his enthusiasm.

“I was one of his assistants at Gorman and was with him after some big wins; he will call me as excited as he was about a big win to tell me about a lesson with some 7th grader who had a great lesson,” Mike Lee said. “He will be just as animated and pumped up about a 12-year-old kid as he was about a big victory.

“These lessons are a lot more to him than a side job to earn some extra cash. It’s about the passion he still has for basketball and for helping kids.”