49: The Road to Division 1: Coach Grant Leonard’s Blueprint for a Champion Program

What happens when you take one of the winningest Division 2 men’s basketball programs, promote your assistant coach to head coach to replace a retiring legend, and move to Division 1 all in the same off-season.

In the case of Queens University men’s basketball, you accomplish a lot. The dedication, and the focus of Coach Grant Leonard is truly extraordinary.

I love how he has built culture, invested in the lives of his student-athletes, and built a team and a support structure around them to help them bring the best every single game as they head into season 2 as a Division One program.

Show Outline

  • 1:23 – The monumental accomplishment of transitioning to Division 1
  • 3:33 – The focus on student experience at Queens University
  • 6:27 – The importance of servant leadership in the program
  • 8:40 – The demands of transitioning to Division I
  • 10:10 – Preparing for the upcoming season schedule
  • 11:21 – Embracing adversity and focusing on details
  • 17:24 – The challenges of transitioning to Division I
  • 19:01 – Tools for player development and improvement
  • 22:21 – Views on NIL and its impact on recruiting and retention
  • 24:16 – Coach’s personal time
  • 24:41 – Transition to Division One
  • 26:43 – Hiring criteria
  • 31:43 – Coach’s emphasis on growth and development
  • 32:26 – How to follow the Queen’s University men’s basketball program
  • 32:45 – Unique experience at Queen’s University basketball games

Quotes from Coach Grant Leonard

“How we handle adversity will define our season because we will get knocked down. Can we pick ourselves back up? Can we get to the next play? Can we get to the next game and not allow a hangover effect?”

“[In Division 1,] our players had an unbelievable opportunity to play on a bigger stage, to play in major cities, and I thought it was awesome for them and really excited that our institution decided to do that.”

Connect with Coach Leonard and Queens Basketball

Episode 49 – Full Transcript

Announcer (00:00:00) – New generation leader.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:00:01) – What happens when you take one of the winningest division to men’s basketball programs, have a coaching change from a longtime legend to a promotion of an assistant to head coach, and you move from Division two to Division one all in the same off season. Well, in the case of Queens University men’s basketball, you accomplish a lot. The dedication, the focus of Coach Grant Leonard is truly extraordinary. I love the way he has built culture, invested in the lives of his student athletes, built a team and a support structure around them to help them bring the best every single game as they head into Season two as a Division One program, we sat down with Coach Grant Leonard and I’m excited to dive into this conversation. Let’s get started.

Jay Smack, Voice of the New Generation Leader (00:00:52) – Welcome to the New Generation Leader podcast. We’re giving you the tools you need to lead in the digital world ready to reach your true potential. This is the new Generation Leader podcast.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:01:06) – Coach Leonard as you are leading a program that’s been through change. What stands out to you as the number one most monumental accomplishment of this change in transition? Yeah, I think that it really is about the student athlete experience.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:01:23) – And so, you know, Queens decide to go down this road to go Division one. I think as an institution, they thought that it would bring more eyes on the school and to kind of go from a regionally known school to a nationally known school. But I think they also had a heavy mindset on they wanted to improve the student athlete experience. And as we’ve done this first year, I mean, it was so evident that that happened. And instead of traveling regionally to the same schools every year in Division two now we played at Nebraska. We played a multi team tournament in Jamaica. And the ability to give the students those experiences where we’re traveling the league were associated with, it just feels so much more like home. And I think our players had an unbelievable opportunity to play on a bigger stage to play in major cities, and I thought it was awesome for them and really excited that our institution decided to do that.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:02:22) – That’s an incredible step forward. And yet at the same time about status and opportunity keeping the students as the core focus, the student athlete experience their journey, who they’re becoming.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:02:36) – You know, we talk a lot about change and change is coming and it’s coming more and more rapidly all around us. And so to think about what the administration has cast out as a vision, to see that now coming to fruition with all of these other changes going on around you and to still see one year in, you’re still celebrating that student athlete experience, keeping the main thing. The main thing is so critically important.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:03:01) – Yeah, Queens is a very student focused place and say you’re a student was going to come to Queens. There’s not a class that’s more than 20 students completely different than you go to University of North Carolina or NC State, which are amazing institutions, but you walk in your first class, you could have a couple hundred students. And so the focus on the student here at Queens is it’s the main priority. Our mission as a school is to give students a transformational experience and this is a part of that experience. Athletics is the front porch to the institution and giving our students in men’s basketball.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:03:33) – That experience has been awesome and just very fortunate that we’re here and what we’re about as an institution.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:03:39) – That’s fantastic. So as you look at the students, you’re recruiting, the staff, you’re recruiting, what is it that really sells your incoming recruits on Queens as the destination?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:03:53) – Yeah, I mean, I think we’re going to stay in the same construct is the staff we hire is a huge part of that recruitment. And it’s a we thing. It’s not an eye thing. And our entire staff’s focus is to serve the students. That’s different than maybe some other places I’ve been. It’s their program. And as we build it together and we build their experience out, we talk to them. Our job is to provide them the safety and security and the resources they need to get 1% better daily. Their job is to execute that, and when they don’t, then they’re going to come and talk to me and we’re going to figure out what’s missing, what’s wrong? Why are you not getting better daily? But we’re going to be focused on their improvement, their daily improvement.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:04:31) – If we do that and everyone’s getting better daily and we’re getting better daily as a group, then we’re going to be just fine moving forward. That focus on their individual experience, their ability to get ownership in our program because it’s their program and to make decisions as a player. That’s why students choose to come to Queens. That’s why students have stayed here and we have a lower transfer rate than most schools. So very proud of that. We had fifth year senior that had an unbelievable career. Last year. He graduated to sign a pro contract. And we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had 31 players in the last ten years that played at Queens. They’ve signed pro contracts, but because of that focus and that daily growth. But we have this next year two more seniors that have been in the program five years and going forward even more each year. A lot of programs don’t get guys five years anymore because they transfer. And so we’re very fortunate that Queens provides a great experience for those students. Our mission as a team is aligned with the university’s mission as a whole.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:05:31) – Let’s take a step back in time. You’ve talked about your role as the leader of this team, this program, the change and the trajectory that’s in front of you as you continue down this path. You’ve talked about the student athlete experience, but let’s go back to your experience. What is it about your journey that you feel like has set the stage for you to. To be the right person at the right time for Queens in this season.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:05:55) – So first, you know, I’ve had multiple stops everywhere. I’ve been a Division three assistant. I played both junior college and basketball. I was a Division one ops guy and assistant. I was a Division two assistant and many two institutions before here. And then I was here for nine years under Bart Lundy, who had a ton of success. To see how Bart did it. Bart was a servant leader, you know, when Bart walked off the bus, he grabbed the first bag. If there sweat on the floor and he’s the closest one he gets on his hands and knees and wipes it up.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:06:27) – So I’ve seen that servant leadership be successful and have modeled what we’re doing off that and try to build on it. We’re going to be servant leaders. Our guys understand that, like we’re going to get in the mix with them and we’re in it together. I think that was hugely important. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve done just about every job you could on a campus. I’ve done housing, I’ve been a teaching assistant, I’ve been a full professor. Anything you could imagine, I’ve done game management, I’ve opened up the weight room and checked IDs at, you know, you do what you need to do to build up as a coach and you understand what it looks like from everyone. And so it truly does take a village to be successful. And Queens is one of the best places I’ve ever been, where there’s a real mission statement and vision for the school. And there’s a lot of people here that are aligned and on the same track for those students. And so we want to make sure that we bring the right students on board that can fit that community model.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:07:23) – Queens is a unique place in Myers Park, Plop a school in a neighborhood of millionaires, and they have to be able to be a part of that campus community and interact with people like on a daily basis. But it’s a very unique but special place, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of that. And I think our servant leadership is a huge part of our success. Our players see it and they know if you’re going to ask your best player to take a charge, you’ve got to be willing to grab the first bag too.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:07:51) – I love that example of art and picking up the first bag, wiping the sweat. I mean, are you at the point where you’re still on the floor hustling with the guys.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:08:00) – 1,000%, ten toes in on that? And I still operate the scoreboard during parts of practice as I’m allowing my coaches, our staff to, you know, run parts of practice so that they get some experience with that. But also their voices build with our players. You know, maybe not very many Division one coaches would do that, but I can run the scoreboard and then hop back in a drill as we have everyone dispersed in their parts of practice.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:08:23) – And so I’m a huge believer in that. I’ve definitely jumped on the floor and wiped up sweat. I always grab the first bag, so it’s just a part of being a part of an organization holistically. We don’t want anyone to feel like any task is to small for them.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:08:39) – Yeah, that’s really cool. Coach.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:08:40) – I wonder just to jump around a little bit. So as you’ve transitioned from division to to Division One, you’ve had a year of that. Basically there’s so many things that I’m sure have changed a little bit. One of them just talking about that ability to grab the first bag, wipe up sweat, run the scoreboard, all that. Have you noticed changes in demands for your time yet with that move?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:09:03) – Yeah, I mean, there definitely is more and that’s okay. And my transition is probably more unique than anyone in college basketball history. I’m probably and this is so fortunate this happened, but the only coach that went from Division two assistant to Division one head coach in a hiring cycle and then we also had a transition from assistant coach to head coach, and we went from Division two to Division one, and our institution decided to rip the Band-Aid off and not wait a year and kind of prepare.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:09:29) – But just like, let’s do it because we wanted to get our students through the transition period faster, which I think was awesome for the students that we had in the program and also were recruiting. But the demands first with you guys like media and people that want to talk to you, that’s probably the biggest change. And then the amount of time you’re traveling is a lot different than the Division two. Division two is very regionally based. Your travel as a team, your travel and recruiting Division one is definitely different. The demands on both the media and the travel are probably the biggest increases that we had.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:10:02) – I was just looking at it doesn’t look like on your website, your schedule for this upcoming season is completely complete yet. Is that a fair statement?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:10:10) – It’s complete. They’re announcing it this week. Okay.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:10:14) – So I did see one big name on there at the top of it. So I’m sure the kids have to be excited about an opportunity to go play.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:10:22) – Duke Yeah.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:10:23) – You mentioned the opportunities for these kids now to go see different places.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:10:27) – What’s the challenge like or is there a challenge to work with them to go, Okay guys, it’s The Court It’s like the old what’s the old movie about Indiana basketball? The basket’s still ten feet tall. The Court Still so long. What are those conversations like? Or in last year you played some bigger teams, but what’s the preparation for getting the kids and keeping them focused on, Hey, you still shoot the same, You still dribble the same. But still around, You know those conversations. What’s that like leading that sort of discussion?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:10:56) – So this is an awesome question. I’m glad you asked it. Last year we had a team motto and we always have a different theme each year. Theme. I think that we prepare our team to try and get through stuff and last year is embrace adversity. And we had a logos idea and I knew that we had had for 31 seasons and six years, okay. And so we didn’t have a player in our program that lost more than 6 or 7 games in their entire career.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:11:21) – And so I knew that we were going to hit some road bumps, you know, first year in Division one. And so that was the huge focus is like guys were going to face more adversity than we faced in a long time. Okay, in game came to game and how we handle we haven’t had a losing streak in seven years and so we were going to have one. And I told our guys that how we handle adversity will define our season because we’re going to get knocked down. Can we pick ourselves back up? Can we get to the next play? Can we get to the next game and not allow a hangover effect? And I thought we did a great job of that first year. We won 18 games. The funny thing was, is we the games were all really close. We were three possessions away per game from being 29 and four. So transitioning into this year, our theme will be Little things matter. So we need to clean up a few little things each game, our attention to detail, our focus needs to increase and we’re really close to being 29 and four.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:12:22) – So how do we get there? And that’ll be our daily focus this year as a team. Little things matter. Last year was embrace adversity. We weren’t going to run from it. We were going to try and roll right through it. And you know, we’ll have a hyper focus this year and be more detail orientated because I think we were really close to having an unbelievable first season and we had a great first season, but we just need to be a little bit more focused on the details for the next season.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:12:46) – Yeah, that’s amazing. That focus on details is something that Aaron and I both work with just in our leadership training journeys. That’s amazing. I wrote that down an average of three possessions per game from having an 18 win season. Having a 29 win season. That’s correct. Yeah. And a game where you average a certain number of possessions, a game. So you only have this many opportunities if we just drill down. That’s, that’s the detail oriented focus. Just three more possessions that we we’d won those.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:13:14) – It would have been that’s that’s just a great thing to be able to to grasp onto. So number one, congratulations for the transition year. I’m sure that now you mentioned the regional travel that Division two was more focused on. So now going to places as far south as Florida to all up and down the East Coast. And how does that change your preparation, knowing that instead of a two hour bus ride, now it’s travels different? Are we chartering planes to Florida yet or are we still bus riding or.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:13:44) – That’s the one thing I tell our guys in recruiting is we’re going to give you all the bells and whistles. You’re going to have a full time nutritionist. You’re going to have a full time strength coach. We have a sports psychologist, mental health people for you guys. We’re going to have everything that you’d have if you went to Duke except the private planes. We’re going to fly commercial. So that’s the one thing we’re not chartering yet. But we’re very fortunate to be in a major, major metropolitan area in Charlotte.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:14:08) – Flies direct almost everywhere. So compared to a lot of schools, we’re very, very fortunate in that. And the travel time is different. Just think about this like when you’re in Division two, you very rarely practice in someone else’s arena. In Division One, you typically fly there the day before and have a practice there and the day before in a shootaround, the day of. So everyone’s got the same technology and cameras in their stuff. So if they want to, they can log in and watch you practice. So how do you handle your communication and preparation for those practices? Obviously, ethically, you’re not supposed to do that. But let’s be honest, some people do. I’ve just told our guys we do what we do. They could know what we do, but they still have to be able to stop it. And what we do is intricate. I don’t worry if someone watches it and we just kind of plow forward with it. Our guys have been really good about it, but it definitely changes your preparation.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:14:57) – We envision two the conference we were in, we played Wednesday, Saturday and our league and our league is Thursday, Saturday. So we travel. If you leave on Wednesday and you come back Sunday typically or Saturday night. So that is a different preparation in itself. How much day off rest you have in between those games? All of that’s been an adjustment for us because typically if we played Wednesday, Saturday, we would play no contact Thursday, full contact, Friday game on Saturday. Well, now, Thursday you play Friday’s no Contact. You’re playing Saturday. So how you prepare earlier in the week to get your guys ready for both games and how that works has been an adjustment for us.

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Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:17:24) – So along with that, another tool that we use is something called a support challenge matrix. So you’ve been challenged now with a step up to Division one and the challenges of different schedules and travel, travel differences. There’s going to be probably a different way academics have to be addressed on these longer travel trips. So that’s your challenge. How has Queens University stepped up their support for that?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:17:49) – Yeah, no, it’s a great question. Academically is the first part before, you know, again, being a smaller institution and I think we’re the third smallest enrollment of all Division one colleges for traditional undergrads. So only two are smaller than us. And so we didn’t have academic advisors for just athletics when we were Division two. So the first thing they did when we decided to go to Division One and so they hired support staff academically just for athletics, which has been a huge tool for us, and they’re going to continue to grow that department as we transition.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:18:17) – The other thing they did is they really ramped up the communication between our department and the academic provost and deans with Miss Class time. They purchased this technology called owl technology. And so the owl technology sits in the room. And if our guys are in Philadelphia, they can log in and watch class and the teacher will get a notification that they did. So a bunch of different ways. They’ve attacked this through communication, hiring additional support staff and getting more technology in so that our guys get more information when we’re traveling. So much.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:18:49) – Awesome. One last question before I switch back to Aaron and that mode of getting 1% better every day or whatever measurable period that is, what tools do you use to help that process?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:19:01) – Yeah, I mean, I think there’s it’s a multi layered approach. First is our office and we try and meet with our players individually about their progress monthly at least sometimes in seasons. It’s bi monthly, you know, psychologically speaking, ten team events, ten team building activities is worth one individual meeting.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:19:20) – Okay, So the impact of an individual meeting to understand your progress and role, it’s huge. That is the first layer. And what we do is, yes, we’re trying to go for daily development. Okay. But then also each year we kind of do look behind the curtains. This is where you’re at. This is how an NBA GM would look at your game. Okay. These are these are the 4 or 5 things you’re doing on the floor the most. And this is how efficient or productive you are. Those things, this is how you’re going to be evaluated. What do we need to either make more efficient? What do we need to be a higher usage or what do we need to cut out? What do you need to stop doing completely to be more effective? And then to build a plan, a yearly plan to go through our summer, our fall, and then our season to get you more proficient. So we not only want to stack good days, we want to stack good years, or that improvement is is constantly at your mindset and that is the sole focus.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:20:17) – And then again, we have other touch points. Our full time strength coach who does an unbelievable job, our nutritionist, they meet with them and like they update me on their progress. Do I meet with him about this or do they meet with him about this? Like you, you haven’t seen the percentage strength gains this month that you should have seen. What’s going on there? Hey, you. Only put on £1 this month and you should have been at 3 or 4. What’s going on there? So it is it takes an entire group in an organization of all of us together to get them where they need to go. But then our players also have to execute it because sometimes, again, they’re college students who are learning, they’re developing, so they don’t always make the perfect decision, you know, do they? They go out a little too much this weekend and it was detrimental to their growth. So they have a bad breakup with their girlfriend or significant other. And did that affect their mental health? Are they struggling in the class, which is really weighing them down? So there’s so many different things that can happen that can kind of stunt some growth, but that’s where we really stay focused with them.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:21:21) – And again, that’s our mission statement as a program, is to give them everything they need to get 1% better daily.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:21:29) – Great. And I lied. Aaron, I do have a couple more questions just in line here. First off, let’s talk about now that you’re you’ve mentioned transfers and your success rate and not having a lot of folks transfer out with the advent of nil and more of that becoming more and more realistic as teams a little bigger than you lose people to bigger programs now they’re going to start and you know what happens and maybe it’s already happened to some of your kids who have been reached out to, you know, some of the realities of that. How what are talk about your views on nil as either a recruiting tool or maybe a retention tool. Are you guys set up to do anything like that now or where are you from a competitive advantage or disadvantage in your conference versus recruiting? It’s not like Charlotte doesn’t have a few other Division one programs right around the corner. Just give a little give a little thought on that.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:22:21) – Yeah. I mean, our first our first focus will always be with our league. We have a small collective. It’s not anything like gigantic, and our alumni have put that together. So it’s an outsourced collective. So it’s not through the school and so it provides us a little bit of cushion there. But by no means can we get in a bidding war for a kid and start negotiating. We use ours mostly for retention, you know, and my whole purpose is if we’re going to be a development based program, then we have to be able to retain. And so do we give incoming students a little bit? Yeah, but we actually incentivize them. The longer they stay in our program, the more they get. And our NFL is community based, so they have to go do public speaking engagements to receive that money to try and help them build and develop skills that they’re going to need if they’re trying to move on from here and play professional basketball or in whatever next phase of their career they’re in, They need to learn how to do those public speaking engagements.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:23:15) – Very good. And the last absolutely. The last question for me this time, all of this that’s come on and demands for your time, everything else. How does Coach Grant Leonard refill his own cup? Because you’re pouring from your cup constantly to all these other areas and player development and staff development and care. How do you refill your own?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:23:35) – Yeah, so I have an unbelievable home in Belmont and my wife does. She’s a middle school math teacher. She does unbelievable job and we try and get get a few getaways throughout the year where we can spend time together and kind of recharge. But I’m a person who’s very people focused and centric. So getting out and meeting people like, you know, we met through Norm. Those are the type of people that I enjoy those type of interactions with Norm and people in the community, those who energize me and give me a ton of focus. And so I really enjoy just going out into the community, eating a different restaurants, meeting people. And that’s kind of how I operate as a person.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:24:16) – And so just for me, having some time away from the office family time just today, like we’re going, I got season tickets to the Blumenthal going to see Book of Mormon, which should be a great time. It’s a great show. It’s really funny. So my wife and I are excited to get there and see it.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:24:31) – Awesome. Okay. Thanks for all your patience with my questions. So I’ve got some more stuff I want to talk about offline if you have a few minutes afterwards. But yeah, of course, of course.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:24:41) – So, Coach, you’ve moved up to Division one, you’ve talked about being people oriented and and getting out and engaging in the community. Has that shift to Division one shifted how people see you in the community or can you still kind of fly under the radar in Charlotte being as big as it is? Yeah, I.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:25:00) – Think that I still have some moments of where people don’t know me, which is nice. I don’t know how much longer that’s going to last.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:25:06) – I think Charlotte’s a big enough city and there’s a lot of people that in Charlotte that are not from Charlotte, There’s still a ton of people in me who don’t even know where Queens is because they just moved here from Ohio or New York. And so which is which is totally fine. Charlotte’s got a lot a ton of young professional jobs. So it’s kind of a transplant city. So I think that I’ll always have a little bit of anonymity. There you go. That’s the worst here. But the profile will continue to grow as we transition as well. But, you know, that’s the thing is. I always tell our players, though, if what you’re doing, if you’re not comfortable with your family knowing about it, if you’re not comfortable with grandma and Grandpa finding out that you did this, well then should you be doing it? When I’m out in the community, even if you’re out having a beer or something, if you’re acting appropriately, there’s nothing wrong with that. So I always ask our guys, if you’re out, if you’re doing the right things, there’s nothing wrong with being out and, you know, going to a restaurant and eating a Cajun queen with my wife.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:26:02) – There’s nothing wrong with that. But I do think that as we continue to transition and more eyes are on us, it’ll be a little bit harder for me if that makes sense. But anything that I do.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:26:12) – I want to focus more on the little things and that 18 becomes 29. I’m sure the profile is going to change. I’m sure it is. So you talked about going into this season. The little things matter. You talked about the culture that you’ve picked up along the way and you’ve talked about how the team, your staff and the support team have grown to support this new phase of Queens basketball. How do you go about from a hiring perspective, finding the people who are going to match that?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:26:43) – Yeah, that’s I’m very upfront from the very beginning. You know, two things that I would like in our office, people who are student focused and people who have experienced winning before and those matter to me coming from a championship level program so that you understand what it looks like for me. I would rather hire someone from a lower level that is one than someone from a higher level that hasn’t because I think that you don’t want those average habits to build in your program.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:27:10) – You want exceptional habits to build. So that’s what I’m always looking for. And then again, the focus on the students understanding that we are here for them. And as a group, everyone will get everything they want if we pour into our and our student athletes. So people that understand that and different than some leaders I love to promote from within. So as guys develop and move on, I support them and try and give them, you know, and understand that they this isn’t probably a lifetime job for them unless things break. And you’re very fortunate like it did for me. But my job is to help develop them and prepare them for their next spot. And that that’s the same thing that I ask of our players. Can we get better daily as a staff? And we continue to hone our craft while pouring into the students we study? How do we stay on the cutting edge? And then as guys do their job really well in one role, I have no problem elevating them to the next role because that’s that’s what we’re about and that’s what we’ve been about in our program as players and we’ve done that as well as staff.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:28:11) – And that’s what we talk about with the new generation leader is recognizing that we want to develop people and prepare them to go take that next step, not give them the next step and then realize we messed up and need to go prepare them and fill in the gaps. So leaders out there, I know we’ve talked about sports and D1 athletics and men’s basketball here, but pay attention to what Coach has said here about how he’s building a program, investing for the future growth, not just trying to win the blue chip top prospects, but developing along the way the best people to be in the best seat to get 1% better. All of these factors don’t just apply to men’s college basketball. They apply in every organization, no matter what size or where you’re leading. So I really appreciate that. And also the added dynamic that you’ve just journeyed through change, change in college athletics just these past few days. It’s it’s continuing to change headline making changes. But the reality is that doesn’t just stop in college athletics. The world’s changing all around us every day.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:29:18) – So leadership has to change and leadership has to be ready. And it sounds like Coach Leonard, you are ready and you’re leading this program to a bright new future.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:29:27) – Well, I mean, appreciate you saying that. You know, very fortunate to have dynamic leaders before me show me things that I really took to and gravitated to get here that focus on the continual improvement, something it’s huge. You know, we tell our guys every day like, you want to wake up, work as hard as you can, okay? That day. You want to be a better basketball player, a better student, a better citizen in the community and lay your head down. You want to wake up and do it again and you want to stack good days on good days on good days. It’s hard to do that, though. It takes discipline and focus. And but if you do that, it’ll translate to the next phase in life. It’s not just basketball. You attack that in your next job. And whether it’s finance or accounting, You know, I’ve got a young man right now who’s in cybersecurity master’s program.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:30:11) – If he attacks that the way he’s attacked it here, he’s going to be really successful in that phase of life. I’m going to wake up. I’m a win today. I’m going to do the best I can today to get better. I’m going to treat people right. The golden rule. And if you do those things, you’re going to be really successful in whatever phase of your life you’re in. Just apply the same principles.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:30:28) – And just to fall back on your statement for last year, you embrace adversity when you can teach them to deal with adversity and understand, look, you’re going to face it and. Everything you do, how you react to it is what’s important. It sounds coy and it sounds just like you pulled it off the back of a cereal box or something, but it’s still important, so that’s really cool. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation with you and I just I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to come aboard with us.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:30:54) – I can talk about this stuff all day.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:30:55) – This is this is what it’s about. And the adversity thing, it’s unbelievable to me. Everyone always says, well, this generation can’t do this or this generation can’t do that. And I always say, no, the leaders, the adults were the ones giving them the playbook, right? So if we feel like they can’t handle adversity, what are we doing? We have to address that. And I tell them all, this program is not going to run from adversity. We’re going to face it and we’re going to hit it head on. I never I never go, Hey, well, we shouldn’t do this. This generation can’t do that. Oh, my God. There’s their attention spans are shorter. No, we have to adjust as leaders, as the people who are making those decisions. So how do we how do we get them the information they need so that they can be successful? I need to break it up. Do I need to make it more technology based? And those are decisions you have to make.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:31:43) – But I don’t I’m not one who sits there and just points fingers and says, well, they can’t do this. Well, no. How do we help them? How do we help them through this? I think it’s hugely important as we grow leaders because that’s what we’re hopefully doing is we’re developing leaders in our program and they can go out and be successful and lead the next group. The Embrace Adversity thing is huge, and I think the little things matter for this next group will be even larger. But I could talk about culture and that stuff all day. I think it’s I think it’s unbelievably important. I try and actually get away from the word of culture and I try and use environment because I think it’s more present and it’s more tangible. And so we just want our environment to be about growth and development and to be about them.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:32:26) – So, Coach, if people haven’t been following Queen’s University men’s college basketball, I’m going to tell them they want to. So what’s the best way to follow your program heading into this upcoming season and through the season? And how can they connect with you?

Coach Grant Leonard (00:32:40) – Well, I mean, first, obviously, season tickets still available and we’re probably the best the best deal in town.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:32:45) – So we’re not super expensive and our venue is amazing. Not a bad seat in the House, but we’re definitely on social media, Twitter, Instagram. I think we even have a TikTok if I’m great at TikTok yet. And then for the old school people, Facebook. And then we have our website which is super detailed anytime that I just our experience is a little different here. And I’ve said this before at Queen’s people that come to the games, they’ll get more access to our players. They’ll be a more intimate feeling at the games because it’s just not a corporate production yet and maybe it will never get there. But for people that are really interested in being a part of the community, we’re right down the road, and the environment we have at games is impactful. The Marshall game was insane last year for people that want that experience. It’s unique and it’s different and I think they would love being a part of it.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:33:38) – Yeah. For folks who want more information, you can check out Queen’s athletics, I believe.

Bryan Berry, Co-Host (00:33:43) – And if to get those tickets that coach mentioned, I believe it’s under the fan central tag at the top of that page. And you can find tickets and also we’ll get the information about the basketball team as well. Coach might have a draw to Charlotte for a number of reasons. My two older sons moved down there about a year ago, so it gives me a really easy excuse to come down and catch a game, which I intend to do. I’ll make Norm uses corporate money. So no, I definitely want to come see you play. I’m a huge college athletics fan, so anytime I have an excuse to go see pretty much any college event, athletic event, I’m there.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:34:17) – So we’ll link to all of those links. Social media accounts in the show notes that new generation leader.fm four nine and when that schedule comes out, by the time this airs, their full season schedule will be out and public. So if you can’t make it to Charlotte and you’re somewhere else in the country, find the Queen’s program playing somewhere near you.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:34:39) – This upcoming season. Well, thanks, Coach. We appreciate your time today. Best of luck. One step at a time. The little things do matter, so pay attention to them and get better every day.

Coach Grant Leonard (00:34:49) – Perfect. Brick by brick. Guys, appreciate you.

Jay Smack, Voice of the New Generation Leader (00:34:52) – Thanks for listening to the New Generation Leader podcast. Subscribe today on your podcasting platform. Download the show notes and unlock your true leadership potential at new Generation leader.fm. Thanks for listening today and we look forward to seeing you next time on the New Generation Leader podcast.