The Story of My First Final Four Experience by Konner Beste

By Konner Beste

A rookie to the Final Four, Konner Beste recaps the event and shares why it was a transformational experience in his young coaching career.

The Final Four is easily the most important and impactful event for basketball coaches to attend to grow their career. And I wish I would have attended my first one sooner than this year.


The energy at the convention is unparalleled to any clinic or coaching event I have been a part of. Tampa Bay hosted a fantastic Final Four experience. I waited until my last year of my undergraduate degree to attend one, and I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long. The weekend provides so many opportunities for growth, learning, and building relationships. I’d like to share my experience in hopes that it provides some guidance for other young, up-and-coming coaches in the future.


Not the most exciting topic to start off with, but it sets the foundation for your entire experience. Just like in coaching, preparation pays off. The whole Final Four experience can be an expensive trip. Start planning weeks and months in advance. Talk to friends and colleagues to coordinate travel plans so you can split the cost of transportation, hotel, etc. This can free up some expenses and allow you flexibility while you are there. Along with budgeting, generally taking care of all your logistical details ahead of time will ensure that you can fully enjoy the experience once you arrive.


It’s important to have a basic idea of things you want to accomplish going into the convention. There are so many good speakers, events, workshops, parties – there is no way you can go to them all. Taking a look at the WBCA or NABC website is a good place to start in order to be aware of what is going on and when. Then, prioritize the activities that are most important for you to attend. However, different opportunities will present themselves and so you need to be able to adapt and adjust your plan/schedule.


If there is something missing from the convention schedule, put it together it yourself. I just finished up my last year being a student manager for South Dakota State University Women’s and Men’s basketball team.

I didn’t see anything specifically for student managers, graduate assistants, or young coaches where we could all meet each other. Thus, I created my own event: Young Coaches Coffee.

We contacted a local coffee shop to book an open conference room, and then used social media to quickly promote it. Now, this event didn’t have hundreds of attendees but each day we had a small group of eager coaches show up. This provided an intimate setting for us to all share our own journey in the coaching profession, and discuss the many relatable experiences that we have shared. Most importantly, it allowed attendees to meet other young aspiring coaches who are at a similar point in their careers, and create relationships that will continue to develop into the future.


I was invited by a couple different people to small lunches or dinners. Some of these were during the convention’s schedule of events. However, I think these are just as important to go to, if you have the opportunity, as the convention events. These provided smaller group environments where you can build new relationships or strengthen ones you already have.

There are also a variety of parties each night. Some of these may be invite only or ones where you need to register in advance. These can be fun ways to end the day watching the Final Four games, and an opportunity to socialize outside of the structured convention. Again, if you aren’t able to attend these, organize your own viewing party with people you know or met at the convention.


Everyone that attends the Final Four shares one thing in common: a finite amount of time. Many coaches speak at engagements, put on their own events, attend board meetings, etc. It is impossible to meet up with everyone you know. However, you should still try and meet up with coaches you have relationships with. I texted a handful of coaches that I knew and said that if they were ever free for coffee, lunch, or dinner whenever worked for them would work for me. This cycles back up to the game plan section and the ability to adjust it. I had several coaches respond and say that they could do coffee in the morning or meet up late in the afternoon. I was willing to change my schedule because I valued any time I could get with them.


For the past four summers, I have worked the Jay Bilas Skills Camp. One of my favorite teaching points that Jay makes is that every single person you talk to knows more than you do in something: you can learn something from everyone. This really stood out at the Final Four. Everyone gets caught up with meeting or talking to D1 coaches. Yes, of course it’s great to be able to meet them and talk to these coaches who have made it to the peak of the profession. However, some of the most meaningful conversations I had were with non-Division 1 coaches, who I may not have ever met outside of the convention. Be conscious of who you’re interacting with – make sure you take the blinders off and be open to everyone.

As a young aspiring coach, I found myself in conversations where I didn’t have much to say, and that is OK.  Listen to learn, don’t listen to respond. Some of the best conversations I was a part of were ones where after I introduced myself, I didn’t say a word, and just listened to others talk. While this is going on, I TOOK NOTES.  There is so much knowledge shared at the Final Four and there is no way anyone can remember it all. Make sure to write it down.qYQHb9Uj.jpg-large


I specifically use “building relationships” here because I’m not particularly a fan of the word ‘networking.’ Don’t try and meet people just to network or you think they can help you land a job. Focus on making genuine connections, be yourself, and start building genuine relationships. On my drive to Tampa, I told myself, “I am going to return to Brookings without a job.” I surrendered that outcome, because I wanted to free myself from that expectation in order to allow myself just to be me and stay present. Don’t go to the Final Four just looking for a job – people will see right through you. There are so many great people in this profession, don’t miss out on an opportunity to start building relationships with them.

Have business cards that you can give out to people with your contact information.  When you collect business cards from people you meet, write notes on how you met, where you met, and what you talked about.  It can be incredibly hard to just go through a stack of business cards and remember each interaction.  Write notes so you can remember.


There is nothing better than receiving mail. All I ever get in the mail anymore are letters from credit card companies saying I _2hpjasB.jpg-largeam pre-approved or companies wanting to consolidate my student debt. Take the time out of your day to send handwritten letters to the people who impacted you during the Final Four. That is something people will remember. Sending a physical note is a way to be uncommon and continue building the new relationships you just made to ensure they continue.


I met so many amazing people at the Final Four. Coaches took their time to meet with me, invite me to their own events, give me tickets to the championship game, and poured so much knowledge and wisdom into me. There is no way that I could ever pay them back, in terms of what they gave me.

But, there are two things that I can do going forward: 1) Send them a note saying how much I appreciate them; and 2) Pay it forward by impacting someone else on their journey. As you continue to progress through the coaching profession, you will get opportunities to provide guidance and mentorship to younger coaches, student managers, graduate assistants, etc. This is where you need to remember all the coaches and mentors who invested their time in you. This is how you help pay them back by paying it forward to others.


If you haven’t gone to a Final Four, set a goal to start saving now for the 2020 event. It is such a transformational experience being surrounded by so many people that are full of energy and want to learn, grow, and share together. For everyone that I met at the final four, whether it was an event you spoke at, talking in the lobby of the hotel, or sharing a meal, my heart is so full of gratitude and I cannot thank you enough for making my first Final Four experience one I will always remember.

Related Post: Personal and Career Development for Coaches by Kevin Eastman

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April 5, 2019 – Tampa, Florida, U.S. – DIRK SHADD | Times.The Oregon Ducks and Baylor Lady Bears are seen during the start of the NCAA Women’s Final Four semi-final game Friday, April 5, 2019 in Tampa. (Credit Image: © Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Wire)

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