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Coach Dan Savage: Setting the Expectations Low but the Bar High

Coach Dan Savage: Setting the Expectations Low but the Bar High
July 25, 2022 | | 5 min read

For Coach Dan Savage, the saying “the ball stops bouncing someday” seems to not apply to him. Ever since he started taking basketball seriously in middle school, he has never separated himself from the game. Coach Savage ended up playing college basketball where he was known for his unique jumping ability. Even at 50 years old, he can still dunk the basketball. 

After high school, Coach Savage went back to his former high school where he was an assistant girl’s JV coach for 7 years. That was until he was listening to a radio show where Joe Brant, Kobe Bryant’s dad, said that they were looking for volunteers to sweep and take tickets for a new semi-pro team in Las Vegas. Immediately, Coach Savage picked up the phone and got in contact with Coach Joe Bryant. After a couple of days, Coach Savage became the assistant for the Semi-Pro team. From there, Coach Savage would go on to work with multiple other Semi-Pro teams along with coaching his son and daughter’s high school team for 8 years. 

Today’s All In Takeaway’s are around Coach Savage’s experience through 28 years of coaching!

All In Takeaway #1: You can Turn Around any Program

Many coaches are worried about coming into a program where the history of the team’s performance has been below average. For Coach Savage, not only has he been a part of multiple teams with a history of bad performance, but he has also been a part of multiple teams where they were winless in the prior year he was brought on staff.

The first time was when he was brought on to coach his daughter’s high school team. After accepting the Head Coaching role, Coach Savage realized that the team has lost 32 straight games. Instead of recruiting outside talent, Coach Savage invested his time and energy in player development and team improvement. After just two seasons, the team was able to make the playoffs! Coaches, are you worried about the history of the team’s performance when joining a program? 

All In Takeaway #2: Setting the Expectations Low but the Bar High

I inherited a team where players were promised different things that I did not promise. This led to players leaving due to not getting the playing time that the former coach told them they would get.

Coach Savage has been on the other side of coaches who make lofty promises to players. Almost always, this leads to players getting frustrated with the coaching staff which negatively influences team culture. Instead of setting the expectations high, Coach Savage takes a different approach. He will set the expectations low, not promising the players anything. Meanwhile, Coach Savage always sets the bar high for his team as he always expects nothing but the best. 

We have 2 returning players that both started last year. I told them at the end of the season meeting, that there is no guarantee that they are going to start next year. I also told them that my goal is to recruit kids so good, that they are going to have to come off the bench.

Not only does this help motivate the athletes to prove Coach Savage wrong, but it also does a great job at setting the expectation. Through his experience of taking this “setting the expectations low” approach, Coach Savage will rarely deal with athletes getting frustrated about not receiving their “promised playing time.” Ultimately, setting the bar high for the team and expectations low for individual playing time results in a stronger team culture and motivates the athletes to earn every minute on the floor. Coaches, what approach do you take when it comes to setting the expectations and bar? 


Coach Savage is the Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball Team at the College of Southern Nevada. Coach Savage took over as the Associate Head Coach last season, just 4 days before the first game. Despite the sudden change, he was able to help take the team from being winless in the prior season to 14 wins. Going into the 2022-23 season, Coach Savage looks to do even better. Go Coyotes!

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