Chris Hollender

Assistant Coach, UMKC Men’s Basketball

6/10/16 by Tyler Baker


In his early 20’s, after graduating from the University of Evansville, Chris Hollender headed overseas to pursue his professional basketball playing career. Like most really good college players, who don’t go NBA, playing overseas is a natural next step in life. However, this natural extension of Chris’s successful college career, was brought to a halt after losing his father (only 49 years old) in 2001 to a year long battle with cancer.

“Life is short, it’s time to get serious about the future” was Chris’s mentality after the painful life experience of standing by his father’s side as he passed away. From here, the young — ambitious 6’7 forward set his eyes on the financial services industry and traded in his sneakers for a pair of Cole-Haans.




Chris took a job with Prudential Financial but months in to the new role, he realized his heart was with basketball. Soon after this realization, he left Prudential to finish out the year playing professionally overseas. 

Like many going through transition or getting started with something new, it was an introspective season of life. But in 2002, everything changed when Chris’s former coach at Evansville, Jim Crews, accepted the head coaching job at Army.

When Chris got wind of the news, he immediately drove over to Jim’s office, knocked on his door, and said

“…take me with you”.

Jim assured Chris he would be underpaid and overworked but if he was serious about getting started, then he’d love to have him. Chris was in! A bold move in a moment of necessity led Chris to taking action and it paid off. Days later, he packed up his car and was off to West Point to pursue a coaching career — he was in.

Fast forward 14 years, Chris is now an Assistant Coach with UMKC Men’s Basketball and one of the leader’s of a fast growing professional development organization – Rising Coaches Elite. He’s had coaching stints at Army, Evansville, and Mississippi State. When we caught up with Chris to get his thoughts on how he’s seen coaches break in to the business, here are a few truth’s he shared.


1. The only thing that has to be exact is your effort

One’s willingness to sacrifice and help other people grow is essential to long-term success. Effort is not an ability that only some people have while other’s don’t. We all have the same opportunity everyday when we wake up to control our effort and help others be successful.


2. You must be willing to do the work, at any level, without hesitation

Many aspiring coaches want the benefits but aren’t willing to do the work without hesitation. Whether  you’re an intern, manager, GA, ops director, assistant or head coach, at any level, you must be willing to do the work that is set before you today with the right attitude.

In hindsight, Chris admits he had little idea of the work ahead when he joined Jim Crews at Army. What he encountered was years of work (not hours, not days, not weeks or even months….years!) with little pay and recognition. This was the buy-in for a chance at more opportunity. If you want the privilege of speaking into young people’s lives and teaching the game of basketball, you must be willing to do the work.


3. Everyone get’s in to the business a different way

The dynamics of coaching change every year. What worked ten, five or even one year ago isn’t necessarily a recipe for success today. Take a look at Matt Olinger’s story for example, who started out as a student manager and is now a D1 Assistant at Liberty.

Fortunately for coaches today, organizations like Rising Coaches Elite exist, which allow for networking and professional development opportunities that weren’t available in times past.

If you want it bad enough, then you’re going to find a way to make it happen.

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