ALPINE — Marty Haws is a humble, quiet man. You have to really search to see him at one of his son’s basketball games. He shies away from the limelight and shuns flattery, sitting away from the huddle and sideline.
Yet, Haws has fathered two of Utah’s greatest high school basketball players. Both have been recipients of the prestigious Deseret News Mr. Basketball award, awarded annually since 1987. If you consider that eldest son Tyler won the award twice in 2008 and 2009 (TJ followed up by being named Mr. Basketball this past winter), 11 percent of the Mr. Basketball recipients are from the Marty and Tiffanie Haws household.
How did Marty do that?
That’s what many have wondered. Even former BYU and NFL quarterback John Beck has sought advice from Marty Haws for his own sons. How did he build this? What did it take? What is the secret formula?
Tyler is now a collegiate All-American, WCC MVP, and one of the leading scorers in the NCAA the past two years. TJ is currently on an LDS mission to France. After TJ's Lone Peak career, his coach, Quincy Lewis, declared “There is no doubt (TJ is) the most successful basketball player in Utah prep history.” All he did was start four years, earn four-time all-state honors, four 5A state titles, and a MaxPreps national high school championship.
The father may never fully explain his methods and strategy. Part of it is DNA. Part of it is following simple routines, skill development and a sprinkle of sports psychology.
But mostly it is a work ethic this side of coal mining. Somehow he’s plugged a competitive spirit inside Tyler and TJ that rivals the heat of a solar flare.
A starting guard at BYU, Marty himself was a gifted athlete with sprinter speed. Some of the formula he's followed is familiar — hard work, early-morning workouts — interwoven with add-ons and tweaks from his life’s experiences.
To gain a greater understanding of what Marty Haws has done, the Deseret News pinned down two people who know him inside and out. The first is his wife Tiffanie. The other is Orem High and AAU coach Golden Holt, who coached both Tyler and TJ beginning in their grade school days. Holt has coached 17 Division I players over the years.
“No question Marty has made a major difference in the lives of all our children,” said Tiffanie, who didn’t volunteer to be put on the spot and admits Marty would never be one to brag at all.
Said Holt, “Marty has been a huge force in the success of his son’s basketball careers.”
So, it’s on me to probe and poke in this venture of discovery. Inquiring minds want to know, so I pressed my way into their lives this week in celebration of Father's Day and a special father, indeed.
Why and how did this happen? Basketball superstars on the court and solid young men off it, Tyler and TJ are admired and respected for getting the most out of their bodies and minds.
Tiffanie smiles remembering some of the things her kids have said about Marty over the past 20 years.
Things like, "Dad is the coach? He doesn't even know how to coach girls soccer!"
Or, "My dad will take us. He is a super slow driver, but he will always take us."
One day TJ asked Tiffanie, "Will Dad be at my game?" She answered, "He couldn't get a flight to Orlando, so he is having to fly to Denver then Tampa and driving to Orlando." TJ responded, "Tell him he better not be late!"
When Tyler and TJ were younger and playing in the backyard court behind the Haws home in Alpine, Tiffanie heard one of them say, “Pass me the freakin’ ball!” She yelled out, “Hey, watch what you’re saying!” The response came, “Dad said we can say anything he says.”
Said one of the sons: "My dad only rebounds for me. He hasn't dared to play me one-on-one since I was 13."
Another son’s quote: "My dad doesn't have to say anything at my games. I can hear his voice in my head and know what he’s thinking."
That is a gift, says Holt, a Haws watcher for a decade and a half.
“What Marty understands is that the better job he does at developing his boys as young men, the better they are at playing basketball,” said Holt. “He’s used basketball as the vehicle to develop his boys into tremendous young men.
“Time, commitment, work and focus — all the things coaches love about basketball — Marty’s just seized on that. Those boys have worked hard for everything they’ve got. Their church gym has been worked over by Marty and those kids for hours, hours and hours and that has carried over to them gaining character and becoming outstanding young men. That character makes champions and balance is the key to sport.”
Holt has traveled extensively with his AAU team and Marty and his sons. Three years ago when TJ and many of his AAU teammates were making it big on the national scene as 10th-graders, Holt was hip deep in working as Orem High's basketball coach. He was getting some pushback from parents because he was demanding a lot of their time: “Well, I have Scout camp," they'd tell him. "I have a vacation planned. I can be here this time but not that time.” Holt was thinking, “Hey, we’ve got to be all in if we want to be champions."
He decided to call Marty because he trusted his judgment as a barometer and catalyst of what to demand. “Do you think, in basketball, we do too much?” he asked. “Do we ask too much?”
Holt thought he’d get in a long philosophical discussion from Marty.
Instead, Marty fired back, “No, there’s never too much. Golden, all I know is if we aren’t in the gym working that morning our competitor is, and he’s getting better, so there’s never too much.”
“This is why,” said Holt, “Tyler is reaching every bit of the talent God has given him and TJ is nipping at his heels.”
Continuing my intrusion into the Haws family, I fired off some questions to Tiffanie about Marty’s father modus operandi.
Deseret News: How did Marty get a boy to get out of bed so early to go work out?
Tiffanie Haws: Marty was always very honest with our boys' strengths and weaknesses. He never sugarcoated anything to them. I think he told them from a very early age that if they didn't get up and work out that they simply would not be able to attain what they wanted to attain. Having said that, Marty would have been fine if they would have wanted to only play rec ball, but both of our boys came with a dream to do more.
DN: What made your kids so competitive, to really care so deeply about winning and succeeding?
TH: I know a lot of that just comes with you, but Ty and TJ grew up in (an extended) family that lives and dies for sports. Every year since the time Ty was 3 years old his Grandpa Ralph (Haws) has held an annual kids basketball camp. Cousins and uncles get pretty intense and competitive out on the court. When you grow up in that type of environment, you can't help but want to be good. Ty always wanted to succeed like his dad. TJ always believed he was better than both of them. We have had many one-on-one games on our court that have ended in tears and sometimes a little blood.
DN: Has Marty taught that winning is important as a goal but isn't everything? How did he do it?
TH: Marty respects the fact that it hurts to lose and some hurt a lot more than others. There have been a few rough, quiet nights in our home. He gives them their space to feel defeat and learn from it, but there is always another game or another season to get back up and start fighting. I remember Tyler's senior year losing in the state championship game. Marty and Ty hugged each other for a long time without a lot of words. It was a rough Saturday night, but the next morning, both were up bright and early for their Sunday morning meetings. Basketball isn't everything. Not even close.
DN: What is a key to being a good teammate?
TH: Marty has taught them that team accomplishments are ALWAYS more satisfying than individual. You will never get the individual if you do not put your team first.
DN: What counsel did Marty give to be a good student on the court and classroom?
TH: Dad always gave the basketball advice, Mom always threatened (promised) that there was no basketball without being a good student.
DN: How hard did Marty push TJ and Tyler? What were the limits of where he would go or what he should say?
TH: Marty believes that a good coach doesn't motivate two people the same way. Each of our boys were motivated by different tactics.
DN: How important were the basics and fundamentals in what Marty tried to get the boys to do early?
TH: Some people are surprised when they work out with Ty and TJ because there are simply no secrets. It is all about the fundamentals and working hard. Boring but true.
DN: How important is it to be part of youth teams (AAU) growing up and is it as costly as we've heard?
TH: Once Ty and TJ decided that they had a great love for basketball, it was very important to be part of a youth team and play against the best competition possible. Marty always told my kids that someone is always bigger, better, faster and stronger and we want to play against them!
DN: How has Marty tried to get his kids to stay balanced in life?
TH: He has taught by example that you put Heavenly Father first always, then family, school and basketball. It is important to surround yourself with good people.
DN: How could such a seemingly quiet and reserved humble guy build such fire in his sons?
TH: Do not let the quiet and reserved guy fool you. The fire is all on the inside of him. He is just extremely disciplined to never let that come out in a negative way. You would never hear him yell or scream at any of his children. He doesn't work that way. But our kids know if they get that "look" from their dad, things are not good.
DN: What is the most striking feature about Marty as a father and man?
TH: He is the most patient person I have ever known. I cannot remember a time when he lost his patience with any of us — and trust me, we (especially me) give him plenty of reason to do so.
DN: Why does Marty like to stay in the background and avoid the spotlight?
TH: He has had his opportunity to be in the spotlight. He has never wanted the success of our boys to be about him. If you were to come to our home, you would not find one trophy or picture about Marty's days at BYU. If our children hear something great about their dad, it is always from their mom or grandpa.
DN: How does Marty handle letting other men have leeway in coaching his sons and not second-guess them to their face?
TH: We have been so fortunate and blessed to have some of the greatest coaches/men to teach our boys both on and off the court. We learned early on that another perspective or style is helpful. Marty believes second-guessing coaches not only does harm to Tyler and TJ but hurts the team as well. I remember Coach Lewis telling parents that any one parent could derail a team from winning the state championship. Marty's goal was always to lift the program up.
DN: What is the greatest thing Marty has tried to do as a husband?
TH: As a mother I will forever be grateful for how Marty treats me. He sets the example to our kids of how they should treat their mother and someday their wife.
DN: Some say you make your own luck, but has luck played any part in raising two Mr. Basketball players?
TH: You have to be lucky and good. A lot of things have to go your way and some of it is out of your control.
DN: What is the biggest regret Marty may have as a father? What's been the toughest challenge?
TH: Haha, not having five more sons.
DN: How has Marty been as a son to his father Ralph and why might that be important?
TH: Anybody that knows Grandpa Ralph knows what a good dad/grandpa he is. Marty would not want to say what a great son he has been but rather how blessed he is to have Ralph as his example to follow.
DN: What's Marty's greatest advice to his children on handling losses or adversity?
TH: Marty always told our kids after a loss, "Keep moving!" He will also tell them, "When you are ready, I have a few things to go over with you." Sometimes it will take a week, but my boys will always come to him and let their dad give them pointers and advice on how they can be better.
DN: What are some keys Marty has tried to instill in his kids to honor God, the core of your family life?
TH: Sometimes success can make things cloudy. The gospel has always given us the anchor in keeping things clear and in perspective.
After Tyler’s Lone Peak team won a state championship, he left the throng celebrating on the court to find his father and offer a big hug. He whispered in Marty’s ear: “We did it, Dad.”
That, in a nutshell, is Marty Haws and the results of his remarkable fatherly touch.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.