As a teacher Coach Newell thought is was essential the players understood why they did things a certain way. In his book Pete Newell's Defensive Basketball he expanded on this:
"In teaching basketball, the importance of describing the "why" has never changed. The "why" is a fundamental in classroom teaching, and it is certainly important in teaching the basics of defensive play of basketball. While it is important to explain the "how" of performing a particular aspect of play, it is even more important for the basketball coach to explain the "why." It has been my experience that the player who understands the "why" will consistently respond correctly to the situation."
In the book A Good Man The Pete Newell Story by Bruce Jenkins Coach Newell explains how he used the part whole method to teach his players the why behind the how:
"Part-method teaching tells a player why he's doing something. In five-on-five drills you're not teaching you're coaching. Break it down to one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, go through every option of the offense and defense, and the players will understand why you're doing it. And if they make mistakes, you can point it out The parts make the whole. It's like your car engine; you work on the sparkplugs or the carburetor or whatever's causing the problem. You don't have to get rid of the whole motor. Part-method teaching is the whole basis of my coaching. You reach the point, ideally, where players come up with strategy they didn't get from me."
Newell was clear that the player's active repetition not the coach talking that would get results:
"I believe you can never change a habit, or create one, with a word or a piece of chalk. You can talk all day, put all sorts of diagrams on the board, but a habit is not going to change. It's a conditioned reflex, created by a repetitive act. Coaches say, 'Stay down low, you gotta get low,' but that doesn't mean a thing if the player hasn't physically practiced to stay low. Habits are created through physical acts'."
Stanford Hall of Fame Coach Tara VanDerveer described Coach Newell's motivational approach as a teacher this way:
"Make no mistake, Pete is as demanding of players as the most tyrannous of his colleagues, but only in that he does not quit teaching until his players execute in the manner to which he has envisioned. Rather than punishing his players for mistakes, he teaches and re-teaches until there is success. The motivation, of course, is that his players so respect this man that they give their best effort in order to please their teacher."