That's particularly important when inheriting a roster of players he didn't recruit and only first met a few months ago.
"We want to understand our players," Strong said. "I don't ever want our coaches to ask a player 'How's your mom?' when really he lost her when he was 2 years old."
The players also have to understand him. And play by his rules.
He had laid down core values of "no drugs, no guns, no stealing, be honest and treat women with respect" in his first meeting with the team back in January. Then he created a stir with a series of dismissals or suspensions at the start of training camp.
Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were kicked off after felony sexual assault charges and Strong says they won't be allowed back even if the charges are later dropped or they are acquitted. Three other players were dismissed and three more potential starters were suspended for at least one game for unspecified rules violations.
"If you want to be a part of this team, you are going to have to follow the rules, you are going to have to be committed and do things right. If you don't want to do that, you can't be a part of this team," quarterback David Ash said.
"I say it all of the time, if a young man doesn't want to be a part of this program, just break a core value and you are telling me exactly where you want to stand," Strong said.
There have been other minor adjustments for his team.
Strong removed the iconic Longhorn logo stickers from player helmets in training camp, telling them they had to earn them back. He eliminated the half-mile air-conditioned bus ride from the locker room to the practice field. Players now walk to practice in their pads. In the heat.
Strong has been up front with fans about the team's prospects, and practices the honesty he preaches. Back in April on the first stop of his statewide "Comin' on Strong" tour to meet Texas fans, he warned them the Longhorns "will not be in the national championship game."
Will they ever be?
Those piles of notes may have the answer.