Over the years while I have served as a basketball coach, official, athletic director and radio/TV analyst, one question I have been consistently asked is: what makes a successful high school basketball coach?
As an athletic director I had to hire and evaluate high school basketball coaches.
I took many things into consideration, especially when looking to hire a coach that had the potential to be successful.
Evaluating and hiring a basketball coach are similar. My evaluative tool was 50 percent of the hiring process.
Successful coaches should:
– Believe and obey the Maine Principals’ Association’s Interscholastic Athletic Rules, Regulations and Policies.
– Be able to teach the life lessons that cannot be taught in high school classrooms.
– Be fair to all players from the last player on the bench to the star player, especially when it comes to enforcing team rules and policies. Players cannot be fooled and quickly find out if a coach is fair.
– Be a good role model. They must lead by example in all areas of coaching.
– Have a system of discipline when players don’t do what is asked in practices and games.
– Not get upset and yell and scream at players for physical or mental mistakes. Coaches should follow legendary John Wooden’s model — the Wooden Bench — of the coaches best friend being the bench when disciplining players. This is more effective than yelling and screaming at players and leaving them in games.
– Take the blame for losses.
– Not intimidate officials by constantly talking or yelling at them. How can they expect their players to display good sportsmanship if coaches are not setting a good example?
– Have a good knowledge of the game and especially be able to teach player and team fundamentals, skills and strategies.
– Have well organized practices with little wasted time. The drills should improve skills and game techniques. Practices should not be throwing the ball out and scrimmaging.
– Prepare their teams from scouting reports so players know what to expect from opponents and make needed game adjustments to what the opponents are doing offensively and defensively.
– Develop systems that work with the type of talent they have available. Do coaches go 16-2 when they have the talent but go 2-16 when they don’t? Successful coaches usually hardly ever go below 9-9 regardless of the team’s talent.
Other ways to measure successful coaches deal with the postseason. When coaches have the best team do they win in the tournament when the pressure is on and they are expected to win? Does the coach ever exceed the expectations of his team’s talent and maybe even win a championship?
I have always felt that the most successful coaches are those that take average talent and still are competitive and give their teams a chance to win.
A final measure of a successful coach is how many of their players go into coaching and what their former players do with their lives beyond sports.
It’s also important to remember that many successful coaches have never won a state championship and that winning is not as important as teaching life lessons.