I think some of the best ideas that I get is from just talking to basketball people. Early this morning I was proud to watch one of my closest friends coach his first professional game as a head coach in China. He’s worked so hard to get to where he is and has done it the right way. He studies the game and really cares about his players. As most coaches his age try to back stab and just worry about networking Norm just studies film and tries to make his players better.
We spoke about some of the things that he needs to do as he was taking over for his boss. Making that transition from assistant coach to head coach is an extremely difficult move to make. It’s easy to be one seat over and make suggestions to the head coach rather than be the one making those decisions. A lot of assistants get upset when their ideas aren’t used, but have to understand that their job is to give their input and it is up to the head coach to make the final say.
The other big adjustment that is made from making the move from assistant to head coach is the relationship that you have with your players. As an assistant coach you tend to have a more friendlier relationship with your players than a head coach would have. I always make reference to the movie Moneyball where Billy Beane wanted to keep his distance from his players so when he had to make tough decisions that it was that much easier to do so. I don’t think head coaches should be that far from players but since they decide who plays and who sits having personal biases could interfere with how they do their job.
The first thing that I told him to do was to be honest with his players. Tell each one individually where they stand as far as their place in the rotation. This is very important especially at the college and pro level because in the end players want to be told the truth. I think players should be told exactly what the coach needs from them so they can have a fair chance of being in the rotation. Too many coaches don’t want to be confrontational with players and have tough conversations with them.
Having great presence is the key to becoming a great head coach. It doesn’t matter what you know or what offense or defense that you will run, if you don’t have presence you can never be truly successful as a coach. Having presence doesn’t mean that you have to parade up and down the sideline or berate your players. It means that they know that you are in control and are totally prepared to be in charge.
The next thing tat I told him is not to change the way he looks at the game now that he has made the jump from assistant to head coach. Too many coaches change the way they see the game and try to be like everyone else for some reason. It is that originality that defines the way that they are and should keep the same values and philosophies that they had as an assistant as they do as a head coach. Without question you need to change a little bit as a head coach, but just remember what got you there.
As a coach always communicate with your players. Give them their roles and responsibilities as far as what is expected of them. They should know that if a line is crossed that they won’t get screamed at or called out that they will sit on the bench. It is all about opening up the lines of communication with your players. These days there are too many walls that are built up between players and coaches and it needs to stop.
Players that aren’t in the rotation are very important as well. They can make or break your locker room and need to be on the same page. I think you need to be straight wit them and let them know where they stand ahead of time. Let them know that unless there is an injury, foul trouble, or a blow out that they may go long stretches without playing. If that will be a problem to them tell them they may not want to be on the team as you have very little time as it is and to spend it trying to convince the 10th,11th, and 12th man to have good attitudes is just counter productive.
As you move up to become a head coach clean out your house first and make sure the foundation is set before you are worrying about what you will run on offense or how you are going to guard the pick and roll. Having solid character on your roster and open communication with your players is the way to start. Sometimes you need to make hard decisions and get rid of good players with negative character, but without solid character it will be very difficult to deal with adversity.
I hope everyone’s Holiday season was great and had time to spend with your families. I am sorry for the delay in writing, but this year will be a very good one with the Hoop Consultants. I hope that everyone’s season is going great. Good luck and God Bless.