Misconceptions about coaching with Phil Jackson

by on August 5, 2016
in Great Coaching

To answer Ian Begley’s question directly, “No.”

However, this perception affects coaching at all levels.

Rather than downplaying Kerr’s and Walton’s success, I believe Phil Jackson was praising the coaches and management of the Celtics and Warriors.

Look, finding a play, running through plays 5-0 at practice, and calling a play in a game is among the easiest tasks in coaching. First, watch any basketball game. Notice a play that works. Write down that play. Walk through that play with your players. Call play in game. Rinse and repeat. That takes almost no skill. The fact that this is considered to be great coaching is one of the biggest problems in coaching.

Now, creating a “willingness for players to play off each other” is much more difficult. First, it requires the coach to take his or her hands off the clutch and allow players to make decisions. Second, it requires the coach to teach based on principles so players play well together within this freedom. Third, it requires the coach to teach good decision making, including shot selection, without constraining players. Finally, it requires creating an environment of trust between players to share the ball.

Because of the way that Jackson coached, I imagine that he is praising the Warriors’ coaches for their ability to create this philosophy and teamwork with their players, knowing that this takes more work and effort than simply instituting a serious of plays.

Furthermore, I believe that he is praising the organization for retaining players and creating an environment where players want to stay and potentially sacrifice minutes (Igoudala) or shots (Thompson) to be on a great team. This takes great coaching and management to create this environment.

As long as we continue to view calling plays, dictating the action, and demanding the attention as the qualities of good coaching, we will never appreciate the best coaches or create an environment to develop coaches who possess the true qualities of great coaching as expressed by Jackson.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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