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Telltale signs of bad basketball coaching

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Jan 13, 2016.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    One of the high school girls basketball teams I cover is not doing well, only one win so far, lost its last game 81-45 and was shut out in the second half of the game before it.
    The team has had the same coach for the past three years and has had losing records each year.
    Today, my news editor dropped an anonymous letter on my desk, signed "(name of town) taxpayer" complaining about "inept and erratic coaching."
    I've always tended to think that at the high school varsity level, while some coaches are definitely better than others, there are no truly incompetent head coaches. The competition for high school varsity jobs is just so stiff that there's no way a truly incompetent coach can get hired. But as I said, of course, some are better than others.
    Since talent can vary greatly from one school to another, a coach's record obviously doesn't tell the whole story.
    I probably should know the game well enough that I should not be asking this question, but is there anything in particular that would be a telltale sign of a competent or incompetent coach? Is there anything that is indicative of a competent or incompetent coach that I ought to notice when watching a game?
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  2. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    I reject this premise, but I probably covered preps in a different area than you did.

    Coaching incompetence in high school sports, from my perspective, is when players argue with each other or with coaches in plain sight during a game. Back covering preps, this was quite common in the areas I covered. That coach has no control over the team and they don't respect him or her.
    93Devil, Batman, SFIND and 1 other person like this.
  3. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I'd go along with that. When I was talking about competence, I was referring more to knowledge of the game.
    justgladtobehere likes this.
  4. JohnHammond

    JohnHammond Well-Known Member

    Maybe I'd have a talk with the news editor regarding caring about the rantings of an anonymous letter writer.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    OTOH, knowledge of the game shows up more apparently in girls' basketball than most other sports.

    Truly, what does it matter if the coach is "incompetent" or not? The record speaks for itself.

    What I would worry about is if the kids are learning anything, having fun, being treated well, etc.

    I would write a story if a coach was mistreating players, acting like a jerk, yelling threats or obscenities during games, cutting corners, etc.

    I would not write a story that indicated someone wasn't a very good coach in my opinion or a fan's opinion.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    BrendaStarr, Batman and SnarkShark like this.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    So the editor should not have dropped it on his desk? I'd certainly want to read it if I were Smallp. Not that I really give a crap about someone who would write a letter and not sign it.
  7. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I'm not planning on writing anything. Mostly, I'm just wondering if there's anything I might see during a game that would be indicative of competent or incompetent coaching.
    My impression of the coach from my own knowledge of what she's done on this job and elsewhere is that when she's had talent, she's won. When she hasn't had talent she's lost.
    Of course, that's true of 99.9 percent of all high school coaches.
  8. Are the players actually any good? Maybe find out how the team played at the JV/freshman level. If they were 4-12 then, and 8-14 now, well, they're just not any good.

    It's tough to spot "incompetent" coaches, IMO. I'd say one of the better coaches in my league is leading a team with three straight losing seasons ... but they have improved each year. And it might seem like he doesn't do much coaching because they don't run many offensive sets, however, the players have somewhat low basketball IQs, so it's best to just let them play.
  9. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    If the players look completely lost when the opponent changes defenses (from man to zone, for example), that's a poorly coached team.

    The players might be overmatched physically and get steamrolled, but there is no excuse for not being able to recognize a different look and/or not knowing what to do against it.
  10. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I’ve done scoreboard and PA stuff for about 15 years now for boys’ and girls’ basketball, in addition to a couple years as a sports reporter in the past. Differences between good and bad coaches to me:

    - Whether they’re loud or quiet, they have control of the team. Meaning, players are looking at them during timeouts, and doing their best to execute the game plan the coach is putting in. Obviously, there are some allowances here based on team make-up.

    - How are they motivating the kids? One guy who I consider one of the best coaches is definitely a screamer, but it’s never -at- the kids. (i.e. He’s not yelling at them to stop making stupid mistakes.) Instead, it’s almost always positive reinforcement. “Slow down! Patience! Pass!” It’s obviously opposite of the Phil Jackson style, but I think that works well for high school players who might not have great basketball instincts yet. Absolute worst, there was a guy who openly told players they were stupid and fucking up in the huddle. Big shock, but his team faded down the stretch of that season.

    - When it comes to actual Xs and Os, how willing are they to adjust? The worst to me is a coach who shows absolutely no flexibility when it comes to tactics. If your team can’t execute one press break, do you have a back-up option? If you’re getting killed by a 6’6” center, are you willing to try something different, like going small? One coach was especially infuriating because his team had 3 games in one season where time expired without them taking a shot, with the ball, down 3 or less points. In 2 of those games, IIRC, he had timeouts remaining.

    - Obviously, roster composition is huge for all of this. If you’re a D3 girls’ team (lowest division in RI basketball), well, you’re usually lucky if you have two girls who can dribble against a press. But in the scoreboard position I’ve had, I also realize that some coaches are much, much better at retaining the players’ interest and cooperation year-to-year. One coach in there now, I consider her a good to very good game coach, but her attitude clearly wears down on players and they switch to indoor track. This has bitten her two years in a row, as her team has been playing with 6 or 7-girl rotations after injuries. You don’t want to let players walk all over you, but there is always a balance to be struck between keeping them on the team and playing hard, vs. running them off or intimidating them from even trying out.

    Like SnarkShark, I absolutely agree that there is not always hot “competition” for these jobs that forces out bad candidates. (EDIT: Fixed typo.) Magically, in the 15 years I’ve done scoreboard work for this team, only one of the 6 or 7 coaches hired was not an alum... Hard to believe that the absolute best coaching candidates for these open jobs were graduates from a school that, while OK time to time in basketball, is not a state power and is usually happy to just make the playoffs.
    SnarkShark likes this.
  11. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    FWIW, records at JV and freshmen level are about as worthwhile as preseason and exhibition records. There is just way, way, wayyyyy too much noise in the data. One team I cover, anyone with a pulse is on varsity, leaving JV solely as a glorified rec team. Another one, because the program is deep with average talent, has juniors playing their third year that know the offense and tear apart the freshmen they're facing, but most of them won't contribute at the varsity level. Also, given the ages of players, a 5'9" point guard can show up the next year as a 6'2" power forward or center.
  12. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    A little background on the program. In 2001, it won a state championship and was undefeated. Its coach (who was inducted into the school's hall of fame last fall) stepped down after that season. This is the third coach since then and the program has been in a perpetual state of rebuilding for the last 15 years. There were a few OK seasons during that time, a few second-place finishes in the league and a run to the sectional semifinals one year, but a lot of really bad seasons, too.
    That 2001 team had four seniors and one sophomore starting. All of them played Division I college sports (1 basketball, 1 soccer, 3 lacrosse). The first kid off the bench went on to play Division 1 softball, as did one of the sophomore bench players. That coach relied heavily on the starters, playing them for most of the game. He took a lot of criticism for it, especially in the ensuing years when the team didn't do as well. Some people said the program would have been better off over the long haul if the younger players on the bench played more, even if it came at the expense of winning a state title that year. I disagreed. You have the talent to do what that team did, you go for broke, as that coach did. When he put the subs in at the end of the game during a lopsided win, it was pretty obvious why they didn't play much, either. The JV team was really bad that year, too.
    I don't really have a lot of contact with the youth people in town, other than when they send the tryout notices in the fall and the occasional team photo at the end of the season. I suspect the youth program is part of the problem, though I imagine I should look into that.
    This school also offers just about every sport you can imagine, eight different girls sports in the winter alone, including fencing, Alpine and Nordic skiing. The school also has really good girls soccer, volleyball, tennis, lacrosse and softball teams and those kids tend to specialize in those sports.
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