*This post is not about basketball, even if you may think it is.
I have noticed in the past few years that there is a formula to being a successful college basketball coach, without really being a good coach. I began to notice this when the University of Kentucky picked their new coach, Billy Clyde Gillispie. Touted as an exciting young coach who would return UK to a hotbed for basketball success. Gillispie has recruited well, but his teams have not been very strong. Why? He’s one of the new and upcoming coaching sensations, why hasn’t he turned UK into a national power? (Not that it wasn’t before he got there, but that’s another story for another day.)
As I have watched Gillispie, I realized that he was using a model that is based on recruiting the top skilled players in the country, giving them a basic system to play in, and motivating them to play up to their talent level. It makes sense why someone would do this, because talented players are exciting to watch; talented players will make good plays that make coaches look good; talented players usually win. Thus the strength of this model is in recruiting and motivating; not coaching. This model is everywhere today in college basketball, mostly because it works.
You see if I have big, stronger, faster players, who shoot the ball better than your players, I will win. This does not make me a good coach; it makes me a great recruiter and motivational speaker. I should not be confused with a good coach, if I am just a recruiter and motivator. The results should not be confused with the means (Or just because somebody wins games, or even championships, does not mean they're a good coach!)
Now I say all this, not to dog UK, but to point out how it is easy to allow ourselves to miss the obvious - the fact that these guys cannot coach - because we’re blinded their success. Fans like winning, alumni like winning, athletic departments like winning, but coaching is not about winning. Coaching is about teaching. Coaching is about player development. Winning is a by-product of a well developed, well taught team.
What's the fall-out from the Billy Clyde coaching style? Well, basketball suffers. If players are not being taught the intricacies of how to play the game, then those details never get passed down. Eventually the game will erode and deteriorate. Things that have been learned will cease to be known. This is why good coaching is so important, it passes along the art of the game from generation to generation. This is why we need good coaches. The end result: basketball eventually dies.
This principle translates over into every discipline. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are people in a particular discipline more concerned with success or the purpose of that discipline?” This is the root of the problem, when people cease to care about anything other than success, the product will eventually suffer as people look for shot-cuts to success. We should not be deceived by this mindset, because in the end we only hurt ourselves by taking shortcuts.
What do you think?