How Much Of An NBA Coach’s Job Is Actually Coaching?

How Much Of An NBA Coach’s Job Is Actually Coaching? | Sports Takes & News |

With so many NBA teams looking for new head coaches, one player from a team who just hired their coach for the 2020-21 season offered his insights as to how much of the job of a pro basketball team’s coach is actually coaching.  I have to admit that while the answer was not a new one after having heard it many years ago, it still surprises me that, at least for the NBA, X’s and O’s mean so little.

Spencer Dinwiddie missed the NBA restart as a result of testing positive for the Coronavirus, but despite working for NBA Twitter Live, was like many NBA fans when the Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash to be their next head coach.  “It was definitely ,” he told Forbes Magazine, adding, “I think it makes sense from the relationship perspective.”

Nash reportedly was strongly aided in his pursue of the Nets head coaching job by his relationship with superstar Kevin Durant, who is expected to be the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s quest to become an NBA championship contender next season.  Dinwiddie explained how Nash’s lack of experience as a head coach shouldn’t be that much of a factor with the Brooklyn Nets: “. . . coaching at this level, especially with the talent that we have, it’s like 80% psychologist, 10% temperament, 10% X’s and O’s.  It’s mostly about managing the egos. That’s why Phil Jackson was phenomenal. He knew how to speak to Kobe. He knew how to speak to Michael.”

Dinwiddie also used relationships to explain why Nets general manager Sean Marks hired Steve Nash, reminding people that the two were teammates in Phoenix while the point guard, turned head coach was winning MVP awards.  It was Marks who said after the hiring was announced, “In Steve, we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our player.”

It was Chuck Daly who famously said, “It’s a players’ league.  They allow you to coach them or they don’t.  Once they stop allowing you to coach, you’re on your way out.”  Daly was a Hall of Fame head coach for the Detroit Pistons was in also charge of the 1992 Dream Team.  While I was reminded of those words when I heard Dinwiddie speak, it was also interesting to hear them from a player, not just a head coach.  It would appear, now, even more than in Daly’s heyday, that the partnership between player and head coach in the NBA is real, with the coach likely being a virtual silent minority stakeholder to his higher paid players.

I’m also reminded of the metaphor that any jockey would win a race riding Secretariat, but the best jockey in the world can’t take an average horse to the Winner’s Circle.  Meaning that it’s easier to coach when someone like Phil Jackson has Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, because have relationships with talented players, to me, just means that you know how to keep them motivated, push the right button in their psyche, and get the best out of them.

It is also proof that in sports, especially in the star-driven league of the NBA, how the coach manages those super ego with their super contracts will determine their success or failure; not how well they draw up plays on a whiteboard on the sidelines or call a play from the bench in the game’s final minute.  It also means that having the players’ respect from day one is more important than ever, which is why, it would appear, that Steve Nash got the job.  But it is also worth watching, because when someone is given respect in a job without earn, the only place their credibility can go is down. Nash has a lot of work to do with the Brooklyn Nets, because expectations is an opponent he has never defeated from the bench, no one has, simply because the best you can do there is a tie. 


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