Define “good coach”

I haven’t done this before, but I’m interested in reader opinion of one or more of the following questions:

What defines a “good coach”?

What makes a coach good or bad? Obviously there’s winning. A coach that wins is never questioned. But there’s more to it than winning.

What else defines a good coach besides winning?

How do winning/good coaches get their teams to win?

Can you be a good coach if your team wins but hates you/you’re an asshole?

Can coaches whose teams have losing records more often than not be considered “good coaches”?

How many losing seasons does it take for a coach to be moved from “good” to “bad”?

I have my own thoughts, but I’d like to hear yours. Post your initials or a moniker after your statement so I can easily refer to you.

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  1. Great question Hoopalonious. In our case, winning is not the most important thing, playing time is. Today’s parent only cares that there daughter plays every minute of every game. I have asked several times of parents how many minutes would be good for your daughter. They tell me she can play all 60 minutes. I then explain the game is only 32 minutes at the high school varsity level. You might be shocked on how many do not know and look at you in amazement.

  2. Long comment is loooooooong.

    Different levels of coaching have different skills attached in addition to some of the basic necessities. A good coach at any level has to recognize what their players bring to the table and come up with ways to use those skills effectively. They should also be able to change their game plan when circumstances change. Sitting in the stands, I should be able to figure out what that coach has in mind- why they're doing what they're doing. Their moves shouldn't seem random. A good coach should also be able to communicate effectively with their team so those strategies get put into place, and understand that communication takes different forms.

    A professional coach has to be a people person- they're dealing with people who are pretty well set in their ways, and are adults in their own right. They have to be good at explaining themselves, because their players have the background to question their ideas.

    A college coach has to be a little more nurturing. I hate that word, but it's the only one coming to mind for what I want to say. You've got people who maybe are far from home, maybe for the first time, and in a prime position to do really stupid things. (Speaking as someone who tried dorming without the proper emotional maturity to leave home… yeah, that didn't work out so well, and I'm not even an athlete, and I was maybe an hour from home.) I think force of personality is more important here than it is on the pro level.

    A high school coach has to balance the two- be diplomatic enough to deal with parents, principals, and other official-type people (while at the same time maintaining a backbone to tell any of the above to fuck off as necessary), while being a good influence on their players, who are in prime years for influencing.

    If you prefer "answer by example", Mike Thibault is one of my favorites for his strategizing. Pat Summitt is the queen of changing her game plan to adjust to circumstances. Geno Auriemma is one of the best communicators I've ever seen. Ron Rothstein was incredibly skilled at fitting the right players into the right places. I could watch any of them coach and know why they make the moves they're making, which is my most basic criterion.

  3. I definitely don't judge a coach on winning…

    I guess to keep it simple I'd say the following:

    a) developing a strategy that b) maximizes player talent and c) being able to communicate and build relationships in ways that d) allow individuals to put faith in each other and function as a unit within the system.

    At different levels the need to be a PR rep/player development expert/recruiter obviously effort vary…

    And I know people say we cannot judge coaches because there is so much going on behind the scenes, but I think you can tell when a team is just completely uncoordinated simply by whether there are patterns in what they do.

    It's what impresses me so much about the Sun. Even when they are missing Whalen or Jones, they are sticking to the same plan and everybody seems to buy into the system. You see patterns in what's occurring play to play, even if you don't know exactly what's occurring..

  4. EXCELLENT comments so far, peeps. Keep em coming and I'll cut and paste them into a blog discussion/column, with proper attribution to those who have identified themselves.