Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The value of a veteran coach

Read a Q&A with Larry Brown recently that really interested me. A couple of highlights:

-- On the ability of veteran coaches to develop younger players: "I look around now and I think the older coaches are so important in this league because we've got all young kids. We have to teach these kids. The bottom line is, we've got to develop young players and these coaches that have paid their dues and learned their trade are the most qualified to do this. You have a responsibility to teach these kids and make them better."

-- On the role of a coach: "You try to build a guy's strength and eliminate the weaknesses."

-- On coaches paying their dues: "I do love the fact that we've got new young guys coming in here. Mo (Cheeks) worked his way up. Byron (Scott) worked his way up. Rick Carlisle worked his way up. There's so many of those great stories that I hope we recognize that."

-- On the pressure to perform: "They judge you on your body of work. Now the pressure on me is to try and make this team better, but I think I felt that way everywhere I've ever gone. I've felt that every day of my life. Every practice I feel that way."

-- On what he missed most when he was away from coaching: "I didn't miss the games when I was working with Philly. When I was coaching toward the end of my career, the games were sometimes painful because you're worried that maybe your team's not prepared. You have some anxiety in that regard. But I missed the practices and smelling the gym and being around the players and the coaches."

Coach Brown's point about veteran coaches as teachers is right on. In his last year of coaching, Chuck Daly was unbelievable in Orlando. A master of his trade.

One summer, I worked for Hubie Brown during a tournament in Limoges, France. He'd not coached for awhile, but it was like he'd never missed a beat. He was as good as any coach I've ever seen. He teaches "parts" of the game, then the whole, breaking it down piece by piece, just as a good teacher does in the classroom.

I couldn't believe that an NBA team hadn't hired him. [Of course, Jerry West did and Hubie earned Coach of the Year honors.]

Mike Fratello is another example of a veteran coach who could take over an NBA team today and have success. He's that organized and has that much knowledge of the game.

What these coaches have in common is that they've not stopped learning. They're always curious about the game and what they can learn. It's what separates them from other coaches their age.