Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Assistant coaches: The backbone of a team's success

The current issue of The Sporting News has a great interview with NE Pats coach Bill Belichick (shown here with Florida coach Billy Donovan before the Pats preseason game with the Bucs).

The full interview isn't available online (at least not that I could find), but they did post some "outtakes" from the interview on their website. A couple of highlights:

On what coaches can learn from other sports: "I think maybe some of the basic coaching things, like when I talk to (Johns Hopkins) coach (Dave) Pietramala about a situation or a player or the concept of preparing for this or that or how to present it or the psychological part of it -- I think there's some carryover there. But lacrosse is a lot more (like) basketball or soccer ... it's different than football, (where) at the end of each play you huddle, you pick a new play. The games are a lot different, but the coaching principles carry over."

On what he learned in school: "One of the things I'd say I learned the most was the appreciation of the skills and talents of other people, the students, and how different they were and how talented they were and how they could do things, and not everybody did them the same way.

I think that applies to football, where you have receivers that have different styles. They're good, but they're not all the same, and you have to figure out ways to utilize those things. What one person does (well), another person might not, but they may still be able to be productive at that position. ... You can be good ... with one style of defense or another style of defense, as long as it's coordinated and fits together."

On how teams are a reflection of their coach: "Whoever's picking the players and coaching the players should pick them and coach them the way they want the team to perform. I'm not saying it's always perfect. But if you want a really fast team, you should go out and get really fast players. If you want a really big team, you should go out and get really big players. If you want a team that can really throw the ball and you're a good passing coach, then you should go out and get good passing players, and you should coach them well, and you should be able to throw the ball.

However you build you team, you should be able to see that reflected in way the team performs -- unless you made a lot of mistakes, or maybe there's too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, either coaching the team or selecting the team."

On dealing with players: "In some respects, you have to treat everybody the same. There has to be some sort of common denominator. But in another way, you can make some adjustments for some people, anybody really -- it doesn't have be one of the "name" players. That's what it comes back to. Any time you make a decision, you do anything, (if) you look back and say, 'That really doesn't help our team,' then why do it?"

On team leaders: "In a lot of cases, our best players are our best leaders and our hardest workers. They set a better example, to be as good as they can possibly be. That's an awesome situation -- that's really what you want. You want your best players to really set the pace. That's great environment for everyone else to emulate and try to keep up with."

On his coaching staff: "The assistants are the backbone of our success, really -- they're the ones who do most of the coaching. On a team basis, I do a percentage of it, but they actually do a far greater percentage of it. I think there is a balance. You want everybody to work together. At the same time, you want people to be able to work independently and come up with things on their own and handle problems on their own. But it's all in the context of a team framework."