If a young player is interested in studying the greats -- from any sport -- just log onto YouTube and watch them in action.
It's also a great source for watching coaches -- at clinics, during interviews, etc. In fact, it's where I found an interesting three-minute talk from Stan Van Gundy to a group of high school and youth coaches.
It was uploaded to YouTube back in April, though I'm not sure when it was filmed. However, it was when he was with the Heat.
In any case, I thought Coach Van Gundy had a good take on why the skill level of basketball players in the U.S. lags behind our European counterparts. Here's the transcript:
"Quick frankly, we're failing pretty badly in this country as a whole in teaching basketball skills. You notice when you watch the NBA because there's a huge difference in just the skill level of the players coming from Europe and what we have here in terms of their ability to pass the ball and shoot the ball.
We can't even produce enough people to do those things here that we've got to go across and try to find people who can do them.
We're not developing skills here.
One of the reasons is we're much more interested in playing games, and winning and losing at a young, young age than we are in skill development.
[Youth coaches] have to make a decision -- if you want to teach the kids that you're coaching how to play basketball or if you just want to win games, because there's a big difference.
Last spring, I coached both my 12-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old son for two months in a YMCA league. I got to see every approach [to coaching].
Of the 18 teams that I saw in that limited time, there were maybe two or three coaches who were really trying to teach skills. Everybody else was just trying to win a game.
[How?] Leave your best players on the court as long as you can. Play zone defense, for God's sake. It was beyond me -- in a 9-year-old league -- to play zone defense for the entire game.
Obviously, don't let your biggest kids dribble the ball. Make sure they always give it to a guard, who is usually your son.
And then you wonder why, at the high school level, we've got so many kids who can't play. We never have a 6-5, 6-6, 6-8 kid who can dribble, pass, and shoot because, at the young age, you tell him to go stand under the basket and get the rebound and give it to somebody else.
[As a youth coach], you have a decision to make. Do you want to help build basketball players or do you just want to tell everyone that you won your youth league?"