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What Great Assistant Coaches Do

  • Author:
    By Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS
  • Date:
    Jan 10, 2012

Head coaches get all the credit (and the blame, for that matter). But where would a basketball team be without the work of the assistant coaches?

Alan Stein of is a long-time high school basketball strength and conditioning coach, and he knows a thing or two about the dynamics of a team and the importance of its assistant coaches. Here, he offers 40 traits that every great assistant coach has.

Great assistant coaches:

  • Are loyal to their head coach, to their program and to their school.
  • Do everything to support the head coach and uphold the philosophy of the program.
  • Are open-minded and are always willing to learn...true 'students of the game.'
  • Aspire to become a head coach at some point. They view being an assistant as an apprenticeship.
  • Are willing to listen more than they talk. They ask questions. They keep notes.
  • Understand and accept their role but they work hard to expand and grow their role.
  • Constantly interact with and have a genuine interest in fellow coaches, players and parents.
  • Balance out the head coach's demeanor and personality ('good cop, bad cop').
  • Set an example for the players to follow, both on and off the court.
  • Are consummate professionals at all times—in how they dress and how they act.
  • Take pride in doing the 'dirty' work for the head coach. They do WHATEVER needs to be done.
  • Love to coach and love to help young people. They don't do it for the paycheck!
  • Help 'sell' the program to the players, parents, and fans. They take great pride in their program.
  • Are open and honest with the head coach. They are not a 'yes man' (or 'yes woman').
  • Never, ever undermine the head coach in front of the team. If they disagree, they address it privately.
  • Are always looking for ways to help improve the team and program. They view it as their team!
  • Are humble. They check their ego at the door and are 100 percent about the team.
  • Are focused on their current job and team. They don't have one eye on a future job possibility.
  • Know they have more to learn. They don't think they 'know it all.'
  • Learn every aspect of being a coach...from mopping the floors to running practice.
  • Know their role during practice as well as their role during games (which may differ).
  • Give daily attention to the players at the 'end of the bench.'
  • Are 'Glue Guys' (or 'Glue Gals'). They hold EVERYTHING in the program together!
  • Are the first ones to practice and the last ones to leave. They set the tone.
  • Accept a specific duty during games...keep track of time-outs, fouls, shot attempts, etc.
  • Appreciate the opportunity and privilege of being an assistant coach.
  • Are great communicators. They are often a liaison between the players and the head coach.
  • Are always enthusiastic, up-beat, and positive. They create energy for the team!
  • Are servant leaders. They serve the head coach. They serve the team.
  • Are prepared to assume the head coach position in a moment's notice (practice or game).
  • Help their fellow assistants; they don't compete against them.
  • Meet with their head coach regularly with constant updates on players.
  • Use all of the same terminology as the head coach (even if it is different than their own).
  • Take care of all minor 'issues' with players on their own. Only inform the head coach when necessary.
  • Care about their players and respect their players, but aren't 'friends' with their players.
  • Develop a keen interest in players' lives off the court (family, school work, etc.).
  • Pay close attention to detail. They sweat the small stuff.
  • Are innovative and creative—they think 'outside the box.'
  • Are the 'eyes and ears' for the head coach at all times.
  • Offer to relieve the head coach of appropriate duties so they can focus on running/coaching the team.

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