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USA Basketball Coaches Network: Advice For Young Coaches

  • Date:
    Jan 23, 2015

Welcome to the first installment of the USA Basketball Coaches Network. Some of the best basketball coaches in the country have worked with USA Basketball over the years, and many of them have agreed to join us here at to offer insights and share experiences that can help young players and coaches elevate their game.

This week’s question:

Looking back to when you started coaching, what is the one piece of advice you would give yourself if you were starting today?

Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School:

I would offer this advice to a new coach just starting a career: Build relationships with your players both on and off the court.  Team building is extremely important and the players need to see the coach in a non-coaching role to build trust in each other and between the players and the coaching staff.

Another important piece of advice is to play the players that will help you be the best team.  This sounds simple but young coaches are often influenced by parents, friends and other people about who should play. Young coaches sometimes are loyal to a fault to seniors who can't help the team win.


John Olive, head coach, Torrey Pines (Calif.) High School:

Whatever system you are installing for offense or defense, make the system fit the players – don’t force the players to fit the system. It is good for you as a coach to educate yourself as to the many ways to play this game, and good for the players to play up to their abilities.


Dori Oldaker, head coach, Mt. Lebanion (Pa.) High School

One of the best decisions that I ever made as a head coach was building a very strong, loyal and honest coaching staff.  Having loyalty and supportive assistant coaches is extremely important and you need to listen to them. They should not be afraid to state their opinions and ideas.  Our coaching staff is a tight-knit family and we enjoy being together and working together as a team.


Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) High School

“Never sacrifice your integrity for a win.”  We are in the business of developing leaders, not just basketball players.  It is important to model strength of character, and equally important to develop strength of character in your players.

Brian Robinson, Bishop McGuinness (N.C.) Catholic High School

If I started my coaching career today, knowing what I have experienced for the past 20-plus years in the profession, my advice to myself would be simple: Be fair to everyone, be consistent in everything, be yourself at all times and be patient in the process.

Being fair to everyone means that the rules are the same for each player. Not everyone is going to be equal in talent, so not everyone will get the same amount of playing time, or starting roles, etc., but if they all know that you are fair in your punishment, fair in your overall treatment of them, and fair when it comes to how much they put into the program, they'll respect you.

With consistency, being the same every day, win or lose, and with your overall approach to everything allows your program to run smoothly even on days when there is some adversity.  Players, their parents, your assistants and anyone else involved with your program appreciates consistency and can use that as a foundational point when things are tough or when things are good.

Being yourself is important because it allows you to coach to your personality. That allows your players to have a daily expectation of you and keeps them from guessing. The less they guess, the more they respect you, and thus being yourself begins to tie in with consistency.

Being patient is important for future success. The worst thing that can happen to a young coach is to be successful early. It sets you up for failure because when tough times come, you may not know how to handle it properly. Set your program up the way you envision a successful program to be. You do that by studying other successful programs not just in your sport and not just at your level. See what makes them great year after year and then take parts of each to fit what you want your program to be. Then, let it slowly build itself and over time you'll have something magnificent on your hands.

Mike Jones, head coach, DeMatha (Md.) High School

If I could tell myself one thing it would be to take the time to really cherish and appreciate each player on each team. When games start, every season goes by so fast. It's a blur. I really wish early on that I would have mentally "slowed down" in order to really enjoy the growth of my players as players, as students and as young men. We all chase the WIN, and to me that is very important. BUT, in order to really be an effective coach, you must be invested in developing young people to do more than score baskets.

Eric Flannery, head coach, St. Edward (Ohio) High School

Surround yourself with people you trust.  Don't worry about people who are strong with the x's and o's, but have people around you who will support your decisions, work hard for you, and help the kids for all the right reasons.  Trust your instincts in doing things the right way.


If you have a topic you’d like the USA Basketball Coaches Network to address, feel free to write it in the Comment section below.


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