Post NBA Draft Thoughts on Coaching

The NBA draft was lat night. Three Kentucky players went in the lottery. Coach Calipari was at the draft and posted pictures with the kids who were drafted. Many of the comments on those pictures are UK fans yelling at him for being more concerned with getting players to the NBA than winning championships. They say that the only thing that matters is winning a championship. These comments made me think about the job of a coach. What is the coach’s job? Is it all about wins and losses and nothing else matters? I can see that argument in professional sports, but not at any other level. Sure, winning games is good and the goal of playing the game should be to win, but that is not the most important thing.

If you are coaching youth sports, even at the all star level, developing the players as both athletes and people should be the main goal. There is no level in youth sports where you stop teaching and start caring only about wins and losses. Unfortunately, I’ve heard coaches as early as 10U opine that since they had a collection of talented players they had to worry less about coaching because the wins would be easy. They have no business coaching kids. The wins over everything else mentality destroys youth sports. We end up with situations where kids are kicked off their local travel teams in favor of kids who live miles away so the coach can notch a couple of extra wins. Instead of working with players and developing their skills, coaches just dump the kids who are in a slump. It’s easier than actually teaching. Isn’t winning all that matters? Who cares if they ever play high school sports as long as I get my trophy.

If you are coaching high school sports you should also be developing the players as both people and athletes. Sure, you have tryouts and you pick the best players.  This is the point where some kids have to hear that they don’t have the skills to play at this level. Once you have a team, though, you have to worry about more than wins and losses You should be making sure your kids are keeping their grades up and helping them develop their skills in the sport. Your job is to get them ready for life after high school. That might mean getting them ready for college sports. It might mean helping them get the grades they need to go to college without sports. It might just mean helping them become better people. Wins are good, but getting them ready for life after high school is more important.

I think the same goes for college. It is a big business and you will be judged on wins and losses. This does not mean that a championship is all that matters. You are still coaching kids and you still have a responsibility to get them ready for the next step in life. For many of the Kentucky players this means the NBA. For some it means getting a degree. If your players are going to class, winning games, having fun and either going pro or graduating from college then you are doing your job. Calipari is excelling at this. The kid good enough to go pro are drafted and are making millions. The kids that aren’t are getting degrees and possibly playing overseas. He’s going to Final Fours and championship games and has won a championship. I think the one and done system is flawed, but that’s the game right now.  Calipari understands that his job is getting the players where they need to be to be successful. He’s doing this and winning games. The people complaining just don’t understand that the players and their futures are more important than the feelings of the fans.

Calipari Envy

I opened the Washington Post this morning to find that John Feinstein has chosen to write another article bashing John Calipari. Apparently, Calipari is the”everything wrong with college basketball” because he uses a rule that other people enacted better than everyone else in the game. Apparently, it is wrong for Coach Calipari to recruit the best high school players and help them achieve their dream of playing in the NBA. I guess he would prefer Coach Cal to be like Syracuse coach Jim Boheim who recently made negative comments about one of his own players to try to taint his draft status because he wouldn’t come  back and help Boheim win more games. Perhaps he should pattern his program after a small school like Cal Poly. Surely, they care more about student athletes? Right? Wrong. Cal Poly had a graduation rate of 62% among it’s players. UK? 82% and rising. Maybe he should be like Feinstein’s very good friend Gary Williams. He’s a hall of fame coach. He must have been  doing it the right way. Right? Wrong. Maryland had a 0 percent graduation rate for players entering school from 1997 to 2000, a period in which the school was building two Final Four teams. Think we ever heard from Feinstein about that? Nope.

All of those players at UK who aren’t real students have a B average. They go to class and take it seriously until such time someone offers them millions of dollars to quit. Want kids to stay in school? Stop offering the millions so early. A coach at any level before the professional level should see their job as preparing the kids for their next step in life. In college that should be either the NBA or graduation or in some cases both. For the most part, Calipari does exactly that. Many other schools don’t send kids to the NBA and also don’t graduate them. What exactly are those coaches doing? Looking out for themselves and no one else. If I had a kid who had the choice, I would send him to Calipari in a heartbeat.

People tend to hate success and successful people. Calipari is one of the best coaches coaching at the best college basketball program. People want to tear that down to feel better about themselves.