As the readers of this blog are fully aware, the large majority of my professional career was spent in the world of coaching (basketball). Throughout the years, I made hundreds of acquaintances in the basketball community. One of the gentlemen (and I use that word because it is a perfect description of this coach) I met a long time ago is Kevin Eastman, currently an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.
He, rather recently, began a website, kevineastmanbasketball.com which is sensational - especially for coaches (men & women, particularly young coaches, but even the old dogs can learn a few new tricks by logging on). The following (reprinted without his permission - I’m emailing him as soon as I hit the publish button) is his latest post. It contains valuable information for assistant coaches.
Since my entire college career was as an assistant of some type, I remember thinking that everything I’d ever seen in print had to do with being a head coach. I wondered when someone would come out with some information to help assistants be better assistants. Kevin’s blog today touched on exactly that - and it was followed by a dynamite side out-of-bounds play. Here’s the entry:
There’s no question that a head coach has to be “on” at all times. He has to be on when he’s in front of the fan base. He has to be on in his speeches. He has to be on in his interviews. He has to be on in his game time decisions. But most importantly, he has to be on in practice. He has to have tremendous concentration in seeing the practice and making the corrections.
The assistant has a tough task when it comes to being “on” all the time, because many assistants don’t look at it this way. I’ve seen some who actually put themselves on “cruise control” during practices.
Whether you are actively involved in the practice or not, you still have to pay attention. Some work for head coaches who do almost all of the teaching, correcting, and talking in practice. Even if that’s the case, you can’t be disengaged for that practice or even parts of that practice.
Find ways you can learn during practice. I often take notes through the entire practice. It may be a statement Doc makes, a new wrinkle he adds on the spur of the moment, or an observation I can take to him after practice. It could be anything heard, observed, or learned. The big thing is that I try to stay totally engaged and in an observation or learning mode at all times.
As assistants we owe it to our head coaches to help our team improve every day. Whether you have a lead voice or not, you can still help the cause. Find ways to stay focused for your team and your own growth and future in this profession.
One thing I’d add to this wisdom is that the assistant needs to make suggestions to the head coach - even if you think it might upset your boss. Don’t just disagree to be contentious or to have your voice heard. And certainly, when you suggest something, make sure it is just that - a suggestion. After all, when you get your chance, you won’t want your assistants trying to overhaul your program. Be tactful, approach at the right time (during practice is usually not the right time) and make sure it’s within the philosophy of the head coach. Just remember the old saying:
“If you and I agree on everything, one of us isn’t necessary.”
And, much more often than not, it’s you, the assistant who’s expendable.