There is no manual or website that will tell you exactly how to coach basketball. There are as many ways to coach basketball as there are basketball coaches themselves. There is no formula that guarantees success; however there are many ways to fail. One way to guarantee failure is to try to listen to and to please everyone.
The majority of people who will give you advice have no idea of how to coach basketball. So, you have to learn to be polite and respectful, but not be influenced by outside voices. I have found that it is easier to do that if you have a definite blueprint that you will use as you go about doing your job as a basketball coach.
No matter how much you know about the game, the plays you want to run, the drills you like, or how you will guard the other team, a lot of your job as a basketball coach will involve working with other people. I would say that more coaches fail because of their poor people skills than fail because of their lack of knowledge of the game.
Motivating your players to work hard and work together, working with administrators and other support personnel, working with parents of players, responding to the media, and interacting with fans and the community are all significant parts of a coach’s job.
Here is an outline that you can adapt to your coaching situation to begin to define the areas where you must spend your time and that you must be good at. You need to not only have a plan for how to coach basketball, but that plan must be adapted to fit your specific coaching situation.
1. Develop a philosophy and obtain buy in from your players. Without a philosophy of what you want to accomplish and how you are going to go about arriving there, you won’t have any continuity from practice to practice or game to game. As a coach, you can do almost anything you want, but it will be impossible to do everything you want. Your philosophy will help you to sort out which of your ideas you can and will implement.
2. Coach like a leader, not a boss. A boss says “Go!” but a leader says “Let’s go!” You have to find ways to influence the energy, effort, attitudes, and unselfishness of your players individually and your team collectively. There are many ways to lead, but the most effective is by example.
3. Teach the game. It doesn’t matter what you learn or know about the game, what matters is what you can get across to your players so that they can execute in games. It makes no difference how long or how eloquently you can talk on a given topic during practice. You words are only effective if they improve how well a player or players execute that skill. Explain the “why” when you are teaching the “how.”
4. Spend time developing your players’ individual skills. If I forgot everything about how to coach basketball, except for one area, I would want to remember how to improve individual player’s skills. Heading into post-season play, would you rather have a couple of great plays to rely on or a couple of great players? I would take the players every time! You develop your players by planning and spending time every practice on skill development—shooting, dribbling, passing, catching, and finishing.
5. Implement offensive and defensive schemes are best suited for the abilities of your players. A coach’s job is to put their players in positions where they can play to their strengths and hide their weaknesses.
6. Be prepared for every situation that can come up in a game. You have to be ready with a plan to handle every situation that can present itself in a game from foul trouble or injuries to time and score situations to “surprises” that you might get from your opponent. The best time to think through what you need to prepare for is prior to the season. That way you will be able to include them in your practice planning and preparation.
7. Plan for and execute great practices. Practice is the area that you have at your disposal where you can make the most significant impact on how your team performs on game night. In essence, you are bringing together those first six tips on how to coach basketball plus all of the other resources that you have collected.
As the coach, if you have a bad practice, more than likely everyone else will have bad practices. You must be mentally, emotionally, and physically rested and prepared every day to push your players out of their comfort zone to improve.
Coaching basketball is a very rewarding profession, but it is also often highly frustrating. It is frustrating in the sense that to compete at a high level, you must establish high expectations. It is often a struggle even for the best players to meet the standards that are necessary to succeed. By having a process for how you want to coach in place, it helps you to stay on course and gives you benchmarks to measure and see your progress.