Greatness doesn't carry over from court to bench

Taking a look at the NBA's current coaches, plus undergoing a cursory investigation of the most prominent names on the league's all-time coaching roster, leads to an interesting conclusion: Very few great players turn into great coaches.

Before investigating the reasons why this is so, here's a completely subjective rating of some notable All-Star caliber NBA players and their subsequent coaching careers.

Great players who became great coaches

Bill Sharman: He led the 1971-72 Lakers to a record 33 consecutive wins and an NBA title. He also coached the Golden State Warriors into the Finals. Best of all, he managed to convince Wilt Chamberlain to play a team-oriented game. He's perhaps the most underrated NBA coach ever.

The 10 best coaches

Phil Jackson: He went from being the Knicks' sixth man to the best NBA coach ever.

Nate McMillan: It's been his way or the highway.

Pat Riley: He specialized in adjusting his personal game plan to suit the specific skills of his players. In addition, all of his teams were always meticulously well prepared for every game they played.

Jerry Sloan: He's a feisty, disciplined player and coach whose teams reflect his personality.

Role players who became good coaches

Rick Adelman: He knows his Xs and Os as well as anybody.

Al Attles: He could defeat any of his peers in hand-to-hand combat, both as a player and as a coach. He used this threat to good advantage.

K.C. Jones: He was the epitome of a quiet, inspirational leader.

Kevin Loughery: He was perhaps the best practice coach in NBA history.

Doc Rivers: His most important talent is creating and encouraging team-oriented goals.

Paul Silas: His basic coaching tools were dignity, patience and honesty.

Role players who became fair-to-middling coaches

Don Chaney: He could quietly motivate good players, a tactic that didn't work with lesser players.

Eddie Jordan: He was too committed to a Princetonian offense.

George Karl: He plays too many head-games with his players.

Sam Mitchell: He knew the game but was much too confrontational.

Don Nelson: His Gargantuan ego gets in the way.

Scott Skiles: He's more intense on the bench than most of his players are on the court.

Mike Woodson: He has done a terrific job with a severely flawed ball club.

Role player who became a bad coach

Mike Dunleavy: His paranoia gets in the way.

Why, then, have there been more role players who make the grade as coaches?

Because, in order to merely compete:

  • They had to learn all of the subtle, detailed aspects of the game.

  • They understood the necessities of discipline, preparation, teamwork and unselfishness.

  • Since they could rarely overpower a game, they learned how (and why) to let the game come to them.

  • They practiced hard and never took shortcuts.

  • They had to develop their off-the-ball game.

  • They valued the contributions of role players.

  • Their psyches weren't overwhelmed or unduly influenced by the star syndrome.

    And why have so many great players failed when they moved to the bench?

  • Because they were good enough to simply out-talent so many of their contemporaries while their knowledge of the game was relatively shallow.

  • They expected their players to be able to do the things they were able to do.

  • They expected their players to completely follow their orders simply because they themselves were such transcendent players.

  • Players had to come to them and not the other way around.

  • Humility and admitting mistakes were not part of their game plan.

    As the player played, so shall he coach.

    Author: Fox Sports
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    Added: August 28, 2009