Great Basketball Coaches and Leaders

Great Basketball Coaches and Leaders

This basketball coaching article was written by Kevin Sutton. Coach Sutton has 26 years of coaching experience.  During those years, he has been a college assistant five years at James Madison University, Old Dominion University, and George Washington University.  Also, Sutton coached at five nationally ranked high school programs: Flint Hill Preparatory, Harked Preparatory, St. John’s Prospect Hall, Montrose Christian, and Montverde Academy.


Great basketball coaches and leaders have multiple characteristics that earn them the right to these titles. It is not a self-imposed title, but one earned by demonstrating the actions that go along with being a great coach and leader. Here are ten different ways that you can improve as a leader and a basketball coach.


I. Know how to manage and lead different personalities well:

A. They create an atmosphere where opinions are welcome.
B. They allow for ownership of the team to be shared without sacrificing the whole for its parts.


II. Know that their egos must come last:

A. They understand the importance of the proverb, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle, but creates twice the illumination.”
B. They know that when one person on the team has success, we all have success.

III. Are great at communicating:

A. They understand the many different forms of communicating: verbal, non-verbal, written, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
B. They have the ability to clearly and consciously articulate the mission, vision, objective, and strategy of their basketball program or company that will lead to success.


IV. Treat their staff and everyone affiliated with their program with respect and dignity:

A. They take the time to get to know their people on a personal level.
B. They foster a family atmosphere.


V. Have a thirst for knowledge, learning, and teaching:

A. They are willing to learn different ways to do their job better and experiment with new methods, even if their old ways are proven to work well.
B. They are constantly asking questions.
C. They try to stay on the cutting edge in their profession.
D. They use every opportunity to teach. “Teachable Moments” are when they shine the brightest.


VI. Have a tremendous “feel” for their profession or craft:

A. They know whom to play, when to play them, and for how long.
B. They understand and embrace “the moment.”
C. They respect the past, are “present” in the present, and are eager for the future.


VII. Are innovative thinkers:

A. They embrace “outside the box” thinking.
B. They have the ability to read the “tea leaves” and make appropriate changes while anticipating situations several moves ahead.
C. They are a part of governing bodies that are changers of their game, business, or industry.


VIII. Have a philosophy for their coaching and leadership style:

A. They develop philosophies over time through trial and error in coaching basketball. The philosophies are created by years of experience and through the observations of other programs and organizations.
B. They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of previous programs or organizations they have worked to create their philosophy.


IX. Nurture and grow new leaders:

A. They create an environment where growth can and must occur.
B. They often will play “devil’s advocate” to teach a person how to define their belief on an issue, idea, or rule.
C. They don’t want all “yes men” because they are confident enough to know that they are not always right. They understand that other people have great ideas too.
D. They understand the theory of “secure vs. insecure.” They understand you must freely share your knowledge to train the leader who will eventually succeed you (Moses trained Joshua, Elijah trained Elisha).


X. Build up instead of tear down:

A. They create a “safe environment” where asking questions to seek clarity is encouraged, and taking risks to inspire growth is applauded.
B. They live by the proverb “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”.


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4 Responses

  1. Coach Sutton,
    You just described my daughter. She coaches a group of 7th & 8th Grade girls. She emphasizes TEAM. Am I biased when it comes to my daughter? Probably! But others see her impact on “the girls” and have encouraged her to step up to the high school level. Personally & selfishly, I wish she would make that move but I have always told her I would be “okay” with whatever decision she makes on that regard and will continue to support her. I just thing if she would move up that everyone would benefit more. Thanks for listening.

  2. Really a great article, I will be sharing this my coaching friends!!

    Thank you

    Bill Singleton

  3. Coach Kevin,

    This does not only apply in coaching basketball but it applies to corporate leadership and effective parenting.

    Great article! I’ll be sharing this to everyone….

  4. Great stuff Coach. I’ve seen too many coaches unable to develop the 1st two characteristics

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