I get the question a lot from young assistant coaches. How can you separate yourself as an assistant coach and provide true value to your head coach and program?
Spend time with the players off the court
Develop a relationship with them that isn’t about basketball. Figure out what makes them tick, what motivates them, what they are really passionate about. Become a go-to guy for them when they need someone to talk to. This will help you coach them better, and help you help your boss coach them better.
I had an Ops guy at Maine (Tom Barrett, who is now at Sacred Heart) who used to stat and edit practice every day. I never asked him to do it, it was something that he did on his own. He’d give me a clipped version of practice to watch. He’d also cut up recruiting video when we got it. So when I needed to watch film on a recruit, he’d again have it clipped so that all I had to watch were the relevant plays of the recruit.
My assistants also would edit game film I needed to watch whenever possible. Again, it wasn’t necessary, but it did make watching film go a lot quicker and save valuable time.
Get in the gym
Make a habit out of being in the gym 30 minutes before the start of practice every day, no matter what. Stay after practice until the last player walks out. Let the players know you are going to be there. Be the guy they can count on in the gym to make them better. Don’t make your boss tell you “We need Andrew in the gym getting extra shots up.” That should be a given. You make your bosses job a lot easier by making the players better, and your relationships with them will grow stronger.
Keep the scouts simple
I know there are a lot of insecure, maniac head coaches out there who want every single thing an opponent has run in the last 3 years written down. So you have to give your boss what they want. But if you keep scouts very simple and to the point, so that the players and coaching staff get exactly what they need, and no more, you are helping tremendously.
You should know it all. You watch all the film and know all of their actions and tendencies. But you don’t have to give that all the your boss. Give him the relevant stuff, the stuff that happens a lot, in a clear and concise manner. This will put him in the best position to prepare his team.
You should be able to deliver a walk-through/scout on the floor in 12 minutes or less. If it takes you longer, it’s too much.
Be strong where he is weak
If he pays close attention to the offense (most head coaches do), you focus on making the defense better. If you aren’t getting enough shots up during practice because the team stuff is taking too long, get shooting groups going before and after. If the guards need to work on their post defense, or the bigs need to handle the ball a little bit better, put in some extra time on that.
No head coach ever feels like he gets to everything in a daily practice plan. There is always a lot more we’d like to get done. Figure out where the gaps are, and fill them in.
Make sure the players are on time and ready
When he first gets on the bus, he’s always going to ask if everyone is ready to go. When he walks into the gym, he’s going to want to know if the team is all here. Get these answers ahead of time. Make sure the kid are showing up for their classes, study hall, appointments. When they don’t, have the answer for him before he asks the question.
Guys are going to make mistakes. But your boss wants to know that the ship is steady. He doesn’t want to hear “I’m not sure coach, I don’t know where he is.” Always stay one step ahead with regards to the players and their responsibility.
The pressure on him is different than the pressure on you. Most coaches get emotional and intense, sometimes more than they should. If you get emotional at the same time, it only raises the level of emotion in the room. Stay composed when he gets upset to try and keep him level. There may be times when you have to get him a little fired up about something, but most head coaches have plenty of emotion going on themselves. Don’t add to it, diffuse it.
Ask him what else you can do
Coach, is there anything else I can do to make things easier on you? Don’t be afraid to ask him that question. Your job is to make his job easier, to allow him to spend as much of his time as possible just coaching the team. Don’t be afraid to stop in every now and then and ask him what else you can do to help.