How To Determine If A Basketball Team Is Well Coached

I probably watch as many college basketball games as the average fan, maybe a few more. I usually watch most of UNC's home games in person but this year I had difficulty in getting people to attend the games with me and Mr. RamFanatic doesn't want me to travel from Richmond to Chapel Hill alone. So, I guess my credentials as a bona fide basketball and UNC fan are pretty well established, but I have a confession to make. As many college games as I have seen, going back to 1948, I have never known exactly how to go about determining whether a team I am watching is well coached or not. I don't have much trouble deciding what I like and what I don't like. In fact, I don't even have a great deal of difficulty in deciding whether I think a team is well coached or not. The question is whether my method of making this determination is based on valid factors or is my method unrelated to whether the team is well coached or not.

Recently a poster on UNC posted on this very subject and, based on the response he got to his post, there must be many others who find themselves in the same boat as I am when it comes to deciding whether a basketball team is well coached or not.

The individual who posted on the subject describes himself as the son of a head coach at a boy's school, a former Division 1 player and a former Division 3 Asst. Coach. I was so impressed with his post that I asked him if he minded if I reposted it on He agreed and here it is. ------------------------------------------------------

How To Determine If A Basketball Team Is Well Coached

I look at three things when watching a game and a particular coach. The first and obvious thing I look at is this: Is this team running some sort of continuity offense or are they running multiple set plays? Once I can determine that, I watch to see how the execution is. Do guys wait for picks they know are coming, do the guys setting the picks signal out they are coming to set them, do the pickers make sure they are set or does everyone run at warp speed not looking to set up their men? Do the guys setting the picks actually lay a good headhunting pick on the defensive player?

Sloppy execution is a clear sign that this coach des not demand the crispness and attention to detail needed during practice and that will always translate out on the court. You also let these kids get sloppy on the court, what do you expect them to be like in the classroom? You cannot separate the two things.

The second thing I look for is what is the defensive mindset of the team and how does the coach implement different defenses in order to best take advantage of that desired mindset. The game is still dictated from the defensive end and on the boards. Now so, more than ever, with the shot clock , you will never again see UNC call out four corners to dictate game tempo and a team's defense. Does a team strive to execute a defensive plan from the start of the game or do they have zero defensive cohesiveness and tempo? Are they communicating?

The cornerstone of any good team is constant and loud communication on the court and off of it ( kids on the bench calling out plays that the other team signals, do they yell out to the guy guarding the ball that the man he is guarding is a lefty, to remind him)? Do players have that "balls to the wall" attitude on defense? Do they burn to stop the other team?

When a kid takes a charge, do the others run over to help him out? This is one of the things especially that Duke does well. ( I know you UNC folks hate hearing that one, but its true).

The final, and perhaps the most important thing or things I look at when watching a game and critiquing a coach, are the intangibles. How does a coach conduct a huddle, do players pay attention or is there a small group always playing grab-ass, not really playing attention? When there is a lull in play and a coach signals a player, does that kid or kids run over or strut over. When a coach chews a kid's ass out on the court or off the court, does that kid make eye contact with that coach or does he look around or by him?

When a kid is pulled, does the head coach have an assistant sit with him first and speak with him or does the kid sit on the bench and simply languish? Does that team have a sense of time, score and possession? If a guy or guys have been hot, does that coach have something in the way of an strategy to take advantage of said hot players or do the kids simply allow the other team's defense to take away the hot player(s).

Does the head coach have his assistants call out offenses and defenses or do assistants seem to run willy-nilly around yelling at officials as if they are the head coach? Classic example is the guy on Steve Lavin's bench who you would think is the head man except he is sitting always. I was ready to reach through the TV during the Stanford game and strangle him. For the most part, assistants need to be the upbeat instructive ones for not only the players but for the head coach. The head coach will chew enough ass, the players then need a little "good cop" after the "bad cop" gets through with them. Assistants also need to keep focused on game flow, who is shooting well, which combos seem to be working the best, time, fouls, and any defensive or offensive adjustments that should be made and need to keep the head coach updated on such thoughts when the time is appropriate.

RamFanatic Note:

After reading this post, I think I am in a better position to determine whether teams are well coached or not. Consider this to be fair warning to all coaches who dare to put their products on display for me to evaluate :-)