So, in our [pretend] search for a basketball coach, we’ve laid out our requirements for success, gathered a short list of names and researched their résumés. Now it’s time to conduct some interviews. After all, a coach’s résumé isn’t everything. While past results are a good (perhaps the best) indicator of future success, they are hardly perfect.
If we’re going to determine whether a coach is going to be able to meet the standards we’ve set out, we’ve got to look past the won-loss record and start looking at the man himself. The interview is where a coach gets to demonstrate things like his personality, his skills, and his values, characteristics which are vital to choosing the right man for the job. Obviously, I’m not able to interview any of the candidates I suggested the other day (and I wouldn’t be qualified to make such judgments anyway), but we can at least look at the sort of qualities we’d be interested in.
Smokeyrover left a fantastic comment on my Expectations post regarding which criteria are important in selecting the next coach at Cal, of which I’m going to borrow a portion now. [Smokeyrover’s comments are in italics.]
Obviously a sturdy win-loss record is important, playing competitively and beating very strong teams is important, but you really have to look at where Braun fell short at Cal to come up with the criteria for selecting a coach from the mid-major ranks. I think it is a combination of these three elements:
1) Very strong leadership abilities. This is a broad category that is wide-ranging, from how they deal with the administration, fans, media, and donors to how they connect and inspire both on a one-on-one basis with players and the team as a whole.
Agreed. Being a nice guy that everyone likes is not enough (see Holmoe, Tom). I would add to this list the coach’s relationship with other coaches, being that the head coach needs to be able to recruit and utilize quality assistants, as well as keep contacts with high school coaches with regards to recruiting. Of course, the most important skill here is the coach’s leadership of his players. He has to find guys who want to play for him, get them to buy into his system, and inspire them to work harder than they want to, especially when things aren’t going well.
2) Knowledge — tactical, instructional, and developmental skills. This goes from teaching the small details (i.e. footwork) to strategic dexterity both in-game and over the course of a season (and seasons).
Definitely essential. A coach can make up for some deficiencies in this area by hiring quality assistants, but quality assistants tend to get hired as head coaches at other schools, so that will only take you so far. Obviously, Braun is a defensive coach (though you wouldn’t know that from watching this year’s team), so it would behoove him to hire an offensive-minded assistant to build upon his rather tired offensive playbook. Someone who could show DeVon Hardin what he’s supposed to do with his NBA-ready body would be nice, too.
3) Can specifically layout their plan for how they can be successful at Cal. One of Braun’s main failings is that he made bad recruiting decisions and had poor roster management at the start of his career at Cal and even when he corrected some parts of this area, it became evident that he just wasn’t good enough for whatever reason (parts from #1 and #2 above) to execute that plan. If Sandy Barbour is looking at a mid-major coach where the school didn’t have access to the level of recruit that would come to Cal (like Braun at Eastern Michigan), how, specifically, does the coach intend to build a successful program at Cal? What kind of recruits? What kind of system? This is a crucial question.
Right on. Having an overarching plan for the basketball program is absolutely critical. It’s not enough at this level to simply be a great basketball coach. To build a program that wins consistently, a coach must be able to recruit top-level athletes and fit them into a system that allows them to be successful, and then do it again the next year, and the next, until opposing players are more afraid of the name on the front of the jersey than the name on the back. Think UCLA, Arizona, Duke, or North Carolina.
I feel like The Plan is the most important thing to look for in hiring a basketball coach. A track record is great, but we’re not paying a coach for their past results. We’re paying him for the results he will produce over the next 5 years, or 10, or however long the contract is. Past results can be colored by happenstance, as sometimes a team can luck into recruiting a transcendent player (e.g. Leon Powe), or sometimes the team’s best player can be lost for the season due to injury (also Leon Powe). A solid program, however, will take advantage of the first situation while weathering the storm of the second.
I also feel like having The Plan is the one way in which Braun could save his job. I don’t think Sandy Barbour should come out and fire Braun immediately. Instead, acknowledging that recent results have been subpar and that there are obviously problems with the program, Braun should interview for his own job. Clearly, staying the course is not what we’re looking for here, but if Braun is able to perceive and acknowledge the issues facing his basketball team, develop a plan to turn things around, and demonstrate an ability to successfully implement his plan, that would definitely give me something to think about.
Of course, don’t take Braun’s word for it. Interview the rest of the staff too, as well as the players, both current and former. Find out what’s actually wrong (coaching? athletes? personalities?), and see if it matches up with what Braun thinks is wrong. Does he have a pulse on things?
I want a winning basketball team at Cal, one that I can actually get excited about. If Ben Braun can be the guy to build such a team, I’d be all for him coming back. However, my guess would be that about 90% of the fan-base has decided that that’s not the case. I don’t blame them.
The most important thing here, Sandy, is to get this right. Quickly, before we all lose interest, and start going to Warriors games instead. Go Bears!!