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shaquille o neal
basketball hall of fame
scotty pippen
kobe bryant
professional coach
nba championship
The Greatest Ever
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When the Lakers won their 15th NBA Championship last week, Phil Jackson won his 10th title as a coach, surpassing Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in league history. The argument started in earnest about whether Phil is the greatest coach in the history of sports.

A good case can be made that Phil actually is the best coach ever. His detractors state that he had great players like Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. However, don’t all coaches that win have good players? During the Celtics dynasty Auerbach coached nine players who would be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame. When I’ve coached with better players on my team I know that everybody thinks I’m a better coach. Many are critical thinking it was harder years ago to win a championship because there were only sixteen teams that were all loaded with talent, but with expansion has also come a worldwide growth of the game with rosters now full of international stars.

The crucial question to answer to determine the greatest coach is what criteria should be used. Phil Jackson has won more titles than any other professional coach with Red Auerback and Scotty Bowman (Hockey) tied with nine each. However, in college, John Wooden also has ten titles and Ron Dedeaux, the USC Baseball coach had 11 career championships. Maybe instead of championships the key factors should be different, including graduation rates in college, career wins, hall of fame players developed, outperforming expectations with bad players, improving the players or teams, or even simply the winning percentage of all games coached. However, each of these measurements would lead to a different outcome for the all-time greatest coach. Yet, in professional sports, winning titles is paramount and therefore Jackson does have a legitimate claim to greatest coach ever.

For SportsKids, the more important question is to judge the quality of our youth coaches. What criteria should we have as parents, administrators and as kids to determine who would be the greatest youth coach of all time?

While winning titles in professional sports may be the ultimate goal, it is not what makes a youth coach special. Winning is important and kids always enjoy being on a good team, and winning championships does allow leeway in other areas, but it isn’t the ultimate measuring stick for kids. The higher the level of competition and the older the kids get, the more important winning becomes, even for youth sports, but there are many other things that have to be considered.

To determine what makes a great youth coach it is imperative to understand why kids are playing sports. They play sports, first and foremost, to have fun. There are a great number of elements that go into having fun, some are obvious, like being on a team with friends and winning. However, it is up to a good coach to provide the other elements that will lead to a kid having a very satisfying and fun season, including: improving as a player, accomplishing goals, learning life lessons, and simply having the experience be enjoyable by running around at well organized practices and games. We have to allow kids opportunities to succeed and have fun.

Kids will all be told soon enough that they’re not good enough to play organized sports, whether it’s after they turn twelve, not making the high school team, or even for all but the very, very best, not being able to play beyond high school. Then, sports become totally about fun. Those of us that are still weekend warriors, in any sport, play for the enjoyment of being out there. Why should it be different for our kids when sports should be a special time with friends away from school and other commitments?

The goal of a great coach is that the kids have fun. There are no objective measurements for how much fun a kid has during a season, but we can see some of the results. Are the kids smiling and happy? Do children come back and play the next year, especially those that are the worst players on the team? Do the kids all come out to practice on time and work hard to improve their skills? Have their skills actually improved and have they learned anything from the coach?

The reward of being a great youth coach is not that anybody will ever write an article about you or that you can get into the hall of fame. You probably won’t win any awards or make a lot of money. The reward of being the greatest coach of all time is when you’re walking around your community and the kids come up and say “hey coach”. The ultimate reward is when your own kids and those that you have coached over the years become coaches themselves and pass on the life lessons, good fundamentals and other aspects that you taught them about being a great youth coach; when you go back to the park on a sunny afternoon and see the next generation of kids out there having fun.

By Ken Kaiserman Editor In-Chief

Street Talk

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