There are a few things a former NBA star — say, Michael Jordan — needs to be successful in coaching. Basketball IQ is obviously one of them. No doubt, Jordan checks that box.
Then there is patience with players. And the ability to communicate clearly with different kinds of players — not manipulate them, but be honest with them and guide different personalities.
Jordan would struggle in those areas and he knows it, something he told Cigar Aficionado’s Marvin R. Shanken in a lengthy interview available on YouTube (hat tip to SLAM Magazine).
“I have no patience for coaching. My biggest problem from a competitive standpoint is the focus of today’s athlete and the focus where I saw the game, how I pursued the game — it changes and it’s totally different.
For me to ask an individual to focus on the game the way I played the game, in some ways would be unfair for that kid that would have to endure that. If he didn’t do it, there is no telling where my emotions would be. I don’t think I would have the patience for it. So in essence, coaching is something that I’ve never really felt I could do from an emotional standpoint because I’m much different and I have a different perception about things than what the kids do today.”
We just watched a 10-hour documentary on Jordan and how his style drove some teammates — and drove others away. Would that Michael Jordan intensity every day translate well to coaching?
Mike Krzyzewski — who comes from as old-school a background as there is, out of West Point and starting his coaching career working for Bobby Knight — talked on the Team USA practice facility in Las Vegas years ago about evolving his coaching style. His point was that today’s players are no less driven than players of past generations, but motivating them is different, that the days of “I say jump you say how high” are long gone. Today’s players want to understand why they are doing a drill or certain workout and how it gets them to their goal. It takes more relationship building and they need to trust you, not just blindly follow you. Do that, put in that effort to gain a player’s trust and explain why things are being done a certain way, and they will run through walls for you just like players of past generations.
Not every coach has adapted to that reality. Not every former great player who wants to be a coach would either. What drove Jordan — or Jerry West, or Bill Russell, or many players — might not drive players today the same way. Jordan is self-aware; he gets he would not connect with players the same way.