Forty years ago, coaches couldn’t practice with players on the court before October 15th. In 1971, Lefty Driesell, Head Coach of University of Maryland, couldn’t wait to get started, so he came up with the whole concept of starting practice at 12AM, October 15th. Midnight madness was really just practice actually held at midnight, and coaches were never happier to get back to coaching for the next six months. Working with a dozen or so individuals, molding them into one cohesive unit working towards a common goal and winning championships, is what coaches love to do. Working on fundamentals, drills, offense, defense, special situations, and blowing that whistle is when coaches are truly happy.
Current NCAA rules permit coaches to work with individual athletes or even the entire team for two hours a week from the start of the school year up until the start of official practice. Legislation is being voted on this week by athletic directors and presidents at the NCAA Convention which would actually permit coaches to work with the student/athletes during the summer. With these additional hours of court time allotted prior to the official start of practice, one would think that there is more coaching than 20 years ago. While the actual hours of coaching time has increased, most current coaches would agree it seems to take up less of their time. Tom Dempsey, head coach of Rider University thinks that on the floor coaching probably takes up 10% of his time. “There are so many more commitments these days that as the head coach you really have to manage your time well.”
In a forever changing, fast paced culture, multi-tasking has been taken to a new level for everyone. College basketball coaches are no exception. In the past, coaches who called a time-out at the perfect moment, made the proper substitution, or called the right play at the end of a game were considered great coaches. Today, coaches are judged with greater scrutiny on and off the court. Coaches now have to think more like a CEO in the business world. There is always something to be done. Coaches are expected to speak at alumni events, conduct media interviews, go to lunch with boosters, counsel student/athletes, attend department meetings, meet with their staff, meet with academic counselors, provide community service, write thank you letters to donors, and the list goes on and on. Keep in mind; we haven’t even mentioned anything about recruiting; which some coaches will tell you is a full time job in itself.
“We do not really coach less, it’s just that we spend so much more time doing so many other things,” says Jim Ferry, Head Coach of Long Island University. And would he change any of this? “Not at all. We have a great profession, it’s like anything in life, and you just have to adjust with the times.” The rules will constantly change with NCAA legislation, and one can only guess what restrictions will be put on coaches after the NCAA Convention ends. The good news for coaches, conference play is finally here, and for a couple of hours a day, they are permitted to do what they really love to do, COACH!
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