Of all the basketball games you have ever attended in person, watched on television, listened to on the radio or read about in newspapers or magazines--high school, college or professional--have you ever, repeat ever, been made aware of a team that was poorly coached?
Never. Repeat never.
Every team is well coached, right? Have you ever heard Dick Vitale comment that a team is poorly coached? Did Billy Packer ever claim that a team was anything but well coached? On the IHSA network, has any high school team been said to be poorly coached?
Aren't you just dying to hear Vitale say: "This team has a lot of talent but they are poorly coached. The coach doesn't know what he is doing. He is ruining his team's chances to be successful."
Don't hold your breath, right?
There are great coaches and good coaches and coaches who aren't as good as others. Bad coaches? I don't think so. Not intentionally. Bad coaches are pushed out of the business quickly. They know who they are. Good coaches do what they have to do to be good. Some develop into elite coaches, even legendary. We know who they are.
It takes all kinds to be a coach. Some are great with X's and O's. They are tacticians and strategists, the kind who are asked to speak regularly at clinics. Some are great personalities, the kind who are hired as network commentators after they retire. Some are great recruiters, the kind who know how to evaluate and accumulate talented players.
Without talent, a coach can go only so far, no matter what level he is playing in. It was often argued that King's Landon Cox wasn't a good coach, that he only won because he recruited the best players and simply let them run up and down the floor and beat opponents with their overwhelming skills.
Thornridge's Ron Ferguson had the same reputation when he coached Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts, Greg Rose, Mike Bonczyk, Ernie Dunn and his state championship teams of 1971 and 1972.
East St. Louis Lincoln's Bennie Lewis didn't get much respect despite winning four state championships in the 1980s. Neither did Lawrenceville's Ron Felling, who built a small-school dynasty with Jay Shidler and Marty Simmons in the 1970s and 1980s.
I don't buy it. Coaching is more than X's and O's. The bottom line is they won championships. How many talented teams have you seen that didn't win anything? How many top-ranked high school teams didn't advance beyond the sectional? How many preseason No. 1 picks never played up to expectations?
Having covered those Thornridge and King teams extensively, it became abundantly clear to me that Ferguson and Cox had a gift for doing more than just push buttons, that there often were more problems to solve off the court than on it, that they were smart enough to understand how to deal with all of the diverse personalities and managed to inspire their players to be the best they could be.
To me, that's what coaching is all about. And when you put it all together, add some talent and a little bit of luck, the result might be a state championship. No, not every team is well coached. Some are coached better than others.
But poorly coached? By definition, is that a team without any discipline? Or a team that can't run a half-court offense? Or execute a simple out-of-bounds play? Or is it a team that doesn't know a man-to-man defense from a zone?
I haven't seen any of those. Have you? If so, call Dick Vitale.