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The Collegiate Basketball Coach as a CEO

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Most of us watch basketball games because of the players and the on-court action. The thrill, the excitement are what draw us to the arena to watch our favorite team on the court. For many, basketball’s attraction is limited to the 40-minute game, and little thought is given to the how the team is managed and coached.

It’s been said that players win and coaches lose. The job of a coach is often thankless, and coaches have been fired because their teams have not performed according to expectations. Much like managers of companies that don’t do well.

It’s not often that the job a basketball coach is compared to that of a CEO, for obvious reasons. But there are several parallels, and if you look closely, you’ll find that there are more similarities than there are differences. Let’s take a look at some terms commonly used in management and how they might apply to the role of the coach.

Advertising and Promotion – A critical element in drumming up awareness, interest, and support from the customers (read: school supporters and prospective recruits). The school has to be publicly viewed as a good launching pad for prospective stars of the future. Good connections with writers/columnists of media such as tv, radio, and newspapers are a useful and practical way for coaches to ensure that their teams have enough public exposure to be interesting to their followers and possible recruits. Note to the coach: use the term “rebuilding” with caution, if possible ask your media contacts not to use it when referring to  your team. It’s dangerous to have a rebuilding program, because the stakeholders start expecting results after the one-year rebuilding phase. Related topic: The Bottom Line, Setting Goals / Objectives

Bottom Line, The – The CEO’s bottom line is measured in financial terms, while the basketball coach’s bottom line is statistical: number of championships won, winning percentage, success rate against a particular opponent, among others. Unfortunately, some coaches have not been given a long enough takeoff runway to generate results, and encountered heavy pressure to perform in one year, or else (you know where the exit is). Note to people who hire coaches: allow a reasonable learning curve. The job of a coach is similar to that of an orchestra conductor, who has to harmonize the talents of his players. This can’t be done overnight, or even in a few months. Related topics: Setting Goals / Objectives and Strategic Planning

Inventory Planning – ensuring that the team is well stocked with enough of the right talents; the worst possible scenario is to have too many of a certain item and not enough of others, for example, 5 centers all standing 6’5” and only 1 point guard. Overstocking can also lead to product spoilage due to long shelf (bench) life, and when certain players don’t get any floor time, they may lose interest or transfer to other schools where they have more chances of strutting their wares. Related topic: Supply Chain Management.

Market Analysis – scanning the other schools during the off season, watching their pre-season games, observing their recruitment activities and what training camps they attend. Helps to figure out what they might do during the season

Peter Principle, The –The Peter Principle, states that “in any hierarchy, a person will rise to the level of his incompetence”. If literally applied to basketball, the coach would just be a player who got to be coach because he stayed in the game long enough. If that were true, we would have lousy coaches, because the good ones would have moved up the basketball hierarchy. The multi-titled DLSU coach proves this to be a fallacy. From the first year that Franz Pumaren assumed the reins of the Green Archers, they have achieved success that is unmatched by any school in the same period. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. Happily, we have one of them.

PLOC – more commonly known as Planning, Leading, Organizing, and Controlling. Applied to game-time situations: Planning – how to win the game using any advantages your lineup has against competition, playing to your strength and minimizing the competitor’s advantages; Leading – actual coaching and directing the players during the game; mentoring, advising, telling the players what to do and what to avoid, sometimes how to get the other player’s goat; Organizing – defining the players’ roles and assignments in the game such as who to guard; Controlling – situational management, taking corrective measures like substituting players if they’re not performing or are burdened with fouls; sometimes telling them off for botching a play

Setting Goals / Objectives – the team’s objectives for the near term (often defined as 1-3 years) should be clearly defined so that the team’s performance (also the coach’s) can be measured against pre-defined metrics. Goals should conform to the SMART definition (Specific, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic, Time-bound) to allow quantitative comparison of actual results versus the targets. So when the team’s loyal supporters start screaming “off with his head”, at least the embattled coach will know why. Related topics: The Bottom Line, Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning – setting a goal/objective for the team for the next couple of seasons, determining what kind of team to form for the next season, what kind of players to recruit. Setting the right (realistic) expectations is critical for the coach, because too high targets that were not fulfilled have led to a very short shelf life of one year for some coaches in the past. Related topics: the Bottom Line, Setting Goals / Objectives

Succession Planning – ensuring that you have enough players at each position so that if any player is injured or ineligible, you have enough able-bodied substitutes to field without losing much; also need to ensure that you re-stock the positions on a staggered basis, so that you don’t lose your best centers to graduation at the same time. If the coach has not met the established goals or objectives, he could be the target for succession planning. Related topic: Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management – ensuring a steady supply of potential recruits from all areas: Metro Manila, the provinces, the Americas, and Africa. Only Asia has not been a source of talents so far, although there was an attempt by Ateneo to recruit a Chinese player a few years ago. The success of the basketball program is a critical element in making the school an attractive option for a budding collegiate baller. While a big thing a few years ago for some schools, homegrown programs have declined in importance compared to getting results. Four players, or 25% of this year’s edition of the Green Archers are homegrown: Simon Atkins (DLSZ), Ferdinand (LSGH), Joshua Webb (DLSZ), and Jed Manguera (DLSZ). Two players who could have made it but are not on the UAAP roster due to injuries are  LA Revilla (LSGH) who is sitting out this season for medical reasons, and Marko Batricevic (LSGH), who is currently recovering from his knee injury and is still eligible next year. I think that’s the most of any UAAP school this year. It just goes to show that La Salle has a good developmental program that works. Related topics: Advertising and Promotion, Bottom Line, Setting Goals & Objectives, Succession Planning.

Tactical Planning – refers to activities required to prepare to plan an opponent, such as scouting their players, patterns, tendencies, looking for weaknesses and comparative advantage in players and positions. Sometimes even involves sending spies to listen in on their post-practice dinner discussions.

Training and Development – ensuring the continuing growth of the players in the game and as students. Some coaches take a holistic approach, requiring the players to meet the academic workload or they don’t play, while others focus purely on the athletic aspect. Fortunately, the Green Archers are under an integrated program which looks after their athletic, academic, personal, and spiritual development. Several budding superstars were not accepted because they didn’t make the minimum requirements for admission, and players have been booted off the team for academic reasons. The system is effective: in the last few years, several of the Green Archers have made the Dean’s List. How many other teams can claim as much? Related topic: Strategic Planning

Can you think of others?