Does Great Player = Great Coach?

Ten-time NBA All-Star, Jason Kidd is the new head coach of the Brooklyn NetsDoes being a great player translate into being a great coach?

bbcoachI think the two things (playing and coaching) are completely separate skills, with some overlap. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive … you could have been a great player and be a great coach; I don’t think they are mutually inclusive either… being a great player does not guarantee you will be a great (or even good) coach.


Typically some playing traits that translate to coaching are hard work and knowledge of the game.  Traits that do not relate to coaching are skill level and athletic ability.

As I mentioned in my post Coach=Teacher, to be a good coach, you must be a good teacher.  Your playing ability has no effect on your ability to teach.  Your playing experience CAN have an effect.  If you have experience playing, you probably have an increased knowledge of the game.

I have been asked many times by athletes if they needed to play college football (or any sport) in order to coach high school.  I always tell them that, no, it is not required, but playing college football is like a classroom for coaching.  You learn things, both coaching methods and football knowledge, by playing the game for four more years.

A list of notable coaches, professional and collegiate football and basketball, with their college and professional playing experience:

College Football

  • Nick Saban – Played football at Kent State.  No professional experience
  • Urban Meyer – Played football at the University of Cincinnati.   No professional experience, but did play minor league baseball in the Braves organization.

NFL Legends

  • Vince Lombardi – Played at Fordham in college. No professional experience
  • Don Shula – Played (did not start) at John Carrol University in college.  Signed with Cleveland Browns and played 7 seasons in the NFL.

Active NFL

  • Bill Belichick – Played football, lacrosse and squash at Weslelyan University in college.  No professional experience.
  • Tom Coughlin – Played football at Syracuse. No professional experience.

College Men’s Basketball

  • Mike Krzewski – Played basketball at West Point. No professional experience.
  • John Wooden – Played basketball at Purdue.   Played professionally for the Indianapolis Kautskys, the Whiting Ciesar All-Americans, and the Hammond Ciesar All Americans.


  • Red Auerbach  – Played basketball at George Washington Univeristy.  No professional experience
  • Phil Jackson – Played basketball at the University of North Dakota.  Played 13 years in the NBA on the New York Nicks and the New Jersey Nets.

This list was completely arbitrary… I just picked these guys off the top of my heard; but out of this list of ten coaches, seven had NO professional experience, and really the only one with a notable professional career was Phil Jackson.

Questions and Comments are always welcomed!

Jeff Floyd –

8 thoughts on “Does Great Player = Great Coach?

  1. It’s difficult to tell – even a leader on the court/field may not be able to do the same behind the scenes. It requires a different or more adjustable type of personality I think.

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