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View Full Version : What makes for a good coach? How good is Coach Few?



zagcaster
02-10-2009, 08:42 PM
Warning: Long

I'm curious as to what coaching attributes make for a great college basketball coach. Also, I would like to see where everybody thinks Coach Few grades out in each aspect of coaching and why. Listed below are all the categories I could think of involved in coaching. Please feel free to add your own if you think I miss something.

1. Recruiting
2. Player motivation
3. Pre-game Strategy
4. In-Game Strategy (adjusting the game plan, substitutions, handling of foul trouble, talking to refs)
5. Player Improvement over time
6. Maintaining a classy program
7. Team cohesion (on and off the court)


Now for my grades for Coach Few (FYI by nature I am super critical when it comes to athletics, and to get an A from me, you truly have to be amazing)

1. Recruiting B+
I think recruiting is the most important aspect in regards to coaching college basketball if the sole goal is winning games. Coach Few is a very good recruiter considering the size of our arena, the conference we play in, the cold winters in Spokane, and the lack of long term historical success as a basketball program. This year's roster is immensely talented, and the newcomers next year all seem to be high quality players from what I have read and seen.

Best coach in nation at recruiting: Roy Williams UNC

2. Player motivation C-
I view this as Few's biggest weakness as a coach (and please feel free to disagree with me). To me, it is too often that our players go through the motions and attempt to coast through the games, when instead they should be busting their butts at all times to apply pressure on defense and to crash the boards. I see rebounding as desire, and our spotty rebounding this year to me screams a lack of desire. Desire is something that the coaching staff should be able to instill in the players.

As a psychology minor, I have learned a lot about behavior. Behavior is increased through reinforcement and decreased through punishment. You use reinforcement if you want somebody to do something more often and punishment if you want them to do it less. Reinforcement is much more effective at increasing good behavior than punishment is in decreasing bad behavior. Few seems like more of a punisher than a reinforcer. I rarely see him yelling encouragement on the sideline for a good play, but often see a player get benched after a bad play. I think more encouragement instills more confidence in a player, and more confidence makes for a better player.

Best coach in nation at motivation: Bruce Pearl Tennessee

3. Pre-Game Strategy C+
I really can't say much on this topic because I am not privy to the game plans each game, and I do not always know what the team is hoping to accomplish. I am of the opinion that basketball is won through playing good defense, rebounding the ball well, and working the ball into the post on offense using time to beat the defense and get a good look. So, my preference in style is more similar to that of WSU or last year's Stanford or UCLA teams than the typical fast-paced Gonzaga team. This factor may lower my grade for Few in this aspect. I do however feel that we do not often enough do a good job of attempting to exploit the mismatches we have.

Best coach in nation at pre-game strategy: Ben Howland UCLA

4. In game strategy: C
In most of our losses in big games, I feel like Few is outdone by the opposing coach in this aspect. The Texas Tech loss in the tournament a few years ago is particularly striking to me. More recently however, Few took too long to mix up the lineup when nothing was working against Memphis. Against Arizona, with Jordan Hill in foul trouble, the offense did not attack him for another foul or to score against his necessitated bad defense. I think for the fast-paced style we like to play, he plays the big 6 too much. With the depth on this team from 1-3, there should be a bit more subbing, especially if somebody is off. I also think he should get on the refs more than he does to influence calls later in the game.

Best coach in nation at in-game strategy: Mike Krzyzewski Duke

5. Player improvement over time: B-
Gonzaga players do typically seem to improve from year to year. Bouldin and Pargo are both way better than as Freshmen, Morrison went from being lightly recruited to being player of the year, and Turiaf was unbelievably raw his first season. However, I think some of the players now could have improved much more. Heytvelt absolutely should have developed some form of a post game and left hand in 5 years. Daye should be better at handling physically tougher opponents and at hiding his negative emotions. Pargo still makes too many ill-advised decisions. I think Few is good at player development, but not great.

Best in nation at player improvement over time: Mike Krzyzewski Duke

6. Maintaining a classy program: A
Few is the epitome of class as a coach. From what he does with Coaches vs. Cancer, to his handling of the Heytvelt/Davis situation, to his loyalty to the school and Spokane, he seems to approach everything the right way.

Best in nation at maintaining a classy program: Mike Montgomery Cal (Dating back to his Stanford days)

7. Team cohesion: B
This Zag team seems to genuinely like one another and has fun together off the court. I think they could play better together on the court though. Especially during the Memphis game there was too much individual play and not enough teamwork.

Best in nation: Bill Self Kansas (only judging on court tendencies here)


To sum up, I think that Coach Few is an excellent college basketball coach, and probably the best a small school like Gonzaga will be able to get. I am ecstatic he is our coach, and I hope he will remain the coach for the foreseeable future. However, in my opinion, he does have his flaws. What does everybody else think?

For what it's worth, I think all things considered that Coach K is the best coach in college basketball, even though I don't like him very much (probably because his teams are always so good).

Zag79
02-10-2009, 08:54 PM
To sum up, I think that Coach Few is an excellent college basketball coach, and probably the best a small school like Gonzaga will be able to get. I am ecstatic he is our coach, and I hope he will remain the coach for the foreseeable future. However, in my opinion, he does have his flaws. What does everybody else think?

your right, that was a loooooong post (but good) so ill make my reply short. ;) mark is the best coach we could have. anyone better will be at a BCS school that has a shot at the final four every year, ala NC, UCLA, Duke, Kansas, UCONN, etc. he does a great job, and we are so lucky to make the tourney every year and see what happens. but of course he has his faults, some people just like to blame anyone but him on here. please dont throw the "players fault" rebuttel at me, he has new, more skilled and more athletic players coming in ever year and nothing changes. dont tell me hes the second winningest coach since 99 or whatever, hes in the wcc. thats an inflated stat. my only concern is the flaws he has, dont go away. every year we play the same defense and lose to a ho hum team with one guy that torches us. every year we lose in march to a team who obviously shouldnt beat us. and every year we lose games because the oppositions coach out x's and o's few. im not an expert (surprised?) ;) but those are the areas that i think he needs to improve. once the above said is done, hes among the best.

Reborn
02-10-2009, 09:50 PM
I don't really know what it takes to be a successful coach at the college level. I do know one thing though. Mark Few does. Look at the success he has had, and now look a the success that Bill Greir has already had. If I was a young person and wanted to become a coach, Mark Few is one of the coaches that I'd want to learn from.

My guess, and that's all it is really, would be that you have to be a great teacher and a great recruiter. To be a great teacher you had better darn well know what you are trying to teach, or willing to go to the greatest length to learn how to do it at the highest level (and that means being a great student as well as a great teacher). To be a great recruiter I would imagine that you are someone who cares deeply about people and are able to communicate that love in a special way. In the end you need to get the parents and the student-athlete to trust you like they trust no one else. You would thus be a person of high character and someone that people look to for leadership.

I guess I'd add one more thing. You need to be a great communicator and a workaholic. :D

MickMick
02-11-2009, 04:44 AM
Few would be more successful at UNC than Williams would be at Gonzaga. A direct swap would open eyes to what Mark Few can do.

Give Few a top 5 recruiting class for 4 years in a row, than you can expect a final four every season. Give him the group of 3-4 star players that a small school like Gonzaga typically can lure and Few is way ahead of the curve.

There are current Zags that were built up to be so much more than they really are. They have gained such lofty star status, that for some, Mark Few is less an asset than the players. I absolutely disagree.

Mark Few is a better coach then the members of the team are players. In other words, give Few some top players and he can accomplish anything that any other coach in the country can.

RenoZag
02-11-2009, 04:59 AM
First arrow in the successful coach's quiver:

Never read internet social networking sites devoted to your team.

McZag
02-11-2009, 05:17 AM
Few would be more successful at UNC than Williams would be at Gonzaga. A direct swap would open eyes to what Mark Few can do.

Give Few a top 5 recruiting class for 4 years in a row, than you can expect a final four every season. Give him the group of 3-4 star players that a small school like Gonzaga typically can lure and Few is way ahead of the curve.

There are current Zags that were built up to be so much more than they really are. They have gained such lofty star status, that for some, Mark Few is less an asset than the players. I absolutely disagree.

Mark Few is a better coach then the members of the team are players. In other words, give Few some top players and he can accomplish anything that any other coach in the country can.

This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time. Nice job Mick. Yes we are extremely lucky to have MF given our size, resources etc. I hope we have him forever.

The only thing I would add is that there is one area I've noticed over the years that Williams and other elite coaches seem to execute much better than Few: Elite coaches have their teams mentally ready to play games the second their feet touch the floor. UNC does not need 9 minutes every time out to "get into the game" intensity wise. There is no gradual ramp up to putting out the best effort. I have heard over and over again that Gonzaga is a second half team. That is code for, the Zags don't come into games ready to pound their opponents into the ground from the jump ball. Memphis, UNC, Duke(traditionally) do and until our coaching staff gets the guys to embrace urgency from the moment they get off the bus, the team will find it difficult to win against the best competition.

That said, I'd like MF to continue to grow and push his team further in Spokane.

JoeZag
02-11-2009, 05:47 AM
I think that your assessment is actually very good. I might quibble on a few things; I think that Mark is an excellent offensive coach and I would raise his pre-game strategy grade a little, but I think that he has a long ways to go on his in-game adjustments and I would lower that grade. I thinkt that with time and experience, Mark will improve his in-game work. Part of the problem, to me, is that he is so confident in his own system that he thinks it will win out in the end. For the most part he is right, but against the tougher teams it doesn't always work that way. I think that the biggest adjustment he needs to make is to learn how to handle the new type of player that he has started to recruit in the last few years. Zag teams of old were made up of kids who had to scrap for everything just to keep up with the 'big guys' and that mentality showed up on the court. The kids he has now are used to being the 'big guys' and I don't think they have the same sense of urgency and 'want-to' as the earlier teams. It is not a knock against the kids; they have tremendous talent and ability. Mark just needs to find a way to get them to play as hard as the 'scrappers' did and he will hit the jackpot. I guess that means his 'motivation' grade needs to improve as well. Mark is a great coach for this institution and this situation and I don't think that we could find a better fit. I personally don't think that he would be quite as successful at a larger institution with a lot of other 'big fish' in the pond on a regular basis. He would still do well; but not nearly as well as he has done here. Conversely, I don't think that Ol' Roy would fare nearly as well here as Mark has because he couldn't work in this environment with more limited resources. We should keep Mark for as long as we can, and maybe get him some help with in-game adjustments. Thanks again for the excellent post!

kclubfounder
02-11-2009, 05:48 AM
I think with our Zag glasses, we sometimes lose perspective on the conference we are in and the location of our school.

I believe our best recruiting class ever was Daye, Sacre and Gray (and it is also a cool class because of the rhyme). Where did that class stack up nationally? Top 20? Maybe. Top 10? I don't think so. And that was our best class IN HISTORY.

Mark Few has done a remarkable job of recruiting and then developing players so we are now at the point where fans are pissed when we don't get to the Elite 8.

We are NOT North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, etc...

Gonzaga is a remarkable story and Few is a remarkable coach. And most of our players have done a hell of a job developing their talent and becoming great teammates so they are considered top 20 talent every year - and top 10 talent some years.

I really wish I could go back in time and give Duke or North Carolina our recruiting classes for the past 6 years and see how the magical and mystical coach K and coach W would have fared.

Zagsker
02-11-2009, 06:11 AM
Fairly good assesment on Few.

Two issues (one is a flaw in developement and the other is just nitpicking) I have with Few in regards to how this year is playihg out.

1) The developement of Heytvelt. The guy is 6'11"..........when he was recruited he was 6'11".....and yet his low post game is probably the 3rd or 4th best on the team (Bouldin, Pargo, Daye (iffy)...heck maybe even Ira), he has one move (the jump hook) and you allowed him to be a perimeter player.......having the abiltiy to step out and hit the long J is great but not when it takes away from a very important aspect of the game (the need for a quality big man down low). Let me repeat...I think it is great that Heytvelt can step out and hit the 3 and there are times where that can pay off, but more often than not you need your big man down low...feed him in the post...he either makes a move or does a kick out for the 3...but either way he is down there for rebounding and he keeps the defense from sucking up on your perimeter players. Few could have done a better job from day 1 with Heyvelt in developing his post game.

2) Offensive rhythm- It really seems like the only offense we run, is the 3 man weave at the top of the key, once in awhile we work in the back door cuts off of that...but usually that is after a time out. Why no flex motion...Isolation...etc etc?. Now with that being said, it does seem outta line to nitpick on an offense that is averaging 77.4 per game...........but my issue is more about the lulls that we go through every game...we never seem to switch up the Offensive gameplan....we just seem to stick with that 3 man weave...maybe run a couple pick and rolls off of it.....but we really have no other motion to our O than that action

Overall though Few has done an extremely outstanding job...to keep a small school like Gonzaga on the National scene as long as he has done, is not something that any Joe Schmo could step in and accomplish

Butler Guy
02-11-2009, 06:30 AM
A person who is inherently trusted (worthy or not)
An unusually high work ethic
Intelligence/Conscientiousness
Has a support system that are behind whatever philosophy has been chosen (Alumni,AD, etc)
Access to resources (facilities, recruiting ground, etc)

siliconzag
02-11-2009, 06:39 AM
can also be reframed to "what makes a good professional?" My view: introspection or learning from your mistakes. Coach Few is still very young. No question he has been out coached on multiple occasions, beginning with the Wyoming game in Albequerque. Time will tell if he adjusts and learns from his mistakes or holds on to what he knows. The character of those who succeed is that they share a willingness to take calculated risks. How well I remember the game when the unheralded UW Huskies beat a much better Michigan team in the Rose Bowl. A young Don James out foxed Bo. It was a coaching masterpiece and was at the beginning of a brilliant career. So in conclusion, introspection leading to innovation. That is what makes a good professional.
In sports, in medicine, business and politics. Self analysis is the key. And a good coach will almost always wonder, "...what could I have done differently that might have worked?" As opposed to blaming his charges.

Sil

cbbfanatic
02-11-2009, 07:08 AM
1. Recruiting - B+
2. Player motivation - D+
3. Pre-game Strategy - B
4. In-Game Strategy (adjusting the game plan, substitutions, handling of foul trouble, talking to refs) - C
5. Player Improvement over time - A-
6. Maintaining a classy program - C-
7. Team cohesion (on and off the court) - C-

extras:
winning the games he "should" - A-
winning the big games - C-

vandalzag
02-11-2009, 07:20 AM
Please do elaborate the difference in your rating of the pre-game strategy and in-game strategy. I would love to hear your insight. Please do tell the wonderful moves you would have made during your illustrious coaching career. You also forgot to grade on his post-game strategy....of which every internet poster gets an A+++++

And the cherry on top of the sundae is you rating on a classy program. Don't you think that a C- was too high. I mean because of all the violations, kids getting in trouble, lack of graduation, etc... there is no way he could grade out that high. You are being way too kind. You need to sharpen your outlook, you are being too much of a polly.

CDC84
02-11-2009, 07:29 AM
Some coaches Mark Few has beaten:

Denny Crum

Paul Westphal

Lorenzo Romar

Tony Bennett

Rick Barnes

Rick Majerus

Eddie Sutton

Phil Martelli

Paul Hewitt

Gary Williams

Jim Calhoun

Dick Bennett

Roy Williams

Sean Miller

Bob Huggins

Fran Fraschilla

Mike Jarvis

Trent Johnson

Bruce Pearl

Tom Izzo

Mike Davis

Pete Gillen

Tom Crean

Herb Sendek

Dennis Felton

Jerry Tarkanian

Gregg Marshall

Steven Lavin

Dave Leito

DixieZag
02-11-2009, 07:42 AM
"You don't know whatcha got, till its gone"

I hope I read posts like this for the next 20 years.

gamagin
02-11-2009, 07:50 AM
Few would be more successful at UNC than Williams would be at Gonzaga. A direct swap would open eyes to what Mark Few can do.

Give Few a top 5 recruiting class for 4 years in a row, than you can expect a final four every season. Give him the group of 3-4 star players that a small school like Gonzaga typically can lure and Few is way ahead of the curve.

There are current Zags that were built up to be so much more than they really are. They have gained such lofty star status, that for some, Mark Few is less an asset than the players. I absolutely disagree.

Mark Few is a better coach then the members of the team are players. In other words, give Few some top players and he can accomplish anything that any other coach in the country can.

thanks, mm.

former1dog
02-11-2009, 08:00 AM
Coach Few is a very good coach. Like anyone, in any profession, though, he has room for improvement.

cjm720
02-11-2009, 08:40 AM
1. Recruiting - A
2. Player motivation - B
3. Pre-game Strategy - B
4. In-Game Strategy (adjusting the game plan, substitutions, handling of foul trouble, talking to refs) - C+
5. Player Improvement over time - B+
6. Maintaining a classy program - A
7. Team cohesion (on and off the court) - B


Few is an excellent coach without question. What he has done for the program may turn out to be one of the more storied tales in all of college basketball.

That said, GU basketball is in a transition to an elite program. I define this by attracting and going after 4-5 star recruits that until a few years ago would have been unthinkable (while also maintaining Top 20 status and invites to the Dance). Few has also developed players that have a shot at the highest "next level" or the NBA. These two factors are positives for the program, no question, but together they have created a short-term problem.

Specifically, I contend that Few has struggled with how to deal with these newer behaviors and attitudes, while executing the type of basketball he wants. I'm not here to point fingers, but I do believe that a shift in certain behaviors could have been the difference in a few of our games (the biggest problem, IMO, is the lack of low post presence, i.e., no Rob). I would assume that Few wrestles with this dilmena and recognizes this new challenge.

GO ZAGS!!!

Shanachie
02-11-2009, 11:18 AM
Good topic and some well thought out posts, starting with the original.

One nuance that occurs to me regarding recruiting is that it is at least a two part issue. Evaluation of a player's talent, personality, work ethic, ability to fit in etc. is critical. Equally important is the ability to close the sale. Finding players with the right mix of talents and who are willing to play in a non-BCS league and in a small city is a particular challenge.

My view is that the coaching staff has done a remarkably good job in recruiting given the situation.

77Zag
02-11-2009, 12:09 PM
Few would be more successful at UNC than Williams would be at Gonzaga. A direct swap would open eyes to what Mark Few can do.

Give Few a top 5 recruiting class for 4 years in a row, than you can expect a final four every season. Give him the group of 3-4 star players that a small school like Gonzaga typically can lure and Few is way ahead of the curve.

There are current Zags that were built up to be so much more than they really are. They have gained such lofty star status, that for some, Mark Few is less an asset than the players. I absolutely disagree.

Mark Few is a better coach then the members of the team are players. In other words, give Few some top players and he can accomplish anything that any other coach in the country can.

Spot On!!

TacomaZAG
02-11-2009, 12:44 PM
Coach Few is a great fit for GU. While not perfect (who is), he has shown a willingness (although sometimes reluctantly) to change his approach to better complement his players. The last few years have been the first years he has been able to recruit the number of superior athletes we now run out there, so the approach from the past is changing, as it should. References and comparisons to the NC's, Duke's, UCONN's, etc. of the college basketball world are unfair as those programs get numerous 4 and 5 star recruits every year and always will. Coaching philosophy and preferred playing style are simplified if you know you will be coaching superior athletes every year, especially when your second 5 are superior athletes as well.

I think what has been unrealistic with regard to Coach Few are our expectations (mine included). What he has done at GU is nothing short of miraculous, and he should be commended for it. During his tenure, an annual NCAA Tourney birth has been taken for granted, with a Sweet 16 or E8 expected every year. That is unrealistic, for any program in the Country unless you are NC, Duke, and maybe 2 others.

We are lucky to have him, and I hope we have him for many years. To me, the individual grades for specific parts of his coaching are misguided, and lead to people being overly critical. For a realistic comparison, where are we with respect to other programs our size, with our budget, and in conferences similar to ours?? I know this is a rhetorical question but it is important to remind ourselves of this fact every now and then.

Now, that being said, expecting consistent improvement from the coaching staff is fair, and I think we have been given that during Coach Few's tenure. Of course there have been stumbles, as well as unexpected triumphs. We've been very spoiled the last decade, let's make sure we appreciate it like we should.

Go ZAGS