The Best Advice For Young Basketball Coaches (47 Tips)


Note: This is a collection of fantastic tweets from Craig Doty.

Coach Doty is currently the head coach at Emporia State University, and is a co-founder of Midwest Elite Basketball who run elite basketball camps.

Are you a young man or woman looking to get into the world of basketball coaching?

If that does sound like you, there's nothing better than getting advice from those who have already done what you're trying to achieve.

In this post, Coach Craig Doty will be sharing 23 tips he's learned on his journey to becoming the head coach at Emporia State University.

Listen up!

1. Don’t lock yourself into a mortgage or expensive car payment

Be willing/able to work for cheap or for free.

It’s all about getting your foot in the door.

Don’t worry about money; it will come later.

Focus instead of the opportunity to grow.

2. Win games / championships, and network

Want to move up in the industry?

Do things the right way.

Become great at player development and always have talented players at your finger tips.

female basketball coach talking to girls team

3. You can’t be hard on players without having a relationship with them first

Dictatorial/authoritarian leadership is a thing of the past.

Build the relationship, hold them accountable, and cut ties with those who refuse to buy-in.

4. Watch your pronouns

It’s not “your” team, it’s “our” team.

They aren’t “my” players, they are “our” players.

Make it about you only after losses.

5. Take the risk early in your career before you have a family and dependents

Pack the bags and move, work 16+ hour days, work every camp and attend every clinic you can.

Soon you’ll also need to prioritize a family and won’t be able to do this.

6. The higher the level doesn’t always mean the better the opportunity

Many D1 managers never get a coaching job.

D2, NAIA, D3 & JUCO part-time and student assistants get recruiting and on-court coaching experience which boosts their development and resume.

7. Be tight with the players but set boundaries

You need to be close enough so they confide in you but you aren’t their friend.

When they graduate the line disappears and you can become lifelong friends.

8. You’re one cell phone video away from losing your job and your career

You are a public figure.

Be smart at all times and represent your school well.

Build your brand on social media but don’t share your political or controversial opinions.

9. Coach in JUCO for two (or 10+) years

There’s no better way grow as a coach.

You’ll learn EVERYTHING and master the art of recruiting, academic oversight, managing student-athletes, and developing players.

It’s a beautiful level.

girls basketball game

10. Bring energy but have substance

The status quo doesn’t need to be followed but don’t blow it up either.

Be you, be different, be cordial, and respect industry standards.

Build a resume and brand that appeals to many for the most opportunities.

11. Do not recruit talent without regard for character, academics, and intangibles

A great way to lose your job is to bring in players who have attitudes on court, bad grades, and who are problems off the court.

12. There is no one path to get to where you want to go in coaching

It’s about networking, taking risks, helping others, and getting a little lucky.

Everyone has their story.

Share your personal journey below so others can see the different paths.

13. Working hard and being available is a must but make sure to have work/life balance

If the only thing important in your life is coaching, you’re doing it wrong.

Family is most important, get a hobby, and study things outside the realm of coaching.

14. Who you work for matters

Find head coaches who:

(a) Are relationship-based

(b) Who value family

(c) Who win

(d) Who aren’t married to the office

(e) Who allow their assistants to coach (go to a game & watch the bench)

(f) Who have moved their assistants on

15. Don’t get discouraged when looking for jobs

Stay persistent.

Young coaches often times find their best opportunities in late June, July and August.

Spend your time going after jobs you are qualified for.

Connections are key.

Use your network!

basketball trophy

16. Winning is great, but you’ll get the most satisfaction from the relationships established with the players long after they are done playing

There is nothing better than the texts, snaps, and requests to be a job reference.

17. Never promise a player playing time or a starting spot

Tell them of expectations based on their ability and the coaching staff’s vision but also remind them they have to continually earn what they want.

Ultimately, make it about their performance.

18. Marry the right person

Your spouse needs to be supportive, understanding, loyal, independent, and willing to sacrifice.

If you go home from work each day and your spouse is unhappy, you either won’t be married long or you won’t be coaching.

19. Don’t ruin your coaching career because of bad choices

Never drink and drive and understand you’re a public figure.

Assume there is a camera and a microphone on you at all times when you’re in public.

20. Get along with the other sport coaches at your school

Understand that their busy season is different than yours.

Support them, share facilities cordially, be friendly, spend time with them, help them in any way you can.

Your department is a team.

21. Don’t just tell players, show them

Film is your best friend.

Chart shots in individual workouts and keep stats in practice.

Show them the analytics.

This helps with role buy-in and keeps practices competitive on a daily basis.

man holding basketball

22. It is tough to land a GA spot

It is hard to get a paid assistant position.

It is difficult to get an AD to hire you as a head coach.

The journey isn’t easy, job security isn’t good and your life is in the hands of young adults.

It’s the best though!

23. You can develop a motor in athletes

Start with conditioning.

Challenge athletes to battle fatigue in practice.

Teach them to play tired and still go full speed.

Don’t write a kid off because they don’t have a great motor.

Build the motor!

24. Coach the bench

Tell your players your expectations of energy, standing & talking.

In film sessions, call out those who are not standing when the rest of the bench is.

Hold them accountable for being in the game even when they aren’t on the floor.

25. There will be times throughout the year when you’re not home much

However, when you are home, make sure you are present.

Set aside time in which there are no phones, eat family meals, have genuine conversations and spend quality time together.

26. Separate yourself from your playing career

The players in the program need to view you as a coach, not a player.

Clean up your social media, don’t hang out with the players in evening social settings, be a mentor instead of a friend.

27. Know where you are

The values of a private school are usually different than that of a public school.

Embrace the culture and study the history & tradition.

Then, enhance the culture, make your mark on it, and impact your athletes through it.

28. Value education & get your degrees

Many jobs are listed as “master’s preferred.”

It’s a much easier path to degree completion if you don’t take years off.

Stay in “school mode,” take online if needed.

Don’t limit yourself because you didn’t finish.

29. Promote diversity within your program

Recruit kids from different backgrounds and cultures (but with the same values).

Be intentional with your roster makeup.

Sport teams should be a great example of love and togetherness.

boys basketball team

30. Regardless of your age and experience, stay “young” and motivated as a coach

Be receptive to new ideas, concepts, and style of play.

Stay up on modern technology so you can communicate and relate with your athletes most effectively.

31. Don’t take recruiting personal

When you don’t get a kid congratulate them on their commitment elsewhere.

Focus on what you can do better as a recruiter and pursue kids who will better relate and appreciate your program, region, and school.

32. Appreciate the little things

Often times stress and “what’s next” takes over the mind of a coach.

Winning is tough, working with great kids and a team with chemistry won’t happen every year.

When you have an awesome group soak it all in & enjoy it.

33. Don’t complain about your job

You took the position.

Hundreds of other people would love your job.

You get to coach.

You can always do more to make your job better.

34. Take care of yourself if you want to last and be most effective

Exercise, eat right, take a day off, go on vacation, delegate, read, find others to open up to & de-stress.

It’s difficult to help others if you don’t take care of yourself.

35. Remember your duties

On-court coaching will make up only 10-15% of your duties.

Game coaching under 5%.

To be a great coach you need to thrive at fundraising, community service, player development, compliance, recruiting, academic oversight, and more.

36. Value the same things as your boss

Whether you’re a head coach and answer to the AD or an assistant and answer to the Head Coach, what’s important to your boss needs to be important to you.

Be a great communicator with the person you answer to.

37. Take control of the program early but continually give control to the players as the season progresses.

A player-led team has the ability to compete for championships.

A coach-led team will never reach its full potential.

38. Build a rapport with officials

Stand up for the players on missed/incorrect calls but pick your battles.

Complaining about every whistle is counter-productive & sets a bad precedent.

Never blame a loss on officiating.

Take responsibility.

basketball officials

39. When your team is struggling...

Diagnose the problem.

Change practice up.

Think outside the box.

Have individual player meetings.

Adjust playing time/rotations.

Prioritize buy-in over everything else (even if that means top players sit).

40. Coaching can be stressful and difficult on families

Work at it but also understand others have it more difficult.

Coaching adversity is minimal compared to a nurse, military, labor, and many other jobs/industries.

You are blessed to coach.

41. Embrace & enjoy being an assistant

Assistants get to have a different type of player/coach relationship and get to focus more on basketball & less on administrative work.

Soak everything in so you’re prepared to be a head coach in the future.

42. Focus on being a good spouse

Leave the office to spend time with him/her when possible.

Have lunch together.


Be present when home.

Be loyal.

Go for walks.

Invite him/her on road trips for games and recruiting.

43. A great benefit of coaching is your son/daughter gets to spend time around the team on the bus, in the locker room, and on/near the bench.

Their relationship with the players and the life lessons they see you instill in the team are so valuable.

44. Build an army of assistants

Run a program in a way that when you move to your next job your assistant becomes the head coach.

Give assistants meaningful work that they are excited about.

Work every offseason to help your staff get new (better) jobs.

45. Have a plan outside of coaching

Study and think about what you’ll do if life changes and you need to stop coaching due to family, health, etc.

Give your heart and soul to the game but be smart enough not to put all your eggs in one basket.

46. Be able to relate with everyone

You should be able to sit down in a home with someone from the city, the suburbs, or a rural area and be able to connect at a high level.

Study, embrace, and appreciate different cultures and perspectives.

47. The game can take you so many places

You will see the country, have incredible experiences, establish lifelong friendships, and provide income for you and your family.

Respect and appreciate your sport, its history, & those who came before you.


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