The Value of a Coach


Mark Jackson was fired from his coaching position although he led the Warriors to two consecutive playoff appearances.

At the end of a sports season, many coaches are fired from their respective teams. Whether it is professional or amatuer, this seems to be the case for teams that are struggling to win. However, a recent case in the firing of Mark Jackson, now ex-coach of the Golden State Warriors (of the NBA), has many people thinking: how much does the coach actually have to do with a team’s success?

Jackson’s case is especially unique because his team was not struggling at all. In his three seasons as head coach, Jackson accumulated a winning record (121-109) and coached the team to two playoff appearances. In this past season, the team went 51-31, the franchise’s first 50 win season in 20 years. The team’s season ended with a devastating Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Although there had been mild rumors of a dysfunctional coaching staff, the firing came as a surprise to both the team and fans alike, due to the team’s success during the regular season as well as great public support for Jackson from his players.

The general manager of the team, Bob Myers, released a statement that said although the decision was very hard to make, it was needed in order for the team to move in a different direction.

Did Jackson deserve the axe? Many analysts don’t think so, and were shocked when the first reports came out. But the big question here is: what is the value of a coach in terms of a team’s success?

A great example that provides both sides of the argument is Don Nelson, a Hall of Fame coach, who was well revered as an experienced coach heading into the 1997-1998 season. He was set to coach for a new team, a struggling Dallas Mavericks squad who looked for inspiration from Nelson. He ended up only winning 16 out of 66 games that season. In the next 5 years, the team built star players in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, who lead the team to a whopping 60 win season. This can be interpreted in two ways. The first is that Nelson took time to figure out the mechanics of the team and molded into the very inspiration and leadership the team needed. The second is that the two new additions to the team were bound to succeed with or without Nelson as the head coach.

The first one states that the coach does indeed matter to a team and has the potential to make a team start winning. The second one, on the other hand, is the direct opposite, stating that wins and losses depend solely on the players.

Many sports fans believe it is a mix of both.

“If a good coach is equipped with the right pieces, he can use those pieces to create a great team,” said freshman Derek Seo. “A good coach knows how to use those [pieces] but a bad coach doesn’t.”

Seo played starting center for the freshman basketball team this past season. The  team underwent a change in the head coach position after the first freshman coach was replaced early in the season.

“Things just weren’t clicking for us and we didn’t really feel like we were getting better before Coach Foof came in,” Seo said. Seo explained that the team felt a huge change as soon as Coach Chris “Foof” Madden came in. Madden led the team to a 7-3 season, and although they didn’t win first place in league, they felt they had a true leader in Madden.

“As a coach, I need to be there for support and guidance,” said Madden. “A good coach gets a team full of different different individuals to be on one page throughout the course of a whole season.”

Madden said leadership was a “key to success,” expressing his belief that leadership translated to a good performance from the players. He said that the coaching role is a spot to unify the team and motivate the players.

West Ranch baseball coach, Brady Burrill, believes in a similar concept.

“When the times get tough, the team needs somebody to look to,” said Burrill, who has coached the program since 2006. “If the coach is calm and confident, the team will be calm and confident.”

Burrill is also a math teacher on campus, and says that coaching is very relatable to teaching in many ways.

“Coaching and teaching [are] really about trying to get each student or athlete to give and achieve their best.  The motivation techniques between coaching and teaching are little different but the idea is the same,” said Burrill.

We can conclude that the absolute value of a coach may never be determined, but we can still deduce two things: players can’t thrive without a coach, and coaches cannot be coaches without his or her players. This system has become a natural way in the world of sports, where every team, no matter what sport, has a coach leading his or her players. This  system has proven to work, with player-coach bonds becoming a big part of team chemistry.        Players play, and coaches coach; that’s just the way it is.