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Coaching Basketball: How Do You Deal With An Assistant Coach Who Oversteps Their Bounds?

- By


This is one of those tricky situations that nobody wants to deal with. However, it can be easier than you think. And for the best interests of your players, it's critical to get the situation under control.

When you have an assistant that oversteps their bounds, it almost always comes down to a management issue that can be easily solved. As a head coach, you need to set clear expectations and roles for your assistant. Then communicate those roles.

I suggest the following actions to remedy the problem...
  • Sit down with him/her. Review expectations. Talk about your stance on things so you both get aligned.

  • Give your assistant specific responsibilities. If they over-step their boundaries, perhaps it's because they don't know their responsibilities. If your assistant is really good at defense, put them in charge of defense or maybe they can do stats, film, and so on.

    It's important to consider your assistant's strengths. Then it's your job to put the assistant coach in the position to use those strengths to benefit the program.

  • Just like coaching players, you need to give your assistants clear and defined roles and responsibilities. Document those roles and review them with your assistants. It's very important for this information to be documented in writing. Then routinely review expectations. Regularly scheduled weekly and monthly meetings will definitely help keep everyone in check!

  • You can also try daily huddles with assistants. This just takes 5-10 minutes. Each day you huddle and you ask each person - what's your priority for the day? Are you stuck on anything? What are your key metrics for the day? Some coaches will have key metrics to review daily (rebounds, shooting percentage, attendance, etc). This huddle should be done very quickly and efficiently. Everyone should stand up the whole time to keep things moving quickly.
Managing assistant coaches is just like managing employees in a business. The same management tactics work. In a business, you document procedures for an employee. You document and define expectations and roles for that employee. You implement key metrics to measure the performance of that employee. You have regularly scheduled meetings with that employee to review goals, expectations, metrics, performance, and progress. You hold that employee accountable and communicate with them.

Bottom line, set expectations and roles with your assistants. Meet with them on a fairly regular basis. Give it a shot and you'll end up with a much smoother and productive basketball program. And happier coaches too!



Comments

bennykillerbee says:
6/25/2009 at 4:24:34 AM

nice topic...this will greatly help head coaches in dealing with their assistant/s...keep it up.....god bless


ernie says:
6/25/2009 at 12:45:39 PM

I think thats a good ideal. I will use them on pratice next time. Also, to have meeting and go over everthing that need to be fix. Thanks for the tip!


david anderson says:
6/25/2009 at 2:03:47 PM

This is a good article. What happens though when your assistant is part of the AD's mission to have you fired as the head coach. Politics in high school sports will always baffle me. It is not how good the coach is or how he is turning a program around for the better, it is whose kid did not get enough playing time.


Kenny Robinson says:
6/26/2009 at 6:43:12 PM

Like everyone in here, great topic. I really like the idea of meeting on a regular or semi-regular setup and setting clearly defined expectations and roles. As an assistant coach, seeing and hearing what the head coach wants, makes my job so much easier.


Jay says:
6/29/2009 at 10:42:51 AM

I spell out EXACTLY what is expected of the assistant coaches in our season playbook. Expectations, appropriate conduct with players, during practices and games, etc. We have a pre-season meeting and then meet daily after practice. I have had assistant coaches who were not loyal, some were lazy and basically incompetent in the past. That is why I started doing this. This article confirms that I am on the right track, so thank you for publishing it.


Patrick says:
12/7/2010 at 4:12:23 PM

Thanks with the insight. As an Assistant it gives me an idea of what may be going on with my head. But do you have any suggestions for assistants where the head coach covers all practices and game coaching. I'm only able to give insight to players on the side during practices and on games.


Fiona says:
1/3/2011 at 12:43:43 AM

Does anybody know if there is a certain amount of time that youth players should be on the court for? or can the starters play the whole game?


Joe Haefner says:
1/3/2011 at 9:24:49 AM

We recommend equal playing time below 5th grade. At about 6th or 7th grade, I like to play the players who work the hardest and have the best attitude. However, I will still play the other players at least 1/3 of the game.


tim bousquet says:
10/16/2012 at 4:56:48 PM

I'm going from a head coaching at a middle school to assistant coach at a high school and enjoyed learning from this article. I'm almost afraid of the opposite happening. What are some cues that I may not be aware of that will let me know when to step it up? I was too close to the situation as head coach.


Ken says:
10/16/2012 at 5:56:49 PM

I did that many years ago. I was the asst. varsity coach. I had a lot to learn about continuity offenses so I sat back and tried to learn as much as possible.

I was good with Xs and Os and game strategy... and while it took a little while for the head coach to believe that I could help him during games, he did come around. Be patient and don't be afraid to make suggestions and don't feel bad if he doesn't listen to you for awhile. He told me, make as many suggesstions as you want, I might say no a 1,000 times, but the next one might be the one I take and hopefully it will win us a game.

Finally in one game - it was late and we had a 2 point lead, they had the ball out on the side in our end. I remembered what they had done earlier in the game, I got up and told him, we need to call a time out now.... right now. He called the time out, I told them what they were going to do, which was get someone back door vs our m2m. We never played zone but we did vs that time..... that one the game - from that point on he listened to me. At the awards night when he introduced me to all the parents he told them that I had won at least 8 games with suggesstions... I felt great that night. When I became the head coach, I remembered that and told all my assisstants the same thing.

So, pick your spots... learn as much as you can from the head guy, because before you know it... you will have your own team in his program. My own team came the next year and seriously, I wasn't ready to teach his system of man offenses..... I did a lot of mind picking in the fall since I didn't know I was getting my own team until late summer.

I don't know if any of this helps you, I hope it did.


volunteer coach says:
3/15/2013 at 11:45:22 AM

Simple, best not have assistants and work alone. No need to make a parent an official assistant coach to give them specific tasks to deal.


cold, alone & hungry says:
4/5/2013 at 11:04:13 AM

What do you do as an asst when your head coach uses your offenses, your defenses and never acknowledges you or that you were even part of it ?


Ken Sartini says:
4/5/2013 at 11:10:18 AM

CAH -

That can be tough, but just be happy that he is using it and hopefully making the team better.

I know that the first year I took over the sophomore team I ran something that he liked.... he asked me how we did it, I told him and he ran it a lot. Never said anything to me, but thats ok, it made me feel good knowing that he thought enough of me to use something I did.

Sometimes as assistants we would like to see the head guy do something ( some coaches wont do that ) I always tell coaches I know..... try to make it think like it was his idea. LOL


TG Loyalty says:
12/10/2013 at 10:20:55 PM

What if a high school doesn''''t let you be an assistant coach because your child is on the team and of a situation they had with another parent? At the same time, they allow others to coach their child. What kind of recourse do I have when the principle and head of athletics are on the same page?


Ken Sartini says:
12/11/2013 at 12:55:21 PM

TG -

I don't know what the rules are where you are... but where I coach you are not allowed to coach unless you are a certified staff memeber or have a coaching certificate .... along with a background check.

As for me, I wouldn't want a parent to be an assistant coach... its hard enough coaching these days without having other parents accusing me of playing favorites... this is just me. I'm not sure why they are allowing other parents to to coach.

I take it that that you have already talked to the AD and the Principle? The next step is the Superintendent.. but I am not sure why you would want to get involved with that situation.... that could make it harder on your son. JMO


Coach Rob says:
1/21/2014 at 9:52:52 AM

I have an assistant coach who used to be the head coach of our team. I have been asked to be head coach and I have no problem dealing with all the aspects of coaching.

In the beginning of the season, I told my players my expectations. Primarily, I asked the team to be on time and to contact me if they are unable to make practices or if they are late. They sign an attendance log each practice. There is one player who has made 4 out 12 practices (excused and unexcused). She knows the game and has the athleticism for the game. My assistant coach makes excuses for her not being there and also applauds everything she does once she is at practice. He puts her into the line up while the other players that have been at every practice wonder why they are not playing.

Question 1: How do I address the coach's actins of putting a team member who is not committed into the lineup?

Question 2: I would like to not start the team player that is absent even though she can handle the position. I would like to start the players that have been working hard in practices. How do I explain this to the coach and the player in a tactful way?


Ken Sartini says:
1/21/2014 at 10:12:32 AM

Rob -

Did you give the players your expectations / rules in righting? That would be one of taking care of those types of problems.

I would sit down with the coach and explain what your expectations are and that YOU make up the starting line up now. He is probably doing this out of habit from when he was the head coach, but he needs to understand that its your responsibility now.

Try to tell him in a nice way that its not acceptable for a player to miss all those practices and then start.

As for #2 - I would not start her. Talk to her about her attendance and missing 8 pracices is NOT acceptable. Tell her that IF she wants her starting role back, she will have to come to ALL the practices. You can say that in a nice way, but she has to understand that to be part of a team means being there for them.


Ken Sartini says:
1/21/2014 at 10:16:26 AM

I meant rules in writing.


Sarah says:
1/30/2014 at 11:07:26 AM

As Asst coach, I have always valued and known my place, and Coach has always kept me in communication with plans, strategies, and issues with the student athletes, and especially making sure the kids know I am there to help as well. What does an Asst do when Coach starts to play "favorites" ( athlete, who is now chosen Captain, is a personal friend of the Coaches family, yet also "the least athletic member of the team" (coaches words) and also concerning: (1. ONE athlete is worked with for 20 minutes to get the same skill three other athletes should also be working on, 2. its ok for a Captain to miss a game for a social outing: 3. One athlete (and best friend of the 2 Captains) is allowed to arrange a fundraiser at her place of employment, including directing the other teammates via social networking. Yet, another athlete joins a non-profit organization's Team as a Team Leader, invites all family, friends and includes Teammates to join her with with this activity, AFTER asking Coach and Captains permission, but Coach berates the Athlete for "stepping on Captains toes" ) and most critically, leaves the Asst as LAST in the line of communication: communicates daily (in private) with Captains, but leaves Asst out of the conversations, makes it clear in a text to athletes that communication runs from athletes to Captains to Coach, who will discuss with Captains and decide, then Asst will get the communication, then wonders why the Captains don't have a repoire with Asst Coach. Besides leaving the position, what does an Asst do?


Ken Sartini says:
1/30/2014 at 11:51:02 AM

As Asst coach, I have always valued and known my place, and Coach has always kept me in communication with plans, strategies, and issues with the student athletes, and especially making sure the kids know I am there to help as well.

What happened that made things change?? There is always the good guy, (the asst.) and the bad guy, (the head coach) it goes with the territory.

What does an Asst do when Coach starts to play "favorites" ( athlete, who is now chosen Captain, is a personal friend of the Coaches family, yet also "the least athletic member of the team" (coaches words) and also concerning:

What level are we talking about? High school? Since he is the head coach, he gets to make all these decisions, right or wrong, As long as its not immoral.

(1. ONE athlete is worked with for 20 minutes to get the same skill three other athletes should also be working on,

2. its ok for a Captain to miss a game for a social outing:

I wouldn't think so but then again I don't know what the entire situation is. It might be something special that the coach gave the ok to a long time ago?

3. One athlete (and best friend of the 2 Captains) is allowed to arrange a fundraiser at her place of employment, including directing the other teammates via social networking.
Yet, another athlete joins a non- profit organization''s Team as a Team Leader, invites all family, friends and includes Teammates to join her with this activity, AFTER asking Coach and Captains permission, but Coach berates the Athlete for "stepping on Captains toes" )

Why would he do that IF he (the coach) gave his permission and the captain gave her permission also? You might just say something on the side about the Captains were ok with this and EVERYONE was included to join if they chose to. ???

and most critically, leaves the Asst as LAST in the line of communication: communicates daily (in private) with Captains, but leaves Asst out of the conversations, makes it clear in a text to athletes that communication runs from athletes to Captains to Coach, who will discuss with Captains and decide, then Asst will get the communication, then wonders why the Captains don't have a repoire with Asst Coach.

Besides leaving the position, what does an Asst do?

Why don't you sit down and have a meeting with him and ask him what your responsibilities are first? Then you might ask why you aren't getting a CC of his communications with the team. I am a firm believer of being Loyal... but IF you feel like you cant handle this anymore, you can always go to the AD and tell him/her that you are resigning from the assts. job. Then you can let him ask you why....

I would leave out the personal thing about the Captain and the social event...... I would think that the rest of the team would be unhappy about that already. A little side note, I only coached girls for one year, sophomore level.... one of my starters comes up to me and says she has to leave practice early tomorrow... WHY ? I have to take my little brother trick or treating. OK, that was a first.... but was I going to say no? Heck no.... I just told her that he has to bring me a candy bar tomorrow..... we laughed ( the team ) all was well and I got my candy bar the next day. Sometimes we have to be flexible.


Marie says:
6/24/2014 at 1:13:28 AM

I am currently taking over a program as a head coach. I've already established my coaching staff, however the head coach of the program last year is interested in continuing to be a part of the program. We have very different coaching philosophies. I have thanked him for his offer and declined his help but he is very persistent and won't let up. He has already communicated to the players and parents in his own way that he was pushed out of the program and that the new head coach does not want him. Because of this, the players and parents are extremely upset and some players are refusing to play next season. He feels since he started this program (new school) that he deserves to stay and continue to coach and build the program. My only position that I have open is an assistant to a lower level coach. I am concerned that if I offer this position to him and he decides to take it that he will try and undermine me and cause more problems than need be even if I do discuss with him what his role and responsibilities will be. My questions are, do you think it would be wise of me to keep him in the program or not and if not, how do I explain to him that although he did start the program last year his services are not needed anymore?


Jeff Haefner says:
6/24/2014 at 6:55:13 AM

Marie - Have you tried talking with him and explaining that you have very different philosophies (as you did in this post)?

If you are matter of fact and very respectful of him (maybe even compliment him and even ask advice about something like motivation, etc.), he'll probably understand and hopefully start to back you. There's nothing wrong with his philosophy but you have a different background and different system. And you want to train coaches with a fresh slate your system.

Most coaches understand that there are lots of different systems out there and each coach has a different way of going about things. You want to start building and like to do things you're own way.

And I'd humbly ask for his help talking with the players to get them on board with the new system. But ask him once season starts of he could stay behind the scenes so you could start your own path of learning and coaching. Just some thoughts.


Ken Sartini says:
6/24/2014 at 7:49:18 AM

Maire -

I agree with Joe here. This is a difficult situation at best. Talk with him and ask for some advice regarding the way things are done at the school.

The next thing I would do is to have a meeting with the players and parents and talk about your expectations, your tules and the rules of the district. Talk about the goals of the program and where you would like to see it go.

Frankly I don't see why he wants to be part of this after having to step down UNLESS you have a good relationship with him. When I retired I helped the program for 1 more year but we got along well.


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