Importance of Assistants

by John Giannini (La Salle University)
Importance of Assistants

In corporate America the CEO gets all the credit for a company's success. He or she is made out to be the one person responsible for everything good that has come to the company.

But there are always people who put in just as much time and effort, without the glory of getting mentioned on CNN. In college basketball we call these people assistant coaches.

With any job, you are only as good as the people that surround you and assistants are as much a part of a team's success as the head coach and players. To further the point, hiring an assistant is nearly the equivalent to getting married.

People outside of college basketball may chuckle at such a statement, but there is more truth to that statement then you would realize.

These are the people that you will spend the majority of your time with. They become your true family. And with any family unit, trust and faith are so important to the harmony of the group.

Your career and lives become so inter-twined so it is so important to work with people that you really like.

Of course you also want a staff that is dedicated, hard working and have the ability to recruit players, but the hiring process should begin with one question -- do I like this person?

Many outside the coaching ranks may believe that how connected or how many good contacts an assistant has are most important, but I disagree.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun had a great approach to hiring assistants, noting that if you are a good person you will develop contacts. That in itself speaks volumes about coach Calhoun and all the success that UConn has had over the last two decades.

I have always been fortunate to have great assistants, which is a big reason that I have been able to have success in coaching.

At Rowan it was Joe Cassidy that was such an important part of us winning a Division III national championship. When I got my first division I job at Maine, Ted Woodward filled that same role. But more importantly, Ted and Joe are both good friends of mine.

To further that point, the hiring of Ted Woodward was the best decision I have made in my career at Maine. In addition to Ted, Will Bailey and Andy Bedard were also great contributions to that program.

All final decisions are made by the head coach, but -- in my case -- I always want their input. Sometimes assistants see things a little differently and they may have a perspective that I did not consider.

I cannot emphasize enough how much trust and faith all head coaches must have in their assistants. They may not get the national appreciation, but they are very much appreciated by the head coach.

Whether it is in print form or a television monologue, many assistants are singled out as the next great college coaches. However it is not common to hear praise bestowed on an entire staff.

Today it is impossible for any head coach to have success without excellent assistant coaches. After a victory head coaches are the first to be besieged by the media. But the first thing we do is thank our staff for their preparation and effort.

I have had a lot of great assistant coaches since that first year at Maine, but that staff was a big reason why I have continued my coaching career at La Salle.

In the end your level of success can be directly attributed to the quality of your coaching staff. Assistant coaches deserve more credit.