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College vs. NBA: a coach's conundrum

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

A lot of people ask me about the differences between coaching in the NBA and in college.

First of all, I wish the NBA would allow zone defenses. Coaches in college can make major adjustments, using a variety of zone principles, box-and-one, triangle-and-two, etc. In the NBA, coaches can't really adapt to different situations the same way college coaches can.

The best college coaches can make those adjustments during a game. That can make the difference between winning and losing, understanding what changes need to be made and making those moves quickly.

I wish the NBA would allow zone defenses. Coaches in college can make major adjustments, using a variety of zone principles, box-and-one, triangle-and-two, etc.

The biggest difference for a college coach moving into the pro ranks is the practice regimen. Every coach who makes the transition -- and I have spoken about this with P.J. Carlesimo, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and John Calipari -- has to adjust the practice philosophy.

We all came from the high school and then the collegiate level, where everything we want to do is organized and structured in a 2½-hour practice schedule, with intense workouts.

The style and life of the NBA are different. I remember when I was coaching the Pistons, one time Bob Lanier came in and told me that we couldn't do 2½-hour practices in the pros. This is the NBA, playing three to four days a week, with all of the travel involved.

I also think a big adjustment comes in college when you are dealing with much more than just X's and O's.

Think about the role of a coach these days. He has to worry about recruiting, the academics, alumni relations, fund raising. In the NBA, it is strictly basketball, basketball, basketball.

The negative is, on the NBA level, you can't change your personnel and roster today. The salary cap and contract situations make it so tough to move a player or several of them. In college, if you take over a program, if you don't like what you see after one year, you can go out and recruit your own kids.

The college coach can go out and change the whole look of that team, making it fit within his own style and philosophy.

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