So often media pundits and the like speculate about how difficult the transition from college to the NBA is for players. But it's just as difficult for coaches. Just as players have to adjust to the increased intensity of play, the demanding schedules, lack of playing time and better opposition, so does a coach.
Soon-to-be former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery is the latest in a long line of college coaches who'll try to make the successful transition to the pros. I've never seen a coach come directly from college and be prepared for what faced him -- including myself. I do have some advice that I'd like to offer to Montgomery and any other coach who attempts this often-perilous leap.
1. Don't Change
A coach is who he is and that's why the organization hired him. He shouldn't change his personality. If he's a defensive-oriented coach then he should continue to follow that philosophy without trying to make a huge change in what he believes. Just because the game changes in the pros doesn't mean a coach should change who and what he believes in. If he's deficient in an area, he should surround himself with people who can help him in that area.
2. Get an assistant with NBA experience
The current fad is for college coaches to bring their college assistants with them to the NBA. That's a mistake. The NBA is so different from college that a steady helping hand that's been through the rigamorole of an NBA season is needed. Honestly, it'd be best if the assistant were a former NBA head coach. That way there would be at least one person on the bench with the knowledge to know what to do in certain situations.
3. Watch tape
Get as many tapes of your team in action and pour over them in great details. It's a great way to find out what type of team you have and how they react in certain situations. It also allows a chance to see how they match up against certain teams and how to exploit those situations in the future.
4. Meet with the players
It's extremely important for a new coach to meet with his new players and get an idea of where they're coming from. It's equally important for them to meet with you and to see what kind of person and coach you are. It's important to get into a comfort zone with the players as quickly and seamlessly as possible. The coach has to establish himself as the voice of authority with the team, and the best way that is to establish that he can coach and prove he can make them better players.
5. Be efficient with practice time
The NBA has a rigorous schedule and it doesn't lend itself to the type of practices that can be run in college. A coach must realize that an NBA player doesn't have the time to devote as much practice time during the season to changes in game plans and other things. He must get his players in and out of practice quickly, while also making sure they are soaking up the instruction. Which brings me to my last bit of advice.
6. Quickly install the game plan
The season begins about a month after practice starts, so ostensibly a coach only has the week of training camp to fully install his game plan before preseason games begin. Once preseason games begin, the practice time that's needed to make tweaks will be limited.
Hopefully my advice to Montgomery and all other coaches making the jump will be heeded and will help them. It's a tough road to travel and I look forward to watching to see if a successful transition is made.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, an NBA analyst for ESPN, coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.